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With end of year looming, new A’s ballpark talks down to the wire

Howard Terminal ballpark

With October and the end of the year looming, talks between the city of Oakland and the Athletics ownership concerning a new A’s ballpark over infrastructure spending and a lease are coming down to the wire.

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.

After court wins by the A’s and the city, the path is cleared for the final deal for the development. The A’s are seeking public spending for infrastructure improvements. We’ve been reporting for months that the team is seeking a deal by the end of 2022, but there are some serious issues to be addressed:

Next up: other state approvals from the likes of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, a binding commitment from Alameda County, and final approval of a lease and an agreement on community benefits, including affordable housing, tied to the project. This last step will be a major challenge to both sides: the A’s have fought city proposals on community benefits and affordable housing, but in today’s political climate, it may not be possible to win that fight for the Athletics.

The city is warning the two sides are far apart on community benefits and affordable housing, with no more money to be put into infrastructure upgrades. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

City Administrator Ed Reiskin said negotiations would have to be completed within the next week or so to get a final vote from the City Council before the end of the year — which is what the A’s have been hoping for. But with outstanding issues still on the table, it’s unclear if the two sides will reach an agreement this year.

“The timeline is very, very tight to do that,” he said, adding that the city is “doing everything in their power to get a good deal for Oakland.”

Oakland has already pledged $320 million in infrastructure upgrades–an amount deemed sufficient when the original agreement was signed, but now seem as being inadequate now due to rising construction costs.

Both sides have made a major commitment to the project, especially after winning two serious legal challenges to the project. Potentially, the city could issue limited obligation bond to cover increased costs; these would not be backed by the city’s general funds, making them more speculative but not posting a threat to taxpayers. Also, on the other side, the A’s could pledge more and cover some or all of the infrastructure spending past the city’s pledged funds.

Deadines, of course, create a sense of urgency when it comes to huge deals like this. Whether it create a better deal or merely an adequate deal remains to be seen.

Rendering courtesy Oakland A’s.

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