06 May 2009

Zennie and I agree

Before you check out Zennie Abraham's newest contribution to the his SFGate blog, let me warn you that both the text form and his vlog are lo-o-o-o-ong. Have a seat. Maybe get a beverage.

Zennie comes out guns blazing on everyone, from Mayor Dellums to A's ownership. Interestingly, he reveals a couple of things that sound absolutely terrible from Oakland's perspective. One, there are four - count 'em, four - groups working on the ballpark issue. Zoinks!
So it's that wealth of experience at seeing Oakland stumble all over itself with secret meetings between people who think they know when they can't even crunch fiscal data let alone craft a decent set of planning scenarios that's got me riled up. And it's the fact that we have as of this writing four committees and groups - The Oakland Mayor's Sports and Entertainment Task Force, Doug Boxer's MLB Task Force, and the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce's Land Use Committee, and the Oakland Alameda County Joint Powers Authority - looking at the A's stadium issue and yet never having met as one to talk about this matter and trade information in the objective of presenting a united front that really has been the last straw for me.
Two, Zennie quit the Mayor's Sports and Entertainment Task Force last week. Zennie asks, "Would you believe...?" and all I can say is "Yes, I believe it." I'm not surprised. I don't think any A's fan or Oakland observer is surprised. I don't have to touch on the litany of missteps, the situation is practically self-evident.

I ended an interview with a reporter earlier this week with an opinion I've been wanting to get off my chest for a while: Owning a major league team, and having it in your city, are privileges, not rights. It is incumbent upon both parties to approach any negotiations with that attitude. No matter how long you've owned a team (Marge Schott) or held it in your city (Brooklyn), the fates can be cruel and your privilege can be taken away in an instant. If both parties treated the team as something more than a possession to argue over, more progress could be made.

It can be argued that Wolff/Fisher can treat the team as a possession since, well, they bought the team. Still, owners have a social contract with fans that goes beyond tickets, television, and promotions. There is an unspoken bond between the owners, team, and fans. All have a shared responsibility to protect and grow the franchise. That stewardship begins at the top.

The city, on the other hand, has a much more tenuous grip on the team. It may have a lease agreement as the only legal bond. It also has a responsibility to uphold the relationship with the team. If the city is looking to provide a stadium solution, it behooves them to put aside the political oneupsmanship and games, in order to work together to reach that common goal. This is where Zennie and I are on the same page. The fact that one of Oakland's staunchest advocates quit over his frustration with the process is perhaps the most disheartening development I've heard yet. Zennie's more a numbers guy than a work-the-channels type, so I'm not going to oversell his value. Regardless, it's anything but good, and smacks of running to the lifeboats.

I'll end this post with a quote from the 99-year young John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood:
Never mistake activity for achievement.
(placing palm on face now)

AN Wolff interview

Blez interviews Lew Wolff. No excerpts this time, read and comment there. Or here if you like. It's long and almost all stadium.

Jingletown Stadium @ Fruitvale

Faithful New Ballpark readers: Marine Layer made the very foolish decision to let me, Chris Kidd, stand in for him for this post. I come, hat in hand, to offer you something you all thought you would never see. It is a favorite sticking point for San Jose partisans (and something in Oakland which we prefer to ignore) that none of the proposed sites in Oakland have a level of preparedness equal to Diridon. There's no EIR, they say. The needed infrastructure improvements are too great, they insist. Well, I believe I might have found a site in Oakland that will not only have both of those issues fully addressed within 18 months, but it will be done without costing the Oakland A's ownership a single penny (and if I might editorialize for a moment: In your face).

What is even more amazing is this site is far superior to both of the rehashed waterfront sites so far proposed in Oakland, specifically the site at Oak to 9th and the site at the Howard Terminal in the port of Oakland. Far superior. Have I whetted your appetite enough yet? Can you not stand the suspense anymore? Well, wait no longer: the site I'm talking about is on the Oakland Estuary at the base of the Fruitvale Avenue Bridge. A site I like to call Jingletown Stadium.

So, let's first talk about the site itself. It's 26 acres currently inhabited by the Owens Brockway Glass Container company. It is bounded by Fruitvale Ave to the north/west, Alameda Ave to the south/west, Home Depot to the south/east, and Boehmer and Elmwood Ave's to the north/east. I call it “Jingletown Stadium” because the site is across the street from the vibrant artist community of Jingletown (photo blog).

Now, let's compare this site with the two other Oakland waterfront sites: Oak to 9th and the Howard Terminal. When comparing sites, there are some yardsticks to go by: the size of the parcel(s), the ease of acquiring said parcel(s) and dealing with the displacement of the current occupants, the current infrastructure, the current public transit options, and the feasibility of adding infrastructure and parking.

Let's go point by point, though I'm going to save a little bit for dessert.
  • Size of Parcel: Jingletown Stadium is 26 acres, compared to 029's 40 acres and Howard Terminal's 46 acres.
  • Acquisition: Though 029 would be the easiest parcel to acquire, the A's would be taking on a ginormous NIMBY fight that has stalled out the development of 029 to this day. You don't want that. Howard Terminal is equally squishy: the port of Oakland just signed a 25 year contract with Matson Shipping and they would be required to relocate them to an equally large site for their exclusive operation. Space like that on the waterfront is neither easily attained nor is it cheap. While Jingletown Stadium would need to relocate the glass factory to elsewhere in Oakland, this is a much easier prospect than moving Matson Shipping. Oakland currently has an over-abundance of available industrial space, and finding another site for them to inhabit should not be difficult. One solution I particularly love is to put them on the Oakland Army Base. It offers the same proximity to a major freeway and the city would be able to offer them the land for free as incentive. Additionally, it would remove a large industrial polluter to an area of the city that isn't nearly as densely populated. But I digress...
  • Infrastructure: To put it succinctly, they suck for the other two sites. The Howard Terminal is near only 1 freeway exit southbound and 2 exits northbound. 029 doesn't fare much better with 2 exits northbound and 1 exit southbound. Compare that with Jingletown Junction having 3 exits reasonably close southbound (23rd, Fruitvale & High) and 2 northbound (High & 29th/Fruitvale).
  • Public transit: Here's where Jingletown Stadium cleans the clocks of the other two sites. Fruitvale BART is only a third of a mile away from Jingletown Stadium. Even better, Fruitvale BART is a regional hub for AC Transit. 029 is over a mile from Lake Merritt BART and Howard Terminal would require an infill station for BART. Screw that mess.
So, you guys have had to slog through quite a bit of article so far, but are you ready for dessert? I saved the best part for last, contained in the question of feasibility for upgrading infrastructure and parking. This is the lynchpin for what makes Jingletown Stadium far superior to all other sites in Oakland: The Central Estuary Specific Plan. Now, I could go through a whole explanation about what the Central Estuary Specific Plan is, or I could use the wonder that is The Internets and show you. I wrote some guest articles about the CESP for Vsmoothe's phenomenal blog A Better Oakland. They're here, here, and here. You can also read more by my blogger-crush DJ Crimson at his blog Oakland Streets here and here.

If you're link-averse, I'll spare you the work and give you the quick and dirty right here. The city is developing a “specific plan” for the area of Oakland's waterfront bound by 19th Ave, 54th Ave, 880 and the estuary. An EIR is created which will cover the entire specific plan area, and developers who want to build anything that is contained within the range of this EIR can use it to gain approval to build instead of having to create their own. The process for the approved types of new development will have a much faster time getting approval and getting construction started. For the significant amount of time and money saved by the developer using this EIR, they have to pay a “user fee” which will only be used within the specific plan area. These fees will do things like build sidewalks, create open space, modernize the sewer system, underground utilities, etc.

This is where the A's come in. If the staff drafting the specific plan include a stadium plan within the EIR, it's conceivable that the A's could use it for the stadium. What's more, the pretty hefty user fee the specific plan area would extract from the A's could go towards all the types of infrastructural improvements that the A's would need at a new stadium. Streets can be reconfigured, freeway exits can be modified. The area around Jingletown Stadium is still relatively underdeveloped: it can accommodate a lot of the upgrades needed to the roads and there are many underdeveloped lots that could serve as additional off-site parking to make up for the insufficient amount of space the 26 acres of Jingletown Stadium would provide for parking.

Plus, I bet Jingletown Stadium would have some mean burritos.
Editor's notes:
Like any site, Jingletown has its positives and negatives. I don't have any familiarity with this area other than driving through there several years ago while looking for waterfront sites.
  • Of the 26 acres, half would be devoted to the ballpark and the other half to parking in all likelihood. That translates to about 1,600 on-site spaces if only a surface lot were built to save costs. That could grow to 3,000 (two levels) or 4,500 (three levels) if a garage were built, but someone would have to foot the bill for that. The more parking is immediately available, the greater traffic impact. 10,000 spaces for any ballpark would be for any site, regardless of the site's proximity to transit. A worst case scenario has to be assumed to properly identify problems and create mitigation plans.
  • A 2002 report by environmental watchdog site Scorecard indicates that the Owens Brockway plant has a less than glowing report card in terms of toxic chemical/waste generation. If the site were acquired, it's likely that some amount of site cleanup would be required. The flipside is that wherever the plant is moved, it's possible that a cleaner replacement could be built. Owens Brockway's parent company is one of the largest glass container manufacturers in the world.
  • If Owens Brockway isn't interested in selling, the plan is dead in the water. Unlike the other two waterfront sites, this one is privately owned. As usual, eminent domain is assumed to be out of the question.
  • The picture intentionally orients the field east instead of creating a "Splash Hit" situation. A street acts as a buffer between the ballpark site and the waterfront.
  • Impact to Alameda is unknown, which means NIMBY reaction to such a concept is unknown.