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Oakland, A’s to resume ballpark talks

New Oakland Athletics Ballpark Renderings May 2019

The city of Oakland and the Oakland A’s will resume talks regarding a term sheet for a new downtown waterfront Howard Terminal ballpark, according to Mayor Libby Schaaf.

It was a quiet return for the Athletics to the negotiating table. After a nonbinding vote by the City Council on a term sheet prepared by city staff outlining Oakland’s expectations for a deal, Oakland A’s president Dave Kaval declared the new term sheet unacceptable: “The current team sheet even with these amendments is not something the A’s have consensus around.” But after examining the term sheet more closely, Kaval softened his stance, saying that the new term sheet deserved closer examination. And so we have the not-surprising return to the negotiating table.

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.

The term sheet passed by the city directly addresses one concern for the A’s, with the city agreeing to cover some $350 million in new infrastructure spending, perhaps with state aid. The city was totally unwilling to exempt the A’s from requirements regarding affordable housing and community benefits, however, and it’s perhaps likely the A’s ownership realized that was a battle that could not be won. Those requirements are popular locally, while state policies regarding affordable housing are taken seriously by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office. It would be hard to see state aid for a large-scale development project that does not include affordable housing.

So the two sides are returning to the bargaining table, per the East Bay Times:

Lawyers representing both sides have agreed to “continue working towards an approved project,” mayor’s office spokesman Justin Berton said.

“Mayor Schaaf and city staff are excited about the progress that is being made,” Berton added. “This moves us one step closer to making the vision of a world-class waterfront ballpark a reality.” No date has been set for resuming the talks, he said.

In a statement released late Friday afternoon, City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas said, “When we return from Council recess in September, I am prepared to continue supporting good faith negotiations with the A’s to achieve an agreement that honors Oakland.”

There really is no down side for the A’s to continue negotiations, past the expense of hiring lawyers: there will be no action on a plan until September at the earliest, and probably later than that after an environmental impact statement is released. The A’s were pressing for an early, quick victory that probably was never going to happen given the number of players involved; big projects take big time.

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