Quan touts regulatory-sidestepping Howard Terminal vision

UPDATE 12/16 12:00 AM – Matier and Ross finally have their column on Howard Terminal. The retention of the shipping cranes is a nice touch, even though they would be largely ornamental. Judging from the rendering, the right field fence would be 150-200 feet from the waterfront.

Howard Terminal ballpark on west end of property

What’s missing? Any explanation about how the City/Port could get around the BCDC and CEQA.


Original post:

There are some days when you feel your work is validated. This is one of those days.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan appeared at Save Oakland Sports’ year-end event last night, talking up a plan that, according to East Bay Citizen, “allows it to skip some regulatory hurdles.” Quan repeated something we heard from the summer, that Howard Terminal was zoned for a convention center. The only citations I can find from the City’s archives mention a possibility of a convention center from the 50′s, well before CEQA and modern land use initiatives. Currently Howard Terminal is zoned for industrial and maritime uses. While a zoning change is normally a simple City Council resolution item, the fact is that the Port itself identified numerous obstacles to making that change, namely the issue of maintaining maritime use at the site.

Overview of Howard Terminal and Jack London Square

To that end, the Port of Oakland received three proposals for ongoing Port use at Howard Terminal. Two involve local concerns: Phil Tagami’s plan to use the site temporarily for either bulk or break bulk cargo, and Schnitzer Steel’s expansion plan, which is not explicitly a maritime use. The third plan comes from Kentucky coal mining company Bowie Resources Partners, in partnership with Dutch oil shipper Trafigura. Bowie’s an interesting proposition, as they export a great deal of their coal from the Port of Stockton. According to this press release, Bowie was in talks with the Port of Richmond to create a secondary shipping facility. Howard Terminal could work in a similar manner, though the precautions associated with shipping coal are enough to give one pause. Nevertheless the Port has to consider these options, since they need to figure out a way to offset the $10 million per year the Port will lose by idling Howard Terminal. A decision on how Howard Terminal will operate in the future is expected in the spring.

Ballpark proponents seem to be willing to play the long game here, with site readiness not coming for perhaps several years. Any continued use of the site for shipping purposes would potentially delay that readiness, unless a plan was put into place that allowed a ballpark to be built on a shut-down part of the site. At 50 acres in total size, there should be ways to make this happen. Developing the entire 50 acres would be another story.

Quan said that the to-be-released plan would be able to sidestep various environmental requirements, including some from the BCDC. However, that contradicts the Port’s own language from its Howard Terminal RFP:

11. Land Use and Permitting

In addition to any environmental regulatory oversight resulting from contamination, the Site is subject to the Tidelands Trust, consistent with the grants affecting the property with oversight from the California State Lands Commission. The San Francisco Bay Area Seaport Plan of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (“BCDC”) designates the Site for Port Priority Use. The Site is located within the City of Oakland, and is designated as General Industrial/Transportation Uses in the City of Oakland General Plan. Any proposed change of use or any proposed construction, maintenance or new development at the Site will be subject to environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”).

The BCDC’s role has become more well known, as the fate of the Warriors’ Piers 30/32 arena plan is in the BCDC’s hands. However, note that the loudest clamoring over environmental impacts is not coming from the BCDC itself. Instead the noise is coming from opponents of the arena, who are using rules set by the BCDC and CEQA to invite greater scrutiny over the arena. While Howard Terminal lacks the picturesque quality of SF’s Embarcadero, it is still subject to BCDC regulations and should invite scrutiny on its own. The southeast corner of Howard Terminal is built on piers over water, just like Piers 30/32. Exactly what measures the City could use to get around CEQA and the BCDC are a complete mystery. I, for one, am looking forward to hearing it out.

The City had another waterfront site at one time in Victory Court. It was sold as a transit-friendly, partly publicly-owned, easy-to-acquire site that should cost less than $22 million to acquire. In keeping with that estimate, Oakland and East Bay business interests were willing to pledge up to $100 million to acquire and prep the site. At the time Mayor Quan touted Victory Court more vociferously than she is Howard Terminal now. Exploding costs ($240 million final site cost estimate) and the demise of redevelopment (downplayed as a factor as it was happening) effectively mothballed Victory Court, with no real public statement made by the City about what happened.

Whether you want to read this site as objective, slanted, or both, it’s important to get tough questions raised. That’s why I feel good about what Quan said yesterday. It’s proof that we’re doing our job well, that we’re asking the right questions, questions that need legitimate answers. Without this blog asking the tough questions, who will? East Bay media appears to be fine playing cheerleader. The City has been working behind the scenes to get site control, while not getting an EIR or even a feasibility study for Howard Terminal going.

So in the spirit of disclosure, let’s see the plan, Madam Mayor. Given her track record, the real situation is not expected to be as rosy as she often paints it. Matier and Ross supposedly got an exclusive on the plan, so we may see some real information as early as tomorrow.

99 Responses to Quan touts regulatory-sidestepping Howard Terminal vision

  1. Tony D. says:

    BTW, where’s the “plan?” We got cool drawings and a lot of political hot air, but nothing close to resembling a “plan.” Should we be surprised?

  2. Lakeshore/Neil says:

    @Tonty D.
    Your right the drawings where cool.

  3. Lakeshore/Neil says:

    RE: How to pay for it? The same as always – get rich owners to do it. Return on investment? Not a concern. Are we really up to $800 million for an HT ballpark? Yikes.
    $800 million, I would hate to state the obvious, that Wolff said he does not want to build at that location, but before you can convince him it’s a good idea (if it is), can we actually find out if we can BUILD ON IT, damn we don’t even know that, so if Wolff wanted to build on it, and Oakland magically had 800 million dollars, we still would not be sure it could get done.

  4. Dan says:

    They are some beautiful images. But right now that’s all they are… images. Also I’m shocked, SHOCKED, that M&R didn’t do Quan’s job for her and find ways to bypass CEQA and BCDC (probably because there really isn’t any way to do so). Just more of the same hot air out of Oakland, and apparently it’s getting more expensive the longer they blow hot air. HT was already cost prohibitive at $700 million, and now it’s $800 mil. Which brings any “white knight” buyer’s cost up to north of $1.3 billion (probably more given what MLB teams have been going for of late, particularly in large markets).

    It was an interesting idea, but the cost alone has already killed HT before it got off the ground. Compare that with the Uptown plan that would have already cost a high, but far more reasonable $385 million back in 2001. Or San Jose today which would only cost the team $500 million. And that’s why HT won’t happen, if the finances of Diridon were shaky in MLB’s collective mind at $500 million, what will HT look like to them at $800+ million? Even if Oakland were to pull out Cobb County levels of cash to help offset some of that $800 million it would still leave the A’s holding a half a billion dollar bill for that imaginary ballpark with even less guarantee of private revenues than San Jose can provide. MLB is probably having a good laugh over the HT “plan.”

  5. llpec says:

    Has it yet been determined that if the A’s were to get a new ballpark built within Oakland, would they then still be able to maintain their small market status? In that way, the A’s would still be able to continue on as revenue sharing recipients. I don’t believe that any A’s ownership, current or future, would spend a dime on a new ballpark, without the assurances of maintaining their small market status.

  6. Dan says:

    IIpec, as the CBA is written now ANY new bay area ballpark promotes the A’s to large market status. Only the Coliseum is keeping them in the “small market” category.

  7. Lakeshore/Neil says:

    If there was anything ever build in Oakland (as unlikely as that may be), I am sure CBA would reflect the A’s as a small market team, it would have to, they can’t be defend as large market, when the Giants have them restricted to two Alameda/ Contra Costa counties out of nine.

  8. Dan says:

    Lakeshore, the A’s market as it exists today includes the entire bay area, same goes for the Giants. The “territorial rights” ONLY control where their physical location can be. A new park in Oakland as the CBA was specifically written would upgrade the A’s to large market status the same as San Jose would. As it should quite frankly. The Bay Area IS a large market, even divided in half figuratively.

  9. llpec says:

    @Dan, Thanks! One can’t cut up a pie unequally, yet still charge the same price. It won’t work.

  10. Lev says:

    Practicality issues of the site aside, isn’t the ballpark facing the wrong way? Don’t we want it facing East to minimize winds like at AT&T?

  11. Jeffrey says:

    I don’t even care about the cost (which isn’t really spelled out in this puff piece of pseudo journalism), this a terrible idea. Copying AT&T Park within site of AT&T Park is just bad business.

  12. Dan says:

    Lev, they’re facing it the only way you’re going to get any kind of waterfront view (looks to be S/SE). Their whole premise is to copy AT&T Park as much as possible.

  13. daniel says:

    I guess Phase 3 @ CC is dead hah ? LOL

    stunning design though and very romantic too. Hit balls into the bay !!!!

  14. xoot says:

    The Bay Area population is usually pegged at about 7M; Chicage metro area at about 9M. But a lot of fans from the central valley, especially from Sacto and Stockton, and from Santa Cruz County (and I suppose Monterey County) are ardent Giants or A’s fans. The Giants and A’s, in fact, have 1/2 of central Calif. and all of N. Calif. watching them. (The dodgers, well, the dodgers we have with us always, like the yankees.) Meanwhile the franchises in Chicago (and New York) have sizable competing markets much closer. (For Chicago, Milwakee’s next door; Minn., Detroit, Cinn., even St. L and Cleveland, aren’t far away. Given the importance of tv revenue now, the Bay Area should be able to support high payroll AL and NL teams.

  15. Dan says:

    daniel, I was saying this last week. Coliseum City is dependent on the A’s being at that site, yet Quan is simultaneously undermining her own Coliseum City plan with an even more ambitious and infeasible plan at Howard Terminal (a plan MLB and Wolff have already told her doesn’t work financially). This is just a slightly more advanced verison of the same thing Oakland has been doing for over 10 years now. Drawing lines on a map and saying, “it can be built here!”

    This one just came with two pretty pictures. Which frankly is the only good thing about this latest HT push. We get yet another rendering of an A’s ballpark that we’ll never get to see in reality to go along with the renderings of Uptown, Coliseum North, Pacific Commons and Diridon that we’ve all be looking at longingly for years to take our minds off the fact that in reality the only thing we get to look at besides the A’s on field is Oakland’s folly Mount Davis.

  16. […] it may not be happening — and if it is happening, won’t be for many, many years — can be read abut over at Newballpark.org. They detail how regulatory matters such as the site’s designation for port usage make this […]

  17. pjk says:

    FWIW, if HT exists as a viable site and there actually are people ready to spend money to build there, this is great news for all of us. But since the day I got the bad news that Santa Claus wasn’t real, Ive been skeptical of things that appear to be fantasy, like Bigfoot, Martians in New Mexico and Howard Terminal ballpark plans.

  18. Nicosan says:

    it wasn’t martians in New Mexico. It was the Ferengi.

  19. Karim says:

    Feasible this feasible that, right now SJ is not feasible, But instead of looking at maybe this can happen with the right plan and thinking its nothing will work in Oakland, even from the people who say I just want to have a new ballpark for the A’s no matter where it is. every one screaming on here about it still doesn’t show me how its paid for or show us the potential buyers again we don’t matter this stuff will never be revealed until it needs be so you will never know. In regards to the Maritime non maritime use, like i mentioned before no need to worry about it being used for maritime use, you all act like this just came out the blue. Quan and co along with the city, have been doing there part to make this happen, look at the things happening as getting the land on both sites, along with a few months ago Quan appointing new Port commissioners to the port of Oakland that’s why Fred Blackwell in the meeting and Quan now said it was just a technicality to get site control because they are making the moves to make things happen. one poster said Desely Brooks didn’t like it and was against projects, I said don’t worry about her and the city has made moves to calm her as, she has already been replaced on the JPA and they have made moves on the city’s part to silence her. We all know that this issue is money and it is SJ vs Oakland, reason why MLB didn’t flat out kill SJ was because it’s city money vs city money, it keeps the pressure on Oakland to not think there safe and can delay again like prior years. MLB does’t like changing territory as it sets president for future moves. So MLB has delayed decision for this last shot from Oakland to satisfy MLB desire for state of the art downtown Park, and some tax payers money, and if Oakland can’t seal the deal a new proposal will come from the A’s for SJ and it will most likely be approved.

  20. Lakeshore/Neil says:

    That will be negotiable , if the A’s remain in Oakland, as a matter of fact it will be negotiable if they remain in their current territory, everything (most ), is negotiable, it like the Pro/Only Oakland folks saying the A’s will never build in San Jose, because the SF Giants say the cant.

  21. daniel says:


    Ms Quan just demolished CC for HT within a week. You know whats next right? She will demolish HT for VC. You know what next after that right? She will demolish VC for CC and the beat goes on

  22. GoA's says:

    Why is it so hard for any of the media to ask appropriate questions–such as what changed at HT to reduce the costs down from the earlier study that pegged it as the most expensive option–way back in 2000. What is the expected cost to Oakland in terms of site clean up, infrastructure improvements, contribution to ballpark construction to make this a viable option for the A’s. If LW says that MLB says the site is not feasible than why does JQ claim they have been working closely with MLB on this site. I think that JQ should submit to an interview from ML and Jeffrey–they seem to be the only ones willing to ask the tough questions–

  23. baycommuter says:

    I’ve been a San Jose backer and am pretty skeptical of any Oakland plan, but this is a stunning site — really, nicer than AT&T and the Shipping Channel that was magically transformed into McCovey Cove. With what’s happening real estate around here and surrounding retail, commercial and residential, the increase in surrounding real estate values could make this pencil out if the A’s ownership, present or future, could get a big enough piece of it.

  24. Karim says:

    @ Dan @ daniel Coliseum city is more so dependent of the Raiders like its been said they can scale it down a lot to make it cheaper, as I believe that’s the case and they will adjust accordingly. I for one believe if the Warriors stay they will be downtown as well, as Quan has hinted and in previous interview Lacob and co have study HT in Depth as well. The city is providing multiple sites to debunk Lew’s no available sites fight. If you really thought Phase 3 was for real in 2018 or whenever that was. Like they said its all adjustable. MLB/A’s preferred downtown sites so there’s one ready to go, that’s why CC main tenet focus is the Riders as well.

  25. Lakeshore/Neil says:

    I am not vary optimistic, I wish things were going better for Oakland , it may ever happen in Oakland, but for some people bad news for San Jose, somehow turn into good news, and good news for Oakland (when its actually good news), will somehow turn in to bad news. A lot of people will never think it could happen in Oakland, in tell it does (if it does), People love to bring up just how ridicules some of the Pro/Only Oakland folks are, but I find many of them are almost as ridicules as that group.

  26. daniel says:


    multiple sites for what ? unless you can raise big time money, no new park will ever get built. Some schmucks from Mars and Jupiter can point a piece of land and say yeah build there.

  27. Briggs says:

    @Nicosan: #TRUTH

  28. Karim says:

    @daniel if you review all prior interviews etc with Quan, Knauss etc they have been saying this for at least the last year and a half just because a lot of people overlook/disregard what she has said do to her incompetence at points in her tenure as mayor but they have been touting having multiple sites for MLB and the A’s and again if you you watched the meeting Fred Blackwell said both sites and in today’s release said both sites so Idk where your logic is coming from because this has been said many times in almost every interview with these people. it’s not going back and forth its proving to MLB Lew’s claims are invalid that’s why the city is spending it’s time and money on both.

  29. Mike2 says:

    Mayor Quan is doing what any good politician will do. Be seen, offer the most expensive project to the public, (with personal kickbacks of course) and be willing to blame the other party if the project fails to materialize.

  30. Karim says:

    @daniel and that is why a lot of people are missing the pints and facts of this issue, Mars and Jupiter but that’s the thinking a lot when Oakland comes up in conv’s but why is a 1.5 billion dollar development getting fast tracked in Oakland….. because its the fastest growing real estate market out there, the money is flowing in. How much does it cost to build this unfeasible stadium… 700, 800, 900, a billion we don’t know with clean up cost etc, but I can guarantee you its been accounted for and plans that will be shown/presented to MLB and the A’s when need be. Lew wants high rise condos and a hotel there you go make your money back plus more and just like with CC the infrastructure and cleanup will be taken care of by the city, as the investors for CC project have been mentioned as well to be willing to get in on HT along with CC.

  31. llpec says:

    @Lakeshore/Neil, You are exactly right!

    @Dan, Your argument just illustrates that the sole purpose of setting up two unequal territories within the same business market is to restrict where your competitors can set up shop. By so doing, one individual company can maintain a competitive advantage over its competitors. It has been unquestionably proven that the specific location of a ballpark plays a huge role to its operational viability. For example, comparing the Giants’ two ballpark venues within the City of San Francisco; one at Candlestick Point, and the other later at China Basin. One City, two venues with two distinctively different business results. In general, as long as a particular business entity is in compliance with an area’s zoning laws, they should be allowed to set up shop at a location that they deem to be the best for their operational success. In addition, none of its competitors should have the power or authority to intrude as to where they can set up shop, too. When it comes to MLB’s ATE advantage, they should be extremely careful not to step over the line. However, MLB’s foolish attempt to maintain the Giants’ competitive advantage over the A’s within their shared Bay Area market may be just that one step over the line that could finally put an end to MLB’s ATE.

  32. GoA's says:

    @Karim–can you cite evidence of Oakland as “being the fastest growing real estate market out there”–recent articles have indicated that SJ/SF are doing very well while the east bay is struggling–statements like that are just another example of media bites intended to be sensational without any facts to support them–

  33. GoA's says:

    @Karim- here is the article that provides statistics on how things are going for east bay real estate market http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_24549914/bay-area-commercial-real-estate-boom-track-record

  34. Karim says:

    @Go’A's also your reference was commercial real estate. I’m stating right now they are fast tracking project such as Brooklyn Basin because of the surge, a lot of people are moving in to Oakland from around the bay area, and U.S creating this boom, there simply is real high demand for condos, housing etc in Oakland that is why starting such projects are getting started and finished at rapid pace. And if either project CC or HT come to realization Lew can dab in on this boom and it will work for his Ballpark Village view he has.

  35. GoA's says:

    @Karim–maybe an article on the fastest growing county or city to support your claim would be refreshing. One exists and I can tell you its not Oakland but some county/city south of it.

  36. Karim says:

    @GoA’s I just provided you information by a repeatable website if you wanna debate who’s one or two or top 10, it doesn’t matter I’m simply showing that Oakland is taking off at a one of the fastest pace in America and due to the demand real estate is high, so that debunks yours and others Oakland has no money, there like Detroit gonna go bankrupt, etc etc Oakland’s poor all of that. SJ has been growing for many years there’s no denying that but first, second, or 3rd place doesn’t matter the whole bay area is taking off. You guys wanna know wheres the money and fake investors. Well here is one below that many people said was pie in the sky pipe dream as well. So before you start bashing and discounting the city and it’s people lets look at whats happening to the whole bay area. SJ is no better than Oakland and Oakland is no Better than SJ. Both have crimes both have issues, yes SJ has Silicon valley but also a huge homeless problem. Were all hear for the A’s getting a park, and right now Oakland is a step ahead while SJ lawsuit stalls in court, political ploy or however you wanna say it, we will know soon about the future of our A’s


  37. Marine Layer says:

    @Karim – There can be no assessment on whether Oakland or San Jose are ahead. Anyone who thinks there is one is ignoring much evidence to the contrary.

  38. […] a website following the never-ending journey to find a new home for the A’s since 2005, says on newballpark.org that there are a plethora of problems with the waterfront […]

  39. Karim says:

    @ML agreed, we know nothing is given with MLB. But evidence that has been given and what we have seen with delay after delay on MLB side like we all agree on now is who’s the first to give public funding which SJ said they wouldn’t and Oakland has said they would but for the most part have kept everything private. Yes in the past I can agree Oak POL’s have been a lot of BS and sidestepping etc delaying but everyone seems to give no weight to the various information that we do know. Responds is Pie in the sky not feasible, yes some is for Quan to get reelected but I will stand 4 more years of her if it gets a ballpark built. She has suck at a leader in regards to Occupy, etc for huge projects so why not base are opinion of some facts. she has brought a lot of money to the city that no previous mayor in recent history has done. She appealed to MLB that she will not give up keeping the A’s in Oakland and MLB wanted to see sites and feasibility so she pledged they will provide multiple sites for the A’s so it is feasible. We don’t know all the info but going on facts and all the maneuvering by Quan getting the right people in the right government positions, we do have know both HT and CC is more than just trying to get Quan reelected

  40. Marine Layer says:

    @Karim – Oh what it would be like to again be as impressionable and naive as you appear to be. Quan is going to be in a race for her life, and she’s propping up her record on vapor. Brooklyn Basin won’t break ground until next year at the earliest, so for now it’s vapor. Coliseum City and Howard Terminal? Extreme vapor. Of course this is all about running for re-election. That’s the simplest and most rational way to look at it.

    As for public funding, you really think Oakland will do that? Without a vote? How would that pass given the continuing Mt. Davis debacle and the possibility that Howard Terminal and Coliseum City would have to compete for resources? Think about it.

  41. Tony D. says:

    To Karim, “think about it.” That’ll be the day…

  42. Karim says:

    @ML I know there is a part of this so she can tout for reelection but my reasoning is why would she even have approached MLB and Bud when she got in office she wasn’t using that as her platform to bet the man who promised Lew that he wouldn’t challenge the A’s move if he won. I definitely know that she is ramping up the PR move for her reelection but just saying there’s more substance to the actual project than just blowing smoke that a lot of people like to say on here. I do think they will use taxes for infrastructure, just like they tried to sneak in the 40 mil for coliseum Bart. so a vote will be made but not directly tied to building a ballpark or stadium for the teams. And for other funds I think the city will use tax funds, and brought in the investors to front the rest for them, as they will exchange land to build there project how they want and not just purchasing AEG and already taking on a already built project like L.A Live was in there failed bid for the company.

  43. Karim says:

    @Tony D I actually do think about it and have resources that do know a little bit more than all of us on here in regards to the issue. I never said its gonna happen but its a more realistic chance than you guys tend to give, the think about it should come from the SJ side thinking that a lawsuit is gonna benefit them. I want the A’s in the bay no matter what but I don’t think the lawsuit will be solved anytime soon and think MLB will make a decision well before the courts do. what we do know is MLB doesn’t want to touch TR so if Oak is serious about this seeing it through it will work but also need teams on board for it to work, I know that the city knows that and have been working years, acquiring land and making moves, and spending millions to position themselves to this day, and to say its all to get Quan reelected??? come on now that’s all I’m saying

  44. pjk says:

    Really neat sketch of a HT ballpark, BTW. Similar to a sketch I once saw of a proposed new ballpark for the Montreal Expos. That never got built, either.

  45. duffer says:

    An expensive copy of phonebooth park? – this is blasphamy for A’s fans! Quan also loses credibility by disclosing the HT site plan a week after going public with the CC A’s ballpark. Meanwhile the SJ Cisco Field plan was mapped out four years ago. This fan once believed that Wolff possibly was not bargaining in good faith with Oakland city officials because he prefers that the A’s move to SJ, not any more – Wolff is appearing wiser by the day.

  46. Baynativeguy says:

    Am I looking at this right? During a day game, the batter is going to be facing south right? I know Oakland wants splash hits too but day games are gonna be rough … While I could find nothing in the baseball rules saying no to this, one of the sub paragraphs of rule 1.04 says this sort of configuration is undesirable. Maybe they can insist on nothing but night games …

  47. […] is just a pair of pretty pictures and civic enthusiasm dressed as a real plan. As pointed out on NewBallpark.org (an actual expert on such things), “Ballpark proponents seem to be willing to play the long […]

  48. arff2108 says:

    Have the A’s move to sacramento! Their AAA affiliate the(Rivercats) play at Raley Field which was designed to be expanded to a major league park. It is next to the downtown area on the river. Bay area fans would drive to the valley for a game as easily as the valley fans drive to the Bay. Plus I think more fans from the foothills and eastern side of valley would come due to it being so much closer. The biggest advantage is lower costs, ex: building, labor, operating, property, taxes…… I guarantee daily attendance would be higher. Can I get a show of hands on this idea? I have been touting this for about seven(7) years now.

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