08 April 2007

4400 - A Magic Number

No, this post is not about the sci-fi series on the USA Network which is entering its fourth season.

Details about the SJSU/Quakes project have given hints about how the A's-Cisco Field deal will be structured. Before I explain further, take a look at the following table:

First off, it's utterly amazing that the A's stadium, which will hold only 5,000 or so additional people, will cost over six times as much. The ballpark is considerably more complex thanks to additional amenities and MLB stadium requirements, but I'll cover the details of that another day because it can be explained.

The real curiosity is the number of housing units being pitched to help finance each project. For the ballpark it's 2,900. For the stadium it's 1,500. Cisco Field will have over 100 acres of ancillary development to assist (housing, retail, commercial), while no such development is possible at SJSU's South Campus. Included in the SJSU stadium deal will be the creation of public soccer fields nearby (albeit off campus and with some city funds).

Why would the stadium project need 1,500 units? And why would the ballpark, which costs over six times as much, need only 2,900? It's difficult to quantify the impact of the ballpark village portion, but it can't be that much. The volatility of the housing market could make estimating the entitlements' impact difficult as well. Somehow each project has to add up, right? So this leaves me with one possibility:

The San Jose housing sales may help fund the ballpark.

I've been wrong before, and when the details finally emerge I may well be proven wrong on this hypothesis. Right now, the numbers don't add up unless both projects are put together - at least when compared side-by-side. It's likely that Wolff is courting the same investors for both projects, and that moving funds around to get the bills paid may be the only way to get the ballpark (the main project) built. Even if it's true, it may not be considered a big deal since in the end both deals may be viewed as fair - at least on their own terms. Still, it remains something of an eyebrow-raiser, and makes the stadium effort appear less altruistic than how it's currently perceived by some.

All the more reason to get the details out in the open, no?