By Meghan Hall
After nearly a year’s delay due to a CEQA-related lawsuit, the City of Oakland has released its draft environmental impact report for the Athletics’ planned Howard Terminal Stadium project. The documents reveal new details about the new Major League Baseball (MLB) ballpark, and the Oakland Athletics’ vision for the expansive waterfront site.
“The release of the Draft EIR is another important step forward in the process of building a new privately financed ballpark at Oakland’s Howard Terminal,” said Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval in a recent statement.
The property currently belongs to the Port of Oakland as well as adjacent properties from private owners. Combined, the project would encompass about 55 acres.
The EIR indicates that the new, open-air, multipurpose ballpark would have a capacity of up to 35,000. In addition, the Oakland Athletics have a wide variety of other uses planned for the project. Mixed-use development at the site is expected to include up to 1.5 million square feet of commercial uses—including, but not limited to, general offices and life sciences spaces—270,000 square feet of retail of various forms, and 50,000 square feet of space dedicated specifically to an indoor performance venue. The venue would have a capacity of up to 3,500 people.
Also included in the plans is a 400-key hotel in one or more buildings with dedicated conference facilities. A network of 18.3 acres of privately and publicly owned open spaces will connected the various buildings. 8,900 parking spaces are also denoted in the project’s plans.
According to the Oakland A’s, the development is rooted in a transit-first approach and is expected to reduce car trips by 20 percent while expanding public transportation options, bike and pedestrian infrastructure. Other critical infrastructure improvements include adding to Oakland’s resiliency against sea-level rise and separations between ballpark and Port of Oakland traffic, which is intended to provide easier access to the Port.
If approved, the development would be built out in multiple phases. Phase One would include the new ball park, while following development—referred to as “Buildout”—would include the remaining balance of the project, most of which is located west of Market Street. All current structures on the site would be demolished on the site to make way for the project, except for existing shipping container cranes.
The timing for the project’s delivery, however, has been impacted by a nearly year-long lawsuit. Initially filed in March of 2020 by Port of Oakland stakeholders Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, the Harbor Trucking Association, the California Trucking Association and Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc., the lawsuit alleged the new stadium did not meet minimum qualifications to be considered under California AB 734. Under the legislation, projects can gain expedited environmental review certification and must settle legal challenges in no more than 270 days. The lawsuit was dismissed by a judge mid-February; however, the Port’s stakeholders have already filed an appeal under the same premises. If the lawsuit succeeds, a full review of the project under CEQA would be required.
The Oakland A’s have a deadline to complete the project and move into their new home. Their current lease at the Oakland Coliseum will expire in 2024, and the A’s hope to make the transition to Howard Terminal by 2023. The major league baseball team is urging the City to move the project forward to approvals as soon as possible.
“The Athletics are the last professional sports team in Oakland,” Kaval explained. “We employ thousands of Oakland and Alameda County residents, and local businesses, the City, and County derive significant economic benefits and revenue from our games. While the release of the Draft EIR is a great milestone, it is imperative that the City Council take a vote on the project this year. We look to the City for their support and partnership to keep the A’s in Oakland for generations to come.”