The City of Oakland under my long-time friend Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, is handling The Howard Terminal Project is a way not too dissimilar from the failed Raiders NFL Stadium Effort that saw that storied franchise bolt for Las Vegas. In an effort to meet Major League Baseball’s demands, which have become the Oakland A’s deadlines, the City of Oakland’s in such a rush, it’s forgetting some basic tasks in redevelopment tax increment financing.
The one obvious to-do is to get the buy-in of all of the organizations that will be fiscally impacted by the collection of property tax revenues by the still-to-this-date not formed new agency, and not just the County of Alameda. The normal course of action is to set up meetings with the County of Alameda, BART, AC Transit, The EBMUD Flood Control District, and The Oakland Unified School District, all of which make up the “taxing agencies” that get part of the property tax paid by property owners in what is to be the Howard Terminal District.
Instead, as the press release below reads, the City of Oakland only focused on the County of Alameda. My guess is this decision comes from the financial consultants, Public Financial Management, or “PFM”. I write that because their document I included in the first post about the City of Oakland’s overtures to the County of Alameda included a contradictory set of statements:
On Page 3, it reads “Unlike redevelopment, taxing entities are not required to participate, but may do so voluntarily”. In other words, PFM thinks the County of Alameda, which gets about 35 percent of the Oakland property tax dollar, can skip out of the Howard Terminal project, and just collect its tax revenue the normal way, or voluntarily be in it.
Then, on Page 7, in “Process of Approval”, PFM writes “ROI, or “Resolution of Intention” is mailed to every taxing agency.
See, what PFM should have told the City of Oakland, and what should have been done a year ago, was for the City of Oakland to hold meetings with not just the County of Alameda, but BART, AC Transit, The EBMUD Flood Control District, and The Oakland Unified School District. The school district, alone, takes about 40 percent of the Oakland property tax payment dollar. To avoid meeting with OUSD on this is a mistake that must be correct, and now. Getting these meetings done as-soon-as-possible is critical, if only to avoid a lawsuit from one or more of the taxing agencies. I have been down that road, myself.
The Time The County Of Alameda Threatened To Sue The Oakland Redevelopment Agency Over The Coliseum Redevelopment Project Area
It was late 1987, and I was fresh out of Cal’s Planning School, and an Intern with the Oakland Office of Economic Development and Employment. To make a long story short as I can, Ezra Rapport was the Assistant City Manager, and working with my bosses Jeff Chew and Austin Penny on what was called the Coliseum Redevelopment Project Survey Area. Steve Szalay was the Alameda County Administrator. I developed a computer model (“The Area Redevelopment Economic Model” or “AREM”) to run various development scenarios in the proposed but not approved Coliseum Redevelopment Area. And I adjusted the model to show taxing agency revenue impact – in other words, what Alameda County and the other organizations would lose, and also gain from it.
My bosses had not settled on a particular scenario to present, and so did not mention the impact to The County. Steve Szalay, already rather irritated that the Coliseum Redevelopment Area would be something like 6,000 acres and represent a giant-sized impact to the County, demanded the numbers, now. He never got them, and the delay caused him and also Alameda County Economic Development Director Bruce Kern to lose their collective tempers. It was the only time I’ve ever seen Bruce major league pissed about any matter of County business. But the point is, it’s a good idea to get the numbers discussion squared away. The Oakland City Council passed the Coliseum Redevelopment Area Project in 1988 and it lasted until it, like all other California Redevelopment Projects, was killed by California Governor Jerry Brown in 2011.
The Mayor Of Oakland Needs To Form A Task Force Of Oaklanders Who Have Experience In This Area
The Major of Oakland needs to form a task force of people who worked for the City of Oakland, and have experience in this area. There’s Former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, Former City Manager Robert Bobb, Former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Former Oakland Project Manager Patrick Cashman, California Commercial Investments Group Managing Partner Phil Tagami, Former Oakland City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente, Former Oakland City Councilmember Pat Kernighan, the afforementioned Ezra Rapport and Former City Administrator Fred Blackwell, and myself, to think off the top of my head. But all of the people mentioned were active when we had a true redevelopment agency, and have enough institutional wisdom to guide the current Mayor’s staff.
I Have Tried To Warn Anyone And Everyone In Oakland About The Matter Of TIF Revenue At Howard Terminal, But…
I have mentioned this matter of the enormous revenue a tax increment financing zone would produce at Howard Terminal. I even asked to talk to the Oaklanders present at Oakland Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas’ town hall meeting held November 20th, 2019, but my friend Carl Chan of The Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, and the City Administrator’s Office Representatives in attendance, begged me not to. One of them (and all are very nice people and some folks I have known for a awhile), said “We should have lunch and we can talk about this.” And Councilmember Bas even said “I would like to talk with you about tax increment financing, some day.” But, while she graciously give me this interview, below, that meeting did not happen. I do not mean to imply anything bad about people I like, I am just telling the truth – there’s still time.
But I also don’t want to diminish the importance of the overall problem in the way the City of Oakland is handling, or mishandling, the Howard Terminal Project. The City is suffering from simply not having done these kinds of projects since before 2011. So, a giant brain-drain weakened Oakland’s government in this area, and it shows.
Oh, and here’s the interview from that event:
And next, here’s the press release from the City of Oakland on the letter to the County of Alameda that was posted here at Oakland News Now, first.
City of Oakland Urges Alameda County to Join Regional Collaboration on the Waterfront Ballpark District at Howard Terminal
County partnership is key to keeping the A’s rooted in Oakland, delivering much-needed affordable housing and other community benefits
Oakland, CA – This week, the City of Oakland reached out to our partners at Alameda County requesting that they join a regional collaboration to realize a bold vision for our joint future – the Waterfront Ballpark District at Howard Terminal. This completely new urban neighborhood will keep the A’s “rooted in Oakland” – and Alameda County – for years to come, while also preserving our working waterfront, creating over 18 acres of new, publicly-accessible waterfront parks, and 3,000 units of critically-needed new housing units for the region.
In the letter to the County Administrator sent on Monday and forwarded to the full Board of Supervisors on Wednesday (attached), the City of Oakland asked the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to “opt in” to an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District (EIFD) that would cover the waterfront ballpark site. The County’s share of the property tax generated by the ballpark and related development would match the City’s and would help fund critical infrastructure needs, parks, open space, and much-needed affordable housing.
The request was made with some urgency, and the City is asking the Board of Supervisors to vote by June 15. Time is of the essence to keep the A’s here in Oakland, where they belong.
An investment in the Waterfront Ballpark District would repay the County many times over. At full build-out, even after opting in to the EIFD:
· The County’s tax revenues from the project site would grow from $50,000 per year at present to an estimated $6.3 million per year, including $4.6 million for essential health care and homeless services.
· In addition, the County would receive an estimated $47.8 million in one-time construction-period tax revenues.
· After the 45-year opt-in period, new annual revenues to the County would increase to approximately $17 million (measured in today’s dollars).
· The Alameda County Transportation Commission will receive $4.6 million per year in new countywide transportation funding.
To come to fruition, the project requires a robust public-private partnership. The County has an opportunity to step up to the plate to help ensure our Oakland A’s stay rooted in Oakland while improving their fiscal bottom line. It’s a win-win.
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