The Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to keep the Oakland A's plan for a new ballpark at the waterfront Howard Terminal site on track.
Major League Baseball will likely see the action by supervisors as evidence of the region's willingness to accommodate the A's, who are seeking to move from their current Coliseum site in East Oakland and have said they are willing to move out of the city if the Howard Terminal proposal didn't go through.
The yes vote means hundreds of millions in county tax revenue will be allocated for the A’s ballpark project, specifically to help the team pay for affordable housing, parks and other infrastructure at the Howard Terminal site. The funds will be distributed over a 45-year period.
Discussion and public comment during Tuesday's meeting stretched for hours.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf pointed out to the board that the revenue the county would give only exists if the project gets done.
“We’re not asking you to be in the sports business, we’re asking you to be in the affordable housing and public parks business along with us, to be our hometown heroes,” said Schaaf.
The mayor tweeted after the vote: “tonight’s support makes it clear to major league baseball … our region is all in to keep our beloved Athletics in Oakland.”
The decision is non-binding -- it’s not a legal contract, and the county can step away at any time.
Schaaf says the city hopes to have a final environmental impact report by the end of this year and pledged to work as swiftly as possible.
Before the vote, Supervisors David Haubert and Richard Valle wrote in a letter Tuesday to board President Keith Carson saying in part, "It is apparent we could lose this last professional franchise to another city."
Recently, the Oakland Raiders moved to Las Vegas and the Golden State Warriors moved across the bay to San Francisco. The Raiders played at the Coliseum where the A's play now.
Schaaf said the conditions at the Coliseum continue to deteriorate.
Oakland officials wanted the supervisors to vote on earmarking tax revenue from the development of the new ballpark to help the A's pay for infrastructure "of community-wide significance."
County tax revenue would be earmarked for an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District, which captures additional tax revenue in coming years to pay for the infrastructure.
Haubert and Valle in their letter asked Carson to add the item to Tuesday's agenda, and they asked that the board vote on the resolution. But a vote is not guaranteed.
According to the letter, Carson heard Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred say he "is not sure we see a path to success for a new A's ballpark in Oakland."
Words by Schaaf on Friday were a little more optimistic.
"I feel very confident there will be a vote on Tuesday and that vote will be "yes," Schaaf said in a meeting with reporters Friday morning.
But she was concerned.
She said, "This vote has been the largest unknown in the entire project." Without the county's participation, Schaaf said, city officials cannot craft a development agreement, which is a contract with the A's laying out the terms of the ballpark development. "And that is the biggest job ahead of us," Schaaf said.
Demonstrators, including a Port of Oakland longshoreman and a retired Coliseum employee, stood outside the County Administration Building in Oakland Tuesday morning calling on the board of supervisors to vote no.
"Enough is enough!," said Steve Zeltzer from United Front Committee for Labor Party. "Stop giving public money to billionaires to wreck the port of Oakland. That’s what we’re talking about here."
Preliminary development terms were crafted earlier this year in a term sheet.
Neither Haubert nor Valle returned calls Friday seeking comment on whether or not they would press Carson for a vote. In their letter, they said losing the A's "would diminish the potential for revitalization of" the Jack London Square area.