Another week, another reckoning. This time it’s Alameda County’s turn to hold the fate of the Oakland A’s in its hands, if that can be believed. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors *might* take a vote to approve taking part in the Howard Terminal EIFD. An approval would allow the County to be a party to the bonds/loans that have to be raised for the infrastructure on the $12 Billion project. In case you need a refresher, here are some links that pertain to Tuesday’s meeting agenda to the June meeting:
There are a handful of things you should know before you attempt to watch the meeting or follow any further coverage. First, let’s remember that the Board of Supervisors *may* choose to *decide* whether or not to make a *non-binding* resolution in support of the project. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen anything that non-committal since 90’s-era Julia Roberts movies.
During the June meeting, Supervisor Richard Valle (D2-Hayward/Union City) thought the item could be raised in September, after the County came back from summer recess. Obviously that didn’t happen and the item was mysteriously pushed back further and further until Valle and fellow Supervisors David Haubert (D1-Fremont/Pleasanton) sent a letter to their colleague Keith Carson (D5-Oakland/Berkeley). The reasoning was supposedly that the County needed to wait until it received the results of a study on the direct economic impacts of Howard Terminal. That study came at the end of October. It said that the County will receive over $5 million per year after paying off the EIFD bonds.
Discussion of a ballpark-cum-ancillary development’s short and long-term economic impacts are one thing. At some point, if this is to move forward with Alameda County signing on, this will also become a real negotiation between Alameda County, the City of Oakland, and the A’s. It’s not enough for the City to make claims about how much money the County will get out of it. The fact is that the City can’t do this on its own. They need the County to partner up in order to make the revenue flows work. And so far, the City has seen fit to dismiss the second IFD that the A’s wanted in the their own proposal. City says they can cover the $350 million cost, though their are few specifics and the sources appear to be mostly state and federal funds. The County will probably counter with its own demands, which are sure to raise some eyebrows. The project is currently structured so that all of the major transportation improvements other than the new streets inside the project area have to be built and funded off-site. The transit hub is one. The gondola would be another, especially if it is extended across the Estuary. A pedestrian/bike bridge across the Estuary is a very good potential ask or sticking point. Same goes for additional transit improvements from elsewhere in the East Bay. Already the A’s are debating the merits of bus shuttles from the West Oakland and Lake Merritt BART stations.
Beyond the project needs, the discussion is a good opportunity for Carson (and perhaps Nate Miley) to get on his soapbox and rail again about how Oakland is asking Alameda County to get involved. I don’t think he’ll vote no; frankly, no public figure wants to be the crucial vote that evicts the last major pro sports franchise from Oakland – if that narrative is to be believed. But Carson can and should complain that Oakland has put Alameda County in this position when they weren’t involved at all not even a year ago. And so I expect Carson to go off like Frank Costanza at Festivus dinner with a proper airing of grievances. Supervisor Wilma Chan (D3-Alameda), whose district might get the some of the most severe traffic impacts, is effectively the swing vote. If the Board gets to the point of taking a vote, it should be yes. Yet again, it will be another overly dramatized debate to move the discussion a tiny bit. It’s the equivalent of getting a leadoff walk when you know that guy’s not going to be driven in without a home run. Based on how the 2021 season transpired, A’s and Giants fans are all too familiar with that.
Assuming this goes through, what and when is the next manufactured crisis?
P.S. – Have you noticed all of the letters of support from East Bay cities that aren’t Oakland? Have you noticed a pattern? Howard Terminal has the support of the mayor, who as we’ve noted before, is a lame duck and has an undeserved legacy of losing franchises. The two local pols who otherwise directly represent the Howard Terminal area, Supervisor Carson and Oakland Councilperson Carroll Fife (Oakland District 3), are not exactly out with pom-poms. No doubt some of that tepid support comes from Port interest pressure. Ironic, then, how the greatest support comes from the furthest away? It’s probably more like the A’s ticket base than we’re comfortable admitting.