Oakland Design Review Committee 9/9 Hearing

As usual, I took notes of what I felt was important. Read the 19-tweet thread to start, then read the rest of this post.

Like the Planning Commission hearing from April, the Design Review Committee hearing was chaired by Clark Manus. Unlike April, Howard Terminal in its current form is further along than a mere “napkin sketch.” That doesn’t mean there aren’t a host of issues to work out. Manus and the other commissioners on hand, Jonathan Fearn and Tom Limon, expressed hope and positivity over the project. Manus in particular is close to considering the Maritime Reservation Scenario, in a which a chunk of Howard Terminal has to be lopped off for a wider turning basin for container ships, a nearly foregone conclusion. All three pointed to very high building heights along the bay as cause for concern. One or two of the residential towers in particular would be the highest on the Bayfront, higher than anything similarly along the SF waterfront (or anywhere else in the Bay for that matter). These concerns nearly tripped up the Brooklyn Basin project until that was also approved with with mostly mid-rise structures.

For now, the big takeaways are the concerns from the DRC that building such a large, tall project along Oakland’s waterfront would effectively create a second downtown, competing with the existing downtown instead of complementing it. The other is the the shipping industry continuing to press for details on the expanded turning basin, which apparently needs a sizable buffer to protect ship traffic. Will that buffer be 500 feet as requested by industry, or 300 or less as requested by the applicant? We may not find out until the Final EIR is released.

The last thing that got serious attention was the still unresolved grade separation issue. City Planner Peterson Vollmann confirmed that the project still only has a pedestrian bridge in the plan with a vehicular bridge as an alternative. The trucking and rail interests are adamant that the vehicular bridge has to be included, even demanding it get built before anything else. Take a look at the map below, which shows the percentage of fans who will arrive on gameday based on intersection and mode (car, foot, bike). That’s SIX intersections crossing the existing tracks, only one of which is a promised grade-separated pedestrian bridge.

3% of fans coming by ferry is optimistic

The project is being set up to have a bunch of details decided when the Final EIR is released and approved, which the City is projected towards the end of October. Since the A’s on the field are slipping out of the pennant race, some good news in October would be nice. Yet you should expect another series of fights. And hopefully next time there will be fewer arbitrary deadlines like the 7/20 City Council vote that was supposed to change everything.

Revised centerfield approach from Jack London Square is supposed to have a sliding door to provide views from inside/outside the ballpark and to supplement the batter’s eye during play
Harbor View provides scale for residential towers behind the ballpark, one of which could be 600 feet tall
Maritime Reservation Scenario allows expanded turning basin to take up some of the office/residential blocks and a lot of the open space; Safety Buffer line is 150-200 feet from the shoreline, shipping interests want 500 feet

Assuming the Maritime Reservation Scenario is built, the A’s will simply cram all of their planned development into the smaller footprint, about 37 acres. You know what that means: Taller buildings. Not under any significant discussion today was the ballpark itself, which is much lower than the ancillary development to the west.

17 thoughts on “Oakland Design Review Committee 9/9 Hearing

  1. Are they really going to chop off a portion of Howard Terminal so the ships can turn around??????????

  2. Thank you Marine Layer for all your hard work. As an urban designer I agree with DRB comments. Oakland does not need anther Downtown. Oakland needs to reinforce its existing Downtown core.

    Oakland does not need a Canary Wharf that emerged in London.

    • @ ML

      I see the planning commission approved a 600 foot building for Oakland (415 20th st) in May, but I was thinking the A’s may have to come down on there heights a little.

      How will they accommodate the 3,000 housing unit’s if they have to cut the heights down?

      • There’s plenty of acreage to do it. The project would have to get a lot more mainstream, er, dense to make it happen. Build up, lose some open space, etc.

      • What is magic about 3,000 units? At some point the additional height will make the structure uneconomic. Somebody should investigate this.

        Frankly, building housing next to a marine terminal and scrapyard never made any sense to me.

      • I believe the 3,000 housing units are the biggest component to having the project pay for the stadium.

        It’s not like these owners are going to fund a stadium out of a good heart.

      • That would apply if there were residents inside the EIFD plan area. There are none.

  3. Playing out the game, even though there’s no way of mounting a comeback down 800+ runs.. (oh well)

  4. I’m a bit confused, and please excuse my ignorance on the history of the space or lack of knowledge of how Howard Terminal is currently used- Is building a new, wider turning basin a requirement some pro Port of Oakland people are saying is necessary in order to facilitate their needs moving forward? A sort of compromise? Looking at Google Earth, the terminal has always been that shape (rectangular, not cut off). How do the boats turn around currently? Or would this be an entirely new thing? Thanks for any clarification

    • The rectangular wharf was built decades ago prior to the mega-container ship boom. The original shoreline was much further north/inland. The existing turning basin is off the southwest edge and is marked by the cutout on the Alameda shoreline. Shipping interests, not the Port specifically as the Port is the mediator, asked for the turning basin to be expanded a while back to accommodate the newest container ships. The A’s almost immediately acquiesced to this request as long as they don’t give up much else, though it is considered an alternative, not part of the original proposal. Surprisingly, Schnitzer Steel immediately to the west wouldn’t necessarily have to give up land for an expanded turning basin. Hope that helps.

      • Why can’t the mega-container ships just continue turning around in the place where they are currently turning? They just want an upgrade if they can get it and are being opportunists?

      • The Port has to plan for future container ships that are longer than 1,200 feet – the existing max length. The turning basin has to account for that ship length and the safety buffer around it, up to an additional 500 feet. Previously the inner harbor turning basin was created in 1999 at a cost of a quarter billion dollars.

      • Newer ships are longer.

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