Commissioners voted 7-0 in favor of continuing negotiations with the Oakland Athletics for the lease of Howard Terminal as the site for a new baseball stadium.
The Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners voted unanimously, 7-0, on Monday to authorize entering into exclusive negotiations for up to four years with the Oakland Athletics over a plan to build a new ballpark on the city’s waterfront at the site of Howard Terminal.
Hundreds of baseball fans and supporters of the proposed stadium as well as longshoremen and maritime businesses opposed to building it on port property rallied before the meeting outside the Jack London Square headquarters of the port. Dozens spoke during a four-hour meeting.
Dave Kaval, the president of the Oakland Athletics, said the proposed 35,000-seat stadium would be a “transformative project” for both the city and the ball club and also would include residential towers. While many of those opposed to the new ballpark say there is plenty of room at the site of the existing ballpark in East Oakland to build a replacement stadium, Kaval said that the most successful major league baseball teams have built stadiums close to downtown areas.
Opponents of the new location are concerned about using scarce waterfront property for a non-maritime use.
“We have no ground to give up. This is like Indian ground, this is sacred,” said Melvin Mackay, president of Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
Howard Terminal is not currently being used for moving cargo on and off ships, but is used for the storage of containers and parking of trucks that move to and from other marine terminals in the port.
Between 2014 and 2018, the port engaged in discussions with several companies about marine-oriented uses for the property, but was unable to attract a long-term tenant.
Opponents of the ballpark expressed concern about increased traffic congestion on the days when games are played and the potential for serious accidents when greater numbers of passenger cars and pedestrians are sharing streets with drayage trucks and trains — especially if baseball fans have been drinking.
The area around the stadium site and Jack London Square itself are crossed by tracks without grade separation traveled by both Amtrak and freight trains moving containers and other cargo to and from the port.
Mike Jacob, vice president and general counsel of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, said that he was pleased with an amendment put forth just before the vote that incorporated part of the term sheet that the port is entering into with the Oakland Athletics that highlighted that the stadium must be compatible with the Seaport.
Cestra Butner, the president of the port’s board of commissioners, said the amendment was “important to show we are committed to protecting the maritime industry.”
He said a traffic study will be part of the review before the project can go forward.
The Oakland Athletics would lease the Howard Terminal site for $3.8 million for the initial 20 years of the 66 year lease.
The Oakland Athletics also have agreed to reserve up to 10 acres of the 50 acre Howard Terminal site for expansion of the port’s turning basin.
While the port regularly handles 14,000 TEU ships, port spokesman Mike Zampa said there have been informal discussions about whether an enlarged turning basin might be needed if even larger ships are deployed in the transpacific trade.
Butner said he was hopeful “Oakland can come together and make a decision that is good for everyone.”
The term sheet requires that before the board considers a final vote on the stadium it will have to consider information produced from the environmental review process under the California Environmental Quality Act and land use approvals are obtained by various public agencies.
“We want to make sure as this process moves forward our voices are not lost, the people who invested in this waterfront, that have made it what it is today,” said Jacob. He believes when all the impacts of the stadium and housing project are the project the A’s are proposing will not be approved.
“We think the best place for a new stadium is where it has been for the past 50 years,” he said. “You do not need to move jobs to threaten our jobs.”