New information about pollution, traffic, noise at Oakland A’s ballpark site
on March 10, 2021
Oakland recently published a report that looks at how a ballpark on the Waterfront would affect the environment — from air and water pollution to traffic, noise and cancer concerns.
The Draft Environmental Impact Report, released on Feb. 26, examines the proposed Oakland A’s Ballpark Waterfront District Project, which would sit on 55 acres at the Port of Oakland along the Inner Harbor of the Oakland-Alameda Estuary. The open-air ballpark would have a capacity of 35,000 people and replace the A’s longtime home at the Oakland Coliseum. The development would also include up to 3,000 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of commercial space, 270,000 square feet of retail space, 280,000 square feet of hotel space with 400 rooms, and a performance venue that could fit 3,500 people.
The entire project would take seven years to build, but the new ballpark could open as quickly as two years after construction begins. The full report is hundreds of pages, so Oakland North summarized the key points.
How will the project affect air quality?
The construction and operation of the new stadium will have significant and unavoidable impacts on Oakland’s air quality. Running construction vehicles and equipment for years will emit air pollution. That includes nitrogen oxides (NOx) which play a major role in smog production. The report outlined some mitigation measures that builders can use to reduce emissions, but even so, NOx emissions will still exceed the city’s threshold for “significant.” In the second year of the project, when construction is expected to peak, NOx emissions will likely average 81 pounds per day, which is 150% of the city’s significance threshold.
Wind-blown dust kicked up by demolition and excavation is also a concern. It can irritate the lungs, eyes, nose, and throat. However, workers may be able to keep the impact of dust below the threshold by watering all exposed surfaces on the construction site twice a day, covering hauling trucks, and setting speed limits of 15 mph on unpaved roads.
How will this air pollution impact public health?
Even though this project will add to Oakland’s air pollution, the report concluded that the impact on public health will be relatively small compared with existing conditions. Increases in ambient particulate matter and ozone could cause an additional three asthma-related emergency room visits per year. But that’s a very small increase, considering there are over 100,000 asthma-related emergency room visits each year in the region.
People who are sensitive to poor air quality and live within 2,000 feet of construction or in parts of West Oakland that are adjacent to the freeways will be the most impacted by the project’s air pollution. That includes residents of the Phoenix Lofts at 737 Second Street, which will only be 100 feet from the construction. Among “sensitive receptors,” emissions may cause between 97 and 332 lifetime cancer cases per 1 million people. The report considers that risk “potentially significant.” A cancer risk of 100 lifetime cases per 1 million is classified as “significant.”
Oakland already struggles with air pollution. The state’s Community Air Protection Program identified West Oakland as among the California communities most impacted by toxic air contaminants. And the ballpark report points out that Oakland’s age-adjusted asthma-related emergency room visit rate is 777 per 100,000 residents, which is the highest in Alameda County and well above the county average of 542.
Will the project involve hazardous materials?
The project site has a long history of industrial use and its soil and groundwater are already contaminated. It is on the Cortese List, a catalogue of hazardous waste sites.
Right now, the site is capped with an impenetrable surface so the contaminants are contained. During construction, the cap would be removed, which could expose workers and the environment to contaminated soil, soil vapor, and groundwater. However, the report says that by using mitigation strategies and replacing the hard cap with a new asphalt or concrete cap after building, the hazardous materials represent a “less than significant” environmental impact.
How will the project affect water resources?
Overall, this project will cause runoff and discharges into San Francisco Bay that may impact water quality. The construction activities may also infiltrate and affect groundwater in the East Bay Basin and could degrade surface water quality. However, if the builders follow the mitigation measures outlined in the report, it will lower the impact to below the “significant” threshold.
The project is adjacent to the Oakland-Alameda Estuary, so workers must put in place creek protection measures such as sandbags and hay bales on downhill construction sites to prevent erosion into the creek. Other erosion prevention measures include putting down control fabric and planting fast-growing vegetation on slopes.
What about noise pollution?
This would be a major construction project and at times, it would be louder than the acceptable levels set by the local noise ordinance. Workers could reduce noise by putting up barriers to muffle the sound and reducing the amount of time trucks spend idling. But that wouldn’t be enough to keep the project, especially its demolition activities, below the city’s long-term construction noise standard.
Residents of the Phoenix Lofts would be most impacted by noise and vibration from the site, especially when workers are in the phase of construction that involves pile driving. The pile driving will be so loud at Phoenix Lofts that the report recommends relocating residents during that time.
The vast majority of construction is expected to take place between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. But there will likely be some nighttime construction, which would go until 2a.m. or even later.
Once the ballpark opens, noise will come from crowds, loudspeakers, and increased traffic. The sound of the ballgames wouldn’t significantly increase the average ambient noise levels in the neighborhood around the stadium. However, noise from concerts at the stadium would travel across the water and exceed the noise ordinance standard at the Cardinal Point Retirement Home in Alameda, at 2431 Mariner Square Drive.
There will be significant noise increases in the neighborhood near the stadium before and after events. Martin Luther King Jr. Way between Eighth and 11th streets would experience the largest bump in traffic noise. Pedestrian noise would also be a major factor after events, as thousands of people stream towards the 12th street BART station and the West Oakland BART station.
How will this project impact traffic?
Once the ballpark and other buildings are up and running, there is going to be more traffic in the neighborhood surrounding the stadium. The Posey and Webster tubes, which carry traffic between Alameda and Oakland, will see severe traffic increases. Other roadways that are expected to see significantly more congestion include: Interstate 880 in the northbound direction between 23rd Avenue and Embarcadero, Route 24 in the eastbound direction between Broadway and Route 13, Market Street in the northbound direction between 12th and 14th streets, and Market Street in the southbound direction between Grand Avenue and 18th Street.
How can I submit a comment about the project?
The public has until 4 p.m. on April 12 to submit comments on the draft report. Comments can be made online, or at the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board public hearing at 5 p.m. Monday, March 22, and the Planning Commission public hearing at 3 p.m. Wednesday, April 7.
Comments in writing must be received by 4 p.m. on April 21. Include case file number ER18-016 and address your letter to:
Peterson Vollmann, Planner IV, City of Oakland Bureau of Planning
250 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Suite 2214
Oakland, CA 94612
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