Oakland residents denied vote on A’s stadium project

City officials to determine how public money should pay for infrastructure

Oakland Athletics' president Dave Kaval and a rendering of the new A's stadium at Howard Terminal in Oakland (Getty Images, Twitter/Oakland Athletics, iStock)
Oakland Athletics' president Dave Kaval and a rendering of the new A's stadium at Howard Terminal in Oakland (Getty Images, Twitter/Oakland Athletics, iStock/Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal)

The Oakland City Council voted against giving residents a direct say in funding decisions for development of a new A’s stadium at the Howard Terminal.

The council rejected a measure to put on the November ballot the question of whether public funds should be used to pay for public infrastructure costs related to the project. City officials are now set to determine how public funds will be used if the development moves forward.

The meeting comes days after the project passed a critical vote to allow the port land to be used for non-port-related development.

In the City Council meeting, five members voted no, two voted yes and one abstained. The measure would have created an advisory board to recommend the amount and purpose of public funds to be used in the project, based on community support. The council members who voted against the measure cited vagueness of the measure and Loren Taylor bluntly stated “the ballot question is stupid.”

“We’re not setting ourselves up for success with what is being proposed, and that’s my fear and concern,” he said.

None of the public money would be used for construction of the privately financed ballpark. Rather, the public would be investing in infrastructure that hopefully would benefit the community.

The grand plan for Howard Terminal would make it one of the largest developments ever in California, centered around the 35,000-person ballpark that would host the Oakland A’s. However, the baseball team, acting as the project’s developer, has promised to create a mixed-use neighborhood around the stadium. The plans include 3,000 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space, 270,000 square feet of mixed retail, cultural and civic functions, a 3,500-seat performance theater, a 400-room hotel and 18 acres of public open space. The project will also include a certain percentage of affordable housing.

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The city has already applied for more than $300 million in state funds and is actively seeking more money from the state and federal governments to fund the public infrastructure work.

“The ballpark is funded, but it is one twelfth of the plans; there is a lot more that will need to be funded,” Councilmember Carroll Fife said. “Last I heard from the A’s is that there is going to be an additional $300 million needed to fund this project.”

The ballot resolution was introduced by Councilmember Noel Gallo, who prefers the A’s remain at the Coliseum. He said that residents are asking for a say in the process.

“The motion is meant to uphold the city’s long and proud history of providing its residents with the right to have their voices heard directly on major public funding and tax issues through ballot measures,” he explained. “Thousands of Oakland voters have signed petitions that have been delivered to the City Council demanding that the City Council place an advisory question on the November 2022 ballot.”

The city and the A’s have not been able to agree on some key components of the development. One of the main differences is determining how many affordable housing units will be built. While the city is looking at 15 percent, the A’s have been consistent in committing to 5 percent. Proponents of the development fear that if residents voted “no” on the question of public funding, it would delay securing the financing needed to complete the project.

Bjarke Ingels Group is the leading architecture firm for the design and construction of the development plan for the project.

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