The Oakland A’s ballpark project at Howard Terminal took a big step forward on Tuesday.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of a non-binding resolution that supplies some necessary funding for the project. The vote signifies progress for the plan, and with it continued hope of keeping the team in Oakland.
Quick background: In July, the Oakland City Council approved a term sheet for the Howard Terminal project, but it left a gap in funding compared with the terms the A’s had proposed. The idea to fix that was for the county to opt into a tax district that would earn it extra new revenue, some of which would then be used for the project’s remaining infrastructure costs. Such a plan would require a vote by the county’s Board of Supervisors.
The Board met on Tuesday to discuss the matter, and seven hours later they took a vote. The result was a “Yes” with four of five members in the affirmative. The terms are not binding, but the decision means the project has enough support to proceed to its next steps.
Here’s some info from the City of Oakland’s website to help explain why this vote happened and what it will mean for everybody:
The City of Oakland has asked Alameda County to take action and express their intent to opt in to the Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District (EIFD) over the Waterfront Ballpark District at Howard Terminal. ...
The proposed project will add — not divert — resources for critical public health and safety services. It will create $65M ADDITIONAL, one-time revenues for County services and more than $5M EVERY YEAR in additional annual revenues for health care, early childhood education and homelessness. These are funds that would not be available “but for” the development of the proposed project. Additionally, the proceeds will pay for desperately needed affordable housing, public parks, and public infrastructure. ...
The project is paid for with “but for” taxes – the EIFD does not raise taxes, divert existing taxes, or utilize any tax revenues other than those generated onsite by the project itself.
Furthermore, the “taxpayer” in this case is the developer – the A’s. It is the developer’s increased property taxes – resulting from development of the site itself – that will be captured and used to fund [various public benefits]. ...
The County is being asked to help finance critically needed public infrastructure, public parks, and affordable housing. The County is not being asked to get back into the sports business. The City and County would have no role in the financing, ownership, or management of the proposed Waterfront Ballpark at Howard Terminal, which, unlike the Coliseum, will be entirely privately funded, maintained, and operated.
For an idea of the stakes of last night’s vote, Casey Pratt of ABC7 put it like this earlier Tuesday afternoon:
A YES vote opts the County into the on-site infrastructure funding. The County would receive millions in tax revenue.
A NO vote would essentially bury this stadium project and likely mean the end of the A’s in Oakland.
Wednesday morning, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf released a statement praising the county’s decision:
Tonight’s vote by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors is a historic action that creates a clear path to keep the A’s rooted in Oakland and build a world-class waterfront ballpark district that will benefit Bay Area residents for generations to come.
The vote supports a financial framework that will produce incredible community benefits, including 18 acres of new public parks along the waterfront, desperately needed affordable housing, and great union jobs – and all while protecting our taxpayers from the mistakes of the past and keeping our Port thriving and active. The City and County now stand to earn tens of millions of dollars in new revenues from an underutilized piece of land – revenues that would never exist without the development of the future waterfront ballpark district.
Today’s support from Alameda County makes it clear to Major League Baseball that our region is all in to keep the A’s rooted in Oakland. We look forward to continue working with the A’s, and to issuing a final Environmental Impact Report by the end of this year as well as negotiating a binding Development Agreement. We will return to City Council for a final vote as swiftly and prudently as possible.
During the Tuesday meeting, Schaaf made an important historical parallel amid her endorsement of the project (via Pratt):
“This is not the Raiders deal. We all learned from our mistakes of the past. This is financially responsible.”
Click here to watch the Board’s final deliberations before the vote, courtesy of Brodie Brazil of NBCS.
The project creates 18 acres of new public parks along our waterfront, affordable housing + great union jobs. Tonight’s support makes it clear to @MLB: Our region is all in to keep our beloved @Athletics in Oakland. 2/3— Libby Schaaf (@LibbySchaaf) October 27, 2021
This was by no means a final step, but it was both major and necessary. It cleared the last significant financial hurdle in the mostly privately financed project, which now has non-binding support from both the city and the county, and not a moment too soon because this was the last chance to get that done.
Pressure has mounted all year as the A’s have negotiated this deal, and in the meantime the team has followed through on threats to explore the idea of relocation in Las Vegas. Two weeks ago, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was still casting doubt on the situation, commenting, “we’re not sure we see a path to success in terms of getting something built in Oakland.”
Now that path has become clearly visible again, with time left to keep following it. Manfred spoke this morning about the latest update (via Pratt): “The affirmative vote is a positive step. The A’s will continue to pursue the Oakland project as well as the Las Vegas alternative.”
Here’s a quick rundown from Pratt:
They have to get through this vote. Then finalize the EIR and Development Agreement. Then the planning commission. Then put it to some binding votes (City, County, Port). So yeah.
And the rough timeline:
• EIR — by the end of 2021
• Development Agreement — early 2022
• Binding City Council, County, Port votes — TBD
Another note from Pratt about last night’s non-binding vote:
While the vote was non-binding, they smartly acknowledged during the meeting that it may as well be binding because it’s politically tough to change your vote. There is still work to be done, though. That’s for sure.
The stadium saga has extended for two decades now, and we’re three years into this latest episode at Howard Terminal. It’s still not over, and Vegas still threatens, but the roots grew a little bit firmer in Oakland last night.