A’s Ballpark – 2010

This is from my 2010 campaign.  The NUMMI location was the second attempt to bring the A’s to Fremont.

Oakland A’s at NUMMI

Position on Latest Proposal to Locate the Oakland Athletics at the NUMMI Site in Fremont

In my opinion, this project is not in Fremont’s best interests and would hurt Fremont’s economy. It is also an example of many systemic problems with our City government.

The Proposal Is Not Fiscally Responsible: Numerous economic studies have consistently shown that sports stadia are NOT good economic generators. A baseball stadium is simply not the way to grow a healthy local economy. This project would most likely cost our economy in the short and long term.

The proposal is that the County would buy the land for the site and the City would spend $62 million on infrastructure improvements! If we are going to give away such a large sum of money, we should put it towards a project that will generate high-paying jobs.

The proposal also suggests using redevelopment money on this project in a way that will hurt our General Fund and our school funding. The proposal is that money from the redevelopment agency will be used to pay for the land and needed infrastructure improvements. In general, for every usable dollar of redevelopment money, the General Fund loses about 25 cents and the school districts lose about 75 cents. Since the ballpark would be in a redevelopment area, money from it would not go to the General Fund. The report says nothing about how this loss to the General Fund would be replaced.

The original project for the A’s would clearly not have generated the sales tax that the A’s predicted it would. The result would have been a net decrease in the City’s General Fund, the fund from which police, fire and other services come from. This project has no retail component proposed and would actually be more detrimental to the City’s General Fund. There is no mention in the project of who would pay the large costs associated with a facility of this size; building maintenance, police, fire and traffic services required for game days, etc.

Public Input Has Not Been Sought: Obviously a decision was made to perform this recent work without telling the public at all. In the interest of transparency, the press should have been notified that this activity was happening.

The City did not do any outreach to the public the last time a ballpark was proposed. The only meetings that were called were regular Council meetings (in which people were given one minute to speak) and small meetings by the A’s themselves which were for the purpose of marketing the idea. The City made no effort to complete an objective survey, nor to put the project on the ballot, to ensure that Fremont residents really wanted this project.

The City Council appeared determined to get a ballpark and clearly did not welcome input from the public who didn’t share their desires. I went to one of the original Council meetings about this and the project was presented as what the City wanted to do. This was before any public outreach was done. One of our Council members was quoted as saying this project was ‘absolutely’ going to happen. Our mayor went so far as to refer to those who didn’t share his views on the ballpark as a ‘mob’.

In retrospect, the Council must have known that the Pacific Commons tenants were not satisfied with the proposed transportation mitigation measures prior to the November 2008 election. These issues weren’t brought to the public’s attention until December which was when the Warm Springs proposal was first unveiled. The heated reaction of the Warm Springs residents was predictable. I believe that the Warm Springs proposal was deliberately kept from the public until after the election. Our Council is supposed to represent us, not keep secrets from us. And they should be using their limited resources to look creatively at several options for the NUMMI site, not focusing efforts on a ballpark that is unlikely to bring any jobs or economic benefit to our city.

A Ballpark Would Reduce Our Employment Opportunities: It is understood that in this economy it will be difficult to attract large employers to replace NUMMI. It may be years before we can generate anywhere close to the 4,700 high-paying jobs that have been lost.

NUMMI indicated publicly that they thought the location of a ballpark right next to their facility would have a significant, negative impact on their operations. Wouldn’t a similar company, or any large employer for that matter, have a similar opinion and not want to locate here? Putting a ballpark at this location would limit our options for the future. Let’s not give up on the opportunity to bring good employers to this site.

I’ve heard people say we need a ‘vision’ for what will happen at the NUMMI site. I think our ‘vision’ needs to be wide open at this point to all sorts of possibilities like bio-tech, green jobs manufacturing, auto manufacturing, and high-tech. I would argue that the Council appears to have ‘tunnel vision’ and somehow is stuck on the idea that a ballpark will be our economic panacea, despite all of the research which clearly indicates that ballparks do NOT contribute in a significant way to an area’s economic development.

A Ballpark Would Generate Significant Traffic Problems: There would be about 15,000 car trips generated for every game at the park. Our city streets simply can’t handle this traffic. This kind of traffic nightmare would be a deterrent to future businesses thinking about locating in Fremont.

The Proposal Is Simply Not Feasible: This is actually the third time that City staff have spent valuable resources on a project that is unlikely to happen. The original proposed site for the ballpark at Pacific Commons had enormous transportation problems that were never properly addressed. Given these problems, the existing businesses on the site (Costco, Lowe’s and Kohl’s) convinced their landlord (Catellus) to oppose the project. With Catellus not on board, this plan was abandoned.

The Warm Springs site was a desperate attempt to find another site after the Pacific Commons site failed. It was doomed from the start. The A’s would have needed to acquire the land for the site. Some of this land was owned by NUMMI, which had publicly stated its opposition to the ballpark. Not surprisingly, many Warm Springs residents were not happy with this plan and organized significant opposition. Only weeks after it was proposed, it was abandoned.

This latest idea faces huge hurdles that have been glossed over in the report recently released to the public. First, it is proposed that the City acquire the land. The City does NOT have the money in their General Fund to do this. Secondly, the land will likely require expensive cleanup. There is no mention of who will pay for this. Finally, the A’s have not shown any interest in this latest proposal. The A’s previous agreement to build the ballpark was dependent on being granted the right to build 3,150 homes. This proposal does not seem to include any homes, so why would the A’s be interested?

Instead of focusing on real economic development that our City desperately needs, our Council has directed enormous staff resources towards a project that is not at all likely to go forward. It’s quite possible that prospective employers are looking at Fremont and deciding to locate elsewhere because the City seems so obsessed with getting a ballpark.

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