We went to Mayor Quan's press conference today and here's our recap:
No major announcement was expected today, and there was a mixture of new tidbits and some re-hashing of stadium sites, along with few more more details on the proposed expanded Coliseum project.
Quan was joined by Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell, Councilmembers Larry Reid and Libby Schaaf and Let's Go Oakland's Doug Boxer. Quan started by reiterating the city's support for these projects. She mentioned both Victory Court and the Coliseum area (now being dubbed Coliseum City) as viable sites for a new A's ballpark. She said that the city has already done a Request-for-Proposals (RFP in "UrbanPlanningSpeak") for the Coliseum project. As she also spoke highly of the development potential for Victory Court, a city official issued a copy of that site's ballpark economic impact report, which was issued last year.
Quan noted that the City Council has voted to pass previous deal points. Also, she said a letter to Bud Selig and MLB will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. She says that the city has a timeline to complete this A's ballpark project, in earnest, by 2016.
Next up was Fred Blackwell, Oakland's recently appointed assistant city administrator who was head of San Francisco's redevelopment agency for several years. We are glad he is on Oakland's new management team because of his experience in managing large-scale redevelopment plans in San Francisco. Again, Blackwell mentioned the potential redevelopment impact of a Victory Court ballpark. He said that Oakland has the money to make this happen (more on that further below) and that it offers the benefit of costing less to construct because the city owns the land.
Also, its EIR process would be completed more quickly because there already is an existing sports facility there. He also said that the RFP period for the development of Coliseum City is closed and already has received bids from six major developers.
Larry Reid, president of the Oakland City Council, added that he thinks MLB will make a decision soon. Reid's district includes the Coliseum area.
Doug Boxer, head of Lets Go Oakland, talked about the continued support of the business community and the fact that he already has enough corporate suite sales and naming rights sales to make the a new A's ballpark in Oakland a reality.
Following that there was a Q&A. Here are some of the highlights:
* Quan says either site is feasible and can meet a 2016 opening date
* Blackwell says Victory Court EIR not pushed aggressively yet, but can be wrapped up with MLB decision
* Quan has heard nothing of a deal with the Giants. Says Giants can hold up San Jose for 10 years
* Blackwell also reiterates that no General Fund money will be used for either project.
Our thoughts on all of this?
It was good that Oakland officials held this press conference. With Chuck Reed, Lew Wolff and Bily Beane making waves on this issue recently, we applaud Oakland officials raising their voices to remind people how badly the city government and Oakland residents want the A's to stay in Oakland.
A couple of things to point out. One is the Coliseum site. Many Oakland detractors and Wolff apologists will look at Oakland talking about this and predictably criticize it. Look, we know what kind of a world we live in. The recession is still mucking up the economy, which continues to struggle and presents major obstacles for any city's stadium plan. That includes Victory Court, San Jose's site and other cities across the nation. The area between 66th Avenue and Hegenberger Road is close to public transit, offers ample land, doesn't require a long EIR process and, more importantly, is already paid for. If you are a fan of keeping the A's anywhere in the Bay Area you must acknowledge that it's a very solid Plan B. The Phillies built their park in a similar area in Philadelphia and look at the success they have enjoyed.
Onto the Victory Court EIR. Some have questioned Oakland's progress on the EIR. But consider this, every ballpark proposal that Oakland government officials have presented to A's ownership has been dismissed. Oakland may be doing the right thing by holding its cards close to its vest. If Oakland were to get a go-ahead from MLB, then the EIR quickly would be completed in earnest. The funding for it already has already been approved by the Oakland City Council.
One final point about the money that would be used for Oakland's plan. Much of it would come from redevelopment funds. Some of you might be concerned that the state will all destroy redevelopment agencies. However, I asked Fred Blackwell about this at the end of the press conference. He explained that, based on the expected upcoming ruling of a lawsuit filed by California's cities, redevelopment agencies will continue to exist as normal and everything around ballpark financing would go as planned. If the cites lose, then they will have to make a payment to the state. Blackwell says that Oakland plans on making its payment and still can issue the needed bonds to complete its proposed projects. So, any concerns about the death of redevelopment agencies should alleviated.
There still is a long way to go. However, just like the city government, we remain committed to help making this happen. Let's go, Oakland.