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A $ 280 million baseball donation?  Secret budget item in California could boost Oakland project

Fans sit at the RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland, California | Tony Avelar / AP Photo

SAN FRANCISCO – California executives have put nearly $ 280 million in the state budget, which could benefit the proposed A baseball stadium in downtown Oakland, taking advantage of a record surplus to potentially bring closer the team and the city of an agreement.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers quietly approved the funds weeks ago, and the money remained under the radar ahead of a crucial Oakland City Council vote on Tuesday on the stadium’s future – a A decision that A’s and Major League Baseball insist on could determine whether the team stays after 53 years in town.

A state budget bill signed by Newsom late last month allocates $ 279.5 million in general funds to the Port of Oakland for a wide range of infrastructure projects. The port says it does not have a specific plan for the money, which the budget allocates to “improvements that facilitate improved access for freight and passengers and to promote the efficient and safe movement of goods and people” .

But the state’s dollar injection came just weeks before Tuesday’s vote on the development of the port’s Howard Terminal into a baseball stadium and mixed-use development in one of Major’s smaller markets. League Baseball, and while the Oakland A wait for more government funding.

Oakland City Council is expected to take a non-binding vote on a draft financial terms it will offer A’s, but the two sides remain at odds. Team leaders said on Friday the city’s bid lacked about $ 350 million in funding for “offsite infrastructure.”

Oakland A chairman Dave Kaval said in an interview Monday that he was unfamiliar with the language of the budget, but acknowledged that it “seems quite similar to what our project is.” The money must be set aside by June 2024; A’s current lease at Oakland Coliseum expires after the 2024 season.

California is expected to receive tens of billions of dollars in direct federal pandemic aid this year. These funds, coupled with a strong stock market and surprisingly high tax revenues from the state’s wealthiest residents, have helped the state emerge from the pandemic with a record budget surplus.

Kaval said the off-site infrastructure he is looking for includes grade separations, rail safety, sewers, roads, bike paths and other transportation improvements. He said subsequent negotiations ended on Monday with a disagreement over money and the fundamental issue of developing a stadium on the Oakland waterfront.

“It’s just something the council is going to have to decide: how does it see the future of the waterfront?” he said in an interview. “It’s easy to focus on the money, but actually I think it’s all about the land use.”

“I’m worried they’ll vote yes on what they posted on Friday, which sounds like nothing,” he said. “There is nothing in it, there are no details.”

A letter the port sent to city council last week notes that state or federal government money can be used to prepare the terminal for the stadium project by improving crosswalks.

“It is anticipated that a significant portion of the infrastructure needed to improve vehicle and pedestrian safety at level crossings may be eligible for state or federal funding for transport or infrastructure,” wrote the executive director of the port, Danny Wan.

The port thanked the state budget presidents for the funding on Monday.

“The state’s investment in transportation infrastructure will meet the safety and efficiency needs of the Port of Oakland,” port spokesman Robert Bernardo said in an email. “We greatly appreciate the recognition by the State Budget Chairs and the Bay Area Caucus for recognizing the port’s role as an economic engine that supports 84,000 jobs in the region.”

Senate Budget Chairperson Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) represents Oakland and the area where the stadium would be built. A spokesperson for Skinner said lawmakers were not available for comment.

A critic of the project said he welcomed the funding and did not believe the stadium would progress to the point where it could use it.

“The fact that people look at this port money, which is obviously free and clear to the port, and say, ‘Wow, that’s a great backdoor for A’s,’ I think that underlines how the project is of A’s is ridiculous, ”said Mike Jacob, vice president and general counsel of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, which represents the container shipping industry and is suing for the stadium that may receive expedited environmental permits.

The money is a relatively small change in the context of the comprehensive $ 12 billion plan to redevelop the terminal with housing, offices, retail and parks. Most of this cost is for the area around the proposed baseball stadium; the stadium itself would cost the team around $ 1 billion.

“$ 280 million is important, but that’s only first or second base. It certainly doesn’t come close to third base or home, the house being, “Hey, we’re building a stadium at Howard Terminal,” said Andy Dolich, a former A public servant who runs a sports affairs consultancy. .

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