25 July 2007

The stuff not in the paper

Chris DeBenedetti's Argus article is first out of the gate, followed by Barry Witt's Merc piece. Of course, there are only so many inches in the papers, so I'm here to fill in the blanks (TV links: KTVU-2, KGO-7). (Update 5:34 p.m.: The archived webcast is now online.)

The A's and the city packed a lot of content into an hour, yet they're merely skimming the surface. What wasn't covered in any real depth? Here's a list:
  • Transportation, other than acknowledgment of the previously planned train station and shuttles.
  • School site options (admittedly the least analyzed issue)
  • Affordable housing (except that the city-developer guidelines dictate that affordable housing should have no distinction by location - i.e. segregation)
  • Infrastructure and public services planning
  • Retailer possibilities for the ballpark village
  • The 40-acre parcel which may hold additional parking, the train station, a school, or other infrastructure
What did they touch on? Quite a bit, actually:
  • Parking: 10-11,000 spaces around the ballpark. More on that later.
  • Residential planning: This looks to be a contentious issue, as it's likely we'll have the bottom-line oriented developer pitted against the city's progressive, New Urbanist leanings. Councilwoman Anu Natarajan took the biggest swipe at the plan, suggesting that the planning team should've gotten the city involved earlier. She said that the superblock-type residential development in the 115-acre townhouse area had very little variety in terms of densities. She even disclosed that a few years ago she worked for SF-based planning and design behemoth EDAW, who is working for the A's on this project.
  • Phasing: Unlike the 5-6 year projections in the economic impact report, it looks like housing will be more gradually built. At a pace of 300 units per year, it's expected to take 7-10 years to complete the entire residential portion.
  • Mixed use outside the village: Both Natarajan and Vice-Mayor Bob Wieckowski had previously suggested that the A's have a little more flexibility in the plan to keep some amount of commercial space, specifically office space. There appears to be a unified stance to keep the townhouse section from looking like a typical suburban subdivision.
  • Outreach: Valley bigshot Jim Cunneen is heading this effort, which I've been told is going to get moving quickly.
  • The ballpark: I hope to get cross-section graphic that Keith Wolff used during the presentation, because it actually appears more aggressive than the original simulation. Should they follow through the ballpark would most certainly take on Fenway-like intimacy.
  • Minisuites: They would be located 15 rows from the field, with four 6-person suites sharing a common, large lounge area. Cute design that's sure to cause some suite envy elsewhere in pro sports.
  • Environmental: Community Development Director Jill Keimach brought up the guidelines in use by the city and the developer. Out of that came the point that much of the wetlands just beyond the project area are still in transition and need protection. Buffers and other measures must be taken to ensure the development is compatible with the recently restored wetlands.
  • All those consultants: So it's a team consisting of 360 Architects, Gensler (Andy Cohen was co-presenting with Keith Wolff), EDAW, and Cisco. There might have been others but I missed their names. This isn't some mom-and-pop operation.
And so the dialogue begins in earnest. The council made it clear on more than one occasion that they're not going to rubber stamp this project. Councilman Steve Cho even went so far as to suggest a ballot measure which would "put it to rest," though it could be argued that a vote would just as easily rescue him and his colleagues from having to take a major stand on the project. None of the other pols spoke in favor of a vote, BTW. Cho felt that such a measure would pass. I doubt that sentiment gave Lew Wolff a warm fuzzy. He and Mayor Wasserman were separately interviewed following the session and downplayed the need for a vote. Wasserman said that it was difficult enough to educate five council members, let alone 200,000 citizens. Before you say that Wasserman is dismissing the will of the people, note that the environmental impact report will probably be 1,000 pages long and won't read anything like the latest Harry Potter book. If every Fremont voter wants to read the entire EIR (as I will) and all supporting documentation, it'll be available when the comment period opens. Somehow I doubt that more than a few hundred people will read the whole thing.

Onto parking. The 10-11,000 figure falls in line with tally I posted last Saturday. Natarajan said that she has "no concerns about parking at all." The interim parking plan (west of Cushing Pkwy on future residential land) definitely has legs. Discussion went from "how to get enough parking" to "What can we do to make it useful, beautiful and environmentally friendly?"

This was the first of many public sessions. Format may change a bit to allow for more dialogue exchange, or that may simply take care of itself as the discussions become more narrowly focused. The schedule moving forward:
  • Preliminary view - 7/24
  • Council input on plan - September
  • Business terms - Fall '07
  • Financial analysis - On-going
  • Input from agencies - On-going (Caltrans in a couple of weeks)
  • Community outreach - On-going
Notice that the submission of the dev plan isn't listed there. It's really a chicken-and-egg problem. The A's want to submit a plan that has the best chance of passing with as few modifications as possible. Yet they can't until they have more in-depth discussions with the city. That isn't to say that the proposal will be locked when it's submitted, but when it comes time to present the proposal and all alternatives under consideration, those options need to be clear.

The Wolffs appear to be aware of these issues and others that haven't been mentioned much (such as the rights of nearby Pacific Commons retailers to have their parking lots left intact) and the city's insistence on thoroughness means that yes, the right questions are being asked. And then some.


Anonymous said...


They haven't talk about movie theater, retail, hotel, park, and Transit

I think Councilman Steve Cho is wrong about having a ballot measure.

What if the measure would pass not pass or if pass they might delay Project?

Why do they need a ballot measure some City don't

Marine Layer said...

Anon - you seem to be heavily focused on the retail aspect. The thing is it's all based on marketing and retail profiles. Stores come in veritable package deals. Even the movie theater. Some of the restaurants and the hotel will be run by Wolff's companies. The core village has the fewest questions at this point and they all pale in comparison to environmental issues and transportation.

If a vote isn't required, it's not happening unless there's a ton of negative backlash. Cho gave a referendum lip service.

anon-a-mouse said...

Thanks for the analysis, ML. What specifically was the debate around the residential planning? Was it the layout, the design of the structures themselves, etc? Was Natarajan specific in what she wished they had discussed with the city sooner?

If the city isn't contributing funds directly to the project, there should be no vote. Infrastructure improvements are a grey area. To me it depends on the total amount and the percentage of improvements the city would cover vs. the developer. As long as those are in line with other developments within the city, I would not expect a vote any more than I did for the big grade separation project the city began recently.

Marine Layer said...

Natarajan wanted mixed use spread out in the residential section. One of the reasons is to make it a walkable neighborhood whose features aren't solely tied up in the core village. Wieckowski mentioned a market in the southwest corner away from the core village.

I think there's a simple compromise in the offing - turn Cushing Pkwy or a major connecting street into a boulevard. The planned street immediately to the south of the ballpark site is a good candidate.

Anonymous said...

But obviously all this means is that the A's are moving to San Jose, or staying in Oaklnad. There is no way they are going to Fremont! Nothing is being done to push it forward!

In 20 years, the A's will still be in Oakland, and then will move to San Jose after buying AT&T Park!

Anonymous said...

Does Natarajan wanted a retail around the Ballpark Village?

I'm glad Lew Wolff hasn't files the Application. Those Ballpark Village Project need to change.

Councilman Steve Cho is trying to be worst about the Ballpark.

This the the Best Ballpark. I wish they don't put in the ballot measure.

James said...

Anon 10:42...

Uhhh, yeah! Obviously that is what it means. (note: sarcasm)

That's why Wolff has spent millions of dollars (and probably thousands of hours) on architects and attorneys, and why he continues to reimburse the City of Fremont for city staff time and expenses in pushing this forward.

I can assure you that the A's will not be in Oakland in 20 years. And giving any modicum of credence to your assertion that Wolff will buy AT&T Park, ownership of AT&T Park is not ownership of the team, and therefore territorial rights to San Jose would not transfer to Wolff.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:42...

Lew Wolff want the ballpark now. He won't stay Oakland that long. He want to move to San Jose, but that is AT&T Park territorial rights to San Jose would not transfer to Wolff. So Lew Wolff decide to move to Fremont or out of the bay area.

All you have is Giants in the Bay Area, if A's moving out of the Bay Area.

You have to choice if you want A's to move to Fremont or out of the Bay Area.

San Jose is close to Fremont with Fremont Bart to San Jose

Jason L. said...

San Jose didn't become the largest city in Northern California by micromanaging, micro-examining and trying to find flaws in every development proposal like what's going on here.

Fremont is obviously in over its head and it's time for the big boys to take over. San Jose has a civic infrastructure and corporate comuunity ready to move forward if only MLB would give the OK.

Maybe it's an Alameda County thing, but the A's need to rid themselves of it once and for all.

anon-a-mouse said...

10:42 had to be tongue-in-cheek.

A boulevard with ground-floor retail and housing above? That could work. I agree with the spirit of her input to spread out the commerical space, but so many times the retail takes forever to move into these new-urbanist neighborhoods. Or the only businesses that move in don't really contribute to walkability (like real estate offices).

By placing it at least very near the ballpark, I think they'll see more and better quality retail much sooner. Thus, I agree with your boulevard idea. I also like the idea of space for a market (and perhaps a coffee shop) somewhere in the residential. I'm sure a balanced approach can be worked out.

Thanks again, ML.

Anonymous said...

I think they should just build ground-floor retail and housing above such as condo, Apartment, and etc and 2,900 or less Townhomes or Less townhomes and more ground-floor retail and housing above.

Or spread commerical space, around the Ballpark Village.

Some plan show condo don't have ground-floor retail. That's why they don't have 550,000 s.f. of Retail.

Marine Layer said...

Just remember that the A's need to turn enough profit to pay for the ballpark and give something to other investors. Townhouses will yield more profit than condos unless it's all luxury condos, and those have a limited market.

There should be a corner market somewhere and maybe even a library branch, but both of those will require site space for both the building and parking. It can work but there will be compromises.

Anonymous said...

Municipal Parcel 40 acres Parking, Transit, and Other.

They should build a library branch and Urban Park without Playground.

The should have Playground in the Townhomes. So no need to build Playground in the Municipal Parcel 40 acres.

They should build Bigger Performance Pavilion then Central Park's Performance Pavilion or Band Pavilion.

Some boston Park don't have Playground. They have big Band Pavilion, alot of Grass, Benches, and Walking Trails, and Food Shacks.

Boston Symphony Orchestra is so nice that play lord of the ring song and Last until dark.

Anonymous said...

10:42 here...

Man, I thought I layed on the sarcasm pretty thick there, and yet only Anon-a-mouse even picked up on it...

Anonymous said...

Still not a done deal

Fremont council member repeats call for vote on ballpark site

SexFlavoredPez said...


San Jose didn't micromanage every project and now look what they face; the demand for more development and no space to develop. There are very tight restrictions on new development (i.e. high density residential structures only, etc.) now since there was very little management involved at the early stages in other projects. Fremont is in the right for making sure this project gets done correctly. They only have so much usable land so it's very important to make sure the land they do have to develop can reach it's full potential (and profit).

Wouldn't that be in the best interest of the A's as well? A happy host city, a beautiful park and a successful franchise are all good things. Lew doesn't seem to mind the process Fremont is taking on this project, he just wishes the process was a little faster. Let it be done this way. The scrutiny, as long as it is productive, can only make the ball park and surrounding village better. I can see this becoming a blueprint for future ballparks around the country.

Anonymous said...

In response to the east bay basher: Alameda and Contra Costa do supply a large majority of A's fans.