Monday, August 17, 2009

49ers Stadium: Draft EIR, Pt. 4 - Mass Transit and Sandbagging the Numbers...

UPDATE, September 12th: Good news! -- The deadline for public comment on the Draft EIR has been extended from Monday, September 14th to Monday, September 28th:

If you possibly can, please comment
on the DEIR per the instructions in the link above. To get started, check the four posts below, "Draft EIR" - and contact any of us if you have any questions.

--Bill Bailey

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that San Franciscans voted on June 3, 2008, to give full permission for the Hunters Point development to go forward. That development makes a new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers the centerpiece development on a site of 638 acres - in San Francisco - and it gives the 49ers everything they asked for - except for the hundred-million-dollar public cash subsidy they're still demanding from Santa Clarans...

Last week, I spoke with someone familiar with the negotiations over the Hunters Point development in San Francisco.

The mass transit utilization figures for the 49ers stadium at Hunters Point came up in discussions with the MTA - and the 49ers told the MTA people that they didn't believe that MTA could achieve a 20-25% utilization of mass transit at Hunters Point!

Not only that: A survey of transit modes for Candlestick Park over the interval 2002 through 2007 showed a mass-transit utilization of only 18.5%.

O.K., time out:

The 49ers are happy to see us assume a 26% mass transit usage figure here in Santa Clara - but when San Francisco's MTA proposes nearly the very same number for Hunters Point, the team's representatives feign skepticism?

This kind of inconsistency should be setting off a lot of alarm bells, and it should make Santa Clarans deeply suspicious of exactly what went into our own Draft EIR. Sandbagging the mass transit estimates for Hunters Point and inflating those numbers for Santa Clara merely allows stadium supporters to ignore a potential traffic nightmare - affecting homeowners as well as businesses - until it's too late to do anything about it.

We shouldn't be doing business like that.

Santa Clarans, you have until Monday, September 14th, to comment on the Draft EIR, and Santa Clara Plays Fair would like to urge you to speak up:

If you have any questions about the DEIR, or if you need background information for any comments you'd like to submit, please contact us any time.

We'll help in any way we can.

Thanks for all of your support,
Bill Bailey, Treasurer


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

49ers Stadium: Draft EIR, Pt. 3 - Mass Transit

Dear Santa Clarans,

The Draft EIR presumes a 26% usage of mass transit for 49ers game day traffic (See pp. 175-6, Section " Existing Transit Service").

Quick. By a show of hands: Do you believe that number?

One of the ways to rationalize the figure you like is to work backward - not only from the total number of seats in the stadium you want - but also with an eye on the stadium with which your own will be compared.

That's Candlestick Park, of course. As you can imagine, any mass transit utilization significantly lower than San Francisco's on 49ers game days pushes your number of auto trips up.

You can't afford that perception.

This concern isn't new - it was raised as a significant objection by several speakers at the original EIR scoping sessions moderated by City Planning Department Staff back on September 2, 2008. This writer was one of them. Very few people believed the "
one-quarter-will-ride-the-bus" claim even then.

That's why it's a little disconcerting to find it yet unchallenged by the consultants who produced this section of the Draft EIR almost eleven months later.

See "Table 15" on page 176, and note that the occupancy is estimated at 2.7 persons per vehicle.

If we were truly to see that in practice, fine - but the price of being wrong will be yet another unsustainable increase in the vehicular 49ers traffic described in the previous blog post. If the seventeen Northside intersections serving those vehibles are already completely degraded to Level E and Level F already, then for any miscalculation in the mass transit figure, we'll have to invent a whole new Level of Service (LOS) for those intersections: Level G, for "Gummed up".

And it will take only an incremental increase in private vehicles to cause that kind of bedlam.

Considering that the Draft EIR's explicit "mitigation" of that jammed traffic is in fact NO mitigation at all, we're running a real risk if we uncritically accept numbers such as the ones in the report.

To their credit, the authors were quite honest about the fact that no firm commitments for game-day service were made by any transit agencies. With the extremely difficult fiscal state both of our County government as well of of our VTA, this should not be in the least surprising.

Forty-Niners transit service may yet be implemented in the fashion dreamed of in the Draft EIR - but we may be assured that it will be subsidized by County residents far less than we Santa Clarans are expected to subsidize the stadium. If riders find themselves using such a service, they will probably be covering as much of its cost as the VTA feels that they can bear.

To close, I'd like to offer a rather stark thought exercise. It should make us challenge any overly-optimistic figures for bus, light-rail, (and even chartered-coach) usage figures - and it goes like this:

Are the people who can afford $3,000.00 to $6,000.00 for a Personal Seat License in a one-billion-dollar NFL stadium really the ones you're going to see on the 57 bus?

Thank you for your continued support,
Bill Bailey, Treasurer


Thursday, August 6, 2009

49ers Stadium: Why are we Subsidizing the Training Center?

Dear Santa Clarans:

The real truth about Santa Clara's "sweetheart deal" and longstanding subsidy of the 49ers Training Center on Centennial Way has been out there for all to see. But it was sharply underscored in Council comments before the Term Sheet vote in Chambers on June 2nd.

Here's the deal: If you had a chance to secure a 99-year lease on 11 acres of prime Silicon Valley real estate and still pay only $25,000 a year for those 11 acres even after some twenty years, you'd be foolish not to take advantage of any city government foolish enough to offer it. That's what the San Francisco 49ers took from our city over twenty years ago.

The Hyatt Hotel, just up the street, pays $1,465,982 a year for only 1.8 acres: 

The fact that the Hyatt pays 350 times what the 49ers are paying per acre per year is disgraceful, especially in view of the profits earned by the 49ers.

What would be almost comical if it weren't so costly to the city: Stadium proponents are actually selling the stadium as some kind of boost to hotel and tourism in Santa Clara - even though the consultants' presentations of June 23 themselves showed those returns to be mere peanuts:

But there was a more insulting aspect to this total giveaway of the lands under the 49ers Training Center - and I'll simply let the speaker say it in his own words:

"If for some reason we are not able to move forward with our plan in Santa Clara, then there is no guarantee that the training facility will remain at this location."

That's Jed York himself quoted in yesterday's Mercury News - and we heard similar threats over a year ago when the 49ers didn't find our City Council to be deferential enough to the team's completely unreasonable demands.

Frankly, this resident, ratepayer and taxpayer would be pleased if the city would again take rightful control over those 11 acres of land. We could then negotiate a new lease with a new tenant paying Santa Clara far more than what the 49ers are paying us today.

The embarrassing terms of the current Training Center lease are only a subtext to the issue of the stadium subsidy itself - and it reveals what the short-sightedness on these issues will ultimately cost every Santa Claran.

Both subsidies should be halted at once. Please let the Mayor and the City Council know how you feel on this issue: 

Thank you for your support,

Bill Bailey, Treasurer


Saturday, August 1, 2009

49ers Stadium: Draft EIR, Pt. 2 - Street Closures

To Santa Clarans, and to Santa Clarans who work along Tasman Drive:

It sure took us quite a few years to finally get Tasman Drive to fully connect Sunnyvale and Milpitas. Linking technology businesses north of U.S. 101 with their suppliers, employees and customers is a major achievement - and in fact, that one boulevard could be considered a major contributor to the productivity of the people that work along it.

But after all that it took to get that major artery done: We just learned from the 49ers' architect in the July 14th City Council Meeting that,
as a result of 49ers game-day traffic congestion, Tasman Drive is going to be CLOSED to traffic from Centennial Way westward to the hotel, Convention Center and Great America entrances.

I guess that's what we call "mitigation".

Sure enough, this closure was finally revealed fully in the Draft EIR (main memo), . If you want to see this graphically, please turn to page 186 in the report and examine, "
Planned Road Closures and Intersection Control" / "Figure 61".

It's not convenient for stadium supporters to acknowledge it: But this is a productivity hit for the very technology businesses that often rely on the ability of their employees to reach their workplaces well outside the usual nine-to-five window. It's part of the way we work here in the Valley - and it's the way we produce. It doesn't matter that it's on 49ers game days - it shouldn't be happening at all.

It's the last kind of economic activity that should be in any way hindered by a football game, of all things.

As if that weren't enough: The Draft EIR (main memo), same map, also made clear the real impact of 49ers traffic on the residents of the Agnew neighborhood. If you live in Zip Code 95054, note that
as a result of 49ers game-day traffic congestion, Agnew Road will be CLOSED to through traffic from Lafayette Street to Mission College Boulevard.

Also, seven checkpoints along Lafayette Street will control access to residential areas eastward of the Agnew area.

Be prepared to show your Driver's License to enter or leave your own streets on 49ers game days and major-event days.

In sum: It's simply disingenuous of the "stadium spenders" to tell us that the infrastructure we have is just "ready-made" for an NFL stadium -
and in the next breath, to tell us that we're going to pay $114 million in subsidies so that a major thoroughfare serving far more productive and beneficial businesses will be completely blocked anytime the 49ers are playing.

Thanks for your support,
Bill Bailey, Treasurer


49ers Stadium: Draft EIR, Pt. 1 - Traffic

Dear Santa Clarans,

The Draft EIR for a publicly-subsidized 49ers stadium was released on Thursday morning, and of course, it runs to many hundreds of pages. But it's certainly worth opening up the exhibits to see in detail the environmental degradation caused by an NFL stadium - especially a stadium our leaders intend to subsidize with hundreds of millions of dollars in public cash and in sums guaranteed by Santa Clara agencies:

The traffic problems
alone should give anyone, especially Santa Clarans living - and working - north of U.S. 101, reason for great concern. The main memo is a rather plump 373 pages, but it's worth it:

I urge all of those interested to load it up anyway! Stop by the kitchen for a cup of joe, and then examine the charts, tables and conclusions you'll find in the document above. From here on, I'll reference
page numbers at the bottom of each page plus the titles, which will make the city's own data easier to find:

Page 203, " Summary of Significant Traffic and Transportation Impacts" - An NFL stadium will cause significant adverse impacts at SEVENTEEN traffic intersections near the stadium.

Traffic control for this massive flood of cars will be provided by a multi-city police force of some 160 officers. "Adverse impact" is measured by intersection Level of Service, or LOS, which is measured in seconds of delay per vehicle. Those delay times will increase anywhere from two to five times as a direct result of 49ers traffic, with Level A being the fastest travel and Level F the slowest and most congested.

49ers traffic degrades all seventeen intersections to Levels E or F - and that's real traffic congestion.

Also, the authors try mightily to sever the impacts of Sunday NFL games from the impacts of weekday games - but 20,364 vehicular trips are 20,364, no matter what day of the week they're on. See Table 15 on page 176 for a very good summary.

As a result, I'm simply not buying the claim that NFL events will cause impacts that severe on a mere four days a year. It should be pretty clear that those days of congestion will be the rule for all NFL events and for all of the other major events which attempt to "fill" a stadium.

There's a word you're going to hear misused frequently when stadium supporters try to rationalize some of the real environmental problems caused by an NFL stadium, and that word is "
mitigation". But note from report page 203, near the top, "The project does not, therefore, propose to implement any of the physical improvements described below."

Apparently, that means that we're going to "
mitigate" the worst kind of traffic jams on Northside intersections by simply putting police officers in the middle of them - paid for by a Santa Clara Stadium Authority, yet to be formed.

In sum: From the standpoint of the traffic congestion alone, Santa Clarans are entitled to ask why we're settling for such degradation in the quality of life in our city's northern neighborhoods
- and why we're paying $114 million in public funds for the privilege.

Thanks for all of your support,
Bill Bailey, Treasurer