Wednesday night was a crucial day for the Oakland As proposal to build a $12M ballpark and mixed-use development along the waterfront near Jack London Square.
After hours of public testimony the Planning Commission unanimously recommended that the City Council approve the environmental impact report. It is a 3,500-page document detailing the impacts on traffic, noise and rail safety.
The document could be certified as soon as next month by the Councilmembers. It is crucial that the environmental review is in compliance to the California Environmental Quality Act before the project can move forward. It is just one of many approvals that are required from state and local agencies.
The As proposed building a 35,000-seat stadium and mixed-use development in Howard Terminal on 55 acres. This is located at Market Street, just west of Jack London Square. The plans include the construction of 3,000 residences, 400 hotel bedrooms, 1.5 million square footage of office space, 270,000 sq. feet of retail space, and approximately 18 acres of open space. Howard Terminal is currently used as a hub by trucks traveling to and from the Port.
The commission received many written comments from the public before Wednesday asking that the hearing be postponed so residents can review and analyze the document. Many of the concerns revolved around air quality and cleanup of toxic substances from the site.
Commissioners voted to keep the public hearing going as planned. Pete Vollmann, a city planner who was responsible for the project, stated that the public was given more notice than is legally required. The city extended the time limit for public comments after the draft EIR was published in February. The final EIRPublished Dec. 17, included responses to over 400 written comments.
Jennifer Renk, planning commissioner said that this was a very large and extraordinary undertaking. It was well-organized and easy to understand, which I appreciate. CEQA is a real success. This EIR proves it. This kind of public engagement makes projects like these better. This isn’t the end of the conversation. There’s still much to do. The council will need to address some of the feasibility issues that were raised today.
Even if council approved the EIR it would not allow the project or shovel to go into the ground until there are more inputs and more detailed analysis about what is happening in the field. Jonathan Fearn, vice-chair of the commission, stated that. I want to emphasize that.
Mayor Libby Schaaf praised the decision.
Tonight’s recommendation by the Planning Commission to send the Final Environmental Impact Report to the City Council for certification is a major win for our region. It puts Oakland one step closer towards building a landmark waterfront baseball park district with the highest environmental standards. Schaaf released a statement Wednesday evening.
Over 200 people attended the Zoom hearing. More than 50 speakers addressed members of the commission. Many were concerned about traffic impacts in Chinatown, worsening air quality and the impact on West Oakland and other nearby areas.
Margaret Gordon, a founding member, stated that you don’t take into account our health.
Sonya Karabel, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, stated that the environmental impact report did not adequately address how the site would be cleaned up. Karabel claimed that the site is full of dangerous toxic substances.
Representatives from Union Pacific railroad and Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority warned that the study doesn’t include effective grade separations at rail crossings. This would mean that fans would need to cross the tracks to reach the stadium. Groups representing workers at Port of Oakland said that the EIR does not address disruptions to port operations.
Scott Taylor, CEO at GSE Logics, stated that the company, which has 400 workers in port, is looking into moving if the As move from Howard Terminal. Taylor stated that an amusement-park is not compatible with the port nearby.
The California Environmental Quality Act (or CEQA), allows for a judicial review to a development project’s environmental impact report. Many large projects face legal challenges. Rob Bonta, an ex-Assemblyman, has simplified the process. Under AB 734Any lawsuits must be disposed of within 270 days.
The approval process involves other agencies. The Department of Toxic Substances will examine the proposed cleanup of this site. The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission and Port of Oakland will determine whether the project is compatible with seaports.
The As and the city of Oakland are currently negotiating the financial terms of this project. They also have a development agreement that will finalize the community benefits and affordable housing at the Howard Terminal site. The project must be approved by both the city and the Port of Oakland.
The plan could be modified later. The As have discussed the possibility of building an example. Gondola aerialThe gondola will transport fans from Oakland Convention Center to the stadium. The team has not yet applied for the gondola. However, the route proposed would run along Washington Street through Old Oakland. This could have an impact on the stadium. Historic neighborhood.
The project could also be scaled down. The Port of Oakland is evaluating the possibility of using 10 acres of Howard Terminal as a turning basin for ships. It is located in the southwest corner of Howard Terminal, near Schnitzer Steel.
President Dave Kaval stated that the team is exploring options for stadiums in Oakland and Las Vegas. He told the commission Wednesday that it was possible to shovel a shovel into the ground in Oakland within one year of receiving final approvals. This was thanks to AB734.
Kaval stated Wednesday, “We just want it to be done in the greatest transparency and openness so that we can move on with this transformative project.”