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Oakland A’s ballpark project hits new obstacle from Sierra Club

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The environmental organization prefers the current Coliseum site over the proposed Howard Terminal

Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics
A’s President Dave Kaval
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Building an MLB stadium requires much more than just coming up with money and finding a location, as there are many political hurdles to be considered as well. The Oakland A’s have already met and overcome multiple roadblocks in their own ballpark project over the last couple years, and last week they ran into a new one.

The Sierra Club, a prominent and powerful environmental organization, issued a letter to the city arguing that the A’s should build their new park at the current Coliseum complex rather than at their proposed Howard Terminal waterfront site, reported Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle last Monday. After a stern response from team president Dave Kaval, the Sierra Club refused to back down from its comments, reports Phil Matier of the S.F. Chronicle.

The Sierra Club’s letter expresses concern over environmental impacts of the Howard Terminal plan, including transit issues, sea level rise, toxic waste, and opportunity cost for the Port of Oakland and its workers. It also complains that the A’s “[threatened] public health” by trying to shortcut and work around existing laws.

While not explicitly opposing the Howard Terminal project, the Sierra Club showed a preference for the Coliseum site:

“The Coliseum site is already approved for use as a stadium, is transit accessible, and would lift up surrounding East Oakland neighborhoods rather than displacing maritime businesses and workers,” said Sierra Club Northern Alameda County group chair Igor Tregub. “Howard Terminal, on the other hand, has less transit access and is vulnerable to sea-level rise.”

The A’s have already agreed to purchase Alameda County’s half of the Coliseum complex, and have the green light from the Oakland City Council to enter talks on buying the city’s half.

However, Kaval disagreed with the Sierra Club’s assertions, calling for their rescission. He claimed inaccuracies in their letter, and pointed to many positive factors of the team’s plans, including the cleanup of an old idle industrial site, greenhouse gas neutrality, extra strict environmental standards, and investment in the local community that compares favorably with other large projects in the state.

“People may be entitled to their own positions but not their own facts,” [Kaval] said. “We continue to call for Sierra to rescind the factually inaccurate and misleading letter.”

On Sunday, a couple dozen protesters showed up at the Coliseum to voice their opposition to the Howard Terminal project, reports Slusser. Kaval welcomed the public discourse, saying that he has encouraged such direct discussions throughout the process and continues to welcome them.

The A’s had been aiming to open their new park in 2023, but that timeline is now in doubt due to delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent shutdown of many parts of society.