12 December 2008

Fremont details lost in the shuffle

Now that San Jose has suddenly become a topic of discussion and Warm Springs has become a hotbed of its own, it only makes sense to do reset on the original Fremont plan at Pacific Commons. You remember that one, right? The plan with the 3,000+ homes and high-end retail meant to create a "walkable downtown" in a city that doesn't have one?

Plenty of details came out over the last week that work to lift some of the mystery over discussions between the A's, ProLogis/Catellus, and Fremont. It's these details, not the viability of alternative sites - they are alternative sites after all - that will help determine the fate of Cisco Field at Pacific Commons. Let's sort many of these out.
  1. How much land do the A's own? I have to admit I got this wrong thanks to incomplete info and some incorrect assumptions. At least now, we've gotten a lot of this cleared up. On Tuesday night, we learned that the only land the A's owns is the land outside the ProLogis/Cisco areas: The Fountains Business Park, some of the properties on Brandin Court, and the old Christy Concrete plant. That's no small coin as it's nearly 45 acres. Even at a lowball value of $500k per acre, that's $22.5 million, nothing to sneeze at.
  2. Who owns what among the Cisco/ProLogis-Catellus sites? Cisco controls the 28 acres that are meant for the "core village," the Santana Row-like development adjacent to Cisco Field. Cisco Field and the bulk of the housing would be built on ProLogis's land. The A's negotiated options to buy both as long as existing retailers' concerns were resolved. It was revealed that the true "option" belongs to those retailers, who are represented by Catellus, ProLogis's development wing. Opposition comes from the three big box stores and some of the Auto Mall dealers, and their disapproval amounts to a veto of the whole deal. Their opposition isn't to the project on principle, it's to the location specified in the plan. They would be more open to the plan if the A's placed the ballpark further away. The combined land total is around 180 acres, so it's possible for a reconfiguration to yield the results the retailers desire. The problems with doing this are threefold. Process-wise, a new Notice of Preparation would be required to show the new details of the land use plan. Environmentally, there would be different impacts as the ballpark were placed closer to the adjacent wetlands area. It's also probable that reconfiguration would make for a less cohesive development plan, as more parking may need to be placed in the area immediately surround the ballpark. Both sides, by not budging during this impasse, have made the location of the ballpark a dealbreaker. The city is stepping in to see if anything can be done about this, but unless both sides are willing to make more compromises, it's an uphill battle.
  3. Without the ballpark, Pacific Commons doesn't get its Santana Row. Without the ballpark, the A's don't see upscale retailers filling a new lifestyle center. Which means that if the ballpark were decoupled and placed in Warm Springs, no Santana Row. That's less appealing for Fremont residents and the city, which is looking for greater sales tax revenue from high-end, high-margin retailers.
I have to say that, knowing all of this, it doesn't look good. My support of the project was based on the ability of the various parties to find common ground and compromise when necessary. It appears that's proven a tougher task than many of us outsiders had originally envisioned (even though I argued the retailers' case 5 months ago).