Last night, the Oakland City Council approved a version of a 10-year A's lease at the Oakland Coliseum similar — but not identical — to the one agreed upon by the club and the Coliseum Joint Powers Authority two weeks ago.
In a 5-2 vote with one abstention, the council passed a modified version of the lease that served mainly to clear up relatively minor points of confusion. The most significant was an issue with the wording of the original lease that cited two figures — $10 million and $20 million — as the posting fee for a developer to pursue redevelopment at the Oakland Coliseum-Arena complex. The JPA had previously agreed upon $10 million, and the lease was amended to make that decision clearer.
The rest of the changes were even less significant — newballpark.org does a good job of chronicling them here.
The long and the short of the lease is this: The A's will pay $1.5 million in annual rent, receive some concessions revenue, pay for stadium operations during the baseball season, and will play at the Coliseum for the next 10 years barring construction of a new baseball or football stadium on the site, in which case there are "out" clauses for the A's to cut the Coliseum lease short. They can also leave should they construct a new baseball stadium elsewhere, a scenario that seems less likely with each passing day. New scoreboards are still slated to be installed at the Coliseum in time for Opening Night 2015.
So why the two dissenting votes, if the lease approved was so marginally different from the one originally put forth? Those votes came from Larry Reid and Noel Gallo, both of whom were concerned that making any changes whatsoever to the lease the A's had agreed to would jeopardize their chances of staying in Oakland.
Put it this way: If a few minor linguistic cleanups prevent the A's from agreeing to this deal, they have no future whatsoever in Oakland anyway. A's President Michael Crowley was in attendance, and he had this to say in today's San Francisco Chronicle:
A's President Michael Crowley, however, said he was "caught by surprise" and "disappointed" that the council had changed the lease terms. Crowley said he couldn't say whether the A's would agree to the changes until he had the chance to review them.
Gallo, who stormed out of the chamber after the vote, said he worried that it would send the A's to another city.
"It is more nonsense," he said. "The City Council is full of nonsense."
In general, Councilmember Gallo, you're right — the City Council is full of nonsense. But this actually seems like a rare case of "bend, but don't break," where the council made some completely reasonable amendments to an agreed-upon lease while refusing to be further bullied by the A's.
It's not a fantastic lease — though it's a picnic compared to what the Raiders do for the City of Oakland — but it's about as good as Oakland could have reasonably hoped for. In this case, it seems that the Oakland City Council has done its job.
And how's this for the microcosm of absurd Oakand politics: When it was the JPA's turn to vote on the nearly identical original lease, Rebecca Kaplan voted no and Larry Reid voted yes. Apparently, when they flip the switch between JPA board member and city council member, their votes flip as well.
Despite Crowley's posturing, the A's will certainly approve this deal, as will Alameda County's Board of Supervisors when asked to do so on July 29. Then comes another obstacle between Lew Wolff and hypothetically, just maybe, redeveloping the current Coliseum site into a complex complete with a new MLB venue, housing, retail, hotels, and other amenities: the Raiders will attempt to negotiate a new lease, likely just a year or two in length, with the JPA at some point following the 2014 baseball season.
Though it's a small one, the Oakland City Council took a step in the right direction last night. The council members held their ground on some minor issues they considered important, didn't let the presence of Michael Crowley and the A's dominance on the public relations front deter them, and approved a lease that the A's would have to invent reasons not to agree to.
Next up is the Raiders. After that, discussions regarding a new ballpark on the site of the current Coliseum Complex can begin.