Port of Oakland Rejects Coal Shipping and Opens the Door for an A’s Ballpark on the Waterfront

The Oakland Port Commission unanimously rejected three proposed maritime uses for the 50-acre Howard Terminal site near Jack London Square, one of which environmental groups vehemently opposed due to concerns over the proposed shipping of coal and petroleum coke through the port. The decision may also one day lead to a 38,000-seat waterfront ballpark at the site for the Oakland Athletics. A group of local investors unveiled a plan last December for the ballpark, although A’s ownership repeatedly has claimed that the venue is not suitable for the team.


The proposed ballpark at Howard Terminal.

  • The proposed ballpark at Howard Terminal.

The stadium issue, however, was never directly mentioned during Thursday afternoon’s port meeting. Instead, members of the Sierra Club and other local environmental groups urged port commissioners to follow a staff recommendation to reject all three proposals for the port. Two weeks ago, commissioners acquiesced to a plea by one bidder, Bowie Resources, LLC, to allow it more time to provide documentation to the port’s staff. A representative from Bowie, which sought to export commodities such as coal, petroleum coke, borax, and iron ore through West Oakland, said it was evaluating the potential use of covered transport to carry coal through the East Bay. The extra two weeks, however, did little to reverse the previous recommendation.

Margaret Gordon, a former port commissioner and long-time West Oakland neighborhood advocate, told her former colleagues to remember their social responsibility. “Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t allow cargo to come in here and have people adversely pay with their health just because there’s a port here,” she said.

Oakland resident and activist Susan Harman, said, “Coal is the dirtiest of the dirty fossil fuels and the only solution to climate issues is to keep it all in the ground.” Harman and other opponents of coal who spoke Tuesday highlighted the global ramifications about the burning of fossil fuels across the globe. “It doesn’t really matter at what point of that chain we stop it,” added Harmon, “but we have the power to break that chain here in Oakland.”

The port commissioners offered little disagreement other than a concern by Commissioner Earl Hamlin about potential legal costs should any of the bidders sue the port. “I don’t care about litigation costs, I care about the community,” Commissioner Michael Colbruno responded. “Are we really going to export this [coal] to third world countries? Is that what the Port of Oakland is for?”

Colbruno, appointed to the port commission by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, was the lone dissenting voice two weeks ago for postponing the vote on Howard Terminal. The port’s determination Thursday sets the early stages for the port to begin contemplating a ballpark at the property or some other types of use for Howard Terminal. The port’s ad hoc committee will meet next week, said Commissioner Alan Yee, to further discuss Howard Terminal’s long-term future. However, the meeting is not open to the public.

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