A’s CEQA bill sent to suspense file

The Howard Terminal property owned by the Port of Oakland, just north of Jack London Square, that is a potential new home for the Oakland Athletics.

Just minutes before an State Senate Appropriations hearing Monday morning for a regulatory bill that would limit judicial review of environmental studies for a new A’s ballpark at either the Coliseum or Howard Terminal, came word that the team is setting up a $100,000 community fund to benefit the Peralta Community College District. The same body that last year unceremoniously thwarted the A’s hopes of purchasing land near Laney College with the intention of building a new downtown ballpark.

Shortly later, the Senate Appropriations Committee sent Assemblymember Rob Bonta’s A’s CEQA bill–Assembly Bill 734–to the suspense file, a procedural move that sets aside bills that impact the state’s treasury in order to further study their financial ramifications.

The Bonta bill is expected to cost the state $172,000, according to an analysis by the state Department of Finance, a minimal amount. The primary expenditure going to the California Air Resource Board in order to determine whether the ballpark project adds a net increase to greenhouse gas emissions.

Amendments to the bill last June included increased levels of green building certifications for the proposed Oakland ballpark development.

But the confluence of events Monday morning raised eyebrows. Primarily the olive branch extended by the A’s to the Peralta Community College, and whether the Laney College site is potential still in play as a new ballpark site for the team.

AB 734 would reduce to 270 days the timeframe for potential lawsuits under the California Environmental Quality Act. Some CEQA lawsuits have the potential to last years, stymieing construction of the project and adding to its costs. The bill specifically mentions both the Howard Terminal site and the currently Coliseum complex.

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In testimony, Monday morning, the Department of Finance recommended the Appropriations Committee evaluate a number of CEQA-related bills, including AB 734, in a comprehensive manner rather than individually.

The A’s legislation, however, will be back in committee on Thursday when it and others currently in legislative limbo are sorted out of the suspense file.

The likelihood that AB 734 will not survive the culling process, however, is low. Although, the bill is marked without any urgency, in reality, the ball club and the city of Oakland hope to move forward on determining a location and construction timetable for the new ballpark sometime by the end of this year.

On Tuesday, the bill, also strongly backed by local construction unions, registered support on Tuesday. Bonta tweeted a photo of IBEW Local 1245 members at his Sacramento office.

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