City Council approves lease extension for A's, makes changes

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Oakland City Council approves 10-year lease extension for A's
Wednesday night the Oakland City Council approved the A's 10-year lease extension and voted to add 7 amendments.

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The future of the A's baseball team in Oakland remained up in the air tonight after the Oakland City Council voted to add seven amendments to a lease agreement that would keep the A's at the Coliseum for another 10 years.

The amendments don't impact the economics of the lease agreement, which was approved two weeks ago by the A's and the Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority, the board consisting of Oakland and Alameda County appointees that oversees operations at the Coliseum sports complex.

But A's President Michael Crowley told the council that the A's could only accept one of the amendments, which simply corrects a typographical error in the lease agreement.

Referring to the 14 months of negotiations between the baseball team and the Joint Powers Authority, Crowley said, "We've worked tirelessly" on the agreement and said the team wants to keep the rest of the language "as is."

City Council President Pat Kernighan, who authored the amendments, said after the meeting that she hopes A's owner Lew Wolff accepts the council's vote "as a yes."

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who didn't participate in the vote, said, "This is definitely a 'yes'" for keeping the A's in Oakland.

Quan said, "If the A's accept this, we can talk about building a new stadium for them."

But City Councilman Larry Reid, who is vice chair of the Joint Powers Authority, said he fears that the council's vote tonight "will help push the A's out of the city."

He said, "This council keeps playing with fire and it will get burned" because the A's could use the vote as a reason to leave Oakland.

Oakland school board member Chris Dobbins, who's a member of the JPA, said he's also "concerned" that the A's won't accept the changes made by the City Council.

He said the amendments could be a deal-breaker but hopes that they won't be.

The lease agreement includes an escape clause that allows the A's to leave Oakland after the 2018.

It also allows the city to force the A's out of the Coliseum if a deal to develop the site and build a new football-only stadium there for the Oakland Raiders materializes.

One of the amendments approved by the council majority is a clarification of the language in the agreement that allows the A's to leave Oakland at the end of 2018.

The most significant amendment would free the city of Oakland and Alameda County from liability if the Raiders violate the terms of their lease at the Coliseum.

The council's first vote tonight, after more than two hours of heated public comment and discussion by councilmembers, was on Reid's motion to approve the lease agreement language that was approved by the JPA two weeks ago.

But that motion failed by a 5-3 margin, with Kernighan, Desley Brooks, Dan Kalb, Libby Schaaf and Lynette Gibson McElhaney voted against it and Reid, Noel Gallo and Rebecca Kaplan voting in favor of it.

The council then voted by a 5-2 margin in favor of Kernighan's motion that included the amendment, Reid and Gallo voting against it and Brooks abstaining.

The next step in the lease approval remains unclear. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors must also approve the lease and is scheduled to vote on July 29 on the original agreement.

Reid said before the meeting that if the council changes the agreement the JPA must also vote on the matter again.

Kernighan said she's hoping that the Board of Supervisors will approve the amendments made by the City Council but said, "I'm not an expert on JPA law" and isn't sure if the JPA will have to vote on it again.

Jon Streeter, the JPA's attorney, said he's "hopeful" that the JPA's board and the A's will still approve the lease.

Streeter said, "I think the vote tonight was great news because 99.9 percent of the agreement was approved by the City Council" and he believes the amendments are only minor.

However, he said, "We'll have to see what the A's want to do."