A coalition involving Port of Oakland tenants filed an appeal this week after an Alameda County judge dismissed its lawsuit involving concerns about fast-tracking a new waterfront baseball park.
Superior Court Judge Noel Wise’s ruling on Wednesday favored the Oakland A’s, who are seeking a new home at Howard Terminal. Although the ballpark must still complete and pass a full environmental impact review, the ruling forces legal challenges or complaints to be resolved within 270 days, per California state bill AB 734.
The coalition, which includes the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, the California Trucking Association, the Harbor Trucking Association and Schnitzer Steel, had filed its suit in March in hopes of preventing the bill’s application, saying the A’s had missed a deadline to use AB 734. Gov. Gavin Newsom certified the project under the state bill.
The San Jose Mercury News obtained a copy of the dismissal, with Wise writing, “… It would be a perverse outcome if the Howard Terminal Project could not advance pursuant to a valid and operable statute because that statute includes a reference to the potential application of the guidelines for another statute that is no longer in effect.”
After Wise made her ruling, the coalition began the appeal process.
“We disagree with the Alameda County Superior Court ruling that the Governor has the power to certify the A’s proposed Howard Terminal project for environmental fast-tracking and have filed a Notice of Appeal,” according to a statement released by Mike Jacob, vice president and general counsel of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association. “The fact is that the A’s clearly failed to meet the generous deadline set forth by the Legislature because the A’s struggled for months to provide evidence that their project would meet the minimum environmental requirements written in the law.
“We believe we are correct and remain very hopeful the Appellate Court will agree that the Howard Terminal project should not be certified for fast-tracking and ensure that the A’s follow the standard environmental impact review process. Those processes are vital to protecting the working waterfront, the environment, and our community and should not be bypassed by special interest short-cuts that expired over a year ago.”
In addition to completing the environmental impact report, the A’s must still secure land-use approval. The Mercury News reports that public commenting on the EIR could begin shortly but noted that the discussions are a lower priority compared to Bay Area concerns about the pandemic. The A’s would like to get approval from the Oakland City Council this year. They also need approval from the Port of Oakland.
“This is a critically important decision,” Dave Kaval, president of the A’s, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It was a difficult fight to get through, but I’m glad we won and we can move forward.”
The A’s, who have spent five years working toward a new ballpark, are hopeful they can open at Howard Terminal for the 2023 season.
Maritime interests and environmental groups have cried foul over the proposed ballpark that would be built along the Oakland estuary in the port’s inner harbor. They object to using scarce waterfront property for nonmaritime uses and are concerned that clogged roads to and from would snarl traffic and create safety issues.
Howard Terminal is a small container terminal used as a parking lot for trucks and husbanding ships.
The baseball team’s proposal has received strong criticism from members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dockworkers at the port. A march protesting building a ballpark at Howard Terminal took place in 2019.
Environmental groups also oppose the project, and community activists say that housing that would be part of the stadium project would be too expensive for many residents of Oakland, which has seen a wave of gentrification.