08 June 2006

The New Landscape

While the A's ballpark future was not resolved coming out of Tuesday's primary, changes occurred that surely will affect future efforts by cities to attract the A's. At the end of the day, the lesson to be repeated ad nauseum was: Don't pin your hopes on an election.
  • As expected, Ron Dellums was elected mayor of Oakland with a majority, thereby avoiding a runoff. While he won't take office until January, don't be surprised to hear rumblings about his well-heeled supporters and associates working on big-ticket projects. Dellums has friends in both city and county government. What's not known is how nice Dellums will play with State Senator Don Perata's minions. Current mayor Jerry Brown always had an uneasy alliance of convenience with Perata that at times strained under both pols' visible agendas. That, and the reality of dealing with dirty, day-to-day business as a mayor in Oakland, will prove whether Dellums' vision for Oakland can translate into real action. As an outsider, I'd like to believe Dellums could really foster the city's growth, but he's going to have to make some very tough decisions about issues like police staffing and presence, affordable housing, big box retail, redevelopment of industrial areas, and the changing demographics of the city. In other words, I'm glad I don't have that job.
  • In San Jose, the ballpark effort was dealt an enormous blow with county voters' rejection of the overly broad Measure A. That's not to say that BART-to-San Jose would have been some great problem solver (the difference between opening day at a ballpark and the BART launch would have been several years), but it would have at least provided some relief along the 880 corridor. BART proponents now have to seriously think about either pulling back the cost of the $4.7 billion project or even scrapping it completely. There's talk of limiting BART to only Milpitas or Santa Clara, which could cut the extension's cost in half or more. However, that would limit the project's scope, reduce ridership projections, and force VTA to come up with a completely new justification for the extension. I'd be more optimistic about SJ's chances if the High Speed Rail initiative had any momentum behind it, but it's headed for a November election with scant support while competing with the governor's and legislature's other bond initiatives.
  • Fremont will be affected if BART-to-San Jose is either dropped or delayed. A note on the WSX extension page has the service starting to run in 2012 or 2013, which could be within a year or two of a ballpark opening. If the WSX extension doesn't happen and the ballpark does, there will be a real infrastructural issue for Fremont's government and citizens to consider. There is no direct, one-road route between the Pacific Commons site and Fremont BART, and the main arteries running in the area (Stevenson Blvd, Mowry Ave, Fremont Blvd, Paseo Padre Pkwy) could be severely impacted by increased bus traffic - that is, if fans choose to transfer between the BART station and Pacific Commons using a bus. For now, let's dismiss a rail or trolley-based option due to cost. How much will infrastructure such as transportation and increased police cost in the end? How big of a price is Fremont willing to pay to get on the map?
Think of how all of that comes into play in the A's ownership's decision making process. So many variables and dependencies make it difficult to valuate a potential site. The natural tendency is to move in the direction with the least resistance. That appears to be Fremont at this point, but as the Fremont plan gets fleshed out and citizens are better educated about the issues, it could become contentious. Then again, maybe not. No matter where I am (this week I'm overseas), expect comprehensive coverage here. And thanks to all of you who have written in with your support.