Kaval Call Part II – “Waterfront” setting

Take a look at a piece of the rendering below.

View southeast from behind home plate

Pretty cool, right? You can see the three decks (four if you count the green roof deck). There are the trees lining the roof. And the awesome shipping cranes in the background. Do you know what you won’t see?

The Estuary.

The shortest “splash hit” to reach McCovey Cove at AT&T Park went a distance of 367 feet. According to Google Earth, a ball only needs to be hit 362 feet to be a true splash hit without first bouncing on the promenade. How long do you think a ball would have to be hit to reach the water at Howard Terminal?

Based on my calculations, at least 700 feet down the right field line.

And you know what? That’s okay. Because of the somewhat enclosed nature of the outfield, a slugger would have to both hit a ball 700 feet long and more than 100 feet high to clear the grandstand. It probably would have to be rising as it leaves the ballpark – unless a dinger could somehow travel through the empty spaces in the outfield, not hit any fans or employees working on the concourses, and avoid trees and food trucks in the right field plaza.

You should be able to see the water from the upper deck. Maybe the second deck as well. But splash hits are a silly way to measure the worthiness of a ballpark. The concept of a splash hit is barely 20 years old! If the A’s are able to overcome all of the numerous obstacles to get this thing built, splash hits won’t be a big deal in the slightest.

There are plenty of good things about the location and setting as situated. Thanks to the orientation of the field and the placement of the stadium, there will be that large landing beyond the stadium in right.

The plaza you see above is every bit as much a blank canvas as the actual ballpark. I project it to cover a half-acre. Not a half-Mark Acre, 20-25,000 square feet. That’s a lot of space for food trucks, a Rickey Henderson park for kids, and monuments to other A’s greats. The possibilities are endless.

As ballyhooed as the hire of Bjarke Ingels Group was, the key player for this plaza is a lesser known but still important landscape architecture firm, James Corner Field Operations. They worked on the High Line in New York, Navy Pier in Chicago, and Seattle’s Central Waterfront. Field Operations’ portfolio is global and striking. Their expertise could be the key to make Howard Terminal a true destination of its own, not just a wharf adjacent to Jack London Square. Not to diminish BIG’s talents, but Field Operations will make everything fans interface with at the ground level.

According to Dave Kaval, that ground level will be raised 3.5 feet to deal with sea level rise. That’s forward thinking. But Kristina Hill, associate professor of environmental design at Cal, isn’t convinced. From former A’s beat writer John Hickey’s article, Hill says:

There is legacy contamination in the areas where they will be building, That’s been capped, but generally those doing the capping haven’t lined it from below. And that means when the groundwater comes up, those contaminants can be remobilized.

I asked Kaval about this. He said that the San Jose Airport West site, on which Avaya Stadium was built, underwent extensive cleanup and had groundwater monitoring wells installed. So far, so good. But there is one major difference between Airport West, which used to be a factory for defense contractor FMC, and Howard Terminal. The San Jose site isn’t on the water, and is 9 miles upstream from the bay. As you all know by now, Howard Terminal is directly on the bay. How to deal with it? At least BIG has some experience. Hill:

They (BIG) know about coastal design, but they have mostly worked in Europe and they may not have had to work with this kind of issue. Europe hasn’t done as much as the U.S. to monitor water quality. It has done more in isolating and removing contaminated soils. So European firms may not have had to think as much about how rising groundwater could remobilize wastes.

These concerns about Howard Terminal have been well-known and well-documented for years. As much as I admire BIG’s work, they’re not magicians.

Remember, the Port of Oakland entered a use covenant regarding Howard Terminal. It stated:

Based on the Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment, the Department concluded that use of the Property as residence, hospital, school or day care center would entail an unacceptable cancer risk. The Department concluded that the Property, as remediated in accordance with the approved Removal Action Workplan, and subject to the restrictions of the Covenant, does not present an unacceptable threat to human safety or environment, if limited to current terminal use.

Now that there’s no long-term terminal operator at Howard Terminal, the Port and City of Oakland are freed up to pursue this ballpark development. The risks, however, still remain. And as we’ve been made fully aware, groundwater isn’t the only potential problem. Schnitzer Steel’s toxics can fill the air. Look at that rendering above on a beautiful sunny spring or summer game day. Now imagine a plume of smoke rising from Schnitzer Steel to the west. Will the first giveaway item be dust masks? Or water filters?

The hope appears to be that Schnitzer will “wise up” and sell, then relocate. That strategy didn’t work for the A’s at Coliseum North. It didn’t work at either Fremont site. And it didn’t work in San Jose.

For future use, here’s a brief lexicon of terms that will be used when discussing Howard Terminal going forward.

CEQA: California Environmental Quality Act

BCDC: Bay Conservation and Development Commission

DTSC: Department of Toxic Substances Control

BAAQMD: Bay Area Air Quality Management District

Tidelands Trust

This is gonna take a while. Get started by reading the CEQA Notice of Preparation filed by the A’s last Friday. Or read about the AB 734, the CEQA streamlining that passed earlier this year. Head in the clouds, feet on the ground.

P.S. – That 700-foot home run distance is something, right? Remember when the Warriors were going to build their waterfront arena on Piers 30-32 in San Francisco? Well, they ended up moving to the site where Chase Center is being built. How long do you think a Steph Curry three-pointer from the shoreline is? About 600 feet.

24 thoughts on “Kaval Call Part II – “Waterfront” setting

  1. You and I have disagreed over the place that the Pixies hold in rock history, but damn that is a clutch use of a Pixies line…

  2. Great stuff as always, ML!

  3. There certainly are several challenges ahead, I dont pretend to know anything about this stuff, but the Ports own use covenant report sounds ominous by itself.

    @ ML

    I am sure the city would prefer Schnitzer to wise up and sell (as you said), but even if they didn’t couldn’t the city just pull the eminent domain card?

  4. Yeah… this ain’t happening.

    The site is not fit for a school, but season-ticket holders… go ahead and bring your children (and yourself) to this “unacceptable cancer risk” 81 days a year to enjoy the game!

    As much I think the “Blue Ribbon Commission” was a total joke, I think they did get it right when they determined that H.T. is completely unworkable as a location for the A’s.

    • Perhaps we should wait until the soils/geologic engineers issue their report with actual findings and recommendations before we start worrying that it will sink the project or that we’ll all get cancer. I don’t think BIG’s lack of experience with this issue means much — the Bay Area has been dealing with this type of issue as industrial land by the Bay has converted to parks and other uses over the years. Besides, the Port has a pretty good understanding of what is there and what what it might take to clean it up, so it’s not like this is a surprise that the A’s haven’t accounted for. Sure, the solution could prove to be too expensive, but my guess is that an estimated number is known and they have budgeted for it.

    • @ DP

      Pretty much what Jerry said, certainly there are challenges that may eventually prove too costly or difficult.

      But, the A’s would have never went down this road if they didn’t already know there where possible solutions to these problems, neither would the port, city, or county either.

      • Let us not forget that a year ago the A’s picked a different site instead of HT because of all of these issues.

        HT is the site of last resort for a “downtown” stadium in Oakland. What they have decided is essentially, “We want a downtown stadium instead of a suburban mega development anchored by a stadium. We do need the suburban mega development to help pay for the extremely expensive, less than ideal downtown stadium.”

        Do I think it is going to happen? Not by 2023. I wouldn’t say “It isn’t going to happen.”

      • @ Jeffary

        I agree with you HT is definitely a heavy lift, much more then Laney, however it appeared to me that DP was dismissing it out of hand, which is ridicules (IMHO), HT can probably be built on, it probably depends more on how much money and political influence one has to spend as to weather it can actually be done.

        But, to dismiss it out of hand is (again), is reduces, we will find out soon enough, or perhaps not soon enough, but we will find out.

      • Yeah, just like they overcame all of the vastly less-complicated issues on…. well too many failed attempts than I care to list at this point.

        Sure there is a slight chance this can get done. Just trying to keep it real…. that chance is extreeemely slim. This really smacks more along the lines of “we have now tried _every_ single possible site and nothing works so you need to let us move” and off they go to San Jose/Portland/San Antonio/Montreal/Monterrey/Mexico City.

      • @ DP

        Well, you first have to make an honest effort, with the political will of all government agency’s involved (Port, City, County), one could make the case (I believe so) that H.T. is the first effort in Oakland that had the honest an full support of the A’s organization, MLB, City of Oakland, County of Alameda, Port of Oakland, and the State of California.

        That doesn’t mean it will work, however I don’t believe it’s as long of a shot as you apparently believe it to be, and that’s ok.

        At this point in my life dealing with the Raiders leaving twice, the Warriors never fully embracing Oakland (IMHO), and the A’s under Wolff wanting to play anywhere but Oakland (again IMHO), I am just happy that one of the teams I grew up with is presently making a real effort to call Oakland home.

        It might as well be the A’s, after all they are the only team that has both never left (regardless of the reasons why or why not/raiders twice), and also took the moniker of the city’s name. (Oakland unlike the Warriors)

      • I totally get and respect your and the “Oakland only” mindset Lakeshore. I’ve been an A’s fan my whole life too but from my perspective, being a life-long resident of the Central Valley, ANYWHERE in the Bay Area is a win in my book. If that’s Oakland, fine. If that’s San Jose or Fremont or even Palo Alto or Dublin, fine. I honestly think they will only continue to just exist and be occasionally relevant in Oakland but can actually thrive long-term in a location closer to the south bay and its access to vastly superior revenue sources. I have no emotional attachment to the “Oakland” A’s, just the A’s.

        The Giants need to wake up and realize that a healthy A’s franchise and the rivalry that can be built off that is actually very good for the Giants. IMHO mlb needs to realign everything so that the region-sharing teams are in the same divisions. Can you imagine the awesome excitement that would be generated from the Yankees/Mets, White Sox/Cubs, A’s/Giants facing each other a dozen+ times per year instead of only four? But that’s messing with a whole lot of history and tradition…

      • @ DP

        Thanks, I totally appreciate where you coming from. I, however may have inevetraly represented, I consider myself Oakland first, but definitely not Oakland only.

        I believed the best place in the Bay Area for the A’s econmocly was San Jose, and although it would have hurt a little I would have been happy support them in the South Bay, because it’s still the Bay Area and they need a new stadium so bad that I would have been okay with that.

        What bothered me about the A’s pursuit of San Jose and in particular Lew Wolff, was the blatant disrespect for Oakland and the East Bay fan. (IMHo)

        When the Warriors moved/move to San Francisco it didn’t /wont bother me as much, because they had already played in the city before they moved to Oakland, and as I said they never truly embraced Oakland anyway. However, they have showed a certain apportion for Oakland and the East Bay fan on the way back to the city, if the A’s under Wolff had made a tenth of this effort (IMHO), I would have been even happier with San Jose if it ever happened.

        I try to be a realist, and I realize it probably wasn’t the most feasible thing for Oakland to keep all three teams, as a matter of fact I would have been okay if the A’s where in San Jose, and the Warriors in San Francisco, if it meant the Raiders would have stayed in Oakland, that way at least all three could have stayed in the Bay Area.

  5. I never cared about orienting the stadium for splash hits or views of the estuary. Splash hits just don’t matter and you are never going to see the estuary from the vast majority of seats no matter what. More important to orient it for wind protection (which apparently they have done) and/or views of downtown (unless doing so increases the wind effects).

    I do care about contaminated soil though, so hopefully that can be overcome.

  6. My major concern about the HT proposal is including housing on this site. Locating apartments next to Schnitzer Steel seems like a real problem — if there was concern that the noise, lighting, air quality, etc from Schnitzer would impact the ballpark operations, that would be magnified with residential. I’m sure that housing would get them the biggest return, financially and politically, but there’s a reason that cities usually don’t allow housing in heavy industrial areas. I would prefer they develop shops, restaurants, bars, and offices there and concentrate the housing on the Coliseum site.

  7. What perplexes me is Howard Terminal has been out there for decades and it was ruled infeasible for several issues.

    If I am not mistaken the Navy left the general area toxic and never cleaned it up (same with SF near Hunter’s point), forget all the other reasons why the Terminal has issue (Railroad, lack of parking, no BART station nearby, no easy freeway access etc..)

    Why would Kaval waste energy here?

    My only thinking is this way he can get the Coli land for cheap by showing an effort at HT. He is saying “we are all in at HT, we need the Coli land and we will turn it into some park”.

    Phat chance……I say once Kaval gets the Coli land this HT thing will magically go “poof”!

    • “forget all the other reasons why the Terminal has issue (Railroad, lack of parking, no BART station nearby..)”

      Railroad? Ped bridges
      Parking? 10,000 spots
      BART? 15 minute walk (closer that Montgomery BART to Pac Bell Park)

  8. Since HT is located in an isolated and undeveloped area of the city, especially as it relates to its lack of existing transportation infrastructure, residential housing, and its accompanying support facilities, Oakland’s anti-gentrification elected officials and community activists have not raised any objections on this proposed new ballpark site. Unfortunately this was not the case with the proposed Laney/Peralta site which would have been far and away the most ideal location for a new A’s ballpark within Oakland, as well as to have had the best chance to getting the new ballpark built.

  9. It’s not helpful to jump to conclusions as to whether the site will be unhealthy or not. It will be possible to make the site healthy. The real issue is how much that will cost. The environmental review process will provide the facts about what must happen to make the site safe. Then the A’s will acts in their economic self interest to either continue to pursue the project at this location, or not. Regarding transportation, this site is not ideal, but is far better than the proposed Fremont site was. I think getting an average of 25,000 people to this site around 7pm on a weekday is very possible. The transportation challenges are somewhat more pronounced than at AT&T, but not terribly worse. And the number of people will be smaller. Having visited the site and walked around, the one issue that scares me is the railroad tracks and how to remediate that risk. Humans have a terrible habit of trying to evade safety mechanisms in order to cross railroad tracks via the shortest distance. I’m definitely keeping an eye on that issue as the A’s go forward.

  10. If anyone is wedded to splash home runs, that’s nothing a few well-placed trampolines can’t solve.

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