Category: Oakland A’s

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf

Mayor Schaaf Must Form A Sports Task Force – Her New Oakland A’s Stadium Hire Won’t Solve The Problem – Zennie Abraham

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is the one I back for re-election as our leader, but that’s not going to stop me from making some very pointed criticisms of the way she’s handled the topic of sports in Oakland.

As I write this, she’s about to annouce her new point-person for the Oakland A’s Stadium. Ok, but one person will not solve the problem and she certainly didn’t ask for my input. A giant mistake. That person’s not going to be Oakland Coliseum JPA Executive Director Scott McKibben, nor will it be former Oakland City Manager and public builder of the Washington Nationals Stadium Robert Bobb, nor will it be Former Oakland City Manager and local development wiz Kofi Bonner (whom I put Libby in touch with two years ago). She’s ran out of capable names who are locally known and can get this problem of not having a stadium plan done out of the doldrums. The reason is one I will explain later in this column.

Indeed, what I’m about to explain that focuses on her could be applied to most of the Oakland City Council, but she’s the Mayor, so I’ll start there.

First, let’s take stock of where we are right now, January 28th, 2019:

• The City of Oakland has lost the Golden State Warriors to San Francisco, and after an aggressive economic development campaign led by the late San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, and with no real challenge from either former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan or current Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
• The Oakland Raiders are attempting a move to Las Vegas, but that effort is as of this writing five months behind where it should be, and that gap could widen with the latest political dispute around minority stadium construction jobs. Still, the NFL granted a conditional relocation, dependent on the Raiders ability to actually get it done.
• The Raiders have a lease that extends to 2019, but are working to have it extended to 2020 or perhaps longer, and based on a set of conditions of need. In other words, “if you don’t have that new stadium in Las Vegas finished and open, the Oakland Coliseum’s your home.” It’s also worth noting that the extension has the same wording in it, not removed: that is the parties, Oakland and The Oakland Raiders can enter talks toward a new stadium at the Coliseum. Anyone surprised here should not be: the Raiders always leave an out for themselves.
• The Oakland A’s, getting no active help from Mayor Schasf or the Oakland City Council, on their own tried to work a deal with Peralta Community College, only to be rebuffed by the board. The A’s are setting up the situation so they can indeed say they were committed to Oakland – and move if the current situation of complete lack of leadership continues. And here’s where we get into the problems Libby has created.

Second, Mayor Schaaf, my friend of 30-plus years and who’s really smart enough to know better, failed to and still has not, established a sports task force – really, it should be called the M.I.C.E task force, but that would not ring a bell with anyone, save for economic development specialists. M.I.C.E stands for “Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions”, and it’s an industry folks. An industry that Oakland, because of it’s completely baseless and personal way of looking at economic development, is all but non-extentent in.

That task force could form a plan for the retention of sports in Oakland, and its future growth, and in the process solve the problem of not having enough space for meetings (like for electrical engineers), conventions (like for comic books), incentives (like a Pharell concert) or exhibitions (like an auto show). A really good sports stadium district has, by design, space for all of that. We have that in the Coliseum and with Oracle Arena and the current Raiders / A’s Stadium. We also have a deficiency of over 800,000 square feet of convention and meeting space – adding that equals more events and more jobs.

Second, Libby has had something like four years to establish a sports task force, and did nothing- she points to her staff of people as that group. That action flies in the face of all of the task forces assembled in history: each one consists of leaders in the community, both business and non-business, and who represent what I call a “value chain” of actors that can help solve specific problems associated with a development project, from permits to media and public relations. I tried to get Libby to set that up years ago, but I got this stuff both from her and from Oakland and Alameda County Consultant Pat Cashman talking about the task forces that didn’t work. Look, in Oakland, we need a task force. I solved the problem of lack of cooperation when I formed the Oakland Downtown Coalition in 1997 – that got us the 14th and Broadway Transit Cooridor for AC Transit’s large buses. If I can do, it, I can do it again. If Libby would ask me – which brings me to my next point.

Between Oakland’s now deep list of people who are experienced enough in many ways related to sports stadiums and the M.I.C.E industry, and Libby’s relationships with those Oaklanders, like me, you’d think she’d form a task force to call on her friends, right? Not done. And that’s because Libby’s taking bad advice from her political consultants, and is afraid to take bold action. Mainly because she and the other Oakland City Council members are completely freaked out by the homeless problem.

And on that, I take this aside:

The City Of Oakland’s Homeless Problem is there because we don’t have a good fund to pay for the construction of afforable housing. The equation is simple: government investment via subsidy can help make a development project pay for itself with lower rent. We need tas increment financing to do that, which means we need a district, and that means we need and have legislation that allows it in California: SB 628, called Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts.

SB 628 specifically allows Oakland to finance affordable housing construction. It can be used with the A’s Stadium Plan to generate up to $80 million in financing assistance ear-marked for housing, in that case. We can use it in the case of Oak Knoll, or the Coliseum City project. When I talk about this with Oakland Councilmembers, they just tell me “redevelopment is dead” – as if they’re resigned to do nothing, let alone avoid using government policy tools that can solve the problem.

But for the homeless, the City can create a grant program that gives up to $3,000 per homeless person to get them housing – times the estimated 4,000 homeless in Oakland, and that calls for $12 million. Give them the grants – help them get into housing, and then that gives us time to rebuild our stock of both affordable and cheap homes.

The problem, it seems to me, is that Democrats seem to want people who need help to exist, rather that doing everything it takes to invest in those same people and eliminate their problems. Giving money, at the end of the day, is the solution – but Oakland’s Democrats don’t want to do that because it means no one to look down on and say “oh those poor people need our help.” I’m a Democrat, but that’s the way our party has turned, and Oakland’s ran by Dems. Time to call it as I see it. Back to the main point: sports and Mayor Schaaf.

Mayor Schaaf needs to do the following: 1) make a sports task force, 2) stop fooling around and call the one person with the nerve to really solve this problem fast, me, 3) let me stock the task force with capable Oaklanders and SF Bay Area experts in development and sports specialists, 4) ask Oaklanders to vote on what land they want used for the A’s, 5) work with the A’s to form a development plan for the stadium, 6) set a list of goals and objectives with respect to the M.I.C.E industry, 7) develop an overall finacing plan for structures, and 8) work on a plan for the development of the Oakland Coliseum of the future, which includes a review of change in the very nature of sports – for example, we now have E-Sports.

In closing, Mayor Schaaf and the Oakland City Council, and many Oaklanders, must change what their view of sports is. For example, a couple of people interrupted my interview with an Oakland A’s fan at FanFest to tell us they didn’t want a stadium at Jack London Square. One reason one of the persons gave was the idea that it added low wage jobs at $13 per hour! Wrong! The average stadium worker makes $68,000 a year – that’s on a par with nurses according to Simply Hired – and that’s the average and well above $13 an hour – it’s $32 an hour.

We also have to stop making the conversation about economic development and sports one about personalities, like Oakland Raiders Owner Mark Davis, and Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval, and make it about financing, land, goals, and objectives. Historically, whenever we talked about tech economid development, it was about just that, not about personalties like Steve Jobs or Jack Dorsey. You see? Our approach to sports in Oakland has been parochial and more often than not nasty and personal.

We have to stop that, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf can and should lead the charge to do so.

James Vann

Oakland Architect James Vann Wonders If A’s Out To Destroy Oakland With Ballpark Proposal At Laney College?

James Vann
James Vann

Happened to find this letter written by long-time Oakland architect James Vann and on the Oakland A’s proposal to build a ballpark at Laney College.

I diagree with his take, but it’s an important addition to the overall conversation and debate on the Oakland A’s proposal to build a ballpark at Laney College:

Are the “A’s” Out to Destroy Oakland?

While the Oakland community strongly supports the Oakland A’s and urges the team to remain in Oakland, the team’s response has been to “kick dirt” in the City’s face. The team’s leadership has repeatedly lied to the community.

The secretive decision recently revealed threatens the existence of Chinatown and the low-income Eastlake residential neighborhoods; will cause abandonment of highly popular Laney Community College and its working-class body of students; will overtax the only two local streets that serve the area; will destroy the wildlife and ecology of Lake Merritt and the Channel to the Bay, and will turn the communities surrounding Peralta and Laney over to speculators, land-grabbers, and gentrifying boutique and luxury developments.

On September 12, with great fanfare and a splashy video, the Oakland A’s announced their decision to abandon the Oakland Coliseum and to construct a new baseball stadium at the 13-acre Peralta Administration parcel. The timing of the announcement was both a surprise and a denouncement of pledges repeatedly made to residents, stakeholders, and interest groups.

The selected location also adjourns the Lake Merritt Channel and will threaten the life-line of Laney Community College.

The A’s announcement culminated a series of lies to City leaders and residents. A’s president Dave Kaval repeatedly assured the city that the organization would engage in extended “listening tours” to hear opinions from all areas of the city before a decision on sites would be made.

At an A’s-hosted “listening tour” on August 30 at La Estrellita Restaurant in the Eastlake district, Kaval stated that the A’s were still in the information-gathering stage and a decision on location was months away.

To the contrary, just the day before on August 29, Kaval delivered a 4-page letter to Peralta trustees and Chancellor Jowel Laguerre announcing that the A’s had selected the Peralta site and requested the opening of negotiations. This misrepresentation was followed on Sept 12 with release of Kaval’s public announcement and video.

Councilmember Abel Guillén – whose district includes the selected location — published that District 2 constituents were about 75% opposed to an A’s stadium at the small Peralta Administration Offices parcel, with a similar majority favoring the A’s remaining or rebuilding in the present Coliseum area, and with a slight majority leaning toward the Howard Terminal site on the Bay near Jack London Square. Similar results are routinely expressed throughout the city.

The off-repeated “month’s-away-to-decision” declarations were belied by the splashy A’s video immediately released Sept 12 together with the premature announcement. Persons featured in the video are developers; out-of-area business owners; commercial associations promoting new stores and restaurants (as though no displacement is necessary to make room for the envisioned new establishments); construction unions promoting “jobs, jobs, jobs” (as though the number of jobs is the same irrespective of location); and certain city policymakers (who immediately renounced their statements probably recorded weeks before). No area residents are featured and the councilmember’s retractions testify that the video announcing the selection of Peralta was made weeks if not months before the actual announcement. At the same time as the A’s selection was announced, the public was still being mislead that the decision was “months away,” and that the community hearing process will continue.

Lies, lies, lies !

Selection by the A’s of the Peralta site lacks logical justification. Superimposing the A’s own “bare-bones” stadium option on the site reveals that the parcel can barely contain a 35,000 seat stadium and bleachers, with little to no remaining area for offices, accessory buildings, service vehicles and storage, off-street parking, or gathering space. A more desired A’s rendering depicting a circular stadium surrounded by bleachers has absolutely no chance of fitting on the small parcel. It is unbelievable that the A’s would not be aware of the unexpandable limitations of the Peralta site.

In addition to the Peralta site being too small, it is inconceivable that the ecological and environmental impacts highlighted by The Audubon Society and The Measure DD Community Coalition on birds, fish, wildlife, and humans can ever be mitigated.

Also unstoppable once approvals for the stadium are obtained will be real estate vultures that will swoop into Chinatown and the Eastlake buying up low-rise buildings, single-family homes, and ethnic businesses to be replaced by high-rise luxury hotels and condominiums. Displacement of the areas’ 22,000 present residents will be total. In Oakland’s current out-of-control housing market, once an existing resident is displaced from their housing, only 2 choices are available: get-out-of-Oakland, or, join the growing thousands of homeless who populate the streets and sidewalks of neighborhoods throughout the city.

It is difficult to blightly ignore the natural fit and ‘rightness’ of the Coliseum area for the A’s new mega-stadium. Even if the A’s want no part of the present joint-use Coliseum, practically unlimited and unencumbered land exists there to choose from. BART already serves the area with a generous station, pedestrian overpass, and bus-transit cener; the rail connector to Oakland Airport is convenient and accessible; generous unoccupied city land is present to accommodate any desired parking configurations; all needed utilities exist in the vicinity; no housing or commercial establishments exist to be impacted; little if any environmental challenges to mitigate; no residents to be displaced; and land galore throughout the area that literally “begs” for compatible housing, commercial, technological, industrial, and office developments for various futures and visions.

The vast Coliseum area is ripe for immediate development. Thoughtful planning could assure an equitable “win”-“win” solution for the Oakland A’s team and organization as well as for the greater East Oakland community and for the whole of the City of Oakland.

StAy the Right Way !

James E Vann AIA is an Oakland Architect and a Cofounder of Coalition of Advocates for Lake Merritt (CALM)

Stay tuned.

Shirley Gee, Oakland Chinatown Activist, Compares Oakland A’s Laney College Plan Supporters To Trump

In my 24 year politico-level relationship with Oakland Activist Shirley Gee, I’ve never known her to pull punches, regardless of whether I agreed with her or not.

In this case, Ms. Gee, who was known for her work in guiding the development then-new 1992 Oakland Redistricting Plan such that the voting power of Asian and Latino communities were preserved, wants the Oakland Athletics to consider another site other than the ballfields at Laney College for the planned new ballpark.

The reason? Gee says if the A’s get what they want in the form of the ballpark at Laney College, the Asian Culture in that Eastlake District part of Oakland will be eliminated due to gentrification.

Gee was my livestream guest Wednesday night at Zennie62 Daily Vlog Live, where she directly pointed out why she objected to the plan, and issued choice words for Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval, and Oakland Chinatown Business Leader Carl Chan.

In the case of my long-time friend Carl Chan, Gee was really hard on the ballpark proponent, and said he was not really the leader of the Asian business community, and then openly challenged him to prove that he had any real member of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce on his side at all.

As for Dave Kaval, Gee characterized his effort as more like, in her words, President Trump. Or more to the point, how she sees Donald Trump with respect to the immigration issue: as one who’s disrespecting Latinos and Asians. Gee said that is what Kaval and the A’s are doing by advancing the ballpark plan in the way they have done to this point.

There’s more in our hour-long talk, and you can see and hear it, here:

Stay tuned.

Oakland Needs A New News Blog: “Oakland News”

Since 2004, when I started Oakland’s first true blog (and not a news website) Oakland Focus, Oakland has seen the following online publications come and many go:

Grand Lake Business
Oakland Local
A Better Oakland
Make Oakland Better
The Oakland Tribune

And between 2004 and today, 2016, the ways that media is published and distributed have expanded and changed at the same time. Back then the concept of micro-blogging was just that. 2006 gave us Pownce and Twitter. And now, even though the basic micro-blogging platform is easy to build, it seems like everyone has just counted on Twitter without challenge.

But this growth and change has caused many established news sites to reduce in both web traffic and staff size. And many offline media publications did not successfully make the leap to the Internet. And so the Oakland Tribune is, for all practical purposes, dormant.

The last Oakland news website standing, The Oakland Post, is a fantastic publication ran by the legendary Paul Cobb. But The Oakland Post’s problem is, it hasn’t successfully monetized its content, nor widely expanded from it’s base in the African American Community of Oakland to fill a news void that has gotten only larger with time.

This is also true of the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner. Blogs like SFist and 7×7 have tried to cover Oakland culture, but they just don’t get it, and only know that after decades of being ignored by the white media in the Bay Area and the World, Oakland is now mainstream.

The hunger for Oakland news has become so great, some have turned to The New York Times, but even that has failed to meet the demand.

cropped-Rod-Dibble.jpg

There has to be a publication that has enough Oakland moxy to know that Rod Dibble has played piano at The Alley at 3325 Grand Avenue, and since 1960, and yet pay attention to who’s running for what Oakland City Council seat, and why!

I could go on and on, but you get the point now: this new site is the news venue of Oakland. The main difference here is that you can read about what Oakland’s are doing in their own words, and using there own voice, either in text or video.

Like this:

“Oakland News” is an experiment I am excited to get going.

Let’s go!