By JR Valrey, The People’s Minister of Information
The Oakland A’s is the last professional sports team left playing in East Oakland, after the Warriors departed to San Francisco and the Raiders moved to Las Vegas in recent years; and the A’s are questioning whether or not they want to stay. One of their demands is that they get a new stadium to play in or they want to buy the coliseum from the city and county, at what is called in East Oakland a “player price”.
There are a lot of politics surrounding the building of a new stadium, with a lot of people in the city for it and many against it; I wanted to talk to somebody who had the facts. As a resident of East Oakland, it is important to understand how this deal or lack thereof, will economically affect the surrounding low income neighborhoods of East Oakland. So Black New World Media spoke to East Oakland’s District 6 City Councilman Loren Taylor about the facts, and his thoughts on whether or not Oakland should keep the Oakland A’s.
JR Valrey: What’s the status of the A’s stadium getting built at Howard’s Terminal?
Loren Taylor: The Howard Terminal Stadium project is still undergoing review and analysis. To date, both the Oakland City Council (on July 20th) and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors (this past Tuesday) have now publicly voted to make non-binding commitments to support the Howard Terminal project under certain conditions. But there is more work to do before a final binding vote will be taken to approve the project. Before a binding vote can be taken, five different governmental agencies must review and approve various aspects of the project. These agencies include (a) Oakland City Council, (b) Port of Oakland Commissioners, (c) State Lands Commission, (d) Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and (e) Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). The Oakland City Council provides the ultimate review and final decision on whether or not the project moves forward, but we on the City Council will not make that final determination until the other agencies complete their analysis and review – not expected to happen until sometime in 2022. Things that have yet to be evaluated include
- Environmental review and identification of how all identified impacts will be mitigated
- Seaport compatibility, including and negative impacts on port operations and jobs
- Traffic and transportation impacts and how they will be addressed
- Additional financial analysis once the additional mitigation measures are identified
- And more…
There are still serious questions that need to be answered, and I am grateful for the teams who are working every day, to help us address them while keeping the project on track. I support the work being done to help us find win-win solutions that allow for the project to move forward, keep the A’s in Oakland, and ensure that Oakland and Oaklanders benefit.
The proposed project is a real estate development project – only 10% of which is a baseball stadium. It is important for residents and other stakeholders to recognize that the proposed Howard Terminal project is only partially about a baseball stadium. Approximately $1B (10%) of the expected $12B cost of the overall project, is related to the baseball stadium. The remaining 90% is related to the additional real estate development that is planned – housing, corporate offices, restaurants/ retail, music & entertainment venues, public parks, etc. So instead of a baseball stadium with real estate development on the side, we are really talking about a real estate development project with a baseball stadium project on the side.
Based on the Council-approved term sheet, The City of Oakland will get much more money from this project than it will put into it, and the increased revenue will allow for more investment into the community including services, infrastructure, and jobs. The proposed project is to be funded by a variety of sources, most of which is from the developer (The Oakland A’s and their development partners). The developer has asked that public agencies (City, County, and State) collectively pay for the infrastructure costs needed for the project which includes everything from the paving of roads, laying of sewer pipes, a pedestrian bridge/tunnel to avoid crossing train tracks, street lights, other public infrastructure as well as some community benefits. These costs are expected to be covered by ~$300M in one-time grants (State/Federal government) as well as an annual amount of $22M per year for 45 years ($11.5M from the city and $10.5M from the county). This $22M per year is a portion of property taxes the city will only start to collect because of the new project. After the project is completed, Oakland will have received $60M in one-time revenue and will be positioned to receive an additional $25M per year in net annual revenue, after expenses are paid. To put this in context, today the 5.5 acre Howard Terminal site only generates $73k in property taxes. So we will have $25M per year of new tax revenue that will not otherwise exist, if the project isn’t built. We will be able to use this $25M to address the many issues we face here in Oakland including affordable housing, homelessness, blight and illegal dumping, economic development, improving public safety, and so much more.
To learn more about the Howard Terminal Project and its current status, check out the City of Oakland’s project website – https://www.oaklandca.gov/projects/oakland-waterfront-ballpark-district
JR Valrey: Is the City willing to sell Fisher, the owner of the A’s, its half of the Coliseum? What are your thoughts on that plan?
Loren Taylor: I have always advocated for a competitive bidding process to ensure we get the best possible deal for Oakland, as we seek to develop the Coliseum site; that is why I pushed for us to invite other proposals back in Summer 2020. As a result of us opening up to other possible developers, the City of Oakland is NOT planning to sell its half of the Coliseum to the Fisher Family or the Oakland A’s. Instead, we are evaluating a sale (or possibly a long-term lease) to one of two African American-led development groups, AASEG or The Dave Stewart Group.
These two development teams have roots and connections in East Oakland, and seem to both be committed to community development and empowerment. They are also both offering $115M which is $30M more than the county will make from selling their half of the site to the A’s. By early 2022, the City Council will decide with which of these two groups we will sign an exclusive negotiating agreement (ENA) for development rights and/or ownership of our 50%-interest in the Coliseum site. Whomever we choose will have to work with the Oakland A’s on site development plans.
By working with one of these two groups we will ensure greater connection to the surrounding East Oakland community, ensure greater amounts of community benefits, create opportunities for more Oaklanders to benefit from the project, and get the project moving faster than we would get from selling to the A’s.
JR Valrey: How does East Oakland benefit from the A’s being in East Oakland besides with jobs at the Coliseum? Has the team created a significant uptick in the economy of deep East Oakland in recent years?
Loren Taylor: In addition to jobs, having the Oakland A’s in East Oakland gives us a sense of pride, and generates a couple million dollars a year in revenue. It is important to recognize that the current Coliseum site is not generating even a fraction of the potential value that it could for Oakland residents – and especially East Oakland residents.
The Coliseum site is so big that it could be its own city with everything including housing, corporate headquarters, retail shopping, entertainment venues and nightlife, hotels, convention space, parks and open space, and a sports stadium. In fact, hundreds of Oaklanders participated in a process almost 10 years ago to develop a plan for the Coliseum area known as “Coliseum City”. Coliseum City provides a blueprint for how the Coliseum area can be developed, to produce a significant number of jobs, housing, entertainment venues, other community benefits, and city revenue. This blueprint is one that both AASEG and the Dave Stewart group have used to inform their design ideas, which is a significant nod to all of the hard work put in by hundreds of Oaklanders to develop the Coliseum City plan, and secure the early entitlements.
When we look around East Oakland – especially in the area surrounding the Coliseum, the Coliseum and the sports teams that play(ed) there didn’t have as significant of an impact on the surrounding neighborhood as they could have, and should have. That helps us understand that we need more than just a sports team, but additional amenities and infrastructure. One important thing for me is that we create shopping and restaurants and other attractions that convince non-Oaklanders to get off of the freeway in East Oakland and spend their money here, so that our residents benefit from it. For too long we go to other cities to work, shop and play; and we need to have people from other cities invest their money into our economy and our schools, and our people. This is why for me, it is important to quickly develop the coliseum site, and realize all of its incredible potential to benefit the surrounding neighborhoods and the City as a whole. I am confident that working with one of the two competing development teams is the fastest way to realizing the most positive benefit to East Oakland.
JR Valrey: Are you in support of the A’s staying in Oakland, considering that the Warriors and Raiders recently left?
Loren Taylor: Yes. As an Oakland kid, I grew up going to A’s games with my grandparents, sitting in the bleachers, eating sandwiches that my grandma made, and drinking Shasta sodas. I want to have a similar experience going to A’s games with my grandchildren one day. It would be devastating to not have the A’s here in Oakland, and so I am committed to working as hard as I can to keep them here. With that being said, I also realize that it won’t be worth it, if the city goes bankrupt in the process of trying to keep them here, because that won’t be good for my grandchildren either. So we must strike the right balance. I am confident that there is a way to do that.