OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A judge on Tuesday granted the city of Oakland’s request for a temporary restraining order barring Alameda County from immediately selling its half ownership of the 155-acre Coliseum complex to the Oakland A’s baseball team for $85 million.
However, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch said at a brief hearing that the restraining order doesn’t preclude the county from continuing to talk to the A’s about buying the county’s share of the Coliseum property, which is jointly owned by the city and the county.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted on April 23 to authorize negotiations with the A’s to sell the county’s half interest for $85 million.
But the city of Oakland filed a lawsuit on Friday accusing the county of violating the Surplus Land Act, a state law that requires publicly owned surplus lands to be considered for affordable housing before the lands are sold or leased.
City Attorney Barbara Parker said the act requires that the county provide the city a written offer to sell the county’s 50 percent interest, give the city 60 days to respond to the offer and thereafter negotiate in good faith with the city for 90 days before it sells its interest.
Alameda County Chief Assistant County Counsel Andrea Weddle said at the hearing that the temporary restraining order isn’t necessary because the county still isn’t close to finalizing a deal to sell its share to the A’s.
But Roesch said the city’s lawsuit doesn’t say the deal will be finalized soon and instead argues that a restraining order is necessary at this time because it’s possible a deal could be completed imminently.
Roesch said imposing the restraining order will allow the city and the county to “fully expand on the (legal) issues and whether the property is subject to the Surplus Lands Act.”
The judge set another hearing on the matter for Nov. 14.
The county’s proposal to sell its share of the Coliseum complex to the A’s, who currently play at the aging stadium there, comes as the team is pursuing a plan to build a new baseball-only stadium at the Howard Terminal waterfront site north of Jack London Square.
Simultaneously, the A’s want to redevelop the existing Coliseum complex into a site that could include a large park, housing and businesses.
A’s president Dave Kaval, who attended the hearing, said the city’s lawsuit came as a complete surprise to him because he was negotiating with top city officials on Friday and they didn’t mention it to him.
Kaval said, “We’re disappointed the restraining order was granted but we will persevere” in trying to reach a deal to buy the county’s share of the property.
He also said “it’s disappointing” that the city filed the suit just before the A’s host a wild card playoff baseball game with the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday.
“We want the focus to be on the playing field,” Kaval said.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also told reporters at a separate event that the timing of the suit is “unfortunate” because it comes in the middle of the excitement about the A’s effort to pursue a championship.
“I respect that the City Attorney and the City Council are preserving the city’s options around the Surplus Lands process,” Schaaf said.
But she said, “I look forward to not engaging in a lawsuit but engaging in collaborative discussions to move forward for a great future for that property.”
Schaaf said, “It’s easy to put a lawsuit on pause while we try to resolve things diplomatically.”
Oakland is losing the Raiders and the Warriors have moved to San Francisco.
Now Chris Dobbins, the President of Save Oakland Sports, said he is concerned that the last professional team in town may head elsewhere with the lawsuit filed by the city. He’s also baffled by the timing of the lawsuit.
“We all love the Giants, but the spotlight is on the A’s. They are the only game in town and for it to be marred by the lawsuit is ludicrous,” said Dobbins.
While it’s a lot of work, the home field grounds crew was happy to put the diamond back at the Coliseum for the American League Wild Card game Wednesday. Mount Davis will be open for the big game and the team is expecting a sell out with roughly 56,000 people.
A few tickets were still available on Mount Davis on the team’s website Tuesday night going for roughly $30. But the A’s will be missing one of their biggest fans at Wednesday’s game. For more than 20 years, Francis Matthews was part of this grounds crew. He died of cancer just days before this season began.
“He was a big fan of the A’s and the Raiders. Hopefully this year they can do something for him,” said Coliseum grounds keeper Zach Ricketts.
Andrea Nakano contributed to this report.
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