Oakland Fights to Keep A’s

The city selects a new ballpark site for the team and is moving forward with an environmental study as Jean Quan prepares to become mayor.

Now that Jean Quan has been elected mayor, the City of Oakland is not going to let the Oakland A’s move to San Jose without a fight. Next week, the Oakland Planning Commission will unveil a proposal for a new 39,000-seat ballpark along the city’s waterfront, at a site known as Victory Court. The city plans to conduct a thorough environmental review of the site next to the Lake Merritt Channel and the Oakland Estuary.

The proposed ballpark location in Jack London Square happens to be Quan’s favored site. She advocated it during the campaign as a way to keep the A’s in Oakland. She said she believes a new ballpark at Victory Court would help businesses in nearby Chinatown and could provide the impetus for a new hotel/convention center. “I think it’s the best site,” Quan said. “It could really kick-start the area.”

The city’s plans for a new ballpark probably would have been scrapped if Don Perata had won the mayor’s race. During the campaign, he made it clear that he would not fight to block the A’s planned move to the South Bay if elected. A’s owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher, who want to relocate their team to San Jose, supported Perata by donating $25,000 to a committee working to get him elected.

Quan, by contrast, called Major League Baseball officials the day after she defeated Perata to make sure they understood her position. “I wanted to let them know that I won and that I would be fighting to keep the A’s,” Quan said. “And I wanted to make sure they knew that I would be doing everything possible to keep the negotiations going.”

The city has been negotiating with a committee appointed by Major League Baseball to determine whether the A’s should stay in Oakland or move to San Jose. City Administrator Dan Lindheim, who has been leading Oakland’s negotiations, said the city decided to go ahead with the environmental impact report because the league wants to have a new stadium for the A’s in place by Opening Day 2015. Lindheim also said the league clearly would prefer that the city pick a downtown-waterfront site like the San Francisco Giants did with their ballpark. “Baseball has this vision of a downtown-waterfront ballpark, and this site is downtown and it’s on the waterfront,” he said, referring to the Victory Court site.

The Victory Court site was one of four the city had been considering, and one of two new sites that Oakland unveiled as possibilities earlier this year. There were two more sites in Jack London Square, plus the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum parking lot. The city will begin accepting comments on the EIR at the December 1 Planning Commission meeting.

Quan also said she believes a ballpark at Victory Court would spur further development at Jack London Square and the planned Oak-to-Ninth housing development. The ballpark would be built between the two. Ironically, the Jack London Square development and the Oak-to-Ninth project are owned by two of Perata’s best donors, Jim Falaschi and Michael Ghielmetti. Both have expressed support for a new A’s ballpark next to their developments.

Lindheim said the city plans to pay for the environmental impact report with redevelopment funds. Both Quan and outgoing Mayor Ron Dellums have said they would use redevelopment money — but not general fund dollars — to try to keep the A’s in Oakland. City general funds are typically earmarked for police, fire, libraries, parks, and other basic city services. Redevelopment funds are used to revitalize blighted areas. San Jose plans to use redevelopment funds to attract the A’s. San Francisco used redevelopment funds to help the Giants build AT&T Park.

Oakland’s ballpark proposal also includes up to 180,000 square feet of retail, 540,000 square feet of office space, 700 residential units, and 2,500 off-street parking spots. The site is close to the Lake Merritt BART station and Amtrak, and is next to Interstate 880. Lindheim said he thinks a ballpark at the Victory Court site, coupled with the reworking of 12th Street and the renovation of the Lake Merritt waterfront, would be a catalyst for revitalization.

But how will Major League Baseball respond? The league has been conspicuously tight-lipped about the future of the A’s. Quan believes the only way league officials would turn down Wolff and Fisher’s request to move the team is if the City of Oakland proves that it has a viable plan for a new ballpark and that city leadership is committed to making it happen.

Dellums Missing from Own Video

If Ron Dellums had plans for making a graceful exit from the Oakland mayor’s office, then those plans unraveled last week. First came word that he had canceled his last state of the city speech, and intended to issue a written report and an online video instead. The report was published, but then the Oakland Tribune noted that Dellums himself was missing from the video. It seemed to be a fitting end to a mayoral tenure in which Dellums was often criticized for being missing in action.

Three-Dot Roundup

UC Regents voted to raise student fees by 8 percent, following a recent decision to hike them by 32 percent. The move sparked protests in which demonstrators were pepper-sprayed and arrested. … The Proposition 8 federal appeals hearing will be televised on C-SPAN. … A division of the California Public Utilities Commission recommended that PG&E SmartMeters undergo tests to see if they cause health problems. … Meg Whitman, who spent $145 million of her own money on the governor’s campaign, settled the back-wage dispute filed by her former housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, for $5,500. … Senator Barbara Boxer said cap-and-trade climate legislation is dead because of Republican gains in Congress. … And Le Cheval Restaurant is moving to a smaller nearby venue after losing its lease dispute with its landlady, Monica Ung.


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