If you’ve been ignoring the latest iteration of California’s budget crisis — thanks, Prop 13! — you’ve missed what could be big news for the Oakland A’s plans to build a new stadium in San Jose. From today’s San Francisco Chronicle:
Under [Governor Jerry] Brown’s proposal, existing redevelopment agencies – which oversee urban renewal in blighted areas and are funded through property taxes – would cease to exist beginning July 1. Instead, that $1.7 billion in property tax money would be used to help plug a $25.4 billion deficit in the general fund for one year and in future years would be directly distributed to counties, cities and school districts. Backers of redevelopment agencies say they are critical economic drivers, but the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has been a major critic of them and in a report published this week reiterated the conclusion that “there is no reliable evidence that redevelopment projects attract business to the state or increase overall economic development in California.”
And what, exactly, does this have to do with the A’s? Recall that it was the San Jose RDA that’s supposed to be buying the land for A’s owner Lew Wolff’s stadium project, and there’s still about $20 million worth of parcels to go. While that’s not an insurmountable sum — the RDA is already working on selling some other land to raise cash, with one of the bidders, ironically enough, being Wolff — it’s going to be awfully hard for the RDA to write checks once Gov. Brown waves his hand and makes it go poof. And while it conceivably could rush to beat the July 1 deadline, knowing that they’re on the clock is going to give a lot of pricing leverage to the landowners who have so far reufsed to sell — who, let’s not forget, include the San Francisco Giants‘ ballpark naming rights sponsor, AT&T, who might have a vested interest in not wanting to see a San Jose A’s move go through.
The alternative, obviously, is for Wolff himself to buy the land, though he might not be so eager to throw $20 million at a project that could end up too rich for his blood anyway, unless Bud Selig breaks character and forces Giants owner Bill Neukom to cough up territorial rights for next to nothing. Though given that Oakland’s latest stadium plan would be even more hamstrung by the death of RDAs, Wolff might not have any other options, unless you count sitting tight at the Oakland Coliseum or trying to get stadium talks going in some smaller non-California town (Portland? Las Vegas?) as viable alternatives. If MLB would really let him buy the Dodgers and make the A’s the league’s problem, now might be the time to consider it.