Even after lawsuit victory, clock is ticking for Oakland A’s on Howard Terminal stadium
OAKLAND — Another baseball season is just getting underway, but it appears that the Oakland A’s are already running out of time.
The clock is ticking for the team to find another home before its lease at the Coliseum expires next December, and there’s little word from the city about a deal being struck over a new, billion-dollar 35,000-seat waterfront ballpark in West Oakland.
That stadium development — plus 3,000 new homes, massive retail and other commercial space, hotel units and more — cleared a hurdle Thursday when an appeal by shipping companies challenging the proposal’s environmental details was defeated in court.
“Oakland will continue upgrading our infrastructure so we can support sustainable and resilient communities and promote economic development,” Mayor Sheng Thao said Thursday in a statement. “And we are now one step closer to reaching our goals.”
The shipping companies operate at the city’s busy port, and would need to cede to the team a section, called Howard Terminal, that is currently used for container storage.
Last year, a coalition of those businesses had filed suits claiming the A’s desired development would pose a litany of environmental harms, including negative air quality impacts and greenhouse gas emissions.
But a state appellate court on Thursday upheld a previous ruling by Alameda County Judge Brad Seligman knocking down all the environmental challenges, with one exception — potential wind hazards, for which the court said the project needs a more precise standard of measurement and mitigation.
The team commented publicly it was “pleased with the appellate court’s decision, which affirms the significant and thorough work completed on our environmentally sound visionary waterfront ballpark project.”
Even after this win, though, there’s still a long way to go before Howard Terminal could save the city’s last major professional sports franchise from skipping town.
In January, the A’s lost their own appeal to the state Supreme Court in a separate case where the team sought to stop Schnitzer Steel, a manufacturing plant in West Oakland from dumping excess product into landfills directly adjacent to the proposed development.
“It really highlighted the absurdity of trying to build housing and a ballpark on a working port,” said Nola Agha, a professor at the University of San Francisco who researches financing for sports stadiums.
The team has already blown past a self-imposed deadline last November to strike a deal with the city. No one’s said a thing about the current timeline for the team and city to potentially reach an agreement.
Last month, the team hired a group of lobbyists to lean on the Nevada legislature in order to secure public financing for a stadium in Las Vegas, where the team has threatened to go if a deal isn’t reached in Oakland.
A’s President Dave Kaval has even registered with the state as a lobbyist to help campaign himself, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported.
“If the Nevada legislature somehow comes through with the money, every team owner has always shown that they’re going to go where they can get the most profit,” Agha said.
It has been a cause for concern among A’s fans who often accuse the Oakland City Council of not doing enough to retain the team.
The city, without any certainty of reaching a deal with the team, directed hundreds of millions of grant dollars last fall toward infrastructure projects that would make it possible for people to reach the waterfront ballpark through public transportation.
And despite the massive scale of the potential development, city officials are continuing with business as usual — the issue has hardly come up at recent public meetings.
Councilmember Carroll Fife, whose district would contain the new ballpark, said her focus remains on more immediate issues like public safety, housing and the health of local businesses, though she plans to meet with staff next week to receive an update on where negotiations stand.
“I haven’t seen a proposal that was serious from the A’s organization, one that would lead to me spending a lot of time thinking about what they’re going to do” in Nevada, Fife said in an interview. “The ball is in their court. When they’re ready to step up to the plate and provide a proposal in Oakland, then I’ll spend time on it.”