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Port workers skeptical about potential A's stadium plan

Maritime operators skeptical about potential A's stadium at Howard Terminal
Maritime operators skeptical about potential A's stadium at Howard Terminal 02:22

OAKLAND -- On Thursday, the state agency overseeing Bay development will consider whether to end Howard Terminal's use as a functioning Port facility. It's the next step in the process of locating a new Oakland A's stadium on the waterfront. But on Tuesday, a group of maritime operators said it is too valuable to be used as a luxury playground.

A photograph taken in March of Howard Terminal shows it nearly deserted. But Tuesday morning, it was bustling with activity, with trucks lined up as far as the eye could see, to pick up and deliver containers being stored in giant mountains at the facility.

"Howard Terminal is not just a vacant parking lot. We have operations here which are ongoing, which are critical to our success to be able to move cargo," said Mike Jacob, VP of Pacific Merchant Shipping Association.

In the past few months, things have changed at Howard Terminal. Those who are using it now say it has become a vital staging area for truckers picking up empty containers and returning with local exports, especially agricultural products from the Central Valley. They say without that space, the containers would be clogging up the main port and they wonder what will happen if the land becomes a ballpark.

"That's the 12-billion-dollar stadium question," said Jacob, "where does all this go, right? That's the question we want to have answered. We think we deserve answers, and we believe the public deserves answers, too."

The Port's Executive Director, Danny Wan, says the containers are only being stored at Howard Terminal because of a backlog of goods, due to worker shortages at big retailers.

"It is very, very bad for a port to have empty boxes sitting on your port. That's not what the port is supposed to be used for. It's supposed to be used to transport stuff," said Wan.

He said the backlog is a temporary situation that is expected to clear up in six to eight months. But in two days, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, or BCDC, will decide whether to remove Howard Terminal's "port use designation," meaning it can be used for other purposes...such as a stadium and mixed-use development. Wan believes that WOULD be a better use of the land, and said Howard Terminal no longer has an important role at the Port.

"And therefore, we're just being used as storage space in the Port of Oakland," said Wan. "And the reason that we can even accommodate the storage is we have too much land right now."

The BCDC will have to decide if--without Howard Terminal--there is enough port space, to meet projected growth to 2050. If the answer is yes, the stadium can probably go forward. But Susan Ransom with SSA, a company that loads and unloads shipping containers, said they're concerned about what will happen to the rest of the port once the redevelopment begins.

"I think the vision feels that if Howard Terminal were to become John Fisher's dream, where does it stop? Then you go next store, and you keep moving down the waterfront," she said. "And eventually the port will dry up, and we can't have that."

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