(CN) — The Oakland City Council voted late Thursday to certify an environmental impact report and cleared a preliminary hurdle for a $12 billion waterfront development project that includes a new ballpark for the Oakland A’s baseball team.
Six of the eight City Council members supported the measure. The city’s planning commission unanimously recommended the council certify the environmental impact report. The report’s certification does not give the project the green light but brings the development one step closer to becoming a reality.
Public comment at the hearing included a spectrum of perspectives on the environmental impact report, with some A’s fans and many unionized construction, stadium and iron workers advocating for the report’s certification. They cited the creation of high-paying, working-class jobs and the economic advantages of keeping the franchise in the East Bay region.
A roughly equal number of community members, including unionized port workers and environmental advocates, lambasted the report and the prospective development.
The primary issue raised by community members during public comment was a perceived lack of attentiveness to the trepidation of the predominantly Black community in West Oakland that would be affected by the development. Other frequently voiced concerns included a desire for more affordable housing to be included in the development area, worries about public transportation and traffic congestion and questions about the impacts on freight and shipping activity at the Port of Oakland in the midst of supply chain woes.
“The lives of marginalized West Oaklanders are being bartered,” said Councilmember Carroll Fife, whose district includes the location of the proposed development. “It feels like if we give the A’s what they’re looking for, they don’t have to do anything.”
Fife voted against certifying the report, noting the concerns of many callers and that the labor groups at the port were on a different page from labor groups in the building industry. She also questioned whether there was concrete evidence the new ballpark would bring more jobs to West Oakland and why officials like Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf have urged rapid action certifying the report rather than waiting a few weeks.
“I have several issues and several questions,” Fife said. “I’m really, really concerned about how fast this is moving.”
After the vote, Schaaf applauded the City Council vote on Twitter.
“Tonight’s action is more than a milestone — it’s a giant leap forward in our shared mission to create a regional destination that gives back our waterfront to the public, connects a new vibrant neighborhood to our downtown and provides tens of thousands good union jobs for our residents — and it does it all while keeping our beloved A’s rooted in Oakland,” said Schaaf.
The project proposes a ballpark than can hold 35,000 people, along with the construction of 3,000 housing units, 1.5 million square feet of office space, a performance venue and retail space. The city is currently negotiating to make affordable housing comprise 15% of the on-site housing units.
Oakland has seen an exodus of professional sports teams, with the Golden State Warriors basketball team moving across the bay to San Francisco in 2015 and the Raiders football team relocating to Las Vegas in 2020.
In March 2021, Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval announced Major League Baseball had directed the team to explore transferring to another locale while pursuing the waterfront ballpark development. Kaval and the MLB have flatly rejected keeping the A’s at the RingCentral Coliseum. Councilmember Noel Gallo and multiple public commenters said the team should stay put and bring the proposed development, housing and union jobs to their current stadium. Gallo joined Fife in opposing the report’s certification.
The other councilmembers who supported certification of the environmental impact report emphasized that their vote was not a final approval of the project and that they still had concerns they wanted addressed.
“I’m going to keep on pushing the city and other agencies to make sure that the environmental health of our communities is the best it can be,” said Councilmember Dan Kalb, who voted in favor of certifying the report.
“There clearly is a lot of potential with this project. There is also a lot that is at stake,” said City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, noting she was not ready to commit her support to the project. “I have to see that it delivers the economic and community benefits and that it makes fiscal sense.”
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