Public Financing for the A's Private Development at Howard Terminal

Oakland’s Billion Dollar Question


The A’s billionaire owner, John Fisher, is demanding the City of Oakland provide over a billion dollars in public funds for his private ballpark and luxury real estate development at Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland. If approved, this project will drastically impact Oakland communities and draw resources from many other city and regional priorities. With so many challenges facing Oakland – including homelessness, affordable housing, and public safety – we should let Oaklanders vote on how critical public resources are spent.

While other developers are expected to pay their fair share, the A’s want to do the bare minimum for affordable housing, use public dollars to pay for community benefits, and spend over $900 million of public funds on infrastructure improvement to support their private real estate development project.

  • Off-site Infrastructure Improvements – The City Council’s non-binding term sheet would use an estimated $351.9 million in public funds for off-site infrastructure. However, the Mayor’s TOWN for All infrastructure package seeks $431 million to be funded using various public funding sources (including a $150 million City limited obligation bond). These projects will in effect jump the line over all the other outstanding transportation and infrastructure projects that have been neglected for so long throughout Oakland.

  • On-site Infrastructure Improvements – The A’s will front $495 million for the development’s on-site infrastructure and be reimbursed using up to 80% of the proceeds from the Howard Terminal (HT) Infrastructure Finance District (IFD). An estimated $860 million is expected to be generated from the IFD, which means $688 million could be paid back to the A’s. The A’s claim these are “but for” taxes, but it would be unwarranted for this amount of IFD financing to go toward a private development rather than serve the public good.

  • Community Benefits – While the A’s initially promised $450 million in community benefits, they have since retracted and are now relying upon public money totaling $411 million from multiple sources over 66 years. Funding sources include the Port’s Social Justice Fund ($10 M), Howard Terminal IFD ($50 M), Payments in Lieu of Transportation Impact Fees ($11 M), and 0.75% condominium transfer fee ($340 M). The City of Oakland’s contribution to the Community Fund is expected to be $400 million in public funds, while the A’s would contribute only $11 million to this fund. This stands in stark contrast to other large development projects in Oakland and around the Bay Area requiring the developer to fund community benefits through private dollars.

Here's a full memo on public funding for the A's proposed development

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Debunking the Myths of A's "But For" Dollars

The billionaire owner of the Oakland A’s, with the support of City Hall, claims that he is entitled to get over a billion dollars in public funds for his proposed private ballpark and luxury real estate development at Howard Terminal because he claims those public funds are “but for” dollars that would not exist without this project and therefore could not be used for other more pressing City priorities. But, like much of what we have been told by the A’s front office, this is only half of the story.

  • Federal, State, Regional and Other Funding Sources are NOT “But For” Dollars – More than $350 million of public funds would be used for off-site infrastructure costs. These are projects whose primary purpose are to support the A’s Howard Terminal project. The Federal and state grants and other public funding sources that would fund these projects are NOT “but for” dollars and could be used to finally address all the other outstanding transportation and infrastructure projects that have been neglected for so long throughout Oakland.

  • Moneygrab: A’s To Get Most of the “But For” Dollars – Up to 80% of the incremental tax revenues generated by the project through an Infrastructure Financing District (IFD) - the so-called “but for” dollars - would be used to reimburse the A’s for the cost of the on-site infrastructure, to the tune of almost $700 million. This is an unprecedented grab of funds as other major cities in California limit the share of property tax increment contributions to IFDs to 50%. With most of the incremental tax revenues directed to the IFD and the A’s, very little of these dollars are then available for the general fund to address the City’s priority needs such as homelessness and public safety. “But for” the A’s moneygrab, these funds could be used to tackle Oakland’s pressing needs.

  • “But FORGET” Community Benefits – While the A’s initially promised $450 million in community benefits, they have since retracted and are now relying upon public money totaling $411 million from multiple sources over 66 years. The City’s contribution to the Community Fund is expected to be $400 million in public funds, while the A’s would contribute only $11 million to this fund. This stands in stark contrast to other large development projects in Oakland and around the Bay Area requiring the developer to fund community benefits through private dollars.

  • “But FEW” Dollars for Affordable Housing – This project at its core is about luxury condos and high-rise office buildings – it’s “bigger than baseball.” But, it’s not about affordable housing. While the A’s have yet to agree to even the minimum affordable housing requirements, even the Howard Terminal Term Sheet approved by the City Council in a non-binding vote fails to adequately address critical affordable housing requirements and falls far short of the recommendations of the Housing Topic Cohort developed through the City’s own community benefits process.

  • “But For” Vegas - The real “but for” story here is that “but for” the A’s bullying threats to move to Las Vegas, Oakland could have a new, world-class stadium without the need for massive public funding by building at the Coliseum site where the infrastructure already exists. Rebuilding at the Coliseum would mean that public dollars, including “but for” dollars, could then be directed to Oakland’s pressing public needs.

What is being proposed?

The community is asking the City Council to place an initiative on the November 2022 ballot that will allow Oakland  voters to weigh in on whether to spend public funds to support the A’s privately owned ballpark, luxury condominium, and high-rise office project at Howard Terminal. This is not a vote on the project itself but on how public funds should be spent.


Let Oakland Vote

Oakland has a history of taking large public funding initiatives to the voters. Since 2010, Oakland residents have voted on more than a dozen ballot measures that have directed hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds including the gross receipts tax that will be up for a public vote in 2022. Oakland voters should have the same opportunity to weigh in on directing public funds for the Howard Terminal project. 

Ready to Take Action?

If you want the right to vote:

Call your City Councilmember and demand the right to vote on the use of public funds for the Oakland A's proposed condos, hotel, and ballpark at Howard Terminal. Leave a voicemail with your name, Council District, and your request for the right to vote if they do not pick up.

Vice Mayor Kaplan – At Large – (510) 238-7008

Council President Bas – District 2 – (510) 238-7002

Councilmember Kalb – District 1 – (510) 238-7001

Councilmember Fife – District 3 – (510) 238-7003

Councilmember Thao – District 4 – (510) 238-7004

Councilmember Gallo – District 5 – (510) 238-7005

Councilmember Taylor – District 6 – (510) 238-7006

Councilmember Reid – District 7 – (510) 238-7007

 

 

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