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Appeals court OKs environmental report on A's Howard Terminal ballpark project

Vote advances plan to build A's ballpark at Port of Oakland
Vote advances plan to build A's ballpark at Port of Oakland 01:59

OAKLAND -- In a major win for the Oakland Athletics and the city of Oakland's plan to build a new ballpark at Howard Terminal, an appeals court Thursday ruled that the project's environmental impact report was sufficient after opponents filed suit, claiming the city's review was lacking.

The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco Court agreed that the city of Oakland had thoroughly studied the enviromental impacts of the ballpark project. Last April, Union Pacific Railroad Company and a coalition of marine, port and transportation interests filed separate lawsuits challenging Oakland's certification of the EIR. In September, an Alameda County Superior Court judge rejected those legal challenges, and the appeals court Thursday upheld the decision.

The appeals court did find that the project failed to specify measures to limit the adverse effects of offshore winds on the ballpark and its events.

The estimated $1 billion Howard Terminal ballpark project includes a 35,000-seat baseball stadium and event venue at the Howard Terminal site, up to 3,000 new residential units, up to 1,500,000 square feet of new office/commercial uses, 270,000 square feet of retail uses, a 3,500-seat indoor performance venue for events, and 400 hotel rooms.

Plaintiffs argued the EIR failed to adequately consider alternatives to the Howard Terminal site or assess the impacts of the project at the intended location. The suit had also asked the court to find that the government officials involved abused their discretion in certifying the EIR.

In a statement Thursday, the Oakland A's said the team was satisfied with the appeals court decision.

"We are pleased with the appellate court's decision, which affirms the significant and thorough work completed on our environmentally sound visionary waterfront ballpark project," a spokesperson said.   

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao celebrated the ruling in a prepared statement, coming just hours before the A's Opening Day matchup Thursday evening at RingCentral Coliseum against the Los Angeles Angels.

"What a way to celebrate opening day! This is great news for Oakland residents and fans throughout the Bay Area. Today's unanimous decision once again confirms that the City not only complied with the law but undertook a thorough and thoughtful environmental analysis of the A's potential ballpark development at Howard Terminal. 

"Oakland will continue upgrading our infrastructure so we can support sustainable and resilient communities and promote economic development. And we are now one step closer to reaching our goals. Now that two courts have ruled in favor of the City, we hope we can all come together for the betterment of Oakland," the mayor said.

Last month, Thao said talks had resumed between the city of Oakland and the A's over the ballpark plans, saying of the negotiations, "It is looking good."

The A's have played at the Coliseum since 1968, and their lease expires after the 2024 season. After withdrawing plans for ballparks in Fremont and San Jose, the team announced in November 2018 it had found a waterfront location for a new ballpark at Howard Terminal, close to the Jack London Square neighborhood.

But the proposal has been stalled by money and concerns about affordable housing in the area. The A's have also been exploring a possible move to Las Vegas should the Howard Terminal project fall through.

At baseball's winter meetings in December, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said 2023 would be a big year when it comes to the future of the franchise.

"We're past any reasonable timeline for the situation in Oakland to be resolved," said Manfred.

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