Two more lawsuits have been filed in an attempt to sink the Oakland A’s plan to build a waterfront ballpark and mixed-use development at Howard Terminal.
And like the one filed Friday by a coalition of shipping and related companies at the Port of Oakland, these suits also take aim at the project’s environmental impact report, calling it flawed.
Union Pacific Railroad and the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority each sued the city of Oakland for determining in February that the report complies with California Environmental Quality Act requirements.
Instead, the lawsuit alleges, the environmental assessment failed to adequately analyze or mitigate the “public safety risks” associated with the cars, bicycles and pedestrians that will have to cross the railroad tracks to get to the planned 35,000-seat ballpark and surrounding village of 3,000 homes, offices, restaurants, hotel rooms, an entertainment center and public parks.
Capitol Corridor runs 30 weekday and 22 weekend passenger trains each week on Union Pacific Railroad’s tracks, which cross Market Street and Martin Luther King Junior Way, as well as Clay, Washington, Broadway, Franklin, Webster and Oak streets, according to the lawsuits. The Union Pacific rail line also has about 15 freight trains per day and other passenger trains from Amtrak.
In addition, Union Pacific plans to run more trains along its unused third track to accommodate a “projected increase in customer demand in future years,” the company’s lawsuit states.
There are eight rail crossings at the street level, but the environmental impact report only evaluated the trains at two of the crossings over the course of a week, the lawsuit claims.
“Among the many significant and unavoidable environmental impacts that will be caused by the Project are the significant increase of congestion in local and regional roadways and the creation of permanent and substantial hazards relating to the masses of cars and people that will cross the adjacent UPRR rail lines following construction of the Project,” Union Pacific’s lawsuit states.
The suits also allege that the environmental report postpones required mitigation measures to “future agency plans, actions and approvals.” Too, the city failed to make corrections and recirculate the report as required when new information was presented or concerns raised by members of the public during the months-long comment period.
Spokespeople for Oakland’s city administration and city attorney’s office did not respond to requests for comment Monday. But in public meetings last year and earlier this year, city staff has stood behind the report when it’s been questioned.
On Saturday, Mayor Libby Schaaf’s spokesman, Justin Berton, said in a written statement that “litigation was expected as the parties made it clear they intended to file suit long before the EIR process was ever completed. The City stands by the integrity of its process and analysis culminating in the certification of the EIR by the City Council.”
In January, when the city’s planning commission reviewed the report and recommended that the City Council certify it, some commissioners defended it as one of the most comprehensive they’d ever see.
“I spent about four years working in the state CEQA office, and this is one of the most thorough (reports),” Commissioner Sahar Shirazi said.
Monday was the last day legal challenges could be filed over the environmental impact report.
The A’s and some city leaders are hoping to reach a development agreement for the ballpark and mixed-use development by this summer.
But the project faces other hurdles to clear.
An advisory committee recommended that the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission declare the 55-acre Howard Terminal property can be used only for Port of Oakland activities. The commission is expected to vote on the recommendation in June.