Bill would let A’s owners use tax money for Howard Terminal infrastructure they said they’d pay for themselves

Oakland A’s owner John Fisher has been trying to build a new stadium forever, and for just as long he’s been insisting he’ll do it entirely with private money. So, ruh-roh:

Legislation that would help the City of Oakland finance infrastructure and transportation projects for a new ballpark at Howard Terminal was approved Monday by the State Senate…

The bill would allow Oakland to create an infrastructure financing district for the roughly 50-acre waterfront property where the Oakland Athletics intend to build a 35,000-seat ballpark, 3,000 units of housing, in addition, to retail and office space.

“Any financing that emanates from the district would not be used for the actual stadium itself. That is going to be privately financed,” [state Sen. Nancy] Skinner said on the state senate floor. “but rather for the other transportation and other infrastructure that may be needed at the site.”

So, okay, if you’re new to this whole development subsidy thing, “transportation and other infrastructure” could mean stuff that genuinely has nothing to do with an A’s stadium, or at least only tangentially benefits it while also benefitting the whole area; or it could mean “everything about the stadium that isn’t actually holding up the seats.” It’s always tough to say until you see the actual funding plan, and we don’t have that for the A’s. The actual bill appears to leave it up to the city of Oakland how big to draw the tax increment financing district, and what to spend the money on, so that’s no help either.

(And if you’re new to tax increment financing, it’s basically kicking back taxes from a new development to help pay for part of the development’s costs. It doesn’t usually work out too good.)

The A’s planned Howard Terminal site will have lots of environmental cleanup costs, but team execs say they’re going to pay for those; in fact, team president Dave Kaval went so far as to say back in February, “There are going to be a lot of infrastructure costs on the site, whether it’s transportation, whether it’s sea level rise, whether it’s environmental mitigation. Those are all things that as part of the project, we’re willing to pay for.” And by “the site” Kaval meant the whole site, including other development, so … beats me, man.

As for how much tax could be redirected to this infrastructure fund, it depends on how big a TIF district Oakland approves. If we wild-ass-guesstimate a $1 billion development, though, and the effective property tax rate in Oakland is a little under 1.5%, then over 30 years, in present value … we could maybe be talking about $200 million or more. Probably less than that given that you’d have to deduct the current value of Howard Terminal land, but still, likely somewhere in the low nine figures. Maybe.

This is all exceeding hand-wavy, obviously, and really you’d want an Oakland City Hall reporter who’s on the scene (or at least in the right time zone) to be asking these questions. All we know for sure is that Zennie Abraham claims he gave Kaval the idea for TIFs last year, though given that 1) the A’s owners were talking about TIF-like structures way back in 2006 and 2) Zennie Abraham has claimed lots of things, probably best to keep several large grains of salt on hand for that one as well.


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15 comments on “Bill would let A’s owners use tax money for Howard Terminal infrastructure they said they’d pay for themselves

  1. Neil is racist, as usual. He doesn’t know the history of my involvement, but seeks to discredit me because he has white supremacist issues with my being black and involved in this way in economic development in Oakland. Ask yourself why he took time to mention me. No good reason.

    1. If this really is Zennie Abraham I think you owe it to your readers, employers, FOS readers, and Neil to provide evidence of racism and/or white supremacist issues. I’ve been reading Neil’s reporting for the past decade and have never seen anything resembling your allegations. Rather, Neil’s reporting skews more progressive than most. And not that this matters, but I’m a minority.

      1. Nah, this is probably an upset A’s fan trying to do his best 4Chan trolling. Pretty weak, imo.

        1. It’s not from the same IP address Zennie used the last time he posted here, but it did use his personal email address, so I’m inclined to think it’s him. Hi, Zennie!

    2. I think I made it pretty clear in the links why I’ve been critical of Zennie. I mentioned him this time because he’s one of the few people to write about this TIF thing, if only to weirdly take credit for it.

      I should also note that calling someone racist (as opposed to calling a statement of theirs racist, which is a different thing) would normally be a massive violation of the “no personal attacks” rule, but I let those slide when they’re against me. If anyone crosses that line with anyone else in the ensuing discussion, though, there will be trips to the penalty box in store.

    3. Sorry. I have read this site for years and Neil has not said a single racist thing period.

      It is disgraceful for Someone to throw around that kind of charge when actual people have suffered so much under the boot of actual racism.

      Neil’s arguments are that we should not be spending public money on private sports operations and that it does not actually benefit the public. If Zennie happens to believe otherwise, then he should engage the debate in the public arena. To spuriously use the charge racism only damages the credibility of the aurguement Zennie might hope to make. I assume therefore, that he doesn’t have an actual aurguement.

      1. I second Terry. Mr. Abraham has totally discredited himself.

        That’s one less local blog I need to read.

    4. I think that’s entirely appropriate to call someone racist when they challenge your intellectual thought processes and journalistic conclusions regardless of intent.

  2. I don’t think any of Zennie’s predictions (that weren’t basically in agreement with broader consensus) have actually proven true.

    Oh, and he operates a network of social media bots that would make Putin and Xi proud. Wouldn’t be surprised if they are used to target FoS related accounts.

    Also not really sure John Fisher ever tried to build any stadium before now (arguably not even now). Lew Wolff led the charge on the stadium front for years with Fisher sitting back and seemingly doing nothing. Even now, I think he’s basically the check writer and hasn’t had much of a hand in moving the current proposal along.

    1. Nobody’s been targeting any FoS-related accounts with anything that I can tell, unless it’s vicious subtweets.

  3. Zennie Abraham was also the same person who called Deadspin racist the day they allowed the dudes from Fire Joe Morgan to guest run the site, because Joe Morgan is black. (Mind you, this was when Tommy Craggs was the editor). Racism is a very real and serious issue to address these days, but this appears way off base…again.

  4. Now that we’re leaving and taking the only sport that matters with us to Vegas, baby(!), I imagine Oakland will fall all over itself to subsidize a shitty sport like baseball, lol. Good luck, chumps. You could have paid us off like every other city does but no, so, buh-bye!

  5. I love the image of Zennie talking to a billionaire telling him about some clever financing move the rich guy and his people had never heard of before. It reminds me of a classic Dilbert where a disheveled guy is writing a huge equation on a chalkboard and then says “And this equation explains how I can be an expert on finance but still dress like a flood victim.”

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