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A’s prevail again in court in quest for new Howard Terminal ballpark

Howard Terminal ballpark

The Oakland A’s have prevailed once again in court in the team’s quest for a new Howard Terminal ballpark, as Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman rejects legal challenges to the environmental impact report (EIR) approved by the city.

The A’s had prevailed in a tentative ruling, issued August 30, and with the decision issued today, Seligmn rejected three challenges from a coalition of shipping interests, Union Pacific and the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority. The Oakland City Council had approved the 3,500-page report in February on a 6-2 vote–a key vote in allowing the $1-billion ballpark to move forward in the planning process. The three legal challenges argued that the city of Oakland did not follow state guidelines to identify and mitigate all potential adverse effects of the $12-billion Howard Terminal development, one of the largest non-transit developments in state history. The groups filing the lawsuits have consistently opposed the project, arguing the waterfront makeover is inappropriate for a shipping port and that the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum site is more appropriate for a new ballpark. The three lawsuits were later consolidated into one action.

The A’s have proposed a downtown Howard Terminal waterfront development featuring $12 billion in private investment, including a billion dollars for a new 35,000-capacity ballpark to replace the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum as the team’s home. The development would also include 3,000 units of housing, as well as 1.5 million square feet of office space, 270,000 square feet of retail space, a 400-room hotel, 18 acres of parkland and an estimated $450 million in community benefits. It would represent a massive makeover of the Oakland waterfront, transforming a industrial site into a mixed-use development.

In his ruling, Seligman rejected the argument that the Coliseum was better-suited to host a new ballpark, pointing out that it was located in an industrial area, not a more scenic downtown waterfront location. He also rejected arguments that the EIR was inadequate, ruling that it did not need to be perfect, but merely reaching reasonable conclusions and be adequate in a good-faith effort to address the main environmental issues.

You can read the full decision here.

At least one of the three groups challenging the approval of the EIR, the East Oakland Stadium Alliance, is considering an appeal, per a statement from Mike Jacob, Vice President & General Counsel of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, on behalf of the alliance:

“The court has agreed that the Howard Terminal EIR was insufficient and should not have been certified without further analysis. Accordingly, we look forward to the next steps necessary to correct the flawed EIR. Unfortunately, because the EIR in our view did not properly address many significant and unmitigated impacts from the A’s project — including dangerous rail crossings, contaminated soils, traffic issues, port congestion, and air quality — we will be evaluating our options with respect to an appeal. We will also continue pushing to resolve our concerns from this short-sighted project regardless of the outcome of this case, as the project’s adverse impacts are harmful to the thousands of Oakland residents who live in the neighborhoods near the proposed development or to those whose jobs depend on the ability of the Port of Oakland to grow and thrive.”

The decision was hailed by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, a consistent proponent of the project:

Next up: other state approvals from the likes of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, a binding commitment from Alameda County, and final approval of a lease and an agreement on community benefits, including affordable housing, tied to the project. This last step will be a major challenge to both sides: the A’s have fought city proposals on community benefits and affordable housing, but in today’s political climate, it may not be possible to win that fight for the Athletics.

Rendering courtesy Oakland A’s.

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