12 February 2009

Let's just be friends

The thing about liveblogging an event is that when the writer looks back at what he wrote, horror is often plainly etched on his face. It's great for an Apple keynote address by Steve Jobs, not so great for something that requires greater analysis. For those who read the whole thing, bless your heart. For those who gave up partway down the post, here's an attempt to make amends.

To start off, the A's have officially made Warm Springs their preferred site, relegating Pacific Commons to retail/housing-only status. That will only galvanize opposition from the Warm Springs and Weibel neighborhoods, who intend to show up at the February 24 city council session pitchforks and torches polite signs in hand. A while back, I mentioned that while attending another council session over a year ago, I watched the council approve a controversial shopping center over the numerous objections of the very same Weibel neighborhood denizens. It was heated then, it will only become moreso in two weeks. Hopefully, the mayor and council have cleared the agenda for the comments session to follow. [Note: Notice of Preparation for Warm Springs here.]

Of course, the council session isn't just a Festivus-like airing of grievances. There's actual business to discuss, chiefly the council's upcoming decision to accept Warm Springs as the official site. Should the council move forward with WS, they'll authorize some amount of money to be spent to fully study the site and amend the EIR in the process. The A's, in a manner consistent with prior history, would likely underwrite the work.

Then again, maybe that won't happen. In yesterday's session, Lew Wolff had a couple of interesting quotes. One of them came early on in his rant about process:
We think issues should be fully aired, but not forever. A "No" answer is as good as a "Yes" answer for those of us who want to move forward.
He later went on to describe a similar situation in San Jose, when he tried to build a small hotel on a vacant lot he owned downtown. Since that particular project failed, he hadn't done any significant work in San Jose. Incidentally, the city changed mayors during that period from one he had a frosty relationship with (Ron Gonzales) to one who's practically a chum (Chuck Reed). Wolff also assumed ownership of the A's around that time as well.

Going back to the quote - it's a real eyecatcher. Is Lew hinting at Fremont giving up the ghost? Or does he want to keep slogging through along with the city? Do the mayor and council want to continue with this? One has to wonder what the limits of their political will are.

If Fremont approves the plan despite intense political pressure, another 3-6 months will be required to complete the EIR. The traffic study and management plan, which still haven't been released for the old Pacific Commons project, will continue to raise considerable ire due to its absence. The opposition, who had been the proverbial "sleeping dogs," will only get angrier, more organized, and most importantly, bigger. Fringe voices who have called for recalls and lawsuits will grow in number.

If Lew's nudging Fremont to say no, the city can exit this situation while saving face in the process. They can look like "heroes" by putting a stop to the "big bad developer." The council members who are looking to run for mayor next time (Wasserman's termed out) won't be overly tainted by the experience. Lew, in turn, can officially turn his attentions elsewhere.

I need to make an important distinction about this. I don't expect Lew to back out on his own. The San Jose issue I cited earlier showed Lew's frustration with bureaucracy. In this case, the city's not the problem. Instead, he saved his arrows for non-governmental parties. Wolff/Fisher still have $45 million of real estate at Pacific Commons and the option to buy $100 million more, so it's not like the developer wants to alienate the city. Something else might get built there in the future when the economy recovers. Friends in Fremont's high places will still be needed.

What we have, then, is like a romance in which outside circumstances can cause a breakup. Maybe the woman needs to take care of sick parents. Perhaps the man has found a new job far away. They're not married yet so they don't have to make the really tough decisions together. Instead, they can make the easiest decision to move on separately and become friends. Without benefits.


Anonymous said...

Well said ML--

With tempers in Fremont raw at this point I found it interesting that Wolff is even bringing up the naming game at this point in time...."during an interview with 1590 KLIV Reporter Sean Michael Lisle, Woff talked a little about what his sports teams are up to. He said there could be an announcement at any time on a new source of funding for the Oakland A's and their ballpark in Fremont. He also hinted that the team might carry the name of San Jose instead of Oakland if and when they move south.

Fremont WS residents prefer he goes all the way to SJ--rather than just name the team San Jose-this is just one more peice that indicates he wants to be "separated but friends" going forward-

Tony D. said...


Is the "new source of funding" revenue from the new CSNCA partnership or something totally different?

anon 1:27

Well said also. Whether it's downtown San Jose or "San Jose north" in Warm Springs/Fremont, I'm pretty confident we'll have the San Jose A's in the near future. (Georob would be proud)

Marine Layer said...

Can't answer that question right now. I would for the moment say "No" because usually there's some kind of press release associated with such a deal.

Jesse said...

I cant understand how the BART station didnt get people upset, but a ballpark does. A ballpark is only 81 nights a year and attended by families and sports fans, but that station is going to be trafficking shady characters into and out of Fremont all year long.

FC said...

Very well said ML.

I'm not very familiar with the council in Fremont, but outside of Wasserman, is there anyone else that is 100% for the ballpark?

Also, I wonder when the A's first received word that Selig was going to allow them to look elsewhere (should Fremont fail). I'm sure there had been discussions well before that letter was ever sent out. Yet, instead of allowing PC to fail and then moving on to SJ, the A's chose to bring WS into the picture. I questioned such a move back then, citing that it would only prove to muddy the water. I would have to say the water is downright foul now.

Marine Layer said...

I've never gotten the indication that anyone on the council or the mayor are 100% for the ballpark. If they were, they'd be willing to provide funding. Or pay for the EIR work. From the beginning, they've taken the position that they'd conditionally approve of the project provided that it were a good deal. Without understanding all of the financials, it's hard to say if that's the case.

FC said...

You're probably right ML, no one is 100% for the park. But is there anyone firmly against the park? Even though the residents of Fremont are coming out against the WS plan, I haven't heard any of the city leaders come out and publicly denounce the plan.

The way I see it, at some point someone has to stand up and say this ballpark fiasco has gone on long enough. I don't see how anyone, the A's, the city leaders, or the residents will gain anything by allowing the planning/review process to continue on any longer.

ATown408 said...

San Jose A's

It has a ring to it....Love it!!!

Marine Layer said...

None of the council was firmly against the ballpark. Only Steve Cho, who is now out of office, advocated a public vote on the project, yet he felt it would win.

We'll see what happens on the 24th.

Incidentally, the new NOP shows that the Pacific Commons ballpark is located on the Brandin Court/Christy Concrete site, further away from the big box stores. Hmmm...

Jeffrey said...

Is the NOP on the City web site? I was just trying to finding it and failing miserably

Anonymous said...

1 city council member support the pacific commons site.
1 city council member support the warm springs site.
2 city council member support both site.
Mayor prefer pacific commons site.

Anonymous said...

At Warm Springs, I hope Fremont says no. That is a stupid proposal. Just kill it now and let's get on with act 2: either all-in for San Jose or figuring out a way to stay in Oakland. But just recreating an updated version of the Coliseum in Warm Springs is dumb.

Anonymous said...

So ML-- sounds as if there was a change in the NOP for the ballpark location at PC--someone else mentioned in the blog yesterday that there would be another run at PC--

From your perspective is that what is happening? Did Wolff concede to move the stadium further away to appease the big box boys?

Jeffrey said...

Looking at the alternate plan, everything at PC... the area where the stadium would go seems kind of small. It is closer to freeway and right next to the pedestrian bridge. I wonder how the stadium would be configured to fit into that area?

Marine Layer said...

Not sure what's going on there. Problem with doing this now is that it would require yet another notice of preparation and a major project-level change to the EIR. I'm not sure how much of the in-progress EIR could be used. Probably the housing stuff only.

Anonymous said...

Who cares where the NOP now has the ballpark at PC. Wasn't it the A's themselves who didn't want to go further south in PC in the first place? With the A's JUST THIS WEEK making Warm Springs their preffered site, all talk about the NOP and PC making a comeback is ridiculous.

Tony D. said...

Just checked out the Warm Springs NOP myself at the city of Fremont website. The "Pacific Commons alternative", at least how I'm viewing it, actually puts the ballpark slightly northeast of the original location; now next to 880. IMO, the new distance from the big box stores is miniscule to make much of a difference of anything. If anything, it says that housing at PC will now be maximized, hence the smaller ballpark footprint of the PC alternative.