Friday, December 10, 2010

Oakland Ballpark Study Funding On Tap for Tuesday

By Robert Gammon
Fri, Dec 10, 2010 at 1:41 PM

The city’s proposal to spend $750,000 on an environmental impact report for a new Oakland A’s ballpark in Jack London Square is scheduled to go before a council committee on Tuesday. The council’s Community and Economic Development Agency committee will examine the financing proposal at its regular 1:30 p.m. meeting at City Hall on December 14. The item then likely will be forwarded to the full council for approval on December 21.

Approval of the $750,000 is pivotal for the proposed Victory Court ballpark site to move forward. The ballpark cannot advance without the environmental impact report. At the very least, the council would need to approve funding for a traffic study related to the environmental impact report. But if the council decides to not spend any money, it would send a clear signal to Major League Baseball that Oakland is not serious about trying to keep the A’s.

Oakland’s redevelopment agency, which would pay the $750,000 for the environmental impact report, plans to use funds that it had earmarked for a new parking garage in the city’s uptown district. No money would come from the city’s general fund, which is used to pay for police and fire services, along with libraries and parks.

The environmental impact report is expected to take six to twelve months to complete. The likely most serious issue will be traffic in the Jack London Square neighborhood, along with the neighboring Lake Merritt and Chinatown areas. If the council decides to go forward only with the traffic study, which reportedly would cost about $350,000, it could then use that information for other proposed projects in Jack London Square area if Major League Baseball were to green light the A’s to move to San Jose.

However, the proposal to spend the entire $750,000 and do the full study as quickly as possible may have a shot at passing the four-member CEDA committee and the entire eight-member council. The only probable "no" vote on the CEDA committee is Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente. The committee also includes Council members Jane Brunner and Larry Reid, who are both strong ballpark backers. The fourth committee member, Councilwoman Pat Kernighan, also is expected to move the ballpark proposal forward. Then when the issue gets to the full council, Mayor-elect Jean Quan and Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who both also back the ballpark, could provide the decisive votes for funding the full environmental study.

After conducting a competitive bid process, the city selected LSA Associates, an environmental firm that has done numerous EIRs in Oakland over the years, to do the ballpark study. Along with traffic, the topics to be examined include aesthetics, biological resources, hazards/hazardous materials, public services, utilities/service systems, cultural resources, hydro logy/water quality, noise, recreation, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, geology/soils, land use/planning, and population/housing. There also appeared to be agreement last week at the Planning Commission meeting to study health-impact effects from the ballpark and traffic. The proposed project is to include a 39,000- seat stadium, along with housing, retail, and office space.

Under California environmental law, the study also must include project alternatives. They may include other ballpark sites proposed by the city in the past, including a site west of Broadway in Jack London Square, the Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland, and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum parking lot.

Major League Baseball’s blue ribbon committee on the A’s selected the Victory Court site after reviewing the other sites. The league likes the fact that Victory Court is accessible to downtown, BART, and Amtrak, and is near the waterfront. It’s next to the Lake Merritt Channel and is across the street from the Oakland Estuary.

Some Jack London Square area residents and groups also have proposed studying a proposal to build the ballpark over Interstate 980. But city officials believe that site is unviable and would throw a wrench into their plans to keep the A’s from leaving.

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