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Oakland City Council Approves Terms for Howard Terminal Ballpark Plan — But the A's Aren't Happy

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The most recent rendering of the Oakland A's proposed Howard Terminal stadium. (Courtesy of the Oakland A's)

Following hours of pleas from the public to keep the A's in Oakland, the Oakland City Council on Tuesday approved a non-binding financial plan for a new $12 billion waterfront stadium and village at Howard Terminal near Jack London Square.

But the A's were quick to criticize the amended plan, leaving it unclear how much longer the team is willing to negotiate with the city before packing up and moving elsewhere.

“The current term sheet as it's constructed and its current language is not a business partnership that works for us,” Oakland Athletics President Dave Kaval said during the virtual meeting.

He said the A's will take a close look at the city's term sheet, but was disappointed it differed so much from the term sheet the team submitted in April.

In a departure from the A’s proposal, the new plan would require 35% of the project’s housing units be affordable, establish additional environmental protections and tenant anti-displacement safeguards, and include a community benefits fund to support neighborhoods in Chinatown and West Oakland impacted by the development.


It would also create a single large tax district — rather than the two proposed by the team — to generate additional revenue for infrastructure costs, and require the team to stay in the city for at least 25 years after playing its first game at the new stadium.

“To vote on something we have not been privy to and not had time to digest is a difficult thing for us," Kaval said. "It’s hard to understand how that is a path forward.”

Even some of the six councilmembers who approved the deal expressed serious misgivings about it.

"I will say this, if I vote for this today, I’m going to be holding my nose and probably going to the bathroom, throwing up afterwards. I'm not very happy," said Councilmember Dan Kalb.

He said the plan included too many concessions to the team, including not requiring them to contribute to the estimated $352 million in off-site infrastructure and transportation costs, or help pay for the development of most planned affordable housing units. But approving it, he added, would at least "move the negotiations forward" and increase the odds of the team remaining in Oakland.

"And I want to be open to that, even though I have reservations about this site and some skepticism about whether it's actually going to happen or not," Kalb said.

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The approved term sheet allows both parties to continue negotiating, with no set deadline, although pressure to make a deal is mounting quickly after years of often tense negotiations between the team and the city.

The A's recently received permission from Major League Baseball to start looking at other markets if a deal with Oakland can't be reached, and have already met with officials in Las Vegas. Failing an agreement with the city, they would be the third professional sports team to leave Oakland since 2019 — following the departure of the Warriors and the Raiders.

During the meeting, Councilmember Carroll Fife, who represents the district where the proposed development would be, voiced her frustration with the A's, following Kaval's initial rejection of the proposal.

"I'm not exactly sure why we're even here today," said Fife, who ultimately abstained from voting. "If the A's are not happy with what was produced today and are still talking about leaving — after the city has bent over backwards and provided some of their best work in the interest of Oakland residents and come up with all of these concessions, even about how these wealthy owners don't have to pay for off-site infrastructure — I don't know where we go from here."

The proposed project includes a privately financed $1 billion 35,000-seat ballpark at Howard Terminal, along with a village surrounding the stadium that the city says will be paid for through regional, state and federal funds. The development would include 3,000 housing units, over 1 million square feet of commercial and retail space, hotel rooms, an indoor performance venue and 18 acres of open space.

Standing at the windy waterfront site of the proposed mega-development, Mayor Libby Schaaf on Wednesday morning championed the new plan, calling it a win-win for the city and team.

"What the City Council approved yesterday is not just one of the most iconic ballparks that the world will ever see, but an entire, beautiful community-serving ballpark district," Schaaf said. "A new neighborhood, with amazing union jobs, public parks, affordable housing and safety improvements."

She also promised the plan would create significant tax revenue, ensuring the project's financial viability, unlike past sports deals gone bad; Oakland is still paying off the bonds that financed the remodeling of the Coliseum for the Raiders' return in 1995.

"We are doing everything within our power to move this process along in a way that is not just great for the A’s and our A’s fans and the community, but also responsible to the taxpayers," she said. "We are never going to do a Raiders deal again."

The team’s lease at the aging Oakland Coliseum in East Oakland runs through 2024. The league has said rebuilding at the current location is not a viable option.

Several Coliseum employees were among the throngs of residents who called in during the public comment period at Tuesday's meeting.

"Those jobs are very important to us. We got a lot of seniors that work here like myself. And we need that job to make ends meet," a man named Tony, who works at the current stadium, told councilmembers. "You're talking about over 600 jobs that are lost. People are getting displaced again. So we are really asking the council to please vote yes on this issue so we can keep our jobs and continue to live in Oakland."

Other callers, though, like Emily Wheeler, a member of the Oakland Tenants Union, said the team was all "about greed," and urged the city not to capitulate.

"The A’s are like an abusive boyfriend and you need to stand up to them," Wheeler said.


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