Saturday, May 26, 2007

City pitches guidelines for A's ballpark

Click photo to enlarge

City of Fremont staffers presented a list of general guidelines Tuesday for the proposed ballpark village to be built by the Oakland Athletics. Many of the guidelines had already been discussed previously by A's owner Lew Wolff, most recently during a May 8 Fremont City Council meeting.

After a total of 19 guidelines, broken down into three groups, were presented Tuesday, city council unanimously approved them.

A few of the items presented under "Financial and Business Guidelines" included:

Any transaction with the A's for the development of the ballpark village project should be a prudent business deal, protect the interests of the taxpayer, and be of benefit to the Fremont community.

All impacts of the ballpark village project such as public safety, traffic and environmental, should be addressed by the project developer.

The city and A's should consider opportunities for public use of the ballpark when the ballpark is not in use by the A's

Any future baseball team and/or ballpark name should include "Fremont." For example, "_______ A's at Fremont" or "Cisco Field at Fremont."

Other guidelines included Fremont not bearing any construction costs, no future un-reimbursed general fund financial obligations imposed on Fremont or its residents, and that there should be no new taxes imposed on Fremont or its residents.

Under the group of "Planning and Public Review Process," staffers noted the ballpark should be a high quality, intimate, state-of-the-art facility.

Additionally, the project should include alternate transportation to and from the site, including Bay Area Rapid Transit or Alameda-Contra Costa Transit bus service, the guidelines state.

Also, the guidelines indicate that the review process for the project will include a public process open to the community, and that the design and potential impacts will be reviewed by the city.

A third group of guidelines, named "Other," simply state that the city will work with regional partners, and that the city manager will be responsible for negotiations consistent with the guidelines.

Finally, according the guidelines, negotiations will be conducted privately and confidentially, not in the public forum. But proposals resulting from negotiations will be explored in the public forum.

During the council meeting, some wanted the guidelines to be more specific.

Carrie Hamill, a representative from BART's general management team, wanted the city to ensure there would be a large capacity transportation system, such as a bus line, between the stadium and the future Warm Springs BART station.

Resident Douglas Cattaneo suggested the city add a guideline that ensures A's owner Wolff promise to build a stadium.

"We want to make sure Mr. Wolff builds a ballpark," he said. "We want this ballpark, and we want to make sure we get one. We don't want him to come in, rezone the site, build houses and leave, and we never get a park."

Fremont City Manager Fred Diaz and Mayor Bob Wasserman both pointed out that there is a guideline that states "The A's should guarantee that the ballpark will be built and should make a long-term commitment to play its home schedule in Fremont."

Cattaneo said that guideline should be more explicit.

"These guidelines are not specific, and nothing is set in stone," Diaz said. "These are merely for the council to review, and for (city staff) to come back with more detailed guidelines. These are still evolving."

Some council members expressed concern over the lack of detail in the guidelines.

Councilwoman Anu Natarajan had concerns with the lack of a defined process to the project.

"We've all heard Mr. Wolff's interest in expediting this project, but that can only happen with a defined process," she said.

Councilman Steve Cho expressed concern over what would happen if some of these guidelines did not take shape.

"We're developing an agreement that is supposed to be a win-win for everyone," he said. "All the principles I've read so far are with positive outcomes. What about the what-ifs? We don't address the consequences if something here does not happen."

City Attorney Harvey Levine said the city has brought in consultants to brainstorm potential problems that will be handled in different documents.

Wasserman reiterated to his concerned council colleagues that the document before them was merely a list of guidelines.

The mayor added the guidelines will return in the future as a memorandum of understanding, which could be as many as 200 pages long.

"I guarantee that when this comes back, it will be more comprehensive than anything you've ever wanted to see," Wasserman said. "This isn't going through any different process than other developments in Fremont."

The entire cost for the 32,000-seat ballpark and its "village" are estimated at $1.8 billion.

Broken down, the ballpark would cost $450 million. A 100-room hotel would cost about $30 million, and a 2,900-unit residential housing development would cost $1.1 billion to build. About 550,000 square feet of retail would cost $198 million to construct, according to Wolff.

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