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Oakland council approves environmental review of As waterfront baseballpark plan

Oakland council approves environmental review of As waterfront baseballpark plan

Six council members voted to certify the environmental review after an eight-hour meeting with at least 400 people and nearly five hours public comment. Carroll Fife, Noel Gallo and Noel Gallo were against the certification.

Dave Kaval (President of the As) said that the team was thrilled by the yes vote.

Kaval stated that we have never come this far in our quest to make our vision for the waterfront baseball park for the As a reality. There is still much work to do. This is an important achievement and an important milestone.

The council members have certified the environmental review, which is nearly 3500 pages long. This means that they agree that the city has adequately assessed the potential environmental impacts of the project as well as possible mitigation efforts. It is a crucial decision that allows city officials to continue to negotiate with the team regarding the final terms for the project, including affordable housing and other community benefits.

The team plans to build a 35,000-seat waterfront baseball park, 3,000 housing units, 1.5 million square footage of offices, 270,000 sq. feet of retail space and a 3,500-person performance arena, 400 hotel rooms, and 8,900 parking spaces. If approved, the project will be one of the most significant in state history. It will transform Jack London Square.

Many members of unions and building trades spoke out in support of the project, saying that it would bring jobs to the city. The project will create approximately 7,100 new jobs, according to the city. Residents also supported the project.

Oakland father asked the council to approve the environmental review, saying that he was thinking about what would be best for his children growing up in Oakland.

Another resident said that this is the change they are looking for.

Many others spoke out against the project, and urged the council not to make a decision.

Opponents of this project claim that the report does not adequately address their concerns about compatibility with port functions, affordable housing and removal of toxic waste and traffic.

Margaret Gordon, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, stated that the City staff who wrote this plan should have been more aware of the emissions reduction plan, especially for West Oakland.

Alvina Wong is a campaign and organizing manager at the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. She urged the council not to certify the document until traffic impacts in Chinatown have been further studied.

Union Pacific Railroad spokesmen said that the environmental review was inadequate in its examination of railroad safety. He stated that there are approximately 100 train movements per day at Howard Terminal.

He said that unsafe behavior here can lead to tragedy.

Council members expressed concern about the need for West Oakland and Chinatown residents to be involved in traffic mitigation and transportation plans. They also inquired about the plans of city staff to clean up toxic waste from Howard Terminal.

Fife, the representative of Howard Terminal District, criticized the process, and said that she is concerned at the speed with which this is happening. Fife warned council members that they are moving in the wrong direction and will ignore concerns from residents of Old Oakland, West Oakland, and Chinatown.

Mayor Libby Schaaf stated in a statement, however, that the vote was a historic moment in Oakland’s future.

Tonight’s action is much more than a milestone. It’s a giant step forward in our shared goal to create a regional destination which gives back our waterfront, connects a new vibrant neighbourhood to our downtown, and provides tens and thousands of union jobs for our residents. All this while keeping our As rooted in Oakland. Schaaf said.

Kaval stated that the project has experienced the most extensive public outreach and engagement of any state project in its history. He stated that the team is determined to create a project that benefits both the community and the As. Kaval stated that the team will continue working with the community to create an environment where people feel their voices are heard.

Last month, the city’s Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend that council certify the environmental impacts report.

Thursday’s vote did not include a vote on the final agreement. Even though the council voted for the report to be certified, they could still vote against its terms. According to city staff, there will be no other decisions about the project if the environmental review is not voted on. These steps can be continued.

Two bridges have been proposed by city staff to transport pedestrians and vehicles to the Howard Terminal site. The Howard Terminal site will be swept up by the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

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The highly anticipated gondola, which would glide over Interstate 880 as well as the Southern Pacific railroad tracks to the ballpark, is not currently under consideration. While the As could consider bringing that up separately, it is not currently being considered. Instead, city staff proposed creating a new transportation hub to provide shuttle service between BART and other destinations.

Additionally, the council approved to give the city jurisdiction over the project site. Currently, it is both city property and port property. Fife, Gallo and others voted against.

The council also voted to confirm their commitment to ensuring that nearly $12 billion in community benefits will be realized. These include affordable housing and anti-displacement measures as well as pedestrian and bicycle safety, traffic congestion mitigations, and other issues that affect the surrounding neighborhoods. Council members stated that the vote gives the authority to the city administration for them to negotiate the terms with the As, and eventually bring an agreement to the council. Transparency is also required regarding the cleanup of toxic waste at the site.

The city and the team are currently negotiating terms for the infrastructure financing and community benefits.

Kaval stated that his team worked in good faith last week with the city and reached a positive development agreement and community benefits package. This will ensure that everyone wins.

Sarah Ravani, a San Francisco Chronicle staff journalist, is available for comment. Email: sravani@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @SarRavani

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