In a public gesture it hopes will reverberate with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, the San Jose City Council on Tuesday agreed to give the Oakland A's exclusive rights to buy almost 5 acres of downtown land for $6.9 million -- but only if the team agrees to build a ballpark on the site.

The 10 to 1 vote, with only City Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio opposed, granted the A's a two-year option for $50,000 that could be extended for a third year for $25,000.

City Councilman Sam Liccardo amended the motion to ensure that if the A's ultimately exercise their option, the sale of the land for a ballpark must go to a public vote.

But the A's are not expected to buy the land until they receive word from Selig about their request to relocate the team near San Jose's Diridon Station.

"Opportunities to get a Major League Baseball team don't come to a city very often,'' Mayor Chuck Reed told the council. "But this is not necessarily just about baseball. I pose the question: What's in it for San Jose?''

Reed then ticked off a list of benefits the estimated $500 million ballpark, privately financed by the A's, would bring to the city: about $1.5 million in annual revenue to the city's general fund; $1.7 million to San Jose's struggling redevelopment agency and affordable housing; and a few million to Santa Clara County, the water district and schools. Reed also touted the almost 1,000 permanent jobs that would be created by a ballpark.


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"Whether or not you like baseball,'' he said, "this is a way to help our general fund.''

Reed acknowledged the city has more hurdles ahead, not the least of which is Selig's decision, which, if San Jose gets the nod, would then have to be approved by three-quarters of the league's owners.

The ruling has been anticipated since March 2009 when Selig appointed a committee to study the team's options that could ultimately force the San Francisco Giants to relinquish their territorial rights to the South Bay.

Not everyone was happy about Tuesday's option deal.

Marc Morris, a spokesman for Better Sense San Jose, a local group opposed to the ballpark, called the option agreement "a self-imposed distress sale'' that doesn't consider what he believes would be a more fiscally prudent long-term use for the land.

A 2010 study by Collier's International concluded that the land, purchased over the years by San Jose's redevelopment agency for $25.1 million, was worth $13.9 million if it were used for retail and office space, and $6.9 million if used for a ballpark. (Two other parcels -- about 5.5 acres owned by AT&T and a Los Gatos family -- are needed to complete the proposed 13.4-acre site. The final 3 acres are streets.)

Morris also questioned the number of permanent jobs that have been estimated in an economic analysis commissioned by the city.

"Accepting this strategy would be a terrible mistake,'' Morris told the council. "We can and should do better.''

An attorney representing Stand For San Jose, a coalition backed by the San Jose Giants, also addressed the council with questions about the validity of environmental studies related to the ballpark.

Oliverio said after the meeting that he voted against the option deal because he thinks the decision should be made by San Jose voters, not the council.

Contact Tracy Seipel at 408-275-0140.