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A’s ballpark referendum denied by Oakland City Council

This anti-ballpark plan was already a long shot, so the outcome was not a complete surprise: the Oakland City Council rejected a public advisory vote on a Oakland A’s ballpark referendum.

The final vote was 5-2. Opponents of the $12-billion Howard Terminal development that would include a $1 billion Oakland A’s ballpark argued that the public deserved a say–albeit a nonbinding one–in whether the project moves forward. Proponents of the Howard Terminal project say that the only public involved in the project would be spent on infrastructure to support the project, and that the funding for the project will be privately financed. Technically, the referendum would not actually address any public spending; instead, it would create an advisory board to recommend public spending on infrastructure spending, adding another layer of oversight to the project.

Proponents of the referendum are hoping for an outcome that will never happen: the A’s staying at the Coliseum. According to the A’s, the choice isn’t between the Coliseum and the downtown waterfront; the choice is between Howard Terminal and Las Vegas. From the Real Deal:

The ballot resolution was introduced by Councilmember Noel Gallo, who prefers the A’s remain at the Coliseum. He said that residents are asking for a say in the process.

“The motion is meant to uphold the city’s long and proud history of providing its residents with the right to have their voices heard directly on major public funding and tax issues through ballot measures,” he explained. “Thousands of Oakland voters have signed petitions that have been delivered to the City Council demanding that the City Council place an advisory question on the November 2022 ballot.”

The A’s are proposing the 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 an industrial site into a mixed-use development.

Still to come: other state approvals from the likes of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, a binding commitment from Alameda County, final approval of a lease and an agreement on community benefits, including affordable housing, tied to the project. We will also see some other political challenges again, including continued calls for the development to be put to a nonbinding public referendum.

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