Wednesday, December 22, 2010

City Council approves Victory Court EIR contract

On Monday night, another hurdle was cleared with the Oakland City Council voting 6-2 to approve the $750,000 Professional Service Agreement (PSA) with LSA Associates on the the environmental impact report (EIR) for the proposed ballpark at Victory Court. Only Nancy Nadel and Ignacio De La Fuente opposed, which was no surprise given their opposition during the CCCEDA meeting last Tuesday. For his part, De La Fuente prefers to wait on an official commitment from Major League Baseball, and while City Council President Jane Brunner showed empathy to De La Fuente's concerns, she stated that such a passive approach simply would not be in the City's best interest. "If we did not do this, we would be out of the game tomorrow," she said. Ross Retzler, one of the public speakers, also summed it up nicely: a yes vote on the EIR funding "will send a message to Major League Baseball," he said.

Cheers reverberated around the Council chambers at the conclusion of the voting, with Brunner officially announcing the approval. It was by far the loudest emotional outburst for any of the items on the meeting's agenda. The rousing ovation was followed by robust "Let's Go Oakland" chants.

To recap: the City Council voted to authorize up to $750,000 to spend on an EIR, but with two provisions (resulting from the previous meeting):
  • The contract between the City of Oakland and LSA Associates is subject to termination at any time, without the City being on the hook for the balance, and;
  • Conservative spending on "tangible certainties."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Victory Court EIR is Money Well Spent

Hey, fellow A's fans. Here are some things to consider going into tonight's Oakland City Council meeting where they will vote to approve (or reject) a contract to do an EIR for the Victory Court ballpark site:
  • This contract is for a maximum of $750,000 of REDEVELOPMENT FUNDS, not money from the General Fund.
  • The CEDA Committee last week wisely approved a provision allowing the Oakland Redevelopment Agency to cancel the contract at any time if MLB decides to allow the A's to move to San Jose.
  • Some have said this study will cost $4 to $5 million dollars. This is simply NOT TRUE. The EIR contract is for a maximum of $750,000.
  • This money will be wisely spent, even if a ballpark is never built at Victory Court. The area needs to be revitalized and new development there can retain current jobs and provide new ones even without a new ballpark. So, this is not wasted money, even if no stadium is built.
It is imperative that we encourage the city council to approve this EIR contract tonight. Disapproval in this early stage could have disastrous effects on the longstanding efforts to keep the A's in Oakland. Everyone attending tonight is encouraged to step up and make their voices heard.

Let's go, A's! And keep them in Oakland!

Monday, December 20, 2010

6PM Tuesday, Victory Court EIR Meeting

We couldn't be more excited about the City Council meeting scheduled at around 6 p.m. this Tuesday night at Oakland City Hall to approve the Victory Court ballpark EIR contract. (It starts at 5:30 p.m., but the A's item will start a bit later.)

Either way, let's all be there, A's fans!

The 200-plus A's fans who packed Oakland City Hall three weeks ago left that night with the kind of big smiles and good vibes that we haven't seen with the Green-and-Gold since the Tejada/Tim Hudson years.

After years of being told what they are not, A's fans reveled that night in how great their city, their baseball team, and yes, even they themselves, can be. Enjoying the break from being constantly put down by team owners, A's fans instead felt a sense of optimism. Passion. Pride. Unity. Community. That's what baseball is supposed to bring to a city. Remember when Oakland A's baseball was always about that? It wasn't that long ago. Now, the meeting this Tuesday evening at Oakland City Hall is another chance to recapture that spirit.

An author I once saw at a Marcus Books reading in West Oakland put it best. She said, "Thanks for coming out to see me. But then again, you didn't come out to be with me, did you? You came out to be with each other."

That's the power of sports in one quote. Sure, it's great to win, but even when you don't, that strong sense of community that a baseball team delivers to its region is what really brings people back to the ballpark year after year.

They call the holidays the most wonderful time of the year. What will be even better is the thrill of Opening Day 2015 at an Oakland A’s new ballpark at Victory Court. This Tuesday, hopefully, that beautiful dream will be one step closer to reality.

Be there on Tuesday night, A's fans. Let's go, Oakland!

WHAT: Oakland City Council Meeting
WHY: Approve Victory Court ballpark EIR
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 21
WHERE: Oakland City Hall
ADDRESS: 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza (14th St. & Broadway)

BART: City Center/12th St. station, PARKING: Clay Street Garage (on Clay St. between 14th & 16th streets)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Tuesday Vote

On Tuesday, the City Council Community and Economic Development Agency (CCCEDA) held a regular meeting to discuss, among other things, the funding of the EIR for the proposed A's ballpark at Victory Court. After submitting the Request for Qualifications back in August, and sifting through the responses, the City of Oakland decided on a $750,000 deal with LSA Associates, who had performed the EIR for the Measure DD improvements at Lake Merritt, just a few blocks away from the ballpark site.

Nancy Nadel spoke (not as part of the panel) and expressed concern about the funding sources, citing what she perceives is a shortage of parking in DTO and the need for the parking garage at 21st and Telegraph to be built with that money. What she apparently forgot is that there is ample parking away from the Telegraph/Broadway area if you actually look for it; a later speaker pointed out that very fact. Nadel also questioned what she called the “righteousness” of the plan, stating that no funds should be extended without negotiations.

Bryan Grunwald was on hand to promote his ballpark-over-980 plan yet once more, but it was shot down by the panel because, in their words, Major League Baseball prefers Victory Court and exploring any other sites will only create unnecessary delays and complexity to the study. Grunwald will likely give it one last fling at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, December 21. As it stands, the EIR will have two alternatives: a ballpark at Victory Court, and a CEQA-mandated "no project" alternative (standard on all environmental studies in California).Other speakers were decidedly in favor of the deal. One stated emphatically that “we’re gonna have to take chances in this city.” Another bluntly called the Grunwald's idea “a waste of time.” The final speaker felt that the EIR should include a cost/benefit analysis of relocating the businesses at Victory Court, or as he called it, the “business environment.” It should be noted that environmental documents don’t include such things as “business environment”; they examine only the physical impacts, such as noise, soils, aesthetics, greenhouse gases, water quality, etc.

Recapping the final vote: the EIR funding passed 3-1, with an added provision that would take the City of Oakland off the hook for the balance of the $750,000 cost to LSA Associates should MLB halt the proceedings. The three “yes” votes were from Jane Brunner, Larry Reid and Patricia Kernighan. The lone “no” was from Ignacio De La Fuente, who wanted to hold off on funding until the City got a commitment from both MLB and A's owner Lewis Wolff.

Friday, December 10, 2010

EBX: Next Tuesday Critical for Victory Court

In Robert Gammon's 92510 blog, he went into detail Friday about the upcoming Community and Economic Development Agency meeting vote on the ballpark EIR slat for next Tuesday. Gammon wrote:

The city's proposal to spend $750,000 on an environmental impact report for a new Oakland A's ballpark in Jack London Square is scheduled to go before a council committee on Tuesday. The council's Community and Economic Development Agency committee will examine the financing proposal at its regular 1:30 p.m. meeting at City Hall on December 14. The item then likely will be forwarded to the full council for approval on December 21.

Approval of the $750,000 is pivotal for the proposed Victory Court ballpark site to move forward. The ballpark cannot advance without the environmental impact report. At the very least, the council would need to approve funding for a traffic study related to the environmental impact report. But if the council decides to not spend any money, it would send a clear signal to Major League Baseball that Oakland is not serious about trying to keep the A's.

It is important that the funding is approved by the city and it just might. Yes votes on Tuesday from councilmembers Jane Brunner, Larry Reid, and Pat Kernighan will be enough to send the issue to the City Council for a Dec. 21 vote. Yes votes there from those three, along with Rebecca Kaplan and Mayor-Elect Jean Quan, would be enough to approve the measure. Gammon predicts that the $350,000 for a traffic study will get easily approved, while approval of the whole $750,000 to pay for the entire EIR is likely but not a slam dunk. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rumors Fly MLB Will Rule for Oakland

Much of the Oakland A's Internet world was abuzz with this Ballpark Digest article that reported that, because Oakland's redevelopment agency is in better shape than San Jose's, Major League Baseball is now looking more favorably at Oakland as MLB gets close to making their decision on the A's fate. Here's a quote from the article:

That financing wherewithal is expected to carry a lot of weight with the special committee weighing the location of a new A's ballpark. It's also expected to give them cover: the mantra from MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is that his sport is loathe to allow a franchise shift unless all efforts have been made to keep the team in its current community. If Oakland has a site, the money and the will to put together a ballpark package, we're guessing MLB will take the safe route and recommend the team stay there, as opposed to creating a messy territorial battle by allowing a move to San Jose. Indeed, the talk at the Winter Meetings is that an Oakland recommendation is now pretty much a done deal -- with the additional spin (albeit accurate) that this proved the committee was right all along in waiting things out before making a recommendation.

This news, along with the Dec. 8 East Bay Express article that detailed Oakland's progress with MLB, revealed the growing positive momentum for building a new stadium at the Victory Court location by Jack London Square. The waterfront Oakland spot is preferred by Major League Baseball, according to Robert Gammon's Express story. It also shows the level of involvement that Major League Baseball has put into this project. While the Internet sewing circles speculated what this all meant, A's owner Lew Wolff was quick to dismiss it through Susan Slusser at the S.F. Chronicle and Jane Lee of While most of the response is the canned response we have heard for the last 18 months from Lew -- "We have exhausted every option in Oakland" -- one of the more interesting nuggets from the Slusser piece stated:

If the A's are not granted the territorial rights they want in San Jose, they are under no obligation to move to a site recommended by the committee. They can spend no money at all and stay at the Coliseum, or the owners can sell the team.

Under no obligation, Lew? Deciding the future location of the A's franchise is exactly why MLB appointed the three-person committee to study Bay Area ballpark sites. Also, if Wolff were to take this route, the people who claim that Wolff hates Oakland would only have a stronger case. It would be franchise suicide to not work with a viable Oakland ballpark plan like the one that the city and MLB reportedly have forged.

The Jane Lee piece reports that Wolff says he has not talked to the city in two years. That's a flat out lie by Wolff. (Given his past problems with telling the truth, maybe we shouldn't be surprised.) In fact, Wolff is well aware of the progress that has been made at Victory Court. However, I am starting to wonder how much Lew Wolff matters in all this. Remember, in March of 2009, Barbara Boxer and Ron Dellums sent letters to Bud Selig to address this matter and bypassed Wolff entirely, prompting Selig to form the three-member A's ballpark committee, which has caused all this controversy. All the news coming from the Oakland backers talk about working with Major League Baseball officials and not Lew Wolff himself. Judging by the fact that we have been hearing the same canned responses from Wolff in that time period, it leads me to believe that he might not be in the loop as much as he'd like to believe.

Also keep in mind that, while he is the A's ownership managing partner, his financial share in the team is about 10%. If MLB can convince other MLB owners that Oakland is a workable choice, they might be able to convince the A's other partners, including billionaire John Fisher, that investing in an attractive ballpark in Oakland can and would be a profitable enterprise, regardless of Wolff's personal feelings towards Oakland and San Jose. Then, Wolff could easily sell to a more enthusiastic team owner and still make a tidy profit in doing so.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

MLB: Victory Court is Serious Business

A hot-off-the-presses East Bay Express story on the A's ballpark search declares that Oakland's redevelopment agency is in the best shape of all Bay Area cities still vying to be the Oakland Athletics' home city and that, most importantly, "Major League Baseball knows it."

The new article, written by investigative reporter Robert Gammon, goes on to report:

... while San Jose's plan is hindered by financial woes, Oakland's is not. Budget documents show that Oakland's redevelopment fund for the Downtown/Jack London Square area, also known as the city's Central District, will have a projected $20 million total surplus in its operations and capital accounts next year. In addition, City Administrator Dan Lindheim, who also manages the redevelopment agency, says the Central District has plenty of bonding capacity to finance what's needed for the ballpark.

In fact, Major League Baseball's blue ribbon task force has combed through the financial records of Oakland's redevelopment agency in recent months to confirm that the city's ballpark plan pencils out, Lindheim said. The league also brought in noted stadium architects Populous, the designers of AT&T Park in San Francisco, to examine Oakland's planned site for the new stadium in Jack London Square, known as Victory Court. Populous, formerly known as HOK Sports, analyzed East Bay ballpark sites during former City Manager Robert Bobb's tenure. "They've spent an enormous amount of money on high-priced consultants to go through this," Lindheim said, referring to the league's task force.

If parking was once considered a roadblock, information provided to MLB by Oakland officials seems to have quelled that concern. Gammon wrote:

The city plans to build 2,500 parking spots on the Victory Court site, and the rest will be off-site. One of the leading options is to turn vacant parcels underneath I-880 into surface parking lots. Such a move would give the city at least 10,000 parking spaces within five-eighths of a mile of the ballpark.

Gammon also noted the importance of the support that Mayor-Elect Jean Quan has for this project. Quan reportedly said: "I think it will help bring us out of the recession." There are still issues to resolve -- most notably, negotiating with businesses who would have to be relocated from the Victory Court site, and the possibility of adding another offramp from Interstate 880, which is adjacent to the ballpark site. But Gammon's story included one tidbit that should quiet any critics who say that MLB will reject the Jack London Square site. According to Gammon, MLB officials themselves are the ones most enthusiastic about Victory Court as a ballpark location:

The league's experts selected the Victory Court site as the most viable spot for a new ballpark. It's not far from downtown, it's close to BART, and it's on Oakland's waterfront — and thus met major criteria set out by the league. "They like the waterfront site," Lindheim noted.


Congrats to Let's Go Oakland for going over 45,000 fans on Facebook. It's fitting that LGO's Facebook page hit that milestone on Dec. 1, the same day that more than 200 A's fans packed Oakland City Hall in support of a new Jack London Square ballpark at Victory Court.

Now, some Facebook critics say that these pages are trivial and don't represent true political or financial support. But recent political research strongly suggests that those critics have been wrong. In November's elections, the candidate who more people "liked" on Facebook won in 71 percent of Senate elections. Twitter was even more accurate, with the candidates with more followers winning in 74 percent of elections, according to news reports.

So, when Let's Go Oakland declares that they're all for building a new A's ballpark in Oakland, and 45,000 A's fans throw their support behind that by joining LGO's Facebook page, it's nothing to sneeze at. LGO's 45,000 members prove even more significant when one looks at the paltry Facebook numbers garnered by any other city vying for the A's. Those other places have only a tiny fraction of what Let's Go Oakland has assembled, either on Facebook or at Oakland City Hall on Dec. 1, when even the second overflow room was overflowing into the hallways. It's a sign that what Mayor-Elect Jean Quan and Let's Go Oakland are proposing -- a Victory Court ballpark at Jack London Square -- is what the vast majority of A's fans want, too.

So, here's a big congratulations to Let's Go Oakland for reaching another milestone. Just like the many Oakland A's fans you've inspired, we know you won't rest until the A's future in Oakland is secured.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Planning Commission Meeting Recap

On Wednesday night, more than 200 A's fans packed the meeting rooms at City Hall in anticipation of the start of the environmental review process for a proposed A's ballpark at Victory Court. The hearing room was so packed, the fire marshal showed up and cleared the room and ordered the extra fans into an overflow room where people could watch the meeting on TV. And then the overflow room was standing room only. Fans that got to the 6 p.m. meeting found out that the ballpark item would not be discussed until 7:30, so we thank every body who stuck around for the duration of the long meeting. After surveying the large crowd, Planning Commissioner Doug Boxer joked, "You hold a planning commission meeting and a rally breaks out."

All kidding aside, it was no rally, of course, but rather one important step in what will be a long, transparent political process. Also packing city hall was the local media.

VSmoothe at ABetterOakland did an excellent write up with complete video footage.

The Oakland Tribune's take is here.

Here is the San Francisco Chronicle's story.

Oakland North had a nice piece.

KTVU's video showed off Oaklandish’s great "StAy" T-shirt, which Oaklandish generously donated to the first 75 fans in attendance.

And KPIX had a good story and video on the meeting.

There was concern amongst the planning commissioners and other attendees that the public comments would stray off topic but everyone did a good job of staying relatively on topic. Some of the speakers discussed improving pedestrian access under the I-880 freeway. BaseballOakland's Mike Davie spoke about bicycle access at the park (we've talked about that before on this blog), for example. And Bryan Grunwald reiterated his idea for building a stadium over the I-980 freeway, calling for it to be studied in the EIR.

We are very glad this process is going forward. It is a marathon and not a sprint but the work that many of Oakland leaders have done so far have put us in a solid position to keep the A's and to develop the city of Oakland's economic base.