A’s latest ballpark pitch fails to score at City Hall
The Oakland A’s plan for a new “walkable” downtown ballpark adjacent to Laney College may be a hit with the public — but it was not met with hugs or high-fives in City Hall.
“Traffic is going to be a nightmare,” said longtime sports booster and Councilman Larry Reid, whose East Oakland district includes the team’s current home at the Coliseum.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf wasn’t turning cartwheels either, having preferred that the ballpark go to Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland.
But “I respect that they are privately financing their ballpark — and this is the site that they feel is most finance-able,” Schaaf said.
Councilman Abel Guillén, whose district includes the A’s chosen site, was reserved as well, saying that his first step will be to work with the city attorney to put the brakes on real estate speculation “that we are already seeing in anticipation of this decision.”
“It’s very important that we see no net loss in affordable housing,” Guillén said Friday.
City Hall is also waiting to see whether the A’s ballpark plan includes nearby Victory Court at Embarcadero and Oak Street, site of the city’s fire training facility. Word is the team is eyeing it for possible parking.
And while the A’s stadium is the newsmaker, it is just one of several developments, including the huge Brooklyn Basin project on the other side of Interstate 880 — 3,100 units of housing are being built there — that will impact the area.
Team president Dave Kaval says he’s ready for the task of making it work, and already is in negotiations to win support from the unions representing the Coliseum’s workforce — including the Teamsters, Service Employees Union and the hotel and restaurant workers.
Kaval is also meeting with neighborhood groups.
Plus, unlike the Raiders — who always carried a ticking clock — the A’s are playing the long game, saying it could take a year or more before a final agreement is reached with the Peralta Community College District, which owns the property and has its headquarters there.
The A’s slow-pitch approach could help both Schaaf and Guillén as well, because they both face re-election next year.
The A’s also have a strong following citywide. According to a poll of 800 Oakland voters commissioned by the team, 72 percent support a ballpark near downtown. And though no specific location was given, the FM3 poll found 74 percent support among those living within a three-quarter-mile radius of the proposed ballpark site.
And those are good numbers by any score.
For whom the bridge tolls: Bay Area voters will be asked next year to raise tolls by as much as $3 on all bay bridges, except for the Golden Gate, under a measure the Legislature just approved.
And more increases could follow, with no cap, based on a cost of living index.
Regional Measure 3 was put together by Bay Area lawmakers with the goal of helping to finance 30 transportation projects throughout the region. It was approved by both the state Senate and Assembly after weeks of behindthe-scenes wrangling over who would get what.
The measure will go before voters in the nine Bay Area counties either in June or November next year, and will need a simple majority to pass.
“Our residents already spend an average of 82 hours stuck in traffic, and our transit systems are struggling to keep overcrowded buses and trains moving,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco.
The projects include everything from improved bridge approaches and increased ferry service across the bay to bringing BART to San Jose and Santa Clara. The wish list even includes money to start building an underground tunnel for Caltrain to come directly into downtown San Francisco.
One of the biggest recipients will be BART, which is on track for just over $1 billion.
Getting the package through the Legislature, however, took a lot of back-room dealing, including an extra $200 million apiece for Alameda and Contra Costa counties, where most of the people who would pay the higher tolls live.
State Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, would vote for the deal only if it included the creation of an inspector general to monitor BART spending.
Even with the sweeteners, there was opposition from Contra Costa County, with Assembly members Jim Frazier, D-Brentwood, Tim Grayson, D-Concord, and Catharine Baker, R-San Ramon, all voting no.
Frazier, who chairs the Assembly Transportation Committee, said that though there is a need for transportation improvements, “adding another tax on commuters is not the answer.” He likened an $8 toll to “highway robbery.”
Once in place, Baker said, the tolls could keep going up without additional voter approval.
“And that takes away all accountability on how these dollars are spent,” she said.
The measure’s author, state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, praised the outcome, saying the measure will give the Bay Area “the bold plan it needs for the future” and that with the “expansion of tech firms, such as Google and Apple” traffic will only get worse.
Which may explain why tech companies are big supporters of the measure.
The A’s have chosen a location near the Peralta Community College District offices to construct a new ballpark. The public backs the downtown site, but officials have concerns.