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A’s prevail on appeal of Howard Terminal ballpark environmental study

Howard Terminal ballpark

It wasn’t unexpected, which is why you let the process unfold: the Oakland A’s and the city prevailed after various port, railroads and terminal groups appealed an approval from the Oakland City Council of a 3,500-page environmental review of the impact of a new Howard Terminal ballpark.

The argument, originally made before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman and rejected, is that the that the city of Oakland did not follow state guidelines to identify and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 report, however, had been approved by the City Council, which deemed it sufficient to meet state guidelines for environmental impact reports.

That argument, made last April, failed before First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco Court as well. The general thrust of the decision is that the EIR was adequate, as held also by Seligman. Leaping into the weeks: part of the issue is how planners will treat an at-grade railroad track on roads serving the ballpark; the railroads argued that proposed solutions are not feasible, so therefore the project must be scrapped. That logic was rejected by the court, which agreed with the original holding that one portion of the plan that might need addressing does not doom the entire report. In addition, the appeals court agreed with Seligman in rejecting the argument that the Oakland Coliseum site 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. And, indeed, the appeals court agreed with Seligman that the plan needed to better define wind mitigation before proceeding.

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, parking for 8,900 vehicles, and an estimated $450 million in community benefits. It would represent a massive makeover of the Oakland waterfront, transforming an industrial site into a mixed-use development. It would be nice, however, to see some updated numbers on construction costs.

As we’ve reported, the city and the A’s have quietly been negotiating on a lease and community benefits deal, per Mayor Sheng Thao. No peeps regarding any potential Las Vegas project.

In a statement, Thao hailed the ruling:

“This is great news for Oakland residents and fans throughout the Bay Area. Today’s unanimous decision once again confirms that the City not only complied with the law but undertook a thorough and thoughtful environmental analysis of the A’s potential ballpark development at Howard Terminal.

“Oakland will continue upgrading our infrastructure so we can support sustainable and resilient communities and promote economic development. And we are now one step closer to reaching our goals. Now that two courts have ruled in favor of the City, we hope we can all come together for the betterment of Oakland.”

Still to come: a 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.

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