April 27, 2021

The City of Oakland published its Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Waterfront Ballpark District Project (Project), State Clearinghouse No. 2018112070, and Notice of Availability on February 26, 2021. San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC or Commission) staff prepared and submitted comments on the DEIR on April 27, 2021 as a responsible agency with discretionary approval power over aspects of the Project. BCDC will rely on the Final EIR when considering the proposal as it moves through the regulatory and planning processes.

BCDC Jurisdiction

The Project site is partially located within BCDC’s Bay jurisdiction and 100-foot shoreline band jurisdiction. Additionally, the Project site is located within BCDC’s Oakland Port Priority Use Area, as designated in the San Francisco Bay Plan and the Bay Area Seaport Plan.

The Project

The Project proposed by the Oakland Athletics includes a new multi-purpose waterfront Major League Baseball stadium and a mixed-use development that includes residential, office/commercial, retail, performance venue, and hotel components, as well as public recreation and open space areas. The Project would require demolishing all existing buildings and structures on the Project site, with the exception of Fire Station 2 and four cranes that would be incorporated into the Project. Phase I of the Project includes the stadium and the residential, office, retail, restaurant, hotel, and recreation and open space uses proposed east of Market Street, and Phase II would include the remainder of the site.

Additionally, the Project proponent is considering a Maritime Reservation Scenario (MRS) for the Project. At any point during the 10-year reservation period established in the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement between the Port of Oakland and the Oakland Athletics, the Port may terminate the Project proponent’s development rights on up to the full 10 acres of the “Maritime Reservation Area” at the southwest corner of Howard Terminal to accommodate the possible expansion of the Inner Harbor Turning Basin. This would reduce the Project site’s footprint; the development itself would still consist of the same mix of uses, number of units, and building square footage as the proposal, but would have less open space area.

Comments on the DEIR

This summary provides an overview of staff’s key comments on the DEIR. Further detail and additional comments can be found in the letter itself.

  • General Comments.
    • Maritime Reserve Scenario: The DEIR does not consider potential impacts of the MRS to the same degree of detail or specificity as it affords to the proposed version of the Project, even though the MRS is a reasonably foreseeable consequence of approving the Project. Both the Phase II and MRS buildouts of the Project should be discussed fully at a program level.
    • Mitigation: There are a number of mitigation measures that are phrased in such a way that the reductions cannot be ensured, enforced, or quantified.
  • Land Use Compatibility. As the Project would be adjacent to the Oakland Port Priority Use Area, staff closely reviewed parts of the DEIR related to land use compatibility to ensure that BCDC’s Port Priority Use designation could continue functioning effectively.
    • Navigation Safety: Staff looked at the discussion of potential conflicts from recreational watercraft, glare, and pyrotechnic events (fireworks). The EIR requires additional detail and context, focusing on connections between the analyses and the specific experience of navigating large ships in the Bay. Staff also found the mitigation measures for this topic to be problematic, as they may have been unclear what aspect of a given impact was being addressed, lacked a clear measure of the impact reduction that assured it would result in a “less than significant” impact, lacked an effective means of enforcing the mitigation, or deferred the determination of strategies or measures to be used such that the effectiveness of the future measures cannot be guaranteed at this time.
    • Circulation: Staff found that the circulation analyses throughout the DEIR lacked important discussions concerning truck parking and truck routing, and what the effects could be on vehicle miles traveled, port congestion, and the surrounding community. The DEIR does not attempt to consider likely impacts due to relocating ancillary uses from Howard Terminal on on traffic patterns, despite assuming that many of the uses would relocate to other areas in the region. The DEIR also does not consider ancillary uses other than overnight parking, excluding common activities such as short-term parking and container staging. Additionally, the DEIR does not consider that there may be other demands for available parking space at the Port, particularly as other parts of the Port develop into terminals, or that the Roundhouse and other terminal locations where parking currently exists are included in BCDC’s Cargo Forecast as land required for future terminal development.
    • Air Quality: The Air Quality section of the DEIR found operational and cumulative impacts to be significant and unavoidable; however, the land use compatibility discussion in the Land Use section found impacts related to air quality to be “less than significant with mitigation.” Staff found the proposed mitigation measure to be problematic, as the threshold of significance is not clearly defined and the means of reducing impacts are not clearly quantified; it is not apparent how they would result in a “less than significant” impact.
  • Sea Level Rise. The DEIR includes a discussion of sea level rise, but should consider sea level rise impacts in more of the analysis.
    • Flood Impacts: Staff requested that maps be used to identify and discuss potential impacts from rising sea levels, and requested that the analysis consider how rising sea levels could affect the location of areas affected by 100-year storms, as well as how the Project design could redirect flooding onto adjacent sites.
    • Groundwater Rise: The DEIR does not include any discussion on potential groundwater rise although it is a potentially significant concern for this site. The site’s groundwater is tidally influenced and both the groundwater and overlying soils are contaminated. This creates the potential for hazardous materials to affect the surface or underground infrastructure. Additionally, the DEIR does not discuss whether proposed protections against rising sea levels would protect against flooding from groundwater rise.
    • Recreation: It is not clear from the DEIR whether the public access proposed along the waterfront is resilient to rising sea levels, and the potential for the area to be affected by sea level rise is not considered in the Recreation section of the DEIR.
  • Appearance, Design, and Scenic Views. Staff requests additional discussion on potential alternatives to retain the historic shipping cranes if they are determined to be infeasible for the Project, as well as analysis of how the Project would affect the visual character of the Market Street corridor that connects West Oakland to the Bay shoreline.
  • Public Access and Recreation. The DEIR does not include sufficient detail regarding how the MRS version of the Project could experience different impacts due to the differences in shoreline conditions and different designs for the waterfront public access and recreation areas. Staff has also requested more discussion on impacts to the accessibility of the Bay Trail during events. Additionally, staff has requested that the DEIR analysis cover the potential inclusion of a public fishing pier as requested by members of the community, as this option may need to be considered as part of the permitting process per BCDC’s Recreation and Environmental Justice and Social Equity policies.
  • Safety of Fills. The EIR should consider that there may be differences in how the Project would be affected by potential hazardous materials impacts under the MRS versus the proposed version of the Project. Under the MRS, the excavation and development of the Maritime Reservation Area could alter the exposure of the Project site to underground contaminants.
  • Environmental Justice. Environmental justice considerations are highlighted throughout the comment letter; however, staff included an additional comment that the EIR should include more information about the Project area’s significance to California tribes and include Native American consultation in the mitigation for potential impacts to tribal cultural resources.