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Bay Area commission gives boost to A’s waterfront ballpark project

Updated June 30, 2022 - 6:05 pm

The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission voted Thursday to remove the port priority use designation for Howard Terminal, opening up the site for the Oakland Athletics’ potential $12 billion mixed-use ballpark project.

The decision doesn’t end Las Vegas’ hopes of becoming home to the Major League Baseball franchise, but it does boost Oakland’s chances of keeping the franchise from leaving the Northern California city.

Twenty-three members of the commission voted to remove the port designation, surpassing the 18 votes needed to approve the measure. The vote came after the majority of the 100 or more speakers who took part in public comment aired their support for the project. Many of the speakers said the project was “bigger than baseball.”

The A’s Howard Terminal plans include a privately financed $12 billion mixed-use project on 56 acres of land, centered around a $1 billion waterfront ballpark. It would include 18 acres of public parks and open space, housing, hotels and an amphitheater.

The favorable vote allows the A’s pursuit of a new ballpark in Oakland to move forward. A no vote would have all but ended the team’s quest for a new home in the Bay Area and improved Las Vegas’ odds of luring the A’s to the desert.

“It (the removal of the port use) would move the project to second base,” Commissioner John Gioia said before the vote. “If it does not, I think it’s like throwing the runner out from first to second and it’s game over at that point.”

The board accepted the commission staff’s recommendation to remove the port designation as it was determined that Howard Terminal was not needed for future port use, based on 2050 projections.

“You have heard from your staff that Howard Terminal is not needed for future cargo growth,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said during the public comment period. “You’ve heard from the port (of Oakland) that Howard Terminal cannot currently, nor in the future, ever be used as a seaport terminal… I ask that you give Oakland its shot.”

Oakland approval next

Schaaf was alluding to the city of Oakland’s continuing negotiations with the A’s on a binding development agreement for the waterfront project. The two sides have been negotiating their differences over the past year with issues still lingering.

The key sticking points center on community benefits and infrastructure work. A’s President Dave Kaval said the city promised to pay for off-site related infrastructure and the team is awaiting word on how the city will pay for those improvements.

Next week, the Oakland City Council will discuss adding a referendum on the A’s ballpark plan to the November ballot. The vote would be advisory in nature, serving as public guidance for the council. If that occurs, the A’s fear a potential binding decision wouldn’t come until 2023 at the earliest.

Kaval noted that Schaaf will be out of office at the end of the year and the city council will gain other new members. The two sides need to come to a binding agreement before that occurs, he said.

“That (going to a public vote) could doom our efforts in Oakland,” Kaval said. “If that happens on Tuesday… it kind of kicks the can down the road, which is a big problem… We don’t know who is going to be mayor and if he or she is going to have that same vision for Oakland (as Schaaf).

“There is a critical window here where we can pull this off in Oakland, but the window is closing every day. While this was a really important approval, cause it had to happen or we would have been dead, we still have that big hill to climb with the city council,” he added.

Vegas process rolls on

The A’s want to have finality to their stadium saga sometime this year. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred also said he hoped the A’s would have some answer soon.

While pursuing a new home in Oakland, the A’s have also been looking at possibly relocating to Las Vegas and scouting possible locations for a new ballpark. With the team down to two final sites in the Resort Corridor, Kaval said the team’s vision for Southern Nevada could come to light as soon as next month.

“There’s a good chance of that,” Kaval said. “That’s hard to say 100 percent, because I don’t control everything myself. But that’s something that can easily come to fruition.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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