08 March 2007

Oh give me land, lots of land...

It seems like everyone building a new stadium is struggling with land problems. In Minneapolis and DC, eminent domain actions were able to get the ball rolling but the different municipalities and private landowners still have not settled on final prices for the parcels. In DC's case, the final land cost threatens to break the project's $611 million cap. Hennepin County is not nearly as far along, making the impasse force the county to either look elsewhere for a site, or to construct a deal involving new entitlements for the landowners.

Down in South Florida, sights have shifted towards the Orange Bowl, where a plan is coming together to tear down the venerable, 70 year-old football stadium and replace it with a new home for the Marlins. The University of Miami football team would move to Dolphin Stadium, where the Marlins currently play. There were previous discussions about a downtown site, but it appears that the 9-acre Orange Bowl site may be more feasible.

Back on the left coast, the City of San Francisco is pushing to speed up the Navy's transfer of Hunters Point to the city. The former shipyard, landfill, and nuclear research facility was split into 6 pieces to help accelerate the process, but now the City wants to take over the whole 500-acre pie. All told, cleanup could cost nearly $1 billion.
That brings us to Fremont. The generic AP article that went out last week has a somewhat sensationalistic tone. It warns of the "cloud of deadly arsine floating as far as seven-tenths of a mile away from the plant." Visions of Love Canal, the Cuyahoga River, and mushroom clouds abound, right?
Of course, that ignores the fact that Scott Specialty Gases is on a one-acre plot, and as mentioned before, is more of a distribution facility than a smoke-belching, sprawling chemical plant.

That's not to say that the SSG situation won't have to be addressed. As developers, the A's and their future partners certainly don't want to have such a potential hazard near thousands of homes and ballpark visitors. And SSG probably doesn't want to be a dangerous neighbor.

So there is a solution, and it probably doesn't involve mitigation because mitigation tends to be costly (for all parties). The parties could draw out the negotiations for a while longer while construction starts, but if it looks like SSG has a decent chance of staying put, the A's will have to include mitigation in the EIR, and that's not going to look as attractive as having a full master plan free of issues.

Let's put things in perspective. The SSG situation is small potatoes compared to the problems being encountered in the aforementioned cities/projects. If I were Lew, I wouldn't consider trading places with my counterparts in SF, Miami, or the Twin Cities.