Oakland Planning Commission looks at Victory Court

If you follow Oakland political news at all, which, if you’re reading this, you presumably do, you are already aware that the Oakland Planning Commission will be discussing the Victory Court ballpark proposal at their December 1st meeting (PDF).

Before we get into exactly what that means, let’s step back a little bit and review how we arrived here.

Victory Court

A little under a year ago, the City unveiled four potential locations for a new stadium. Two of them weren’t real options, which left us with two choices, which have now been whittled down to one.

The winner among the four is a site called “Victory Court,” bordered by Oak Street, Embarcadero, the Lake Merritt Channel, and 880. It’s situated just east of the Jack London District and just south of Laney College. Further east is the planned Oak to 9th development.

Victory Court Map

The stadium itself wouldn’t take up the entire site shaded in the picture above. Obviously, a ballpark is not going to span a freeway. The land included in the site on the other side of 880 is a surface parking lot currently owned by the Peralta Community College District that would likely be transformed into structured parking should a stadium end up getting built. The stadium itself would be sandwiched between the Lake Merritt Channel and Fallon Street, with some kind of public plaza on the Channel end and with the block between Oak and Fallon reserved for some kind of adjacent development like retail or condos.

Why Victory Court?

Advocates of a Victory Court ballpark use the term “hole-in-the-donut” to describe the location. The idea is that the site is surrounded by a number of (hopefully) up and coming neighborhoods.

To the west, you’ve got Jack London Square, with its restaurants and bars, fancy hotel, and frequent outdoor events. Plus, eventually Jack London Market will be open. I know that a lot of people like to dis Jack London Square and call it a failure or whatever, but I gotta say, I kind of like it. It’s a spectacular spot for big outdoor events like the Eat Real Festival, the water is pretty, I like the view of the cranes, and for the past year or two, every time I go there, there seems to be a remarkable number of people out. For a while it always seemed kind of deserted, but lately the people are totally back. I have no idea why. Perhaps they just can’t stay away from the kick ass happy hour at Bocanova. Anyway.

So there’s Jack London Square on one side, and that’s kind of the only part of this theoretical donut that actually exists right now. On another side, you might be able to get away with claiming you’ve got maybe some half-baked dough, and then on the other you have totally raw dough. Or maybe just your mise en place for making the dough.

The half baked side I mentioned is the area surrounding the Lake Merritt BART Station, just to the north. It’s always been a mystery to me why this place is such a total wasteland, what with it being right next to Laney College and Chinatown and the adorable Lake Merritt Apartment District and so on. It seems to have everything going for it, yet the only place to even get a cup of coffee is the MetroCenter cafeteria, which is a place I prefer to avoid. Anyway, the City is hoping to rectify the problem of this neighborhood being a failure for no reason through the Lake Merritt Station Area Plan process, which is going on right now. I hope they can figure it out.

Finally, there is the planned Oak to 9th project to the east. I think Oak to 9th sounds really cool, and I totally want to hang out on the big new waterfront parks and all that, so I really hope that shit gets built. But I’m not holding my breath for it to happen anytime soon. Some people say that if we had a successful stadium nearby, it could act as a catalyst for more development because people would want to live near it, and then Oak to 9th would get built faster. Maybe.

So the idea is that we have all these cool things on all sides of the site — whether they’re existing, but maybe struggling a little, or planned but not built, or just somewhere with a lot of potential. And they all have the same problem, which is that they’re kind of disjointed. It all seems so close if you’re looking at a map or something, but the connectivity isn’t there. And each area suffers because of that isolation and therefore is not able to reach its full potential. And a ballpark could provide the missing connection, and also could provide the flows of people needed to boost the surrounding areas to success. It solves a problem for Oakland.

And from that broad planning perspective, I completely agree. The major barrier to the success of downtown Oakland and downtown-adjacent neighborhoods is the lack of connectivity between them, and there is nothing better you could do to spur the success of Jack London Square and the Lake Merritt BART Station area than sticking a big attraction smack in between them. It is, without question, the best of any location in Oakland I’ve seen suggested in that sense.

But will it work for a stadium?

Of course, it’s one thing to say that a Victory Court ballpark makes a ridiculous amount of sense on a map, when judged on this one, fairly specific criteria. It’s another thing entirely to say that it is actually a good place to build a baseball stadium, or a feasible place to do so.

Obviously, there’s the issue of getting the land together. The City owns some of the acreage there, but nothing close to all of it. And some of that non-publicly owned land contains businesses who may not be eager to move. So getting the space together is gonna be expensive, and it could be messy and controversial as well, depending on just how resistant the existing businesses are to relocation.

Property acquisition, however, does not seem to me like the primary barrier to a ballpark at this location. Transportation does. Yes, it is true that the site is conveniently located an easy walk from the Lake Merritt BART station. But no matter how convenient the site is for public transit, if you’ve got 30,000 people going to a ball game, you’re going to be bringing in a lot of cars.

So the first thing you might think of with all those cars is where are they going to park. I’m not worried about that. There is plenty of parking in the Jack London and Laney College/Chinatown neighborhoods. You have to provide some spaces really close for VIPs, but most people will walk for a while. So I don’t see that as an issue at all.

What is an issue, however, is getting all those cars to their parking spaces. To move that amount of traffic around the area, you would need major upgrades to a number of freeway on and off ramps, plus some kind of reconfiguration of traffic flow on surrounding surface streets. Like most transportation problems, these barriers are not insurmountable. What they are is very expensive. Exactly how expensive all this would be, I don’t know. I tried to come up with a figure by looking at the ramps that would need expansion and then adding it up based on the costs of other recent freeway improvements, but then when I told my number to a Victory Court ballpark booster who has studied this more than I have, and they were like, no way, that’s crazy high. So who knows. Since we’re not at the stage where we talk about financing yet, I don’t really see the point of playing guessing games about price tags right now.

The other big issue is the fact that you are talking about sticking 30,000 people right next to an active railroad track 80 days a year. I swear, I bring this up every time someone tries to talk to me about Victory Court, and every single time it happens, people laugh at me. But I’m serious! Sure, you don’t have to cross the tracks to get from the BART station to the stadium. But a big part of the reasoning behind this particular site is that the City is expecting that at least some of those people are going to go eat and drink in Jack London Square either before or after the game, and to get there, they are going to have to cross those tracks.

It’s a legitimate safety issue. And given the way they freaked out over Oak to 9th, I cannot imagine the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) liking this idea one bit. Laugh all you want, but the PUC is mysterious and weirdly powerful, and they are not going to let the City add that much vehicle and pedestrian traffic to this area without some major safety improvements to all the intersections with track crossings going way down Embarcadero. Again, that’s doable, but expensive.

Plus, you have to remember that a couple thousand people live right nearby, and I would count on significant and vocal opposition from at least some of them. So the site is clearly not without challenges.

Time for an EIR

So. Victory Court is not my fantasy stadium site. In a perfect world, we’d get Jingletown Stadium, where the glass factory is. There are a number of reasons that isn’t going to happen. I know a number of people who think we should build a new ballpark on top of 980. The idea is cool conceptually — I have long dreamed of capping that part of 980 and turning it into a big public park. But the lengthy and complex negotiations and approvals with Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration that would be required to do anything on top of the freeway render the site completely unrealistic from a practical standpoint.

If Oakland wants to have a realistic shot at retaining the A’s, it is long past time to stop talking and start moving. And to that end, I am very happy the City has finally settled on a site and is taking the important step of preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

If you’re not familiar with the EIR process, this old post offers a pretty solid overview, plus links for further reading. I’ll do a briefer version here.

Basically, California state law requires that before a City can approve a development, they have to recognize what impacts that project will have on the surrounding environment. An EIR is the document that tells them what those impacts are going to be.

When a developer or, in this case, the City decides that they need to complete an EIR, the first step is to issue a Notice of Preparation (NOP), which briefly describes the proposal and notes what types of impacts are expected. The City issued a NOP (PDF) for a ballpark at the Victory Court location on November 10th. The purpose of this document is to alert the public and other interested parties that you are doing an EIR.

A NOP includes instructions for those who want to submit comments about what the EIR should study, a deadline for comments, and the dates of any public hearings where verbal testimony on the scope of the EIR will be accepted. In this case, comments are to be directed to:

Peterson Z. Vollman
City of Oakland, Community and Economic Development Agency
250 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Suite 2114
Oakland, CA 94612

Comments must be received by 4:30 PM on December 9th. Additionally, a public hearing will be held on December 1st. More on that below.

Anyway, once the comment period is over, the next step is to prepare a Draft EIR. This is a ridiculously long document that lists the project’s expected impacts, explains how they arrived at their conclusions about the impacts, lays out the impacts of “alternative” projects, and notes what steps can be taken to mitigate the impacts. To get an idea of what that looks like, check out the Draft EIR (PDF) and Draft EIR Appencides (PDF) for a proposed development nearby, at 375 7th Street. (This project will also be discussed at the December 1st Planning Commission meeting, FYI.)

Once the Draft EIR is released, the public gets a period of time in which they can provide comments. It will generally be available online, although I personally tend to have a hard time reading them on my computer, since they are just so long and frankly, pretty damn dry. So I like to go read them at the library instead. The Oakland Main Library keeps copies of all the current local EIRs out on a shelf in the main reference area, and usually whatever branch is near the proposed development will have a copy available as well.

Then the entity preparing the EIR has to respond to all the comments, which may require further study of impacts and likely will result in at least some changes to the Draft EIR. Finally, a Final EIR is issued, at which point it can be certified by the City, and the environmental review process is complete.

Got all that?

Scoping Session on Wednesday

Listening to the way people are talking about this week’s meeting, you might get the idea that a “Keep the A’s in Oakland” rally was on the Planning Commission agenda for Wednesday (PDF). It’s not. What is on the agenda is an EIR Scoping Session. The staff report (PDF) helpfully explains:

The main purpose of this scoping session is to solicit comments from both the Commission and the public on what types of information and analysis should be considered in the EIR. Specifically, comments should focus on discussing possible impacts on the physical environment, ways in which potential adverse effects might be minimized, and alternatives to the project in light of the EIR’s purpose to provide useful and accurate information about such factors. Comments related to policy considerations and the merits of the project will be the subject of future, duly noticed public meetings.

So basically, this is when you have an opportunity to go say what you think should be studied in the EIR. Like, for example, you could go and say, “I think it’s really important that the EIR examines pedestrian and vehicle safety impacts at the railroad crossing at the intersections of Embarcadero and Broadway, Franklin, and Webster” and that would be appropriate. If you went and said instead “I think Lew Wolff is an asshole and the A’s should stay in Oakland,” that would not be appropriate. Or productive. You don’t have to go to the hearing to have input on what gets studied — as I mentioned above, you are also encouraged to submit your comments in writing.

My take on all this

I have been accused, in the past, of being “anti-Oakland” because I’ve been pretty upfront about the fact that I do not believe it is realistic for Oakland to expect to retain the A’s. I don’t think that’s a fair characterization of my position. I love going to baseball games, I go to a lot of them every year, and I would be very sad if the A’s moved to San Jose and I couldn’t go anymore. But I am also a realist. And the attitude from so many City officials and A’s-in-Oakland boosters that we should keep the team because we just deserve them rather than because we have an actual plan for how we’re going to accomplish that infuriates me.

So it isn’t that I’m anti-Oakland so much as I’m anti-whining. And running around bitching about how unfairly Lew Wolff treats Oakland while doing absolutely nothing to further the goal of offering a viable stadium site is whining. While Oakland sat around feeling all put upon and pouting about being rejected and claiming there are tons of great ballpark locations all over Oakland if your ignore all the feasibility problems with them, San Jose, without any guarantee or even real reason to believe they could land the team, identified a site, bought up most of the land, certified an EIR, and built up significant community support for their proposal. That’s what being serious looks like.

I remain skeptical that Oakland can pull this off, but I am absolutely certain there’s no shot in hell of pulling it off if the City doesn’t stop dilly dallying and talking and actually do something real. And that’s why I support this new step of beginning an EIR. Because it’s action.

It’s not everything. Once the EIR is completed, which will take at least a year, and probably a whole lot longer, there will still be significant issues to address with respect to financing (both for the stadium, which would have to be done mostly privately, and for the infrastructure and land acquisition, which would have to be done with redevelopment funds) and infrastructure improvements. We remain way behind San Jose in terms of having an actual feasible plan to offer. But we’re never going to get there if we don’t at least start moving, and while we’re starting years later than we should have, well…better late than never, right?

82 thoughts on “Oakland Planning Commission looks at Victory Court

  1. Mike S

    This is a great spot, close to BART,downtown and Jack London Sq.
    It should help the restaurants around the Square and also help legitimize Oak to 9th.
    I would imagine it will help downtown office rental/leases as well.
    The better site might have been the site preferred by Robert Bob in between telegraph and broadway, the site of Jerry Browns empty apartment complexes. It would probably also brought in those downtown residents Jerry wanted.
    Now if that asshole Lou Wolff would co-operate maybe Oakland can achieve something.
    When I was growing up in the East Bay Jack London was a destination with great restaurants.
    A ball park next door would help the area

  2. ralph

    Nothing like the cold smack of reality on a dreary Sat morn. It makes absolutely no sense that Oakland neighborhoods are so disconnected. And people need to know that baseball is not a game it is a business. City leaders and residents need to understand that teams don’t stay in a city because that is the name on the jersey. If that were the case, then the A’s would still be in Philly.

    Oakland needs a viable and attractive financial plan to keep the A’s. Plan needs to address the owners need to make a decent return, the city’s interest in improving the neighborhood and increasing incremental returns, community safety yada yada yada. The city really needs a person that whose sole function is economic development.

  3. ralph

    How does calling Lew Wolff names help?

    One of the problems voiced with the new Philly stadium is the distance from the city core. I don’t have any idea of how this has affected attendance but in hindsight the owners would have preferred a stadium within walking distance of the business center. With that in mind does VC make sense?

    On the other hand, it isn’t like the Giants are playing in central SF, but they also have a strong traffic infrastructure and are building up the surrounding neighborhoods. I would think Oakland would need to make an equally compelling case. Can’t we build a stadium by the ice rink?

  4. Daniel Schulman

    I guess I should start by mentioning that I am one of the several thousand people living in the neighborhood. While I certainly don’t speak for everyone and we have our share of small-minded people, I’d say locals are mildly supportive but very apprehensive. Given the city’s competencies, I think a certain amount of terror that they will f*#! things up is warranted.

    At this point some of my concerns are:

    * car transportation. Keeping the bulk of cars on the other side of the freeway alleviates some of my fear. That section in front of the Laney lot of 7th to E. 8th to E. 12th actually moves quite well and could drain a lot of cars.

    * freeway crossings (particularly bike /ped). Presumably they will have to add a new crossing between the parking lot and the ballpark, but I would like to see the Oak and Madison undercrossings included in the project plan. The Lake Merritt specific plan also stops at the freeway undercrossings and these need some serious attention.

    * Peerless Coffee. people like to talk about some nameless businesses that will need to be moved or compensated, but these are actual specific companies. In particular, myself and others are concerned about the future of Peerless Coffee. This is a remarkable Oakland family-run business that has been around since 1925 – http://www.peerlesscoffee.com/company_history.asp. The owners, manager, and other staff work well with the community. Trying to move the business may well destroy it. Pete’s is currently building a new roasting facility in Alameda and it is running about $50 million. It is unlikely the Peerless people will get that kind of money for their current facility leaving them with a shortfall in trying to relocate.

    * Lack of comprehensive planning. There are lots of development projects going on without any unified planning. This area misses being in the CBO rezoning, the Lake Merritt specific plan, the Estuary Specific plan — it is the hole in the planning the donut. Interestingly, also at the Dec 1 planning meeting they have a DEIR for the 325 7th Street Project which includes two towers (one 20 stories and the other 27) about 6 blocks from the edge of the proposed project area.

  5. Navigator


    Thank you so much for writing about this very important project.

    In my humble opinion Oakland has no other choice but to retain the Oakland A’s. It’s not even a question. If we want to be a vibrant and exciting city known for economic progress we have to let the world know that we are no longer in the business of waving a white flag as we watch what is good about Oakland leave town.

    We have to make a stand. We are constantly being marginalized by San Francisco and San Jose. As an example, San Jose and SF rerouted HSR away from Oakland because of high powered business and political deals.

    Losing the Oakland A’s would be like losing the Oakland Symphony, the Oakland Ballet, the Oakland Museum, or the Oakland Zoo to San Jose. It’s unacceptable.

    Also, we need to remember that the Oakland A’s are our most family friendly and affordable pro sports franchise. Unlike the aggressive and sometimes violent images that NFL franchises bring to their host cities, baseball is seen in a more positive family environment. Isn’t this the image that Oakland wants to cultivate nationally?

    I’m a Raider fan but I don’t necessarily think that the aggressive “Black Hole” image and menacing screaming and sometimes drunken fans does a whole lot for Oakland’s image. The “Golden State” Warriors play in Oakland but have little economic affect on the city. They refuse to take the city’s name, therefore there is no economic effect as far as positive PR for Oakland. The tickets are also very expensive.

    The Oakland A’s are therefore the only franchise which promotes Oakland in a healthy and family friendly manner. The Oakland A’s while providing Oakland with invaluable positive National exposure, also provide Oakland with the tremendous opportunity to harness the economic impact of 34,000 fans walking through Jack London Square, Jack London Produce District, Chinatown and Lake Merritt, 81 dates per year. The Raiders and Warriors don’t provide that kind of potential economic benefit to the City of Oakland. It’s not even close.

    As far as some of the challenges that V mentions like train tracks and parking issues, let’s remember that Seattle has trains running just outside their center field gate. As a matter a fact, the same Amtrak trains that would run next to a Victory Court ballpark go right up to Seattle. in Seattle the trains sound their horns as they leave and arrive at their ballpark station. It seems to add to the ambiance and charm of the ballpark.

    Secondly, the parking garages around Jack London Square are mostly on the northern side of the tracks. The 1100 stall garage at 2nd & Webster, as well as the Washington Street garage next to Yoshi’s, are both north of the train tracks. The parking garages in Chinatown as well as Lake Merritt would not be effected by train tracks. The only people effected by the trains would be folks coming on the Oakland Ferry and disembarking on Clay Street. Anyone parking in the smaller garage under the former Barnes & Noble store would also be affected. However, let’s remember that we have three foot bridges over the tracks from Jack London Square and the frequency of the trains isn’t that great.

    It’s not a huge issue because of the pedestrian overpasses to the Washington Street garage, the 2nd & Webster garage as well as the overpass to the Amtrak station. All of these overpasses take any fans from south of the tracks and put them on 2nd Street which is a direct 10 to 7 minute walk to Fallon Street & Victory Court. Also, building a large parking structure on the Laney Parking lot with a pedestrian overpass would allow vehicle traffic to come to the area from various directions and mitigate some of the improvements needed to the 880 off ramps.

  6. dbackman

    I am a big supporter of this plan, but increasingly doubtful it will come to fruition. Regardless of whether the A’s end up there, Victory Court presents a great opportunity for tying together the neighborhoods south and east of the Lake. If the A’s walk away from Oakland, does the city have any other development plans for this area? To what extent can the EIR be repurposed for a different but similar development?

  7. Navigator

    I can’t think of another development on that Victory Court location that would have the same economic affect as having 34,000 fans walking through the various neighborhoods, and from the Lake Merritt Bart Station, to the ballpark.

    This ballpark puts the A’s closer to the fanbase, closer to affluent Oakland neighborhoods and the City of Piedmont along with putting the team closer to wealthy suburban cities like Orinda, Moraga, Lafayette, and Walnut Creek.

    What Oakland has lacked in the last 15 years is a wiling partner to work with the city. The previous owner Steve Schott, and present owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher, have spent 15 years courting cities like Santa Clara, Fremont and San Jose.

    Wolff spent his years in Oakland pacifying Oakland politicians like Mayor Ron Dellumns with comments like “don’t break your pick on this one.” It’s clear who has been trying to get out of Oakland for 15 years and whose been fighting to keep the A’s in town.

    Yeah, Wolff is an “ass hole.” Our only hope is MLB headed by his frat buddy Bud Selig. If you can believe that.

  8. Andrew Alden

    I’m amazed that something is actually happening, frankly. I’ve walked down Victory Court and the neighboring streets, and a ballpark would be just the thing instead of the sorry set of structures that exists there now. (I except the charming palm-studded motel at the end of Fallon.) Thinking of seismic safety, the ground there is soft, but really no worse than the current stadium. And trains passing the Coliseum are audible inside the park, so that’s no change. I just don’t see a downside, except that the Coliseum will be forlorn all summer. Maybe the Raiders can rebuild it and a soccer team can move in. Or maybe Piedmont can put Blair Park there.

  9. livegreen

    Backup plan: A transportation museum (rail/sea) next to an aquarium. Why go all the way to Sacramento or Monterey?

  10. gregory mcconnell

    Love the planned location. Love the A’s staying in Oakland. Hope we can pull it off. Oakland needs something big and new and this will fill the bill.

  11. Jango Rind

    The Dodgers moved out of Brooklyn decades ago. A lot of guys were very upset, including relatives of mine. It was a very small deal. Life went on.

    Run the numbers. Crappy concession jobs. Giveaways to owners. A ball team, except maybe in places like SF or NYC, does not create significant net economic benefit for a region. And it doesn’t create decent jobs anywhere.

    I’d take a good corporate campus for a tech company any day over a ballpark. I’d take good income and property-tax generating residential development any day. So downtown was always a ridiculous idea. Those apartments will serve the city much better in the long run. BTW, I was once an obsessive sports fan. I gave it up and started living life more.

  12. V Smoothe Post author

    Dan –

    Just a point of clarification — the freeway undercrossings and the entire Victory Court site actually are within in the focus area for the Lake Merritt Station Area Plan.

    If I recall correctly, George Vukasin has been quoted saying it would take roughly $30 million to relocate him. That’s a lot of money, although probably negotiable to some degree and not necessarily out of question, especially if the company were to move to say, a different Redevelopment Area that could potentially shoulder some of the cost. And there are certainly a number of industrial districts in various parts of Oakland that I’m sure would welcome such a business, and that actually might be a better fit for Peerless’s operations.

    In any case, relocation of the existing businesses would certainly not be cheap. Neither would the necessary transportation improvements required to accommodate increased traffic levels. Shouldering those costs would be a major commitment for the Redevelopment Area, and depending on how much they end up being, it might not even be possible.

    Personally, I’m not entirely sure how much money I think would be appropriate for the City to invest in making this happen. I don’t think that’s a call I’d be ready to make until we were farther along in the process. Huge dollar figures are scary. On the other hand, as a Victory Court supporter put it to me last week “Please tell me what you think a better use of $100 million in redevelopment funds is.” I didn’t have an answer for that. I mean, I’d certainly prefer that money get spent on transportation improvements in an area that needs them anyway and that will benefit not only the ballpark, but also the surrounding neighborhoods than on building 8,000 parking spaces along Auto Row.

  13. V Smoothe Post author

    Navigator –

    While I appreciate your unwavering devotion to Oakland, I do feel compelled to point out that this sort of relentless cheerleading is not productive. Being dismissive of the very real safety issues posed by this concept will not make it any more likely that a stadium eventually gets built there — it makes it less likely. Should the City put out an EIR that suggests, as you have in your comment, that there is no safety issue with putting 30,000 people next to a train track because none of them are going to cross it, the PUC would sue, the EIR would be tied up in court for ages, they would definitely win, and then the EIR would have to be amended and certified all over again and at that point it would have all taken so long that Oakland would have completely blown any chance whatsoever of getting to keep the team. Much better to be overly cautious upfront.

  14. V Smoothe Post author

    dbackman –

    I am not an expert in preparing EIRs, but it seems to me like the impacts that would be associated with a ballpark are pretty unique. I have a hard time imagining how it could be repurposed. That’s not to say it couldn’t be, I just can’t think of how.

    Chris –

    If it makes you feel any better, I don’t think it would have made any difference if you had started pushing that idea earlier. Did you follow how the Estuary Specific Plan turned out? There is (sadly, in my mind), just no political appetite for change in that part of the City.

    Jango –

    The economic impact report (PDF) commissioned by Let’s Go Oakland might answer some of your questions about the tax generating potential of a ballpark.

  15. len raphael

    Any idea what the cost of the land acquisition and infrastructure costs would be, including the current value of publicly owned land?

    The Go Oakland study studiously disclaims any estimates of those amounts.

    The Go Oakland study also side steps the crucial question of whether using RDA money and land is the best use of those resources.

    -len raphael, temescal

  16. John Gatewood

    I live in Oakland and work in SF, South of Market 2 blocks from the ballpark. I’ve worked in SOMA for about 15 years now and have seen the transformation that has been spurred at least in part by the Giants urban ballpark. I want to see that transformation happen in Oakland.
    Pedestrian safety due to the railroad tracks is NOT insurmountable. SF has the Third Street trolley line running right next to the ballpark on King Street and on game days tens of thousands of fans manage NOT to be run over by trolleys. It DOES require dozens of crowd control officers (not sworn police officers but civilians) to keep attendees from stumbling in front of moving trains. My point being pedestrian safety at the tracks in Jack London Square can be addressed through less expensive public safety staffing rather than very expensive and often futile attempts to build “idiot-proof” infrastructure to protect pedestrians from their own mistakes.
    I am more concerned about the pedestrian connection from Lake Merritt BART to the ballpark. Any connection going under the freeway has go to be an inviting, and safe structure for pedestrians to encourage them to take public transit to the ballpark. The worst mistake that could be made is to treat this connection as an afterthought resulting in a cattle chute that will discourage people walking to the park.

  17. len raphael

    Would it take a state charter revision or just state legislative majority vote to free up RDA monies for more uses than currently allowed. ie. RDA is the only money we got.

    If we have to agree to split it with the state in return for full access to it for operating costs, maybe we should. Or maybe a deal where it all goes to un and underfunded retirement costs but the unions accept it as full payment and agree to reduce the underfunded balances.

  18. V Smoothe Post author

    Len -

    What you are describing is in direct opposition to the entire purpose of Redevelopment. There is no scenario where such a thing would happen.

    John –

    Does the Third Street trolley run at 60 MPH? If not, I fail to see how the situations are parallel.

  19. Allan

    Why can you not go to a ballgame if the A’s move? Within a few years real baseball lovers will either Bart to the new A’s statium, or will go to San Francisco.

    The sad news is the city will spend the taxpayer’s redevelopment money on infrastructure to support this private business, which will support only a few low paying, seasonal jobs. Oakland really needs investment in decent paying jobs.

    This is the money that the city council always tells us is out of the budget, not available to run the city. Of course the state said, it’s available, we will take it for local schools. Cities got the voters to give them their money back, but did not consider making the money available for libraries or police. No wonder we are in such financial trouble.

  20. Roscoe

    V- Trains do not run through that area at 60 mph. I have spent a lot of time in Jack London Square and never seen a train going very fast. In fact they adhere to strict 15 mph speed limit according to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Street_running

    I think the trains add a great deal of character to Jack London Square especially since they are street running trains. Kids love them. I could see familys bringing kids to the ballpark because the kids like the trains and the adults like the game.

  21. V Smoothe Post author

    When examining traffic and safety impacts of a project, you have to look beyond just the immediately adjacent streets. Perhaps crossing guards would be a satisfactory mitigation to the pedestrian, vehicle, and bicycle railroad safety issues. Personally, I think you would need more than that, and I don’t think railroad safety is a subject that should be taken lightly. In any case, that’s for the EIR to determine.

  22. John Gatewood

    Trains NEVER go thru this section of Jack London Square at 60 mph. For two reasons –
    1. Amtrak passenger trains stop at the Jack London Square station so they are slowing down for at least a mile or more before pulling into the station.
    2. More importantly there is NO grade separation from Clay St. to Webster St. the very heart of Jack London Square. Because of this ALL trains both passenger and freight slow to a crawl when going thru Jack London Square.
    Yes, pedestrian safety regarding the train tracks is very important but not as expensive as some may think. Also the SF experience with the Third St. trolley line is quite relevant – if a pedestrian is hit by 10 ton trolley going 15 mph or a 1000 ton freight train going 15 mph they will end up just as dead. So how SF addressed the railway/pedestrian interface with their ballpark is relevant to any ballpark Oakland may propose near this train line.

  23. len raphael

    Redevelopment Agencies are a state created creature protected by the state constitution.

    As I believe public employee pension obligations.

    Nothing federally mandated about either of those is there?

    The RDAs’ lawsuit against the state taking rda money for education was based on the state constitution and on contract law re. some bond convenants which specified source of repayment.

    Sort of a superman comic situation with the immovable object of the RDAs’ pot o’gold from tax increments and the irresistible force of the muni unions’ pension claims.

    Unless you blieve that taking all commercial property out of Prop 13 is going to create enough tax revenue to pay for the retirement obligations, there is no other money that wouldn’t get eaten up by various hungry entitlement programs at the state level.

    Anyone for allowing cities to impose an income tax?


  24. Navigator


    Please think of my previuos post as informational rather then dismissive of safety concerns.

    Also, this project can’t be seen just as building a ballpark. This ballpark only makes since in an area where economic activity and development will increase because of the location of the ballpark. For example, a new ballpark at the Coliseum site woudn’t spur additional ecomnomic development.

  25. ralph

    Is there some law prohibiting CA cities from imposing an income tax? Other cities in other states do.

  26. Born in Oakland

    Did Kaiser Healthcare have an EIR when they were thinking about building the new hospital near Laney? There were huge “traffic” concerns as I recall. I don’t remember if they got to the point of an EIR.

  27. len raphael

    thought the prohibition/reservation to the state was in the calif constitution.

    don’t recall seeing one in any state west of the rockies. Other than a few large East Coast cities and some suburbs of same. Common in Ohio for some reason.

    paperwise, they usually piggback on the state’s income tax, and i assume reimburse the state for collection and enforcement.

  28. Mike D.(linusalf)


    Thank you very much for the excellent write up of Victory Ct.

    Although I am a cheerleader for victory ct, I do know about the challenges that exist there. Like you said they are not insurmountable, but possibly expensive. How much? We don’t know. I have heard some low figures and some high figures from various people. However the Victory Ct site offers many advantages to the city and the team that it should be
    allowed to go through the process.

  29. Navigator

    “While Oakland sat around feeling all put upon and pouting about being rejected and claiming there are tons of great ballpark locations all over Oakland if your ignore all the feasibility problems with them, San Jose, without any guarantee or even real reason to believe they could land the team, identified a site, bought up most of the land, certified an EIR, and built up significant community support for their proposal. That’s what being serious looks like.”

    I don’t understand how Oakland can negotiate with an unwilling owner. San Jose has known about Lew Wolff’s desire to relocate the A’s from Oakland to San Jose. So, San Jose hasn’t done anything but agree to complete an EIR for someone who has communicated a desire to relocate to their city while giving Oakland the back of his hand. Those are facts. San Jose hasn’t done anything exceptional by completing an EIR for a San Jose businesssman who has made his intentions known to San Jose business and civic leaders. If Wolff had made half the effort in Oakland maybe we’d be in the construction phase by now.

  30. V Smoothe Post author

    Navigator –

    The way Oakland and San Jose have handled the ballpark issue up to this point is an amazing contrast. Oakland has an uninterested owner in the way, San Jose has T-rights, so either one will have to rely on MLB stepping in and making a decision in their favor if they’re going to keep or land the team. MLB may end up saying that the A’s should stay in Oakland or that they should go to San Jose — I don’t know. But I am quite confident that Oakland would be a lot better positioned for a decision in our favor if we had done everything San Jose did over the past several years.

    I’m really glad the work is starting in earnest now, I just hope it isn’t too late.

  31. Roscoe

    While Oakland is way behind San Jose in planning for a new ballpark at least Oakland finally has a mayor who is supportive and there is some progress being made. I would not be surprised if the MLB study continues for some time while Oakland gets it’s ducks in a row. Yes, I know MLB has said they want a new ballpark by 2015. I just think with Quan elected and the EIR they may be willing to hold off and observe what Oakland does.

  32. ralph

    I hope whoever is running the show for the city understands that this new ballpark needs to come with hotels. Somewhere between 2015 and 2020, MLB is going to be looking for a showcase stadium for the all-star game. It would be nice if Oakland actually had beds for the visitors.

  33. Navigator


    The main thing is that Oakland is moving forward. I still think that Wolff holds all the cards. We have to now make believe that Bud Selig and MLB will now give Oakland the fair chance that they refused to give Oakland back in 1995 when they refused to allow a well financed group headed by Andy Dolich and Robert Piccini to purchase the franchise and keep it in Oakland per the agreement Steve Schott had with the City of Oakland. This thinking takes a great leap of faith.

    It’s not that Oakland isn’t viable, it’s that we have too many forces in the Bay Area which don’t want to see MLB secured in Oakland for the longterm. San Jose interests don’t want to see a franchise secured in Oakland because that means that they’ll never have MLB in San Jose. San Francisco interests don’t want to see a stable franchise in a new ballaprk ten miles from their park. This is what Oakland is up against and this is precisely the reason that the Oakland A’s have been in a perpetual stae of relocvation for the last 15 years.

    The question is how much pain can Oakland cause MLB if they go ahead and do what they really want to do. Oakland needs a nice carrott and a really big stick if we have any hope of getting this done.

  34. Steve Lowe

    I think Marty Glick has it just about right, as per his recent letter to the Trib: the biggest obstacle to retaining the A’s is Wolff. The Fishers (80% owners after all) have shown that they’ll do the right thing if there’s enough public involvement, as was demonstrated by scrapping their out-of-character art museum in the Presidio. But it’s Wolff, and only Wolff who insists (a) that San Jose is the only place that works for the A’s (his spectacularly idiotic Fremont Fiasco notwithstanding, naturally), (b) that there has to be a “Baseball Village” with residential and retail in the picture in oder to make the A’s profitable (a condition that seems to have mysteriously disappeared in the Great San Jose Plan), and (c) that his stream of lies – from day one! – be considered the honest opinion of a pragmatic businessman (while, in any other context where substantial wealth was not the essential factor, he’d likely be institutionalized for his all-too-public ravings and megalomaniacal betrayal of public trust).

    No one else other than a few close friends of this pants-on-fire foe of Oakland believes that Oakland is a bad location for baseball, mostly because it has so obviously proved to be exactly the opposite for generations. So, if he’s the only one spouting this nonsense, then he’s the only problem, yes? I mean: anyone else in the world of business would have been summarily fired for blundering so badly with even half the failure of the Fremont deal; but Lew appears to have risen to that special Valhalla in American business where no end of mismanagement is considered just part of fraternity’s mischievousness, the same kind of icky transcendence that John Reed, Ken Lay, Bernie Madoff and that ilk appear to have attained.

    The drumbeat message to Lew should be: “Sell your less-than-20% share in the A’s to someone who actually cares about baseball.”


    – S

    [Incidentally, how is it that Oakland gets bupkus from BART compared to the massive expense of extending the system all the way down to San Jose just so's folks can get to Wolff's new ballpark? Are there BART Boardmembers who actually ascribe to that kind of twisted logic?]

  35. Pat S.

    Oakland is so far behind the 8 ball. Not only will it take at least a year for the EIR, but I don’t believe they have the money to relocate the displaced business’ nor the Fire Dept Training Center. How come no one is asking about the training center?

  36. len raphael

    i should stay out of this, but i can’t resist asking whether the A’s are currently above or below industry median for profitabilty for our size metropolitan area.

    Aren’t they considered sub par and only keeping that position because Billy Bean’s low salary strategy?


    Not obvious to me what the A’s profit would be under different scenarios of attendance and construction costs/financing.

    To expand on Ralph’s point, baseball is a funny business where the owners exploit the residents’ support and loyalty, but also want the freedom to move to a more profitable territory if the residents won’t give them big enough public subsidies. Similar thing when popular players depart and the residents feel betrayed.

    Seems a sign of our desperation to invigorate DTO that we have no alternatives other than baseball.


  37. Pat S.

    Len, I don’t know about OPD training, but I do believe OFD still uses the Victory Court site. I can see the training tower from 880. Just wondering why we never hear what they plan to do for the firefighters training. replacing a training facility can’t be cheap..

  38. Navigator

    Let’s keep in mind that the owner of newballpark.org censors his site and 95% of the posters are pro-San Jose. This is not an impartial site by any means.

    This San Jose site minimizes Lew Wolff’s misrepresentations to Oakland A’s fans, dismissis the tradition of Oakland A’s baseball in Oakland, talks up San Jose’s endless riches while charecterizing Oakland as an old tired crime infested city which has never supported the A’s. They even attempt to marginalize the success the A’s had in Oakland when Walter Haas owned the team.

    The San Jose site is no friend of Oakland and not the least bit impartial. V, I’m sorry you choose that site to get your information and view point. One of your paragraphs slaming Oakland and praising San Jose sounds like it could have been written by Marinelayer.

  39. Marine Layer

    Now this is just ridiculous, Nav. Your lot in life appears to be to show up in various message boards (here, SFGate) to defend Oakland when you don’t live there and thus can’t affect anything directly. I barred you because you are a one-note fraud, plain and simple.

    As for what V wrote, it’s a valid critique. The four sites announcement a year ago was a farce. If the preferred site was Victory Court all along – which is the prevailing view – why not announce it then and get the ball rolling on the process? It takes the better part of a decade to get something big built in the Bay Area and it takes serious public engagement. Oakland could’ve either had a public vetting process for the sites, or picked Victory Court from the get go and have been halfway done with the EIR process by now. Instead, they are just starting now. Why only now? They’ve had a dialogue with MLB for 20 months.

    Constantly complaining about Wolff will not get a ballpark done quicker, nor will it get rid of him. His family and friends also have shares of the team, and they’re in it for the long haul. The best way to combat him is to have a substantial, feasible plan to make the team sustainably profitable in Oakland. No if, ands, or buts.

  40. V Smoothe Post author

    Navigator –

    While I believe Marine Layer supports a South Bay ballpark, I have always found his coverage of the whole situation extremely fair and also insightful. I can keep up with the Oakland end of things on my own, but I have learned a great deal about San Jose’s progress as well as the business end of things from the New Ballpark blog, and I consider it an essential resource for anyone interested in the topic.

    I understand your frustration that the team’s ownership is not interested in Oakland. I also find it frustrating. But facts are facts, and ignoring them, as you seem intent on doing, doesn’t do anything to further the goal of building a ballpark or keeping the A’s in Oakland.

  41. Troy

    Steve Lowe

    Ballparks take a lot of money to get built. The ballpark village plans were thrown in there to help finance the ballpark. The reason SJ plan doesn’t have one is because the SB corporations are stepping forward to pay for it.

    And about BART. The extension to SJ has nothing to do with the A’s. It’s going to happen regardless. Oakland is also not paying one cent to extend to SJ. Santa Clara, not being one of the original three counties in BART is paying for the extension themselves.

  42. Navigator


    I’ll agree that Marine Layer is very good with the technical aspects and the site provides useful information. Where we disagree is that Marine Layer is “extremely fair.”

    Marine Layer has interviewed Lew Wolff without ever challenging him on his fanatstic claims that he tried in Oakland. All Wolff had to do is tell Marine Layer that he had a dossier which contained documentation on how Wolff had “tried” in Oakland. Wolff then tells Marine Layer that it would take 90 minutes to go through all the documentation.

    Mr. Wolff NOW claims that his dossier now contains two full hours of material. Marine Layer never followed up with Wolff on this so called evidence of Wolff’s efforts in Oakland. Marine Layer needs to publish this dossier for all Oakland A’s fans to judge for themselves just how hard Wolff tried in Oakland.

    Marine Layer,

    You banned me from your site, called me a fraud, and falsely accused me of living in Danville, because you didn’t like my criticism of Lew Wolff. I never insulted anyone on your site or conducted myself in a disrespectful manner. In fact, I was constantly attacked by your pro San Jose posters for my views.

    Marine Layer, you can downplay Lew Wolffs lies and run a rvisionist propoganda campaign, but the fact remains that Lew Wolff lied about his attempts and intentions regarding getting a ballpark built in Oakland. No matter how many sofballs you throw at Wolff or how many excuses the pro San Jose crowd makes, Oaklanders and Oakland A’s fans from throiughout the region know that Wolff screwed around with the loyality and trust of Oakland A’s fans.

    V, I suggest Baseball Oakland as a site to obtain the truth of how Lew Wolff and John Fisher have handled the situation regarding a ballpark in Oakland. You can also go back to Steve Schott and Bud Selig as they conspired against Oakland. You’ll even be able to debunk the lie that Wolff likes to propagate about the A’s ever showing interest in “what they call the uptown site.” This is one of the biggest lies which Wolff is allowed to spew unchallenged.

    So V, for the technological aspects and for the San Jose slant, do go to Marine Layer’s site. It’s great to have a broad perspective on this issue. However, if you want to learn about the historic and chronological truth of what has tranpired over the years and how baseball’s precarious position in Oakland came to be, check out the Baseball Oakland blog. Thank you.

  43. V Smoothe Post author

    Navigator –

    I also read the Baseball Oakland blog and quite enjoy it. I often link to their posts in my news feed. Since I am already aware of the recent history of the team ownership’s disinterest in Oakland, their posts on that subject have not been particularly educational for me personally, but I think they provide an excellent summary for those who are unfamiliar with the situation.

    I do not dispute their take on the situation. In fact, I have made the exact same point myself here on this blog, albeit in less detail than the Baseball Oakland folks have offered. Where you and I differ is that I believe a disinterest owner makes it more important for Oakland to present a solid, feasible ballpark plan and for reasons beyond my comprehension, you seem to think it makes it less important.

    My favorite part of the Baseball Oakland site is their history section, where I have learned a great deal.

  44. Sid

    @Navigator- Marine Layer has gone on record stating that he is OK with a Oakland or San Jose ballpark.

    The way you speak it is obvious why he banned you from his site.

    All you Pro-Oakland fans forget about how the City has mistreated the A’s over the years.

    You all think…Traffic? Who cares? Railroad tracks? Who cares? Businesses that need to be moved? Who cares? Bad freeway off and on ramps? Who cares? The fact that no one has called Lew Wolff from Oakland with anything new in 2 years? Who cares? No EIR of any sort on any site in 15 years? Who cares? Lew Wolff should “lose money” because of your civic pride? RIGHT!

    The evidence shows time and time again the City of Oakland does not really care about the A’s.

    They back stabbed Steve Schott back in 1994 when they reneged on an agreement to renovate the Coliseum for baseball only to bring back the Raiders. Who cares?

    Schott won 16 million in a lawsuit against the city because of it as he had paperwork with signatures from the city on it. Who cares?

    Schott offered $100M to build a ballpark in Oakland. Who cares?

    Jerry Brown selling the Uptown site and firing a city manager for even suggesting a new ballpark for the A’s. Who cares?

    Oakland lacks the corporate base to build a stadium privately. Who cares?

    Oakland won’t put in public money for the stadium. Who cares?

    Oakland feels they deserve a privately financed stadium when they have no actual plan on how to get there. I forgot! Lew Wolff should pay for it himself and lose money….Who cares?

    At the end of the day Oakland has lost the A’s and San Jose will have them in 2015.

    Because San Jose has a site, EIR, most of the land bought, a supportive city council, corporate support as evidenced by the letter SVLG they sent to Bud Selig a few months back, and a population who has the most disposable income in the country for a city over 500k.

    Who really cares about all that? It is about you and the “sense of entitlement” you have.

    I hate to break it to you…..But Oakland is ugly step child city in the Bay Area now.

    Oh yeah…”Who cares”? about your civic pride?

    Sorry bro….NO ONE.

  45. Marine Layer

    Nav – I didn’t ban you because you hate Wolff. There are commenters on the site now that feel that way and I haven’t banned them. I banned you because you’re repetitive and a fake. I did IP lookups on your comments and they originated from a Comcast hub in Danville. When I called you out on that, you said you lived somewhere in Contra Costa County. To be such an Oakland “advocate” yet not live there, pay little to no taxes there, and not participate in the public process there, is disingenuous at best, pathological at worst.

    I know of at least two parties that want to present alternative sites at the Wednesday meeting. I’m trying to get interviews with landowners at the Victory Court site. My colleague, Jeffrey, has done a good deal of research on the site. What have you done to contribute? Have you done anything to help? I’ve researched six Oakland sites, including one I suggested, since the blog started. The blog has one agenda – to cover and analyze the A’s ballpark situation fully. We’re forward looking. If people want to take that as a pro-SJ slant, that’s fine. We’re trying to look at things in terms of realpolitik. We won’t apologize for that. Personally, I think Wolff’s been running out the clock for years. That doesn’t mean that he hasn’t put out legitimate effort in Oakland and the greater East Bay.

    As for Wolff’s “dossier,” I was asked not to report on anything but small snippets of it. I can tell you that nothing in it paints Oakland in a good light. If MLB chooses to keep it and discussions with Oakland and San Jose within its cone of silence, that’s its prerogative.

  46. Chris Kidd

    Troy, Santa Clara actually wasn’t one of the three counties that authorized BART. It was Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco County. Contra Costa has actually lodged some very serious complaints with BART for expanding into non-charter counties (Santa Clara, San Mateo) instead of prioritizing expansion to some of their most far-flung suburbs

  47. Navigator

    Marine Layer,

    Do posters need proof of San Jose residency to post their pro San Jose views on your site? How many “repetitive” posters do you allow to go on and on about how great and wealthy San Jose is suppose to be and how much San Jose deserves the A’s.

    You really shouldn’t worry too much about where I sleep. My heart is definently in Oakland. My Family is in Oakland, many of my friends live in Oakland, I support Oakland businesses and institutions. I recreate in Oakland. I go out to dinner in Oakland,etc.. Frankly I think I know more about Oakland than even you do.

    As far as “”what have I done ” to contribute? I believe you have an older post which is tittled “Navigator called it” referring to Victory Court. I was really flattered only to be later banned when I became too critical of Lew Wolff.

    Marine Layer, what I really find interesting is your inconsistent stance on Oakland’s approach. When Oakland had three sites you complained that they should make a decision and present one site to MLB. Now that Oakland has decided that Victory Court makes the most sense your position is that we should now look at other possible sites. Which position are you taking today? Why should Oakland now muck up the process by throwing in more sites when we already know that the Lew Wolff pro-San Jose position is that Oakland has NO sites and even if Oakland HAD sites they woudn’t be viable strictly because they’re in Oakland and we all know that Oakland is now closer to San Francisco then it was when Wolff proposed the sham between 66th Ave and High Street.

    So, why don’t we just stick with Victory Court because it’s a great site, it’ll bring the current and future dowtown neighborhood together, it’s near public transportation, and it’s aesthetically pleasing. Just because a site maybe great for Jack London Square, Lake Merritt and the future Oak to 9th development, doesn’t mean that it’s not good for Oakland in general..

  48. len raphael

    I thought Nav implied that a couple of times that he had to move from oakland for family reasons. maybe not on abo but on a different site.

    The most frequent reposter on some of the north oakland yahoo sites is a former resident who rents her oakland house out, and moved to portland.

    a few of the more prolific tribune posters clearly don’t live in oakland, never did, never will. tend to be trollish but not always.

    kind of touching that you can take the gal or guy out of Oakland but you can’t take the Oakland out of ‘em.

    -len raphael, temescal

  49. Navigator


    Have I ever said that I currently live in Oakland? I’ve said that I grew up in Oakland, attended school in Oakland, lived in Oakland for 28 years, grew up on Manila Avenue in the Rockridge District, lived near Lawton and Cavour for a while, attended Oakland Tech, lived in the Laurel for a number of years, etc.

    What else do you want to know?

  50. Navigator

    Len is right. You can take a guy out of Oakland but you can’t take Oakland out of a guy. In my heart I’ll always be an Oaklander. My roots run very deep. My kids were born in Oakland my dad passed away in Oakland when I was 12 years old and mom raised 5 kids by herself. Both of my parents were laid to rest at Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Oakland. I plan on returning in a few years. My wife and I love Oakland and I’ll always fight for and support Oakland.

    I’m not about to let Lew Wolff detract from the history and tradition I’ve shared with my kids over the years without a fight. My first memory of the Oakland A’s is as a small child in 1969 watching Reggie Jackson hit a homerun at the Coliseum on bat day. I went home with a Joe Rudy bat. On the weekends the neighborhood kids would get a game going at .Emerson School .We all had our A’s bats. It was a great time in Oakland.

  51. Marine Layer

    Nav – Making an offhand suggestion about a site is not a contribution.

    If you’re not living or working there, paying taxes there or voting there, you’re not repping the place as you so fervently claim you are. Maybe you’re overcompensating, I don’t know. Add that to the constant flamebaiting you did at the ballpark blog (making me have to clean up the mess) and it was an easy decision to make. The pro-SJ commenters don’t flail out at all of the other cities like you do. Don’t worry, there are a couple of less caustic guys now there to fill your shoes.

  52. Navigator


    That run has really never ended because I’m in Oakland all the time. Even on the weekends you can see my wife and I walking Lake Merritt. I have family in Oakland and actually go out of my way to support businesses in the city.

  53. Born in Oakland

    My husband and me and our grown children and my mother all live in Oakland. And everyone but my husband were Born in Oakland.

  54. Marine Layer

    Oakland could’ve taken one of two tacks: either have a full public vetting process for sites that took no more than 6-9 months, or pick a site right away and start the EIR process. That could’ve been done anytime between March and December 2009. That wasn’t done. Now it’s December 2010 and they’re finally getting started. It’s almost as if it’s being timed just so that the optics of the first planning commission session will be caught just before the owners meetings next week. That’s a good way to campaign, it’s a lousy way to actually accomplish anything.

  55. Cadillac Jack

    Born in Oakland in ’56, I lived there until I moved with my jobto Sacramento in 1986. Even living so far away I was still able to make 50-60 games a year at the Coliseum. In 2000 I presented the city with the Uptown Ballpark plans that were supported by Mayor Brown and Councilman De La Fuente until Signature Properties pusihng their Forest City Development put $10k into their election campaigns.
    It was the best location there could ever be for a downtown ballpark, but that deal is dead and I have to say that the Victoria Court site even with it’s many questions is still the best site for a new ballpark. I commend mayor-elect Jean Quan for continuing to push for the ballpark just as she did prior to the election. She’s much more honorable than that dirty Don Peraata who was pro Oakland A’s/Ballpark until Wolff and Fisher put $25K into his bid to become Oakland’s next mayor.
    I read here that SJ is far ahead of Oakland with it’s EIR, but let’s remember this…where SJ’s bid is being fronted by a mayor with his hands full and a councilman whose district benefits from the site they propose, Oakland is up and down full on board. While SJ’s businesses had to be prodded to sign a letter of support by the mayor, Oakland’s businesses put up $500K towards naming rights or luxury suites etc. Oakland’s Redevelopment Agency is ready to do what they need to do to get the projexct underway, while SJ’s redevelopment Agency is cash strapped, devoid of a competent leader and so disjointed that it will likely be absorbed by other city departments which will then micr-manage it.
    SJ doesn’t even own the majority of the property it will require for their project which still sits ion the hands of private parties, and a major part of it belongs to at&t which still says it won’t sell.
    Finally, lets face a fact about commerce and the need of businesses to exploit an opportunity. Should the ballpark be built and MLB rejects Wolff’s South bay bid, those same Silicon Valley big shots will be pushing hard to get their products, logos and whatever else they can to the Oakland ballpark because they will not want to be shut out of the newest major attraction in the Bay Area. It’s just good buisness.
    I live in Hayward at this moment, but I’m currently scouting sites for our new Subway location in Oakland not to mention our soon to open adult care facility and our new home. Oakland is finally asserting itself, moving out of the shadow of SF and away from the snotty South Bay. It has much to offer now and in the near future. Don’t think for one moment that MLB hasn’t been watching Oakland, and they like what they’re seeing and hearing.

  56. Cadillac Jack

    Oh, and I want to poke SJ in the eye one more time. When it comes time to make a decision, while you have to go through the public vote process where you’ll be dealing with at least 3 groups down ther that aren’t about to let you ram wolff’s plan down their throats, Oakland’s decision will be made by people who were elected to make decisions. MLB understands and prefers that process that causes the least negative reaction to ballpark building process. I’ve studied the political outcomes of the last 6 ballparks to be built and wherever there was a public struggle, MLB refused to take a stand one way or another. While those communities that had a less “convoluted” process had MLB’s blessing. Just something to think about.

  57. Navigator

    Marine Layer,

    We had a Mayor who wasn’t going to “break his pick on this one.” Along with an owner who wasn’t going to “break a fingernail” in Oakland.

    Also, why is San Jose pushing back its vote on the ballpark?

  58. Navigator

    Folks, let’s all be there at City Hall tomorrow at 6:00 PM. I hear that the first 75 people get the cool Oaklandish “STAY” T shirt . Let’s support Oakland and let’s support our A’s.

  59. Naomi Schiff

    The Oaklandish folks are heroes! I got my husband (a fan since the early 1970s) that shirt for his b-day. Maybe we need Ricky Henderson to show up and wear one!

  60. Roscoe

    Marine Layer-

    Love your blog. Keep up the good work.

    I think the timing of the EIR has more to do with Quan being elected. She supports a new Oakland ballpark whereas Dellums and Brown did not.

  61. V Smoothe Post author

    Roscoe –

    I know that a lot of A’s-in-Oakland people seem to think Jean Quan is some kind of savior, and who knows? Maybe she will turn out to be.

    But she had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with either the timing of the EIR or the selection of Victory Court. The City released an RFP looking for someone to complete this EIR in August. And this scoping session has been on the Planning Commission agenda for this meeting since mid-October.

    Navigator –

    I think it’s fine for you to live wherever you want to live. It does not matter to me either way. However, I find the revelation that you are not a resident extremely surprising given the comments you have been leaving here for years.

  62. Roscoe

    Thanks V, good to know! I do think Quan has given many of us who want the ballpark in Oakland new hope. Of course, we also know it will be a very long struggle to make it happen.

  63. Marine Layer

    @Cadillac Jack – So you’d prefer a deal that was hammered out in a back room somewhere instead of letting the people vote on it, even if it’s worth nine figures of taxpayer money? Good on ya, then.

    One of the differences between how San Jose and Oakland have done this is the money aspect. SJRA has cash flow issues, but it also has $140 million in banked land assets to sell. If Victory Court gets to the point of moving forward, a bond issue may be necessary. Let’s just see how sanguine everybody is about that when the time comes. BTW, the members SVLG signed that letter as a threat. Give the A’s San Jose and they’re in. Elsewhere… not so much.

    @Roscoe/V Smoothe – Thanks for clarifying.

  64. len raphael

    bond issue? how likely will that be needed?
    any very rough numbers?

    There will be so many local bond issues for refing old PERS debt, refing new PERS losses, borrowing for medical retirement benefits, borrowing for deferred maintence, that the property tax bills here will bring the property taxes in the Oakland flats in line with those of midtown Manhattan.

  65. Marine Layer

    If CEDA has $100 million or so lying around to take care of the acquisitions, relocations, and land prep, they probably won’t need bonds. Otherwise, they’ll have to raise money somehow.

  66. Mike D.(linusalf)

    Its quite obvious why the other sites weren’t picked.

    1. Howard Terminal has full scale port operations
    2.JLS north had more businesses to deal with and less transit accessibility
    3.The Coliseum lacked the downtown location preferred by MLB
    4. Victory Ct is not with out its speed bumps but also has less property owners, closest to transit options, and has potential for further redevelopment.

  67. Navigator

    I just got home after Doug Boxer cleared the room because of the overflow crowd. Way to go Oakland. Both the main meeeting room, and the overflow room, were overflowing with supporters for a ballpark in Oakland. The enthusiasm of Oakland A’s fans for building this ballpark in Oakland is clear. I’d estimate the crowd to be over 200. Great job Oakland! Are you listening MLB? The fans want the A’s in Oakland in a new ballpark on Victory Court, not in San Jose.

  68. len raphael

    Reading about the A’s boosters, imagine how much public pressure there must have been to bring the Raiders back here. Good thing the general fund is broke or our city council would have written a blank check already.

  69. Steve Lowe

    Nav, what if VC doesn’t pass the Health Benefits Assessment that was asked for by JLDA and the Asian Pacific Environmental (Association?) or any of the many other concerns that were raised? If all our eggs for the A’s are just in that one basket alone, then Lew probably gets a free pass to San Jose when he goes whining to MLB about how he was right all along.

    We need to have backup sites that can’t be waved away as “just crazy” (as a few folks last night said in their haste to make a political statement and not provide the basis from which a realistic EIR can be drawn) or “Wolff already decided that wouldn’t work” (like Lew decided Fremont would work!) or a whole lot of other malarkey that continues to divide us to the point where we’re not keeping our eyes on the ball.

    Instead of railing at Jean (can we give her another week, at least?) or Ron (who met with Lew within a week of being elected only to be stonewalled) or even Jerry ‘n Jacques (who, in eight years as Mayor ‘n Mini-Mayor, had to have some sort of understanding with the Fishers to stay out of this imbroglio), we need to find out whether folks at MTC, CalTrans and/or BART are complicit in the plot to usher the A’s down to San Jose. If not, why aren’t they all at the table in support of the effort to straighten out the fine mess they’ve created for us all right here in the middle of the modern-day equivalent of the Gordian knot that they’ve created for us?

    If extending BART all the way into San Jose enables Lew’s hopes of moving the A’s farther from the core of Bay Area, then the idea of transportation parity here in the Bay Area stinks on ice: why should we be asked to shell out billions for that ongoing inequity, when San Jose consistently voted not to participate in BART financing up until very recently. One thing about Chuck Reed, chutzpah isn’t his weak suit.

    There’s some great aspects to VC, but traffic sanity can hardly be identified as one of them, and if that and a hundred other problems prevent the Ballpark EIR from being the document that’s needed to clear the way for the A’s, are we prepared to just sit back and say, “Well, we gave it out best shot and that’s it: game over?”


    – S

  70. Navigator


    At this point in the process I think it makes since to present our strongest site to MLB. Oakland has studied a number of sites and they’ve proved to be problematic for variuos reasons like the Port operations at Howard Terminal, the many parcels required at Jack London North, etc.

    The 980 alternative would require obtaining and demolishing dozens of residential properties bordered by 14th Street, Jefferson, San Pablo and 980 in order to build the adjacent housing and commercial developments. Another issue would be the proximity to higher crime neighborhoods around the west Oakland public housing complexes. I don’t think we want a ballpark in an area which will be perceived as unsafe. We already have that at the Coliseum.

    I really cant think of another site with the potential to generate the economic benefits for Oakland that Victory Court has the potential to deliver.

    As far as BART is concerned, that’s not going to happen for a very long time. Oakland has it all over San Jose on the BART issue. Although, it seems that BART varies in importance to Lew Wolff depending on his chosen location for a ballpark. It seems that in Oakland BART is very important to Lew. In San Jose ,or Fremont, all of a sudden it’s not an issue.

    Oakland needs to present a solid, trnsportation friendly, aesthethicaly pleasing site and then sit back and wait for MLB. That’s all we can do for now. Give it our very best shot and either listen to MLB’s reasons for fiding it a viavle and fiting site for the Oakland A’s and their fanbase, or listen to their reasoning and excuses as to why it doesn’t work and San Jose fits the needs of the fanbase better.

    MLB has delayed this for so long because they’re fearful of the repercussions. They know what they did back in 1995. They know that Oakland and San Francisco have plenty of political musle. They are now paralized in a corner afraid to make a decision untill they make sure their butts are covered.

  71. Troy

    Again, Steve,

    Santa Clara County is paying for the BART extension themselves because they weren’t an original member of BART.