The Oakland A’s are one base closer to home in their effort to build a new waterfront stadium in their hometown following a vote by a little-known commission.
Members of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission voted 23-2 Thursday in favor of removing 56 acres at the Charles P. Howard Terminal from use by the Port of Oakland.
The decision does not ensure the Oakland A’s will build a new stadium at Howard Terminal at 1 Market St., but a vote otherwise would have likely killed the project.
“We’ve never been closer,” A’s President Dave Kaval said by phone following the vote.
Kaval, ecstatic, called the vote an “incredible victory.” The A’s are now one approval away from building the stadium, he said, which would seat about 35,000 people. The project also calls for about 3,000 units of housing, and other things such as parkland and commercial space.
“We’re really on third base,” Kaval said, contradicting a commissioner’s comment that the A’s are on second base.
Kaval said the A’s must now get the approval of the Oakland City Council to make it to home plate.
He said the commissioner is correct in that the A’s must get a permit from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission following City Council approval. But it is a building permit, a much less serious consideration.
Sharing the load
Commissioners reasoned Thursday based on forecasts that the Bay Area will be able to handle regional cargo growth without Howard Terminal. That was the most basic reason for their decision.
The commission is tasked with minimizing the amount of fill going into San Francisco Bay. Doing without Howard Terminal could mean added pressure to fill the waterway.
“Today’s vote moves Oakland toward a more prosperous future,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement. “Our city has historically been overlooked for major economic development, but today that story about Oakland changes.”
Richmond Mayor Tom Butt and Jim McGrath, a retired environmental manager for the Port of Oakland, voted to maintain Howard Terminal for port use. McGrath believes the region needs Howard Terminal because, for one, it reduces fill by 40 acres.
Butt argued in a statement that the Bay Area may need Howard Terminal based on a forecast for regional cargo growth that commissioners based their vote on.
He said the forecast shows the region with anywhere from a nine-acre deficit to a 21-acre surplus of land for cargo.
“I was troubled by the projection that necessary port capacity could be minimal to non-existent in 28 years,” Butt said. “That seems like a long time off, but if you look back, today would be 28 years from 1994.”
Jobs on the line
Dock workers and truckers during public comment urged the commission to maintain Howard Terminal for port use.
They were outnumbered by other union workers such as food service workers and ushers at the Oakland Coliseum who want to see a waterfront stadium built at Howard Terminal.
They are at risk of losing their jobs if the A’s move to Las Vegas or another city. Kaval has said it is Howard Terminal or bust.
Kaval wants the City Council to take a vote this summer on the new stadium. Schaaf has been a fierce advocate for the stadium at Howard Terminal and her term as mayor is up in six months.
Kaval said the A’s have made a strong offer to the city to pay for all the community benefits connected to the new stadium. The benefits include things such as affordable housing, workforce development, cleaner air and other environmental justice provisions.
Kaval said a new stadium in Oakland “is just an incredible opportunity” for the city and its residents.
“This can change the entire trajectory of Oakland,” he said.