16 January 2007

Playing the waiting game

Well, if you were expecting anything significant from tonight's session, you probably came away disappointed. Lew didn't give details. There were no fire-breathing opponents. And while the chambers was packed, the tone was predictably civil, if not downright subdued. Press coverage: Merc / Argus / Chron

Still, there were some important things to come out of Wolff's brief presentation and Q&A:
  • The team name will be "____ Athletics at Fremont" - not "of Fremont." Does that make a difference? Should someone actually take the name literally, it would appear that the team doesn't "belong" to Fremont, even though it's part of the community. Feeling marginalized yet? Or dizzy? This leads me to believe that a regional name is seriously under consideration.
  • 2,900 housing units is the current number, but more interesting is that Wolff indicated that most of the housing would not be mid-rise condos, but rather townhouses. Townhouses could be worth more on average than a typical mid-rise condo unit, but they'll take up far more room in the project area, and as noted before, space is at a premium.
  • The A's are underwriting the $500,000 cost of the EIR and related studies, though the city is contracting all of the work. Wolff apparently has anticipated the instant calls of conflict-of-interest problems by vaguely referring to one study as not as favorable as might be believed. On a related note, I recognized one of the consultants from San Jose's ballpark study work. The consultants were not introduced because, as Wolff said in jest, he couldn't remember all of their names.
  • City Manager Fred Diaz recommended a letter of interest, similar to one drawn up between the 49ers and the City of Santa Clara.
  • There were sentiments by both Wolff and council members to accelerate the process, tempered by comments from the public and environmental groups to keep the parties moving on a thorough EIR study.
  • Bo Magnussen of Magnussen Lexus inquired about the impact to the Fremont Auto Mall nearby. He had contacted someone at Coliseum Lexus in Oakland to see how much sporting events impacted their dealership. The traffic generated on event days was in fact detrimental, so Magnussen pleaded with the A's and the city to figure out a way to mitigate that impact on weekends. The obvious way at first would be to have Saturday games at 7 p.m. instead of 1 p.m.
  • There will be many community meetings, but none have been scheduled yet.
A positive I saw was that there were several supporters whose origins/nationalities did not fall into the typical baseball fan profile. One even mentioned the use of the ballpark as an occasional cricket ground (!). Fremont is a city whose population is now just under 50% Asian, so demographics may be a factor when it comes to public support.

There was a small contingent of "Keep the A's in Oakland" folks, but if they had filled out comment cards, they weren't called up.