Oakland city councilmembers have voted down an effort to get the public’s advice on the Oakland A’s proposed $12 billion waterfront ballpark district.

Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Carroll Fife sought to have a measure placed on the November ballot asking voters if they want public money spent on the proposed project at Charles P. Howard Terminal.

But in a 5-2-1 vote, the measure failed to pass the council Tuesday. Gallo and Fife were the only councilmembers to vote yes, while council president Nikki Fortunato Bas, president pro tem and mayoral hopeful Sheng Thao, mayoral hopeful Loren Taylor, Dan Kalb and Treva Reid voted no.

Vice mayor Rebecca Kaplan abstained.

Gallo and Fife want to know what Oakland residents will have to pay, such as in the form of taxes, if the ballpark is built. Other councilmembers echoed that sentiment.

But final financial and economic details have not been ironed out yet. They may not come until a binding deal is struck between the A’s and the city, which may happen in the fall.

“I want clarity,” Fife said of the financial details.

Infrastructure trumps baseball

At issue, it seems, is the money necessary to improve infrastructure near the proposed ballpark district. The improvements may cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Oakland has sought or is seeking state, federal and regional money to pay for those improvements. They need to be made whether the ballpark is built at Howard Terminal or not, city officials have said.

Gallo believes the deal is not so much about Oakland. The A’s have in the past sought to move to Fremont and San Jose. The team is now threatening to move to Las Vegas.

“This is a business,” Gallo said of the A’s.

The proposed ballot measure could have delayed the A’s plans. A’s president Dave Kaval said he hopes the Oakland City Council will vote on the final details of the project this summer.

Fife disagreed that the ballot measure would cause a delay. She said the project does not really exist currently.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, an ardent supporter of the proposed ballpark, wrote on Twitter thanking the councilmembers who voted against the ballot measure.

“I thank City Council Members Dan Kalb, Loren Taylor, Treva Reid, Sheng Thao and President Nikki Fortunato Bas for voting to continue moving forward with a waterfront ballpark neighborhood at Howard Terminal,” Schaaf tweeted late Tuesday night.

Non-binding advice

The ballot measure would have been only advisory, much like a survey is.

“A non-binding advisory measure would have jeopardized keeping the A’s in Oakland, cost taxpayers as much as a million dollars, and done nothing but provide special interests with opportunities to spread misinformation,” Schaaf tweeted.

Gallo has said he favors keeping the A’s in East Oakland, citing the infrastructure there such as BART, parking and the airport. Gallo represents a portion of East Oakland.

Howard Terminal is part of the Port of Oakland in a West Oakland council district that Fife represents.

Schaaf believes Oaklanders will be protected from having to pay for the A’s development.

“The Oakland City Council has provided clear direction in our negotiations with the A’s: Oakland taxpayers will be protected from the costs of the ballpark and associated development. We have learned the mistakes of the past and we won’t repeat them,” she tweeted.

The mistakes Schaaf may be alluding to include a poor financial deal with the Oakland Raiders, who are now the Las Vegas Raiders, and a legal mess with the Golden State Warriors, who used to play in Oakland. The Warriors moved to San Francisco in 2019.