The A’s took another positive step in their quest to build a new stadium in Oakland this week, as Sarah Ravani of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Oakland City Council voted (six to two) to certify a 3500-page environmental impact review of their Howard Terminal ballpark project.
“We’ve never been this far in terms of making our vision for the waterfront ballpark for the A’s a reality,” A’s president Dave Kaval said following the council vote. “There is still a lot of work to be done. This is an important accomplishment and an important milestone to reach.”
The ballpark’s construction is part of a broader-reaching, $12 billion mixed-use development plan that also includes the construction of ample housing, office space, retail space and hotels in the surrounding area. If eventually approved, the new stadium would give the A’s a waterfront home with a capacity to host roughly 35,000 fans on a nightly basis. It would also finally move the team from the Oakland Coliseum — the last vestige of the once-popular multi-sport facilities that have been phased out across not only Major League Baseball but the majority of North American professional sports.
The city council’s certification of the Howard Terminal EIR was not without its detractors. Ravani writes that concerned citizens and the two councilmembers who voted against certification raised questions about the extent to which the review investigated affordable housing, the impact on port functions, traffic ramifications in the surrounding neighborhoods, the removal of toxic waste, and railroad safety regarding the nearby tracks.
It’s worth emphasizing that the EIR’s certification is just one step toward the project’s ultimate approval. The city will still need to approve the final terms of the project, and an exact timeline toward any such vote remains unclear. Annie Sciacca of the San Jose Mercury News writes that the City of Oakland and the Athletics still need to complete negotiations on key economic principals of the plan, including — among other critical elements — who will fund the infrastructure and how substantial a portion of the proposed housing units will be designated affordable housing. Those negotiations could take months, as could subsequent studies (e.g. a deeper dive into traffic management) that are now slated to follow the EIR. Nevertheless, the A’s and Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf — a proponent of the deal — have touted the EIR certification as a notable victory.
“Tonight’s vote by the City Council was a historic moment for Oakland’s future,” Schaaf said following the vote. “The companion resolution by Councilmembers Bas, Kaplan and Kalb ensures that all Oaklanders will benefit from the proposed waterfront ballpark district, and that a world-class development with 18 acres of new public parks, 3,000 units of housing – including new affordable housing – will get built with the most sustainable and highest environmental standards on our waterfront.
“Tonight’s action is more than a milestone – it’s a giant leap forward in our shared mission to create a regional destination that gives back our waterfront to the public, connects a new vibrant neighborhood to our downtown and provides tens of thousands good union jobs for our residents – and it does it all while keeping our beloved A’s rooted in Oakland.”