Oakland A’s get Howard Terminal ballpark win, state agency recommends approval

The Oakland A’s scored a major win Friday after a state agency staff determined that Howard Terminal can be used for the team’s $ 12 billion proposed waterfront project – an important recommendation before the agency votes on the project at the end of the month.

The staff of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission recommended Friday that the commission approve the A’s request to remove Howard Terminal’s 56 acres from port designation – a necessary step before the team can build a new waterfront ballpark on the site.

In their final recommendation, BCDC staff wrote that the A’s have demonstrated that removing Howard Terminal from port use would not detract from the region’s capability to meet the projected growth in cargo, and has demonstrated that the cargo forecast can be met with existing terminals. ”

The recommendation is crucial because BCDC will vote on the A’s request to remove Howard Terminal from port designation on June 30. The A’s need a two-thirds vote in favor of their request to move forward with the project. A “yes” vote allows the A’s to submit a permit application to BCDC.

Dave Kaval, president of the A’s, called the staff recommendation a “critical win for the project.”

“It really demonstrates that Howard Terminal is not needed for the future of maritime in the Bay Area,” Kaval said. “We are hopeful the commissioners agree with the staff … so we can build a ballpark there.”

He said a “yes” vote from BCDC will be a “really important milestone” for the project.

In a statement to The Chronicle, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf applauded the staff recommendation and urged residents who support “building more affordable housing, creating more good union jobs, and opening up our waterfront” to call in to the June 30 meeting.

“I deeply appreciate the intensive research and due diligence that went into the staff recommendation, which will allow our vision for a new waterfront neighborhood to move forward,” Schaaf said.

The A’s have proposed building a $ 1 billion, privately funded 35,000-seat waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal, with 3,000 residential units, up to 1.5 million square feet of commercial space, up to 270,000 square feet for retail, an indoor 3,500-seat performance center , 400 hotel rooms and up to 18 acres of publicly accessible open space.

If the project gets final approvals – which the A’s are pushing for this year – it would be one of the largest developments in state history and could completely transform the Jack London Square area.

Danny Wan, executive director of the Port of Oakland, said in a statement to The Chronicle that he appreciates the “diligence and detailed analysis of BCDC staff” and that a “yes” vote from BCDC will push the project forward.

“It will also allow the Port Commissioners to move forward with planning for the relocation of the auxiliary uses currently sited at the Howard Terminal property and the integration of Jack London Square into the project planning,” Wan said.

During a BCDC public hearing on the project earlier this month, dozens of port workers spoke against it, saying the site is necessary for port functions. Howard Terminal is currently used for truck parking, storage and other ancillary purposes.

Wan has said removing Howard Terminal from its port function will not have a major impact. In the public hearing, Wan said the project would create “significant transportation infrastructure improvements to ensure the long-term growth of the seaport.”

BCDC’s vote is only one of several hurdles left in the A’s quest to build a new ballpark and surrounding development. The team and Oakland are still negotiating the final terms of the development agreement.

Earlier this week, Kaval told The Chronicle that the A’s agreed to build the amount of on-site affordable housing the city wants at the team’s proposed waterfront ballpark in exchange for more money for infrastructure, but the city rejected the terms.

Schaaf, who supports the project, said the proposal was rejected because the city believes there are “superior ways” to cover the costs identified by the A’s.

The A ‘want the City Council’s vote on the final agreement before year end when Schaaf terms out and two council members give up their seats to campaign in the mayor’s race.

The City Council will also decide in July whether to put an “advisory” vote on the project on the November ballot, which could delay a final approval.

On Friday, Kaval said the team is trying to understand if a potential ballot measure could hold up the project.

“That is a big, big deal,” he said. “We are just trying to get our heads around what that could mean for everything.”

Sarah Ravani (she / her) is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: sravani@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @SarRavani

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