Howard Terminal: Notes on a work in progress

Assembled some observations on the City of Oakland staff report on Howard Terminal’s progress:

On the cost of infrastructure:

Q: What is the cost of public infrastructure (for the Howard Terminal project) and does SB 293 define that cost or provide a procedure for defining what that cost is before commitments are made to fund the infrastructure? Will an IFD commit all property tax revenue within the district boundary?

A: Costs of infrastructure for the Howard Terminal project are not yet fully known. In order to form an IFD for Howard Terminal or any other district, the City Council would be required to create and approve an Infrastructure Financing Plan before funding any infrastructure.

There’s a chicken-and-egg story here. Think about it this way: Do you know what happened to the gondola? Well, it gets one paragraph in this 123-page report.

A gondola connecting Jack London Square to approximately Washington and 10th Streets is being studied as a variant in the EIR. The gondola would carry 6,000 passengers per hour. As the gondola is a variant, and not a part of the Project, staff efforts are focused on ensuring that the transportation plan operates with or without the gondola.

A “variant” isn’t much of a selling point for a big project. Instead most of the focus is on shuttle buses, ride sharing (TNC), and walking. But it’s not all bad.

In addition to transit-only lanes, staff is currently working with the Oakland A’s to locate and scope a transit hub to serve the Project and the greater Jack London Square community. The hub is envisioned as an attractive experience where game day crowds and daily commuters may easily and comfortably wait for buses, access bike share, valet bike parking, scooters, and other types of mobility.

One of the potential locations being considered for this transit hub is a two-block stretch under the Nimitz. Which would be a good way to utilize that area instead of simply turning it into regular parking lot.

Pricing: In order to effectively shift Project patrons from driving and TNCs (primarily Uber and Lyft) to transit, it may be necessary to make transit more economical. Both AC Transit and BART have expressed interest in working with the City and the Oakland A’s to establish a game day transit fare, similar to the arrangement currently being piloted by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency at Chase Center.

If you recall, I ran some numbers on the gondola (capital + operations) and figured it would cost $12 per rider round trip if it were unsubsidized. The gondola would cost $123 million to build. For reference, the project to lengthen the Mission Bay Muni platform is more than $51 million. And that’s peanuts compared to new Transbay Terminal.

Rail Safety
In the rail industry, grade separation is considered the “gold standard” for safety. Used in combination with other strategies to accommodate rail crossings as safely as possible, new grade-separated crossings would aid in mitigating the following existing conditions in the Project vicinity:

    • The Jack London Square segment experiences some of the highest collision rates in Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor network
    • Proximity to the Port results in occasional very long train dwell times (15-20 minutes) as freight trains maneuver on tracks

The Project sponsor has also studied vehicular grade-separated crossings (overpass and underpass) at Market Street and deemed these grade separations infeasible. City staff are still reviewing this study and have reached no conclusions with regard to feasibility and potential design exceptions. Generally speaking, an underpass would be preferred as an urban form. In the absence of a grade-separated vehicular crossing, emergency vehicle access and site flushing in the event of an emergency are of particular concern, and options for emergency ingress and egress are being evaluated in conjunction with the development of an emergency management plan for the ballpark.

I find this downright inexcusable. The A’s, at the project sponsor, don’t have the final say on what’s feasible at Howard Terminal. An alphabet soup of regional, state, and federal agencies will. Look, I’ve talked about this enough in the past. In the future, I’ll just refer to this snippet of the report if anyone has questions about how serious the rail safety problem is. Jeez.


6) Financial Issues:
The Oakland A’s have indicated that they wish to enter into a Development Agreement with the City governing development of the proposed Project. Development Agreement negotiations and supporting financial analysis have not yet begun. The City and Port are working through
jurisdictional City Charter issues and the City and Port are aligned in applying the zoning code to the project site and delegating that authority to the City; however, the legal mechanism for accomplishing such an approach is pending. While Development Agreement negotiations have not begun, the Oakland A’s have committed to the City and in a variety of forums that the ballpark itself will be privately financed. In addition, the Oakland A’s have also indicated that they are looking for a public private partnership on infrastructure. Staff understands and shares the City Council’s concern that the City consider the full project – costs and benefits – before making any financial commitments of any nature to this Project.

In other words: We’re working out the details. They’ll have until the end of September to wrap up many of those details in a pretty little bow.

11 thoughts on “Howard Terminal: Notes on a work in progress

  1. The A’s sure haven’t released a lot of new information (it’s still early), or perhaps I should say a lot of new relevant information. I get it, that’s the name of the game when you are trying to get as much finical help out of a municipality for a massive project as you can, without the public finding out exactly how much it’s truly going to be.

    You hold back on specific answers till you absolutely have to give them, and even then you low ball every answer to your advantage. Sorry, I am not an Oakland/ Alameda county tax paying resident (was for 40 years), and I really want this thing built.

  2. …and people STILL think this is a good idea???

  3. If the problems/issues with the HT site remain insurmountable to get a new A’s ballpark deal done over the next two years, then I would hope that Oakland officials would reconsider and allow the A’s to take a second look at the Laney/Peralta site for its new ballpark. Otherwise, if Oakland officials continue to hold the A’s to to the problematic HT site, then MLB should step in and allow the A’s to consider any feasible ballpark site within the entire Bay Area market, not just to restrict the A’s to its East Bay designated territory. In the worst case scenario, failure of MLB to do the right thing could lead to the A’s being sold and moved away to another market.

    • @IIpec

      “If the problems/issues with the HT site remain insurmountable”

      We have no idea if the problems/issues are insurmountable, all we have is people assuming that they are insurmountable, something can’t remain insurmountable till it is first proven to be so.

      • After all these many years of disappointment, it would really be nice for fans of the Oakland A’s to finally hear some tangible concrete progress towards a positive end result. Until I hear otherwise, I remain pessimistic.

      • @IIpec

        There is nothing wrong with being pasamistic, the fact is it usually takes an honest try or two before one of these major projects actually happen.

        However, we do not know as of yet if the problems/issues at HT are insurmounmtable, what we do know is some people think they are.

        Unfortunately it seems, that some of these same people have an issue with the A’s actuly finding out if that is the case.

  4. These issues will be worked through because the HT site is the best site on the table. The coliseum site no longer works because new stadiums need to be closer to centers where people congregate before, after and during off season. Petco park in San Diego is a perfect example of what a ballpark can do for a city and a team. It also had many issues that the city, county and state worked through. What I’m saying is that every project has its hurdles but we can’t give up and suggest that it won’t work. For the first time we finally have a real shot of getting a new stadium built IN OAKLAND so let’s not lose faith.

    • I have come to believe (unfortunately), not everyone is excited about the IN OAKLAND part of what you are saying.

      • I’m 99% sure that the NOT IN OAKLAND crowd and the people against this plan are Giants fans and some of the opposition groups are funded directly by the SF Giants organization so I think it’s our job as A’s fans and East Bay residents to 1. Tune them out 2. Drown them out and 3. Support this plan 100%. A successful A’s plan IN Oakland is good for baseball even though some on the other side of the bay are against it.

      • IN OAKLAND is not synonymous with Howard Terminal, just as the Coliseum is not OUTSIDE Oakland as many like to frame it. Both are options, one is harder to execute than the other. Let the chips fall where they may, and don’t push your conspiracy theory BS around here.

  5. So, remind me again when the San Jose site was supposed to be opened? Should have been be right around now, wasn’t it?

    And now what do we have? Very little hope of having anything done at all…

    Thanks Bud Manfred. You really screwed us A’s fans.

    And now the current A’s management is so hung-up on “waterfront” and one-upping the Giants that they won’t build at the best site available in Oakland… in the parking lot right next door to where they play now.

    Thanks A’s ownership. You are really screwing us A’s fans.

    Sheesh. I am getting turned-off to the A’s and baseball in general more and more as time passes and it’s all because of this nonsense.

    Pessimistic? Heck yeah.

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