The Oakland Athletics cleared an important hurdle in their pursuit of a $12 billion waterfront ballpark project Thursday. The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission voted to reclassify a 56-acre site at the Port of Oakland as mixed use, allowing the A's to continue planning the project, according to Associated Press. .
To be clear, Thursday's vote does not mean the ballpark deal -- the Howard Terminal project -- is happening. It is only one of several legal hurdles that must be cleared for the project to proceed. Here are more details on Thursday's vote via the Associated Press:
The commission followed the recommendation of its staff, which found the team demonstrated removing the terminal from port use "would not detract from the region's capability to handle the projected growth in cargo."'
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the approval moved the city closer to bringing "this bold vision into a beautiful reality and keep our A's rooted in Oakland for generations to come.''
"Our city has historically been overlooked for major economic development, but today that story about Oakland changes,'' she said in a statement.
, a standard piece of business, for the Athletics should the franchise move to Las Vegas. The timing suggests it may have been an attempt to sway Thursday's vote in the A's favor. The A's and president Dave Kaval have not been shy about publicizing their interest in relocation.
Progress with the Howard Terminal project has been slow. The project includes a $1 billion privately financed ballpark, plus another $12 billion in private investment for residential and commercial space in the waterfront neighborhood. The A's are also seeking $855 million in public funds for infrastructure and to develop land around the ballpark.
Last July, the Oakland City Council approved a non-binding term sheet for the Howard Terminal project, though it did not include the $855 million. Kaval said the team would not accept the term sheet as presented before the vote. The County of Alameda approved a non-binding term sheet in October. Non-binding means the city and county can walk away at any time.
The A's lease at what is now called RingCentral Coliseum expires following the 2024 season, so the club needs a ballpark deal in place -- either in Oakland or Las Vegas -- fairly soon, because it will take time to plan and actually build the ballpark. After gutting the roster this past offseason, the Athletics are averaging only 8,359 fans per game in 2022. They are an MLB worst 25-52.
Had Thursday's vote gone the other way and not reclassified the site as mixed use, the Howard Terminal project would have been all but dead. The final vote was 23-2 (the A's needed only 18 votes). The Howard Terminal site is currently used for overflow truck parking and shipping container storage.