A committee to protect San Francisco Bay has recommended that the Port of Oakland keep Charles P. Howard Terminal for maritime use rather than allowing the Oakland A’s to build a new ballpark there.

The Seaport Planning Advisory Committee voted 5-4-1 to recommend to the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission that Howard Terminal be maintained for Port use.

The commission is expected to vote June 2 on the same question, a vote that is necessary by law and could derail the plan to keep the A’s in Oakland.

Wednesday’s vote by the Seaport Planning Advisory Committee, whose main aim is to prevent San Francisco Bay fill, is not binding. It is merely a recommendation.

Jim McGrath, who chaired the meeting and worked for 16 years at the Port of Oakland, said the possibility of saving 40 acres of San Francisco Bay from being filled in was important to his vote to keep Howard Terminal for maritime use.

“That was a very disappointing setback today.”

Dave Kaval, Oakland A’s president

Bryan Brandes, maritime director of the Port of Oakland and a member of the advisory committee, was in support of allowing the A’s to build a ballpark at Howard Terminal. Brandes said the Port will have enough land to help handle regional cargo needs if it grows moderately.

In addition to McGrath, those in favor of keeping Howard Terminal for maritime use included Christine Zortman, executive director of the Port of Redwood City, Jimmy Triplett, senior vice president for West Coast operations at the Benicia Port Terminal Company, David Lewis, executive director for Save the Bay, and Capt. Lynn Korwatch, executive director for the Marine Exchange of the San Francisco Bay Region, a nonprofit that collects and disseminates shipping information, among other work.

Those besides Brandes in favor of allowing the A’s to use Howard Terminal were Alan Wolken, director of the Port of Richmond, Kara Vuicich with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission/Association for Bay Area Governments, and Diane Oshima with the Port of San Francisco, who felt the committee needed more information to make a recommendation.

Abstaining was Jean Finney with Caltrans.

“That was a very disappointing setback today,” Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval said in an interview.

Reports completed over two years show that Howard Terminal is not needed for maritime use, Kaval said.

A cargo ship sits near the pier at Oakland’s Howard Terminal in May 2021. An advisory committee has recommended against a proposal to construct a waterfront baseball stadium at Howard Terminal, citing environmental concerns as well as a need to keep the land available for future expansion at the Port of Oakland. (Photo by John Kelly/Google)

‘A serious setback’

“It’s a serious setback,” he said, noting that the A’s still have an at-bat before the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

But often the commission will simply take the committee’s recommendation, Kaval said.

The A’s are also making progress toward moving the team to the Las Vegas area, if an Oakland stadium doesn’t get approved or doesn’t get approved quickly enough. Kaval said the A’s will probably have a final site in the Las Vegas area chosen soon.

But the A’s have not given up on Oakland, he said.

Justin Berton, spokesman for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who recently was confident an A’s ballpark was going to be built at Howard Terminal, said the “advisory committee delivered important feedback” Wednesday.

Berton added, “We believe the Port of Oakland and its leadership knows its capacity best, and we agree with their detailed analysis that shows they can continue to thrive and grow port activities well into the future, as well as support a transformational, world-class development that will open 18 acres of public parks along the waterfront and create more affordable housing and thousands of great union jobs for the region.”

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.