Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Waterfront Ballpark District at Howard Terminal

Questions and answers about the Waterfront Ballpark District at Howard Terminal

Posted: June 14th, 2021 2:40 PM

Last Updated: November 30th, 2023 3:58 PM

Oakland’s Response to Recent Comments from MLB (July 2023)

Was there “a decade worth of inaction” in Oakland?

No. Ten years ago, the A’s were just beginning to turn their attention back to Oakland after a decade spent chasing deals in Fremont and San Jose. The latter effort was pursued all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and only finally resolved about eight years ago, in 2015.

When the A’s did begin to explore staying in Oakland, their focus (and that of then Commissioner Bud Selig) was squarely on the Coliseum. To make a deal at the Coliseum possible, in 2014 and 2015, the City proactively drafted and adopted a new master plan and certified an EIR for the property, which to this day would allow for up to three separate major league sports facilities to be built on the Coliseum Complex, including a new MLB ballpark.

While the City laid the groundwork for the A’s to build a new ballpark at the Coliseum, the A’s spent a year “studying” the viability of the Coliseum, Howard Terminal, and a new contender – Laney College. The A’s subsequently announced their choice of Laney College – much to the surprise of the College Trustees, who shortly thereafter declined to pursue the deal. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred characterized this as an “unfortunate misstep” on the part of the A’s at the time.

It was actually only five years ago, in 2018, that the A’s turned their focus to Howard Terminal. Since that time, the City has gone to great lengths to accommodate the A’s owners and their desire to build a 6-million square foot, ground-up, mixed-use mega development on a complicated and challenging waterfront site – an effort they elected to undertake on their own, despite their lack of development experience.

In these 5 years, despite extended shutdowns related to the COVID-pandemic, the City:

  • Offered to sell the City’s 50% interest in the Coliseum Complex to the A’s on similar terms to those entered into by the A’s and Alameda County
  • Sponsored three pieces of state legislation to facilitate the project, all of which were written into law
  • Passed a term sheet fewer than 90 days after the A’s first presented, via the media, their 1-page financial plan for the project in April 2021
  • Agreed to form an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District over the project site, and worked with Alameda County to increase the district’s bonding capacity by up to 70% - actually exceeding the A’s $495 million ask
  • Agreed to fund the A’s then-estimated $360 million in offsite infrastructure costs – subsequently securing more than $425 million in funding to do so
  • Completed, certified, and successfully defended in both the trial and appeals courts the project’s 10,000-page EIR
  • Worked with the Port to secure BCDC’s 23-2 approval after the A’s failed to do so in an earlier committee vote

As Mayor Sheng Thao stated in June of 2023, "There is no city that has worked harder to meet the needs of a team than Oakland.”

Is it true that the A’s “never got to a point where they had a plan to build a stadium at any site”?

No. The complete plan sets most recently submitted by the A’s for their proposed Waterfront Ballpark District can be found on the City’s Howard Terminal webpage, here.

Is it accurate that “[t]here is no Oakland offer?” Can you share “what...Oakland was prepared to do?”

No. There were numerous offers from Oakland between 2021 and the cessation of negotiations in 2023. The A’s rejected all of them.

Yes. The City has prepared a summary of its “offer” to the A’s, which condenses hundreds of pages of transactional documents that were under active negotiation in April 2023. At an in-person meeting in Seattle, Washington on July 9, 2023, Mayor Sheng Thao and City staff personally delivered copies of this summary, as well as the plans for the project, the draft infrastructure financing plan, and a timeline of Oakland’s actions in support of the A’s Oakland ballpark project, to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. Copies of all the materials Mayor Thao delivered to MLB can be found here.

Did the 28,000 fans at the June 13 reverse boycott represent “what is, this year, almost an average Major League Baseball crowd?”

Despite decades of disinvestment in the club, multiple roster teardowns, a very public pursuit of relocation, and a near doubling of season ticket prices, on June 13, 28,000 Oakland fans delivered a clear message - “We Are Here!” In response, The Athletic reported “[t]hat attendance number may disappoint some, but it bested 16 teams’ average numbers so far this year, and was better than all but 11 other teams have averaged on a Tuesday night so far this season.”

Moreover, this was a remarkable feat given that it was organized not by the entity responsible for marketing and ticket sales (the A’s), but by the fans themselves. The reverse boycott clearly illustrates the potential for attendance in Oakland - if the team chooses to pursue it.

The City’s Position on this Proposed Ballpark Deal

What happened on April 19, 2023, and why did the City cease negotiations with the A’s?

On April 19, 2023, the A’s announced a “binding” agreement to purchase a 49-acre site for a new ballpark and ancillary development west of the Las Vegas Strip from Red Rock Resorts. In a Las Vegas Review-Journal article published on the evening of April 19, A’s team president Dave Kaval stated, “For a while we were on parallel paths (with Oakland), but we have turned our attention to Las Vegas to get a deal here for the A’s and find a long-term home.” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred concurred, stating, “We support the A’s turning their focus on Las Vegas”.

The announcement came in the midst of a period of intense negotiations between the City and A’s, facilitated by a mediator selected by mutual agreement of the City and A’s following an in-person meeting of City leadership and A’s ownership shortly after Mayor Sheng Thao took office in early 2023.

In response to the A’s announcement, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao directed staff to cease negotiations with the A’s, stating “I am deeply disappointed that the A’s have chosen not to negotiate with the City of Oakland as a true partner, in a way that respects the long relationship between the fans, the City and the team. The City has gone above and beyond in our attempts to arrive at mutually beneficial terms to keep the A’s in Oakland. In the last three months, we’ve made significant strides to close the deal. Yet, it is clear to me that the A’s have no intention of staying in Oakland and have simply been using this process to try to extract a better deal out of Las Vegas. I am not interested in continuing to play that game — the fans and our residents deserve better.”

Just twenty days later, the A’s abandoned the Red Rock Resorts site in favor of a new, 9-acre site for a smaller, 30,000-seat ballpark located on the Tropicana Hotel site on the Las Vegas Strip. Both the site and the ballpark would be the smallest in Major League Baseball.

What about the Port? Are they still negotiating with the A’s?

The Port’s Exclusive Negotiation Term Sheet (Port ENTS) expired on May 12, 2023. As a result, the Port is no longer obligated to negotiate only with the A’s with regard to the potential redevelopment of the former Howard Terminal. However, the Port may elect to continue negotiations with the A’s, possibly in parallel with evaluating other potential uses and users of the site.

Does the City want the A’s to stay? Would the City resume negotiations with the A’s - either under their current ownership, or new ownership - if their proposed relocation to Las Vegas falls through?

Oakland’s leaders have been clear – they want the A’s to remain rooted in Oakland for generations to come.

The City worked for several years to come to an agreement with the A’s. Over that time, the City has repeatedly shown its commitment to the team and its fans and demonstrated the political will to keep the A’s in Oakland:

  • In 2021, the A’s asked the City to form an infrastructure financing district for the project. Oakland’s Council, including current Mayor Sheng Thao, agreed and convinced Alameda County to consider "opting in” as well, nearly doubling the potential funding available for public infrastructure, parks and affordable housing.
  • In 2021, the A’s asked the City to raise nearly $360 million to fund offsite infrastructure. The City rose to the challenge, raising more than $425 million in non- City funding (with another $56 million in grant applications currently pending).
  • In 2021, the A’s asked Oakland’s City Council to certify an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project. Oakland not only did so, but successfully defended it in court – twice.
  • And in 2022, the A’s asked Oakland to engage with BCDC after an initial vote on the project failed. Oakland once again successfully intervened and helped achieve a final 23 - 2 vote in favor of the project.

The City is grateful for the ongoing support of Senators Feinstein and Padilla, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the United Stated Department of Transportation, Governor Gavin Newsom, State Senator Nancy Skinner, State Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks, Mia Bonta and Liz Ortega, State Attorney General Rob Bonta, the California State Transportation Agency, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, the Alameda County Transportation Commission, and the Board of Port Commissioners.

Oakland’s leadership remains confident that a new Waterfront Ballpark District at Howard Terminal is within reach.

What happens to Howard Terminal if the A’s move to Las Vegas? What about the Coliseum?

Howard Terminal is located within Oakland’s Port Area, which is managed by the Board of Port Commissioners. Following the expiration of the Port ENTS on May 12, 2023, the Port is not obligated, but may elect, to continue negotiations with the A’s in parallel with evaluating other potential uses and users of the site. Certain uses of the land, including residential uses and uses inconsistent with the City’s General Plan, would also require approval by the City.

The A’s License to occupy and play baseball at the Coliseum expires on December 31, 2024. Any extension or new License would be negotiated by the Coliseum Authority, which jointly manages the Coliseum on behalf of its co-owners, the City and County, and would require the independent, discretionary approval of both City and County.

In late 2019, Alameda County agreed to sell its 50% undivided interest in the Coliseum Complex, (including both the Coliseum and the Arena as well as 120 acres of land) to the A’s for $85 million, to be paid over 7 years. That sale is scheduled to close in 2026. Under the terms of the County’s agreement, if the A’s elect to relocate outside of Oakland prior to 2026, all unpaid installments become immediately due and payable. The County’s sale is currently the subject of an ongoing lawsuit, brought by third parties, alleging violations of the State Surplus Lands Act.

After the A’s ended negotiations to purchase the City’s 50% undivided interest in the Coliseum Complex in fall 2019, the City entered into an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) for the property with AASEG. That ENA gives AASEG eighteen months (from January 2023) to negotiate an agreement to purchase the City’s 50% undivided interest in the Coliseum Complex for $115 million. Redevelopment of the Coliseum Complex will require cooperation between the parties, as neither possesses a controlling interest in the property.

What happened at the City Council meetings on September 20, and December 13, 2022? What is the status of the independent financial analysis requested by some Councilmembers?

At the September 20, 2022 City Council meeting, former City Administrator Ed Reiskin provided an update on the status of the project and negotiations. Click here to watch the video and here to access the accompanying Information Memorandum.

At the December 13, 2022 meeting of the Council’s Community & Economic Development Committee, Professor Nola Agha was invited to present a report commissioned by project opponents, the Pacific Maritime Shipping Association, with regard to the potential economic impacts of development of a new waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal. City staff’s presentation and memo in response to the PMSA report can be found on the project’s webpage; video of the meeting can be found here.

As noted at these meetings, the City and A’s have not yet reached a deal. A third-party analysis of the fiscal impacts of the proposed Project would be presented to Council and the public for review if and when a final deal is reached.

Overall, what is the City’s position on this deal?

The City Council is the legislative body that would ultimately review and make a decision on any deal with the A’s. The City Council's Community & Economic Development Committee held a study session on the project on July 7, 2021. The City Council had its first opportunity to discuss the potential deal terms and financing options and approved a non-binding term sheet (Term Sheet) for the project at the full City Council meeting on July 20, 2021.

Current Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao and former Mayor Libby Schaaf made their positions clear: keeping the A’s rooted in Oakland with a world-class ballpark and mixed-used development that will benefit the entire region is a high priority. This Waterfront Ballpark District project has the potential to catalyze long-needed infrastructure and transportation improvements that will allow people and goods to move more safely and efficiently to and around the West Oakland waterfront and create a dynamic new waterfront neighborhood where people can live, work and play, all while protecting the crucial economic engine of Oakland’s seaport. The proposed project could be a good deal for the A’s, City, Port and County -- with new net revenues, equitable jobs, housing, and other direct benefits for all residents -- without risk of leaving taxpayers on the hook as happened with poor sports deals of the past. But that requires the A’s to work in partnership with the public entities.

What action did the Oakland City Council take on July 20, 2021?

The Council approved a non-binding term sheet outlining the key terms to be included in any Development Agreement between the City and A’s related to the Waterfront Ballpark District.

What is a term sheet?

A “term sheet” is a non-binding document that memorializes a general agreement between parties in many different types of complex business negotiations. A term sheet is usually used as a framework or outline for subsequent binding contract documents. Term sheets are often used in negotiations between developers and cities as a way of bringing a conceptual “deal” to the City Council in advance of actual approvals to make sure it is aligned with the Council’s priorities. A term sheet is not an approval, entitlement or binding contract.

What is the difference between the City’s term sheet and that of the Port?

The Board of Port Commissioners approved a four-year Exclusive Negotiation Term Sheet (Port Term Sheet) for Howard Terminal in May 2019. Because Howard Terminal is located within the Port Area established by Oakland’s City Charter, the Port would act as the A’s landlord at Howard Terminal. The Port Term Sheet, in addition to providing for a four-year exclusive negotiation period, set forth key business terms, required adherence to the Maritime and Aviation Project Labor Agreement, reserved Port lands for a potential future expansion of the Inner Harbor Turning Basin, and required certain other Seaport Compatibility Measures.

The City’s Term Sheet, on the other hand, provided City staff with direction in negotiating key terms such as paying for on- and off-site infrastructure, parks and open space, and affordable housing to be included in the project.

As noted above, the Port Term Sheet expired on May 12, 2023. The City’s Term Sheet was never executed by the A’s.

Is it true that the A’s have spent 20 years and $200 million attempting to find a new home in Oakland? How long had the A’s and City been negotiating regarding the Howard Terminal site?

Following relocation attempts to Fremont (2006 – 2009) and San Jose (2009 – 2015), the A’s first selected Laney College as their preferred Oakland site in 2017 before moving on to Howard Terminal in November 2018. The A’s and the City began negotiating a development agreement term sheet for the Howard Terminal site in April 2020, and through the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, negotiations proceeded remotely regarding non-financial aspects of the term sheet. Negotiation of the financial approach began in February 2021, and the A’s first presented a written, one-page proposed Financial Plan for the project on April 23, 2021.

The City has billed the A’s about $8 million for City staff and consultant time, including outside legal counsel, through the end of 2022.

What is the status of the negotiations? Is the Term Sheet the City Council approved on July 20, 2021 the same one that the Oakland A’s released on April 23, 2021?

No. Leading up to the July 2021 hearings, City staff attempted to negotiate mutually agreeable terms with the A’s for over a year. Most of the terms contained in the term sheet released by the A’s on April 23, 2021 were negotiated and mutually agreed upon. However, the Financial Plan (Exhibit F to the A’s proposed term sheet) that the A’s released simultaneously to the City and press in April 2021 did not represent a consensus approach on key issues such as paying for off-site infrastructure and community benefits for the A’s proposed six million square foot development. Until April 2023, City staff, most recently with the assistance of a mediator, was continuing to work intensively with the A’s to arrive at consensus on mutually acceptable financial terms for the project.

Can the public see the term sheet?

Yes. The City’s Term Sheet, approved by City Council on July 20, 2021, along with the amendments, can be viewed here.

How does the deal offered by Oakland at Howard Terminal compare to that being contemplated in Las Vegas?

Based on what has been reported in the press, the deals appear to be fundamentally different.

Unlike the Waterfront Ballpark District project, which includes approximately 5 million square feet of ancillary residential and commercial development in addition to a 35,000-seat privately financed, owned and operated ballpark, all on 55 acres, the A’s Las Vegas project reportedly would be comprised solely of a publicly-subsidized and owned 30,000-seat ballpark located on a site within Clark County to be specified later. Based on local Las Vegas media reports, it appears that the A’s will receive at least $380M in public monies to directly subsidize the cost of ballpark construction. In Oakland, the A’s never sought a public subsidy for their ballpark. Public investments contemplated for Oakland’s Waterfront Ballpark District were instead to be directed to project elements that directly benefit the public, including:

  • At least $425M in Federal, State, regional and local funding for offsite infrastructure (with more than $56M in additional grant applications currently pending)
  • Approximately $500M in EIFD bond proceeds (assuming Alameda County contributes its incremental property tax and VLF to the EIFD) to reimburse the A’s for onsite infrastructure, parks and open space, and on-site affordable housing

Is the City willing to re-open talks with the A’s? Would the City make that same deal available to a new ownership group, or a different developer of the Howard Terminal site?

As noted above, with a willing negotiating partner equally committed to working collaboratively to find and implement “win-win” solutions, Oakland’s leadership remains confident that a new Waterfront Ballpark District at Howard Terminal is well within reach.

Interested parties should contact the City’s Project Lead, Molly Maybrun, at or via telephone at (510) 238-4941.

Taxpayer Impact

Will the infrastructure improvements around the waterfront area cost “Oakland taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars”?

No. To pay for off-site infrastructure improvements that will benefit the City and Port with or without a ballpark, the City and Port have secured and are continuing to pursue grants dispersed by the State and Federal government specifically for infrastructure upgrades. These are competitive grants that many cities apply for, so if that money does not come to Oakland, it will go instead to another city. Thanks to the Federal Bi-Partisan Infrastructure Bill and a 2022 surplus of revenue at the State level, more competitive grants are being offered to cities for these infrastructure improvements.

Isn’t all this work “just for a stadium?”

No. The Waterfront Ballpark District, if it moves forward, would create 3,000 new units of housing – with a potential for up to 1,000 units of affordable housing on- and off-site – 7,000 permanent jobs, 25,000 union construction jobs, and 18 acres of new public parks along Oakland’s waterfront. The project would convert a short-term parking lot into a vibrant, sustainable, walkable neighborhood endorsed by the Greenbelt Alliance, one of the region’s most trusted environmental advocacy groups. Building green, lowering emissions, and making our neighborhoods safe and walkable is a model for the future.

If the A’s leave, what happens to the $375M raised by the City and Port to date to pay for new infrastructure in and around the West Oakland waterfront?

The funds raised to date will be used to implement long-needed infrastructure improvements to facilitate enhanced freight and passenger access in and around Oakland’s seaport and waterfront, and to promote the efficient and safe movement of goods and people. These improvements will benefit the City, Port and region, ballpark or no.

Why can’t the City use all that grant money on homelessness and violence prevention instead?

Any grants won to improve infrastructure must be spent specifically on infrastructure and cannot legally be used for other purposes.

Has the work of City staffers on this project cost Oakland taxpayers money?

No. The A’s agreed to pay the costs of those City staff working on the deal.

Have those City staffers been distracted or pulled away from other pressing city issues, like homelessness outreach or public safety?

No. The full-time dedicated project staff in the City Administrator’s Office never worked on other City issues and are not otherwise assignable. Other City employees working on the project are not involved in homelessness or public safety. Planning and Building Department staff are tasked with responding to developer applications and are not therefore getting pulled off from other pressing City issues. Similarly, pursuant to Resolution No. 89059, approved by the City Council on March 1, 2022, the city created a Major Projects division within its Department of Transportation to ensure that all areas of the City and all major projects have adequate staffing. Legal services have been provided primarily by outside counsel managed by the City Attorney, the cost of which is fully reimbursable by the A’s.

Could public funds spent on the Waterfront Ballpark District at Howard Terminal be better spent on other priorities such as homelessness, public safety and affordable housing?

All City funds spent on the Waterfront Ballpark District are fully reimbursable by the A’s, and no public funds spent to date could instead have been used to address other critical City priorities.

Under the terms of a 2018 Project Expense Payment Agreement between the City and A’s, the A’s are obligated to fully reimburse the City for all project-related expenses, including both staff time and the cost of outside consultants, experts, and attorneys retained to advise the City on the Project.

The City’s approved Development Agreement Term Sheet anticipated that, following approval of the Project, the A’s would continue reimbursing the City for all costs of processing, defending, monitoring, administering and enforcing the Development Agreement and other Project approvals. The Term Sheet also anticipated that the A's would reimburse the City for services incurred in connection with baseball games and other events at the Ballpark, such as traffic controls, parking enforcement, police, fire, and other emergency services, litter pickup, and street and sidewalk cleanup. Finally, the Term Sheet required that the A’s fund the maintenance of all onsite infrastructure, parks and open space.

Project infrastructure costs would be funded entirely through a combination of private developer capital; State, Federal and regional infrastructure funds; and potential bonds secured solely by the Project’s own “but for” taxes, such as incremental sales, parking, and hotel taxes generated by the new development. State and Federal infrastructure funds can only be used to construct new transportation infrastructure and cannot be redirected to other City priorities or services such as homelessness, public safety and affordable housing, no matter how pressing those needs may be. Absent development of the Waterfront Ballpark District, the incremental taxes that are proposed to fund Project infrastructure would not exist, and therefore could not be redirected to other City priorities or services. A significant portion of the incremental property taxes generated by the Project would help fund the acquisition, construction, renovation, and preservation of over 1,000 units of affordable housing – units that would not exist absent the Project.

Finally, at full buildout, the Project would be expected to generate more than $3.8 million every year in new County and City sales, parking and parcel taxes specifically dedicated to public safety ($1,582,000 projected) funding violence prevention and emergency medical services ($602,000 projected), and services to those members of our community experiencing homelessness ($1,635,700 projected). The project also has been expected to fund the much-needed renovation of Fire Station 2 in the Port area.

Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR)

What was the process for certifying the EIR for the waterfront ballpark district project?

The City of Oakland published the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Waterfront Ballpark District at Howard Terminal on December 17, 2021. The Final EIR responded to more than 400 comments and includes 23 “consolidated responses” to the comments submitted most frequently, as well as edits made to the Draft EIR in response to those comments. A draft Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program (which lists all required mitigations) is also included.

In a public hearing on January 19, 2022, the Oakland Planning Commission considered whether the Final EIR was completed in compliance with State law, represents the independent analysis of the City, and provides adequate information to decision-makers and the public on the potential adverse environmental effects of the proposed Project, as well as ways in which those effects might be mitigated or avoided.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the project’s Final EIR for certification by the City Council.

When was the EIR be certified?

Upon receiving a recommendation from the Planning Commission, Oakland’s City Council certified the Final EIR on February 17, 2022.

Why was the City Council asked to certify the EIR prior to considering the Development Agreement and other project approvals, including community benefits?

Certification of the Final EIR was a crucial first step towards consideration of the final project approvals required prior to commencement of construction on the A’s new ballpark. All regulatory decisions in this multi-jurisdictional approval process depend upon the City first taking action on the Final EIR. In addition, because both the City and Port of Oakland have jurisdictional authority over the Howard Terminal property, prior to taking action on other project approvals, the City must first adopt an ordinance accepting from the Port additional jurisdictional authority over the property. In fact, the City Council cannot approve a Development Agreement, or the associated package of community benefits, until the City Council adopted the jurisdictional ordinance on February 17 – and because this ordinance is directly related to the project, this first project approval could not happen prior to certification of the Project’s Final EIR.

With City Council's certification of the EIR and adoption of the jurisdictional ordinance, and after recommendation by the Planning Commission, staff will bring to the City Council for consideration at a future date the following applications filed by the A’s: 1) General Plan Amendment and Rezoning; 2) Planned Unit Development; 3) Tentative Tract Map; and 4) Development Agreement (including community benefits).

It is important to note that certification of the EIR and approval of the jurisdictional ordinance does not mean that the Project is approved. It does – as requested by many community stakeholders – provide clarity regarding the City’s authorities in processing and approving Project applications, including the Development Agreement, what measures will be required by CEQA, and setting the “floor” upon which the final community benefits package can be built and incorporated in the Project’s Development Agreement.

What did the "yes" vote of the Council mean? Did it mean the project is approved?

A “yes” vote on certification of the EIR did not mean the Project is approved. However, it was an important first step needed before project approvals can be considered or granted by the City and Port.

What are the other steps involved in getting to an approved project?

The first required project approval, an ordinance by which the City accepts land use jurisdiction over the Port’s portion of the Ballpark District site, was passed by City Council on February 17, 2022. In addition, the City is currently reviewing Development Applications for the project, which include a General Plan Amendment, Planned Unit Development, Rezoning, Tentative Tract Map and Development Agreement (including community benefits). These required approvals will be considered by the City Council later in 2022, after receiving a recommendation from the Planning Commission.

Finance/Fiscal Impacts/Economics

What does it mean to say, "the Ballpark at Howard Terminal is “100% privately financed"?

The City and the Oakland A’s have always been in agreement that the Ballpark and all of the new residential and commercial development in the Waterfront Ballpark District at Howard Terminal would be 100% privately financed by the A’s or their development partners. The A’s asked the City and County to seek grants and use project-generated revenues to help fund the infrastructure and safety improvements, public parks, affordable housing, and other community benefits needed to make the Ballpark District successful, resilient, safe and equitable. This sort of public-private partnership is common on projects of this size because the contemplated infrastructure improvements and amenities benefit the City and region as a whole, and not just the project. Many safety and infrastructure improvements that the project would accelerate and fund are ones that are needed right now, including environmental clean-up and resilience, anti-displacement protections and affordable housing, safer separation and protection of Port-serving rail and truck routes, and better bike, pedestrian, and transit connections between BART and Oakland’s waterfront.

How would the A’s and City raise the funds for the onsite infrastructure upgrades? What is an IFD/EIFD?

IFD stands for “Infrastructure Financing District” and is one of the financial tools that would be used to finance infrastructure for the Waterfront Ballpark District project. It is sometimes also called an EIFD, or “Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District.” Although an IFD and an EIFD have slightly different rules under State law, they are very similar, and the terms IFD and EIFD are often used interchangeably.

When an EIFD is established, the district’s existing “base-year” level of property tax revenue is established. Then, as property tax revenues grow over the years due to new development, the additional (also known as “incremental” or “but for”) revenues over and above the established base year revenues are used to pay for infrastructure supporting the new development project.

For example, if in the base year, the property tax revenues inside an EIFD total $1,000, but increase to $1,500 the following year as new development is added to the tax rolls, the extra $500 would be used to pay for infrastructure, while the first $1,000 would continue flowing into the City’s or County’s General Fund. As that incremental property tax revenue grows over the years, the City can use it on a “pay as you go” basis or issue bonds in order to fund or reimburse infrastructure costs. Unlike general obligation bonds, IFD bonds don’t increase property tax rates, either in the District or elsewhere in the City. When the bonds are paid off, usually after 45 years, all of the property tax revenue resumes flowing into the City or County’s General Fund. Other taxes, like sales and parking taxes, flow to the City’s or County’s General Fund throughout the project’s life cycle.

How would a limited obligation bond be different from EIFD bonds?

Limited obligation bonds would be separate from those issued by the Enhanced Infrastructure District (EIFD). Specifically, limited obligation bonds, if approved, would be used by the City to fund offsite infrastructure (that is, infrastructure outside the boundaries of the full 55-acre project site). For example, the City could use the proceeds of a limited obligation bond to leverage the Federal RAISE grant already awarded and complete pedestrian and transit improvements on Broadway between 12th Street and the waterfront.

The EIFD would be used to reimburse the A’s for the eligible affordable housing and onsite infrastructure costs incurred up front (e.g., the 18.3 acres of parks to be constructed within the boundaries of the full 55-acre project site). The EIFD would be backed by the incremental property taxes generated by the project, and the limited obligation bonds would be backed by other incremental tax revenue, like sales taxes, transit occupancy taxes, or parking taxes - all taxes that would not exist “but for” the project.

Would a limited obligation bond be like the bonds the City and County issued for the Raiders and Coliseum in 1995?

No. A “limited obligation bond” would be different than the bond issued in that deal. Like the proposed EIFD, a limited obligation bond would be backed ONLY by the revenues created by the Waterfront Ballpark District itself and WOULD NOT put the City’s General Fund at risk. For example, if the City pledged sales tax receipts generated within the Waterfront Ballpark District, then the City’s maximum liability is those actual receipts, as opposed to a general obligation, which places the City’s General Fund income and assets at risk. This structure ensures that only “but for” revenues (those revenues that would not exist “but for” the project) can be used to repay the debt.

Does a ‘limited obligation bond’ require a vote of Oakland residents to approve?

No. Unlike general obligation bonds, limited obligation bonds only require approval by the City Council.

What is a CFD and could one be used on this project?

CFD stands for "Community Facilities District", also sometimes known as a "Mello Roos District." When a CFD is created, the property owners within the district agree to impose a “special tax” on their property, over and above regular property taxes. The county tax collector collects these taxes, which can be used to help pay for construction or maintenance of public facilities. Typically, a CFD is used by a developer to secure inexpensive, upfront financing for infrastructure; because the special taxes are collected by the county, they are considered secure revenue and investors will lend against that revenue at lower interest rates.

The financial structure of the project has not been fully negotiated, but if the Waterfront Ballpark District moves forward, the A’s and City could cooperate to form a CFD over all or parts of the Howard Terminal site, effectively taxing the developer and other future landowners within the Project site to build and/or maintain onsite infrastructure. The special taxes would apply only to the Howard Terminal project and no property owner outside of the project site would be subject to any new taxes.

Would my taxes increase? / Would West Oakland neighbors see an increase in property taxes due to the redevelopment of Howard Terminal?

No and no. An EIFD does not increase anybody’s taxes and does not increase the property tax rate. It also does not impact or put at risk the City or County’s General Funds.

The current assessed value of the Waterfront Ballpark District site is approximately $29.5M. Over the next 16 years, if the project is built out as proposed, that value would be expected to grow to $7.6B. Property taxes would be assessed on this new development, generating significant new tax revenues every year. This increase would not change the property tax rate paid by other property owners.

Bottom line: How much would this project cost Oakland taxpayers?

The project would not raise taxes or put the City or County’s General Funds at risk. The City’s goal for the Waterfront Ballpark District project has always been to create a net fiscal gain for the City of Oakland, Alameda County, and their taxpayers. Even with the project’s new incremental property taxes diverted into an EIFD to help cover the costs of infrastructure, the City would see increases in other revenue streams, such as sales taxes, real estate transfer taxes and business license taxes. Though more difficult to accurately measure, the City would also see indirect economic benefits from the project as it creates jobs and stimulates business activity from West Oakland to Chinatown. The City is committed to creating a financial structure wherein City and County taxpayers stand only to gain from the project and are not at risk of being left “holding the bag,” as happened when the Raiders left Oakland without an obligation to repay the debt incurred on their behalf by the City and County to renovate the Coliseum.

So, would this be like the Raiders deal?

Not at all. The Raiders 1995 return to Oakland required the City and County, which jointly own the Coliseum, to issue bonds to pay for its renovation. Those bonds are secured by the General Funds of the City and County. Unfortunately, tax increment generated by the Coliseum has consistently fallen short of earlier projections. In addition to paying debt service on the general obligation bonds, the City and County, which jointly operate and maintain the Coliseum, also subsidize its annual multi-million dollar operating losses.

In contrast, at Howard Terminal, the Oakland A’s would privately finance, construct, operate and maintain the ballpark. No public funds would be used to build or operate the facility, nor would the City or County have operational duties or liabilities. Further, unlike the general obligation bonds issued to renovate the Coliseum, EIFD bonds wouldn’t put the General Fund at risk, and wouldn’t increase Oaklanders' property tax rates.

What is a General Purpose Fund? What is it used for, and why is protecting the City’s General Fund so important?

The General Purpose Fund is one specific fund within the General Fund group of funds. Revenues from many of the City's taxes, fees and service charges are deposited into the General Purpose Fund. It is the fund from which the City has the most flexibility in making expenditures. The City’s all Funds budget totals about $2B per year. More than 60% of the City’s budget comes through grants and voter-approved measures (such as Measure U) and can only legally be used for specific purposes such as building parks, libraries and affordable housing; these are called Restricted Funds. The City’s General Purpose Fund (commonly referred to as the General Fund, GPF or 1010) comes from taxes and other revenues that are not earmarked or dedicated for any particular purpose. The General Purpose Fund, which comprises approximately 40% of Oakland’s total budget, is the most flexible source of City funding, as use of these funds is not restricted. Public safety (police and fire) services, for which the City does not typically charge, are primarily paid for by the City’s General Purpose Fund and together comprise approximately 75% of the City’s General Fund expenses. Incurring new general obligation debt (the type used previously to finance improvements to the Oakland Coliseum for the Raiders) would hamper the City’s ability to provide critical City services, including fire and police, to service the new debt. In contrast, incurring new EIFD, CFD and/or “limited obligation” debt would protect the City’s General Fund and preserve it for purposes such as public safety. The City’s leaders have consistently stated that the General Fund should not be used to meet the costs of the A’s proposed project.

Would a waterfront ballpark negatively impact the Port?

No. By including transportation safety, infrastructure, and seaport compatibility measures, the ballpark project would be designed to avoid negative impacts Port seaport operations. The City and Port worked collaboratively on the environmental impact analysis and the design of the project so that potential impacts on seaport operations would be fully considered and addressed. Read the Port’s own statements about the project and safeguards to ensure Port compatibility here and here.

Howard Terminal cannot accommodate modern ultra-large container ships and hasn’t been used for container cargo operations since 2014. The 50-acre site is physically separated from the seaport by Schnitzer Steel, a privately-owned metal recycling operation. There is still under-utilized capacity for seaport terminal operations to expand along the Port’s deeper water outer harbor, as well as in the more than 300 acres of converted Army Base land.

Amongst other Seaport Compatibility Measures identified by the Port, the project’s certified EIR prohibits residential development on the portions of the project site nearest Schnitzer Steel and the seaport and requires implementation of a robust transportation management plan to minimize disruption to truck and rail access to the Port.

What exactly did the City ask of the County in summer and fall 2021?

The City asked the County to make a non-binding resolution of intention to “opt in” to a planned Enhanced Infrastructure Finance District (EIFD) over the Howard Terminal site and contribute its share of the net new property taxes generated by development of the Waterfront Ballpark District at Howard Terminal to finance affordable housing, parks and other infrastructure of communitywide significance. In doing so, the County would help make the project possible and, even after contributing its net new property tax revenue, still realize millions of dollars each year in net new revenue from sales and transfer taxes to fund County purposes, such as critically needed healthcare, early childhood education, and services for those experiencing homelessness.

Why is the County’s participation needed?

Development of the Howard Terminal site requires significant investment in infrastructure, both on- and off-site, as well as community benefits that include affordable housing and new public parks. The cost of those improvements is beyond what can be borne by the City and developer alone. In order to bring the project to fruition, unlock the potential of the Howard Terminal site, grow the City’s and County’s tax bases, and achieve equitable benefits for our residents, public investment from both the City and County is needed. An EIFD covering ONLY new development on the project site itself would ensure the project pays for the project. Investing the new project-generated revenues into public infrastructure and benefits, without putting either the County’s or City’s general funds at risk, would be a fiscally responsible way to maximize the public benefits of this transformative development.

Would participating in an EIFD mean the County would be back in the sports business?

No. The City and County would help finance critically needed public infrastructure, public parks and affordable housing. The City and County would have no role in the financing, ownership or management of the proposed Ballpark at Howard Terminal, which, unlike the Coliseum, would be entirely privately funded, maintained and operated.

Why would the County’s approval be needed?

In the past, complex projects such as this were commonly funded without County approval under California’s Redevelopment law, which was repealed in 2011. Redevelopment financing operated very similarly to the EIFD proposed here, except that under Redevelopment, the County’s participation would have been automatic, not discretionary. Under an EIFD, the City and County must each independently “opt-in” through a vote of their elected officials and approve an Infrastructure Financing Plan. Because opting into an EIFD does NOT raise anyone’s taxes, a vote of the people is not required.

Has the County agreed to participate in the EIFD?

Yes, in concept. On October 26, 2021, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors undertook a non-binding vote to “opt in” and contribute tax increment to the EIFD.

Community Benefits

What did the community benefits process entail?

Community members, particularly those who live in the areas closest to the project site (Jack London, West Oakland, Old Oakland, and Chinatown) engaged in an equity-centered process throughout 2020 to identify and prioritize benefits of greatest value to the community. A Steering Committee consisting primarily of community representatives met monthly in 2020 to bring forth the community’s recommendations for deliberation, and in summer 2021, the recommendations were formalized and presented publicly in a Community Benefits Recommendations Summary Report. This report would be used as a tool to help guide how resources are allocated to community benefits. Please visit the Community Benefits webpage for more information.

What’s next in the community benefits process?

Now that the community has identified its priorities, if the project were to move forward the next step would be creation of a mechanism to fund those priorities on an ongoing basis over the 66-year life of the project. The Waterfront Ballpark District Community Fund (Community Fund) would serve as a competitive grant-making program supporting activities or projects that align with the priorities identified in the Community Benefits Recommendation Summary Report. Drawing on the Oakland Race and Equity Baseline Indicators Report from October 2019, the recommendations were designed to address racial disparities and systemic inequity in the communities most directly affected by the A’s relocation and development of the new Waterfront Ballpark District. As such, the Fund would similarly support projects and programs that primarily serve residents of the impacted neighborhoods who are most affected by racial inequity.

How would the Community Fund work? Who would decide how the funds are spent?

Working with community stakeholders, the City has developed a detailed proposed governance structure for the Community Fund, which would be established by the City Council by Ordinance at the same time other project approvals are considered. Generally speaking, the Community Fund would be administered by a third-party fund manager working under the direction of a Community Oversight Committee with support from the City and Port. Together, the fund manager and Community Oversight Committee would be responsible for developing and periodically revising the Fund’s Strategic Plan and making grant awards consistent with the Strategic Plan.

Approval Process

Where are we in terms of the approval process? When could development at Howard Terminal move forward? Is it true that it would take 7 or 8 years to open a new ballpark in that location?

As noted above, the City has already certified a final EIR for the proposed project, and successfully defended that EIR against multiple legal challenges. Remaining City actions required to bring the project to fruition include amending the City’s General Plan, rezoning the project area, and other land use approvals such as approving the Development Agreement, Preliminary Development Plan and Tentative Tract Map for the project. Once City approvals are complete, the project would require additional approvals from the Port of Oakland. City and Port actions would take place over an approximately three- to four-month period, during which they would be considered as a single package at the City’s Planning Commission and City Council as well as the Board of Port Commissioners.

The pace of development thereafter would be up to the A’s. Generally speaking, prior to Ballpark opening, the A’s would need to complete architectural design and engineering of the Ballpark and the onsite improvements (such as Ballpark patron parking) needed to support the Ballpark and submit those plans to the City for plan check and issuance of the building permits. Other State and regional agencies would need to approve certain elements of the project. The Development Agreement, if approved, would provide mechanisms to expedite that plan check process to the greatest degree possible. Construction of a venue of the size contemplated by the A’s would typically be expected to take 2 to 3 years, regardless of location.

Would the approval process change for a new ownership group, or for a different use of the Howard Terminal site?

The approval process for the project as proposed by the A’s would be the same, regardless of who owns the team.

If the project does not move forward as contemplated, the approval process could differ significantly. For example, certain industrial uses could move forward with approvals only from the Port (and not the City).

Has the Port of Oakland already approved the Howard Terminal?

No. In May 2019, the Board of Port Commissioners approved the Port Term Sheet, which gave the Oakland A’s four years to achieve:

  • A certified environmental impact report for the project;
  • Land use approvals from various public agencies; and
  • Real estate agreements with the Port and others.

As noted above, the Port Term Sheet lapsed on May 12, 2023.

Click here to visit the Port of Oakland’s Proposed Howard Terminal Project webpage.

What would the City’s and Port’s roles be in the overall approval process?

In short, the Port controls the real estate, while the City has jurisdiction over its use. In February 2020, the City and Port entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) documenting their respective roles and commitment to cooperate to their mutual benefit to establish a shared regulatory framework for the proposed project. The MOU can be found on the City’s website here. That regulatory framework was codified in the jurisdictional Ordinance approved by Oakland’s City Council on February 17, 2022. The City, as the regulatory body with jurisdiction over the General Plan, must modify the General Plan before the Port takes any actions. Then, the Port will be able to consider its real estate approvals, including option and lease agreements, as well as its Seaport Compatibility Measures.

Glossary of Terms

Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC): A California state commission dedicated to the protection, enhancement and responsible use of the San Francisco Bay. Generally, BCDC must approve any portion of development projects that come within 100 feet of the bay shoreline.

“But for” Taxes: Tax revenue that would not exist “but for” the project; also known as tax increment.

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA): The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) generally requires state and local government agencies to inform decision makers and the public about the potential environmental impacts of proposed projects at the earliest possible stage, and to mitigate those environmental impacts to the extent feasible.

Development Agreement: A legally binding land use agreement between a property owner or developer and a local government, often including terms not otherwise required through existing regulations, that provides the property owner/developer with the right to develop over time under consistent rules and regulations.

Environmental Impact Report (EIR): Per the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is a detailed study that a public agency must prepare if a proposed project may cause adverse environmental impacts. An EIR contains in-depth studies of potential impacts to the physical environment, measures to reduce or avoid those impacts, and an analysis of alternatives to the project that could reduce the impacts.

Infrastructure Financing District (IFD): An Infrastructure Financing District (IFD), sometimes also called an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District (EIFD), is an area where, as property tax revenues grow due to new development, the additional revenues (also known as “incremental” or “but for” taxes) over and above a fixed base are captured to support public investment in infrastructure or affordable housing. After the District expires, usually after 45 years, all of the property tax revenue resumes flowing into the City’s and County's General Funds.

Property Tax In Lieu of Vehicle License Fee (VLF): In 2004, the Legislature permanently reduced the VLF rate from two percent to 0.65 percent and compensated cities and counties for their revenue loss with a like amount of property taxes, dollar-for-dollar.

Tax Increment Financing (TIF): A financing structure that allows local governments to invest in public infrastructure and other improvements up-front by capturing the future anticipated increase in tax revenues generated by the project. An EIFD is an example of TIF.

Term Sheet: A non-binding document that memorializes a general agreement between parties in many different types of complex business negotiations. It is a framework or outline to guide the negotiation of subsequent binding contract documents such as a Development Agreement.