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Oakland coalition calls for A's owners to sell stake in Coliseum

"Rooted in Oakland" sign comes down at Coliseum
"Rooted in Oakland" sign comes down at Coliseum 00:48

Affordable housing, environmental protection, living wages and investment in the community are the goals in sight for the Coliseum stadium site in Oakland, but according to local advocacy groups, the Athletics baseball team's owners are standing in the way.

Members of the Oakland United Coalition, a collection of local nonprofits, spoke in front of the Alameda County Administration Building on Tuesday. They urged the county's Board of Supervisors to back out of the sale of their 50% stake of the property to the A's, who have been paying the county incrementally since 2019. 

Coliseum Way Partners, the group that represents the Fisher family that owns the team, once had plans to develop two sites -- a new ballpark at Oakland's Howard Terminal and the Coliseum site that also currently houses the Oakland Arena.

They signed an agreement with the county to purchase their half of the Coliseum property. So far, they've paid $40 million out of the $85 million sale price, but the groups want the county to pull out before the deal is final.

"The Fisher family, they have these huge real estate and development deals," said Vanessa Riles of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, part of the coalition. "So, it made sense that they were going to continue both sites -- one in West Oakland, one in East Oakland -- but now they're doing neither. But they still are on their way to owning half of the Coliseum. And they're blocking anything else from happening there."

Oakland-based African American Sports & Entertainment Group has reached out to both the city and county to purchase their share. In their most recent offer, half ownership would remain with the city and half would be owned by AASEG, said Riles.

When the team was contacted for comment on the rally Tuesday, its spokesperson said the A's are meeting with AASEG within the next week to discuss the future of the Coliseum property. 

Several members of AASEG are from Oakland and are really interested in trying to serve the East Oakland community, said Riles. 

"At least that's what they have said. They worked to do some community organizing themselves and to try to meet with local nonprofits, especially black-led nonprofits in East Oakland," she said.

In October 2021, the Oakland United Coalition signed a memorandum of understanding with AASEG.

AASEG gave a proposal to the city of Oakland, said Riles. They want to bring in a Women's National Basketball Association team. They agreed to do affordable housing, retail space, a green space and a community space, she said.

People with the coalition who spoke Tuesday included the Agnes Memorial Church of God in Christ, East Bay Housing Organizations, Higher Ground Neighborhood Development Corporation, the team booster group Oakland 68s and Youth Spirit Artworks, which works with the Tiny House Empowerment Village near the Coliseum. One of the groups, Communities for a Better Environment, recently filed a lawsuit against the county and the A's alleging that the county did not follow the Surplus Land Act, a state law that governs how public land is sold. The group's spokesperson Gabrielle Sloane-Law listed grievances she hears from her Stonehurst community.

"We need spaces for our kids to play. We need spaces for our community to gather. We need clean air to breathe," she said. "The lifespan in my neighborhood is 10 years shorter than the lifespan in the hills."

According to Riles, there is a provision in the county's 2019 agreement with the team that says if there is a community lawsuit filed against the county and the A's, the county has the right to not dispute the lawsuit and back out of the disposition agreement.

"So, that lawsuit means that the county could kick out of the agreement," she said.

The A's lease ends following its 2024 Major League Baseball season and the team is talking to Sacramento and Oakland about where it could play -- including an extended lease at the Coliseum -- until its new stadium in Las Vegas is complete by the team's planned date of 2028, said Riles.

Despite those negotiations, the team has given clear signs of distancing itself from its East Bay fan base.

Earlier this week, crews could be seen taking down the "Rooted in Oakland" sign at the Coliseum, a month ahead of the 2024 MLB season.

The A's also decided against hosting its traditional Fan Fest. Last week, a major beer sponsor backed out of independently held Fans' Fest 2024 in Oakland just days before the event. Oakland fans still went ahead and took the reins of the spring baseball celebration last weekend.

Meanwhile, non-MLB teams cannot play there. Riles thinks it's because the team wants to perpetuate the narrative that the Coliseum is old and unusable.

"They said the team needed to move because the Coliseum is in poor condition, that nobody wants to play in the Coliseum, it's not good enough and nobody wants to develop it," she said. "I feel like they're kind of holding that property hostage, which is really cold in that community."

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