Monday, December 15, 2008

Comments To Environmental Impact Report

We are home owners and residents in the City of Fremont. Here are our comments and questions to be included in the scope of the Draft EIR on the A's proposed Ballpark proposal. My questions and comments are specifically focused on the alternate proposed site at Osgood and South Grimmer Boulevard (“alternate site”).

  • Aesthetics
    • The project will change the visual characteristics of the neighborhood. The Warm Springs neighborhood consists of low-rise residential and retail and office buildings. As ballpark stadiums are iconic structures, this will impact the feel and visual character of a residential neighborhood. The sheer size and mass of the ballpark structure will overpower the neighborhood.
  • Population, Employment, Housing 
    • This area is in extremely close proximity to residential neighborhoods and several local public schools, daycares and kid-camps.  
    • We believe that this construction of a 32,000-capacity ballpark in such close proximity of a quiet, residential neighborhood will change the fabric of this neighborhood by changing the demographic characteristics of this neighborhood. By changing the demographics of this community, there will be demand for changes to the local entertainment and other services, for example, increase in demand for alcohol serving establishments open late at night. This will divide an established community, as this area will no longer be an attractive, safe place for Fremont families to live and bring up their kids in.  We believe that this will have an adverse impact on the local community.
    • “City leaders in the United States devote enormous public resources to the construction of large entertainment projects, including stadiums, convention centers, entertainment districts, and festival malls. Their justification is that such projects will generate economic returns by attracting tourists to the city. Although this economic expectation is tested in the literature, little attention is given to the political and social implications of building a city for visitors rather than local residents. A focus on building the city for the visitor class may strain the bonds of trust between local leaders and the citizenry and skew the civic agenda to the detriment of fundamental municipal services.” Research reference include Urban Affairs Review, Vol. 35, No. 3, 316-333 (2000) DOI: 10.1177/107808740003500302, The Politics of Bread and Circuses, Building the City for the Visitor Class, Peter Eisinger Wayne State University.
    • The alternate site is in extremely close proximity to residential neighborhoods and local schools (such as Weibel, Warm Springs Elementary, Leitch Elementary, Mission Valley Elementary, Horner, Hopkins, Irvington and Grimmer Elementary) and much less than that for local parks (example Aqua Caliente). What will be the impact to crime rates in the neighborhood after the ballpark has been built? What are the crime rate statistics in the Oakland ballpark area?
    • What will be the impact on local schools and child-care facilities of the ballpark serving alcoholic beverages in such close proximity?  
    • Recent research has also shown that the average price of home near a ballpark declined after ballpark construction. Will you impact assessment include loss of property due to decline in home values. Research referenced THE IMPACT OF STADIUM ANNOUNCEMENTS ON RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY VALUES: EVIDENCE FROM A NATURAL EXPERIMENT IN DALLAS-FORT WORTH CAROLYN A. DEHRING 1, CRAIG A. DEPKEN 2 MICHAEL R. WARD 3,* 1 Dehring: Assistant Professor, Department of Insurance, Legal Studies and Real Estate, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602. Depken: Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Belk College of Business, University of North Carolina–Charlotte, Charlotte, NC 28223.  3 Ward: Associate Professor, Department of Economics, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX, 76019.
  • Transportation and Circulation – We believe that this project will have an adverse impact on traffic, circulation and parking patterns in the project vicinity:
    • The report from the A’s entitled: Revised conceptual site plan and revised mitigation measures, dated November 2008, estimates that the average attendance will be 26,000 people, leading to an increase in approximately 11,000 cars in the freeways and exits leading to the ballpark. (This is based on an estimate of 2.5 people per car). What is this estimate of 2.5 persons per car based on? 
    • We believe that the number of cars & trucks will be higher as there will also be traffic resulting from employees of the ballpark, vendors and suppliers (including 18-wheeler trucks) to the ballpark, increased buses and taxis serving the area on game-days. This additional traffic has to be added to traffic assessment.
    • This area is served by I-680 and I-880 with three primary exits: AutoMall, Stevenson and Fremont Boulevard. In the report from the A’s entitled: Revised conceptual site plan and revised mitigation measures, dated November 2008, it is noted that traffic from I-680 will be directed to use I-880 North. This area is already severely congested and especially so during peak commute time. For example, it takes approximately 20 mins currently to travel from I-680 Mission exit to the I-880 interchange currently. The traffic conditions during events, such as Fry’s Black Friday Sale, are so adverse that there has been an ambulance on stand-by. Majority of the internal city roads from these exits leading up to the alternate site are single lane roads or in a few cases, or double lanes. How will these exits and roads handle approximately 11,000 more cars during game time which coincides with weekday, peak, office traffic.
    • We are concerned that the additional traffic generated by the usage of the ballpark during weekday games will cause severe traffic delays on I-880 and I-680 freeways as well as on local streets such as South Grimmer, Paseo Padre, Auto Mall Parkway and Fremont Boulevard. These delays will prevent working parents from picking up their kids from schools and childcare centers on time.
    • Additionally, there will be people who use surface streets to bypass the congestion on I-880 and I-680 (for example, Warm Springs Boulevard, Fremont Boulevard, Paseo Padre, Mission Boulevard) – these streets are internal city streets and are not equipped to handle huge amounts of game-time traffic.
    • The report also mentions that there would be road closures, to prevent game-attendees from coming into the residential areas – these barricades would be staffed by security personnel to allow access by residents.
      • How will you monitor who is a local resident? How will you prevent ballpark visitors from seeking free parking on residential streets?
      • What about the guests of local residents including caretakers for their kids, disabled residents and local daycare service providers? How will they be able to go through the barricades?
      • This will cause undue delays and is NOT going to mitigate the traffic congestion as the game –attendees will be clogging the streets getting to the residential areas.
      • People seeking future employment in this neighborhood will be dissuaded by the traffic congestion and this will have an adverse impact on the economy of this area.
    • Fremont residents will be prisoners in their homes (or out of their homes) during ballpark usage days.
    • Please provide us with a copy of the Prologis/Catellus Traffic impact report discussed during the Council Meeting on Dec 9th, 2008.
    • The adverse traffic issues identified by ProLogis/Catellus alternate traffic study will also apply to the alternate site as the same freeways and exits serve the alternate site. If ProLogis was not able to mitigate all the concerns, how will the City of Fremont be able to address or mitigate the concerns?
    • What is the current Level of Service for the exits and roads coming into the proposed ballpark area? How will the Level of Service degrade as a result of ballpark usage? What will be the penalties to the A’s for vehicular delays in excess of defined Level of Service? Will these penalties be given to the residential neighborhoods impacted by the ballpark?
    • Will there be an independent, third-party arbitrator appointed to hear citizen’s concerns and complaints regarding vehicular delays and other issues regarding noise/pollution as laid out below? Who will pay for this arbitrator?
  • Air Quality
    • Construction of the ballpark will increase significant dust, exhaust and organic emissions LESS THAN 0.5 MILES FROM HOMES, SCHOOLS AND DAYCARES.
    • Air-quality will be degraded by diesel-powered equipment and vehicles which will be heavily used during the construction and operation of the ballpark
    • Even after the construction, there will be emissions concentrations through increased traffic and– especially so close to homes, schools and local parks.
    • This will have a potential impact through increase in asthma, bronchitis and other related respitorial illnesses in Fremont’s kids and seniors.  Odors from the ballpark food facilities and other restaurants will also affect air quality. This will have an adverse impact on the health of Fremont’s kids and seniors. There are already several days annually when air pollution exceeds the state or federal air quality standards (from Bay Area Air Quality Management) in Alameda county, this will only serve to increase the pollution.
  • Noise and Light pollution
    • Noise from the stadiums public address system, activities and crowd noise will disturb peace in this quiet neighborhood and its close proximity to homes and schools and daycares will definitely exceed the short-range noise quality standards for a residential neighborhood.
    • Additionally, fire-work displays will increase noise and pollution.
    • Noise impact form concerts and other activities in the stadium on off-game days would be significant and unavoidable.
    • Additionally, lighting from night-time operation of the stadium will increase light and glare (“light pollution”) in the predominantly residential neighborhood.
    • Additionally, will the structure block the sun/natural light to our schools and homes?
  • Hydrology and Water Quality
    • Where will the stadium get its supply of water? What will be the impact on the water pressure to surrounding homes?
    • What will be the impact on water quality and will discharge requirements be met? How much will the City of Fremont pay to set up the water and drainage requirements?
    • Will it require relocation of our existing electric substation? Who will be paying the costs for any infrastructure changes required by the ballpark.
    • What will be the City investment for water, electric substation and garbage removal for the ballpark?
  • Infrastructure, Utilities and Public Services
    • What will be the increase in Police and fire department personnel during ballpark usage days?
    • What is the cost of additional staff required to maintain level of service? Who will pay the additional cost? What if increase in staff is needed to maintain the level of service? Who will approve the increase and who will pay for the increase?
    • There are concerns about existing services provided by Fremont police and Fire – there will certainly be a degradation of service levels due to additional demands of the ballpark. How will the City of Fremont address these concerns?

1.    What are the criteria used by the City Council to build an iconic commercial landmark such as a ballpark in the alternate site, a site in extremely close proximity to several residential neighborhoods and schools and child-care facilities?

2.    Is there a detailed study on the revenues that the city will earn and what are the tax breaks/concessions that City will grant the A's? Can we have a copy of the City’s projected Profit-and-loss-Report for the ballpark updated?

3.       Page II-7 of BallPark Village Economic Analysis Report says the following:

Ballpark. The Athletics intend to purchase the land for the ballpark and then enter into a long-term arrangement with the City of Fremont and Alameda County to ensure that the team remains in Fremont for the next 30+ years. Under the terms of this arrangement, the Athletics will be responsible for the cost and development of the new ballpark subject to limited negotiated assistance from the City and County.

The Athletics intend to pay the City of Fremont an annual amount of $1,000,000 per year in order to further support City services with regard to the Ballpark Village project. The Athletics will be responsible for all costs associated with the direct operation the ballpark throughout the term of the arrangement without any on-going financial obligations required of the City and County to maintain the ballpark.

What does the “limited negotiated assistance from the City and County” imply? Please give a detailed breakup of all assistance to be provided for the ballpark construction and maintenance. 

4.    The new proposal of building the ballpark at the alternate site is decoupled from the original ballpark village project that comprised of residential, retail and elementary school. What will the A's invest in Fremont for its development and growth?

5.    Has the City considered revenues from other types of developments like, commercial buildings, retail establishments or residences in the same location? What would be the return on these compared to the ballpark. Please share the detailed analysis with the residents of Fremont. Also, who will be responsible for the preparation of such analysis – will these be prepared by an independent, reputable third-party. 

6.    What happens if Oakland A’s go bankrupt and ask City for assistance in the maintenance of the ballpark in the future? What kids of risk-mitigation measures or insurances will the City of Fremont take-out to prevent usage if taxpayer money to maintain the ballpark.

7.    Does the current downturn in economic climate factor into decisions by local businesses to set up establishments here to provide increased revenues to the city?

8.       Table III-4 of BallPark Village Economic Analysis says the following:

ATHLETICS FRANCHISE 2005 EMPLOYMENT And Employee Residence By County

Total Payroll in 2005 $10,891,862

Total Payroll (2007 $s)  $11,305,613

Total Employment 432 100.0%

Employee Residence Number Percent

Home County Alameda   207   47.9%

This shows only 47% of payroll IS generated in Alameda county (and not EVEN Fremont specifically). What is the plan for current A’s employees, who presumably reside in cities other than Fremont? Will there be a lay-off of existing employees from other cities with new Fremont employees hired? If not, then how will this increase employment for Fremont residents? Also, what percentage of payroll will actually flow to Fremont city coffers?

9.    What type of jobs will the ballpark create? How many of these jobs will be held for Fremont residents? Research by experts on economics and public policy concur that the benefits provided by such a stadium to a community are often inaccurate and unrealistic. For example, the great majority of the jobs that the stadium creates will be part-time, sporadic, temporary, low-wage, non-union jobs, not the type of jobs the city needs.

10. The A’s and their economic consulting firm ERA have presented their study titled “Analysis of the ECONOMIC AND FISCAL REVENUE IMPACTS OF A PROPOSED BALLPARK VILLAGE ON THE CITY OF FREMONT AND THE ECONOMIC BASE OF ALAMEDA COUNTY”. Has the City of Fremont performed an independent evaluation of the economic impact study? For example, the city of Santa Clara appointed Keyser Marston Associates to do an independent study on the San Francisco 49’ers proposal for a ballpark in the city of Santa Clara.

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