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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

County joins Coliseum ENA, but warn against use of public money

ALCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS | If last Friday’s approval by the Oakland City Council of a new exclusive negotiating agreement with Alameda County and the Coliseum City developer felt like politicians spiking the ball, then today's Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting brought the fiscal uncertainty of the sprawling project back to reality. No public subsidy, said county supervisors, who, nonetheless, joined the new three-party agreement.

"I don't support use of any public money on this enterprise," said Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson. Although the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the six-month extension of the current ENA, due to lapse on April 21, four of the five supervisors voiced strong opposition to the use of taxpayers’ money for funding a significant portion of the proposed sports, retail, and housing development.

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley made it clear during Tuesday afternoon’s meeting that any funding proposal by Floyd Kephart and his development group must not rely on “wholesale” use of public funds. Miley warned there would be “pushback” if Kephart’s New City Development does not finance most of the project.

Last Friday, Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney employed the metaphor of prospective lovers to described early negotiations with Kephart’s group. “We’re not dating, but we sure like this guy,” she said.

However, Miley, also a member of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority, has noted a reluctance by Kephart to limit exposure to taxpayers’ money for the project. Miley has also advocated recently for retrofitting O.co Coliseum for football at roughly half of the more than $1 billion estimated to construct a new home for the Oakland Raiders.

Carson was more blunt, saying that while he supports entering into talks with the city and developer, he is opposed to any use of public funds, including the potential for the city and county to fund a portion of the project by selling the land at the Coliseum Complex. “Sport is not our primary role,” said Carson, while noting the county’s primary mission is that of a safety net for the county’s children, seniors, and the poor.

Alameda County Supervisors Wilma Chan and Richard Valle also urged for limited use of public funds. “The challenge is how to do without the expenditure of public dollars,” said Chan. The project, though, added Chan, represents an opportunity for job creation and affordable housing.

The one supervisor who, instead, focused on Coliseum City’s potential was Scott Haggerty. After bantering with the small group of Raiders fans in the audience, Haggerty recounted a previous business trip to Baltimore and seeing how a football and baseball stadium helped transform the city.

“This is the first step in turning this city into a world-class city,” said Haggerty. He also slammed former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan for allegedly hindering past efforts to move along the stadium questions in Oakland. “Nobody was opening the door for the county,” said Haggerty, who believes the current mayor and new city council have been far more collaborative with county officials.

In a separate item, county supervisors also agreed to enter into a $200,000 contract to appraise the value of the Coliseum property in its current condition, along with an appraisal of the property with two new stadiums, hotels, retail, and housing — as proposed in Coliseum City plan.

In addition, the Oakland City Council Community and Economic Development Committee approved the Coliseum Area Specific Plan and Environmental Impact Report. The issue heads to the full council next Tuesday, March 31. And earlier in the day, the council’s Finance and Management Committee directed city staff to seek a fixed interest bond rate on Oracle Arena’s $79 million in debt remaining from its remodel. The city and county were unable to obtain a letter of credit from a financial institution and risk paying a higher debt service.

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