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Oakland presents term sheet for new ballpark; A’s immediately reject it

New Oakland Athletics Ballpark Renderings May 2019

As was expected from positions taken before today’s vote, the Oakland City Council has approved a preliminary term sheet for a new Oakland A’s ballpark–but team President Dave Kaval is rejecting those terms.

Today’s nonbinding vote by the City Council was on a term sheet prepared by city staff outlining Oakland’s expectations for a deal, a vote requested by the Athletics and well before other required steps in the process. The A’s have proposed 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 housing, as well as 1.5 million square feet of office space, 270,000 square feet of retail space, a 400-room hotel, 18 acres of parkland and an estimated $450 million in community benefits. Also, the team would buy the remaining half interest in the Coliseum site it does not own and redevelop that area as well–but that’s not a done deal, either.

The two sides differed mainly in two areas. First, the A’s want to create two tax districts to cover infrastructure upgrades at the ballpark site; one tax district (approved by the city, which has offered to guarantee the A’s would not be responsible for infrastructure improvements tied to the development) would be confined to the ballpark area, while the other (rejected by the city) would cover a wider area outside the ballpark area. Second, the A’s want an exemption to local and state guidelines regarding community development and affordable housing, with the city basically paying for those aspects of the deal out of the second tax district proceeds. This has been rejected by the city; additionally, affordable-housing advocates in Oakland want to see the A’s make an even greater commitment to affordable houses. (The A’s face opposition from a variety of community groups that totally oppose the development, want to see more affordable housing in the development, or pay more in community development funds for the project.) From the East Bay Times:

“The current team sheet even with these amendments is not something the A’s have consensus around,” Kaval said, after complimenting the city staff on working hard to create the latest proposal. “From our perspective, this is not a term sheet that works for the A’s. We had a term sheet we originally proposed. … The current term sheet as its constructed is not a business partnership that works for us.”

The feedback was a blow to the City Council, who expressed their disappointment that the A’s said they wouldn’t get on board with the latest iteration of the terms.

“I’m not exactly sure why we’re even here today,” Carroll Fife, the councilmember representing District 3, where the ballpark’s proposed future home at Howard Terminal is located. “All the hours that went into creating this document, as well as almost three hours of public testimony is just a fraction of the investment that’s gone into this process. … If the A’s are still not happy even after city has bent over backwards … even with how these wealthy owners dont have to pay for infrastructure. I don’t know where we go from here.”

The final vote was 6-1 in favor of the city-prepared term sheet.

The thing is: both sides are squabbling about a nonbinding vote demanded by the A’s but of little practical impact. This is merely the first step of many in what’s already been a drawn-out process. (Big projects take big time.) Alameda County still needs to sign off on any deal, an environmental report still needs to be reviewed, and any final deal needs to be approved by the city as well. Kaval has said the team will continuing pursuit of a new ballpark in Las Vegas as well and has scheduled another trip there for discussions. It would not be surprising if the A’s and Oakland keeps negotiating a Howard Terminal ballpark and continue to lobby officials from the likes of Henderson to keep the pressure on Oakland officials–but it doesn’t seem like the pressure is really having a practical effect.

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