Howard Terminal ballpark backers are looking for solutions to get past the BCDC. In their case the solution appears to be to build the ballpark outside the area the BCDC regulates. Say, what is the BCDC’s jurisdiction, anyway? Glad you asked. From the website (emphasis mine):
The open water, marshes and mudflats of greater San Francisco Bay, including Suisun, San Pablo, Honker, Richardson, San Rafael, San Leandro and Grizzly Bays and the Carquinez Strait.
The first 100 feet inland from the shoreline around San Francisco Bay.
The portion of the Suisun Marsh-including levees, waterways, marshes and grasslands- below the ten-foot contour line.
Portions of most creeks, rivers, sloughs and other tributaries that flow into San Francisco Bay.
Salt ponds, duck hunting preserves, game refuges and other managed wetlands that have been diked off from San Francisco Bay.
At 50 acres in size, Howard Terminal is a large enough property that plans can be drawn up to move structures around so that they can avoid the BCDC. Ah, but it isn’t quite that simple. Part of Howard Terminal is a pier built over the estuary, so that area is considered tidelands and is in all likelihood within the BCDC’s jurisdiction. Waterfront Action has a map showing where various Tidelands Trust lands lie along the Oakland Estuary.
If you look at the Howard Terminal section, the Tidelands extend inland past the cranes, as much as 300 feet. Add another 100 feet to cover the BCDC boundary and you have the defined area that escapes the jurisdiction. That means that there could be as much as 400 feet from the water’s edge to the outer wall of the ballpark, the length of home plate to center field at the Coliseum (sorry, no splash hits folks). The BCDC could rule that the shoreline starts at the water’s edge, which would allow the ballpark to be built closer to the water. It will probably take the BCDC and the State Lands Commission to sort all of that out. The recently closed RFP for Howard Terminal explains this further:
Tidelands Trust Compliance
Howard Terminal is currently encumbered by the Tidelands Trust. Uses of the property are therefore generally limited to water oriented commerce, navigation, fisheries, and regional or state-wide recreational uses. Approval from the State Lands Commission would be required for any uses of the property that are not Tidelands Trust compliant. Many non-maritime activities are not considered Trust compliant uses and thus may require lengthy negotiations with the State Lands Commission, and potential legislation, before the Port could proceed with such non-Trust uses for the property.
Whatever the final ruling is, filling in that empty area would be open space, which partly explains the presence of the cranes. The crane supports currently at Howard Terminal are nearly 120 feet deep from front to back. A promenade and open space fills that area, which is a good idea (you basically can’t get anything big developed in coastal California without providing open space these days).
A side effect of this placement is that the ballpark would actually be closer to the West Oakland BART station than the 12th Street Downtown Oakland station by a few hundred feet (4,800 vs. 5,100). In either case it’s a pretty lengthy distance and would be best bridged by shuttles.
Despite the placement of the ballpark in hopes of avoiding the BCDC, work done on the waterfront parts of the site would fall under the commission’s sway, even the conversion to open space. That’s because there is a land use covenant in place that is also highly restrictive, preventing all manner of structures from being built there without significant cleanup plans.
Now let’s look at one more picture. It’s an old one from the 2001 HOK study – the one that had Howard Terminal finishing among the worst with $177.5 million in needed infrastructure and other costs.
Note the differences between this image and the newer ones. In the newer renderings the ballpark is on the western half. In the older vision the ballpark’s on the eastern half. There’s also a convention center, hotel, and 1,900-space parking garage here. Mayor Quan referred to Howard Terminal as being zoned for a convention center, but was that an actual result of this study or similar efforts? I’ve seen no record to indicate this happened. In addition the 2001 HOK plan shows the original shoreline as reclaimed, but with a promenade extending out as connected piers, presumably to acknowledge the site’s 100 years as an operating port facility.
With these renderings, there are a few questions to carry forward.
- It’s not at all clear how much control the BCDC has over the site. Where is the true BCDC jurisdictional boundary?
- Given the site’s use as a port, how much say will the State Lands Commission have in lieu of the BCDC?
- How much do the land use covenant’s restrictions affect the cost to build here?
- Will a full cleanup be required, or can Oakland get away with limited cleanup if only certain uses are realized?
I’m sure there will be more questions to come. Those can be answered with a feasibility study and an environmental impact report.