Oakland approves its own term sheet, tells world, “It’ll be fine, we’re good for it”

We’ve seen a wide range of reaction pieces in the wake of the Tuesday’s City Council meeting in which the Council voted on their own proposal, not the A’s own plans. The A’s and MLB responded in the negative, which was to be expected. Since then, Howard Terminal supporters took the A’s choice to let their legal team review the City’s proposal and not dismiss it outright as a hopeful sign. Which was, well, also to be expected. The supporters are ready, bent over, crying to the A’s, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

You have to wonder if Oakland likes being bent over

News links:

Ray Ratto on Defector

Scott Ostler in the Chronicle

Mercury News

KQED

NY Times

If Oakland wants to feed that appetite, it should be allowed to do so. It shouldn’t involve Alameda County in any part of it. I liken it to a recent college graduate who didn’t get the dream job right after graduation. Six months into the search, he has an opportunity to get a decent job, one that could give him a good income, pay back his loans, and move out of his parents’ house. All that’s required is a lengthy commute. He has a 2011 Honda Accord as his steed, but trusty as it is, it has 100,000 miles on it. He has designs on a Tesla Model 3. He tried to buy one earlier but found that without an income and a good credit score he’ll need his parents to co-sign the loan. Clearly he doesn’t need the Model 3, but it would make him feel good!

Alameda County, as the parents in this labored metaphor, want to empty the nest, downsize, and travel during retirement. That’s why they sold their half of the Coliseum. The City is holding onto their half despite historically having greater difficulty servicing their share of the Mount Davis debt. Alameda County knew when to call it a night. Oakland can’t do it. After the Tuesday Howard Terminal session, Council entered negotiations sell their half to one of two Black-led developer groups, with an upfront promise of a WNBA team at the vacant Oakland Arena and the future promise of a NFL stadium (AASEG) or a MLB ballpark (Dave Stewart/Lonnie Murray). 

The City will give itself six months to evaluate either bid, then decide on one to enter one of those vaunted Exclusive Negotiating Agreements. The A’s surrendered their position when they shifted completely to Howard Terminal, but thanks to their agreement to buy the County’s half of the Coliseum, they will have their own say in the Coliseum’s future. Six months is fine as I wasn’t planning to cover that deal until the offseason begins.

With that pending distraction on the back burner, let’s take a look at what the City approved during the Howard Terminal session. Out of all the mostly nothingburger was one really important bit of news.

I don’t know what the City and the A’s spent much of the weekend negotiating, but for the City to say they’ll handle the responsibilities of the offsite IFD is a mind boggling bit of capitulation on their part. Let’s take a step back and consider what this really means for the project. First of all, the A’s are essentially not responsible for any of the needed transportation improvements outside Howard Terminal. They’ll handle the cleanup and grading of the 55-acres, sure. The grade separations and other rail safety measures? City’s problem. The transit hub? City. The ongoing cost of whatever shuttles have to be run between the BART stations and the development? Also the City. In a previous post I lamented how the Howard Terminal vision didn’t include the transportation infrastructure onsite. Now that chicken is coming home to roost. You can try to argue how much this tax or that assessment will help fund it, the fact is that it’s the City’s responsibility.

In that capitulation, Oakland still has the temerity to request Alameda County’s participation in the Howard Terminal IFD. Supporters are actually saying the County just has to turn on the faucet and let the tax increment come out. No big deal, right? But they’re forgetting that once the County opts in, they have to create their own Public Financing Authority to run the tax increment collection and governance of Howard Terminal. That’s on top of the existing jurisdiction of the Port. So City is asking County to help create its own Coliseum Jr. on the waterfront. Sounds like a great proposal for a party that wants to get out of the pro sports game, no?

Hello, Coliseum Jr!

Naturally, those infrastructure imperatives will compete with community benefits, which are still being negotiated at the moment, and because they are being tacked on are likely to be the last items in line to be funded if any funding is left over. Maybe in 20 years when the vision is developed and mature, and the collected tax increment catches up. The A’s proposal sets forth $450 million, which all parties will end up competing for like Oakland’s running its own civic funding reality show.

But there’s state and federal funding to be had, right? A Politico report points to $280 million made available by Governor Newsom that could be leveraged for the Port. The report focused on this phrase:

“improvements that facilitate enhanced freight and passenger access and to promote the efficient and safe movement of goods and people.”

What does that mean in the context of Howard Terminal? Expanded ferry service? Maybe, though that doesn’t help the existing fanbase much if at all as most of them aren’t on the water or have access to a ferry terminal. The proposal doesn’t include a new Amtrak station at Howard Terminal. Freight? By repurposing Howard Terminal for commercial and residential use, the A’s and City are taking freight out of the equation except for the possibility of providing funds for the grade separation. Which is great in theory, but doesn’t actually make the Port’s shipping operations more efficient or productive than the status quo.

As for federal funds? Republicans filibustered the first vote on the current infrastructure bill yesterday. It looks like the Democrats will take a shot next week, pairing the bill with a social safety net bill as they try to get it through the Senate. Will it provide the kind of funding this project needs? Tune in next week to see what comes out of the sausage grinder. Note that Congress has its own recess in a week, just like their counterparts in City/County/State government.

As Howard Terminal supporters look far afield for dropped coins to fund this boondoggle, I’m reminded of the lengths Oakland and Alameda County had to go to get the Coliseum complex funded initially. Some things don’t change. It also reminds me of former Mayor Jean Quan’s desperate attempts to get Coliseum City funded by the use of a controversial visa program and also by name checking the “Prince of Dubai.” It isn’t enough to do things on a manageable scale in Oakland. The thirst to become a big city never dies. It evolves into something more wretched, more complex. Who’s willing to co-sign this one?

18 thoughts on “Oakland approves its own term sheet, tells world, “It’ll be fine, we’re good for it”

  1. Man oh man, this sure gets complicated!!!

  2. It looks like the city of Oakland is looking for federal, state, and county grants to avoid the JLS IFD. Government officials at all levels may wish the city of Oakland had approved the original A’s offer and sold the city’s share of the Coliseum to the A’s. I can see why the A’s are actually considering this path, it means less risk for the baseball team.

    As an avid Oakland A’s fan, I am willing to abandon my normal tendency towards fiscal sanity to keep the A’s in town. However, the longer the process is extended, the greater the risk another city will counter with a more concrete attainable alternative. Which of the following cities would be more capable of providing a concrete attainable alternative.

    1. Montreal (largest MSA on this list)
    2. Sacramento (no relocation fee)
    3. Las Vegas
    4. Vancouver
    5. Portland
    6. One of the cities in the Carolinas
    7. Nashville
    8. Salt Lake City

  3. “Howard Terminal….boondoggle,..” End of story, LOL!

  4. I hate to admit it but I would guess Las Vegas because everytime one turns around they’re building new hotels, motels, along with baseball parks!!! No wonder the A’s are disgusted with the Oakland City Council. If the A’s must leave Oakland, I wish it were Sacramento!!! But it looks like Las Vegas is the front runner. It looks like a Texas-sized tug-of-war contest between Oakland and Las Vegas!!! Who’s going to win this match!!! I sure hate to say it, but it appears to be Las Vegas!!! I sure wish it was Oakland or Sacramento!!!

    • @ ML

      “Boondoggle”

      That’s surely objective journalism from you, but since you haven’t been a fan of the idea from the beginning it’s not surprising.

  5. Good article in LA Times as to whether Bay Area can support 2 teams- especially so close geographically. They close the article noting that maybe the gints should pay for A’s relocation costs to Vegas since they will be the beneficiaries. Given that getting the A’s out has always been the long-game fir the hints I definitely agree!

    • Hmmm, could that be the $64 million dollar question??? Just how well can the SF Bay Area support two MLB teams that are only some 13 miles apart??? Heck, the Giants and the A’s are just across the street from each other!!!

    • Everyone’s great at figuring out ways to stick someone else with the check at the end of the night. So convenient. Wake me when you have a truly creative plan.

      • ML

        I have one. See if you can guess.

        Transit hub: got one already.
        Secure parking: got it, HT never will.
        Pedestrian bridge over tracks: got it already.
        Direct access to freeway: got it, HT never will.
        Affordable housing: Home Base/ Malibu can easily hold 5-600 units.
        Community benefits: put the arts center and a grocery store/farmers market in Home Base/ Malibu with the housing. Build pedestrian bridge over 880, and create access to San Leandro Bay.
        Land cost: $85 million. I know a seller who’s in the market.

    • Why the A’s should’ve been allowed to move to $J: 40>13 (miles apart). And if placed properly, the uber-wealthy Bay Area CAN DEFINITELY support two MLB teams. But since the powers that be at MLB continue to have their heads up their @$$, with no change in sight, if ever…

    • Would moving the A’s to Sacramento be a solution for the A’s/MLB?

      1. The A’s wouldn’t have to pay a relocation fee.
      2. The A’s wouldn’t have to build a domed stadium.
      3. The A’s would receive revenue sharing.
      4. Site (next to the railroad station-downtown/old town)
      5. Sensible City Council (evidenced by Golden 1 Center)
      6. Larger MSA than Las Vegas, Portland, or Vancouver
      7. MLB expansion to San Jose still possible in a decade.

      • Sacramento A’s!!! Sure beats the Las Vegas A’s!!! Now Dan if you can just arm twist MLB on this!!!

      • Sacramento lost credibility when it couldn’t come through with funding for a MLS stadium. Ron Burkle backed out of buying Republic FC. That doesn’t reflect well on its chances for a MLB ballpark. Maybe a site opened up if there’s no soccer at the Railyards. The plan to fund it all remains lacking, while the ancillary development goes on without a sports team there. Sac shot their wad on the Kings’ arena. It happens.

  6. Do you know the way to San Jose??? Couldn’t the Giants territorial rights situation be declared null and void just this once??? At least if the A’s had a baseball park in San Jose, they’d still be in the Bay Area. After all, doesn’t San Jose A’s sound better than Las Vegas A’s??? What if???

    • I’m guessing that MLB doesn’t want to risk the Giant’s losing revenue. If the Giants lose revenue after A’s move to SJ, other MLB teams would resist locating another team within a 200 mile radius of their current location.

      While a ballpark at Sleep Train Arena would be less expensive (land and infrastructure would be next to $0), a Sacramento Railyard ballpark would be more dynamic.

      1. Much of the infrastructure is there or in the works
      2. Sacramento pays for remaining infrastructure
      3. A’s pay for stadium (much cheaper than HT)
      4. Sac will get the pro teams with most # of event days
      5. Sac sees dynamic downtown
      6. A’s get strong baseball fans (i.e. River Cats attendance)
      7. A’s get central valley fans delivered by HST.

      Would Sacramento residents be willing to invest in infrastructure for a ballpark when they were hesitant to subsidize MLS?

      1. MLB is more popular than MLS in Sacramento
      2. MLB brings in much more foot traffic (MLS = less than 20 games at 15k per game and MLB = 81 games at 35k per game)

      The addition of a ballpark my be the final cornerstone that prevents the return of pre King’s arena downtown Sacramento.

      • The Giants would never lose “revenue” with the A’s in $J. That’s a myth akin to widespread voter fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election; just thrown out there with absolutely no facts to back it up! But whatever..

      • Re: “7. A’s get central valley fans delivered by HST.”

        Not really at all. Speaking as a central valley resident, light rail only goes as far south as Calvine Rd. Might as well just drive 15-20 more minutes and park at the railyard.

        Now, Pleasanton to the Colosseum or whatever the Giants stadium is called now… that’s totally worth a trip on BART.

        Sacramento’s light rail system really is pretty much just a commuter thing… not really any draw for tourism at all, unlike BART. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the light rail setup when I lived there back in my college days… rode it every day, but I have not been on it since even though I get up there several times a year.

  7. Say Dan!!! You put up a lot of strong arguments all around!!! You’re not afraid to challenge people! That’s a good thing! I encourage you to call up Chris Townsend on A’s Clubhouse and shoot those talking points to him; unless you’ve done that already!!! So keep on challenging people, especially me! It’s always good when people have a good old-fashioned exchange of ideas!!!

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