Community rallies for more affordable housing as MLB heats up pressure for A's waterfront ballpark

A coalition of Oakland community groups scheduled a rally Wednesday morning outside the Oakland A's office at Jack London Square, calling for the A's and the developer of a proposed waterfront ballpark to invest more money in the community as part of the project. 

Oakland United and members of the Oakland Chinatown communityare staging a press conference and rally outside the Oakland A’s offices in Jack London Square demanding the team's owners, the billionaire Fisher family, make concrete commitments and contribute private funds towards community benefits for their proposed Howard Terminal project. 

The City Council has scheduled a meeting and vote on July 20 over the terms of agreement with the A's concerning the team's plan to build a new ballpark at the Port of Oakland's Howard terminal location.

The community groups' call for action comes as Major League Baseball is putting more pressure on the Oakland City Council over the A's proposed waterfront ballpark. On Tuesday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said a "no" vote could mean the end of the A's plans to remain in Oakland.

A's President Dave Kaval says negotiations continue, but there's still a wide gap.

"It's a hard deadline. We've been working almost five years on this project so it's not like we're asking for a snap vote," said Oakland A's Team President Dave Kaval, "We've been having meetings daily, but the two sides remain pretty far about. Over half a billion dollars apart."

Kaval says the A's proposal includes private funding for the $1 billion ballpark that would accommodate 35,000 people and include a hotel and housing units. He says the developer has made concessions, agreeing to remain for 30 years instead of the initial offer of 20 years, and they plan to create tax districts to generate funds for community benefits.

There are some big sticking points, however, for both sides.

"It's mostly around the offsite infrastructure, the deferred maintenance on a lot of parts of the city that we don't think the project should be responsible for," said Kaval.

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Some people say the A's are not doing enough to invest money into the community that could be adversely impacted by the project which has faced criticism from the shipping industry and some community activists.

Oakland City Council member Dan Kalb says the main sticking point is affordable housing. He says the A's plan to build 3,000 housing units does not follow the law that requires allocation of some units for below-market affordable housing rates.

"We're kind of shocked really," said Oakland City Council member Dan Kalb who chaired a workshop between city officials and the A's team leaders last week, "Our requirement says if you do market rate units, you have to contribute to our affordable housing needs and that law's been in the books for over five years, which they're well aware of."

SEE ALSO: A's $12B Howard Terminal proposal includes privately-funded $1B waterfront ballpark

Liana Molina, a spokeswoman for the East Bay Alliance for Sustainable Economy, says they want to see the project developers invest more money directly into the community instead of relying on tax revenues.

"Specifically making commitments around affordable housing, local hiring to make jobs available to Oaklanders who have traditionally been locked out of employment and then protecting our environment," said Molina, listing some of the top priorities for the community groups.

Oakland residents, still feeling the sting from losing the Oakland Raiders football team and the Golden State Warriors basketball team, have mixed feelings about the A's proposed project.

"It just seems it's going to be more profit for the owners and not such a good deal for the citizens of Oakland," said Martin Gross of Oakland.

"The city needs to find funding to keep whatever teams we can hold onto," said one young man from Oakland who did not want to give his name.

"Anything we can do to keep the team here I think is the most important. We need more jobs here, we need more infrastructure," said Nancy Smith, another Oakland resident.