OAKLAND -- After months of uncertainty over the future of the A’s long-term home, there was hope that Tuesday’s Oakland City Council vote regarding the team’s proposal for a new waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal would bring clarity to the situation.
It did not exactly do that.
Following hours of public discourse, as well as comments from City Council members and A’s president Dave Kaval, six of eight council members voted in favor of a non-binding offer sheet for the stadium project, signaling an approval of the proposal. But with a catch.
The sheet was amended by the City Council to include requirements for affordable housing, anti-displacement protections and environmental measures and, as voted upon, was not a plan the A’s were prepared to support, although Kaval still hopes to reach an agreement before the council goes on summer recess in August.
“This is the first time we’ve seen those amendments, so we’re still digesting some of those things,” Kaval said. “We’ve moved and made concessions. The city has made concessions. But I think it’s important to remember that the current term sheet, even with these amendments, is not something the A’s have consensus around. It’s not a term sheet that we’ve proposed with edits that we have come together in mutual agreement, and I just really want to stress that voting 'yes' on something that we don't agree with, or that we don't have consensus around, is not an effective path forward.”
Basically, all that Tuesday’s "yes" vote accomplished was to keep the door open to continued negotiations between the city and the Athletics. A "no" vote would have effectively ended hopes for the Howard Terminal project and put the A’s on the path to relocation.
A financial plan released by city staff on Friday laid out the main issue that is currently dividing the two sides. It centers around how to go about paying an estimated $352 million in offsite transportation improvements and infrastructure upgrades. During Tuesday’s presentation, Oakland assistant city administrator Elizabeth Lake pointed out that the infrastructure costs could be covered by local, state, federal and other regional funds, which would allow the A’s to be reimbursed for any spending on their part. But the A’s and the city disagree on how best to do this.
“I really want to work with the council to see how we can get something we agreed to vote on before the recess, as opposed to voting on something that doesn’t work for our side.” Kaval said. “We’re very keen on moving this process forward, getting a 'yes' vote on something that we agree with and working in tandem to create this incredible vision and making it a reality.”
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has given the A’s the green light to explore options if this plan falls through. In the aftermath of Tuesday’s vote by Oakland City Council, Manfred released the following statement: “For the last four years, at my request and urging, the Athletics have invested significant resources and have made a major commitment to their community in the hopes of remaining Oakland’s only major professional sports franchise. We are disappointed the City Council chose to vote on a proposal to which the A’s had not agreed. We will immediately begin conversations with the A’s to chart a path forward for the club.”
Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf believes the vote marked a significant step in the right direction. Schaaf explained further in a joint statement released with Oakland City Council president Nikki Fortunato and vice mayor Rebecca Kaplan:
“Today’s vote by the City Council marks a milestone in our mission to keep the A’s rooted in Oakland and build a world-class waterfront ballpark district that will benefit the community for generations to come. Based on our extensive negotiations, shared values and shared vision, we believe the A’s can and should agree to the terms approved by the City Council today. This is the path to keeping the A’s rooted in Oakland in a way that protects our port and taxpayers, and will produce the benefits our community demands and deserves.
“We look forward to continue working with the A’s to address their remaining concerns and to focus now on developing a final Environmental Report and binding Development Agreement that address the complex details of this visionary project.”
The A’s proposed project at Howard Terminal includes a plan for 3,000 new homes in addition to a new 34,000-seat stadium, 18 acres of new parks and open spaces all around the area. The current lease on the Oakland Coliseum, the A’s home since 1968, expires in 2024. Though some view the Coliseum grounds as an acceptable site to build a new facility, the A’s and MLB have both taken the position that the location is not a viable option for the future of the club.
In May, following the guidance of Major League Baseball, the A’s began exploring other cities as options for possible relocation. While further negotiations between the A’s and Oakland appear to be on the table for the next month, Kaval will continue conversations with Las Vegas and its surrounding areas in Nevada as part of those alternative plans, with a trip to southern Nevada planned for later this week.