July 20 Oakland City Council vote: 14 updates from A’s new stadium search at Howard Terminal

For months, the A’s touted Tuesday’s non-binding vote by the Oakland City Council on the Howard Terminal new stadium development as a do-or-die moment for these ongoing negotiations.

Well, that tactic may have backfired on A’s president Dave Kaval, and even MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who had been heaping unnecessary importance on July 20.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Oakland City Council voted 6-1 in favor (with one abstention) of its updated term sheet, which received some last-second updates during the meeting.

So, Kaval got his much-ballyhooed ‘yes’ vote, though it didn’t play out exactly as he planned. Here’s some background, a breakdown of what happened Tuesday and what’s next.


The Howard Terminal negotiation has been back in the public spotlight for the past few weeks, though the A’s and Oakland have been negotiating about the site since April 2020.

On April 23, 2021, the A’s published a draft of a term sheet, which outlined the franchise’s ideal development plan after consulting and negotiating with city staff.

On June 15, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors hosted the A’s and City of Oakland for a public meeting, which outlined a lot of technical information about the Howard Terminal development. 

On July 7, the Oakland City Council held a public study session that revealed some key changes the City seeks with the A’s proposed development plan. 

Friday, the City published its version of an updated term sheet that was poorly received by the A’s. 

The previous three links explain a lot of the finer details and technical questions that have been raised throughout this whole process.

In short, this has been a very public and ongoing negotiation, one that didn’t seem likely to reach a solid conclusion by Tuesday as A’s president Dave Kaval hoped. There are simply too many moving parts and unanswered questions at this point.

1. Vote results

The Oakland City Council is an eight-person group of elected officials from the City’s seven districts, along with Vice Mayor and Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan

As a non-binding vote, Tuesday’s session resulted in a ceremonious public declaration of approval/disapproval by the City Council. 

Yes – Rebecca Kaplan (Vice Mayor)

Yes – Dan Kalb (District 1)

Yes – Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas (District 2)

Yes – Sheng Thao (District 4)

Yes – Loren Taylor (District 6)

Yes – Treva Reid (District 7)

Abstain – Carroll Fife (District 3)

No – Noel Gallo (District 5)

So long as the A’s are willing to come back to the table, the negotiations will continue. Though it’s worth noting the City Council and the A’s don’t see eye-to-eye on mutual terms for the development yet. 

But as Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas said at the beginning of the meeting, “this is not our final decision on this complex development project.”

2. Parking Problem?

For nearly two hours to begin Tuesday’s meeting, invested citizens shared their thoughts in 60-second bursts during the public comment period. Many of the issues that were raised in the June 15 meeting and July 7 study session were re-hashed: community benefits, the impact on Chinatown, port interests, people who want them to stay at the Coliseum site, a demand for 35 percent affordable housing, etc. 

One comment stuck out to me, though, as something I haven’t spent much time thinking about throughout this whole process: parking.

Evelyn Lee, who is President of the Oakland Asian Cultural Center board, noted how lack of ample parking could have an impact on the surrounding area, including Chinatown.

“The Howard Terminal project proposes 2,000 parking spaces for 35,000 seats,” Lee said. “That’s going to result in traffic congestion and competition for people. This will spill over to Chinatown and choke off our community. We are vulnerable.”

If you take a look at page 80 of the transportation section of the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), you’ll see an explanation for the numbers Lee cited. The EIR actually accounts for 8,900 total parking spaces, though most of them will be reserved for residential and commercial uses.

The EIR states, “The overall strategy for the ballpark parking is to reduce ballpark parking on-site over time from a maximum of 3,500 on-site parking spaces under Phase 1 to no more than 2,000 on-site parking spaces at buildout, in addition to the proposed on-site non-ballpark development parking supply described below. (As a point of reference, the Oakland Coliseum currently provides about 9,100 parking spaces for ballpark events.)”

We’re in the weeds right now with talk of off-site infrastructure and Infrastructure Financing Districts (IFDs) and all that, but if this thing eventually does get built, I wouldn’t be surprised if lack of parking becomes an issue. 

We’ll cross that bridge if/when we get there, but 3,500 to 2,000 on-site parking spots for a 35,000-seat ballpark seems like a very small number to me. The Coliseum parking lot is liable to get full and that would be three-to-four times larger than the parking in the Howard Terminal proposal. It’s hard to see how the surrounding area won’t be impacted by car traffic and parking.

[UPDATE: Thanks to reader Deepak Jagannath for providing some context on local parking situations in the Bay Area]

3. Off-site infrastructure

Oakland’s Assistant City Administrator Betsy Lake and Project Manager Molly Maybrun have been spearheading the City Staff’s efforts throughout this whole process and provided a key update following the public comment period.

Getting fans from three walkable BART stations (West Oakland, 12th Street, Lake Merritt), along with infrastructure like railroad safety upgrades, grade separation, added sidewalks and bike lanes, etc. will be a significant undertaking. The A’s latest estimates peg the off-site infrastructure costs at $351.9 million.

“We believe these off-site infrastructure improvements currently identified are important investments that will improve accessibility, safety and congestion, and are aligned with the city’s values,” Lake said. “We also believe there are exceptional, external federal and state funding opportunities at this time.” 

A few weeks ago, independent reporter Steven Tavares reported that Gov. Gavin Newsom received a $279 million infrastructure request from the Port of Oakland. Politico recently published a story on what it could mean for Howard Terminal. 

Maybrun added that the A’s wouldn’t be on the hook for any financial responsibility for off-site infrastructure.

“We are in a historically exceptional environment in terms of the availability of state and federal funds for infrastructure investment,” Maybrun said. “Staff feels quite optimistic about the prospects of being able to fund most, if not all, of these costs using additional monies from those sources. … It is our understanding that the developer [the A’s] will have no responsibility for these off-site costs.”

That should ease a major stress point of negotiations, though I still have my suspicions that the A’s actually were using off-site infrastructure costs as a reason to create an off-site IFD and get their hands on future off-site property tax increases. The creation of an off-site IFD around Jack London Square would give the A’s another tax revenue stream for 45 years, but now their argument may have taken a big hit if Oakland can secure government funding for off-site infrastructure.

For now, the A’s and City are in full agreement about the establishment of an on-site IFD at the 55-acre Howard Terminal site, which will be used in concert with a Community Facilities District (CFD) and potentially a Business Improvement District (BID) to fund and maintain on-site infrastructure. 

Even though the City can secure financial aid from other government sources, Councilmember Dan Kalb questioned why the A’s shouldn’t have to chip in for off-site infrastructure costs.

“It is disturbing that the A’s are not agreeing to pay for any of the infrastructure, including the mitigation infrastructure required under the EIR, immediately outside of the walls of the future ballpark,” Kalb said. “I could understand why they necessarily wouldn’t be expected for all of it. I just don’t understand why they’re not being expected to pay for any of it.”

4. Amendments

The implementation of community benefits has also been a big talking point amongst Councilmembers and the public throughout the whole process.

Vice Mayor and Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan spoke next to explain the latest amendments to the term sheet, many of which had to do with the changing community benefits agreement.

While the A’s proposed funneling $450 million over 45 years from future IFD tax captures to community benefits, City Staff noted that IFD funds are limited in their use. So Oakland is proposing the establishment of a 66-year, $411 million Community Fund, using four sources of revenue for funds that will be more flexible for community benefits. (See the July 7 explainer for a fuller explanation.)

Before Kaplan read the amendments Tuesday there was a key exchange that showed just how active these discussions are.

“Do you have the amended resolution to screen share?” Kaplan asked Project Manager Molly Maybrun

“I believe I do,” Maybrun said.

“Molly, I believe you should go to your e-mail for the updated, revised version that came while you were talking,” Assistant City Administrator Betsy Lake said.

So, the City updated the term sheet in the middle of Tuesday’s meeting, which was certainly noticed by A’s president Dave Kaval (more on that next).

Kaplan went on to read the amendments for the term sheet, which are summarized here in layman’s terms:

– Added references to the Howard Terminal Community Benefits Steering Committee

– Future inclusion of input from West Oakland residents

– The establishment of a Community Fund 

– A target of 35 percent on- and off-site affordable housing 

– Official notice that Alameda County is analyzing City’s request to participate in future on-site IFD

Kaplan also made sure to touch on some of the talking points raised by Episode 39 podcast guest David Peters (aka @BleacherDave), who discussed the long history of black people being displaced in West Oakland. Peters also provides great insight on the community benefits process as he is part of the 21-person Steering Committee.

“I would note with our great appreciation to our neighborhood communities and coalitions, including Chinatown and West Oakland, who have given their feedback,” Kaplan said. “As well as the affordable housing advocates and communities that have also stressed the importance of anti-displacement services being made available in addition to advocating for a strong inclusion of affordable housing.

“This change also does include, as mentioned, the use of external funds, for transportation infrastructure, which in many cases are projects which are needed to remedy historic inequities that have happened because of historic federal, state and regional projects that divided and cut apart and undermined communities.”

5. No consensus

We didn’t hear from A’s president Dave Kaval until about three hours through the meeting, and his initial comments changed the tenor of the entire session.

After nearly three minutes of thanking the Council and the public, you could just tell a huge “but” was coming from Kaval. And he delivered.

“Councilmember Kaplan, I really appreciate a lot of her amendments and a lot of the new things,” Kaval said. “This is the first time we’ve seen those amendments, so we’re still digesting some of those things. There has been progress in the negotiations. We’ve moved and made concessions, the City’s made concessions.

“But I think it is important to remember that the current term sheet — even with these amendments — is not something that the A’s have consensus around. It’s not a term sheet that we proposed with edits that we’ve proposed, with mutual agreement. I just really want to stress that voting ‘yes’ on something that we don’t agree with or that we don’t have consensus around, is not an effective path forward. I really want to work with the Council to see how we can work toward how we can get something we agreed to be voted on before the recess, as opposed to something that doesn’t work for our side.”

This led to a couple of exchanges between Kaval and Councilmember Carroll Fife, who has been asking sharp questions to Kaval and sharing smart observations during this process. It’s worth noting that Howard Terminal is located in Fife’s District 3.

“Does that mean that the A’s ownership does not support what is being presented today?” Fife asked Kaval.

“From our perspective, this is not a term sheet that works for the A’s,” Kaval said. “We had a term sheet that we originally proposed in April. We made significant concessions in that through the negotiating process. We’re seeing some of this for the first time. The language that came from Councilmember Kaplan, I’d never seen that language until I saw it up on the screenshare.

“It’s not the basis of our proposal or a derivative of that. So, it’s not something we agree with. We don’t think it’s that beneficial to have a vote on something where there’s not consensus between the project sponsor, the A’s, and the City.”

To which Fife had a great response, “I’m not sure why we’re even here today.”

Right? Why hold a non-binding vote on a term sheet that’s not agreed upon by both parties?

As I see it, the A’s drew their line in the sand when they published their term sheet on April 23. Oakland drew its line in the sand when it published the updated term sheet on July 16. That’s why I thought it was crazy to expect the City Council vote to amount to anything substantial on Tuesday. 

The July 20 vote was never positioned to be of any major consequence, despite the constant harping by Kaval and social media blitz over the past few weeks.

6. Timeline

During this line of questioning from Councilmember Carroll Fife, A’s president Dave Kaval finally admitted that Tuesday’s vote wouldn’t be the end-all, be-all date he was proclaiming.

This negotiation is going to take time, especially considering the all-important draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) won’t be certified until late October or November at the earliest.

“If that means we need to continue to work towards a solution between now and the end of the recess, that’s fine,” Kaval said. “The current term sheet, as it’s constructed and with its current language, is not a business partnership that works for us.”

City Council will take a month-long recess in August, meaning the A’s will likely have to wait until September to get back to hammering out a deal, barring any massive negotiations by July 31.

“I consider the past few weeks as the seventh inning stretch,” Councilmember Dan Kalb said. “Today is the end of the seventh inning, not the end of the ninth inning. Supporting and the moving forward of this discussion — more than a discussion — but moving forward with a number of terms agreed to, a few outstanding, helps move us forward and gives us more time over the next few months to work on that.”

To me, it seems like November is a natural deadline to hold a meaningful City Council vote. Wait until the EIR is certified, just to make sure there aren’t any speed bumps revealed in the EIR public comment review and certification process.

7. Non relocation agreement

The A’s initially proposed a 20-year non-relocation agreement with the City, even though most estimates expect a full 15-year buildout of this project. At the July 7 study session, Oakland project manager Molly Maybrun referred to the 45-year IFD agreements and 66-year port lease as reference points,

As of Tuesday, the Oakland and the A’s have come to a 25-year non-relocation agreement. The A’s will have to play all of their home games (barring exhibitions) in Oakland, keep the team headquarters in Oakland, and maintain Oakland as it’s primary geographic identifier (i.e. they won’t turn into East Bay A’s, California A’s) among other stipulations.

A’s president Dave Kaval has repeatedly mentioned this five-year budge (from 20 years to 25) as a “concession” in the negotiation, but it’s not much. 

“These have become nearly universal parts of ballpark projects that require any level of public investment,” Oakland project manager Molly Maybrun said at the July 7 study session. “This has changed quite a bit over the last two decades. These non-relocation agreements did not become common, so Oakland was not alone in the mistakes that we have endured at the Coliseum.

“But I think that many cities, Oakland included, have really been to the school of hard knocks when it comes to understanding what’s needed to protect those investments. Non-relocation agreements really have become the norm when there’s any level of public money involved in the buildout of a professional sports facility in the United States.”

Remember that quote every time Kaval mentions the non-relocation agreement as a “concession.” I don’t think committing to 25 years at Howard Terminal instead of 20 is a significant “concession” either.

With this agreement, the City is confident it won’t get burned by the A’s skipping town, like they did with the Raiders (twice).

8. Affordable housing

The implementation of affordable housing continues to be a focus for the Howard Terminal Community Benefits Steering Committee and public at large.

While City staff initially proposed the A’s commit to 15 percent on-site affordable housing (450 of 3,000 residential units), Oakland is now targeting an additional 20 percent of off-site affordable housing.

A’s fan and Howard Terminal Community Benefits Steering Committee member David Peters (aka @BleacherDave) explained how this can be achieved on Episode 39 of the G.O.A.P.

9. Bullying tactics

Remember Dave Kaval’s tweets from the Las Vegas Golden Knights game in May? The City Council sure does.

A couple of Councilmembers made a point to reference the social media behavior of Kaval and the A’s.

“I do take issue with how the A’s have shown up throughout this process,” Councilmember Loren Taylor said. “The bullying tactics, the sleight of hand, the tweets from Vegas meant to taunt or sort of provoke. If we were voting on the A’s and sort of how they behaved and that piece, it would certainly be a ‘no’ vote.”

Soon after, fellow Councilmember Treva Reid also backed up Taylor’s claims while making a point to mention the timeline and pressure Kaval created leading up to Tuesday’s vote.

“I hope the A’s stay at the table,” Reid said. “I hope Mr. Kaval that you all will work and negotiate for transparency with us. You are absolutely right, sir, it has not been an ‘effective path’ to have terms negotiated with minimal time to consider, as we have had brought before us, via Twitter and other public forums.

“We hope that this public process provides clarity over any confusion. Especially to our public that’s depending on us and how we show up and show up together, and not allowing those discussions continue to be in forums. We hear the soundbites. We see the social media posts. That’s not how I believe a deeply rooted relationship should progress towards a deal that hits a home run for all of us.”

For what it’s worth, Kaval spent all Wednesday in Las Vegas and not a peep yet on Twitter.

10. Yes votes

With everyone’s cards on the table, it became apparent that the updated version of the term sheet would be approved by the City Council.

The following six Councilmembers voted in favor of Tuesday’s resolution: Kaplan (Vice Mayor), Dan Kalb (District 1), Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas (District 2), Sheng Thao (District 4), Loren Taylor (District 6) and Treva Reid (District 7).

“I’m going to support this motion,” Kalb said before the vote. “I’m going to hold my nose while I’m voting for it. But I reserve the right to not support something six months from now, or whenever that comes back to us, depending on what’s in there. That’s where I am right now.”

Thao made sure to give folks a reminder about the true weight (or lack thereof) in Tuesday’s vote. 

“I want to make sure that the public is clear in regards to what we’re doing today,” Thao said. “Today’s vote is a non-binding draft term sheet. Our vote today is not going to commit anyone to this project, but it will further give us direction on how to move forward with our Oakland values with our negotiations as a city with the Oakland A’s.”

11. Gallo votes no

Noel Gallo (District 5) was the lone Councilmember to vote against the resolution, but I have little faith that he has done the required homework on this project, which is alarming.

Back in the July 7 study session, Gallo asked Oakland Project Manager Molly Maybrun if Carroll Fife’s taxes would go up, since she represents (and ostensibly lives) in District 3 in West Oakland. This shows he has a fundamental misunderstanding of how an IFD works, as no current West Oakland resident’s taxes will go up. The IFD will capture future tax increments from on-site tenants when construction is finished at Howard Terminal.

The fact that he’s one of eight Councilmembers voting, but doesn’t show a basic understanding for something so crucial as the on-site IFD is worrisome.

Gallo pushed the Coliseum site Tuesday as Oakland’s best option for a new ballpark. He also argued that the A’s should consider utilizing the Raiders headquarters — which is in Alameda — as the A’s HQ. 

“The other thing that’s available to you, you have over at Harbor Bay, the old Raiders training facility where Oakland owns half of it and the county owns the other half,” Gallo said. “Here is an attractive site that could be the Oakland A’s office.”

One problem: the terms of the non-relocation agreement stipulate the A’s headquarters has to be in Oakland. He said “office,” not ‘headquarters,’ but still. I don’t think the Coliseum bundled with the Raiders old practice facility is an asset or talking point at this juncture of negotiations.

Gallo seems out of touch on this whole process and is still relying on folksy generalizations.

“We were elected to represent the residents of Oakland,” Gallo said. “This is a business transaction where people are in it to make money. To make money. Sometimes these businesses make money on the backs of our neighbors and our residents. Those are realities. 

“For me, this is not the first time we’ve dealt with Howard Terminal. When [former Mayor] Jerry Brown was here and Robert Bobb was the [City] Manager, they had an interest with Howard Terminal. In my communications with Robert Bobb, they clearly said ‘no.’ No to A’s, due to the safety issues, transportation and the growth of the Port of Oakland.

“Those are real. I think that we as a Council are spending many meetings with all these terms. But I wish we would take the same time and deal with the emergencies that we have in the neighborhood.” 

Bobb hasn’t worked as Oakland City Manager since 2003. So Gallo is still relying on Howard Terminal info he heard at least 18 years ago. Incredible. I think it’s safe to say that Gallo has not done his homework on this project.

12. Why Fife abstained

I think Councilmember Carroll Fife deserves recognition for her direct approach to this whole process and forthright questioning to A’s president Dave Kaval, who often sidesteps his way to a political answer.

Howard Terminal is located in Fife’s district and she was the lone Councilmember not to vote, but I agree with the logic she presented.

“I feel like we’re voting on something that the A’s are going to turn down,” Fife said. “Because there are so many questions. I mean, from what I understood, Mr. Kaval requested these changes in language and was part of the negotiations with you all and the City Staff. Not necessarily the entire Council, but definitely with the City Staff, for hours, over the last few days and a lot of work has gone into this. And it’s still not enough.”

If there’s not a consensus between the two negotiating parties (Oakland, the A’s) then why vote? It’s a great question. 

Again, I think the vote was just a result of all the public pressure the A’s put on July 20, even when it didn’t fit with a realistic timeline for the negotiation.

13. What’s it all mean

Wrinkles are being smoothed out, and it’s hard to imagine anything major going down by the end of the month before the City Council’s recess.

I expect negotiations to continue throughout July but that nothing significant will occur until September once the City Council is back at work. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors also said on June 15 it wanted until at least September to review information, and it appears the County will be involved at some level. And — again — the EIR review isn’t expected to be finished until late October, with a likely November certification date at the earliest.

Unless the A’s break off negotiations, Tuesday’s vote and comments means that this ongoing negotiation will probably be resolved at some point in 2021 — good or bad. But at least the finish line is coming into focus.

A’s president Dave Kaval didn’t get the concrete resolution he desired on July 20. At least he got some “direction” which is something he claimed he wanted a couple of weeks ago when I asked why they were putting so much stock in a non-binding vote.

14. What’s next

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf held a press conference Wednesday morning near the Howard Terminal site to add her public stamp of approval to the City Council’s 6-1 vote.

Again, A’s president Dave Kaval isn’t exactly on board, but her press conference puts the ball firmly in the A’s court for the next move.

Kaval’s interview with ABC 7’s Casey Pratt provided some immediate reaction on Tuesday, I highly recommend watching the entire five-minute interview.

Kaval, meanwhile, made a planned trip to Las Vegas Wednesday, reportedly with owner John Fisher and a “team architect” according to Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Mick Akers

Here’s what Commissioner Rob Manfred had to say, via Shayna Rubin of the Bay Area News Group:

The A’s will continue to do public homework, and don’t be surprised if some other city names trickle out over the next few weeks from the A’s and MLB.

Then the biggest question — when would an actual shovel be in the ground?

“There is a requirement that the ballpark commence construction no later than 2025,” Project Manager Molly Maybrun said. “With an absolute outside date of May 28, 2028.”

2028 groundbreaking at the latest? I’d take it!