It's no secret that Oakland has been broke for a long time. It's also no secret that the owners of the Oakland A's want to move the team to San Jose. So as news leaked out last week that Mayor Ron Dellums and other city officials were proposing new ballpark sites in Jack London Square, a key question immediately arose. How much would the cash-strapped city have to spend to keep the A's from leaving?
At a press conference, the mayor vowed that no public money would be used to construct the new ballpark, but he said the city would assemble land and provide infrastructure and parking for the stadium, much as it would for any major development. They said they hope to obtain more federal infrastructure funds for the project if it goes forward, although the mayor would not reveal exactly how much public money he expected the project would ultimately need.
Dellums and council members also provided new details about the two new sites in Jack London Square. As the Express previously reported, they are at Oak and Third streets next to the Lake Merritt Channel, and west of Broadway, between Second Street and Interstate 880, bounded by Jefferson and Market streets (the city refers to this site as "north" of Broadway). The city also is pushing a third site in Jack London Square, the Howard Terminal, along with the Oakland Coliseum parking lot, but the A's have previously dismissed those two sites as unviable.
A Major League Baseball task force has studied the two new sites, along with sites in San Jose and Fremont, and is expected to complete its report next month. Both of the new sites are twenty acres and would create synergies with the substantial new development built in Jack London Square over the past decade, while helping the area to finally become a regional destination. "This has been about keeping the A's ... but that's not solely what this is about," Dellums said. "It's about economic development.... It's about Oakland moving forward."
Oakland had been considered out of the running for a new A's ballpark until Dellums teamed up earlier this year with City Council President Jane Brunner and an A's booster club, known as Let's Go Oakland, which is co-run by city Planning Commissioner Doug Boxer. Boxer's mother, US Senator Barbara Boxer, also has been involved in the effort, along with Congresswoman Barbara Lee and several Oakland business leaders. The city and its partners are attempting to keep the team from moving to San Jose, and to prove that A's co-owner Lew Wolff was wrong when he claimed that there are no viable ballpark sites in the city.
Of the two new sites, the Oak and Third location, also known as "Victory Court," appears to be the frontrunner. Council President Brunner, Councilman Larry Reid, and City Administrator Dan Lindheim, all said it was their top choice in interviews after the press conference. In addition, a knowledgeable source said baseball's task force also prefers the site. It's only three blocks from the Lake Merritt BART station and would be adjacent to the huge Oak-to-Ninth condo development on the Estuary. The city also already owns six acres of the site and uses it as the Oakland Fire Department's training center.
As for the west of Broadway site, which the city is calling "Jack London North," it's within walking distance of both the City Center and West Oakland BART stations, and is only three blocks from the heart of Jack London Square. For those keeping score, the Express' new headquarters would be in left field of the ballpark, meaning the paper would have to find a new home.
BART Approves Airport Tram
The BART Board of Directors voted 7-1 to award $440 million in contracts for an elevated tramway between the Coliseum BART station and Oakland airport. The controversial project, which has been criticized by transit activists as being a boondoggle, is expected to be completed in 2013 at a total cost of $492 million. The tram will take about fourteen minutes to carry passengers from BART to the airport, including wait time. The airport connector had been considered dead in the water, but was revived thanks to $70 million in federal stimulus money.
Oakland Goes Solar, Too
The Oakland City Council's recent approval of long-term financing for solar power is making it much easier for homeowners to go green. The council unanimously voted to join California First, a state plan based on Berkeley's innovative solar financing model, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. California First allows homeowners to purchase and install solar panels, and then pay it back on their property taxes over a twenty- to thirty-year period at low interest rates. City leaders hope that the new plan will lead to the widespread adoption of solar power throughout Oakland.
UC Berkeley protesters seriously harmed their own cause over the weekend when they lost control and attacked the campus home of Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. The angry protesters, who were later arrested, broke windows and hurled torches at the house as Birgeneau and his wife feared for their lives inside. ... The Oakland City Council settled a lawsuit and agreed to pay police officers for the time it takes them to put on and take off their uniforms each day. ... Oakland teachers rejected the latest contract offer and are asking for a 15 percent raise over three years. ... Bay Area bridge tolls may increase by at least a dollar next summer.