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Oakland may drop lawsuit against Alameda County over Coliseum

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OAKLAND — The city could be backing off from its lawsuit against Alameda County after a stark warning from the Major League Baseball commissioner that Oakland could lose yet another pro sports team if the A’s aren’t able to build a new waterfront stadium.

The lawsuit, filed two weeks ago at the direction of the City Council, seeks to block the proposed sale of Alameda County’s half-ownership share to the Oakland A’s, alleging the sale would be illegal. County supervisors have wanted to get out of the sports business and struck a tentative deal with the A’s earlier this year for the baseball team to buy the county’s ownership of the Coliseum.

The city, which owns the other half of the Coliseum, had indicated it wanted to buy out the county’s share, but had not been able to come up with the money.

City Council members Rebecca Kaplan and Larry Reid both indicated in interviews Tuesday that it was their desire for the city and the county to work out a “shared strategy” for the future of the Coliseum site outside of court, and that city staff has been directed to negotiate with the county to make that happen.

Reid said he opposes the lawsuit, and Kaplan said if the city and county can come to an agreement, “There would be no need for litigation.”

“I think ultimately the lawsuit is going to go away, but it’s going to take some effort to do that,” Reid said.

Reid confirmed that the City Council will discuss the lawsuit again in closed session Oct. 15; the council could vote to drop it then.

The lawsuit alleges that the proposed deal between the county and the A’s violates the state’s Surplus Lands Act, which requires publicly owned land that is up for sale to first be offered for affordable housing, parks or open space. The lawsuit says the county has “made no efforts” to do that while negotiating with the A’s over the past six months.

The Oakland Athletics intend to redevelop the Coliseum site in East Oakland into a mixed-use complex that would include housing, office and retail space, a park with sports facilities, restaurants and possibly a tech campus while simultaneously building a 35,000-seat ballpark at the 50-acre Howard Terminal site along the estuary near Jack London Square.

Though A’s officials have insisted in interviews that the two projects are separate, A’s president Dave Kaval indicated that the projects depend on each other when he attended an Alameda County supervisors meeting earlier this year.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred met with Reid, Kaplan and Mayor Libby Schaaf last week, warning them that the A’s may look elsewhere for a new site if they’re unable to build the Howard Terminal ballpark. The A’s have not officially proposed moving to another city, which would require a formal process, Manfred said in a statement.

“The commissioner was very serious,” Reid said in an interview. “He said that the A’s had other options, and indicated that Raiders fans will visit Las Vegas from the East Bay and that could also go for the A’s if the whole issue around the lawsuit doesn’t get resolved.”

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