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.
At the time of the vote, Senate Bill 293, which was authored by East Bay state Sen. Nancy Skinner, was approved 34-0.
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,” Skinner said on the state senate floor. “but rather for the other transportation and other infrastructure that may be needed at the site.”
It also expands the term for receiving tax increment dollars from 30 years to 45 years, and includes a “protest process,” instead of a public vote. “Part of the motivation is this is an area that has very few residents,” she added.
Skinner said amendments to the bill maintaining the authority of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and State Lands Commission will be included in the legislation, but she was unable to procure them in time for Monday’s floor session.
Stadium and arena bills such as Skinner’s and another offered by Assemblymember Rob Bonta to streamline the regulatory process have received opposition in recent years. The process has been used to aid approval for a downtown arena for the Sacramento Kings, and stadium projects in Southern California for the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Clippers.
State Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa, said he struggled with giving support to the Athletics’ plan for a new ballpark in Oakland at a time when the finances of city’s school district is so poor.
“I’ve been trying to do a lot of thinking about it. I get a little nervous about certain transactions and I’ve looked pretty closely at the City of Oakland,” said Moorlach, who labeled the bill a “redevelopment-like vehicle.” He then read out loud the Oakland Unified School District’s dismal financial record.
But Moorlach’s then offered his support for the bill with a caveat. “Oakland needs a shot in the arm and economic boost to its distressful balance sheet. I’m not sure moving a baseball stadium will do the trick, but I sure hope it does. If it doesn’t, I sure apologize in advance for encouraging an aye vote on SB 293.”
Skinner, though, assured Moorlach the bill does not take away property tax increment that would otherwise go to Oakland schools, similar to how redevelopment agencies once operated in the state.
The bill heads to the Assembly for debate.