Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pacific Commons Update

Now Open:
Spicy Town ( October 28, 2007)

Coming Soon:
370 Dessert Cafe ( Open 1-3 weeks)
French Bakery ( Under Construction on October)

Coming Soon ( Not Construction Yet)
Asian Pearl

Unknown Stores:
Infinitel ( Verizon Wireless Store)

Applebees ( Construction September)

Johnny Carino's Italian ( Open Soon)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Second poll results

Sorry for delays

Voting for the first poll is now closed. Here are the results:

  • A. Yes - 3 (60%)
  • B. No - 2 (40%)
  • C. Next week - 0 (0%)
  • D. 2 Weeks - 2 (40%)
  • E. 3 Weeks - 1 (20%)
  • F. 4 Weeks - 0 (0%)
  • G. Next Month - 0 (0%)
  • H. Never - 1 (20%)
The winner is A and D and the failed is B and G.

The next poll topic is What kind of shopping center, should they build in Fremont?

The question: Are Oakland A's really moving to Fremont? What when will the files the Application?

  • A. Yes
  • B. No
  • C. Next week
  • D. 2 Weeks
  • E. 3 Weeks
  • F. 4 Weeks
  • G. Next Month
  • H. Never

If you like, you can post a comment here to go with your vote.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A's Wolff begins to show he's frustrated

When it comes to ballpark village building, one has to endure a whole litany of nightmares to realize the actual dream, and the strain of that is starting to show on Lew Wolff's face and in his statements.

That's because the process of moving the Oakland Athletics to Fremont is now beyond the conceptual stage and entering the tougher, trickier reality phase — getting all the preliminary ducks in a row under the slow crush of governmental approval at both the state and local levels before a shovel can ever move a single pebble.

On top of all that, the Oakland A's owner must continue to answer questions about why the A's really have to move out of Oakland and why the proposed Fremont site, with all of its potential access and traffic issues, ultimately will be much better. It's the ultimate test of a gentle man's patience, and the cracks are showing.

Quite frankly, it's tough to understand why Wolff, a man in his 70s, wants to do this. OK, sure, he and his son Keith and billionaire partner John Fisher will make a nice profit on the business venture itself. There will be altruistic rewards as well, even though many A's fans are skeptical these businessmen are doing this for an improved quality of life in the Bay Area.

But, Wolff readily admitted in a wide-ranging address and Q&A session at the Commonwealth Club on Monday night that realizing the vision of Cisco Field is at least four years away and probably five, and that he may be too old and exhausted by the pursuit to actually enjoy much of it himself if it ever gets built by 2012 or 2013.

And it may not. Wolff said he hopes he'll be able to pronounce this venture a done deal within the next 12-18 months,but the A's aren't there yet, either. Things are moving slowly, and if that isn't enough of a headache for Wolff, he and his partners are trying to juggle the approval and construction of a San Jose soccer venue in concert with the baseball extravaganza.

Wolff is about as optimistic and humorous a businessman as you're ever going to meet, but some of his comments in this informal session hinted at his level of frustration right now. The next step in the process, for example.

"Within a couple of weeks, we will be submitting a development application which initiates the environmental impact report, which initiates a lot of spiral-down reports and paper," he said. "More trees have been knocked down by environmental impact studies than developers. There are steps within steps. But we're going to follow them. We have no choice."

That particular process could take a year to 18 months. Wolff clearly isn't looking forward to the snail pace of it.

"We're going to do everything on our end to move it as fast as we can, but the process to a lot of people is the end process," he said. "A lot of people live on the process. It gripes the heck out of me."

Does that sound just a little short to you? His tone was a little more curt on this evening than I've ever heard him. Host Marty Lurie tossed him questions from the audience of approximately 100, and near the end of the session, he received one of the familiar ones about how the move to Fremont could destroy the 40-year tradition that's been built in Oakland.

His answer sounded like a man getting real tired of the question.

"We're still here, folks," he said. "We're not moving to Timbuktu. We're going to be down the street in a beautiful new facility. Anybody in this room that came out to the Coliseum, please try me one day, and I'll show you how lovely it may have been in Oakland once. But it's not really great for us right now. I wish it were."

Wolff is getting very touchy about the Fremont venue's transportation and access issues as well. When Lurie phrased a question about the A's moving to one of the Bay Area's worst traffic bottlenecks, he shot back, "We think we're moving from one of the worst bottlenecks. I just don't accept it as one of the worst bottlenecks. It's one of the many bottlenecks, but the improvement of that area is under way right now."

Regarding possible ticket pricing at the new park, Wolff offered a funny but not very satisfying answer for the average A's fan: "Very easy question. It'll be a little bit less than the Giants."

In another uncomfortable moment, Wolff uttered what might be interpreted as an ethnic putdown when discussing why the A's haven't done much exploration and development in the Asian player market.

"First of all, Asian players, probably if you asked them — and could understand them — they would like to stay on the West Coast," he said. "But the money that's being spent by the Yankees and Boston, they're having to make the extra five-hour flight."

Understand them? Wolff might be hearing about that one, since his address was broadcast over radio. A statement like that doesn't play well orally or in print.

Alas, that's the tough part of trying to sell such a grand vision. Anything you say can be dissected. Fact is, you can slip and say the wrong thing easily.

Undaunted, Wolff forges ahead with the selling of this grand ballpark, even as the push starts to get tougher. Tough to envy his challenge.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Development Application and Two new sites

Fremont officials have been grumbling louder in recent weeks about the A's delays in getting the development application in. They've expressed this frustration to any media person who asks. I don't know if it will get the app in more quickly. The City and the A's have remained professional and cordial throughout.

In today's East Bay Business Times article by David Goll, Lew Wolff admits that the team's in "the tortoise phase":

Wolff himself admits he's in "the tortoise phase" of his plan, anticipating up to 18 months for the city's planning and review process to unfold once he submits a formal proposal. He also foresees spending $20 million to $30 million for a detailed design for the entire development and, assuming the Fremont City Council gives his plans a green light, about two years for construction of the stadium.
Fremont's economic development director Daren Fields gave his opinion on when he thinks the ballpark could open: 2012. I think it can still happen in 2011, but if the application isn't submitted in the next few weeks an April 2011 opening date could certainly be in jeopardy.

Two new sites

Last week two new websites came online for those interested in A's new ballpark news. First up is the A's to Fremont Support Group. Currently the only page is a mailing list signup form for interested parties, but this is sure to expand fairly quickly. I am not involved with this particular site as I was with the dormant "Bring the A's to Fremont" site. That also is subject to change. For now I am replacing the dormant site with the new one on the sidebar.

Next up is MLB's Ballparks of the Future site, presented by Cisco. It has a video showing Cisco's vision of the future plus videos for all five in-development ballparks as well as additional galleries for other new and to-be-renovated venues. Check out the Nationals' stadium tour video to get a glimpse of how crazy the premium seating market has become.

First poll results

Voting for the first poll is now closed. Here are the results:

  • A. Chinese (Taiwan) - 0 (0%)
  • B. English - 4 (33%)
  • C. Chinese/English - 2 (33%)
The winner is B and the failed is A. C is almost close to win and we need 2-3 people to vote on C

The next poll topic is Are Oakland A's really moving to Fremont? What when will the files the Application, so they can have
18 months for the city's planning and review process to unfold.

The question: What kind of Language do you want to have in the Blog?

  • A. Chinese (Taiwan)
  • B. English
  • C. Chinese/English

If you like, you can post a comment here to go with your vote.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

No easy solutions in BART plan

Transit officials, NUMMI discourage housing as Fremont deliberates Warm Springs development

When it comes to finding funding for the Warm Springs BART extension, the type of development around the proposed station is almost as important as the station itself, transportation officials say.

Whether it's apartment towers or, more likely in the case of Warm Springs, four-story office buildings, transit agencies want new stations surrounded by developments that will generate lots of ridership.

The Warm Springs project, which already has a $200 million funding gap, is more likely to qualify for discretionary transportation dollars if the city approves uses that are compatible with transit-oriented development, MTC spokesman John Goodwin said.

But that's easier said than done for Fremont.

Although the city's preliminary plan for the station area calls for transit-friendly uses, its zoning ordinance still allows property owners to build storage warehouses, business condominiums and other uses that wouldn't generate many BART passengers.

Just last month, the City Council declined to block a mini-storage warehouse proposed within a half-mile of the station.

And before Fremont can change the zoning, it needs tofind about $200,000 for an environmental study.

The BART station tentatively is scheduled to open in 2013 on land bounded by South Grimmer Road and Warm Springs Boulevard.

To assert more control over development in the station area, the council voted unanimously last week to consider new rules making it less desirable for property owners within a half-mile of the proposed station to subdivide their land and sell it for condos.

New industrial condominium projects are increasingly popular, Fremont Planning Director Jeff Schwob said. Allowing them near the proposed BART station, he added, could increase the number of landowners, hampering efforts to build transit-friendly developments.

NUMMI flexes muscles

When a new BART station is built these days, high-density apartment buildings usually aren't far behind.

But in the case of Warm Springs, an MTC report, citing opposition from the nearby New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., anticipated no new housing in the station district.

"NUMMI has strongly advised against the development of housing in industrial areas," company spokesman Lance Tomasu said. The plant, he added, generates traffic, noise and odors "not conducive to residential development."

The auto manufacturer doesn't control city zoning rules, but with more than 5,000 employees, it has clout at City Hall.

"We don't want to lose them," Councilmember Steve Cho said after a recent council meeting.

Landowners stuck

With housing a non-starter for now, David Beretta, a prominent Fremont developer, said city planners have suggested he build offices, even though the office market is poor. The city, he added, opposed his proposals for a swimming school, retail center or apartments on his parcel.

"We tried every use that we could; the city rejected it each time," Beretta said.

None of Beretta's proposals was permitted under current zoning, Schwob countered.

When he proposed a mini-storage warehouse for the Prune Street lot, city staff members responded by recommending that the City Council approve an emergency ordinance giving the city more ability to reject such projects.

The council rejected the emergency ordinance on grounds that it could be an appropriate interim use for the land, but later approved clamping down on business condominiums.

Meanwhile, Warm Springs BART remains a waiting game for developers like Jack Balch, who owns 8 acres near the proposed station. He is looking into interim uses for his site, so long as he doesn't have to pay for improvements such as curb gutters.

"I bought the land thinking BART would be here by now," Balch said. "We want to hold this land for a higher and better use."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A's present school plans to Fremont School District Wed. 10/10/07 6:30 p.m.

Award Winning Horace Mann Elementary campus in San Jose.

A's co-owner, Keith Wolff, will be presenting the latest plans for an exciting new proposed school that will be built as part of the Cisco Field/Ballpark Village project this Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 6:30 p.m. at the Fremont City Council Chambers located at 3300 Capitol Avenue, Fremont, CA at 6:30 p.m.
The new school will be an urban-style school which would cover less acreage, much like the award winning Horace Mann Elementary campus in San Jose. The Horace Mann Elementary boasts an outstanding facility, from an architectural and educational standpoint. The school would also be designed to allow the campus to be expanded if needed. This is just one more exciting aspect and benefit of having the A's in Fremont!
It would be great if you could have a nice showing of support and some volunteers to speak in favor of the project after the presentation. We want to show the FUSD Board that we support this effort and want to see the A's come to Fremont!

Go A's!

A's to present latest school plans to district
Proposal calls for multistory urban-style campus in Fremont

Instead of the typical single-story elementary school campus spread over 8 to 10 acres, as often is found in the suburbs, Oakland A's officials envision a multistory "urban" school to become part of its proposed ballpark village.

An urban-style school would cover less acreage, with classrooms built atop one another.

Last month, the A's proposed a

4-acre site for the school. On Monday, team co-owner Keith Wolff said the ballclub is considering a two- or three-story school and is looking at the Horace Mann Elementary campus in San Jose as a model.

Schools Superintendent Doug Gephart, who has visited the San Jose campus, said the school boasted an outstanding facility, from an architectural and educational standpoint. However, its playground was smaller than desired, he said, adding that A's officials are aware of the district's wish for more play space.

The proposed ballpark village, near Interstate 880 and Auto Mall Parkway, would feature a 32,000-seat stadium and a mix of retail shops, offices and residences.

Some of the residences would be three to four stories high.

Because of the greater housing density, the neighborhood could generate anywhere from 600 to 1,000 new students, Gephart said. The key, he added, is to design a campus with the flexibility to expand if necessary.

The A's latest plans, with the focus on the school, will be presented at Wednesday's school board meeting.

In preliminary designs earlier this year, an elementary school had been penciled to go up near Tri-Cities Landfill at the end of Auto Mall Parkway. But some Fremont residents objected to the location.

Now, the plan is to place a school east of Cushing Parkway, "in the heart of the residential development," Wolff said.

"To provide a K-6 school that serves the need of the population generated by our project ... that's still our commitment to the city," he said.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Developer chosen for Centerville Unified site

Another developer has been chosen to revitalize 6.6 acres in the Centerville Unified Redevelopment Area.

Fremont City Council, acting as the Redevelopment Agency Board, selected Danville-based Blake Hunt Ventures by a vote of 3-2 at the Oct. 2 Redevelopment Agency meeting.

Vice Mayor Bob Wieckowski and Councilmember Anu Natarajan dissented, voting in favor of the team of Phoenix-based Opus West and San Mateo-based Regis Homes.

In the planning stages since April 2000, the site has had three different projects proposed by two developers.

All three projects failed to move forward for different reasons.

A grocery-anchored shopping center lost steam when the proposed grocery store for the project pulled out, and developers were unable to find a suitable replacement.

A restaurant-anchored, vertical mixed-use project dubbed Centerville Market Place fell through due to escalating construction costs and financial infeasibility.

The developers of that project returned with a 100-percent retail center, once again named Centerville Market Place.

However, by the end of last year, rising construction costs once again blocked progress on the site.

The site is bounded by Fremont Boulevard, Bonde Way, Post Street and Thornton Avenue.

According to city staff reports, the RDA Board authorized a request for qualifications for the site on June 26.

Six development teams submitted qualifications by the Aug. 16 deadline for the site.

The applicants were then narrowed down to three development teams, which were invited to an interview to present qualifications and a vision for the site.

Staff reports state the interview panel consisted of five city staff members, three consultants and two representatives of the Centerville community.

For the site, Blake Hunt Ventures proposed two projects, one of which included a 57,000-square-foot mixed-use retail and residential project that included a 20,000-square-foot grocery store and a 16,000-square-foot secondary anchor store, possibly a drug store.

Additionally, the firm proposed another 21,000 square feet of various retail and restaurant space.

There would be 44 to 48 residential units in six buildings on the south end of the property between Fremont Boulevard and Post Street.

There would be 245 parking spaces for retail.

Blake Hunt Ventures also proposed a 99,200-square-foot retail-only project that included a 45,000-square-foot grocery store.

A drug store or secondary anchor store would again be 16,000 square feet, and there would be an additional 38,200 square feet of additional retail and restaurants.

There would be 427 parking spaces in the project.

Brad Blake, chief executive officer of Blake Hunt Ventures, said his firm believed the Centerville community was looking for a strong sense of identity and place, and that a retail project would bring that to the area.

"We really think this should be a 100 percent retail project," he said. "If there should be some residential, we look at it as infill and don't want it to be the Ôdriver' of the project."

Blake added he believed as many as three grocery stores were interested in taking up residency on the site.

The team of Opus West and Regis Homes proposed building 20,000 to 35,000 square feet of retail along Fremont Boulevard, with 170 residential units of rental housing in the interior and along the rear of the site near Post Street.

Units may also have been added as a second story above the retail, reports state, with as many as 200 units on the site.

As many as 500 parking spaces would have been built in two parking garages behind the retail buildings. The garages would have been two or three stories high, staff reports state.

John Eller, an architect with SB Architects, said the Opus/Regis project would have provided an attractive community gathering space.

"We expect to provide high-quality development along the frontage of the project," he said. "Addressing Fremont Boulevard as the focal point of the project is the key to this plan."

Natarajan said that while both presentations were very good, she favored the Opus West/Regis Home proposal, as it had residential units that could be filled.

She said other types of retail stores could move in without a grocery store and still be economically viable.

"We're looking for a project that's viable, not a pie in the sky proposal," she said. "We want something that can be a catalyst of the community. If you're looking at a grocery-anchored retail project and it doesn't happen, we don't have a plan B."

Councilmember Steve Cho said when this first project first came to light in 2000, the community expressed the desire for a grocery store on the site.

"I remember seven or eight years ago, the community came together and voiced what they wanted for that site: it was a grocery store," he said. "Without an anchor store, it's difficult to get other stores to come to the site and make it viable. I think having all retail there will bring economic vitality to the area."

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