On the Tri-City Beat blog Matt Artz created a post noting that the original agreement to bring the A’s to Fremont included allowing them to develop over 3,000 homes. Mayor Wasserman noted that he would reconsider doing this if a ballpark were back on the table. Below is my post on this.
Of all of the huge issues that were glossed over in last week’s Council meeting, this was arguably the biggest. Why in the world would Wolff and the A’s be willing to spend the $400-500 million needed to build a ballpark? I guess establishing the rationale for a developer actually wanting to pay for the ballpark is not necessary if you’re just doing a ‘conceptual analysis’.
As mentioned, the payoff for Wolff last time was the right to build 3,150 homes. This arrangement was one of the main reasons I was not in favor of the Pacific Commons plan. When I was campaigning last time, I talked to a lot of people about the ballpark. I was surprised how many people weren’t even aware that 3,150 homes were part of the deal. This time, there is no mention of any homes.
In the Pacific Commons plan, the City would have been responsible for providing police, fire and road maintenance for these homes. Money for these services would have come from the City’s General Fund. Being in a redevelopment district, the taxes from the project would not have contributed to the General Fund. The project was hoping to be ‘General Fund neutral’ with the main input coming from sales tax on the retail space. It’s clear to me now that the 500,000 sq. ft. of retail would not have produced sales tax as predicted. As a result, the project would have ended up costing the City’s General Fund, making our police funding situation even worse.
By doing this rezoning, we would have lost the opportunity to put light industrial/office space at this location. I know it will be hard, especially in this economy, to bring high-paying jobs to this area. The last thing we should do is rezone this area so that getting these jobs is not possible at all.
Now we find out that the same kind of deal is being thought about here. What we would lose at this site is the chance that we could ever get manufacturing back. Obviously, if the ‘ballpark village’ comes to the NUMMI site, we’ll never see those manufacturing jobs again. Even if we only have the ballpark on the 120 acres, we will have likely ruined the opportunity to get a large manufacturer to come to that site. We know that NUMMI was very concerned about the ballpark being located right next to their facility. Any manufacturer would likely have similar concerns.
I was surprised at the Council meeting where they presented the Phase II plans for the ballpark. These plans included 250,000 sq. ft. of retail and about 900,000 sq. ft. of office space. In this economy, it would be very difficult to fill either the retail or the office space. I would argue that anyone with the business to fill this location would actually prefer not to be located near a ballpark. In any event, I don’t see anyone willing to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for the privilege of getting to develop right next to a ball park when they could develop somewhere else for a much smaller cost.
I was at the San Jose Arena earlier this week. It was interesting to see that there is no new development right near the facility despite it having been there for 17 years. The nearby area is actually pretty depressed. The bars and restaurants that Arena attendees visit are actually several blocks away in the existing downtown area. They almost all existed before the Arena was built. In short, there’s no evidence in San Jose that sports facilities generate nearby economic development.