A coalition of shipping, trucking and steel companies has filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping the fast-tracking of an environmental review of the Oakland A’s plan to build a new baseball stadium at the Howard Terminal north of Jack London Square. The A’s, who currently play at the aging stadium at the Oakland Coliseum complex, hope to build a new stadium at the Howard Terminal site in time for the 2023 baseball season.
The lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court on Monday opposes the A’s submission to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Office of Planning and Research last week seeking Assembly Bill 734 fast-track certification of the Howard Terminal site by Newsom. AB 734 was authored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and was passed by the state Assembly and signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018. It aimed to streamline the process for reviewing environmental lawsuits filed against the Howard Terminal project. Bonta said the bill was based on previous legislation to facilitate new arena projects for the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings. The legislation expired on Jan. 1.
The suit on behalf of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, Schnitzer Steel Industries, the Harbor Trucking Association and the California Trucking Association says the state’s legal authority to continue moving forward with expedited environmental review of the project expired on Jan. 1 but Newsom continued to receive supplemental data and extended a public comment period that ended on Tuesday.
The suit seeks a declaration that Newsom has no power or authority to certify the Howard Terminal project under AB 734 and a writ of mandate barring him from certifying the project under AB 734. Mike Jacob, the vice president and general counsel of the Pacific Maritime Association, said in a statement, “The deadline for projects to demonstrate to the state that they meet the criteria for limited environmental review was Jan. 1.” Jacobs said, “The A’s application was pending for months and they were given multiple opportunities to prove that they could meet the thresholds required for being awarded this privilege — including showing that their project would be net greenhouse neutral and cut traffic by over 20 percent — but they obviously could not meet these standards.”
Jacobs alleged, “Continuing to press for this privilege now that there is no longer the legal authority to certify a project for a truncated environmental review is yet another example of the A’s asking to be treated outside the rules put in place to protect the public interest.”
The groups that filed the suit said that over the past year they have advocated for preserving Oakland’s working waterfront by growing a broad coalition dedicated to keeping the A’s at their current Coliseum site and redeveloping a new stadium complex there. The suit names Newsom and the city of Oakland as defendants and the A’s as a party of interest.
The A’s released a statement later Tuesday sharply criticizing the lawsuit. “At a time when our community is coming together in the midst of a global public health crisis, the decision to file a lawsuit to halt the environmental review process for the new A’s ballpark reeks of cynicism and desperation,” the team said in the statement.
“The new ballpark will be critical to the environmental, transportation, and housing future of Oakland,” the A’s said. “It’s a once-in-a-generation project that will contribute to the health and vitality of Oakland, and we won’t let Schnitzer Steel and its allies stand in the way of improved infrastructure and transportation solutions, cleaner air quality, additional housing, and more championships in Oakland.”
The Office of Planning and Research and the Oakland City Attorney’s Office didn’t immediately respond to requests to comment on the suit.