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League of Women Voters of Oakland
Waterfront Study

Chapter 3. Discovering Oakland's Waterfront

There are a great variety of land uses along Oakland's nineteen miles of shoreline. For purposes of this study, the shoreline is divided into three distinct areas, as shown on the map in this chapter .

The western Waterfront (the Intermodal Gateway) is dominated by the Port's marine terminals, the Oakland Army Base and Naval Supply Depot. The southern Waterfront contains the Oakland International Airport and subsidiary distribution and maintenance facilities, traveler services and airport-oriented businesses (the Airport Complex). The strip of land between the marine and air terminals contains a wide variety of activities, including office, hotel and retail developments, industrial firms, marinas and pockets of undeveloped land (the Estuary Shore).

The Port of Oakland, created in 1928 to manage the publicly-owned tideland in Oakland, controls the majority of the Waterfront. It is one of the few Port authorities in the nation which operates both airport and marine terminals. Although independent of the City, there have been recent efforts to improve coordination between the Port and City, especially in the areas of economic development and land use planning.

The following describes the three areas of shoreline and the distinct features of each area. Distinct issues related to each area are included in this chapter in order to demonstrate the distinct nature of the sectors of the Waterfront. Many of the issues are the subject of other chapters of this booklet.

The lntermodal Gateway

The Harbor

The function of the Port's intermodal transportation facilities is to transfer cargo between ships and either trucks or railroads. The Port of Oakland was an early leader in development of containerized cargo facilities, beginning in 1962. This year sixteen million revenue tons of cargo will pass through Oakland's marine terminals.

Oakland is one of three major intermodal gateways on the West Coast. The others are Los Angeles/Long Beach and Seattle/Tacoma. Over the past ten years, Oakland's market share has declined to approximately fifteen percent. Long Beach and Tacoma now handle 54% and 62% of cargo, respectively.

The Port is pursuing a major improvement program to foster its competitive position among intermodal gateways. This includes deepening the navigation channel, constructing new terminal facilities and improving highway and rail connections.

Key Issues:

  • What are the Port's plans for marine terminal expansion?

  • What is the relationship between the Port improvements (including dredging) and the Port's competitive position among West Coast ports ?

  • What is the economic impact of the Intermodal Gateway, and how can Oakland increase the benefits it derives from the facility's operation?

Military Bases

A substantial portion of the Intermodal Gateway is devoted to two military installations. In 1936, the Department of Defense began acquiring land, ultimately totaling more than five hundred acres in the northern Waterfront for the Oakland Army Base and the Naval Supply Depot. These installations occupy docks in the Middle Harbor (Naval Supply Depot) and in the Outer Harbor adjacent to the Bay Bridge (Oakland Army Base) and operate logistical centers on nearby land.

The level of activity at these bases has declined substantially since their peak during the Korean War. The Port and the Navy are presently negotiating the transfer of portions of the Naval Supply Depot to the Port for expansion of its intermodal facilities. Currently the fate of the Naval Supply Depot is in question with its inclusion on the 1993 base closure list published by the Department of Defense. The Port of Oakland has suggested that if closure were to occur, the Depot could be quickly converted to productive use as an expansion of the maritime terminals and as the location of the marine terminals and as the location of distribution and trading facilities.

The Oakland Army Base, while not imminently threatened, might be considered for closure as military reductions continue.  This land is ideally suited for distribution facilities, in that it is adjacent to the proposed Cypress Freeway replacement. It also is well suited to other uses given its location relative to West Oakland industrial and residential development.

Key Issues:

  • What activities are presently conducted at these two installations?

  • What is the economic impact of these facilities within Oakland and in the Region?

  • What types of uses might be placed on these sites if converted to civilian use?

Cypress Replacement

The Intermoda1 Gateway will be greatly affected by the relocation of the Cypress Section of Highway 880 by more than a mile closer to the shoreline. The proposed replacement structure will improve truck access to the marine terminals and West Oakland industrial areas. It will also offer new vistas of the bay and Waterfront.

Key Issues:

  • How does the new extension of Highway 880 re/ate to the operation of the Intermodal Gateway?

  • What will be the impact of the new freeway upon land uses in West Oakland and the adjacent Waterfront?

The Estuary Shore

Estuary Shore MapThe Estuary Shore is a narrow strip of land between Jack London Square and the Coliseum. It contains a wide variety of land uses, including retail establishments and office buildings (e.g. Embarcadero Cove; KTVU); boat repair and water-oriented small businesses (many visible from Highway 880); residential developments (e.g. Portabello, Executive Inn and residential neighborhoods in the High Street area) and a Motley array of industrial uses unrelated to the waterfront. A major marine terminal is located at the foot of Ninth Avenue. The undeveloped site across Highway 880 from the Coliseum has recently been considered for major retail development.

Jack London Square and the Produce Market

Jack London Square contains the most highly developed commercial activity on the Waterfront. This is the area of the Waterfront which has the strongest relationship with downtown Oakland and convention facilities.

The controversial expansion of Jack London Square has been costly to the Port of Oakland, and has caused the Port to become wary of further commercial ventures. Jack London Square's future success may be bolstered by improved ferry service and the relocation of Oakland's Amtrak terminal to Embarcadero Street.

Oakland's Produce Market is located south of Broadway near Jack London Square. It is a lively wholesale marketplace which houses many small businesses. However, its future is clouded by a recent change in its ownership, increasing street congestion, and skyrocketing land values.

Key Issues:

  • What is the future of Oakland's Produce Market?

  • What progress is being made toward filling vacant retail space in Jack London Square and Jack London Village?

  • What plans are being considered for relocating Oakland's Amtrak Station to the Jack London Square area?

  • What role does Jack London Square play in downtown revitalization and Oakland's economic development strategy?

Estuary Park to Coliseum Shore

Jurisdiction of this area is haphazardly split between the City of Oakland and the Port, complicating land use planning and economic development. Therefore, cooperation between the City and the Port is critical to the future of this area.

In addition, this area is isolated from the portion of the city inland from Highway 880. In order to take advantage of the great potential of this area, better connections are needed to link the shoreline with inland Oakland and internally along the shoreline. A major goal should be completion of a continuous pathway from Lake Merritt along Lake Merritt Channel to Estuary Park.

Key Issues:

  • What are the Port's plans for commercial development of vacant sites, such as adjacent to Jack London Village. in Embarcadero Cove and along Highway 880?

  • How does the "Tidelands Trust" affect utilization of Port land for housing and commercial activity?

  • What is the relationship between the City of Oakland and the Port in planning land uses and economic development programs in the Waterfront?

  • What are the City's and Port's plans for enhancing public access and recreational uses of The Waterfront?

The Airport Complex

The Airport Complex consists of nearly three thousand acres, containing the Oakland International Airport, the land to the north of Hegenberger Road and west of Highway 880.

The Oakland International Airport was originally established at North Field, which now serves as a civil aviation facility. Having been inaugurated by Charles Lindbergh shortly after his trans-Atlantic flight, it was the site of some of the most important moments in early aviation history. It launched the first circumnavigation of the world (Charles Kingsford-Smith - 1930) and Amelia Earhart's trans-Pacific flight in 1937. This was the original hub of commercial transcontinental airline travel, but when that era ended, the airport was appropriated for military use in '1943.

Last year the Oakland International Airport served more than 5.5 million passengers, making it the fastest growing airport in the nation. It also handled nearly 500 million pounds of air cargo in 1991.

Airport operations account for significant amounts of "spin-off" employment. Closely related industries such as the air parcel distribution and aircraft maintenance provide more than five thousand jobs. Additional spin-off jobs are in the hotels, restaurants and car rental agencies which are dependent on the Airport. The Port also operates the Airport Business Park.

Because of the Airport Complex's potential for creating spin-off employment, there have been recent efforts to find ways of creating training opportunities for Oakland residents in occupations utilized by the Airport Complex. For example, the Port and United Airlines have been working with the Oakland Unified School District toward establishment of an "academy" in a local high school to attract students into aviation-related industries. Other efforts, such as the proposed creation of a Coliseum redevelopment area, are also intended to tap this area's economic potential.

Key Issues:

  • What are plans for expansion of the Oakland International Airport, and how do these plans affect the regional role of the airport in the transportation of passengers and cargo?

  • What "spin-off" employment is caused by the Airport Complex, and how can Oakland benefit from this potential?

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