Howard Terminal Recommendation Passes 6-0

Howard Terminal Maritime Reservation Scenario

You may be wondering where I went since the EIR came out. Well, I buried myself in reading it for 2 weeks. I became increasingly disappointed in how so many of the mitigations and measures were being put off until later dates, to be instituted by other agencies. Then I woke up on New Year’s Day and realized that whatever I say about it, my words would not convince people unwilling to read them. So I stayed quiet and watched football instead. It’s very American.

Remember how in October, I wrote that we were reaching the end of non-binding season regarding Howard Terminal? I hate to inform you that end was delayed. Tonight, Oakland’s Planning Commission voted 6-0 to recommend certification of the Howard Terminal Final EIR. Chair Clark Manus reminded everyone early on that the vote wasn’t to certify the document as that could only be done by the City Council. That vote could happen as early as a month from now. Beyond the mealy-mouthed statements about how there are still many questions remaining and the hopeful speculation by the Commission and the clearly outnumbered project supporters during the hearing, what did we really get? I’ll tell you.

It was practice.

Throughout the four-hour session, the commission was peppered with commenters pleading to table the recommendation until further study could be done. The commission’s counter-argument was that the Draft EIR and Final EIR were done and complete, which should be enough for the limited CEQA scope of the commission. Of course, there were plenty of arguments from the assembled commenters that the EIRs were, in fact, not complete. The decision was made around 7 PM rather swiftly, which made me think it was a fait accompli. There was a little aside at the end, however:

Again, the commission approved a recommendation. The details – deals, covenants, agreements, litigation – are all off in the future. Perhaps they won’t actually happen until the EIR is certified and then the power of AB 734 kicks in. Once that happens, all of the aggrieved parties can file their lawsuits and get their pound of flesh from the project. You think CEQA is ugly, wait until various public and private entities line up to get whatever limited funds John Fisher decides is worth the cost of Howard Terminal. For years I hoped that the A’s would truly try to get ahead of the coming storm and work out mutually beneficial deals for the various ethnic and community groups, let alone the small and large commercial entities that work at the Port. I was so naive.

But I don’t think it’ll get that far. You see, I don’t expect these unresolved issues to magically resolve themselves in the next month. Or two-three months, or even nine months as the law limits negotiations. Instead, what will probably happen is what always happens in California when a government has a problem that is too massive and difficult to solve: they’ll put it to a referendum. The pressure from the lobbying groups and citizens will ratchet up, and the Council will do it to relieve some of that pressure.

Do you honestly expect anything different?

P.S. – For all the complaints about CEQA, it’s funny to hear the refrain from the commission members that they were bound by CEQA. CEQA allowed this project to be so tightly restricted in scope that in a way it’s above reproach. Complain about that!

19 thoughts on “Howard Terminal Recommendation Passes 6-0

  1. Referendum would be horrible for A’s fans hoping to keep the team in Oakland. There’s no way that the citizens will vote this through if we’re talking about a 50/50 deal

  2. ML

    It’s interesting that you expect there to be a referendum, it certainly is not out of the realm of possibility but still not likely.

    The San Francisco Giants built their stadium with a similarly structured deal as the A’s are attempting, albeit not on the same scale or complexity. There where opponents to that project yet no referendum for a public vote.

    The Warriors had powerful opposition, yet no referendum. It did not happen in Sacramento over the Kings area either.

    It did not happen with the 49ers or the Sharks in San Jose. It also has not happen with the recently completed project for the Rams and Chargers in Southern California.

    There have been several large projects completed in California over the last 25-30 years where a referendum was avoided, in fact the best example for when one should have happened was probable the coliseum renovations for the Raiders return form LA, and yet it still did not happen then either.

    It hardly ever happens, yet you honestly don’t expect anything different. Interesting…

    • Like I said, City can deal with the blowback directly or they can let the people decide directly. Their choice. You can ignore it. They can’t.

      • I did not ignore it, I said,

        “You expect there to be a referendum, it certainly is not out of the realm of possibility but still not likely”

        Hoverer, you did ignore the fact that there have been a dozen or more major projects in California built, or currently under consideration with opposition that did not (or) /have not gone to referendum.

        Now your down to posable referendum, oh well.

      • If you want to believe that a great “transformative” project will get through hyper-political Oakland without direct voter participation, that’s your naïveté showing.

        I’m not sure what kind of revisionist history you’re peddling. The Sharks arena had a public vote, as did the Giants ballpark and the 49ers stadium. The Dubs arena was forced to move sites in order to avoid a defeat at the ballot box.

        LA, or rather Inglewood, has its own brand of corruption that allows free reign for sports teams.

  3. Okay, I stand corrected on the public votes that did happen. (I was defiantly in error)

    I hope it doesn’t go to any sort of public vote, but I believe it would actually win. I am sure you fill differently.

    • Most public votes for stadia win, largely because the teams severely outspend the anti crowd during campaign season. It’s up to the A’s if they want to carry that cost.

      • And that may very well be the problem. Sometimes it seems as though they would be just as happy being in Vegas as they would be in Oakland and if so, a referendum would just be their excuse to skip town

      • The kicker on the referendum idea is that there’s zero chance of it happening in a mayoral race year like this one. Odd year, 2023? Much more likely.

      • The thing is by 2023 all the binding agreements will probably have be voted on. (all votes by end of 2022)

        Which means it’s even less likely to be a referendum.

        In the unlikely event there was one what would it be on anyway?

        The Port owns the property, the on-site infrastructure doesn’t effect current tax payers, the off-site infrastructure is in the form of state and federal grants.

        Not really seeing a legitimate reason why it should go to the local voters.

      • You base this on what exactly? The binding agreements all have a lot arguments to consider, and just as importantly, actual funding and timing to devote to the solutions.

        You already blundered factually earlier in this thread. Forgive me for not taking your prognostications seriously.

        Besides, none of the cheerleaders are taking into account the biggest wild card of all: the ballpark will become an election issue. It may not be on the ballot in 2022 by design, but it will be a campaign issue. There is no guarantee that anyone running will be anywhere as supportive of HT as the lame duck Schaaf. Lord help the A’s if Oakland’s next mayor is as supportive as Jerry Brown.

      • I base it on the fact that there will be binding agreements already in place (most likely), which would make it even less likely for there to be a referendum at that point.

        Yes I was in error but not entirely, there still have been several major redevelopment projects sports related and otherwise, that have made it to the finish line without a referendum in California.

        That is also very factual.

  4. Hey ML,
    With inflation causing construction costs to rise and interest rates soon to be raised, how much is this boondoggle costing now?

  5. Hey ML,
    What ever happened to the EIR approval post you were supposed to write up “over the weekend”? What’s it been, a month now?…

  6. Looks like those debt payments on a hypothetical, boondoggle HT ballpark just got a little bigger.. $$$$$

  7. Love me some John Shea ML! PLEASE MLB! Revisit $an Jo$e when this Howard Terminal fantasy blows up!! The A’s belong in The Bay!

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