Date: Wednesday, April 6, 2022
Source: The Wall Street Journal
A coalition of shipping-industry groups, including port managers, trucking operators and the dockworkers’ union, is asking a California court to halt plans by the Oakland Athletics baseball team to build a stadium at the city’s port.
The groups filed suit late Friday against the A’s, the city of Oakland, the city council and the Port of Oakland on environmental grounds over a project aimed at providing the team a new venue that would keep it in the city. The stadium would replace the A’s 56-year-old home with what developers depict as a scenic site that includes housing, a hotel and retail shops on the Oakland waterfront.
The plans would put the stadium at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal, pitting the team and supporters seeking to keep the A’s from moving against shipping groups that say the effort would undercut a major economic driver for the city and take valuable freight space from a port overburdened by the flood of container volumes hitting U.S. shores.
Union Pacific Corp. joined the opposition effort with its own separate suit against the project, the railroad said Monday, over what it said were safety concerns about mixing industrial operations with the traffic that the sports and mixed-use site would draw.
The A’s have been looking for years to move from the team’s cavernous, aging home, now called RingCentral Coliseum, and team officials have talked about taking the franchise elsewhere, including San Jose, Calif., and have recently been in talks with Las Vegas.
Oakland A’s President David Kaval called the court action “absolutely crazy.”
“It’s another sign of how challenging it is to do business in California,” he said. “You have the largest polluters in California suing us, using environmental law. It just shows you the entire system is broken.”
Mr. Kaval said the team hopes to remain in Oakland but is also working with authorities in Nevada on a prospective ballpark site in Las Vegas. “They are a ‘get to yes’ kind of community,” he said.
Justin Berton, a spokesperson for the Oakland mayor’s office, said they had expected the lawsuit. “The city stands by the integrity of its process and analysis” that led the city council to certify an environmental impact report on the project, he said.
The terminal is no longer used to load and unload container ships, but the area is “heavily industrialized,” according to the suit, and the Howard Terminal site now handles overflow sea containers from other terminals. It is next to a steel recycling plant operated by Schnitzer Steel Industries Inc., which joined the suit, and an active rail yard operated by Union Pacific.
Also joining the suit were the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, which represents ocean container lines and terminal operators; the International Longshore and Warehouse Union; and the Harbor Trucking Association, which represents truckers serving the port.
The groups claim the city violated guidelines in its environmental impact report on the project, which would include a 35,000-seat stadium, retail and office space, new residences and a 400-room hotel.
The environmental review, the groups said, “fails to adequately analyze or mitigate public safety risks and other impacts associated with increased vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic crossing the heavily used Union Pacific railroad tracks” and doesn’t address the impact of an active baseball stadium alongside port facilities with large cargo ships nearby.