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Oakland City Council gives initial approval for sale of Coliseum

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao on city council approving Coliseum sale
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao on city council approving Coliseum sale 04:13

The Oakland City Council unanimously voted Wednesday to authorize the sale of its share of the Oakland Coliseum to the locally owned African American Sports and Entertainment Group.

The item was approved unanimously by an 8-0 vote. The vote allows City Administrator Jestin Johnson to negotiate the sale of the city's 50 percent ownership of the property to AASEG for at least $105 million. 

"This is an opportunity to create jobs and create hope and create revenue that will come back to the city of Oakland every year for years to come to strengthen our ability to provide vital services," City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said prior to the vote. 

The sale and future development of the Coliseum site are decades in the making. Mayor Sheng Thao and other city officials announced the plan to sell Oakland's ownership last month.

The council's decision requires any future development of the 112-acre site to feature at least 25 percent affordable housing and the city's planning documents for the area authorize up to 4,000 housing units, along with retail and entertainment spaces.    

Any sale of the property will also include a deed restriction that requires the buyers and the city to conduct "good faith" negotiations on a community benefits package within five years of close of escrow. 

Some of the benefits could include labor agreements, local and small business contracting goals, workforce training, open space, parks and environmentally friendly development standards, among other things. 

AASEG founder Ray Bobbitt, an Oakland native, said his group is dedicated to crafting a benefits package that the city can support.

"We absolutely, 150 percent will address the community benefits agreement and I'm here to say that on the record today," Bobbitt said.

"And the reality of the situation is that this is what this is all about for us because we are born and raised here and the truth is, if we don't execute on that end, I mean I have nowhere to go for Thanksgiving, this is my home," he said. 

Any development agreement, including the benefits package, will require future approval from the City Council. 

Complicating development of the site, however, is the fact that the A's, a Major League Baseball team, entered into an agreement to buy the other 50 percent stake in the property from Alameda County for $85 million.

While AASEG is currently in talks with the A's to acquire their half of the property, it's unclear when or if such a sale might be finalized.

Still, if the city doesn't move forward with a sale, it could be on the hook for between $10 million and $15 million a year to maintain the site as is, or up to $7 million a year to mothball the property. 

Currently the A's ownership is responsible for those maintenance costs but will no longer be after they leave for Sacramento next year. 

Additionally, the city still owes about $24 million in bond debt for the site, money it partially used to renovate the Coliseum and lure the then-Los Angeles -- now Las Vegas -- Raiders back to town. 

That debt is scheduled to be paid off by sometime in 2026, only after which can the city transfer the property to AASEG.

"For decades, the community has been promised development of the Coliseum." said Thao in a release. "And for decades, elected officials and investors have come and gone, along with the chance to invest in the lives and well-being of generations of East Oakland residents, small businesses, many owned by women and people of color. This historic decision finally delivers on those promises by empowering the East Oakland natives and Black developers at AASEG who are dedicated to their community's health and well-being to develop the site."

Thao has said that money from the sale to AASEG will help her administration close a $177 million budget gap while avoiding layoffs and major cuts to city services. 

The council's vote Wednesday doesn't authorize such a move. A final vote on Thao's budget proposal is expected before June 30.

Also, the council's vote Wednesday was on the first reading of the proposal, which requires a second vote scheduled for June 26 before it's enacted. 

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