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Lawsuit Filed to Block Fast-Tracking of Howard Terminal Ballpark

New Oakland Athletics Ballpark Renderings May 2019

A lawsuit has been filed over the Oakland A’s proposed Howard Terminal ballpark, as a group opposes an application to make the project eligible for an expedited judicial review process if it faces a legal challenge over environmental concerns. 

The A’s have been working to build a new ballpark at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal, with the proposal calling for a new facility to serve as the anchor of surrounding development on the site. Back in the fall of 2018, then California governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 734 into law. Under the terms of the bill, any legal challenge against the A’s over environmental concerns from a new ballpark project at Howard Terminal would have to be resolved within 270 days, which would effectively prevent litigation from dragging on for years.

That possibility is now the subject of a legal challenge, as a coalition of shipping, steel, and trucking companies filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court Monday opposing an application submitted by the A’s last week to governor Gavin Newsom’s Office of Planning and Research. The application is to certify the project for the fast-tracking process, which the group contends the state no longer has the authority to approve because the legislation expired January 1, though the governor has still been receiving supplemental data and extended a public comment period to Tuesday. More from CBS San Francisco:

The suit on behalf of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, Schnitzer Steel Industries, the Harbor Trucking Association and the California Trucking Association says the state’s legal authority to continue moving forward with expedited environmental review of the project expired on Jan. 1 but Newsom continued to receive supplemental data and extended a public comment period that ended on Tuesday.

The suit seeks a declaration that Newsom has no power or authority to certify the Howard Terminal project under AB 734 and a writ of mandate barring him from certifying the project under AB 734.

Mike Jacob, the vice president and general counsel of the Pacific Maritime Association, said in a statement, “The deadline for projects to demonstrate to the state that they meet the criteria for limited environmental review was Jan. 1.”

Jacobs said, “The A’s application was pending for months and they were given multiple opportunities to prove that they could meet the thresholds required for being awarded this privilege — including showing that their project would be net greenhouse neutral and cut traffic by over 20 percent — but they obviously could not meet these standards.”

The defendants named in the lawsuit are Newsom and the City of Oakland, with the A’s a party of interest. The lawsuit was unsurprisingly criticized in a statement issued by the A’s, per SFGate:

“At a time when our community is coming together in the midst of a global public health crisis, the decision to file a lawsuit to halt the environmental review process for the new A’s ballpark reeks of cynicism and desperation,” the team said in the statement.

“The new ballpark will be critical to the environmental, transportation, and housing future of Oakland,” the A’s said. “It’s a once-in-a-generation project that will contribute to the health and vitality of Oakland, and we won’t let Schnitzer Steel and its allies stand in the way of improved infrastructure and transportation solutions, cleaner air quality, additional housing, and more championships in Oakland.”

The A’s have been hoping to open a new ballpark by the 2023 MLB season. For the team, the Howard Terminal ballpark is one part of a larger initiative that also calls for the redevelopment of the Coliseum site. The A’s have released a broad vision for that project that includes tearing down RingCentral Coliseum and replacing it with a small sports park/amphitheater, retaining Oakland Arena as an event venue, and redeveloping the surrounding the land with mixed-use amenities.

Rendering courtesy Oakland A’s and Bjarke Ingels Group.

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