‘The devil is in the details’: Why the Oakland A’s plan to fund a new ballpark hasn’t worked in other cities | SF Chronicle

The renderings of the Oakland A’s proposed ballpark at Howard Terminal show towers and mid-rise buildings sprouting up behind home plate and swooping in a semi-circle from home plate to the left-field bleachers.

For city planners, the collection of glassy buildings depicted in these proposals is more than just an effort to create a busy waterfront neighborhood that has a lure beyond the team’s 81 home games. The buildings — 1.5 million square feet of office space, 3,000 housing units, a 3,500-seat concert venue, 200,000 square feet of retail, a 400-room hotel — are an economic engine that will pay for hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements.

Without them, the 35,000-seat ballpark can’t be built.

It’s a formula that cities increasingly use to fund ballparks without public money. A city or county creates an “infrastructure financing district,” known as an IFD. The IFD issues bonds to pay for everything from parks to streets to sewers to affordable housing. Those bonds are serviced with taxes collected from all the ancillary development surrounding the ballpark, such as housing or office space. Everybody is happy.

Except, it often doesn’t work.

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