OAKLAND – The Oakland City Council will vote Tuesday on an exclusive negotiating agreement with developer Forest City Residential West, which is looking to build on a plot of land that has been deemed as the most suitable location for a new baseball-only stadium.
The exclusive agreement would prohibit city officials from discussing development plans with any other party, including the Oakland Athletics, on the so-called uptown site, located north of City Hall along Telegraph Avenue, an area that includes the shuttered Fox Theatre building.
The move, along with a decision to scratch a presentation on the baseball stadium from the agenda, has some baseball fans crying foul, alleging that city officials are ruining the chance of getting a new stadium in Oakland.
“This site in Oakland is the only viable site for a ballpark,'' says Lil Bartholo, a member of the Oakland A's Fan Coalition. “We fear that (city officials) are setting us up for a situation where the Oakland A's will have no other ballpark opportunities.''
City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente says that the characterization is unfair.
He notes that the baseball team has not expressed an interest in the uptown site, and adds that the city can't afford to put everything on hold at the location, especially when there's the possibility of movement on the long-dormant, blighted corridor.
“The A's haven't made any decision -- or any commitment -- they've made no indication that they want an uptown stadium,'' De La Fuente said. “I don't know why these people want the A's to force the decision.''
The council gave approval to the exclusive negotiating agreement with Forest City in closed session earlier this month.
At a July 9 meeting of the Community and Economic Development Committee, an amendment was passed calling for the agreement to allow the city to keep negotiating with the Oakland A's about a baseball only stadium.
But a report from CEDA staff signed by City Manager Robert Bobb, a proponent of the new stadium, recommends that the city council not expand the agreement with Forest City to include the baseball team.
The report says that the proposed inclusion “negates the objective of exclusivity because it would permit the [Redevelopment] agency to negotiate simultaneously with Forest City and the Oakland Athletics.''
The report concludes that the amendment would also be costlier and take more time, since Forest City would have to consider the effects of the ballpark in an environmental impact document.
So far, the baseball team has kept quiet when it comes to talking about a location for a new ballpark. At a news conference earlier this month, team co-owner Steve Schott dodged questions about the team's preference for a new home.
The news conference was held to address another aspect of the relationship between the team and its host city -- one that the Oakland officials are also expected to consider at the Tuesday meeting.
City officials are expected to approve a five-year lease extension agreement with the Athletics that would allow the baseball team to keep playing at the Oakland Coliseum until 2007, with a three single-year extension options.
According to De La Fuente, accepting the lease extension is as far as the city can go with the A's until the team makes further indications of its plans.
“I'm absolutely ready to work with the owners of the A's when they decide where they want to be,'' De La Fuente said.
He added that even if the baseball team expresses interest in the uptown location after the exclusive agreement is reached, there is still a chance that the team can work an agreement with Forest City that could lead to an uptown stadium.