Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wolff's Letter: Good Fiction

On Wednesday, Lew Wolff posted a letter he wrote to A's fans in an attempt to explain why he's trying to move the A's. Why did he post this letter on the A's website? It could be a response to mounting criticism (which we have covered extensively on this blog) and frustration from all sides with MLB's slow pace in making a decision.

Whatever the reason, one look at Wolff's wildly inaccurate letter and it's clear that it's just Wolff's latest attempt to mislead A's fans and the media.

Look at this excerpt from Wolff's letter:

We believe we have exhausted the venue options suggested in Oakland and several other Oakland options we explored on our own. It was only at that juncture that we decided to focus our efforts in the city of Fremont. At that time we did not encounter any resistance from those in Oakland who understood the efforts we had already made in the city. After deciding that the Fremont location would not work, and having no further options in Oakland, we requested an adjustment of our territorial rights from Major League Baseball.

It’s funny that Wolff compares Oakland and Fremont like this. What were his efforts in Oakland? He claims he has a 227 page novel describing it, however, he refuses to let the public view it. Did Wolff's efforts include inquiring about the Uptown a full TWO YEARS AFTER the Oakland City Council had voted to approve the construction of condos in 2002? Do Wolff's "efforts" include discussing building a new stadium in the Coliseum parking lot, but being unable to do so due to utilities there, along with conflicts with other sports teams (both of which exist at the site Wolff currently covets in the South Bay). Perhaps Wolff is referring to the 66th Avenue-to-High-Street plan that he proposed but which never panned out. Forget the fact that that plan was dead-on-arrival, as Wolff's request for BART to build an infill station was never realistic. Nor did Wolff bother to contact any of the 66th Avenue-to-High-Street site's dozens of property owners.

In contrast to his inactivity in Oakland, Wolff actually made an effort in Fremont. In Fremont, Wolff met with city council members and business leaders, and made outreaches to the community and several other Tri-City organizations to promote his Fremont stadium idea. Again, this is in contrast to what he didn't do in Oakland, where he did the bare minimum. Meanwhile, Oakland officials have done a lot to try to keep the A's in town — from the time Robert Bobb hired HOK to study East Bay ballpark locations in 2001, to the present, when Doug Boxer & his Lets Go Oakland group continue to work to keep the A's in Oakland. Unfortunately, no member of A's management has shown his face at any Oakland City Council meeting, including 2002 when Bobb put his Oakland career on the line to build support for the Uptown site. Instead, that site eventually wen to the Forest City apartment building project, especially after the A's showed no interest in the site.

Wolff had other dubious quotes in his letter:

In Oakland and Fremont, the only way we would have been able to invest in a private ballpark is through the use and value of residential entitlements. Our plan would have called for the use of residential entitlement proceeds to be directed to the public body in order for the new venue to be owned by the local jurisdiction. ...

At the time that we wanted to progress in Oakland, and next in Fremont, the residential market for approved entitlements was extremely strong. However under current economic conditions, the residential entitlement concept has been rendered unavailable due to the prolonged recession and sharp decline in demand for residential housing.

Dear Lew Wolff, how come "residential entitlements" are necessary to keep the A's in Oakland, but not in the South Bay? In ANY big city, not just Oakland, finding a large amount of available land for the development that you are after is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Yet, while you make that a requirement in Oakland, you do not make it a requirement in San Jose Care to clarify this, Lew? This is why A's fans everywhere are upset with you. You set the bar much higher for the city where A's fans have learned to love the team and want the team to stay: Oakland.

Moving right along to more Wolff quotes ...

During the new ballpark renaissance in baseball, teams have clearly demonstrated that the best and only viable location for a successful Major League Baseball venue is in the urban center of a major U.S. city. You need not look any further than across the Bay at the Giants wonderful AT&T Park for a prime example. The Giants downtown San Francisco location is within walking distance to millions of square feet of commercial office space, extensive residential accommodations and huge amounts of hotel and convention facilities. The aforementioned land use proximity is a key attribute that makes the privately financed Giants ballpark successful.

Unfortunately, an Oakland location similar to AT&T simply does not exist.

That last line is simply false. Oakland indeed DOES have a ballpark site very similar to San Francisco's AT&T Park. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past year, Oakland officials have presented Major League Baseball's three-person committee with not one but three waterfront ballpark sites that fit the bill for an urban baseball-only stadium: 1) Victory Court, just south of Jack London Square; 2) Jack London North, a land parcel just northeast of Jack London Square; and 3) Howard Terminal, which sits along Port of Oakland land, north of Jack London Square. Also, each of these Oakland sites is well within walking distance of the urban location that Wolff says the A's need. Also, various public transit options that reach the entire Bay Area are available at these sites.

Like we have mentioned in the past, finding these sites were relatively easy. All they took was a little cooperation between some very enthusiastic Oakland officials. Unfortunately, Wolff never tried in Oakland. We can go on and on about how these locations are close to restaurants, bars, and a very active nightlife but we have already covered that extensively. Apparently, it seems that Lew has either played us for fools or he just hasn’t paid attention to any of these developments.

I completely understand the frustration that people on all sides feel regarding Commissioner Selg's slow pace in making a decision. But Wolff's puff piece of a letter, which was filled with many inaccuracies, is not going to work. Don't try to play A's fans as idiots, Lew. Too many A's fans know the real facts. Repeating the same false statements over and over again won't make them true.


Kevin said...

In my opinion, I think the blue ribbon commitie is leaning toward suggesting that the A's try to get a new built in Victory Court. Why else would it take this long for them to come to a decision? A lot of people thought that San Jose was going to be a slam dunk decision. Now, I'm not so sure.

Steve Bowles said...

Not only that, but I've long believed that MLB will not want to reverse the Giants' territorial rights unless they absolutely have to ... basically, Oakland has to prove that they CAN'T before opening the T.R. can o' worms.

I'm also wondering if the committee is purposely dragging its feet so as to get Wolff to throw up his hands and give up. It seems far-fetched but it also wouldn't surprise me.

It is interesting, though, that Chuck Reed and Ignacio De La Fuente are both saying exactly the same things to the media. Personally, I wish IDLF would just shut up.

Aaron said...

I love how we're supposed to be happy about Beane's ownership stake...

sidecross said...

Thanks for the great “Wolff’s Letter: Good Fiction” post.

Wolff and MLB are not considering the economic catastrophe that is facing 95% of the people in our country.

If Wolff and MLB think they can survive with 5% of the population paying the tab for a new stadium they are not living in the same Oakland or Bay Area that I live in.

Oakland today cut its Police force because of budget cuts and the State of California budget is just as bleak.

Sid said...

This is pretty interesting stuff trying to pin Lew Wolff as the reason why Oakland hasn't come up with a ballpark for the A's. The 227 page book will become public once this fiasco with the MLB committee is done. Most of this article is false and the reasons below illustrate that.

Look no further than former Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown who is the one who sold the sites to developers who had him in their back pockets behind the A's backs when it was in open discussion those places were great sites for a ballpark for more than a few months.

Outgoing Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown told the newspaper he had spoken with Wolff several times, but that Fremont had a crucial advantage on Oakland: "Fremont has the land."

Another problem is all these sites in JLS, Uptown, Howard Terminal have businesses there that need to be bought out or moved. Most of these businesses are not willing to sell. Plus Oakland is going to buy the land with what money???

No one in Oakland's city council said a word when Wolff tried in Fremont and there is a good reason why...He tried in vain for years in Oakland as did previous ownerships and the City Council knows this.

San Jose on the other hand has the land ready, is 3 times the size of Oakland, has the highest income per capita for a large city in the United States, a much lower crime rate and is has so many more corporate sponsors in Silicon Valley its ridiculous.

Why has this taken 16 months from MLB? It is because the MLB committee is going to send the A's to San Jose. But Selig has to be sure on every detail before having the owners vote on making the Bay Area one shared territory like NY, LA, and CHI. So no one(Giants)can argue that due diligence has not been done in advance. As Selig says this decision will affect "two franchises" in his All-Star game interview.

If Oakland/Fremont had a suitable site the MLB committee would be working right now with that city and Wolff on a the new stadium. Why wait? Those cities are in the A's territory already.

If you are a "true A's" you should see very easily the A's are better of in San Jose where they will prosper and have a better chance to win. Oakland is too small and riddled with high unemployment, crime, and problems in general to make this happen.

San Jose A's in 2014.

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