Howard Terminal neighbors challenge CEQA streamlining effort

I was wondering when the Port private interests (PMSA, trucking and transport companies) would file their first lawsuit. They laid down the gauntlet yesterday, suing the City of Oakland to stop the CEQA streamlining process for Howard Terminal.

I expected the first lawsuit to be filed after the draft EIR was released, not before. What made the Port group fire the first shot? A technicality, of course. Governor Gavin Newsom didn’t certify the project for streamlining by the end of 2019, which opponents are seizing on as something that should disqualify the project from streamlining altogether. Absent the streamlining, the project would have to undergo the exemption-free CEQA process, dragging on potentially for years.

The A’s applied for CEQA streamlining through AB 900, which was passed nearly a decade ago. If you look at the list of projects that were certified for streamlining, you’ll see a number of high profile examples such as the Apple Campus (certified 2012) and the planned Clippers arena (certified 2019). You’ll also see a listing for Oakland Sports and Mixed-Use Project at Howard Terminal, which to date is not yet certified for streamlining. This is despite the fact that AB 734 was passed separately to help assist with the process.

A draft version of the EIR was expected to be released at the end of 2019 in February sometime this month. (We’re past the Ides of March, as you know.) At issue were a number of environmental issues such as the project’s carbon footprint and the difficulty in getting 20% improvement over the Coliseum, a requirement that was going to be difficult to hit given the lack of transportation options at the site.

Mayor Schaaf’s office also had some feedback:

A judge will have to determine if HT qualifies regardless of the missed deadline. Maybe after that we’ll get to read the EIR. Maybe not. It can be hard to grasp how difficult a puzzle this is, and perhaps I haven’t done a good enough job spelling it out. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure it out. Perhaps if this drags all the way out and there is a groundbreaking, everyone will be able to appreciate the effort. Until then, as usual, never mistake activity for achievement.

P.S. – The Clippers and A’s were in roughly the same place process wise as the main legislative session was winding up in Sacramento last summer. Both teams got their respective bills passed. The Clips doubled down on their plans by offering to buy out their chief legal opposition, MSG, taking the Forum off MSG’s hands and building a bunch of affordable housing in the process. So far, the A’s say they want to build affordable housing too! As far as buying out opponents, we’ll see about that. Unlike Inglewood, the two sides aren’t natural competitors.

There’s a reason I consistently talk about whether or not Howard Terminal is prohibitively expensive. Getting rid of opposition is a huge factor, and the A’s have proven time and time again that they’re unwilling to pay to get rid of opponents. We may be getting to the tipping point for Howard Terminal.

10 thoughts on “Howard Terminal neighbors challenge CEQA streamlining effort

  1. The tipping point?

    Wow, on one hand, you have said the A’s haven’t actually got much accomplished, on the other you say we may be at a tipping point.

    I wonder if you think the A’s will ever put forth the effort to make a new park work anywhere in the Bay Area.

    • They don’t need to make it so hard for themselves, that’s all.

      • They dont have to make it so hard for themselves, AKA just build at the coliseum?

        Otherwise I don’t see how they could be making it so hard on themselves, to this point they really haven’t accomplished that much at HT, as you have expressed.

        If they REALLY can’t build at HT, or the cost is just too much (which it may be), we will find out soon enough, but what do I know…a tipping point could happen anytime.

      • Thing is, just about everyone who follows this could see this coming. At least the HT advocates will get the satisfaction of knowing the A’s tried in downtown, for what it’s worth.

      • I am sure everyone expected legal action, after all the governmental bill itself was put together to limit such action. If the A’s win in great, if they don’t at worst it lengthens the process even further.

        I am sure some would say (perhaps you), the time frame tied to the A’s dwindling revenue sharing would keep HT from going forward. However, starting the process all over at the coliseum is also going to dwindle that time frame as well.

        If the A’s make real progress at HT MLB will probable extend its patience, after all they have played a big part in the A’s being in this situation.

        Anyway this news in and of its self wont doom the project, again it was expected.

        And yes…I am very happy the A’s tried (continuing to try), in downtown for what it’s worth.

        It may yet, be worth vary much more then you seem to believe it to be.

  2. I am most interested in the argument that it had to be certified “streamlined” by a certain date and it wasn’t. That seems pretty cut and dry.

    I suppose they could always draft a new bill and send it through the process and… I originally guessed 2026 was the earliest this would be a thing if it ever was. I feel pretty good about that as the over/under right now. I am taking the over.

    • I am with you Jeffrey, either they got the bill certified by the stipulated date or they did not, that’s it.

      Seems pretty simple, beyond that I guess the question is what’s the outcome if the bill did not get certified in time?

      Sacramento votes on a modification to the bill to extend the time period, or they vote on a new bill to be certified by the end of this year, or whatever date they come up with, or a judge sees the intent on the A’s part and rules that it’s a miner oversite.

      The A’s have a lot still ahead of them at HT, this is probable not that big of a deal, and if anything is a prelude to bigger fights to come. If the A’s are really serious (seems like they are), this project can still become a reality, just at a latter date then what the A’s are pushing.

      And, after all that is what reasonable people expected anyway.

      • If not certified in time, we’d be back in the pre-AB900 process when every major project has to undergo a thorough environmental review. It’s not a tragedy. If the A’s get the full treatment and get to groundbreaking and completion, they’ll deserve the spoils that come with it.

      • “If the A’s get the full treatment and get to groundbreaking and completion, they’ll deserve the spoils that come with it.”

        I personally don’t mind if they get every advantage that almost every other fortune 500 company gets, but I can say I almost agree entirely with your above statement.

  3. Time to move the team to Sacramento. Problem solved.

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