A’s ballpark proposal encounters choppy waters | San Francisco Chronicle

The Oakland A’s are getting hit on two fronts by organized opposition to their proposed waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal.

The politically powerful organization Save the Bay is raising questions about the environmental impacts of the project, and the bar pilots association, whose members steer those huge container ships into the Port of Oakland, say they’ll be blinded by the ballpark’s lights and might run over kayakers hoping to collect home run balls. Then there are the port’s tenants, who are complaining about the impact on traffic.

“This is not a transit-accessible area, so more people will be traveling there in cars, and the more people traveling in cars, the more we contribute to climate change,” Save the Bay Executive Director David Lewis said.

Mike Jacob, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, which represents several of the port’s tenants, said the A’s plan to build a hotel and 4,000 housing units at the site would significantly impact truck movements in and out of the port as well as future industrial uses in the area.

And San Francisco Bar Pilots President Joseph Long has written a letter to the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, saying pilots navigating the narrow estuary will be blinded by the ballpark’s lights, “similar to that experienced by the motorist facing an oncoming car with its high beams on.”

“Even when the lights are not shining directly into the pilot’s eyes, the ambient light from the ballpark will also affect the pilot’s night vision, making it nearly impossible to see navigation aids,” Long wrote.

But wait, he wasn’t finished.

“Navigating a large container ship through such congested waters would substantially increase the risk that a small vessel or kayak will be damaged or sunk ... resulting in personal injury or fatalities, or cause the ship or tugs to go aground or strike a pier in evasive maneuvers, resulting in an oil spill,” Long contended in the Jan. 14 letter to the BCDC.

The opposition appears to be mobilizing because of a concern that there is a behind-the-scenes effort to get state lawmakers to pass legislation to fast-track the permitting process for the stadium.

“Our concern is that the A’s and the citizens of Oakland are creating an approval process that may be legally vulnerable,” Lewis said.

A’s President Dave Kaval said there were no plans to ask Sacramento to shortcut the process — if anything the team is pushing to include “environmental justice” issues.

As for the questions about traffic, lights and blinding the bar pilots, Kaval said the team was looking at “everything from the traffic to the ballpark’s lights to make sure the stadium is designed and built to take into consideration all of the stakeholders’ uses.”

Whether the neighbors and pilots agree with Kaval remains to be seen, but the rumbling are going public.

For worse and better: Life in San Francisco is going to hell in a handbasket, with 82 percent of recently polled voters saying traffic is getting worse, 81 percent saying the homeless and street behavior problems are getting worse and 46 percent saying crime is getting worse. But even with all the problems, 64 percent said that San Francisco is still a better place to live than most other places.

The Chamber of Commerce’s recently released 2019 Dignity Health CityBeat poll also found that 52 percent of voters felt the quality of life in the city had gotten worse in the last year.

Homelessness and cost of living came in highest on the list of concerns, with 64 percent of respondents saying street behavior is the top issue — up 20 points on the anxiety meter from last year.

“Even with the problems, we’re surrounded by incredible natural beauty in all directions,” said chamber Public Policy Committee Chairman Mark Klein. “Yes, we have our challenges, but the findings reflect that people are committed to our city and invested in finding solutions.”

One might think that the lack of perceived improvements in traffic, homelessness and crime would spell trouble for Mayor London Breed, who faces re-election in November.

Not so.

While the chamber declines to release its findings on the mayor, those privy to the poll said Breed has a 62 percent favorable rating with voters. That means there is little possibility of her facing any big-name opposition this fall.

The poll of 500 voters taken by David Binder Research from Jan. 10 to 14 has a plus or minus 4.4 percent margin of error.

Inaugural present: In its ongoing effort to make nice with Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California prison guards union is taking back a $2 million contribution to a criminal justice voter initiative he opposes.

The $2 million check, in support of the Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2020, was cut by then-President Chuck Alexander of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association just as he headed out the door on Dec. 31. It was just as quickly pulled back by new union President Kurt Stoetzl.

“The CCPOA’s leaders would rather work collaboratively with the governor than pick a fight at the ballot box.” said former Newsom media aide Nathan Ballard, who is now advising the union, which represents 30,000 correctional and parole officers.

The union was the only law enforcement group to endorse Newsom for governor and backed up the endorsement by spending $1 million on an independent committee to support his campaign.

“The smart move right now is to work together with the governor on the issues that matter most: wages, benefits and working conditions,” Ballard said.

Good thinking. Especially given that the union’s contract comes up for negotiation with team Newsom in July.

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