An illustration shows how the proposed A's stadium and housing and commercial development at Howard Terminal would look from the air. Credit: City of Oakland

The city of Oakland released the draft of its environmental impact report for the Oakland Ballpark Waterfront District Project today. If approved, the project would involve building a new 35,000-person stadium for the Athletic’s baseball team on the 55-acre Howard Terminal portion of the Port of Oakland, just west of Jack London Square.

The project could also include 3,000 apartments or condos, 1.5 million square feet of commercial space, up to 270,000 square feet of retail space, a hotel with up to 400 rooms, and more.

You can read the draft EIR here.

The purpose of an environmental impact report is to study all the possible ways a major government decision—like building a ballpark and massive residential and commercial complex on the publicly owned waterfront—could affect the environment. These types of reports are required under California’s Environmental Quality Act and are meant to help the public and elected officials make decisions.

The report for the ballpark complex examines how construction could cause air pollution, noise, vibration, and other impacts, and how the buildings might create shade and wind. The report also tries to gauge whether operating a sports stadium and building thousands of housing units will have a positive or negative impact on housing, transportation, and other aspects of our city.

Mayor Libby Schaaf, who supports the plan, said in a press release today, “The Howard Terminal ballpark requires the highest environmental standards while giving us an opportunity to expand our entertainment district near Jack London Square, increase housing, provide good jobs, and keep our beloved waterfront working.”

Others aren’t so sure the benefits of building at Howard Terminal outweigh the costs. The East Oakland Stadium Alliance is a coalition of labor unions representing workers at the Port of Oakland, and major companies that operate the marine terminals, ships, and industrial facilities at the Port. They’re opposed to the ballpark plans because they feel it will eliminate good paying jobs and threaten the Port’s role as an industrial hub.

“Our coalition of labor, community, and business groups who are significantly impacted by the Oakland A’s proposed project at Howard Terminal will be doing a thorough analysis of this draft report,” said Mike Jacob, Vice President and General Counsel of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, which is a member of the East Oakland Stadium Alliance. “We know that Oakland’s working waterfront is no place for a stadium, office, and luxury condominium complex, and this environmental review must ultimately shine a bright light on the many significant adverse impacts of building the proposed stadium complex at this location.”

According to the draft EIR report, there are some significant and unavoidable environmental impacts if the stadium complex is built at Howard Terminal. They include:

  • Winds that would exceed 36 miles per hour for more than one hour during daylight hours during the year because of the buildings on the waterfront
  • Air pollution during construction that “could result in or contribute to construction- related criteria pollutant emissions in excess of the City’s thresholds”
  • Air pollution from operation of the project
  • Additional car, pedestrian, bus, and bicycle traffic railroad crossings on Embarcadero that would create “a permanent or substantial transportation hazard.”
  • And traffic that would “increase congestion on regional roadways”

The draft EIR proposes ways to mitigate these and other harmful impacts.

Members of the public can also submit comments on the draft report. In addition, people can also virtually attend the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board public hearing on Monday, March 22, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. and the Planning Commission’s public hearing on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 at 3:00 p.m.

Before joining The Oaklandside as News Editor, Darwin BondGraham was a freelance investigative reporter covering police and prosecutorial misconduct. He has reported on gun violence for The Guardian and was a staff writer for the East Bay Express. He holds a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017. He is also the co-author of The Riders Come Out at Night, a book examining the Oakland Police Department's history of corruption and reform.