After months of wrangling over the city of Oakland’s lawsuit against Alameda County over the county’s sale of Oakland Coliseum land to A’s owner John Fisher without offering it to the county first, mostly between council president Rebecca Kaplan (who filed the suit) and Mayor Libby Schaaf (who thought it was dumb), Schaaf and Kaplan abruptly announced yesterday that they’d agreed to drop the suit:
— Sarah Ravani (@SarRavani) November 14, 2019
The Surplus Land Act is part of what was at issue in the lawsuit in the first place: The California state law requires that any agency selling public land must give first dibs to plans that promise to build affordable housing. While city officials are no longer trying to pressure the county to go through the Surplus Land Act bidding process on its sale, the city will still require it for sale of its half-share of the Coliseum property — and since Fisher or anyone else can’t build anything without full ownership of the land, this should pretty much amount to the same thing.
How much of a stumbling block this will mean for Fisher’s plans to redevelop both the Coliseum site and a new stadium and other development at the Howard Terminal site isn’t entirely clear: Newballpark.org notes that “As affordable housing is not a huge moneymaker without some sort of subsidization effort, I wouldn’t expect a ton of better offers than what the A’s can provide,” but adds that a lot still needs to be fleshed out about the team’s plans for each site. At least negotiations can now begin, though, and there’s a framework for making sure Oakland gets a fair deal for its property and some control over what happens to it, which isn’t a terrible thing at all.
What shook loose the dropping of the lawsuit appears to have been the one-two carrot-and-stick punch of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s threat to move the team to Las Vegas and Fisher’s offer of an $85 million purchase price plus a community benefits agreement if the lawsuit were dropped. So either Oakland caved to threats, or agreed to drop its suit once it had used it for leverage to get concessions, or, really, both. Which is how negotiations work, and while it’s no doubt annoying that MLB with its antitrust exemption gets to threaten to blacklist cities that won’t play ball on stadiums, it seems like Oakland haggled as well as possible under the circumstances. Now all they need to do is to negotiate a stadium deal that is actually fair to taxpayers, and … well, let’s take one small victory at a time.