Oakland Needs a Willing Partner

As we head in to December, we don’t seem to be any closer to a resolution to this standoff than we were four years ago. Lew Wolff is not getting San Jose any time soon, and yet is steadfast in his refusal to acknowledge the A’s current city as a solid place to play. We’re also coming up on Baseball Oakland’s three-year anniversary and we thank each and every one of you for keeping the fight alive.

One of the strongest criticisms of Oakland from its detractors is the lack of a “visible, publicly available plan.” But what Wolff, John Fisher and their apologists have never acknowledged is that’s quite difficult, if not impossible, to do so without a committed partner. Wolff and Fisher have never worked sincerely with Oakland and, so, their questions on the matter answer themselves. As much as we love this town, MLB owes Oakland absolutely nothing and could have told us to pound sand years ago if we had nothing of substance to bring to the table. So while nothing has been made public, we can pretty much assure you that things are moving behind the scenes.

Oakland just needs a willing partner. That partner has to be the Oakland A’s, and we have every reason to treat the managing general partner of that franchise as a hostile adversary to that process. Ever since he wrote this press release in 2009, can you honestly tell me with a straight face that Wolff is willing to listen to anything in Oakland? San Jose is where he has wanted to go since he bought the team, putting together partnerships and land deals as early as 2004. Oakland could put together a huge complete plan, one that takes into account funding, renderings, transit, environmental issues and everything under the sun but could end up in a position worse off than before if Wolff makes a very public “Hell, no!”

There is a city where this very same scenario played out:  Sacramento. Sacramento is facing the prospect of losing the Kings like we are with the A’s. Like Oakland, they pulled together a grassroots effort called Think Big Sacramento. Think Big had broad support from Mayor Kevin Johnson, Sacramento area businesses, fans and citizens. However, the Maloofs pretty much killed the deal, leaving Sacramento in limbo and Kevin Johnson to declare the project dead.

People, this is the last thing we need in Oakland. Someone as negatively biased as Wolff and Fisher, who repeatedly say the A’s “have no future in Oakland” in order to convince MLB, is not going to listen to anything that Oakland says or does. As much as we want big PowerPoint presentations and pretty pictures, its almost foolish to try and show too much and have it all fall apart. This is chess, not checkers, and Oakland’s leaders are playing their hand wisely for the time-being. It has been six years since Lew Wolff declared Oakland done and “tried” in Fremont and, yet, the A’s are still here. We will continue to advocate for Oakland and its fans until this is all resolved with the A’s staying in their correct home: Oakland.

Oakland’s Economy Continues to Heat Up

Oakland continues to be a hotbed of economic activity. The city thrived even in the years after the severe downturn of 2008, when Oakland seemed immune to the terrible national economy. In those years, dozens of new restaurants and bars opened downtown and elsewhere around the city. Now, as the economy continues to show signs of life, new housing and office buildings are planned — showing how Oakland’s economy continues to heat up along with it.

Blanca Torres of the San Francisco Business Times recently reported thatdeveloper Seth Hamalian is buying land in Oakland’s revitalized Uptown district, where he has plans to build a 28-story housing tower. Hamalian said: “I grew up in Oakland, so I’ve always been really passionate about its future as a fabulous city.”

The tower would be just the latest housing in Uptown’s hotter-than-hot neighborhood. As Torres reports:

The site is also a couple of blocks from recent developments including Forest City’s665-unit Uptown apartments, Essex Property Trust’s 104-unit 100 Grand, Signature Development Group’s retail and 132 units of housing at Broadway Grand and Canyon Johnson’s 88-unit Uptown Place, a condo development now selling units.

In the meantime, Uptown keeps creating new bars and restaurants. Fauna opened up last month next to Flora along Telegraph Ave. A few blocks away,Hopscotch opened to rave reviews a few months ago. Other eateries and taverns keep popping up all over town. In Old Oakland, Borgo Italia, a new trattoria, opened at the corner of 9th St. and Washington — joining the nearby Mexican  eatery, Cosecha Cafe. Also in Old Oakland, Miss Ollie’s is getting close to opening, and so is Rosamunde, which has locations in San Francisco and Brooklyn.

Couple these new developments with the tens of thousands of people who attend Art Murmur each First Friday of the month and you have a thriving arts, food, nightlife and entertainment scene in Oakland. It’s a great city that is just getting even better.

Sell, Baby, Sell

Nov. 1 was an ugly milestone for A’s fans. That was the 17th anniversary of when Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann officially became A’s owners after acquiring the team from the Haas family. Ever since that autumn day in 1995, A’s owners like Schott (and now Lew Wolff and John Fisher) have been threatening to move the team to the South Bay. Yep, loyal Oakland baseball fans have been mistreated by ownership for 17 years.

It would be criminal if they were subjected to an 18th year.

But with Wolff and Fisher at the helm, refusing year in and year out to work with willing Oakland and Alameda County leaders, it appears we’re headed in that direction. In March, it will be the four-year anniversary of the creation of the three-person committee that Commissioner Bud Selig put together to study the A’s stadium situation.

As of now, it’s been three years and eight months since then and still there is no ruling. We understand why people say Selig is a roadblock to the A’s progress on a new stadium. But we argue that Wolff is just as much of an obstacle. He refuses to work with the city of Oakland on a new stadium, saying he wants a ruling, even if it’s a ‘no’, before he figures out what he’ll do next. What Wolff doesn’t seem to get is that nearly four years without an answer is indeed already a ‘no’ answer.

If the territorial rights to Santa Clara County were a love interest, Wolff long ago would have been arrested for stalking. This uncertainty over the team’s future has been a big hindrance to improving attendance — along with Wolff’s and Fisher’s refusal to do any sustained marketing and their failure to reach out to the East Bay business community.

Multiple sources have said there are interested well-heeled ownership groups who want to buy the A’s and keep them in Oakland at a new waterfront ballpark.Yet, Wolff continues to stubbornly hold on for his years-old pipe dream of moving the franchise to the South Bay.

A’s fans deserve better than the uncertainty they’ve been subjected to for nearly 20 years. Yet, the problem can be solved easily if Wolff and Fisher would only sell the A’s. Please sell, guys. It’s the right thing to do.