The proposition's language outlines a specific swap that could occur if voters pass the measure. To start, Austin would open a bid for its 9-acre Central Maintenance Facility located off Lady Bird Lake at 2525 Lakeshore Blvd. In exchange, the city would receive a 48-acre parcel of "waterfront land contiguous to an existing city park," on top of funding or construction of a replacement facility and the removal of an existing maintenance building at Festival Beach.
Any alienation, or sale, lease or other loss, of city parkland is subject to voter approval.
“We have an opportunity to be able to get a really desirable piece of land that I know our parks staff have indicated that they want to get. Something that the staff has inquired about in the past, never been able to actually acquire, an important piece of river-fronting property that could be used right now for recreational purposes. It also provides connection for trails and provides continuity in our city," Mayor Steve Adler said during City Council's approval of the proposition election in August.
The city's Lakeshore maintenance center is located adjacent to Oracle's headquarters, and while labeled as parkland, it is being used as a Parks and Recreation Department storage site. The land's market value was appraised at $33.9 million this year, although the city is seeking a second valuation.
A city spokesperson said officials are working with a third-party appraiser, and the appraisal will be finalized before any bids are issued.
The unnamed 48-acre parcel referenced in the proposition is the Driveway Austin track and racing center at 8400 Delwau Lane on the Colorado River. That riverside campus was highlighted by owner Bill Dollahite as having the resources to become "one of the best parks in town" following his years of improvements to the property.
“The fact that it would be a park would mean it would always be a park forever, and that is I think the best resting place for 15 years of very hard blood, sweat and tears, and a whole lot of heart," he said.
Dollahite said the city's interest in the property stretches back years given its location adjacent to the Colorado/Walnut Greenbelt and John Treviño Jr. Metropolitan Park property. However, conditions for a sale did not align until this year; Dollahite said discussions began in earnest several months ago and the property is now the center of the Austin-Oracle deal.
The Grow Austin Parks PAC supports the proposition, which also received endorsements from several local environmental and Democratic groups. As of Oct. 4 the PAC received between $25 and $100 from five individuals in addition to a $250,000 contribution from Oracle. PAC consultant Mark Littlefield said spending on TV ads, direct mailers, digital ads and in-person canvassing will run through the coming weeks.
“Oracle is obviously hoping that Austin voters will appreciate this, but this is really being led by third-party groups like the Trail Foundation, Austin Parks Foundation, Travis County Democratic Party, Austin Environmental Democrats, who are saying that this is a good deal," Littlefield said.
No entities have formally announced opposition to the proposition.
Maintaining parkland in Austin has always been a "sacred deal," and both the PAC and backing organizations hope voters can approve the trade to take advantage of Oracle's "great offer," Littlefield said.
“Oracle is interested in this and they’ll have a bid for this, and they knew that if they wanted to try to do this they’d have to come over the top big. And that’s why it’s a 48-acre for 9[-acre] trade plus the money," he said.
The ballot language targets the racing center as the centerpiece in the trade, and both Dollahite and Littlefield confirmed Oracle as the lone interested party. However, the city did not confirm any entities looking to participate in the "public bidding process" required by state law or the parkland it is targeting.
"If the voters vote in favor of Proposition B, the city will facilitate a solicitation or request for proposal process. These proposals will dictate the location of the 48 acres," the spokesperson said.
Stay tuned to Community Impact Newspaper's local voter guide for election details and results.