San Jose officials have decided not to seek voter approval of a new A's baseball stadium in November, after the team's co-owner said he'd rather wait for baseball officials to indicate whether the A's would be allowed to move to the South Bay.
Given the uncertainty over when that decision might come, Mayor Chuck Reed now says he would ask voters to weigh in no sooner than March 2010 — which is also when neighboring Santa Clara could be voting on a San Francisco 49ers stadium deal.
Voter say-so would be required for San Jose to cut a deal on downtown land eyed for a $500 million A's stadium. Reed had first raised the prospect of a November vote last month — a target that, because of ballot deadlines, would have given the city only weeks to assemble a basic agreement with team co-owner Lew Wolff.
"A ballot issue in November is premature. We're not prepared," Wolff told MediaNews last week, hours after appearing at City Hall. Specifically, Wolff noted that a Major League Baseball panel still studying the A's stadium options in the East Bay is "not done with their work yet."
Wolff needs baseball's permission to move to Santa Clara County, currently a part of the San Francisco Giants' territory. He had previously speculated that baseball might decide the issue by the end of this season, but last week he wouldn't comment on when a decision might come.
Despite Wolff's caution, city officials — especially at the redevelopment agency, which controls most of a proposed 14-acre stadium site near the Diridon Caltrain station — are moving forward on preparations for baseball.
Chiefly, the agency remains in negotiations for two remaining parcels, assistant director John Weis said. Once the city acquires that land, officials will be able to come up with a market value for the stadium site that would be part of any ballot measure.
Also on tap is an update of the 2007 environmental report that cleared the site for use as a ballpark. That update, informed by the work of a panel of neighbors and business interests from the Diridon area, is due out July 2 — the same day as a new economic study on the project.
Reed had always acknowledged that tying up all those loose ends before August, the deadline for the City Council to place an item on this fall's ballot, would be difficult.
Now, Reed will ask the council merely to review those reports in August while officials decide which of three 2010 election dates — March, June or November — makes the most sense politically.
"A lot of analysis needs to be done," he said. "You put it on when you have the best chance to win. I'm trying to make sure the city is prepared to go whenever that is."
Each potential date raises its own intriguing set of pros and cons, political observers and city officials said.
Conventional wisdom suggests the city will wait for a high-turnout election such as next November, when voters will select a new governor and weigh in on City Council races that aren't settled during the June primary. Either November or June also would allow more time for baseball to settle the territorial rights issue.
Conversely, council members, including Reed, might be loath to contend with a stadium vote while focusing on their own re-election campaigns. In that scenario, they'd seek a special election in March. That might also find favor with baseball officials, who traditionally avoid such publicity during baseball season.