OAKLAND -- The proposal to build a 39,000-seat ballpark near the Oakland Estuary cleared its first financial hurdle Tuesday by garnering enough support to move forward on funding an environmental impact review.
The 3-1 vote came during a regular City Council Community and Economic Development Agency meeting. The vote was pushed up so that the full City Council can decide Tuesday on whether to allow the city to pay environmental and planning consultants LSA Associates Inc. $750,000 for the report.
The decision marks an early but significant step in the effort to build a new ballpark for the Oakland A's.
The city chose the Victory Court site after representatives from Major League Baseball signaled they preferred that waterfront location over others proposed nearby.
The city has to move quickly on the environmental review in order to build the ballpark by Opening Day 2015. But Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale) held out Tuesday for a guarantee from MLB or A's co-owner Lew Wolff that they will consider keeping the team in Oakland. Wolff is determined to take the team to San Jose.
"Everything is just nebulous," De La Fuente said Tuesday before opposing the proposal. He has cited the 1994 deal with the Oakland Raiders, which brought the team back from Los Angeles, in his opposition.
The deal ended up costing the public millions of dollars because attendance never lived up to expectations. De La Fuente said he will not repeat the same mistake with an A's ballpark that could cost $500 million to build.
"The only one spending any money is the city," De La Fuente said.
The $750,000 for the report would come from redevelopment funds set aside for a garage planned for 21st Street and Telegraph Avenue. Councilmember Nancy Nadel (West Oakland-Downtown) objected to taking money from the garage to pay for a "pie in the sky" project when parking is becoming a problem in the Uptown entertainment district.
In the end, the committee added a provision that allows the city to cancel the contract with LSA Associates and pay only for work that has been finished.
"All we are doing is holding out our options. If we do not start this EIR, we will not be able to compete," Councilmember Jane Brunner (North Oakland) said. MLB has shown it is interested, she added. "We need to stay interested also."