To hear Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval tell it, the baseball franchise is getting closer and closer to a deal with the city of Oakland on a $12 billion development (including a ballpark) at Howard Terminal. The beautiful waterfront stadium will deliver unparalleled community benefits, he promises, all at no cost to taxpayers.
But interviews with city council members, housing experts and advocates reveal a starkly different story. There’s little evidence suggesting the A’s are willing to budge on several key items, including affordable housing, arguably the most pressing issue facing Oaklanders today. From the inside, the “negotiations” Kaval describes look less like a productive discussion and more like a game of chicken.
“Affordable housing is going to be what makes or breaks this project,” Dolores Tejada, lead organizer of East Bay Housing Organizations — a nonprofit advocacy coalition that’s been involved in community benefits discussions — told me. “It’s weird that they're being so avoidant about it. It doesn't make sense, because it's clearly delaying their process.”
At its core, the disagreement is simple. The city would like the A’s to designate 450 of the approximately 3,000 apartments (or 15%) as affordable housing on-site at the Howard Terminal development, and pay for the construction or preservation of another 600 affordable homes in nearby neighborhoods, according to a draft term sheet from July 2021. Both Mayor Libby Schaaf and a number of city councilmembers have repeatedly said that 15% is a hard line for the project to move forward.