Oakland Mayor Schaaf says she believes A's want to stay in Oakland despite team's objections to city vote


San Francisco Chronicle 21 July, 2021 - 07:50pm 9 views

Are the A's leaving Oakland?

The A's are the last professional franchise remaining in Oakland after the NBA's Golden State Warriors relocated to San Francisco and the NFL's Raiders to Las Vegas. The Washington PostOakland OKs terms for $12B ballpark but A's aren't happy

Mayor Libby Schaaf said Wednesday she feels confident the A’s want to stay in Oakland and that the city has met most of the team’s demands in the development framework approved Tuesday for a $12 billion waterfront ballpark and development. But A’s officials, who were in Las Vegas scouting a potential new location, declined to commit to continuing negotiations.

Schaaf was joined at a news conference Wednesday by City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas and community leaders a day after the Oakland City Council approved a proposed term sheet for the Howard Terminal ballpark and development despite the team’s objections.

Schaaf said she heard an “openness” from the team to negotiating and the city is looking forward to returning to the bargaining table. She said she believes the A’s are serious about staying in Oakland because the team has made a “tremendous investment” in time, money and talent in the city.

“We believe the A’s are serious, we believe they do want to stay rooted in Oakland,” Schaaf said. “A lot of other things could be negotiations blustering.”

Kaval said Wednesday the team “remains disappointed” that their April term sheet wasn’t voted on, but “by the same token we were encouraged there was a positive vote and we were encouraged there was some movement from the city.”

“We are still studying what it means,” he said by phone from Las Vegas. “We want to be thoughtful about responding because we were kind of surprised.”

Kaval said he is spending Wednesday and Thursday in Las Vegas to scout about 20 potential ballpark locations, including one on the strip, and some in nearby Henderson and Summerlin. The team is also meeting with resort operators.

Kaval also said the team was hoping to get a vote on the final term sheet by the end of the baseball season in October. The city said they hope to have approvals and documents ready for a final vote by the end of the year.

“Developing on California’s waterfront is a very complicated process,” Schaaf said. “There are several regulatory agencies that still need to actually approve aspects of this project. We do need to put together our financing for the off-site infrastructure because that level of detail needs to be in the development that comes before the City Council.”

Kaval would not disclose whether the team plans to keep negotiating or walk away from the project.

The A’s project includes a $1 billion privately financed, 35,000-seat waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal, 3,000 residential units, up to 1.5 million square feet of commercial space, up to 270,000 square feet for retail, an indoor 3,500-seat performance center, 400 hotel rooms and up to 18 acres of publicly accessible open space.

The disagreement between the city and the A’s had mostly centered on who would pay an estimated $352 million for off-site infrastructure and transportation upgrades and how much affordable housing would be included in the project.

On Tuesday, the city said the A’s would not have to cover that cost. The city would instead apply for state and federal funds to cover the off-site infrastructure funds. Those terms were approved by the council’s vote.

“We provided the primary things that they asked for, that they have said they need to keep going on with this process,” Schaaf said.

Schaaf said Wednesday that a federal infrastructure bill being discussed by Congress would help pay for the off-site costs. The A’s have not yet said whether that agreement will satisfy their demands in off-site infrastructure upgrades.

Kaval said that was a “significant” decision by the city and the team recognizes that “some concessions were made.” He said the A’s are currently discussing next steps with Major League Baseball.

In addition, the city is requiring the A’s to build 450 affordable residential units, including some for very-low-income households, on-site or 15% of the total of 3,000 units. The city also wants the A’s to use funds set aside from the tax district over the Howard Terminal project site to build, preserve or renovate about 500 units of affordable housing off-site.

City leaders said Wednesday that the region faces a housing crisis and affordable housing has to be part of the plan. The city estimates that 450 affordable units will cost about $100 million to build.

Schaaf said Wednesday the city has “reason to believe that the A’s are in agreement with that particular proposal.” The A’s told The Chronicle last week they will follow state laws on affordable housing construction.

But the primary sticking point was now around the community benefits fund and what it could be spent on, Schaaf said. She said the city would like more flexibility on those funds. The A’s have also asked to waive their transportation impact fee, another issue to be worked out in negotiations.

Some of the transportation impact fees would be paid when the A’s pull building and construction permits — which means the city would receive some community benefit funds at the start of the development rather than over a number of years, city leaders said.

“We want to make sure we have as much money for infrastructure and community benefits as possible throughout the life of the project, but especially on the front end,” Bas said. “We want to make sure that the displacement protections for example can come into play much much sooner.”

Bas said the surrounding communities in West Oakland and Chinatown have a “real fear” that residents and businesses could be displaced.

The A’s had initially proposed a $450 million community benefits package funded by two proposed infrastructure financing districts. That money would have come to the city over 45 years. The city has said a second infrastructure financing district is not fiscally responsible and is instead pushing for just one over the project site. If the city had moved forward with the A’s proposal on community benefits, the city would have decided how to spend that money — whether to fund affordable housing or other community benefits.

Kaval said Tuesday he was disappointed the council didn’t vote on the term sheet the team released in April and that team officials were looking at the council’s amendments and whether the project could move forward with the changes. Kaval said the A’s would like to have final terms voted on by the end of October. Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said he, too, was disappointed in Tuesday’s vote.

Bas said Tuesday’s nonbinding term sheet, which isn’t a final agreement, sets the “groundwork for continuing to be at the table.”

Schaaf said the city is ready to get back to the negotiating table.

“We are absolutely ready the second the A’s are,” she said.

Sarah Ravani is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: sravani@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @SarRavani

Read full article at San Francisco Chronicle

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