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11 January 2009

Uncomfortable positions

Effects from the economic crisis are hitting everyone, including wealthy team owners. Bruce Ratner has been forced to scale back value engineer his Brooklyn arena vision. The Yankees are looking for $370 million to "finish" New Yankee Stadium. Locally, talks of the Niners and Raiders teaming up to get a stadium done together may have started up.

Wait a minute. Haven't we heard that last rumor before? Indeed we have, about this time last year. And we're going to continue to hear this every year as both teams' seasons end unceremonious early while their stadium destinies hang in the balance. We have no idea if there are any substantive discussions. We don't know what it will take for the two teams to arrive at a proper compromise. Finally, we have no clue which muncipality out there would be interested in playing matchmaker, though I suspect that certain Santa Clara pols might be. The stadium architect may also have to play intermediary, as 360 architecture's George Heinlein did with the New Meadowlands Stadium. Sure, it makes sense. It's not, however, without its issues. As long as LA remains a tantalizing option for both teams (and the Bolts, Jags, and Vikes) there may be little progress on this front.
Back in Fremont, Warm Springs residents want details on the WS site alternative. That request is going to be difficult to fill, as the A's aren't going to purchase area land until they know there is a clear path to getting the ballpark approved. That means just about any of the WS parcels could be used for the ballpark, making it a little more difficult to spell out precisely all of the potential impacts. Sound a bit chicken-and-egg-ish? It is. In the meantime, A's and stadium supporters are going to hold a series of koffee klatches with affected residents starting this week.

The plan is to enact a "Neighborhood Protection Plan" that works in a two-way manner. Not only does it prevent stadium users from driving from the stadium area to the residential area, it also prevents anyone from using back roads into the residential area from parking and then walking to the stadium area. The plan is helped by the street grid, in which there are limited access points to the Weibel neighborhood on the opposite side of 680 (so named because of the area elementary school). It remains to be seen how residents will react to the plan and the additional inconvenience that may come with it.

Some residents south of the stadium site (Warm Springs/Mission) are more concerned about the single north-south artery between 680 and 880, Warm Springs Blvd., being clogged on game days. Only the traffic study will have any real answers, as it will probably take into account situations in which normal traffic flows and signaling can be compared with gameday situations in which police will be called upon to control traffic.

What next? We're about a month away from the next City Council meeting to review the plan. Until then, stay tuned.

26 comments:

D Alur said...

The problem with this whole stadium plan is not the impact on the Weibel or the Warm Springs areas. The original plan for the Ball Park village in the Pacific Commons area off Automall Parkway was to build 3000+ homes first and then build the stadium. The funding for that project was going to be coming from the Oakland A's (who will still be called Oakland A's, go figure). Due to the city giving them permits to build the housing project there, the developer Lew Wolffe, would make his money off selling those houses and then build the stadium with his profits. With this economic downturn, that plan goes poof.
More importantly, no stadium has been built in the US without any public assistance of any kind. Fremont is a small city with a small budget. To represent the stadium as a project that will bring economic benefit to the city and its residents is false and misleading.
The people of Fremont are asking for details from the City with questions like : 1. Traffic impact on the already clogged dual highway systems (880/680), 2. Jobs - how exactly is this going to bring jobs to Fremont, 3. Benefits to the City - what revenues, 4. Impact on home owners and schools, 5. Other options for sustainable economic development that benefits everyone rather than the Oakland A's, its owners and the developers and the Mayor/City Council who seem to not have thought about the other possibilities and what could go wrong with the stadium project.
I found this blog written by Vinnie Bacon who ran for Fremont City Council in 2008 that articulates the issues with the whole stadium plan here: http://www.bacon2008.com/ballpark.html and here http://www.fremontcitizensnetwork.org.

Regarding the "Koffee Klatch" meetings, where can I find more information on how to attend those meetings to learn more about this? The "Neighborhood Protection Plan" seems to be yet another "idea" at this point and has no further details anywhere. Even if they were to protect the inside roads, we are talking about the blockage of the two major highway systems that all Fremont, Milpitas, Hayward, Newark, Union City residents use. This network of roads are not build to handle a stadium in this area which will account for a busy year of games, concerts and other events, that the stadium people will try to keep its occupancy high to make enough money to pay the costs. In addition, the demands on the local services such as emergency, police, parking, and not to mention the light and noise pollution, sale of liquor near residential and school areas, impact on environment and local businesses are all going to crush this area and make it unbearable for not only the residents close to this site, but across the city, and neighboring cities as well. Also what is not known is what the impact of all of this is going to be on the city, tax payers, business and property owners in Fremont over the coming years.

Marine Layer said...

Let's get a few things straight here. There has never been any indication what specifically the name of the team would be other than "____ A's of Fremont." Without Oakland's direct help, it's very unlikely Oakland would remain in the team name.

Second, California is ground zero for privately financed venues. Stanford Stadium? Privately financed. Staples Center? Privately financed. AT&T Park's construction was also privately financed, with public help coming in the form of a ground lease and infrastructure improvements that were already planned anyway. The A's aren't asking for anything but the approval of zoning changes. They'd take care of construction costs, gameday expenses including parking and traffic control. Answers to many of your questions can be found here or here or here.

As for impacts, well that's what the Environmental Impact Report is for. I am concerned that by not placing a WS alternative ballpark on a specific site, the A's may be preventing themselves from being able to sell a less impactful site than what a lot of people are now talking about. On a side note, the team is aware of the impact of concerts and other large events, and would likely curtail or eliminate them altogether from the plan.

I'm not aware of how the Koffee Klatch meetings are being organized. All I know is that they will be small, intimate, and numerous.

Anonymous said...

I believe Vinnie Bacon was the Sierra Club -backed candidate in the recent Nov 2008 Fremont city council race .That's what friends who live in Fremont tell me. He lost ,BTW.alingn

NoAs said...

ML, thanks for your nice summary.

The residents were furious on how the A's and the city just secretly put Warm Springs as an alternate site in the draft EIR without even informing thousands of local residents, which will be severely impacted. The citizens are entitled to know the "detail on how they come up with this decision". (not the detail of the projetc, which even the A's don't know either.)

At this point, The A's purposely delay all our requests for public meetings. We have given them several possible dates, but they just say they are busy and only hold small group invitation-only "coffee meetings". The A's claim they will reach out to the neighborhood, but do they really care about the residents? They just want a new ballpark at the cost of other people. (Mr. Wolff, do you think it's a good PR?)

Jeffrey said...

D Alur... I think there are a few things that you got wrong, some that ML cleared up but still some things not.

The plan was never to build 3000+ homes prior to building the stadium. The idea was to build homes in phases which would extend well past the opening of the stadium.

It was also my understanding that the A's wouldn't be building any of the houses, they would be building the santana row like development in pacific commons and thus some condos, but the single family homes and brownstones (one of which I would love to buy) would be built by other home builders who purchased the rights and land from the Oakland A's and these revenues would pay for the stadium.

Marine Layer said...

You're right on all counts, Jeffrey.

NoAs, the whole "nefarious" angle sounds good until you really look at the circumstances. Here's how I think everything went down.

Sometime prior to the election, the A's met with various transportation agencies to seek their input. They all said that the A's were crazy not to build near BART. That got the A's to consider an alternative in Warm Springs. However, the ball didn't really get rolling until after the election, in which Santa Clara County residents were close to passing Measure B. The results weren't certified until a month after the election. As the results came in the A's were allowed to change the study scope to include the WS alternative.

If Measure B had gotten 60% of the vote it wouldn't have come close to passing, and in all likelihood WS wouldn't have been included in the study. While the BART extension down to WS could've moved forward regardless of the result, uncertainty about the final route and funding would've delayed things a bit. With Measure B passed, the transit agencies could push the A's to really consider the WS alternative. Combine that with the real estate downturn and the impasse with the big box stores, and you can see why the A's moved in that direction.

NoAsWS said...

ML, I think the A's should fire their curent PR firm and hire you.

BART only looks at the extra few millions $ they will get each year. And the A's just want a new ballpark. They don't care how it will impact Fremont or local residents. The drop in housing price along in that area is probably a few times more than the cost of the stadium already! Let alone it also brings extra crime and traffic. Their "protection plan" pretty much confine the residents to their home during game days. Are they going to pay for the financial loss and phychological damage?

Many ballparks "claim" they don't use public money. But they do. AT&T park was lukcy to be built during internet boom time. Even with that, they still get special tax treatment, infrasture cost and later raise tax to maintain the park. Now they start to see the tax burden with lower attendance and bad economy. BTW, Fremont is not even a big city like SF, SJ to have infrastucture and money to support a ballpark. Even the A's describe their plan as "downtown ballpark". Do they know where Fremont's downtown is?

Just like the point mentioned in this blog post. There is just no money available now. Mr. Wolffs have lost a lot of money in the recent real estate market. What will happen if they run out of the money half way through the project? Please don't come to ruin Fremont. If 49ers and Raiders can share the same home, the Oakland Coliseum can become a baseball-only ballpark, just like the good old days. This would make most economic sense.

Jeffrey said...

I keep reading this concern about selling alcohol near a residential area.... are there not restaurants and grocery stores nearby?

Marine Layer said...

NoAs, it's quite simple. The A's, in their desire to build a ballpark in Fremont, are willing to make certain compromises to make it work. If those compromises are not sufficient for certain constituent groups, then obviously it's not going to work. I can see why some residents think the council will ram this through as the Sabercat project was. This is far too politically impactful for that to happen. That's why even Mayor Wasserman now calls the odds of the ballpark happening worse than previously at PC.

There's a very simple reality about building in California these days - no public money will be available. Stadium builders will ask for other things such as entitlements or perhaps special tax treatment. That's not nearly the same thing, and you'll have to go a long way to prove that's truly damaging to the public in comparison to the tangible and intangible benefits having a baseball team will bring. You'll find people are all over the spectrum when it comes to financing. Many, like me, draw the line at the public financing part. Others approve of minimal public financing. Still others don't want any public assistance of any kind.

In the end, what we're seeing is largely the same philosophical argument that's been played out in Fremont the past 20 years. How "big" or prominent does the city want to be? Or does it want to retain the bedroom community feel? I sense that it won't be resolved in the next 20 years, whether or not the A's come to Fremont.

Marine Layer said...

Jeffrey, the layout of the Weibel neighborhood is unique in that there isn't anything in it except for houses and schools. The local Safeway is in Warm Springs proper on the other side of 680. Several big box stores are as well. The layout is both a blessing and a curse. There are few ways in and out. Commuters from Hayward and Castro Valley use Mission Blvd. as an alternative to 880 during commute times.

A mixed-use development called Sabercat Center was approved for the outskirts of the neighborhood in December '07. It sparked a ton of controversy for many of some of the same NIMBY reasons, as well as other issues such as earthquake safety - it's being built practically on top of the Hayward fault. Community outcry was enormous then and should've tipped off the city and the A's as to what could happen if they moved forward with WS. The difference in the volume of the outcry this time is exponential.

Jeffrey said...

I take Mission Blvd from 680 to 680 all the time. Where is the Weibel Neighborhood exactly?

Is that the one with giant houses and power lines running through the middle of it?

Marine Layer said...

Yes, that's the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

jeff & ML

The wiebel school is located on corner of Paseo Padre & Grimmer blvd. (between Mission & Durham) Grimmer blvd. has an underpass to cross 680.

NoAsWS said...

Wow, ML, you are also a very good reporter to cover all sides of story.

The stadium will have direct impact to the whole south Fremont area (Warm Springs, Mission San Jose, Irvington). Anyone drives by 680/880, Automall, Mission and Warm Springs Blvd during late afternoon will know how bad the traffic is now. Let alone the new crime and cars the new stadium will bring in.

The business proponent seems too obosessed with the revenue and fame the A's could possibly bring in (in sunny day scenarios), but forget to consider Fremont could very likely be brought into deep financial hole. And the residents are the ones paying the price to suffer the extra crime, traffic, and later extra tax.

ML, I'm amazed by your deep analysis of different scenarios. At this point, what do you think it's the best for the A's?

Stay in urrent Oakland Coliseum?
Build in Pacific Commons? Warm Springs? San Jose downtown? New place in Oakland? Someone even mentions a stadium+casino mega complex in Las Vegas.

Anonymous said...

Best option for the A's seems to me to be Sacramento. Market to themselves, can remodel Raley for fraction of the cost and can retain some of the east bay fans they have now. Not gonna work in Fremont (duh), SJ has territorial rights issue and Oakland has stadium problem.

- Eileen

Marine Layer said...

Thanks NoAsWS, I do what I can to look at the project from multiple perspectives. I'm impressed how quickly Warm Springs residents have organized themselves. That said, I'm not surprised considering incredibly intelligent the populace is there.

I really want the A's to get a new stadium to improve their economic position and to ensure they stay here for future generations. They can't stay in the Coliseum indefinitely as everyone else gets new digs. It's not fair to A's fans who will have this cloud hanging over them, or the other teams who have pulled their own weight.

D Alur said...

Hi ML and Jeffrey,
Thanks for your pointers on some numbers and links to other websites I hadn't seen until now. I will make sure I will read them and understand more.

However, a lot has changed since the original plan was proposed and the plan for A's in Pacific Commons with BP Village is a whole different thing than a A's stadium in Warm Springs area (i.e. no houses, retail, BP village, but just stadium and parking lots). So most of the comments in my earlier comment still stands.

As far as Stanford stadium is concerned? Isn't it a private stadium, but it is for a private school and on private property? If so, can't compare that.

About your comparison with AT&T Park in SFO, it got millions in tax increments financed by the Redevelopment Agency (see http://www.ballparksofbaseball.com/nl/AT&TPark.htm). Anyway, the Giants did receive a $10 million tax abatement from the city and $80 million for upgrades to the local infrastructure (including a connection to the Muni Metro). I consider that public funding for the sake of the stadium. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AT&T_Park under "Design and Construction".

So saying that such projects are entirely privately funded is not really true in the long run. The public is going to have to pay for a portion of it, if not now, then later.

Regarding Staples Center, what I understand is that it is a small part of a much larger 4 million Sq. Ft. development buy a private development firm called Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) which is building something called LA Live adjoining Staples Center and the Los Angeles Convention Center. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.A._Live

All these three examples are in different times, context and environment than Fremont. So macro-comparisons won't work for a micro-city like Fremont.

Bottomline, the questions I raised in my earlier comment still stand. I am concerned about who is going to fund the services that are needed outside of stadium area, but required to make sure that the stadium operates: roads, maintenance, traffic, infrastructure upgrades, etc. etc. The list goes on.

Jeffrey said...

Sacramento... No way. I lived there for 8 years and used to think the same thing until I researched it a bit. Raley Field is not easily expandable to a Major League facility. I am not an engineer or architect so I don't know exactly why, but long ago I did talk to a Sac Bee reporter who referred me to an engineer that eh interviewed who said unequivocally Raley Field would almost need to be completely rebuilt to make it acceptable.

Additionally, the market is not even 1/3rd the population of the Bay Area. Having 40% of the Bay Area market is better than having Sacramento all to yourself.

Marine Layer said...

D Alur, we'll have to agree to disagree.

If you want to say that the Muni Metro connection - which terminates at the Caltrain station, not the ballpark - only benefits Giants and not the city as a whole, feel free. It helped as a catalyst for the building boom there and eventually served as the first step towards the long-awaited T-Third line. Now if you want to point out a particular opportunity cost option that would've fared better than the ballpark, go ahead.

I do agree that SF and other downtowns are far different from Fremont. I don't think anyone's arguing that.

Stanford Stadium absolutely matters. It's right next to wealthy neighborhoods in a suburban setting and required expectations management and compromise. Like the A's plan, it was mostly funded by one particular developer who happened to be an alumnus.

I'm happy to debate this stuff. It's just that a blanket statement such as "no stadium has ever been built without public assistance" is simply not true, especially in California. Just as Fremont can't be compared in scope to a big city, other stadium projects can't be reasonably compared to a California stadium project due to the greater number of factors here. Let's be fair all around.

D Alur said...

Hi ML,
I never said anything about the Muni/Metro stuff. I was talking about the other infrastructure upgrades needed around the stadium for proper stadium use.

Anyway, you said exactly what was on my mind in your last comment: "Just as Fremont can't be compared in scope to a big city, other stadium projects can't be reasonably compared to a California stadium project due to the greater number of factors here. Let's be fair all around."

I agree! Thanks for the discussion.

Rick T. said...

Re: D Alur’s point about jobs and “other options for sustainable economic development,” I’d like to debunk this once and for all:

- Currently, the land where the ballpark is located is undeveloped or underutilized; Employment opportunities associated with this property are minimal, if non-existent. New jobs would be created through the development of the site to its highest and best use.

- New jobs created by this project would run from entry-level, part-time jobs to well-paid, well-compensated jobs. More jobs means more workers with money to spend. The odds are that a good chunk of that cash will be spent in Fremont.

- “Sustainable Economic Development” is a meaningless term advanced by people who: 1) cannot provide an actual and reasonable definition of the term; 2) are attempting to denigrate a project they oppose; and 3) who deny obvious facts such as that building a new development project with a range of job opportunities would contribute to the economic greater good of Fremont.

For the record, I am agnostic on whether this is a good deal for Fremont. But please, there needs to be better arguments that this nonsense.

D Alur said...

Rick. T,
"Sustainable Development = Environmental, economic and social well-being for today and tomorrow".

This definition comes from: International Institute for Sustainable Development

Some other resources I came across:
Wikipedia and
Lawrence Berkley National Labs

I am not an expert on this, just a student.

I am just trying to understand the whole project. If you have better arguments, factual information to support your stated opinions, I am all ears.

Jesse said...

I'm getting the impression reading this thread that Pac Commons is not likely to happen. ML, any idea how the talks between Catellus and Wasserman are going? Is Pacific Commons even on the table now?

And I have one more question, in all of your research have you come across anything noting a correlation between crime statistics and baseball games?

daveinsm said...

re: Jesse

Don't forget that the A's have purchased 143 acres of land in the pacific commons area. Link

I don't think the A's will give up on Pac Commons that easily. Fremont needs a downtown presence that will take the city to the next level. Being the 4th most populous city in the Bay Area they need something that will put them on the map.

Marine Layer said...

There's an impasse between the A's and the big box stores. PC is stuck until they can resolve the impasse, a feat that may or may not be possible.

I've never come across any such statistics. I've heard that the only crimes typically committed at A's games are ticket scalping, as if that were really necessary.

Jeffrey said...

Just to lighten the mood: RICKEY!!!!!!!!!!!!