24 January 2007

Down on BART, Up on Silicon Valley

Don't say you didn't see this coming.

At a luncheon in San Jose sponsored by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Lew Wolff downplayed the importance of BART when he said,
"If BART was as effective as we thought they would be, the parking lots wouldn't be as crowded.''
At face value it's pretty poor logic. There are numerous reasons people might drive as opposed to taking mass transit: tailgating, cost when a party of five or more is attending, or convenience coupled with location (usually a dislike of mode switches or transfers). The oft-cited 15-20% of attendees using BART is a good percentage compared to NYC, where 13-30% of fans take trains to either Shea or Yankee Stadium.

Wolff could be referring to how BART doesn't service all of the Bay Area. Livermore residents have long complained about being promised BART in previous expansion efforts. Or maybe it's a veiled shot at the various Bay Area bureaucrats who chose not to include Santa Clara County in the original system layout. Whatever the case, he's chosen to marginalize the effect BART has on attendance. After all, 80-85% currently arrive by car. Ample parking is a factor for getting fans to stay at the revenue-generating ballpark village, while finite mass transit schedules tend to make such a notion less palatable.

In the end this is largely a business decision. The developers can't afford to base their decision much on a much-delayed transit project whose future is in doubt. If you think it's cold and insensitive, you're right. I don't doubt that Wolff would welcome the BART option with open arms if it were beyond the planning stage, but as part of the compromise plan that Pacific Commons is, he (and the rest of us) will have to make do.

Not to be missed from the same article is this excerpt:

Wolff pitched the A's as a future economic pillar of Silicon Valley.

The team, he said, would "add value to the economic base and further identify Silicon Valley as a specific place to be instead of having people believe it's in downtown San Francisco.''

You can see where this is leading. An anecdote: one of my new Aussie friends is in town this week. After showing him the sights in SF last weekend, we'll run around the valley tomorrow. I drove to a point in South Fremont to give him the lay of the land. I found myself having difficulty explaining the geography of the Silicon Valley, whose edges are blurry and whose shape is amorphous. San Jose proclaims itself as the capital. Both Sunnyvale and Santa Clara lay claim to the "heart." It may be that this fragmentation forever prevents the definition of a center, whose criteria may be arbitrary. But Wolff is also right about Silicon Valley's lack of definition. "Silicon Valley Athletics at Fremont" would go a long way towards creating that sense of place. Many companies in the valley consider themselves more "citizens-of the-world" and are not locally focused.

Wait, there's more.

Wolff downplayed the importance of mining Silicon Valley companies to buy up season tickets at the planned 32,000-seat stadium. He said the team wouldn't be dependent on luxury boxes and would still rely on drawing kids and families.

"We weren't soliciting box seats or anything like that today,'' Wolff said after the meeting.

The team had a special pitch for business leaders who happen to be A's fans.

Of course they weren't soliciting box seats. They don't need to. SVLG is a readily available marketing and sales machine for the A's. I've heard that luxury suites are already largely spoken for. The 4- or 6-person suite concept seems perfect for that "special pitch" to smaller firms. That could in turn open prime seats up for families and hard-core fans (if they can afford the seats).


Anonymous said...

"Or maybe it's a veiled shot at the various Bay Area bureaucrats who chose not to include Santa Clara County in the original system layout."

That ain't quite how it happened:

"1953-55: All nine Bay Area counties are involved in the planning, but an early sign of trouble comes in Santa Clara County, where elected officials and community leaders are upset that the first stage of construction would bring trains only to Palo Alto.

"1957: Santa Clara County supervisors say no thanks to BART, preferring to build expressways.

"1961: San Mateo County supervisors vote to leave BART, saying their voters would be paying taxes to carry mainly Santa Clara County residents. Real estate agent David Bohannon influenced the supervisors to drop out, fearing it would affect planned development along I-280."

anon-a-mouse said...

I'm disappointed in his rather cavalier attitude toward transit. I hope that isn't reflected in the plan for bringing people over from BART and CC/ACE. But I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until that is made public. I have no problem at all with Silicon Valley Athletics at Fremont. "At Fremont" will be downplayed and rarely mentioned, much like "of Anaheim."

John Seal, Oakland resident and A's fan said...

Please not the Silicon Valley A's. That will get shortened to 'silly A's' for all media intents and purposes. Yech.

Anonymous said...

Can't believe this guy ... first he lists proximity of BART to be essential element of any new ballpark - thus the plan for a new park in the coliseum parking lot. Now we know this was a complete sham of an idea, intended to mask his true intentions all along. Plan was doomed from day one due to the multitude of landowners he'd have to negotiate with, problems with the parking lot underground cables, etc, etc.

Next, it's on to Fremont - sounds good at first, until you hear that it's quite a few miles from the nearest BART connection. If anyone thinks that more than a handful of folks would take BART to current proposed site in Fremont, then switch to a bus or shuttle or taxi, thus enduring time, money and many other inconveniences, I've got some land in Idaho I'd be interested in selling to you. So know, BART's not really all that important to you, eh Wolffie Boy??? Who's kidding whom? BART is incredibly important to many in the east bay getting to the game and the lack of public transportation to this site will add to an already overcrowded freeway situation. So come on now Wolffie, come clean.

I suspect that Wolff's not done deceiving us poor fans and taxpayers. He's either not at all concerned with the ongoing fan experience at a new ballpark, only in it to surround it by his village development, make a quick buck or two and sell the team; otherwise, he's not at all interested in building a ballpark at all at this site ... what about going through the motions, getting it rezoned for residential, building his village but ... without a ballpark!!!! He still could profit from this scenario. Think about it ... why is he so cavalier about the lack of a convenient BART access all of a sudden when it seemingly was so important before. I know that our ever knowledgeable host will refute and debate all of the issues I address here, or better yet censure my post entirely due to it's lack of agreement with his positions, but think about it ... Wolff is up to something and it doesn't smell good for the taxpayers or fans of the east bay.

Marine Layer said...

For the umpteenth time - Fremont holds the cards in the development process. There is no way that they'll approve the village development without the ballpark. It's likely that the ballpark would get started well before any residential development as details are ironed out. The approval process is Fremont's leverage. Otherwise they're changing the charter for nothing. Wolff's already spent millions on the land. So if Fremont doesn't get a fair deal and approve the project, guess who's caught hanging? Wolff, not Fremont.

If you want to keep ignoring the political realities of the situation, I'm not stopping you.

John said...

He said the team wouldn't be dependent on luxury boxes and would still rely on drawing kids and families

My biggest complaint about the ballpark plan (and I’m a big supporter) is if Wolff truly wants to promote a family atmosphere, why not increase the capacity of the stadium so that a family of four can afford going to the park. If he can make as much money in a smaller stadium than a large one (as he said on the Ronn Owens show), then why not make it a bit bigger to avoid shutting people out? I’m not talking about 50k here, even 37-40k would be a lot better than 32-35k. And he is not winning any points from me by bashing BART either. BART is a bit expensive, but it is a fantastic service.

Oakland Sí said...

agree or not with the fourth post, but there's really no reason to accuse the poster of "ignoring the political realities of the situation."

In his pitch for the ballpark village north of 66 ave in Oakland Wolff insisted that not building another BART station to service it was a dealbreaker. Now he claims that BART's servicing of fans to games at the Coliseum isn't important? and it won't be important to the ballpark village at Pacific Commons?

Seems to me from all I've read that Wolff doesn't really care to plan for much more than 25,000 attendees -- and that it's fine for them to come mainly from the South Bay. I have nothing against South Bay fans, of course --- but what about us "die-hard fans" from elsewhere in the Bay Area? Alot of us take BART.

Jeff August said...

The OAFC has arrived in spades!!!

Now they are attacking Marine Layer for censuring people's opinions! Ha! Comedic genius. Considering if anyone mentions it might be a decent idea to keep the A's in the Bay Area but not Oakland it's considered grounds for holy war at the OAFC website.

Of course, there is no way to know that it is actuallyan OAFC blow hard when they won't put their name in the post!

I have to say, it is kind of interesting that BART is no longer a priority. I think most people

I do believe, though, that it is Lew Wolff putting his best face on situation that isn't what he would prefer. There is no BART there, and there will be no BART there so why wouldn't he come out and say "We don't need it" unless of course he wants to build his stadium there.

Dean M. said...

"Of course they weren't soliciting box seats. They don't need to. SVLG is a readily available marketing and sales machine for the A's. I've heard that luxury suites are already largely spoken for."

Wow the luxury suites are gone already.

Looks like BART and transfer at the coliseum (or Union City?) for the hoi polloi. Not the end of the world. I'll read a book

Anonymous said...

Playing Devils advocate Marinelayer: has Santana Row made tons of money for San Jose? I'm assuming the answer is a resounding yes. My point to the q&a is that anon 11:34 has a point. He (or she) is not necessarily right, but if you hypothetically took the ballpark out of the Pacific Commons equation, why would Fremont disapprove a money-making retail/residential development ala Santana Row? I'm confident that Cisco Field will become a reality, but any municipality would be foolish to pass up the sure tax money of retail.

Marine Layer said...

Santana Row took some time to become a successful community. When it opened, retail performance was poor even though housing leases and sales were good. For the developer, it was considered a boondoggle. Even in its second/third year, it was mostly known for its bars and restaurants, not its high-end boutiques. This type of retail development tends to be risky because it lacks an anchor. Santana Row benefited from having an enormously successful traditional mall, Valley Fair, across the street. It's also not without detractors - there are constant complaints about the traffic/parking situation, which was supposed to be addressed by the developers and the city during the planning stage. And don't forget - there are plenty of downtown advocates (Wolff included) who deeply resented the Gonzales administration for approving Santana Row to marginalize downtown SJ. Ironic, no?

Take away the main attraction from the village at Pacific Commons, and you have a much riskier proposition - for both the developer and the city.

Anon 8:35 - My comment was directed against all parties including SC Co., not just the eventual signatories to BART.

Anonymous said...

There would appear to be two polarized groups here, Jeff.

Obviously the OAFC crowd that says "take one step out of Oakland City Limits and we're done."

But equally frustrating are the San Jose boosters who, while understandably angry at the Giants for territorial rights; are also willing to dismiss the East Bay fans by saying "Screw you, you had your chance and this is OUR team now!"

SexFlavoredPez said...

As a resident of Hayward I am accustomed to tkaing BART to the games. I've only paid for parking a handful of times (big groups and dates.) Since I work in San Jose I don't plan on ever taking BART to Cisco Field. 35 minutes worth of traffic on I-880 N and I'm at the park. That's less time than it took me to get ot the BART station in Hayward, ride to the stadium and walk across the bridge. Kudos to Wolff for finally being upfront about something. He's not concerned about public transit...because it doesn't really matter! Let those whose job it is to provide proper infastructure to the citizens of Fremont worry about that.

Bleacher Dave said...

We keep hearing about the need for Fremont city council approval. Will a plan that includes a diversion of county property tax revenues require county board of supes buy-in?

Big Phone park prices are ridiculous. Is that the sort of "family and kid friendly" pricing structure we have to look forward to?

Jeff August said...

But equally frustrating are the San Jose boosters who, while understandably angry at the Giants for territorial rights; are also willing to dismiss the East Bay fans by saying "Screw you, you had your chance and this is OUR team now!"

Where are the people dismissing the East Bay fan? I haven't really read that on this blog.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why it's perceived to be OK to build a ballpark in Alameda County and then drop the name "Oakland," which BTW happens to be the County seat, in order to represent San Jose, Silicon Valley, and Santa Clara County. How's that fair? And why should the Alameda County Supervisors approve such a thing? My feeling is that they will remain the Oakland A's, as they rightfully should. Of course, you won't address this issue.

Jeff P said...

Because anonymous,

If you check your birth certificate, you will find that there is no promise, written or implied, that life will in fact be "fair". Alameda county will go for the deal for one very simple reason. Cash. Revenue. Tax Base. They really could give a rip where the A's are marketing their product, it will suffice that the county coffers are enriched. If anyone in this situation should cry foul, it's probably the city of SJ and the County of Santa Clara. But there is probably some financial incentive in this for them too. Plus, they are probably positioning themselves to be percieved as sports friendly in order to entice the other professional sports teams in the bay to their neck of the woods. Care to speculate which SV company will be the first to offer the Warriors a new bauble to play in when their lease is up?

anon-a-mouse said...

I'll address it, even though it's a bit obvious. Oakland and Alameda County are not synonymous. Nor are Silicon Valley and Santa Clara County. Lots of cities outside Santa Clara County identify with Silicon Valley, very intentionally, I might add. There's a lot of cachet in being associated with it. Fremont is one of them. I can't even guess at why you think they must retain the name "Oakland" anywhere within Alameda County. I mean, it would be fine with me, but it's certainly nothing you could take as a given.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Alameda County will never put itself in a position to be used by Lew Wolff to market Santa Clara County. If the A's play in Alameda County they will have to be named the Oakland Athletics @ Fremont. Lew Wolff is perfectly free to market the team to Santa Clara County if he wishes. Also, a ballpark doesn't generate revenue for a municipality. Retail is the moneymaker.

Jeffrey said...

Actually... If I was an Alameda County Supervisor, I'd be all for the A's playing in Alameda County and marketing to Santa Clara County.

The reason is that retail is what drives the tax revenue and money spent by Santa Clara County residents in Alameda County at a ballpark village is "new" tax revenue.

Alameda County residents will shop there anyway, as it is close to home. Santa Clara residents will shop there more frequently on game days.

Are you arguing that Alameda County is against Santa Clara County residents spending money in Fremont unless the team is named "Oakland?" Seriously? Why?

anon-a-mouse said...

I think anon is confusing the terms "Santa Clara County" and "Silicon Valley." Alameda County sups are going to be happy to get the taxes and won't have a problem with the name. Why they'd have an issue with marketing the name Silicon Valley, a name with a ton of cachet and that their southernmost city already identifies with, is beyond me.

Anon also seems to be confusing the terms "Oakland" and "Alameda County." There is absolutely no reason for the county to insist on Oakland in the name. You'd at least be making some sense if you were suggesting they would require that "Alameda" be in the name. But you'd still be wrong.