Oakland A’s New Howard Terminal Ballpark Gets Help: Gov. Jerry Brown Signs AB 734

The Oakland A’s new ballpark for Howard Terminal / Jack London Square took a giant step toward reality when California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 734 into law on Sunday.

Oakland A’s fans and new baseball stadium dreamers can thank California Assemblymembers Rob Bonta (CA AD 18) and Tony Thurmund (CA AD 15) for drafting the legislation, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval for working together to make this happen.

What AB 734 does is cause the Oakland A’s to avoid having to investigate environmental impacts and write new environmental impact report (EIR) documents based on any “comments” or findings of concern that are added to an EIR. Normally, such comments can hamper, make far more expensive, or completely derail a development project.

But, in addition to that easing of normal Califonria requirements under what is called the “California Environmental Quality Act” or CEQA, AB 734 goes the extra step of specifically being only for the Oakland A’s project. The bill, in part, reads this way…

(b) The existing Oakland Coliseum is an aging facility with a maximum seating capacity of 59,326 seats that must be replaced to retain the Oakland Athletics baseball team. The City of Oakland desires to maintain the Oakland Athletics professional baseball franchise in the city by providing development opportunities that will allow the team to develop a state-of-the-art baseball park in the city, while maximizing the economic benefit of the sports team and its facilities for the city.

(c) The city has identified the Howard Terminal site owned by the Port of Oakland as a viable site for a new baseball park. The city seeks to capitalize on the development of a new baseball park to maximize the economic benefit of the team and its facilities for the city, county, and port, including critical transit and transportation infrastructure, affordable housing, open space, and job creation. Essential to the success and feasibility of the new baseball park is the development of complementary adjacent mixed-use residential, commercial, and retail uses that will support the baseball park and further the city’s and region’s goals for sustainable transit-oriented development, including an increase in supply of housing, including affordable housing.

AB 734 Does Not Eliminate Oakland Coliseum From A’s Ballpark Site Evaluation Process

While AB 734 was developed for the Howard Terminal area, this does not mean the Oakland A’s have closed out the Coliseum as a choice; the Oakland City Council already approved an EIR as part of the new baseball-stadium-ready Coliseum City proposal in 2015, so there was no need to include it in AB 734.

This has been a “big” year of progress for the A’s in the organization’s effort to build a new home specifically in Oakland. The first milestone was when the Oakland City Council signed an exclusive negotiating agreement (ENA) with the A’s, May 15th.

Now, the next step for the Oakland A’s is to continue the process of evaluating which place, Oakland Coliseum or Howard Terminal, is the best location for a new ballpark. To that end, Mr. Kaval met with the Oakland Planning Department on September 28th.

Meanwhile celebrated architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) is hard at work in developing what many hope will be an innocative, pathbreaking design for the venue.

“BIG pushes the boundaries and creates iconic designs globally,” says Dave Kaval, president of the A’s. “We are thrilled to work with a world-renowned team to build a game-changing ballpark for Oakland.”

Stay tuned.

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