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A’s prevail in Howard Terminal lawsuit; still, construction likely delayed

New Howard Terminal rendering (1)

A lawsuit seeking to derail a new Howard Terminal ballpark for the Oakland A’s has been dismissed, but there is still real damage nevertheless: it looks like there’s little chance of a 2023 opening for the downtown facility.

A coalition of shipping, steel, and trucking companies filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court in March opposing an application submitted by the A’s to Governor Gavin Newsom’s Office of Planning and Research. Essentially, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Noel Wise ruled against the coalition, concluding that the A’s and the state of California met all criteria for an expedited environmental review.

Still, it took almost a year for the Athletics to prevail, which undercuts the whole point of an expedited environmental review. And while the coalition of Howard Terminal business may not have won an ultimate victory, they did end up delaying the project. Once eyed for a 2023 opening, it now looks like the project could slip into 2024–assuming things go smoothly from here. From the Mercury News:

“We were going to try to open by 2023. That’s obviously slipped,” A’s president Dave Kaval said in a phone conversation Wednesday. “How far it slipped, I can’t answer that. I don’t know yet. It depends on if the city can even get this to a vote this year. It depends on the other priorities the city council might have.”…

So, Kaval and the A’s can move forward. But even if the case went their way, the damage was done. A year sorting through this lawsuit tightens the project’s already-ambitious timeline.

“This was completely a 100% roadblock,” Kaval said. “We are concerned about the timeline and pace of progress because of COVID and the lawsuit. It’s great that we’re off the lawsuit and we’re moving forward. But you know, I think the timelines nonetheless are one of the biggest challenges that we face with the project right now.”

And, as legal eagles know, a delay also raises the chances that circumstances can change, so plaintiffs can always win by losing. Indeed, they did: with local officials preoccupied with fighting the pandemic, more likely less attention will be paid to the steps needed to actually begin construction of the ballpark. The A’s still need to file an Environmental Impact Report for city approval, and also close on a deal to buy the half of the Oakland Coliseum site controlled by the city. The A’s say they need funds generated by an Oakland Coliseum development to make the Howard Terminal site work. But with former A’s pitcher Dave Stewart submitting a $115-million bid to buy the city’s share–far above the $85-million bid by the A’s–that may end up being a complicating issue as well.

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