The baseball great and his development partner wants to team with a tribal lands developer for the light-on-specifics proposal focusing tribal casino and hotel development on the Coliseum land. Livestream above at 4:20 PM EST December 26th 2020.
A source who wished to remain anonymous sent to this vlogger a seven-page copy of a document called “Confidential Letter of Intent To The City of Oakland. Dave Stewart and LJB Enterprises LLC Development Team”.
As the title suggests, the Oakland A’s baseball star wants to buy the Oakland Coliseum land not already owned by the Oakland baseball organization, but the Coliseum Joint Powers Authority / City of Oakland for $115 Million. LJB Enterprises is out of Michelleville, Maryland, and represented by Laray J. Benton, as its CEO.
The seven page document, submitted to the City of Oakland on November 16th, 2020, lacks any mention of details that I would expect to see in an effort to ostensibly develop land with the intent to maintain sports in Oakland, and build the mixed-use Coliseum City project. This is not so much the fault of Dave Stewart and Laray J. Benton, but of the City of Oakland itself. More about that, later, below.
The document, shown here in my Scribd file and below, also reports that the Stewart / LJB Proposal comes with “Primary National Black, Latinx, and Tribal Development Initiatives” to focus on Tribal Casinos and Resort Hotel, RV Resort, National Black and Latinx Banking, Insurance & Mortgage Lending Development, and HBCU – Tribal Partnerships” and has “national relationships” with Top Golf, Main Event, Wawa Gas Station, Planet Fitness, Starbucks Coffee, Target, CVS, Health Clinics, Marriott, Hilton, and Radison National Hotel Flags.
Offers To Pay $115 Million But Wants Agreement To Be Secured With Just $10,000 Deposit
The Stewart / LJB Proposal states that within 10 days of the execution of the purchase contract, “Buyer”, which is Stewart / LJB, will “deposit earnest money” of $10,000 to a licensed title insurance company of the partnership’s choice. It would be held in escrow, then credited against the purchase price of $115 Million.
Stewart / LJB want a contract review period for the proposal of 180 days, where the City of Oakland would grant the partnership the right to do soils testing, title search, market research, regional and national contractor negotiations, detailed and preliminary site plans and discussions with local planning board staff, and marketing. After that, Stewart / LJB wants an Approval Period of 14 months, punctuated by gaining approvals and building permits, but with two 90-day extension periods, if necessary.
Who Is Dave Stewart?
Dave Stewart is Oakland-born and described this way:
Known for his piercing stare from the pitcher’s mound that frightened batters almost as much as his blazing fastball, Oakland native Dave Stewart was one of the most dominating pitchers of his era. Here’s Dave clobbering the San Francisco Giants in the 1989 World Series:
More recently, Mr. Stewart started a sports agency, called Sports Management Partners, where he landed big-name clients like Oakland A’s third baseman Eric Chavez and MLB stars Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley.
In 2014 Stewart left running the firm to his wife Lonnie Murray, to become the Arizona Dimondbacks General Manager . It was a position he held until 2016 according to Google search results.
There’s no episode of past real estate development in any biography on Dave that I can find to date.
Who Is LaRay J. Benton?
Laray J. Benton is Dave Stewart’s partner in this effort, although a preliminary search reveals no prior business relationship. On the website for County Center Prince George, Mr. Benton says he has over 20 years of proven experience in construction, financing, and accounting. He established LJB Enterprises LLC in 2012. And I found a Linkedin profile connected to Laray J. Benton Nuclear Physicist at US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and revealing a possible life shift; the search revealed a court case where Laray J. Benton sued his employer, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, for racial discrimination. However, it appears that he filed an appeal after the initial outcome. Another Laray J. Benton sued the Bank Of America, and as LJB Enterprises LLC in LJB Enterprises, LLC et al v. Colton et al. One thing’s for sure: the City of Oakland should look out, because from the looks of the search, and I could be wrong, 41-year-old Laray J. Benton is found of using the court system to settle disputes.
All of that said, its hard to find any projects or developments he has actually built. There’s always room for a first time developer, just look at what Phil Tagami did with his first project, the Oakland Rotunda. It’s just a matter of proving, as he used to say “credibility, certainty, and capacity” to do the job.
Proposal Seems To Show County Center Prince George As Model For Oakland Coliseum
While the Stewart / LJB proposal is not specific on the County Center Prince George mixed-use-development in Maryland as a model, the website URL to that project is presented where the eye can’t miss it. In search results on Google, the County Center Prince George is described as “Urban planning department in the Lake Arbor, Maryland”.
The County Center Prince George Development is, as the website reads:
Conceptually encompassing approximately 46 acres just off of the Capital Beltway (I-495), in the heart of Prince George’s County, Maryland, County Center Prince George’s is planned to be a phased and renewable “DC-like” urban development combining Office, Retail, Restaurant, Entertainment, Hotel and Residential uses uniquely in a sprawling suburban environment. Picture a community with unsurpassed architectural quality, a fusion of functionality and finesse that combines an attractive mix of workforce, middle-income, and up-scale housing with world-class offices, restaurants, entertainment, and retailers. Providing over 2 million square feet (SF) niche new construction opportunities, this 24-hour community will buzz with pedestrian traffic on its wide boulevards and the crowd of people in the sidewalk cafes and expansive parks. The result? A quality of life unmatched on the East Coast. LIVE * WORK * PLAY * REVIVE * RENEW
The development site is currently zoned M-X-T permitting variable uses, and has obtained both Conceptual Site Plan (CSP) and Preliminary Site Plan (PSP) approvals. County Center Prince George’s will be the national model for smart growth and sustainable development that will include, 1) Woodmore Medical District with over 404,000 sf of Class A medical office space; 2) Residential District called Woodmore Manor with a mixture of 210 Townhomes of variable size and amenities; and 3) Woodmore Business District will be a mixed-use Business district primarily focused on providing mixed-use Class A office buildings and fully furnished Corporate Condos to support the influx of government employees, contractors, physicians, healthcare staff, medical residents, and visiting clinicians that will be residing into the area with opening of the new Prince George’s County Regional Medical Center.
It is with a great amount of excitement and confidence that we offer a complete package of site activation plans, proven development experience, long-standing domestic and international partnerships, and an overall “walkable community” that will support the relocation of your family or the expansion of your business within the budding Largo, Landover, Mitchellville, and Woodmore community. We challenge you to “Activate and Experience Something Different at COUNTY CENTER PRINCE GEORGE’S.”
And it is reported to have 2 million square feet of space approved for development:
Commercial Office, Retail, Over two (2) Million S.F. of leasable Commercial Office, Retail, Institutional, Conference and Event space has already been APPROVED. See: https://countycenterpg.com/overview/
There’s no news or civic documents or reports posted to confirm that the project has been built, and financing information was not clearly presented, which is not to say that it does not exist. What’s clear, at this point, is a proposal was submitted, and one that clearly now presents a competition for the site. Indeed, it looks more and more like, absent a formal process for developers to apply to buy and build on any city-owned land, it’s a free-for-all, and that take I presented was confirmed by the City of Oakland official responsible for the collection and review of the proposals.
Raymond Bobbitt’s Oakland NFL Ownership Group Being Used By The City Of Oakland
In my opinion, the City of Oakland is using Oakland and San Francisco entrepreneur Raymond Bobbitt’s proposal to form an effort for an black group to bring an NFL team to Oakland, as a tool to gain interest in Coliseum JPA / Oakland land by driving up the price to buy Oakland’s share of it. It looks dirty, underhanded, and mafia-like in its approach.
The City of Oakland’s lack of a true process, where it provides land use information and development objectives, as well as a key to how its approval process works, and all expressed online, opens it to accusations of chicanery. There’s no language specifically prohibiting “pay-to-play” and no boilerplate document pointing out what a potential developer needs to show in order to prove to the City of Oakland that its capable of doing what it says it can do, and if not, what kind of assistance it needs. And that could lead to lawsuits.
Moreover, allowing Ramond Bobbitt’s lofty objectives of a black-owned NFL team in Oakland to be treated in this way, shows that the City of Oakland, itself (including the Oakland City Council and the Mayor of Oakland) does not share the idea that there should be a black-owned NFL team in Oakland. Otherwise, why allow would be white developers to encroach on Bobbitt’s intentions, and then allow in Dave Stewart, who does not appear to share the same desires as Bobbitt.
In all, this is alarming. You have Oakland’s African American Councilmember in East Oakland’s legendary Larry Reid of District 7, presiding, along with Mayor Schaaf and Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan, over an episode in Oakland’s checkered economic development history that says “We’re not interested in black-ownership in sports” by action, even as their words express the opposite intent.
What Oakland should have done, and still can do, is adopt Ray Bobbitt’s objective, where he’s assembled a team paced by Loop Capital that can get it done, as its own, then structure a process by which other would-be developers can play, with Ray Bobbitt’s group as master developer. Then add a group of Oakland business people who can help by reviewing the proposals and providing advice and counsel.
Oakland has to get serious about development and about black ownership in the wake of George Floyd, and stop allowing a free-for-all environment that becomes over-politicized all to quickly. While the Raiders did violate good-faith dealings in how it worked with Oakland, the existence of this free-for-all environment was a good motivator for the organization to leave for Las Vegas.
This is why Warriors Owner Joe Lacob said that San Francisco was aggressive with respect to Oakland, and that it has “challenges” in trying to retain three teams in 2012 when I talked with him at the announcement for what eventually became Chase Center. He was trying to be charitable at the time, and said he did not want to criticize then-Oakland-Mayor Jean Quan, but by praising the work of (now the late) San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Labob was also sending a message to Oakland about its own lack of leadership.
Lacob’s right, and the problem hasn’t gone away with changes in the Oakland City Council or the Office of The Mayor. I’m not saying the Warriors were correct in their actions to move, but, again, the City of Oakland’s lack of process and professionalism caused their behavior. And given that I regard many in both offices as friends, I do not write that with even the smallest amount of joy, but a lot of tears. Oakland, California deserves better and you and I both know it.
Two years before George Floyd, I told Ray Bobbitt that it was better to not say you wanted to have “all-black” NFL and stadium ownership, just form the group that’s all or mostly black, and move forward without pointing to color. My reason was that it seemed just the very mention of the idea offered a weird institutional resistance to the effort. Ray disagreed with me because he wanted the World to see that we, blacks, could do an act normally considered only for whites in America. My feeling was that anyone who believed otherwise was nuts anyway, so it was better to sneak up on them.
Racism is a mental illness.
But now, with the call for black-ownership and business development so much a part of the national dialog that an all-white crowd in Brooklyn marches for it, there’s no reason for such an objective to be a secret. Program after program for business assistance now asks is your company is black-owned or black-managed. For the City of Oakland to not treat Ray with the proper respect and assistance in the middle of all of this would seem to show its more comfortable with the institutional racism that caused The Murder of George Floyd, and The Riders Case, in the first place.
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