Capitol Alert

Oakland A's ask lawmakers for legal protection

Oakland Athletics President David Kaval gestures during a media conference on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Oakland, Calif.
Oakland Athletics President David Kaval gestures during a media conference on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. Associated Press

The Oakland Athletics are asking California lawmakers to pass a bill that would effectively shield the organization from potential environmental lawsuits over construction of a new stadium.

While the A's would still be required to complete a full environmental impact report under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the bill provides an exemption that allows the team to have more legal certainty once the report is completed.

If an individual or organization decides to file a lawsuit against the A's over environmental concern, the matter would have to be resolved within 270 days. Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, said the expedited judicial review is not uncommon for major priorities, which include keeping the A's in Oakland.

"I wouldn't call it preferential treatment," Bonta said. "It's certainly not unprecedented."

A's President Dave Kaval is evaluating two stadium options and expects the team to reach a decision by the end of 2018. The team would either move to a new stadium on its existing property or near Jack London Square. Kaval expects to have the privately-funded stadium completed by 2023. Though there is no precise numbers on the cost of the project, he estimates it will be somewhere in the hundreds of millions of dollars."

"We're parallel passing both sites," Kaval said. "It's important to have options for the new ballpark. We're working on getting an economic deal with the key stakeholders by the end of the year, so we can move into the CEQA process. We're on track for that so we can open the ballpark by 2023."

Bonta praised the A's for their desire to remain in Oakland and expressed a sense of urgency for the team to move out of "the dinosaur of the Coliseum and into a modern, state-of-the-art ballpark."

Kaval and Bonta said the project will be environmentally responsible, generate over $3 billion in economic activity over 10 years and create more than 2,000 construction jobs.

Much of the opposition to the bill centers around the expedited judicial review process. Kyle Jones, a policy advocate for Sierra Club California, said rushing the process may cause some environmental issues to get overlooked. He also called the new stadium a "politically-favored project."

"The biggest issue that I have personally is that when a project needs to be done, there's a knee-jerk reaction to go to CEQA relief," Jones said.

Kaval disagrees: "We're not asking for anything that the Warriors didn't get in San Francisco or the Kings didn't get in Sacramento. Nothing about our bill is any different than that. All we're asking for is similar treatment that other communities have gotten to get their professional sports teams. Now, it's Oakland's chance."

The bill will be heard at 9 a.m. today in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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— Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California

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