Howard Terminal neighbors throw down gauntlet at ballpark proponents

In Mark Purdy’s column yesterday explaining Lew Wolff’s desire for a 5-10 year extension, he alluded to a letter of concern sent to the Mayor’s office. The letter came from representatives of Schnitzer Steel, Union Pacific, and the California Trucking Association, all of whom have vested interest in making sure that the Port’s industrial and cargo transportation uses stay preserved. Several pointed questions are asked about the nature of the ballpark project, which is at best in an embryonic stage while Port land use matters are hammered out. I’ve asked many of the same questions about accessibility and infrastructure. Admittedly, I haven’t touched on land use compatibility, in that usually in California industrial lands aren’t next door to residential or high density commercial properties. That’s another wrinkle that has to be addressed. But enough of that. Here’s the letter.

February 25, 2014
Honorable Jean Quan
Mayor
City of Oakland
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, 3rd Floor
Oakland, CA 94612
Re: Howard Terminal Baseball Stadium Proposal

Dear Mayor Quan,

As signatories to this letter, we represent a diverse array of companies that have collectively invested millions of dollars into the industrial and transportation infrastructure on the Oakland waterfront. Our businesses have also trained and employed thousands of people from the Oakland area which has helped the Port area thrive as an economic engine in Oakland.
Given our investment in Oakland’s working waterfront, we write to you today with concerns and questions which have arisen given the recent proposal to build a baseball stadium at Howard Terminal, and the political support expressed both for that proposal and for changing the industrial zoning of the area.

The Howard Terminal is surrounded by an assortment of industrial and transportation uses, including an electrical substation, a metal recycling and exporting terminal, a power plant, two separate major trunk pipelines, a mainline portion of the country’s largest Class I railroad, as well as Amtrak and Capitol Corridor passenger trains. In addition, the surrounding road and street infrastructure are handling traffic for our country’s fifth largest container port.
While support for this location has already been expressed by you and others in the media, we are concerned that no one is asking or considering realistic answers to the following questions:

 One of the justifications for locating the stadium at Howard Terminal would be that it would create a new walkable and stadium-supporting community and businesses, yet the uses immediately surrounding the terminal are not compatible with these goals. What consideration has been given to the energy infrastructure uses surrounding the Howard Terminal location?

 Another justification given for this location is that it would create numerous new retail, shopping and dining experiences in the present industrially zoned area proximate to the site. Are the City or stadium proponents actually considering relocating any uses from their locations near or adjacent to this proposed stadium site? If so, how would that occur and with what funding and consideration for the regulatory structure which governs such infrastructure?

 Short-sighted designs and plans which create chronically unsafe interactions between incompatible modes of transportation and conflicting uses unfortunately result in thousands of accidents every year. The odds of unsafe activity by pedestrians and passenger automobiles around heavy machinery, like trains and trucks, increases exponentially around crowds, congestion, and alcohol which we would expect to see at the proposed baseball stadium. This is especially disturbing given the proposal’s goal of creating a neighborhood, street scene activated in the vicinity. What specific considerations would ensure pedestrian, motorist, rail and truck safety?

 The cargo which is the lifeblood of the Port of Oakland relies on the successful operation of the rail and highway infrastructure, and the companies and people that operate the trains and trucks that use that infrastructure. With the lack of public transit serving Howard Terminal, its location vis-à-vis freeway access ramps, and the location of the rail line immediately adjacent to the terminal, what is being proposed to ensure that this proposal will not create major traffic conflicts or impediments to the efficient movement of containers to and from the Port?

 In artist’s renderings published in the media, the proposed baseball stadium is located immediately next to a significant recycling facility. These industrial operations are unique to that location and are located on the only privately-owned terminal with direct access to deep water in the Bay. What mitigation has been considered regarding this existing use to ensure its operations are not negatively impacted?

 The City’s industrial zoning supports the transportation and energy infrastructure uses next to the Howard Terminal – but comments in the media have expressed a desire to change the current zoning to support the stadium. What zoning changes are being considered and where would the city propose to relocate the industrial uses which exist in the current area surrounding Howard Terminal?

Investing in our massive and capital-intensive operations required us to make a long term commitment to the local community. In doing so, we believe that the partnership with our community and with the local governments governing land use at or surrounding our facilities is critical to our area’s success.

In the City of Oakland this means supporting the industrial and maritime operations at the Port of Oakland and preserving the industrial uses and zoning which facilitates the success of the City’s energy and transportation infrastructure.

It is our assumption that prior to taking any official or unofficial action that would promote the development of a baseball stadium at Howard Terminal, that stadium proponents, you and your office will have carefully considered and addressed the very serious questions included in this letter. Given that, we respectfully request that you provide us with preliminary answers to our questions above.

If these questions have not been raised or adequately considered, we sincerely request that they be addressed thoroughly and realistically before any further promotion of the Howard Terminal location occurs.

We would further note that Howard Terminal is the Port of Oakland property, subject to the Port’s development processes and priorities that exist independent of the City. The Port has responsibly gone out for an RFP for the Howard Terminal site and is evaluating proposals at present. This letter is not a comment on the RFP process or any individual proposal. However, we trust that all of the proposals will be compatible with the surrounding land uses and consistent with the state Tidelands Trust and the BCDC Seaport Plan.

Our collection of stakeholders respectfully requests a meeting with you and your staff to further discuss these questions and to establish a dialogue to address any other issues that may arise with respect to this stadium proposal. Please feel free to contact any one of the signatories or Jackie Ray, Schnitzer Steel at (510) 541-7654 to schedule this meeting.

All of our organizations are committed to Oakland and the success of the infrastructure investments that we have made in the city’s waterfront. We look forward to your responses to our questions and to meeting with you in the near future.

Sincerely,

Mr. Eric Sauer
Vice President of Policy and Government Relations
California Trucking Association

Ms. Jackie Lynn Ray
Government Affairs Manager
Schnitzer Steel Industries

Mr. Andy Perez
Director, Port Affairs, Corporate Relations
Union Pacific

cc: Chris Lytle, Executive Director, Port of Oakland

The important thing is that these parties are asking for preliminary answers ASAP. Howard Terminal proponents can be all handwavy towards a mere blogger like me. Can they do the same towards huge entrenched business interests? I doubt it.

43 thoughts on “Howard Terminal neighbors throw down gauntlet at ballpark proponents

  1. We already have the owner of the A’s who is very familiar with the site and emphatically says he won’t build at HT and he won’t sell the club, either. Obstacles to development of HT for a ballpark are mounting, as the letter from the port shows. So what is the purpose of the site other than as a stalling tactic to try to deflect from findings that there are, indeed, no suitable ballpark sites in Oakland? If the so-called Clorox group is serious about building at HT, it could start out first of all with a signed agreement to match the naming rights agreement forged between Cisco and the A’s in 2006. But we haven’t even seen that.

  2. Oooh boy Oakland in trouble now…H.T has too much red tape..I dont think Warriors could move there…sigh o well

    What will happen first?

    A. Cisco Field
    B. Coliseum City Field
    C. Raley Field
    D. Out of the bay area field??

  3. re: “The odds of unsafe activity by pedestrians and passenger automobiles around heavy machinery, like trains and trucks, increases exponentially around crowds, congestion, and alcohol which we would expect to see at the proposed baseball stadium.”

    …Talk about incompatible, neighboring land uses: A ballpark, industrial and recycling facilities, a power plant and a port.

  4. Well this is good news, it looks like The California Trucking Association, Schnitzer Steel, and Union Pacific, and we’ll be getting the answers, to questions we have not been able to.
    Howard Terminal is a long shot for a ballpark, but these are the necessary questions, to start with, in as ML says the embryonic stage.

  5. I still can’t believe you blocked be on Twitter because I told someone else I would NEVER raise my kids in Oakland. I still would NEVER raise my kids in Oakland. Hummmph!

  6. @ML–does it suprise you that the port is willing to enter into an ENA with ballpark proponents given that they were provided a copy of this letter provided to the public hearings on other uses for HT? Seems like they just blew off the request in this letter and continued their march forward…or am I missing something?

  7. @harry
    Don’t over react man, this is all part of the process, the Giants had to go through the same sort of issues, when they were building, with one big fat exception which is the owner of the team wanted to build on the site.
    The good news is if it comes down to Mars and Howard Terminal (without any other choices in the Bay Area), he may chose Howard Terminal and if it comes to that, and he still does not want to build there he may sell (hopefully to someone how will), 10-15 more years of not getting San Jose, or finding a place in Fremont might just do it.
    And as crazy as that may sound, just consider for a moment, where we are?

  8. Before all my Pro-San Jose brothers blow their collective tops, I would much rather the solution be found in San Jose or Fremont, before waiting another 10-15 years for a new ball park at Howard Terminal, hell I am not as up there as Lew, but I am not getting any younger either.

  9. @Lakeshore/Neil – There’s one huge distinction between SF and Oakland. SF was quickly killing all of its industrial Port uses north of Mission Creek. Oakland is keeping industrial uses adjacent to Howard Terminal. That’s not only a land use question, that’s a philosophical/type-of-city-we-live-in question.

  10. Lakeshore: Another big fat exception is that the Giants were building in Frisco, which, like it or not, is a much more attractive to investors and financiers than building in Oakland. Just saying.

  11. re: Oakland is keeping industrial uses adjacent to Howard Terminal.

    …Yes, neighbors of ATT Park include a Starbucks, a Quiznos, a bank, apartments, townhouses, restaurants, recreational boats, a bowling alley, a Safeway. Not heavy industry.

  12. @GoA’s – Not at all. Push is coming from one Port commissioner, who happens to be Mayor Quan’s campaign manager.

  13. What doesn’t belong? 1) Apple; 2) Pear; 3) Orange; 4)Jackhammer

  14. Really? You don’t think they would ignore this? They’ve ignore pretty much everything else thrown in their face. They’ll happily continue on as if it’s no big deal. They’ll tell the business owners just to wait, “it’s too early in the process for those answers” etc. etc. And then they’ll move forward, wasting more time and money on the smoke and mirrors game they’ve been playing all along. And the beauty of Quan backing CC and the private fan group doing HT, is that Quan can just say “I’m not backing that site, I’m backing this site” and give them the runaround telling them she’s not “involved in that process.”

  15. Oakland boosters really need to stop listening to One Direction.

  16. @ML
    I get your point, but HT probably would not work for the hundred other reasons that you have gone over in detail, not saying this letter is not serious but it probably could be worked around, if not good that reduces what Oakland says is viable site, and puts more pressure on MLB to approve San Jose.

  17. @Pjk
    You are correct my man that is another Big Fat Exception, one that MLB will have to address if they want the A’s in Oakland.

  18. so who in the eb media has reached out to these companies to better understand their concerns? This letter was written on 2/25 and other than cheerleading folks like tavares has done nothing to expose the challenges of the HT site–rather he prefers to take others word for it that LW wasn’t sincere in his evaluation of HT–

  19. GoAs: The narrative that it’s poor victim Oakland vs. the mean, greedy, rich A’s owners is going to continue to rule the day. Don’t expect that to change. It hasn’t so far…

  20. @Pjk
    Unfortunately that seems to be part of the equation.

  21. I am SMH after reading this letter in detail.

    Essentially OWB wants to pigeon hole a ballpark dead smack in the middle of a busy industrial area that has businesses all around it that are not compatible with a ballpark.

    Forget the soil contamination for a minute here. These businesses are in operation right next door and their concerns are staggering. Trains and trucks around drunk fans and automobiles? Bahahahah!

    How does Oakland keep out doing itself with its ineptitude? It is flat out disgraceful. Forget an EIR, this right here tells you the site is not feasible and Wolff is right.

    No one wants to believe the “old rich man” Wolff is, but he is the only one between Oakland and MLB telling the truth loud and clear…..There are no options left in the East Bay.

  22. Yet I keep hearing Howard Terminal described as a great site with local owners ready to break ground immediately, blah blah. If the actual reality – Howard Terminal is a dead-on-arrival site – conflicts with the reality that folks want – that it’s a great site – then just go with the desired reality, I guess.

  23. Just another classic case of the left hand not telling the right hand what it’s doing. For Oakland its now CC or bust IMHO.

  24. I counter ur argument..it may ne unhealthy for baseball open air, easy access to beer)..maybe it safer for the new home of the Golden State Warriors/Oak Sharks..a multi purpose arena to host basketball and hockey could match Oakland port feel…it will be a closed arena and yes Boxer and his group should go thru with the EIR..a study shows wolff could build for 600mil.

  25. @Marine Layer and lake shore…

    Will u guys support at Coliseum Field site…if done correctly where do u think it can be built..Jeffrey some input as well sir

  26. @harry

    The Sharks are not going to move to Oakland or SF. If the area can’t support a minor league hockey team what makes you think it can support a NHL team?

    Oakland/SF had their chance with the Seals back in the 70’s, outside of proposed winter classic at AT&T, I don’t see them playing regular season games in SF/Oak anytime soon. The only good thing about the Seals was their Green/Gold uniforms from the Finley era.

  27. RR predicting the Raiders are on their way to LA- can’t wait for the Raider nation to begin their fight against the A’s- Oakland ineptness is legendary- even RR mentions it

  28. The A’s have a better chance in Sacramento then the Raiders going to Los Angeles. ..so blah wah waH..my man Wolffy looking to private fund a Coliseum City field. …u, pjk and tony d need to give this up..do I have ur surrender???

    PRO OAKLAND NATION
    -Rep. HARRY

  29. @harry—gotta read RR column–you might be the one wallowing in your beer—not that I ever trust anything RR says but hey makes sense why raider nation is trying to put pressure on oakland pols to keep the raiders–one team stays and one goes—RR is betting its the raiders

  30. seeing the tweets that Prop B has been cleared to be placed on ballot in SF–will donate money to the campaign to get that passed…anything that negatively impacts the gints I am all for–karma’s a bitch larry

  31. @GoA’s I heard that, I probably won’t go that far but more power to you.

  32. @GoA’s someone has got to take a stand.

  33. @LSN–my son lives in SF–at least I will know where some of my money is going that I give him 🙂

  34. This thought that somehow the Raiders not making it work at the Coli (and leaving), thus opening the door for the A’s to make it work at the Coli is utterly ridiculous. Mark WANTS TO STAY, Lew doesn’t; very simple concept.. If my Raiders can’t make it work/pencil out then IT’S NOT WORKING FOR THE A’S EITHER (see utter ineptitude of Oakland pols and dire financial straits of The O). Completely irrelevant that they play 81 times a year or that somehow Wolff can hypothetically develop (and make money off of) vast parking lots in East Oakland. Let’s finally put this notion to rest; thank you.

  35. @Tony D–LW himself recently said the one site in Oakland that could work is CC–its all about costs–I want them in SJ also but total cost of TR plus construction is just too much. As long as they stay in the BA I am good- unfortunately A’s staying mean Raiders most likely go–

  36. @ Go A’s,

    I strongly believe Wolff was just stating such just to encourage a longer lease at the Coli. Later quotes also support this notion (ie only talking to our “landlords” about lease and nothing further). “Settling” for Oakland would only give the Giants a huge victory and give credence to the utter crap of Oakland pols of the past 20 years. IMHO Wolff/A’s should be done with Oakland. Either fight harder for SJ or go back to Fremont.

    (Disclaimer: as a SJ resident completely pissed that we’re continuing to be fucked by the Giants territorial rights. Will ONLY support an Oakland option if SJ is freed and able to complete on a level playing field for A’s)

  37. @Tony D – I wrote about that exact situation in December. A ballpark’s half the cost of a football stadium and has 10X the events so it’s easier to make the ancillary development work. For Wolff, Davis and BayIG would have to step aside, then he could build the Coliseum North-style development on the Coliseum grounds.

  38. Now what happens when the Raiders sign deal with Oakland without signing a 10 year lease with the A’s? If HR is out, Coli City out by summer, what’s the next move?

  39. doesn’t safeco in sea has to deal with the whole “drunk fans” and trains. i think ml did a post about safeco months ago describing some sort of bridge or two that would make crossing the tracks less dangerous. i guess that’d be one of the many costs a ht park would have to deal with. visually ht was always the best site/park but in reality it’s going to cost way too much money to get anything close to what boxer and the pro oakland sides wants if you remember what those drawings were a few months ago showed what the area would look like.

    • @letsgoas – For years Safeco went with regular at-grade crossings. When light rail was built, the need for grade separation arose. If Oakland is expecting thousands of fans to walk from a BART station downtown, they should do the same.

  40. If Wolff can revive the North of the Coliseum project on the Coliseum site, let’s get it done. Means bye bye Raiders, probably…

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