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Maritime Oppositions To A's Proposed Waterfront Park

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  • Maritime Oppositions To A's Proposed Waterfront Park

    The SF Chronicle Phil Matier Reports

    The Port of Oakland’s maritime industry is raising red flags over the Oakland A’s new waterfront ballpark plan, saying the 34,000-seat stadium and housing project would pose both a safety risk to ships and a threat to the port’s future as a major, regional economic engine.

    “Between the traffic congestion it will bring, the navigational risks it will pose to shipping vessels and the land-use conflicts it will create, there’s no way for this project to proceed without doing irreparable harm to Oakland’s working waterfront,” said Mike Jacob, vice president at the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association and a leader in the coalition of port workers, bar pilots, truckers and cargo terminal operators who are bringing their concerns to the Oakland Board of Port Commissioners.

    The A’s counter that the ballpark and housing project wouldn’t endanger any port jobs or adversely impact the port’s shipping business.

    “In fact, it will create 5,000 new jobs, alongside the hundreds of jobs that currently exist there now,” A’s spokeswoman Catherine Aker said.

    In the middle of the debate are the port commissioners, who are negotiating with the A’s, who want to acquire Howard Terminal on the Oakland Inner Harbor.
    In addition to a real estate deal, the commission finds itself having to balance the needs and future of the third-largest port on the West Coast with the desire of Mayor Libby Schaaf and the Oakland A’s to create a new neighborhood — with the ballpark as the centerpiece — along the waterfront.
    “We have not come to a conclusion yet. We are still listening,” said Port Commission President Cestra “Ces” Butner.

    “They are listening, but we don’t know what they are doing behind closed doors with the information,” Jacob said.

    One of the maritime industry’s top concerns is the proposed ballpark’s location.

    Unlike the San Francisco Giants’ Oracle Park, which sits on a relatively quiet stretch of waterfront, the A’s stadium would be perched right on the edge of the port’s Inner Harbor turning basin.
    The basin, which lies between Oakland and Alameda, is a key waterway where each week bar pilots turn around an average of 25 ships — some as long as three football fields — after the vessels unload and load cargo at two nearby terminals.

    “Given the size of the ships, the 1,500-foot-wide turning basin leaves pilots with very little room to spare,” said San Francisco Bar Pilots Association President Capt. Joseph Long.

    The pilots’ concerns include how the ballpark’s lights, which Long likened to high beams from oncoming traffic, might interfere with their vision. They’re also concerned about baseball fans and new neighborhood residents gathering along the shoreline or in the harbor in kayaks and pleasure boats like they do at McCovey Cove outside Oracle Park.
    “Counting on regulatory and law enforcement agencies to keep those spectators out of the ships’ way at every game is not realistic,” Long said.

    The turning basin may also need to be widened to accommodate even bigger cargo ships coming online.
    The A’s said they are aware of the pilots’ concerns, which their technical experts believe can be addressed with new lighting technology and site design. They have also left room to expand the basin.

    The Union Pacific Railroad Company, which owns the train line adjacent to the ballpark that serves freight, Amtrak and Capitol Corridor lines, has also waded into the debate. In a Jan. 11 letter to the Oakland Planning and Building Department, Union Pacific officials said that the stadium’s location raises “significant issues” related to railroad safety.
    “Freight and passenger lines operate on this line both day and night, seven days per week,” railroad officials wrote in the Jan. 11 letter.

    Union Pacific wants the rail line fenced off and overhead crossings, similar to the walkway that crosses over the tracks between the A’s current home at the Coliseum and the Coliseum BART Station, to keep the fans away from the tracks.
    The elevated crossings would be in addition to the gondola being pitched by the A’s that would run between the ballpark and downtown Oakland.

    Meanwhile, the negotiations — and the debate — continue, with the emerging question being what is best for the overall future of the port.
    “It will be up to us to make a decision, both on the financial impact and on whether the ballpark fits in with the port,” Butner said. “We are not going to cause the terminals any financial hardships. We are not going to step on our own throat.”
    Butner said a decision will be made hopefully by the end of April.
    “Unlike politicians, we will not be kicking the can down the road,” he said

    Howard Terminal was the A’s second choice for the new ballpark. The team’s first choice near downtown died after objections were raised by the students and faculty of nearby Laney College and from community activists who feared the ballpark would gentrify the neighborhood.
    So, once again, while the idea of a new ballpark is a hit citywide, the neighbors are the ones raising objections.


    The Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC), a national organization that represents agriculture and forest product producers, farmers, processors and exporters, is raising concerns about the possible use of the Charles P. Howard Terminal in the Port of Oakland as the site for a new baseball stadium for the Oakland Athletics.

    In a letter to Ces Butner, the president of the Port of Oakland’s Board of Port Commissioners, AgTC Executive Director Peter Friedmann said his group has “deep concern regarding proposals to permanently remove a viable marine terminal at the Port of Oakland from the international supply chain infrastructure upon which we depend.”

    “Prior to taking action on the Howard Terminal development project, we strongly urge the mayor and the Oakland Port Commission to meet with all segments of the international trade community, including farmers, manufacturing, trucking, logistics services, warehousing, labor, maritime and others who depend on the port as a trade gateway,” Friedmann said.

    In February a coalition of maritime and environmental groups asked state legislators not to relax environmental rules to allow the ballpark to be built at the Howard Terminal in the Port of Oakland’s inner harbor.

    AgTC said, “The Port of Oakland is a critical gateway to our largest international markets — Asia Pacific and South Asia. All around the United States, ports are expanding their terminals and export capacity. It is almost inconceivable that one state, city and port would now be reducing capacity by shuttering a maritime terminal, converting it to non-maritime uses such as a hotel, retail, residential housing and a ballpark."

    The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) voted 15-4 on Jan. 17 to study possibly removing Howard terminal as a “port priority use area” from its San Francisco Bay Plan and Seaport Plan. While the terminal is not currently being used to unload ships, Mike Jacob, vice president and general counsel for the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, told the BCDC that “just because you are not using the ship-to-shore cranes at present does not mean it is not being used.

    “Between late 2016 and 2017 there were over 300,000 gate moves at Howard Terminal for intermodal trucking support. That’s a critical component of what we do and a critical component why you designate this property to be part of the seaport plan,” Jacob said.

    Some users of the port are expressing concern that the ballpark would increase traffic congestion on the highways leading to the port.
    Opponents of placing the ballpark at the terminal, which is close to Jack London Square and downtown Oakland, may have an uphill battle.

    A story in the Los Angeles Times this week said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf supports the plan, telling the newspaper, “This really stands to revitalize a part of the city that has been in this kind of vague transition between the old industrial waterfront and the new public amenity waterfront.”

    The article said the ball team is proposing to “build 3,000 residences near the new ballpark and another 3,000 on the Coliseum site,” where the Oakland Athletics play today.
    But the AgTC said, “Industrial waterfront property suitable for container and other international ocean shipping expansion is virtually nonexistent on the U.S. West Coast. That such an asset would be voluntarily sacrificed has port authorities and economic development authorities scratching their collective heads. We, the agriculture exporters who continually strive to increase our sales to global customers, will be among the first to feel the loss of this gateway expansion opportunity.”

    Friedmann estimated that farm goods account for 40 to 50 percent of the Port of Oakland’s total exports, saying about $6.1 billion worth of containerized fruit and veggie shipments moved through Oakland in 2017, equaling 135,000 TEUs.

    Oakland serves agriculture exporters throughout the country and is “particularly critical if the Central, San Joaquin, Salinas and Napa and Sonoma valleys are to remain premier export generators. The port serves as the primary gateway for California’s premium agricultural goods, including nuts and dried fruits, wine, dairy products and other products,” the letter said.

    “We ask the governor, city of Oakland officials and port commission to very carefully consider the impact of permanently limiting the ability of the port to expand and negatively impacting existing maritime operations to serve the states’ and the nation’s agriculture production and exports. Such deep water marine terminals are already in short supply; taking Howard terminal offline and creating barriers to Oakland’s other marine terminals is directly contrary to the expanding infrastructure taking place at all U.S. coasts, in Canada, Mexico and Latin America and efforts to improve cargo velocity and flow.”

    The letter said, “California’s agriculture competitors in those countries are benefiting by these new and expanded marine terminals, gaining more efficient access to global markets. California and the port should know that removing this terminal and impeding vessel and truck access to marine terminals would be a step backwards, as it will limit the potential for growth of our own U.S. and California exports.”

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  • #2
    Although I think the location could be great once you get there, getting to and from could be tough.


    • #3
      The lights are a concern? Last time I went by the port at night, it was lit up as bright or brighter than a stadium...