OAKLAND — Efforts to keep the A’s in Oakland got a boost late Tuesday night when the Alameda County Board of Supervisors tentatively agreed to opt into a plan that would pave the way for a new waterfront ballpark .
The board’s 4-1 non-binding vote signals the county’s intention to join the city in forming a financing district to contribute a significant portion of property taxes generated by the project to pay for the infrastructure of a new ballpark as well affordable housing, public parks and other components of a planned village at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal site.
For months, city officials have implored the county to participate in the financing plan, which they said is crucial to keeping the A’s in Oakland because the team has flatly stated it doesn’t intend to remain at the Coliseum site after its lease expires in three years. The team has been threatening to move to another area, possibly Las Vegas, if it’s not reimbursed for project infrastructure costs.
“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,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a written statement issued immediately after the supervisors’ vote.
The city this spring asked the county to join it in forming an infrastructure financing district around the HowardTerminal site that would funnel a portion of property tax growth to the A’s over the next 45 years.
Without the county’s share of the additional tax revenue, city officials have said there wouldn’t be enough money to cover the infrastructure costs of the ballpark and a village of 3,000 homes, offices, hotels, a performing arts center, open space and parks.
The supervisors balked when asked in June to go along, saying they felt rushed and wanted staff to further explore the financial terms being negotiated by the city and the A’s.
And during Tuesday’s meeting that lasted several hours, the supervisors still had plenty of questions.
Board President Keith Carson, who voted against forming the tax district, said the county faces other pressing needs that require funding.
“Once we take a political nonbinding position, it’s almost impossible to take this away,” Carson said . “We’re really risking taking away dollars from (somewhere else).”
An analysis by the city of Oakland and its hired consulting firm, Century Urban, found that the county would get roughly $67 million in new one-time revenue during the Howard Terminal construction phase and $5.4 million in annual revenues after that.
But County Administrator Susan Muranishi’s office estimated the county would get a net of just over $2 million per year from the project and end up contributing more for infrastructure than the city. She didn’t provide any advice or recommendation, however.
The county currently gets about $70,000 per year in tax revenue from the Howard Terminal site.
In their vote, the supervisors called for the A’s to fund a financial analysis of how an infrastructure tax district would impact the county.
Some supporters of the project told the supervisors that if the county doesn’t opt into the plan there might be no ballpark and consequently no additional tax revenue.
In a letter sent to the county in August, City Administrator Edward Reiskin emphasized that Oakland needs to know where the county stands for it to complete any deal with the A’s.
“In order for the City and Port to complete negotiations with the A’s and bring forward a package of final documents, including the Final EIR, for consideration by the Council and Port Board, it is essential that all parties have an understanding of the County’s intentions with regards to the IFD,” Reiskin wrote.
A’s President Dave Kaval said during the meeting that ongoing negotiations between the city and the team “involve things like infrastructure, whether or not the county will participate, community benefits, affordable housing, and then some of the provisions around transportation.”
Kaval, who has traveled to southern Nevada and often reminded Oakland of the team’s interest in possibly moving there, said “we are under a lot of pressure from Major League Baseball to get to an answer” about Howard Terminal.
Even with the supervisors’ decision to join forces with Oakland in creating an infrastructure financing district, other significant steps must be taken before a ballpark can be built.
The city is working on the final environmental impact report, which it hopes to complete by the end of the year, according to Schaaf.
In addition to approving that report, the City Council would have to OK a development agreement with the A’s. Meanwhile, state regulatory bodies like the Department of Toxic Substances and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission would have to chime in too, and the Port of Oakland would need to determine if the project is compatible with seaport operations.
Port workers and shipping companies at the port say it’s not.
“We’d ask you to hold the A’s to their word that they’ll be moving forward without risk to the port,” Mike Jacob, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, told the supervisors.
In a written statement after the board vote, the East Oakland Stadium Alliance — which consists largely of port workers and shipping companies that operate at the port — said “the Board should not commit millions of public tax dollars toward a private project that will displace West Oakland residents, put thousands of working-class union port jobs at risk, and jeopardize the county’s long-term financial stability.
“We are confident that upon having additional time to do a thorough analysis the Board will come to understand the overwhelming negative implications of this proposal and decline to move forward.”
Supervisor Wilma Chan said that although she’s concerned about issues such as seaport compatibility, the affordability of housing proposed for the site, and the A’s intent to charge interest for the infrastructure costs they would front, “this is a nonbinding intent. There will be future votes or we can step away.”