July 3, 2007 > Letter to the Fremont City Council
Letter to the Fremont City Council
Economic and Fiscal Revenue Impacts of a Proposed Ballpark Village
Over my 26 years of service on the City Council and Planning Commission, I was presented many similar documents in support of project applications. Not one of them ever showed a project to have a negative impact on the city, no matter what the project was. I often wondered if all such studies showed a positive impact, or if they only submitted the positive ones to us. Early on, I realized that these documents were advocacy documents and that all of the assumptions and estimates are made to favor the project without being so blatant as to discredit the entire report, coupled with phrasing everything in the most positive light to subliminally influence the reader.
With that in mind, I believe this document must be regarded simply as an advocacy document, favoring the ballpark village, and be given minimal consideration. Should you decide it has intrinsic value, I suggest you retain an expert (or two) to perform a peer review of the document. I can recommend two, The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (David Morris) and The Cato Institute (Dennis Coates and Brad R. Humphreys.)
While, of course, I am not an economist or an expert on baseball operations, I have some experience in evaluating projects and the supporting documents. I have reviewed the subject report and present the attached analysis for your consideration. I tried to keep to the issues presented in the ERA report, leaving other obvious concerns (traffic and other environmental issues) to be addressed during the environmental process and subsequent staff review.
However, I was furnished a plot plan of the proposed ballpark village on Monday of this week and it opened up another whole set of concerns. I only addressed the parking issues because I had already discussed them in some detail in my analysis, but ingress and egress to and from the site is going to create problems during game days based on the design presented. I have included the copy of the plan I received along with a spread sheet showing the parking required for each element of the project (per Fremont Municipal Code) along with a calculation of the area needed to provide that parking.
I have long thought this project was one where the cart seemed to be getting far ahead of the horse. Huge PR campaigns are trumpeting a project for which none of the details are yet public. A Planning Commissioner is claiming title as the leader in the effort to bring the A's to Fremont, long before she has any idea of what the project entails. All of this hoopla should cease until a plan has been submitted for public review and analysis. The Council should take a public stand encouraging the community to wait until details are available, before we all march lockstep toward someplace we might really not want to go.
It also seems to me that, before any plan is submitted, a Fatal Flaw Analysis ought to be performed to find out if there are things in this project which could kill it. This analysis would allow decision makers and proponents to identify issues which must be resolved before spending huge amounts of time and money on the total project. Parking seems to be one of these issues which could kill the project. The parking proposed for the ballpark is insufficient per Fremont's liberal standard (5800 vice 8000 required) and is not located proximate to the site as required by the Fremont Municipal Code. Is the Council willing to accept this? Is the public? Are the Pacific Commons businesses?
Another issue which could be evaluated in a Fatal Flaw Analysis is ingress and egress. Can a single point of access service the ballpark and surrounding businesses? How many left turn lanes on Auto Mall Parkway will be required to handle the new traffic, especially on game days? How will people get from the remote parking lots to the ball park, especially when trying to cross Auto Mall as all the other traffic is trying to turn on to Christy?
There are more, but it would be in everyone's best interest to deal with them early in the process before huge amounts of money have been spent and people have taken positions difficult to retreat from. It is a simple process and one that should have been started long before the cheerleading began. I urge you to facilitate that process.
In the interest of full disclosure, you should also know that I serve as Alameda County's representative to a two member board of directors of the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum. I receive no recompense and have no control or responsibility for the complex beyond dealing with the several lawsuits between the coliseum and the Raiders. Those have been resolved and the only matter pending for us is the claims against the various insurance companies. Once those are resolved, the board will be dissolved.
I will continue to comment on this project as time moves on. I wish my comments to be constructive and to assist you as your decision making process proceeds. Exposing all sides of an issue and understanding the differences yields a better project every time. I wish you well in your deliberations.
June 28, 2007