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Conversation with Wolff

OAFC BBS - All Topics: Archive: Conversation with Wolff
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By oaktownmojo on Sunday, January 22, 2006 - 11:13 am:

Lewis Wolff, a hotel real estate magnate, led a team of investors that purchased the Oakland Athletics in April for $180 million from owners Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann.

Wolff, the managing general partner of the team, handles the day-to-day financial operations of the A's, but it was John Fisher, son of Gap founder Donald Fisher, who put up most of the money to buy the team.

One of Wolff's first moves was to sign President Michael Crowley and General Manager Billy Beane to long-term contracts.

Just four months into his new job, he announced tentative plans to leave McAfee Coliseum and build a new ballpark, set in an urban village just north of the existing site. The plans for a $300 million ballpark were later scrapped after Wolff encountered dozens of landowners who were not prepared to sell their parcels.

Wolff said the team will close off the third deck in the Coliseum this season and will limit the capacity to about 35,000 people.

Wolff is still searching for a site for a new ballpark in Oakland or the East Bay and a way to finance the project. He recently spoke to The Chronicle about his ballpark plans and the challenges that continue to face the team. The following has been edited for space and clarity.

Q: Some questions have been raised about the location of a new stadium. What's the real situation now?

A: As I see it today, the real situation is not too different from when we started. There hasn't been much of a change in our ideas in how we might implement a facility. Our biggest problem is a site, first of all. Our goal is to try and stay, though it's becoming difficult, in the city of Oakland, if not in the county of Alameda.

Our focus has been pretty much in the East Bay. We're assigned a district. Our district includes only Contra Costa County and Alameda County. We need a site, and we have two criteria: One is we need to be near a freeway system, and we need to be near BART.

Q: Is there a threshold for you where we have to have a decision in Oakland by this date or else we have to look at other options outside Alameda County?

A: The threshold is the very one I said eight months ago: If the exciting next season starts, and we don't have a firm direction -- and this is more our responsibility than the community's -- we will have to look at all options that are on the table, and those will, at this point, remain in Alameda County.

Q: Is it mostly out of sentimentality that you are giving Oakland first shot? You're really looking at an area that not only has a fairly skimpy corporate base to help finance a new stadium but also a political climate that is averse to putting public money into a stadium. Why are you still looking at Oakland?

A: The Coliseum, if you close your eyes, you say "What a great spot for three major-league facilities!" -- if they were three decent major-league facilities. I'm not saying they weren't at one time, but as far as we're concerned, it's not good for us right now. But it's logical. It's got BART, as I pointed out, and it's got access to the freeway system.

So from a practical point of view, it's an OK location for us if we could have a new venue there and the place was up-to-date.

I didn't come up here with sentimentality. But I will tell you that after a couple months of ownership and touching the fans and the players and the people who work for us and people who work part time for us and the older group that comes in and helps voluntarily, even though it's not the largest demographic for sports in the country, it would be nice to stay.

Q: You mentioned the financing issue. What are your thoughts?

A: Our idea was this: Most major-league ball parks -- whether they were subsidized, unsubsidized or half subsidized -- have started out with a site. It's very hard for a private person to acquire a site for a major facility.

So, our idea was, within reason, we would pay for a portion of a site. Now all of a sudden, land that looked like it was $20 a square foot, they hear the A's are there, all of a sudden, it's Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

Cities don't have a lot of money these days, and when they go into the bonding capacity, at the end of the day, the city is on the hook no matter if you have a joint powers agreement or you have a parking bond or revenue bond or tax increment bond.

What cities do have, especially in the area of growth, and the Bay Area, good or bad, is growing, whether it's growing right or not is not my decision totally, they have zoning rights. We call them entitlements; you're entitled to build 1,000 apartment units.

Those entitlements are the new currency, in my opinion, for cities, governments and regionals and counties and so forth.

So let's assume there is the Oakland army base, and that has a lot of demands from a lot of groups, and it's not a great location for a ballpark. It's a piece of land I think the city owns, but if not, they can get to it.

Let's assume that developers, not so much ourselves, feel that is a great housing location. Our idea might be that since it's not zoned right now but is to be zoned or to be entitled, why not entitle it for 3,000 apartment units?

Those units might be worth $100,000 a piece. It's sort of your land value. Whether we're the developer or we join with a developer or a developer that we're not associated with says, "We'll pay $300 million for those entitlements rights."

We're saying to the city, "That's the subsidy we want, but we don't want it for free. Put it into the ballpark. If the ballpark costs $500 million, we'll add the $200 million, take care of the overruns, and we'll do the land under it."

That entitlement is a value, is a currency they can help us with. So what do they get out of it? They get a ballpark, which they'll own, and we'll have a longer lease than we have today, and somebody will build 3,000 apartment units. We think it's a very interesting idea.

In talking to a lot of people who are a little more creative in thinking in government and the private side, they think it's a unique approach. It's not totally, but you could call it a huge subsidy if you want. You could call it a clever way of getting through the process.

Q: So the city gives you entitlements and you then pass them onto the developer and they pay you?

A: Or the city directly does it. And the reason we continue to use our landlord as our focal point, I mean the Joint Powers Authority, which is half city and half county, is those entitlements (that help us) to build the ballpark in the city of Oakland don't have to be in Oakland.

They can be entitlements that might be in Dublin if someone has land. So it doesn't have to be in one place, and it doesn't have to be to one party. It's just one element of it.

Q: Are you assuming if you were to get some kind of subsidy of that form, that you would have to go to the ballot at some point in Oakland?

A: I think we would have to go to the ballot anywhere, even if we were doing it totally out of our own checkbook. Because today you have all these issues. We have traffic and so forth. That's another good reason why the Coliseum works.

It won't produce a lot more traffic if we build a ballpark. When you say "Go to the ballot," we're talking about making sure that what's planned for the area is acceptable for the community. If it isn't, to heck with it.

But we're not going to conduct a campaign and hire every political consultant within 100 miles of Oakland to do it, or any other city. We'll stay where we're at or find something else.

There has to be an energy behind this, and it can't be the politicians saying, "I'm all for baseball." There has to be a driving force on the public and private side, no matter where we go.

Q: How would you characterize the energy you're finding in Oakland? (Former Oakland City Manager) Robert Bobb was a big advocate. Are you seeing any momentum? How did this idea of entitlement go over in Oakland?

A: The entitlement idea seems to be resonating OK. Oakland has a limited amount of staff and an unlimited amount of issues. Can I say there is a three-person team that said "We'll get to this ballpark if we possibly can?" No. But at the same time, anytime we've asked for help or asked for discussion, they've been as cooperative as they can be within the priorities they have.

The biggest challenge is it's a built-up community, so there's not a lot of land around. We kept asking, "Is there a site?" My predecessors, who were great owners, turned over a great operation to us. They weren't really that focused on the venue issue. It's now become a major issue for Major League Baseball and ourselves.

As most of you know, we finally said, "OK, we'll give our ideal for a site." We looked around the area, and we see the area quite blighted. The moment we see the area blighted, all of sudden it becomes the most gorgeous area in the history of urban development.

We're also in a redevelopment project, so we think, "Gee whiz, we can accomplish three things if we go north of our park and do what we call an urban ballpark village," which got a lot of applause from designers and architects and people in the know. It was an A-plus in urban planning and an F in implementation right now.

What we said is, we'll do this entitlement stuff and we'll do it ourselves and use the money to build up retail, which they needed and, we hope, residential and the ballpark.

But unfortunately, we were looking at acreage that has 69 or 70 property owners. We weren't out to spend the rest of our lives, even if we had the right to do it, with a big eminent-domain club. We weren't out to do that.

Q: Let's back up for a second. Why do you need a new stadium?

A: How long do we have? We have one of the most despicable operations. In terms of numbers, we're one of the few groups that share our stadium with another team. So it comes to the end of the season, all of a sudden our outfield turns into a football field and a football field turns into a baseball field.

And that stinks. I don't care how much rationalization there is, it's not good for us. I don't want to have (outfielder Mark) Kotsay hurt his back because the playing surface is changed.

I want the best playing surface possible for baseball. I want all our view sights, all our sight lines, to be related to baseball, not football. I want the people in your industry, the television people, to have the most modern facilities possible so we can compete in our market television-wise and wireless-wise.

We have 140 deficiencies in there. If you want to go over them all, I should have brought a little notebook.

Q: Despite your 140 points on why the Coliseum is not the proper facility for you, people on the outside looking in will say the A's are one of the healthiest and most proficient teams in the Bay Area.

The attendance is about 2.2 million -- right around middle of the road and somewhat higher than teams that have new ballparks.

Every year, you get a nice chunk of revenue sharing, pretty much the same amount that the Giants get. It seems like a pretty comfortable situation as is. It might not be progressive thinking in your mind, but taxpayers and politicians will look at your home now and say, "You don't have a bad deal, why don't you just stay there?"

A: I want to win a World Series. I'm not in this to be second or third place or rationalize about bad this or bad that. We wanted to be able to compete.

That money we get, the charity we get, that money from the league, the only reason we're getting it is we are in a market where we're not supporting ourselves, so we get support. It's wonderful. If the Yankees want to keep giving us money that way, that's fine. Somewhere, that will come to an end. We would rather be paying it out rather than receiving it.

The point is we have 2.1 million in attendance, and we value those people very much, but our average per-capita ticket price and per-capita expenditure means that we don't have enough wattage to add another food outlet up there.

I'm told it will blow the whole place up. With the kind of winning record that Billy Beane and the guys have produced, we should be doing better than 2 million. It's not good enough trying to keep the status quo.

Q: How about that upper deck? You're knocking off 15,000 seats to customers, and that usually sells out the Giants game or the Red Sox.

There is probably no way you are going to draw as many as the 2.1 million you attracted in 2005, but months or years from now, you can say "We didn't draw as much," and you can consider thinking "Here is another reason we have to get out of Oakland or move to San Jose" or something.

A: We have to have a new venue, whether we have six decks or one deck. If anybody thinks that is the reason for that, that is their opinion. We looked at some samples, and I think it is going to look great. Most teams could live with 35,000 seats very nicely in Major League Baseball, including the White Sox.

The cost of opening up the third deck to security just isn't good. It doesn't look good. I think we will accommodate our fans. We'll still have the proportionate lower-priced seats.

If somebody wants to attribute some Machiavellian motive to that, I'm used to that in baseball.

Q: Can you talk about the skybox and luxury box situation? How many do you have in Oakland?

A: I don't know how many we have. We have them all over the place. We got them on Mount Davis. Those are wonderful to watch a football game, but baseball players look like they're this big. And you miss the outfield a little bit. Our box system was probably great when they built it, but it's terrible today. It's just that simple.

We're having a lot of fun with venue design (for the new ballpark) but it's like building a house without a lot. We're talking about a smaller venue, based on our market somewhere between 32,000 and 35,000 seats.

We're talking about around 80 private boxes, but 40 of them -- again these numbers change every day -- will be for four to six people. So instead of every corporation having to spend $200,000, we'll be able to have a market hopefully that is a little cheaper in terms of the absolute price.

The (St. Louis) Cardinals' new stadium is under construction right now. Every one of their boxes have been sold for 10 years, to my knowledge, at a set price with some escalation. That's how they got it going: They have a community. (The team says,) "We're not looking for charity. We'll provide a service for that."

Q: Are you getting that type of feedback from the corporate community in Oakland?

A: We haven't tested it, but I'll have to say that we're probably going to find it difficult. There are bets around the office: Can we sell that many boxes? The answer is, I don't know. The number of businesses with $100 million in revenue or more in the city of Oakland and Alameda County is probably very limited.

But we're not talking about just corporations, we're talking about lawyers and doctors and fans and so forth. We're not talking about an elitist thing, it's just part of the market you have to have for sports.

Q: Can we talk about the site again? You mentioned going northward from the Coliseum and the problems with so many small property owners in the area. I know there is some discussion that you would go south along Hegenberger (Road).

A: We need a connection to BART, so that hurts that particular property. South of the Coliseum is like a triangle. So someone said, I think on the JPA, said, "Could you put it south of the site?" It's privately owned, in the city of Oakland. It's not part of the JPA. I said we'll look at it. Physically, we probably can. There are some issues, power lines and so forth.

So we suggested the following: The triangle would be a proper extension of the Coliseum whether we used it or not. It's just a normal piece that they should have acquired. We looked at it. It looked like it was worth about $20 to $25 a square foot in today's market.

We said, "We don't know if we can work all the things we need to work out, but we'll contribute $20 to $25 a foot to that site."

Now if it turns out it's $75 a square foot, maybe no one wants it. But the city of Oakland should give the JPA powers to acquire that. In the worst case, or best case maybe, let's assume the area doesn't work for building but it works for parking.

If we could fit the ballpark on the north side of the Coliseum lot, not north of 66th Avenue, but just north, well the Raiders and Warriors might say, "Gee whiz, we don't want you to build a ballpark in our parking lot for the next two, three or four years."

But if the JPA controlled that triangle and made that parking, the inconvenience of that development process going on north (would be mitigated.)

Q: How long will you wait before you entertain an offer from San Jose or Las Vegas?

A: First of all, we can't consider offers. Unfortunately, I'm a close friend of the commissioner (Bud Selig). One thing I have learned is that you don't fight with the commissioner. We have these territories, and we're staying within our territories. It isn't just a facade statement. I know San Jose better than I know Oakland, and I think there are some opportunities there, but right now, that area is Giants territory. We may talk to the Giants, but I haven't really exercised a lot of energy on that.

Q: If not for the territorial rights, would San Jose be your first choice? Would you be willing to pay the Giants to give up their territorial rights? Could the territorial rights be a matter of negotiation?

A: In answer to your first question, it would be a consideration, not necessarily our first choice. Our first choice is the one we are focused on. Life is a lot easier for us. Our next choice would be Fremont and San Jose.

I'm very partial to downtown San Jose. I think sports there could be very great for the community. But in order to have negotiations, you have to have someone (to negotiate with). The other side says there is no negotiation. I'm the world's leading negotiator.

Would they deserve anything? It's really up to Major League Baseball. The answer is we would be happy to figure out what's fair. If we're hurting somebody moving somewhere, there should be an adjustment someplace.

Q: Could the territorial rights be a matter of negotiation? I've talked to Larry Baer about this, and he says it is not. But from your perspective, is it an insurmountable issue?

A: You would have to ask Larry Baer and Peter Magowan that. They've always been cooperative talking about it, but they believe -- and I have no way other to suggest that they are not correct -- they have a very important territorial right to them and their sponsors, and I have not disputed that. I feel differently about it, but I'm not the umpire here.

Q: Could you talk a little bit about the A's, payroll, projected revenue and costs? Do you have any new ideas for revenue generation?

A: Thanks to Steve Schott and Ken Hoffman, we inherited a very well-run business in terms of numbers of people, in terms of results, in terms of discipline and in terms of quality.

The first thing I did was extend contracts with our president and our general manager. We worked out an equity situation. That was probably the most important free agent signings I did since we bought the team.

Both the general manager, the president and the staff have exceeded my expectations from a professional side and a personal side. It's a decent homespun business in a small market. The goal for most teams is to keep their salaries between 50 and 52 percent of revenue. That's our goal; so if revenues increase, we'll increase our salaries.

Q: Have you been making money every year?

A: Before debt, we are making some money, but it's not in the eight- or nine-figure realm. It's below that. The fans don't see that. They want to go, and they want you to win. My closest friend in baseball, besides the commissioner, is (Chicago White Sox owner) Jerry Reinsdorf. I want to be in a parade like he was in.


Our goal is to try and stay, though its becoming difficult, in the city of Oakland, if not in the county of Alameda.
ON USING ENTITLEMENTS TO HELP FUND A BALLPARK: Its not totally, but you could call it a huge subsidy if you want. You could call it a clever way of getting through the process.

ON HIS GOALS FOR THE AS: I want to win a World Series. Im not in this to be second or third place or rationalize about bad this or bad that.

Name: Lewis Wolff

Organization: Oakland Athletics

Job: Managing partner

Age: 70

Education: Bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Master's degree in business administration from Washington University in St. Louis.

Work experience: Wolff is the co-founder and chairman of Maritz, Wolff & Co., a privately held hotel investment group that acquires top-tier luxury urban and resort hotel and properties. Founded in 1994, Maritz, Wolff has holdings today in excess of $1.4 billion. Wolff entered the hotel business in the 1980s by becoming the developer, owner and operator of the San Jose Holiday Inn.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By drummer510 on Sunday, January 22, 2006 - 11:46 am:

Great interview. it seems to me that Wolff is trying to get a site in Oakland, but the business owners asking price to move goes up each day. I still think a site in Downtown oakland, or around Lake Merritt would change the downtown area. Instead of downtown oakland being dead on nights and weekends, people would actually start going to downtown for entertainment. Clubs, bars, and shops would spring up providing jobs and other opportunities. I dont understand why the city isnt flexing its muscle and gettin it done.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By eyleenn on Sunday, January 22, 2006 - 12:56 pm:

Nothing particularly encouraging or discouraging, but a lot of dancing. If he is aware of alternative sites in Oakland that we've discussed here, he's not saying.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By mroakland on Sunday, January 22, 2006 - 04:04 pm:

It seems like the same old responses. Again,, no sense of urgency, no pro active attitude, just a lot of hand ringing from someone who seems satisfied to run out the clock.

Also, Wolff seems to underestimate the value of Oakland's central location and ability to generate corporate support, not just from within Oakland, but also, from Alameda, Contra Costa, and even San Francisco Counties. Wolff later admits that " I know San Jose better than Oakland." When asked if he's done a study whether or not the Oakland corporate community is supportive of his plans, he responds that he had not.

It doesn't sound like Wolff has even considered the great site at Grand Ave. & Webster ST.(The Auto Row Site) near Lake Merritt, and two blocks from the 19th St BART station. This site meets and acceeds all of the criteria set by Wolff.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By oaktownfan on Monday, January 23, 2006 - 12:47 am:

Downtown has always been my #1 choice for a park location. Uptown was the perfect spot in all of Oakland IMO but both sides basically f'ed it up.

More BS from A's owners, thought we were done with this mess when the last owners sold the team but it looks like Wolff looks like Schottman part duex.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By finleyshero on Monday, January 23, 2006 - 11:07 am:

Sounds as if you still want Wolff to plop a stadium down in Oakland with a big bow around it.

Get your city government off its ass before continuing your knee-jerk whining about ownership.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By bubba69 on Monday, January 23, 2006 - 12:30 pm:

I agree with finley...City county city county city county...Wolff needs to step and say this is where we want it and here is how we should do it...with the "we" being the A's...Why is it the tax payers job to foot the bill? I am paying for the Raiders (alameda county tax payer) and and do not go their games. I do believe there can be a three way deal...but the lions share should come from the team!

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By oaktownpat on Monday, January 23, 2006 - 01:18 pm:

Amen finley.

Who is in charge of this at the city? Why isn't there an official person dedicated to taking care of this?

Before you even answer those questions based on city priorities, problems, etc., please tell me how losing the A's wouldn't gut this city of revenue, pride, recognition, etc.

For once, this city administration needs to get something useful done, and they need to start moving on it yesterday.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By eyleenn on Monday, January 23, 2006 - 01:30 pm:

Another article about development in Oakland and again no mention of a new ballpark:

Amid housing boom, Oakland looks to keep room for industry

By Kiley Russell

OAKLAND - From the streets of Oakland's industrial heartland, a debate has emerged about land use and community values that involves more citywide soul-searching than a typical planning department policy discussion.

The city is mulling a plan to permanently protect large swaths of roughly 4,300 acres of heavy and light industrial land in east, central and west Oakland by limiting or preventing housing and retail development.

The plan arose in recent years as businesses and planners became alarmed by the increasing pace of market-rate residential development in areas long reserved for industry.

"I'm always a big believer in letting market forces dictate what you do, but if the city is serious about preserving industrial, they need to act now," said Mike Barry, a senior vice president with the brokerage firm CB Richard Ellis in Oakland.

Developers looking to take advantage of the Bay Area's insatiable demand for new homes are jumping into the hardscrabble neighborhoods of auto repair shops and distribution warehouses. Well-heeled firms like Pulte Homes and Signature Properties are hoping to dig housing gold out of old yeast factories and defunct automobile assembly plants at the same time the city is under the gun to meet state housing demands.

Planners and industry leaders, however, are worried that the piecemeal, parcel-by-parcel erosion of Oakland's industrial land -- the area supports almost 20,000 jobs, according to a redevelopment department analysis -- will severely retard the city's ability to retain important businesses and attract new ones.

With nearby cities like Emeryville, San Francisco and San Jose incubating the biotechnology and medical device industries, Oakland is in a prime position to support research and development and prototype fabrication, said Margot Lederer Prado, a project manager with the city's redevelopment department.

Also, the city's industrial core is vital to the Port of Oakland and the airport, both of which depend on its warehouses and distribution centers.

"If you develop 10, 15, 30 acres and bring in a lot of new residential, what's going to happen to the industry? When people start complaining about noise and truck traffic, what's going to happen to them?" Barry asked.

Market pressure, however, is increasing on city leaders and landowners to convert the industrial land to homes and shops, especially along East Oakland's San Leandro Street corridor and West Oakland's Mandela Parkway.

Currently, industrial acreage costs about $15 to $18 a square foot, while housing developers are willing to pay as much as $25 to $30 a square foot for the same land, Barry said.

To ease that pressure, the city's proposed industrial land-use policy is designed to protect Oakland's manufacturing and distribution centers by limiting the areas where housing is allowed. The policy would establish boundaries for heavy and light industrial and commercial use and would designate "transitional" areas on the industrial fringe where applications for new housing developments -- including mixed residential and commercial projects -- would be allowed.

"We're trying to preserve the jobs, trying to increase the number of jobs for Oaklanders and ... trying to have development that doesn't price everybody out who is low or moderate income," said Michael Lighty, an Oakland planning commissioner.

"It goes exactly to the heart of what kind of city you want to live in."

But the kind of city many people in East Oakland want to live in barely exists in their neighborhood, with its reputation for crime and poverty. People want revitalization, they want more local bank branches, retail shops and grocery stores -- and fewer liquor stores and muffler shops, said City Councilman Larry Reid, who represents the area.

If Oakland continues to allow residential development along the San Leandro Street corridor and other industrial neighborhoods, it would go a long way toward creating that kind of livable city, Reid said.

Mixed-use projects, condos and high density live-work spaces have already cropped up around Jack London Square among the railroad tracks, warehouses and industrial tenants, while the transit village around the Fruitvale BART station has breathed new life into a long-established East Oakland neighborhood.

"Over the next five to 10 years, one of the most incredible changes in an urban city is probably going to happen here in this city. In my district in particular, there are areas that the community would like to see changed," Reid said.

While he'd like to see the very heart of the city's industrial acreage preserved for its service to the port and airport, Reid believes the fringe areas close to residential neighborhoods should give way to more homes and retail shops.

"I have a responsibility to try to help revitalize a city that is an old city, an urban city that needs retail in order to stop the seepage of retail sales taxes into the surrounding communities," he said. "This is now truly a time for this city to correct the sins of its past forefathers and mothers in terms of how they zoned certain areas ... It makes no logical sense to have industrial butt right up to residential."

About two years ago, Reid moved into a detached single-family home in a Signature Properties development along International Boulevard on land that once supported an automobile manufacturing plant. He credits the project with bringing a grocery store and a new bank branch to an area of town long seen as undesirable by the business world.

"Signature Properties showed people, other developers, that in urban Oakland you can come into an area that was once considered a killing field in my district and build 168 units on International," Reid said.

It's a pattern he'd like to see replicated all over his district. He is pushing for a mixed-use, transit-village type development around the Coliseum BART station and sings the praises of an approved 365-unit residential development on the corner of 98th Avenue and San Leandro Street.

The 27-acre 98th Avenue project, called Arcadia Park, is a Pulte Homes development at the old Fleischmann's Yeast factory site that's set for groundbreaking sometime this summer. The debate over Arcadia Park helped lead to Oakland's proposed industrial land-use policy and highlights the growing tension between industry and housing advocates in the city.

"Twenty percent of the edge of that development abuts an existing residential neighborhood. About 80 percent of it is either on a major transportation arterial ... or other industrial properties, so the residential activity is landing in the midst of a major business area and that automatically means conflict," said Dave Johnson, director of the Oakland Commerce Corp., a nonprofit group funded primarily by the city to help retain and attract businesses.

Still, as well-known housing booster Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, put it: "You have to be careful not to preserve some nostalgic use that's gone."

"Any kind of abstract plan has to be grounded in the empirical realities of the marketplace," Brown said. "They shouldn't kill a fantastic investment in the hopes of getting something that could be unreal."

The old factory site is unlikely to be redeveloped as an industrial property, according to an analysis of Arcadia Park written by the city's Community and Economic Development Agency in response to objections from local business owners, who wanted to see the acreage remain industrial.

In fact, the entire San Leandro Street industrial corridor will continue to lose industrial tenants because the aging warehouses and factories just aren't attractive to modern firms, the report says.

But the benefits of new, market-rate homes and condominiums won't trickle down to everyone, said City Councilwoman Nancy Nadel, who would like to see all of the industrial land in her West Oakland district preserved for the jobs that industry provides.

Nadel would like to see the biggest polluters -- truck repair shops and the like -- move to the old Army base. For the industrial areas that are close to homes, she wants to see more companies like the high-end food processors, fashion designers and multimedia firms that have already cropped up in West Oakland over the past several years.

"If we allow people to speculate on the industrial land at housing prices, then we will not have that land to develop for the new industries that are coming up," she said.

The Oakland City Council will review the proposed policy and criteria for allowing conversion of industrial land to residential during a special meeting Jan. 31 at 3 p.m.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By colt45allstar on Monday, January 23, 2006 - 01:59 pm:

I may be naive... wouldn't be the first time and being from Missouri of all places, I don't get to follow the situation to the degree that you all do.. but I really feel Wolff wants to get something done.

Could I be wrong? Sure wouldn't be the first time, nor the last one. I just get the impression from what I've read and from from the albeit limited things I've been able to see from the guy.

From an outsider's perspective, it seems like the city doesn't want to get things done much, if at all.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By rayfossefan on Monday, January 23, 2006 - 03:49 pm:

wtf is the problem here? either oakland and/or alameda county is serious about keeping the A's or they are not. the guy has given us the plans and wants to develop, why is it so hard to just pick a site, have oakland give them or sell the the land real cheap, pitch in a few bucks, and go from there. oakland would be foolish to think that al davis always wants the raiders here, or that the warriors might be happier someplace else.

come on people get it done. you have a huge fan base and great team. don't screw this up.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By mroakland on Monday, January 23, 2006 - 06:35 pm:

All Wolff has to do is go down to Grand & Webster and talk to the developers who are about to build a 22 story residential highrise. Wolff could partner with these developers, increase the density to 32 or 42 storys, and incorporate a ballpark on the site.

And yeah, I expect the billionaires Wolff and Fisher to plop a ballpark in downtown Oakland. Why shoudn't they? You're telling me that these self-made billionaires have all of a sudden become socialists? It's their ballpark! Put away the dam tin cups and get it done!

BTW, Wolff has had every opportunitty to get something done. But, instead of working with the city, Wolff dismissed a group of Oakland business and civic leaders who were trying to facilitate the process on the ballpark issue. Why would a man who says that he wants to build a ballpark tell the city, thanks, but no thanks, and then start whining to the press that he's not getting any help from Oakland?

It's posturing on his part. He's a "dealmaker" and this is America. If he can't make a deal with the dozens of developers who are currently building 12,000 units of housing in Oakland, then he's not as good a dealmaker as people think he is. Or maybe, he's just running out Bud Selig's clock.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By oaktownfan on Monday, January 23, 2006 - 06:39 pm:

I have bad thoughts in my mind now the past few weeks considering the future of the A's in Oakland.

Honestly, I thought Wolff would be different, but just like Schott; if he had a chance to build in the south bay instead of Oakland he'd do it in a second and hasn't shown in my eyes the willingness to get things done in Oakland other than that "presentation" he had last August. Before and after that, it's been pretty much anti-building a park in Oakland.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By finleyshero on Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - 01:21 pm:

"Oakland business and civic leaders who were trying to facilitate the process on the ballpark issue."

Who? Where? Where's the property that's been offered up? Where's the redevelopment dollars?
Where's the PLAN?

At least Wolff came up with a plan.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By nickb on Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - 01:33 pm:

Wolff came up with a plan???

Wolff came up with a cartoon with absolutely no substance and no chance of working in Oakland.

Everyone needs to get off the backs of local governments and realize that it's not up to the local gov't to work out all of the issues of building a ballpark and contribute taxpayers money to do so. The Giants conceived their ballpark in SF with a site in mind and came up with funds from the private sector to get it built. The city helped with the land, etc. but at a minimal outlay and a net benefit to the public. The A's owners should realize that this is the model to get something done here where the taxpayers will NOT finance a stadium for wealthy owners.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By finleyshero on Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - 01:45 pm:

You need to get off Fantasy Island.

The Gint model will not happen ever again in any other location, not even the Bronx. No owner in his right mind would incur that type of debt again. Magowan was hellbent on getting a stadium in SF, and he used a very precarious long-term financial model to get it done. Hence his vigilance over the South Bay.

A stadium will only get done via a ready and willing partnership between the team and a municipal govt. Rightly so. Both benefit.

So far it appears Wolff is willing, but Oakland is not ready.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By nickb on Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - 02:12 pm:

You need to get off the cartoon network ... you've fallen for the grand scheme of the big bad wolff. His plan is to trick the unsuspecting public into believing he's doing all he can to put forth a viable ballpark plan and the big bad city won't cooperate with him. After this fails he doesn't look so bad in the eyes of the foolish public who bought into his grand scheme, while he peddles off to greener pastures (vegas? portland? sacramento?) He and his group are worth billions ... if he wanted to make it work in oakland, he could ... without taxpayers' subsidies. No taxpayer in oakland or the rest of the bay area should fall for this foolish trap.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By drummer510 on Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - 02:22 pm:

Steinbrenner is prolly worth just as much or more than Wolff, and the Yankees have needed a new stadium or at the least a renovation for about 5-10 years now, and Steinbrenner hasn't done that.

I agree tho that wolff could prolly do the stadium with his companies cash, the thing you gotta look at the situation of from a business perspective. Wolff wants to lose as little money as possible, and that means he wants the city to chip in some dough as well, b/c building a new stadium has to be a partenership between the city and a owner. Both sides will profit, its just both sides want to put in as little money as possible.

I dont think Wolff is that bad, and i think the cities fears and issues are legit. It is just the pace at which this process is moving is soooo slow, and its killin all of us.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By ballparkfrank on Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - 05:25 pm:

Slow is good. Let 'em take forty or fifty years to work it out. Meanwhile, we've got our A's here in Oakland. A quick resolution could have a very negative and eternal result.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By eyleenn on Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - 06:49 pm:

I'd venture to guess that Steinbrenner is worth WAAAAY more than Wolff AND Fisher combined. The YES Network revenue alone puts him in the stratosphere of wealth.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By drummer510 on Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - 08:33 pm:

Im jus saying based off his shipping business, steinbrenner is worth more than wolff's hotels

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By diamond_lil on Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - 03:24 am:

Wolff, like McGowen are worth nothing in dollars to MLB, but they are willing to play front men to do what MLB does best, which is extort money from cities and its residents.

McGowen didn't save the Giants from relocating. Selig hand-picked McGowen and helped him put together the investors to keep the Giants in SF.

In the A's case, Wolff and Schott before him are merely representing Bud Selig (and his cohorts). Fischer is the deep pocket much like Hofmann was before him. Neither one have a voice on what will happen to the A's. All they know is they'll get their investment back with excellent returns.

Nothing will get done in Oakland because Bud Selig is just buying time for whatever fate he has in store and there is nothing city officials or civic leaders, and much less fans, can do about it but delay the inevitable.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By oaktownfan on Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - 05:14 am:

Why would Hoffman or Fischer be the "money man" in such a devious scheme? I mean these guys have enough money for their rest of their lives and the lives of their familys forever.

Has there any a fantbase of a team in any professional sport that has been toyed as much as the A's fans over the past decade.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By diamond_lil on Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - 06:42 am:

That is a great question.

I think some do it for the power and money, i.e. the Schotts and Wolffs of this world. Others do it for their egos and status. Baseball with its cast of characters hold a fascination... we the fans know how great it is to be given an autograph from our fave player.

I think some of those big "Fish" pun intended, do it to feel the thrill of owning their contracts and the power of holding the national pastime in their hands.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By finleyshero on Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - 10:27 am:

I don't debate everything Lil says is true, which is why I think the A's will ultimately be contracted before they relocate, because that provides greater financial gain to MLB and its owners under the Selig model.

Problem I have is Wolff floated his trial balloon with the ballpark plan and got a big fat nothing in response from Oakland. Some will contend that was his intended result, but you can never prove that, because Oakland didn't call him on it.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By bruin1946 on Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - 10:47 am:

It's sad to see this site ultimately concede Oakland's future loss of the A's is "inevitable."
If that is true, the very purpose of OFAC is illusory and we might as well spend our future time interacting on AN. As for me, I am not ready to throw in the towel. If for no other reason, it is unlikely that the Giants can succeed with the A's in San Joseand any other location doesn't seem feasible. Just ask the Marlins or even Tampa Bay. I doubt this has escaped Wolff.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By rockridgea on Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - 11:51 am:

I am with bruin! I just mailed off a letter to my City Councilmember Jane Brunner. Telling her my frustration in this matter and that Oakland citizens want to keep the A's in Oakland. I intend to follow it up letters to all the City and County officials. I should also send to Barbara Lee, who was present when the previous ownership bid was shelved by Selig. We have some heavy hitters, forgive the pun, politically in this town outside of our, at times inept, City officials. MLB is mighty afraid of any congressional involvement. This kind of extortion on the part of owners for stadiums can only be stopped by Congress. Right now, we have the Presidents younger brother dealing with this in Florida, the largest city in Minnesota is going though stadium issues, of course here in Oakland. The fiasco in Washington DC is not going unnoticed by high ranking Washington politicicos. There could also be a case for collusion with Selig and Wolff. Keep those letters coming. Letters not emails, emails are easy to ignore. Maybe the OAFC needs a letter writing campaign to flood the boxes of all those who are players in this issue. Even the front office of the A's, especially those with season tickets, be sure to mention that. I'll step down from the soap box.

City of Oakland Council members can be written to: The Honorable Name Here
One City Hall Plaza, 2nd Floor
Oakland, CA 94612

Barbara Lee's office
Oakland District Office
1301 Clay Street Suite 1000 North
Oakland, CA 94612

Don Perata (Senate President Pro Tem)From Oakland!
District Office
1515 Clay Street, #2202
Oakland, CA 94612

Gail Steele (Alameda County Supervisor)
1221 Oak Street, #536
Oakland, CA 94612

This is the point of this webpage, to save our A's, don't give up now! At least let them know we are not going down with out a fight!

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By bruin1946 on Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - 12:07 pm:

Great idea. We really need to get galvanized and DO something. Jane Brunner also represents my district. I will write her, DLF and Steele.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By drummer510 on Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - 12:08 pm:

Thanks rockridgea fo sho ill send a letter.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By diamond_lil on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 06:52 am:

First of all, I never suggested throwing in the towell. What I believe is that we should always keep in mind who Bud Selig is and how he has proceeded in every attempt Oakland has come forward to facilitate a ballpark deal, which has been many. Selig, with his Trojan Horses, has denied Oakland of every opportunity they've had with ownerships willing to make a true commitmnet.

I totally disagree with FH when he states Oakland dropped the ball with Wolff. He seems to ignore the fact that it was Wolff who TURNED DOWN and disbanded the ballpark committee put together by Dick Spees and other Oakland City Officials, i.e. DLF and Reid.

Bruin1946 was too quick to jump in with statements that have very little with what this site is all about. First I gave my personal opinion which may not be the opinion of this site or this organization. I believe Selig is the one behind the fate of the A's.

The OAFC has and will always be active as an A's fan "watchdog" organization. We cater to no one but to the original goal which is to keep the A's in Oakland.

We may not be able to succeed in getting cute interviews and great social interaction, but we will continue to flow information and tell the saga of Oakland and its fans vs MLB.

Unfortunately the truth is not pretty and very disheartening, but I think that we are not here to re-invent history nor to give false hopes either.

This is a battle we may very well lose and one of the biggest reasons may very well be the divergence and fractioned fanbase. There are way too many agendas and groups pulling in different diretions.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By bruin1946 on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 10:22 am:

I am very heartened by your statement that you are not throwing in the towel. What concerned me was a seemingly defeatist/ give up assesment of the future. It may unfortunately be accurate but if the goal remains keeping the A's in Oakland, what are we/can we, do to alter the situation? The function as a watchdog is a worthy compliment to marinelayer's bloq. It does not offer hope or a solution to the problems you have outlined.
Rockridgea came through with an excellent suggested course of action. We need to do more of the same.
I am not trying to criticize you personally- you have done a great job of keeping many of us focused on keeping the team here. I just hope you have not adopted a fatalist attitude toward the future of the A's.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By diamond_lil on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 12:29 pm:

bruin, I would be the last person in the world to advocate acceptance without a fight. Nor am I adopting a fatalist attitude. But I must adopt a realistic attitude for I strongly believe that knowing our opponents gives us a huge edge.

The big problem that I continue to see is the lack of CORRECT and fair information coming from blogs and sites which have other agendas. The A's fanbase is very fragmented and miss-informed.

Marinelayer's blog is excellent but biased pro Fremont. AN is not anti-Oakland but tends to favor Sacramento. And of course there are other more openly against Oakland, i.e. the San Jose boosters.

Please don't interpret this as a criticism of those sites. They are excellent and worthy of praise.

The point here is that the constant blaming and pointing fingers towards Oakland's lack of action only serves to play right into the hands of the apologists who are ready to accept and indicate Oakland doesn't deserve to keep the team.

If my statements have stirred a protectionist reaction in some of you, then I have indeed reached my goal of getting some of us out of a dangerous inertia :)

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By ramjet1 on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 01:15 pm:

Lil you make an excellent point in your last statment about pointing fingers regarding the so called, "lack of action by Oakland". That term is being thrown around in every press article about Oakland, the A's, and a ballpark, regardless of its validity. The term has become the new "conventional wisdom", used by what I feel are lazy journalists who haven't done their homework or completely researched the matter and this is inexcusable for local journalists. Mr. Wolff would realize every elected official, from the Mayor down, every land owner and developer will return his phone calls immediately whenever he decides to call.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By nickb on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 01:20 pm:

I wholeheartedly agree with Lil on this one ... there are so many conflicting forces pulling in different directions (oakland, fremont, sj, sacramento, etc) that it puts the fan base in a fragmented, adverserial position. There is no way in my mind that MLB ever lets the A's move to SJ - we've all heard Selig pronounce the A's original move to Oakland being very detrimental to the Giants and a big mistake. As long as Selig's in power, there's no way he compounds this "mistake" and allows the A's to further damage the Giants' position - which a move to the South Bay would do - Lil do you agree with this?

Fremont is hopelessly behind the 8-ball if it thinks it will garner the necessary political and corporate support it will need to undertake an project of this nature. The citizens of Fremont will no way support, in my mind, the subsidy that this would entail also.

Sacramento, I'm afraid is a very viable alternative to Oakland since it's still in Nor Cal and would be an easy sell to other owners in MLB and the field is already there to expand upon. It would also present the A's with a market of their own in a growing market. I'm not here to promote Sacramento at all, just to say it's more of a threat to Oakland than is the south bay.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By gregorymark on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 01:42 pm:

For those of you who follow Oakland politics, can it be truthfully said that the City of Oakland is committed to keeping the A's? I get the impression from periodically reading this stuff that the ownership of the A's is trying to bend to the will of the city, but that the city doesn't seem all that interested in keeping the A's. Is this a correct impression? Wolff's posture on all of this is characterized as a "dance," but it seems that if the A's end up moving to some location other than Oakland or Alameda County, the local governing authorities would be more to blame for that than Wolff. Am I right about this?

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By bruin1946 on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 02:15 pm:

I am glad I misread your remarks as becoming fatalistic. The final word in your recent post "inertia" is the one that scares me.
Is there something we should be doing?

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By eyleenn on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 04:06 pm:

Contacting the Oakland council members and Alameda County supes and urging them to do whatever they can to keep the A's in Oakland is probably the best thing any of us can do at this point.

Greg, I think it's a two-way street (and not Huston). Both sides have to want to make a ballpark happen in Oakland. It's really frustrating that they can't seem to work cooperatively toward a common goal. Unless, of course, there are hidden agendas and ulterior motives....

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By ssblip on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 01:35 pm:

The city should assign someone to this -- lock 'em in a room with Wolff and don't let them out until they come up with Plans A, B and C.

After the first two hours, nobody sits down.

In the end, it'll just be a 150-minute meeting.

And there ya go.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By jenmed on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 02:17 pm:

They do have someone assigned to this, the redevelopment director Dan Vanderpriem. I believe this Chronicle column was posted when first published, but it seems to me that it gets more to the heart of the matter than others that have been published. In short, it may be that the city isn't doing absolutely all they can, but Wolff is clearly jerking them around as well.

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