Legislation that could limit regulatory lawsuits against a potential new ballpark for the Oakland Athletics passed a second state senate committee in a week. The State Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved East Bay Assembymember Rob Bonta’s Assembly Bill 734 on Tuesday afternoon.
Last Wednesday, the State Senate Environmental Quality Committee similarly passed the bill that seeks to limit the time frame to 270 days for judicial review of Environmental Impact Report lawsuits under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Some CEQA lawsuits have been known to shut down large developments for 4-5 years, a time frame that the team cannot afford to face.
Oakland Athletics President Dave Kaval told the judiciary committee that the biggest obstacle to building a new ballpark in Oakland is a CEQA lawsuit. In addition, the proposed ballpark will be financed by the team, along with total support from labor unions, which stand to benefit from 2,000 new construction jobs.
“This is going to have a huge impact for Oakland resident,” Bonta told the judiciary committee, including $3 billion in economic benefits for the East Bay. With the NFL’s Raiders and NBA’s Warriors leaving Oakland in coming years, he added, “It’s essential to the city and the East Bay to retain the Oakland A’s.”
The Oakland-specific bill covers the Athletics building a new ballpark in Oakland at either the existing Coliseum complex or Howard Terminal, a waterfront property just north of Jack London Square.
The proposed legislation was also fortified Tuesday with several amendments intended to ease concerns over certifications for green building at either ballpark site.
New amendments to the bill include LEED Gold or GreenPoint rating building certification for any proposed residential development at the either site. “That’s a big move for us,” said Bonta. Last week, LEED Silver certification was added for the ballpark’s construction.
The additions to the bill may have been hastened a senate analysis last week that bluntly urged committee members to question whether Bonta’s bill complied with Assembly Bill 900, a previously approved state law that in 2011 sought to reform CEQA. Large-scale developments slapped with CEQA lawsuit are allowed expedited judicial review provided the projects include high-paying jobs, reduces greenhouse gases and features renewable energy building considerations.
“Everybody wants the exemption,” Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson, the committee chair told Bonta, “If we’re going to do this they need to comply with AB 900.”
Bonta added, “We think that this is functionally equivalent to AB 900.”
Others on the committee, including Assemblymember John Moorlach, a Republican, said the bill proves that overall CEQA reform is needed, arguing many interests don’t have the resources to fund their own CEQA bill.
But after an opponent of the bill registered worries that no specific site has been chosen for a new Oakland ballpark, in addition, to one of the potential choices being on the bay, Chair Jackson recalled experiencing a chilly ballgame at San Francisco’s AT&T Park across the bay. “You don’t want to build this on the bay,” she said.