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A’s Howard Terminal ballpark may come down to tax districts

New Howard Terminal rendering (3)

The future of a proposed Oakland A’s Howard Terminal ballpark proposal may come down to whether or not the city and Alameda County agree to two new tax districts, including one outside the project area.

The A’s ownership has negotiated many parts of a term sheet committing the city and the team to what could potentially be a $12-billion development at the downtown Howard Terminal waterfront site. The proposal, first unveiled three years ago, calls for a Howard Terminal waterfront development that, according to the team, will feature $12 billion in private investment, including a billion dollars for a new 35,000-capacity ballpark to replace the Coliseum. The development would also include 3,000 units of affordable housing, as well as 1.5 million square feet of office space, 270,000 square feet of retail space, a 400-room hotel, and an estimated $450 million in community benefits. The team is asking the city for $855 million in infrastructure improvements. Also, the team would buy the remaining half interest in the Coliseum site it does not own and redevelop that area as well.

What’s currently up for debate: the creation of two different tax districts–one covering the Howard Terminal development site, one for the general area–that would be used to address infrastructure needs for the project. There doesn’t seem to be much debate about the tax district within the confines of the Howard Terminal project, but the proposal for an expanded tax district extending to Jack London Square and additional waterfront–areas that might not actually see much direct benefit traced directly to the ballpark project. From the San Jose Mercury News:

If formed, properties within the so-called “enhanced infrastructure financing districts” are assessed, and the tax money from annual increases in their value is funneled directly into project-related uses and affordable housing instead of being distributed entirely to local governments and special districts. The revenue generated from the two districts would be used to repay the A’s for infrastructure costs.

At a meeting before the Alameda County Board of Supervisors last month, Assistant City Administrator Betsy Lake said it would not be “fiscally responsible” for the city to create a tax district outside the project site, in adjacent Jack London Square.

The city has asked Alameda County to opt in to the tax district to contribute its share of property tax revenue to fund infrastructure. In documents included in the Tuesday meeting packet, Oakland city administrators say without help financial from the county, the proposed development is “most likely” a “dead deal.”

In addition, the city has an additional demand for the A’s: That the team commit to the city for 45 years. Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval, while stressing the need for both tax districts backed by both the city and the county, did not express opposition to this commitment, but said it requires MLB approval.

The Oakland City Council is set to discuss the nonbinding term sheet for a new ballpark on July 20, but Alameda County—which has been asked to weigh in on any ballpark project—won’t even schedule a vote on any proposed tax district before September. The July 20 meeting could well lead to some sort of non-binding agreement but won’t come close to settling any issues.

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