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Howard Terminal’s History Could Complicate A’s Ballpark Pitch

Oakland A's Howard Terminal Ballpark rendering

Environmental issues could complicate the Oakland A’s Howard Terminal ballpark proposal, as the site’s history of heavy industrial uses may require extensive remediation. 

Late last year, the A’s unveiled a plan that calls for a new ballpark at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal that will be surrounded by new development. As part of the overall project, the A’s would also redevelop the current Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum site to include include housing, a tech hub, a youth sports complex, retail, and light manufacturing. The A’s are pushing to open the new privately financed ballpark in 2023, but need to complete several steps to make that a reality, including an environmental review of the Howard Terminal site.

Along with challenges relating to access, one of the issues that has long been believed to be associated with Howard Terminal is environmental problems resulting from the site’s history of heavy industrial uses. The San Francisco Chronicle has reported a more detailed overview of that history, reviewing regulatory documents that note hazardous and cancer-causing chemicals in the soil and groundwater that have been capped with asphalt.

Completion of the environmental review process will provide more specifics on the exact scope of the issues and how they need to be resolved, but the potential for significant remediation is something that the A’s have to consider in the planning process. More from the San Francisco Chronicle:

The presence of the toxic material will probably be addressed in the environmental review process that will begin in the coming months. Depending on the concentration and position of the harmful substances, the dirt may have to be removed entirely, altered chemically or further sealed off from human contact, experts say. State regulators will have to sign off on the plans.

Now a 50-acre site for container storage and truck parking, the Charles P. Howard Terminal near Jack London Square was previously home to oil tanks, a manufactured gas plant, a briquette plant where compressed charcoal blocks were made, a coal tramway, an asphalt paving plant and a blacksmith….

A’s leaders, who have commissioned design plans for the site, are still negotiating a financial deal with the port, with the goal to open the park in 2023. Team President Dave Kaval said he did not yet know how much the cleanup would cost, but that it would be privately financed along with the rest of the project.

Elevated levels of chemicals that remain in the site’s soil and groundwater, such as polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, are known to cause cancer. Volatile organic compounds, also at the site but in much lower concentrations, have been linked to birth defects and can damage the central nervous system.

The scope of the Howard Terminal ballpark project, plus the presence of existing residences and development near the site, could be a consideration as to how any environmental cleanup could affect the process. Along with the ballpark, the overall project would include mixed-use development featuring amenities such as housing and retail. The planning process for the Howard Terminal ballpark has been one expected to include several complexities that the A’s and local officials will have to consider, and the site’s environmental history may weigh heavily in that process.

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