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Oakland A’s Coliseum plans hit by lawsuit

The Oakland Athletics have been met with a significant barrier in ongoing efforts to secure a new home after the City of Oakland sued Alameda County over its plan to sell its stake in the RingCentral Coliseum to the Major League Baseball franchise, a decision that A’s president Dave Kaval said left the team “dumbfounded”.

Following the news yesterday (Tuesday), Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch has issued a temporary restraining order blocking the County from selling its share in the Coliseum, which is owned equally between the county and the city.

Kaval said the judge’s ruling creates another challenge with the plans for the Coliseum project, which includes a “robust” affordable housing plan and community benefits package. “We were disappointed that the temporary restraining order was granted,” Kaval added, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. “It’s obviously another complication in terms of moving forward with the project in East Oakland.”

In June, plans for a new waterfront ballpark for the A’s progressed after lawmakers unanimously voted to support two state bills necessary for the development. The 35,000-seat stadium in the California city would be built at Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland and the development, which is also to include affordable housing and commercial buildings, would be privately financed.

Plans for the new arena were first released last November, when the A’s also detailed a vision to revitalise the Coliseum by pulling the adjacent neighbourhood space into the site, and creating new economic, cultural, and recreational opportunities. The Coliseum has been home to the A’s and Oakland Raiders since 1968, but the NFL American football team is poised to move to a new 65,000-seat stadium in Las Vegas in time for the 2020 season.

The A’s are hoping that development of the Coliseum site will help fund their new ballpark and the team had agreed in principle on a deal that involved acquiring the county’s 50% share for $85m (£69.1m/€77.8m). However, the city’s lawsuit, which was filed on Friday, claims that the county is violating a state law that requires publicly owned surplus lands to be considered for affordable housing before they are sold or leased. The city believes the country has not met the requirement of seeking to negotiate “in good faith” for at least 90 days.

The city’s move comes after the collapse of a deal proposed last year that would have seen the A’s buy the whole Coliseum site for $136m. The A’s have since sought to negotiate separately with the county on its stake.

Kaval, who claimed the prospect of a lawsuit was not mentioned in meetings on Friday with Betsy Lake, Oakland’s deputy city administrator of real estate and major projects, added: “We did sign an exclusive negotiating agreement with the city of Oakland about 18 months ago for the Coliseum site that included a community benefits framework, things like a robust affordable housing plan, workforce development, open space, other areas that can really help local Oakland residents. We’ve also offered to the city to do a joint venture.”

The dispute has seen Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf wade into the affair. She said: “It is so easy to put a lawsuit on pause while we try and resolve things diplomatically. And I think that is in the best interest of taxpayers. Governments should be working together and not against each other.”

Commenting on its lawsuit, City of Oakland Council President, Rebecca Kaplan, said: “It’s not my intention or belief that the intent is to shut them out. This is about the legally required process. The A’s can still submit their proposal. The A’s could buy the city half and the county half. That hasn’t been taken off the table. You’re required before you sell public land to do the Surplus Lands Act noticing, and so are we, and since we co-own the land, we could be in trouble.”

Image: Fastily