Oakland Planning Commission shows unanimous support for Howard Terminal EIR

Hoops on hoops on hoops.

No, I’m not talking about the Dubs. I’m talking about the A’s – and their odyssey to find an escape hatch from the Oakland Coliseum.  

Wednesday marked another milestone in the franchise’s process to develop a waterfront district at Howard Terminal, which sits just west of Jack London Square on the banks of The Bay. Oakland’s six-person Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend that the City Council certify the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which was finalized in December. Just one more of the necessary hoops the project must jump through before being realized.

Full disclosure: I wasn’t able to watch Wednesday’s public Zoom session but am relying mostly on ABC7’s Casey Pratt’s reporting from the event. Casey has been doing yeoman’s work covering the stadium saga over the past couple of years and deserves some sort of monument at Howard Terminal if this thing ever comes to fruition. For now, the guys at @LastDiveBar have created this *chef’s kiss* shirt.

When it comes to public support from the city officials, the Howard Terminal stadium project is moving on a positive trajectory toward completion. From summer to December, City staff responded to more than 400 public comments on the project to finalize the 3,500-page EIR, which provides a comprehensive framework for the $6 billion development. 

The A’s are proposing to build a $1 billion, privately-financed 34,000-seat stadium, along with 3,000 residential units, commercial and retail space, 18 acres of public parks and possibly a 3,500-seat performing arts center. Howard Terminal is used primarily as a staging area for semi-trucks in its current form, so the City is enticed by the potential boon of revenues from the site. Oakland has been able to secure commitments from Alameda County and said it has tapped into federal funds to help finance the $352 million the A’s were seeking in off-site infrastructure commitments. Reading the tea leaves at this point, the onus seems to be on the A’s to get this deal done.

There has been lots of smoke coming from the A’s visits to Las Vegas since last summer, but the fire is in Oakland.

San Francisco Chronicle reporter Sarah Ravani shared reaction from A’s president Dave Kaval following Wednesday’s session, which ran about four hours, including about three hours of public comment.

“It’s a very important step and a very positive step towards getting to a final binding approval of the project,” Kaval told Ravani, adding that the A’s and Oakland have been negotiating “multiple times a week.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf released a statement via the City’s website:

“Tonight’s Planning Commission recommendation to send the Final Environmental Impact Report onto the City Council for certification is a huge win for our entire region and puts Oakland one step closer to building a landmark waterfront ballpark district with the highest environmental standards.”

This project definitely has momentum and reached an unprecedented juncture of negotiations in the A’s 22-plus-year search for a stadium, but there are still plenty of hoops to jump through. Casey shared an informative slide from city planner Peter Vollman on the progress of the project. 

Vollman lays out the timeline for the A’s and Howard Terminal, which dates back to April 2018, when the franchise entered an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement with the Port of Oakland. Vollman’s slide summarizes what needs to happen next, beginning with the City Council’s EIR certification vote, which could happen by mid-February, according to Pratt.

Here are the pending entitlement milestones Vollman listed, typed out for clarity:

  • City Council considers final EIR and jurisdictional legislation (perhaps mid-February)
  • Planning Commision and Council consider General Plan Amendment, Rezone, Development Agreement, Preliminary Development Plan, Tract Map
  • The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) considers Bay Plan amendment
  • Port of Oakland considers real estate agreements, Port Building Permit
  • California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) considers Remedial Action Plan
  • A’s submit for BCDC Major Permit
  • State Lands Commission considers Exchange Agreement 

So, yeah. Lots of hoops. This whole process has been a melange of alphabet soup and the acronyms don’t appear to be stopping any time soon. 

Most want to know when a shovel will be put in the ground. As I wrote earlier, I think a June 2024 groundbreaking ceremony could be possible in a perfect world. The Planning Commission is taking a more diplomatic approach.

“That’s a good question,” Vollman said. “With the other project approvals from other agencies, all of them need to be in place prior to them putting a shovel in the ground. I can’t even begin to pick an actual date.”

Step by excruciating step, this stadium seems one bit closer to completion. Also – one last thing – there is a “variant” of the project that still includes a gondola. Nice.

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