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
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.
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
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.