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Oakland council member raises potential referendum on $12B A’s ballpark project

Oakland councilperson Carroll Fife, a skeptic of the $12-billion Howard Terminal development that include a billion-dollar Oakland Athletics ballpark, says she may seek a public referendum on the project as part of the November elections.

Fife voted against the certification of the 3,500-page environmental impact report (EIR) on Feb. 17, saying the Council acted in haste in approving such a complex report. In raising a potential referendum, Fife says that community voices need to be heard about the impact of such a major project on minority and underprivileged communities. The Howard Terminal waterfront project is one of the largest development investments in California history, and there are plenty of outstanding issues to be negotiated in the development plan, including the amount of affordable housing and community benefits.

The A’s have proposed a downtown Howard Terminal waterfront development featuring $12 billion in private investment, including a billion dollars for a new 35,000-capacity ballpark to replace the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum as the team’s home. 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. It would represent a massive makeover of the Oakland waterfront, transforming a industrial site into a mixed-use development.

Whether there’s support from other council members for a referendum isn’t clear; Fife says she’s talked to a few council members who are receptive to the idea of a referendum, but that’s hardly a firm commitment. There is the issue of the added expense to add the referendum to the ballot, and the politics are a little murky: passing on a $12 billion private investment on a major project carries some political risks, but raising the specter of a referendum does give Fife a voice during the final lease negotiations. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Last month, Fife voted against certifying the project’s environmental study, expressing concerns over the speed of the process and that residents’ concerns over issues such as traffic and affordable housing aren’t being heard. She said Saturday that she is “not against the project” and that “it deserves serious consideration,” but said there was a history of promises being made and unfulfilled to Black and low-income communities like West Oakland.

“I don’t want to further that,” she said.

About 50 Oakland residents gathered Saturday at Fife’s community meeting, almost all opposed to the A’s proposed ballpark, underscoring the project’s entrenched opposition.

Rendering courtesy Oakland Athletics.

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