SJ Council Vote Inches Ballpark Toward Reality as Budget Shortfall Looms

San Jose took a step toward bringing the Oakland A’s to the South Bay by approving the potential sale of land for a downtown ballpark to a private investment group.

The 10-1 vote, with Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio in opposition, gives the Athletic Investment Group a two-year option to buy land along South Montgomery Street for a baseball park for about $7 million, the appraised fair use value. The San Jose Redevelopment Agency bought the land for $25 million, and it also has been appraised at $13.9 million.

“This is a huge opportunity for the City of San Jose that we’ve been pursing over multiple mayors,” said Mayor Chuck Reed before the Tuesday, November 8 vote. “It’s hugely important to the city of San Jose for revenue and jobs.”

It’s also only a small step toward the goal of moving the A’s to San Jose. A decision to build a ballpark would need to pass a public vote, and Major League Baseball has yet to give its permission for the A’s to move into San Francisco Giants territory.

But the mayor, council members and supporters who testified said the vote wasn’t as much about baseball as it was the economic development of city land to generate revenue. Some residents who testified – and a law firm protesting the Environmental Impact Report on the area– disagreed.

“Sports don’t sell cities,” said resident Tom Sawyer. “What sells cities are livable, neighborhoods with parks we can walk to and cafes we can enjoy.”

Resident Marc Morris of Better Sense San Jose, an organization opposing a ballpark, questioned the estimated 1,000 permanent jobs a ballpark would generate, arguing that an office tower in the same location would bring 4,000 high-paying permanent jobs.

Councilmember Sam Liccardo, however, noted that with San Jose’s high rate of office vacancies, it would be years before anyone would consider investing in a new office building. And several council members noted that money from the land could not be put into the general fund to fix potholes and maintain parks.

“If we could use money like this to do that, I think every single on of us would vote to do that,” Councilman Pete Constant said.

Constant also pointed to revenue generated by the HP Pavilion, which is estimated to have added $17 billion to the economy in 17 years and $60 million to the General Fund.

Said Liccardo, “Doing something catalystic seems imminently preferable than doing nothing.”

In an email after the meeting, Oliverio said he voted against the option because he wanted to “Let the voters decide.”