The Oakland A’s leapt another hurdle Thursday in their quest to build a $1 billion ballpark and a $12 billion real estate project at the Howard Terminal site just north of Jack London Square near downtown Oakland.
The San Francisco Bay Conservation & Development Commission [BCDC) voted to formally remove the site from port activities allowing the A’s to continue their pursuit of a project built mostly from private funds on port land. The 56-acre section of the port is now used to store shipping containers.
“It was a big vote,” A’s president Dave Kaval said in a phone interview after the meeting. “We’re getting very close.”
“Give Oakland its chance,” Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf told the commission via Zoom during the public comment portion of the all-day meeting. The mayor has been a proponent of the deal as were most of the hundreds of on-and offsite commenters during Thursday’s meeting.
By a tally of 23-2 the commissioners agreed with port staff that Howard Terminal would require too much money to upgrade and is too small to accommodate larger, modern ships.
“Howard Terminal is not viable as a shipping terminal,” said Zack Wasserman, the committee’s chair.
The commissioners needed a two-thirds vote for the motion to pass.
“We were thrilled with such an overwhelmingly positive vote,” Kaval said.
If the commissioners had voted no, the Oakland project would’ve been dead, and the A’s might have been forced to consider moving to Las Vegas. Thus far, the team has no public-private deal yet for a proposed $1 billion domed stadium in Vegas’s entertainment district.
While that possibility continues on what Kaval has called “dual tracks,” the A’s will move forward with applications for additional approvals, including one from the BCDC for a permit allowing the local construction, a part of the process that seems relatively assured considering Thursday’s overwhelming vote.
Beyond that, the team has to obtain other state and port permits, and the matter must finally be a approved by the Oakland City Council, which preliminarily approved the proposal last year. The council voted 6-1 in favor of a modified term sheet last July.
Since the initial vote, the A’s and the city have been negotiating a deal wherein the team pays for the stadium and on-site infrastructure and the city handles off-site infrastructure out of an amalgam of public funds.
“The ball is in their court,” Kaval said. “We’ve made an extremely compelling offer that covers all their community benefits. So, it really comes down to whether they have the ability to fund all the off-site infrastructure.”
With elections for City Council and a new mayor coming in November, Kaval stressed that the current Council needs to vote on the deal by the end of the year.
“Once they vote, it’s binding,” Kaval said. “It carries more legal weight, like this BCDC vote. It’s binding.”