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19 September 2007

Mixed bag

Tonight the parties requested a more informal setting than the typical City Council meeting, even though the session was held in Council Chambers. So instead of the pols sitting on the dais, city officials and developers/architects sat around a bunch of pushed-together tables. This made for a constant flow of ideas and quick exchanges. The format was considered quite positive and will likely be used for other sessions of this type. Keith Wolff led the presentation, aided by Gensler's Marty Borko, who fleshed out the details.

A few new details came out of tonight's work session. Nothing really major, but still worth noting:
  • The number of housing units to be built will be close to 3150, a 250-unit jump over previous estimates. Keith Wolff explained that the development team spoke with housing developers and saw potential for such an increase. Perhaps they are anticipating a rebound in the housing market by the time construction begins.
  • Land west of Cushing Parkway that was previously designated as interim parking (the "West parcel") may undergo a mix of zoning changes. Instead of purely residential use, up to 300,000 square feet of R&D/office space could be built in at least two-story buildings. 7 acres could be set aside for one more car dealership as part of an extension to the Auto Mall.
  • With the increase in housing units come plans for greater densities. Originally, much of the acreage would have had 12-25 units per acre. The range has gone up considerably, up to 40 units per acre in some locations. To do this, some buildings would have to be taller than three stories. It's expected that the entire development would show a sort of tapering effect of building heights from the ballpark/village to the outer edges of the lower density residential area. This could pave the way for more affordable homes as well since there would be greater variance in home types and sizes.
  • The school will in fact be in the residential area. The proposed site is at the southern edge of the property. 4 acres is being considered for the "urban" school setting, an idea that the A's and the city were receptive to. The example cited was Horace Mann Elementary in San Jose. Horace Mann is a 3-acre school that neatly fits into a city block and was only recently reconstructed. A school of this size would not have multiple ballfields or sprawling portable classrooms.
  • Neighborhoods would be centered around numerous small parks and open spaces. These small parks would be maintained by the homeowners' association. The neighborhoods are meant to have individual character, a la South Park in SF or Gramercy Park in Manhattan. (Bar set too high? Probably, but that's what they're aiming for.)
  • West parcel interim parking would have to be replaced by additional parking in the area before anything could get built on the parcel.
  • Additional retail spaces are possible within the greater residential area, including a grocery store and smaller shops.
I didn't expect much to be revealed about the parking and transportation plans, but there were a few interesting ideas being discussed. None, however, do more than scratch the surface.
The above is my depiction of a parking and traffic management slide shown during the presentation. The idea here is to route cars to the nearest parking lot while minimizing cross-traffic. It would reduce most car movement to right turns. So if you're coming from 880 north of Fremont, you might be redirected to the lot across Auto Mall Parkway. If you're coming from the south, you might be sent to the West parcel. Shuttles would be run from some of the team-operated lots, though it's expected that many will walk.

Parking projections have increased to 11,342 spaces not including the village commercial area garages. The explanation here is that in order to project a worst-case scenario, the village parking has to be considered off limits.

Councilmembers Steve Cho and Bob Wieckowski both suggested pedestrian overpasses to assist the public in crossing both Auto Mall Parkway and I-880. This concept was not met with great optimism, probably due to cost. Regardless, it's worth considering if only to get cost estimates. There's even an opportunity for ad revenue to help pay for the cost.

Towards the end of the session, Mayor Wasserman expressed frustration at the delay surrounding the development application:
"We need to get to the next step in terms of getting the application in and the environmental impact (report) moving."
At the same time he preached patience since the process is expected to run slowly after the application is submitted thanks to the EIR and other studies.

Sierra Club rep Vinnie Bacon had serious reservations about the development. He felt that the details shown so far regarding transit/transportation were "woefully lacking." 3,000 new homes were an area of great concern, and any steps to mitigate impacts on the wetlands area would be akin to placing "a solar panel on a Hummer." He also claimed that the retail component of the village would draw dollars away from existing businesses. He neglected to mention that the retailers at the site would be higher-end and wouldn't necessarily compete with existing retailers in the city. Massimo's owner Bill Rinetti disputed the negative view of economic impact, stating that Fremont needs to keep its entertainment dollar. Rinetti happens to be the brother of A's VP of stadium ops David Rinetti.

Overall, nothing significant. The application is supposed to be out in the next couple of weeks. The next work session will be in another month or so. Until then I'll be twittling my thumbs...

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is the fremont ballpark expandable to a higher (40.000) capacity, just in case for constant sellouts and higher ticket demand in the future? I know, that the reduced ballpark capacity is part of the concept to increase demand for rare and therefore more expensive tickets. but i am wondering, if maybe teh a's gonna be sold, the new owner want to have a bigger stadium. I think, a possible higher capacity should be included in the planning process and the fremont ballpark design.

Anonymous said...

Sierra Club representative? Fuck, all they do is screw shit up, especially when it comes to sports. The Sierra Club hates Sports, Kids, whatever, as long as they threaten to hurt a gnat.

anthony dominguez said...

James, I guess I was correct; dev. application before EIR, EIR before any kind of groundbreaking. I guess we're looking at 1 1/2 to 2 years before golden shovel day (at which then my downtown San Jose dreams can rest in peace). R.M., still no thoughts from you regarding keeping the name of the team open for "financial purposes" (Merc, Sunday, 9/16, The Valley, Internal Affairs). This quote from Wolff has everything to do with the future name of the team (San Jose, Silicon Valley, etc). Anon 8:28, I agree with you %100 regarding the Sierra Club; they support the Altamont High-Speed rail route over the Pacheco Pass, even though it would cost billions to build a new bay bridge and would destroy bay wetlands (they must have a lot invested in Mountainhouse).

Jeff P said...

I guess we can count on the Sierra Club demanding that Fremont and the A's kowtow to them in this endeavor or they will tie it up in court. Par for the course I suppose. Ah well, Wolfe will have to pony up and pay them off, which I'm sure will alleviate their myriad "concerns".

MissionPeak said...

A lot of mostly negative feedback to the "announcement" here:
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article/comments/view?f=/c/a/2007/09/19/MN1SS8P0A.DTL

But lurking underneath is a wonderful story - "Officials OK plan for new park." Now here's someone who gets it - a local, Fremont-based millionaire.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/09/19/BAGLS8JOB.DTL

That rocks - this guy is a hero. I wonder if he'd be interested in a ball club, slightly used, second-hand.

How many of you have walked Ohlone, Sunol, or been to the top of Mission Peak? Very nice up there.

BleacherDave said...

Hey ML,

I think you have to point out Massimo Rinetti's familial relationship to the A's Rinetti - aren't they brothers? The appearance of bias is high in his rebuttal.

C'mon this is the Bay Area. I've been counting on the power of the people to vet this project.

Free Huey!

James said...

Tony,

Yes, you are correct. I thought the ball was already rolling on the EIR. But my understanding is that some of the preliminary work was already done with the original Pac Commons plan.

My question to you, though, and I've asked this before (not necssarily to you, but I really can't remember) and it has gone unanswered, is what tangible benefit does Wolff gain by going to San Jose, especially at this point? He has already spent millions, I'm sure. I don't know if the land transactions have taken place yet, or if he still has options. But even if he got permission from the Giants to go into San Jose (and let's face it... that ain't happening!!!) why would he do that now? There would have to be some financial benefit... what would that be? To change course now, he'd have to find land, engage in negotiations, pay all over again for the costs he's paid to the City of Fremont, Gensler, 360, transportation consultants... the list goes on and on. And let's not forget why this deal is so beneficial for Cisco... they own rights to the land. So, while I appreciate your undying wish for Wolff to cross the border, even if given a green light to do so, I don't think it's likely that he would start all over again just to be in San Jose.

Cheers!
James

Marine Layer said...

anon 0724 - I've speculated that the ballpark could be easily expanded thanks to the split level upper-deck design. A future owner could expand if he wanted to. My guess is he'd lean against the idea due to capital costs.

BD - Appearance of bias or not, Rinetti was representing an himself (and the Chamber), a business owner outside of Pacific Commons. I didn't mention in the post that Bacon assailed the Chamber for their supportive stance, which prompted Rinetti's rebuttal. Bacon also accused the Council of being intoxicated by the plan. Wieckowski dismissed that argument as unfair considering the incomplete state of affairs.

Tony - I brought up the "Silicon Valley A's" concept a year ago. That little snippet only affirms that possibility. Though I didn't think Wolff would be so brazen as to "sell" the name, whether directly or indirectly.

I spoke with a Fremont official during a break last night. He said the EIR would take a year. I didn't clarify if that would include comment and review periods or the ratification process. 18 months sounds about right.

BleacherDave said...

ML,

I hope you know that I think you do a great job of running an impartial, fact-based blog. The research and analysis you do is amazing. In keeping with the high standards of that fine work, I think you owe it to your audience to point out the Rinetti's relationship.

Of course, Rinetti was representing himself. And I believe his argument is valid. He is, however, still David Rinetti's brother and I think a fact-based blog owes it to its readers to point that out. It's one of the things that makes your blog so good,and distinguishes it from a blog with a partisan point of view in favor of a specific town.

Keep up the good work.

anthony dominguez said...

James,
As a military veteran of this country, it is my very right to have hope. And why do I continue to harbor this hope that Cisco Field will one day rise in downtown San Jose? Just hear my insanity out:

1) Believe it or not, Lew Wolff is an un-official leader of San Jose. I've read accounts where even before he was on the A's radar, he had meetings with San Jose leaders on how to further fuel the resurgence of downtown San Jose. I can just see Tom McEnery asking Lew Wolff "you think you could get us the A's Lew?...I'll see what I can do." Lew Wolff's been an unofficial SJ leader ever since he helped construct Park Center Plaza, the Fairmont and Hilton Hotels. Getting MLB in DSJ would actually be helping out Lew Wolff's own cause.

2) Lew Wolff owns 10% of the A's, John Fisher 50%...the other 40? South Bay business interests (DiNapoli Family) along with B. Beane and Santa Clara's Steve Schott (remember him?). What if the other owners wanted DSJ instead of Fremont?

3) R.M. once posted on the possibility of Lew Wolff's Edenvale (SJ) rezoning paying for not only a soccer stadium but for Cisco Field as well. Well, this can be reversed: profit from a mix-used retail, residential, industrial development at Pacific Commons helping to pay for a ballpark in DSJ.

4) Related to 3, Lew Wolff hypothetically gets permission to get a ballpark rolling in DSJ...HE STILL HAS PACIFIC COMMONS TO PLAY WITH. Again, remove the ballpark and Pac Commons is still a money-making mix-used village for Lew Wolff and Fremont.

5) Related to 4, Lew Wolff hypothetically gets DSJ, and he now has 4 areas to make major profit: Edenvale, former FMC (soccer), Pac Commons, and Diridon/Arena-DSJ!

6) A DSJ ballpark wasn't going to happen under the Ron Gonzales administration, who Lew Wolff despised. "I've waited 8 years for this" when Chuck Reed finally made it into the mayor's seat.

7) I'm on a roll! R.M. stated a few posts back that the Giants debt service for phone both park will sunset in 2010; thus no more $20 million dollar annual debt payments to investors in 2.5 years...THE GIANTS DON'T NEED SAN JOSE/SANTA CLARA COUNTY ANYMORE. As for paying off the Giants for their territory, my theory is that San Jose will indirectly make the "payoff" by getting Lew Wolff's land rezoned in Edenvale and at the former FMC site...the onus in on SJ to make it happen.

8) San Jose nearly has all the downtown parcels purchased/acquired for a ballpark and village (although it's been under the guize of landbanking for "housing."). We'll see what happens when all the Diridon South land belongs to San Jose.

I've probably caused many of you to piss in your pants with laughter at this post, but again, it is my very right to harbor hope for my city. At least give me this James...High Speed Rail should come into the Bay Area via the Pacheco Pass and not the Altamont! Peace out.

Marine Layer said...

BD - Change made. I'm sure everyone's lives have been fully enriched. ;-)

Tony - Territorial rights. Path of least resistance. End of story.

BleacherDave said...

Tony,

Where do you get the 50% ownership figure for Fisher? I thought it was 80%.

ML,

Carolyn Jones at the Chron says she would not have used Rinetti's quote in her article if she knew about the relationship.

Marine Layer said...

BD - I'm astonished that of everything reported by me and three newspaper reporters, you're fixated on someone who had no official capacity at the session. I'd like to think that now that we're getting to the heart of the matter with real details, we could get past the near-sensationalistic nature of "who knows who."

anthony dominguez said...

So Rhamesis,
Curious...no more $20 million annual debt payments after 2010 (for AT&T Park), the A's getting all the Silicon Valley corporate/fan support they need via a Pac Commons ballpark...WHY DO THE GIANTS STILL NEED SANTA CLARA COUNTY AS PART OF "THEIR" TERRITORY? The reasons for having the T-Rights didn't make sense 3 years ago; today? They make even less sense! (they make as much sense as the Raiders starting McClown over Culpepper) Take a $50 million dollar (roughly the amount of the next 2.5 years of debt payment) pay off from Wolff & Co. and free San Jose for crying out loud! End of story?

Anonymous said...

Carolyn Jones at the Chronicle wrote yseterday that Pacific Commons is in the Irvington neighborhood of Fremont . Take that for what you will in terms of journalistic carelessness / sloppiness.

That's like saying the Giants AT&T Park is in the Tenderloin or Sunset District. Oh brother .

Marine Layer said...

It's easy to toss out an arbitrary figure like $50 million when it's not your money. Say you're right and that is the price. A's ownership has to account for that $50 million when weighing it against other options.

For instance, what if a San Jose ballpark takes 2-3 (or more) years longer to put in place due to the typical SJ legal and political wranglings? So they wouldn't realize new revenues AND they'd have to pay $50 million. That would translate to around $100 million vs. Fremont.

Besides, I don't expect the Giants to change their tune just because debt service may be ending. Leverage is as good as gold.

anthony dominguez said...

Like always R.M., Thanks for the re: You're probably right regarding the territorial/San Jose issue (although I question what the Giants need "leverage" for). And again, Fremont/Pacific Commons is %100 perfect for Lew Wolff and the other A's owners, with absolutely no flaws, which will get approved/built with absolutely no problems whatsoever.

James said...

Tony,

Of course you have every right to hold out hope; I admire you for that and have complimented you more than once. I'm not trying to crap in your Cheerios, but nor do I want to inflate your profound hope that the A's will end up in San Jose.

With that said, here's my reply:

Point 1 ... another way to look at it. Wolff has now becaome a leader, if not a legend, in Fremont. He's got this huge project planned, one that seemed unfathomable to most people five years ago. He is not a San Jose developer, he is a Los Angeles developer with projects in San Jose and now he's got the grand-daddy of projects in Fremont. There's a lot of developable land in Fremont as well as a lot of commercial potential and Wolff now has a place at the table with Fremont leaders. But in any event, Wolff is a Los Angeles developer with ties to both San Jose and Fremont.

2. Those folks can want DSJ all they want; as ML pointed out, territorial rights, territorial rights, territorial rights.

3. Why would Fremont allow a rezoning or approve a variance without the ballpark. They won't. They may approve the shopping district without the ballpark (and even that's questionable) but certainly not 3,000+ homes west of I-880. And it clear that the city is operating under protections that if the ballpark doesn't get built, the project doesn't get approved.

4. See #3 above. The City of Fremont won't approve the village without the stadium.

5. No, he won't have Pacific Commons because the project will not get approved without the ballpark. Therefore, he's sitting on more than 200 acres of land that had very specific zoning limitations placed on it when Pacific Commons was approved for the Cisco headquarters campus.

6. A MLB stadium wasn't going to happen in DSJ because that city didn't have a major league team and the Giants have territorial rights, territorial rights, territorial rights.

7. I just don't see the Giants selling their territorial rights. Why would they? If Pacific Commons falls through, the A's will move outside the Bay Area and the Giants will have no competition. And I also don't see San Jose writing a check to pay for the Giants to give them up... can you imagine the public outcry that a multi-million dollar payment would start?

Sorry to be such a downer when it comes to your dream of MLB in San Jose. But I think a dream of a San Jose team playing in Fremont is much for plausible at this point.

Cheers!
James

BleacherDave said...

"Why would Fremont allow a rezoning or approve a variance without the ballpark. They won't. They may approve the shopping district without the ballpark (and even that's questionable) but certainly not 3,000+ homes west of I-880. "

Why would they approve the shopping district? Sales and use tax revenue. Why would they approve the housing? To provide Wolff the incentive he needs to build the shopping district, and to get a split of the property tax. The ballpark doesn't earn the city any revenue.

ML,

There's an old saying, it's not what you know, it's who ya know. And I think near-sensationalism is highly underrated. Hey, I coulda been a contenda!

What's more fun than stirring the pot, and watching the conspiracy theorists get all in a lather?

BleacherDave said...

ML,

You omitted the concerns of one of the council members...they seem the more serious than those you did mention.

We hear you loud and clear," Wolff said. "It's not done yet."

He was responding to the comments of Councilwoman Anu Natarajan, who declared her disappointment with the densities, walkability and lack of concern for environmental principles in the residential portion of the proposed 174-acre village.

That village would also include a new 32,000-seat A's stadium and large Santana Row-style retail-residential component.

"What I see is not something I'm happy with," said Natarajan, who along with her four colleagues on the council ultimately will decide whether the A's move to Fremont.

http://www.mercurynews.com/search/ci_6455927?IADID=Search-www.mercurynews.com-www.mercurynews.com&nclick_check=1

Jeffrey said...

Fremont will not approve a anything without the ballpark. While it doesn't create revenue, it drives revenue by bringing 20,000 plus people to the village 81 times a year for the next decade.

Marine Layer said...

BD - You're pulling from a two-month old article. I looked around the room while I was there Tuesday night. I'm pretty sure I was the only non-newspaper person in the gallery with a laptop taking notes.

Natarajan was pleased with the new changes to the plan. Virtually everything she asked for in the July session has been added. She and the other council members are on board for the 4-acre school. She's starting to move into architectural aspects.

You can check out the archived webcast if you like. That way you won't have to second-guess various eyewitness reports.

BleacherDave said...

ML,

THanks for the correction.

Jeffrey,

As has been demonstrated in other cities, baseball crowds for 81 days a year is not enough to support retail.

Jeffrey said...

It isn't baseball crowds alone that will drive the retail, but a combination of baseball crowds, nearby residents and shops that are not currently within the local area.

anthony dominguez said...

Thanks James for the commentary. I'm not only an A's fan, but I'm also a big proponent of downtown San Jose; so every now and then I get really melancholy about the whole territorial rights/Pacific Commons arrangement. Yes, the A's fan in me is more than happy with the current Pac Commons planning; A's staying in the Bay, much closer to San Jose, and (as you mentioned) possibly taking the SJ name. On the other hand, the downtown proponent in me hurts to high heaven. A MLB ballpark in downtown San Jose would have did wonders for our city center, transforming it into an exciting destination place like D San Diego and SF South Beach. DSJ is a virtual ghost town most of the time, and a ballpark would have trully changed that. To be denied an opportunity,taken for granted by cities such as SF and SD, because of one mans greed (P. Magowan)...such an utter shame. See you all at Pac Commons/Fremont!

James said...

Dave said: "Why would they approve the shopping district? Sales and use tax revenue. Why would they approve the housing? To provide Wolff the incentive he needs to build the shopping district, and to get a split of the property tax. The ballpark doesn't earn the city any revenue."

James replies: Dave, there are other areas in the city to do that, and before Wolff entered the picture, there was a plan in the advanced stages to turn the area from Fremont BART to The Hub into a pedestrian-oriented shopping and theatre district which would include high-density housing and 12-story office towers directly adjacent to BART. The plan is more akin to Walnut Creek's Broadway District than Santana Row, but I suspect that that plan is on the back burner pending the outcome of Cisco Field. Certainly, there is no need for two of these types of upscale shopping areas in Fremont. But should the A's in Fremont fall through, I'm sure the original plan will be resurected. The City of Fremont has never allowed housing west of I-880 except in the extreme northern tip of the city north of Hwy. 84 as part of the Ardenwood Development. The only reason Fremont is letting him do the housing in Pacific Commons is because of the ballpark. In any event, my point is that there are better places in the city to have the retail mix envisioned by this project if the ballpark were not part of the larger plan.

Tony, again I admire your dedication to your city; I spent a lot of time in SJ when I was in Jr. High and High School because my best friend's family moved there from Fremont. He and I would alternate weekends; I'd spend one weekend in SJ and he'd spend the next in Fremont with my family. Even though I no longer live in Fremont (moved to SF to be closer to work, then to the east coast for eight years, then back to SF... and yes, I attend Giants games and they win when I'm there and don't when I'm not so I conclude that I'm a lucky charm, but I digress). But as a kid my dad used to take me to A's games at the Coliseum and if he were still alive he'd be loving this plan. Fremont was a great place to grow up at the time and because I was born there, I'll always have a similar affinity to it as you do to San Jose. I'm happy with the plan to move the A's to an area where it can grow, I think Pacific Commons is an amazing concept and a lot of thought and planning are going into it. The housing design is amazing; very much like Washington DC row hourses. Personally, I'd like to see a few mid-rise office buildings and condos thrown into the mix, but you can't have everything.

In four years, I guess I'll have to support the A's as a team a little more than I have been since I moved to the City.

On opening day at Cisco Field, I'll buy you a beer.

Cheers.
James.

anthony dominguez said...

James,
You got the first round, I'll get the next...Rhamesis could handle the rest $$$ (remember, he's in Tech!) :o)

BleacherDave said...

"In any event, my point is that there are better places in the city to have the retail mix envisioned by this project." What could be better for retail than next to the freeway and adjacent to existing retail development?

Hey, why don't I get a beer?

James said...

Dave,

Yes, you get a beer too. It's the least I can do given how many times I've busted your chops, LOL.

Getting to your question, you have to look at it from the City's perspective because it is the council which ultimately decides if the project gets built. So the question is not what's best for retail; the question is what's best for the City on that site. The decision was made years ago that high-tech R&D was the best use for the land... at that time. The City has been unwavering until recently to change that plan (the first time was in or about 2003 when it allowed Catellus to use a larger-than-planned portion for the retail power center). Then came Wolff and the pieces fell into place to do something totally different and dynamic. It was this opportunity that evolved the cities thinking on what the highest and best use for that property. Without the stadium, there is no benefit to the City to change the zoning.