My letter to interim Oakland Planning Commissioner Scott Miller in search of the ever elusive Victory Court EIR.
Dear Mr. Miller,
I am writing this letter to you in the hopes of finding answers to a few questions regarding possible and future Oakland development. For many years, now, as you know, the City of Oakland has been trying to put a plan together to keep the Athletics baseball franchise in Oakland. Two years ago this week the City Council approved $750,000 from the now defunct redevelopment agency to conduct an Environmental Impact Report on the land area known as Victory Court. I understand this happened before your time overseeing the planning commission, but I’m wondering what happened with the study, and hoping you can be of assistance in a few questions regarding the study.
At the time of the approval, there was much made of the studies importance; the conducting of the EIR was a way of showing the City of Oakland was serious about keeping the A’s willing to do what it takes to make that happen. At the council meeting at which the EIR was approved, Council Woman Jane Brunner said that if the EIR was not approved, that Oakland would lose the A’s tomorrow. This for many would be a devastating thought.
On June, 15 2011 a letter was sent by the budget office to the mayor and city council members that referenced the Victory Court EIR and future studies. The letter stated that between the approval of the EIR (Dec 21, 2010) and the date the letter was sent, that $185,000 had been spent on Victory Court studies; mostly to consultants. These funds came from the Downtown Capital Project Support, which was the general funding source for the Central District. It appears that these expenditures were not part of the actual EIR, as the document says that all “future expenses for the EIR” will have to be funded through new projects – not part of the Downtown Capital Project Support. This leads me to believe that as of June, 15 2011 the Victory Court EIR had still yet to begin.
The redevelopment agency later went on to say that revenue from Operating Projects (Oakland Ice Center, various parking garages etc.) was going to fund the Victory Court EIR at the cost of $750,000. However, according to the June, 15 letter, the necessary funds from the Operating Projects for the EIR were reallocated towards the purchase of the Kaiser Convention Center. Several months later, the redevelopment agency was dissolved, and now the Victory Court EIR has gone missing.
My questions are this:
1) Did the Victory Court EIR take place?
2) If so, will it be released to the public or can it be viewed now?
I fully understand and appreciate that you were not involved in these decisions that began over two years ago. Given the involvement of the planning commission in EIR’s and the direct involvement of previous Planning Commissioner Pete Vollman in the approved Victory Court, I’m hoping you can be of assistance in answering these questions.
I hope you had a very good holiday and I hope to hear from you soon. Thank you very much for your time.
(This is where I signed my name)
FYI- If you're wondering, no, I do not in anyway think Victory Court or any other West/Central Oakland site is realistic, or possible or even worth considering at this point. But that's the point. If Victory Court died in July of 2011 but Oakland-pols are still going to talk up Waterfront/West Oakland sites as a possibility the missing EIR then becomes important. They knew it died, and chose not to find additional ways to study the possibility. Moreover, they chose not to talk about the EIR dying - this despite the pro "Keep the A's in Oakland" hoopla that went along with it's approval. The impression was given that Victory Court was not only possible - but a priority.
If there was no effort to discuss the EIR after DEC 2010, why should Oakland-pols be taken seriously? Why should anyone take Coliseum City seriously if this is how Oakland conducts it's affairs in regards to the A's? If the EIR did in fact die in the summer of 2011, it also makes that "Hey Lew, Let's Build At Victory Court" sign look even more ridiculous. Or at the very least, pointed in the wrong direction. It's not Lew Wolff who is in charge of approving EIR's.
San Jose is only an option because San Jose politicians made it one. Oakland isn't entitled to stadium. No fan is entitled to a possibly $1 billion invested at the expense of the owner, no matter how rich they are. And if Wolff/Fischer do sell, what makes anyone think it will be Haas type who takes control? Given the way the Padres sale went down, who really controls A's in terms of a sale? Is it Wolff/Fischer or MLB? A sale could lead to an even worse scenario taking the A's further away than San Jose. Spare me the "that's unlikely/not gonna happen" talk. If the money is there - it's possible. Very possible. San Jose ain't out of town folks, it's just down the road.
In order for the A's to stay in Oakland they need money - big money. But just as important, they need political will. The less political will, the greater the money will need to be. If Oakland-pols are going to talk up West Oakland/Waterfront property - AFTER a dead EIR without admitting it died, and without addressing the additional $100 million price tag to environmental cleanup - then the political will isn't there. They're simply covering their own asses while doing everything to make sure they aren't the one's who will be blamed/demonized if the A's leave.
It could be that Oakland-pols have chosen to make schools, safety, infrastructure etc. a higher priority than studying a possible sporting venue. If that's the case, good for them. Just be honest about it. If money for the Victory Court EIR was redirected to the purchase of the Kaiser Center, and then Oakland made the choice not to fund the EIR given budgetary restraints. That's fine.
But if this how Oakland is going to go about keeping the A's - then I don't believe they are genuine. They just don't want to receive any of the blame once the team is gone. Or worse they feel they're entitled to an investment that could cost upwards $800 million without having to share any of the cost. Keeping the A's in Oakland needs an open and honest effort with genuine political will. With Oakland politicians - it's just not there.