SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California agency on Thursday cleared the way for the Oakland Athletics to proceed with planning a $12 billion waterfront project.
The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission voted 23-2 to reclassify a 56-acre terminal in the Port of Oakland as a mixed-use area where a new stadium could be built. The vote is the first in a series of legal hurdles the team would have to overcome before being allowed to clear ground for the project.
The commission followed the recommendation of its staff, which found that the team showed that removing the terminal from the port “would not impair the region’s ability to handle the expected growth in cargo.”
The A’s are the last professional franchise left in Oakland after the NBA’s Golden State Warriors moved to San Francisco in recent years and the NFL’s Raiders to Las Vegas. The defectors are weighing heavily on the Bay Area city of about 400,000 people, some of whom on Thursday pleaded with the committee to work harder to keep the team and its jobs.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the approval has brought the city closer to bringing “this bold vision into a beautiful reality and keeping our A’s rooted in Oakland for generations to come.”
“Our city has historically been overlooked for great economic development, but today that story about Oakland is changing,” she said in a statement.
The two commissioners and members of the public who opposed no longer classifying Howard Terminal for port priority questioned whether the Port of Oakland would have room to expand as shipping traffic grows if a massive real estate development were to take place.
Erin Wright, a third-generation dock worker and member of ILWU Local 10, said the maritime community opposes the project because it would hinder the shipment and reception of cargo.
“Anyone with a working brain knows that building houses in an industrial zone will have a huge negative impact on all operations and lead to the downturn and degradation of our seaports,” he said.
“Our port is busier than in my 33 years. We need (Howard Terminal) for operations. We use it, we use it every day,” he added.
Last year, the Oakland City Council approved preliminary terms for the project, but A’s president Dave Kaval said the financial terms weren’t working for the team. Kaval said the team was walking “parallel paths” and planning new baseball fields in Oakland and Las Vegas.
The A’s top minor league team, the Las Vegas Aviators, has been playing in a new stadium several miles northwest of the Strip since April 2019. It has 8,196 seats and 22 air-conditioned suites, but is not considered suitable for long-term use by the A’s.
The Triple A team reported that it attracted an average of 6,590 fans in the 2021 season. By comparison, the A’s have drawn remarkably few fans to Oakland’s RingCentral Coliseum, which seats more than 63,000.
In Las Vegas, local news outlets have tracked visits from A’s team managers since 2021 and, sometimes citing unnamed sources, have reported on team interest in various properties on or off the Las Vegas Strip.
Both the T-Mobile Arena, home of the NHL Vegas Golden Knights since 2017, and the Allegiant Stadium, a 65,000-seat dome, are within walking distance of the Strip resorts. The NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders moved from Oakland in 2020 to play at Allegiant Stadium.
Focusing on two locations, A executives met with the owners of the Tropicana Las Vegas, an aging icon built in 1957 and namesake of a major intersection on Las Vegas Boulevard, according to local media.
In Oakland, the A’s proposal includes a $1 billion privately funded 35,000-seat waterfront margin at Howard Terminal, which is currently used as an overflow parking lot for containers and trucks. The project also includes 3,000 residential units, office and retail space, hotel rooms and an indoor performance center.
The team’s lease at the aging RingCentral Coliseum runs until 2024. The league has said rebuilding at its current location is not a viable option. In May, Major League Baseball ordered Oakland’s brass to explore relocation options if no agreement could be reached.
Associated Press writer Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.