Council approves study for ballpark at Victory Court, stalls pot farm applications
on December 22, 2010
After announcing that it has halted the application process for large-scale cannabis production and sales, at a meeting Tuesday night Oakland’s City Council moved closer to planning a new stadium for the Athletics by approving funds for a study on the project. The stadium vote drew out A’s fans to support the step forward while causing disagreement within the council over spending funds too hastily.
The study, called an environmental impact report, would be the first step necessary toward city approval for a new ballpark. “I believe that having the A’s in Oakland is critical,” council president Jane Brunner said before the vote. “If we don’t do this tonight, we would actually be out of the game tomorrow.”
With a 6-2 vote, the resolution authorizing a $750,000 study passed to the cheers of a handful of A’s fans, including Mike Davie, a blogger at BaseballOakland.com who addressed the council during the public comment period. “I believe this is a good use of redevelopment funds,” Davie said.
Councilmembers Nancy Nadel and Ignacio De La Fuente voted against the resolution. “The popular thing would be to vote for this,” De La Fuente said. With the assertion that Major League Baseball, the organization that operates professional baseball teams, owed Oakland more credit for its efforts to keep the A’s, De La Fuente said he couldn’t “in good conscience support” the resolution.
Funds for the study will come from money set aside for a parking garage and housing project in the city’s Uptown district. Patrick Lane of the redevelopment division of the Community and Economic Development Agency (CEDA) told the council that the project was stalled due to the sluggish economy. “The money is just basically being held until something comes back,” Lane said. After the $750,000 is taken for the stadium study, Lane said $18.3 million would remain for the garage and housing project.
The proposed stadium site that will be the focus of the study is called Victory Court, a square of land that straddles Interstate 880, and is defined by the Merritt Channel to the east and Oak Street to the west. Mayor-elect and current councilmember Jean Quan remarked on the site’s proximity to BART, Amtrak, AC Transit and freeway access. “In terms of transportation, there’s no place better than that site,” Quan said.
Councilmember at-large Rebecca Kaplan said she supported the study but wanted to make sure it included alternate uses for the Victory Court area, “so that we’ll have a document that allows us to do other things with this site.”
During the public discussion portion of the meeting, local business owner and real estate broker Ethan Pintard told the council that he liked the site, but that he expected opposition. “There are some big property owners who’re going to put up a big fight,” Pintard said. Of the council’s attitude, Pintard said, “I hope it’s not, ‘Victory Court or die.’”
Athletics Nation blogger Josh Chase, known online as “Emperor Nobody,” told the council the city needs to take a more aggressive stance with Major League Baseball. Saying the question shouldn’t be “Can Oakland build a stadium?” Chase said that proposing a “green stadium” to Major League Baseball would show them that Oakland is serious about the A’s, and reflect the forward thinking ways of the region. “We’re not in Des Moines, Iowa. This is the Bay Area, last I checked,” Chase said.
After a recent warning from the district attorney, the council decided during closed session to halt the application process for large-scale marijuana cultivation and sale. The council will consider possible changes to the ordinances that allowed these permits, either amending the law about cultivation or combining the ordinances for growing and sales. Nadel retracted her vote supporting the halt during the open council meeting after learning that the decision didn’t require the council to reassess how many dispensaries could receive a permit.
In December, the council voted to permit 8 facilities. None have yet received a permit; those who have applied will still be considered, along with any new applicants, after the council resolves issues with the ordinances.
On December 8, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley sent the city council a letter warning that aspects of the recently passed ordinances are out of step with state and federal law. She went on to warn the council that they could be putting themselves in legal peril if they went forward with the permitting process. “It remains an open question whether public officers or public employees who aid and abet or conspire to violate state or federal laws in furtherance of a city ordinance, are exempt from criminal liability,” O’Malley wrote.
Despite the decision to stall the process, the council voted in favor of amending the fee schedule for the application. The vote confirmed that the application fee will be $5,000, but council members did not say when changes to the ordinances would allow the permitting application process to resume.
The council also voted to certify changes to the city’s goals for affordable housing. The amendment to the housing element of Oakland’s general plan requires the city to accommodate an additional 1,426 units of affordable housing with zoning and other policy measures.
“We need affordable housing now more than ever,” Marla Wilson of the Greenbelt Alliance said during the public comment period, citing the environmental and economic benefits of creating more affordable housing near the places where Oaklanders work.
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