On December 6, 2022, the Oakland City Council will take a vote regarding $300 million in federal and state grants that the City of Oakland has been awarded to invest in infrastructure improvements near the waterfront at the Port of Oakland. The City and Port have a once in a generation opportunity to make transformative changes to the streets that serve the Port and its neighboring communities. Collectively, the City and Port have identified approximately $300 million for transportation projects around our waterfront that address multi-modal safety and health issues, enhance goods movement, and implement longstanding transportation plans to overcome challenges that have vexed Oakland’s communities and the Port’s economy for years. This funding has sparked a partnership between the City and Port that is stronger than ever and has resulted in a growing understanding of each other's needs and constraints.
Ultimately, we have been able to develop projects that accommodate our mutually beneficial goals to continue to grow and thrive as good neighbors. This investment, which can only be spent on transportation projects around the Port area, will unlock solutions to numerous transportation problems that have plagued our communities for far too long, providing an incredible opportunity to address longstanding safety and goods movement issues.
Critics claim that the federal and state transportation funds would benefit the Oakland A’s more than the public. Is this true?
No. The funding will be used to accelerate the implementation of long-established projects and priorities on Oakland’s public streets. These projects have been identified and refined through in-depth community engagement over the course of many years, culminating in the City Council’s approval of plans such as the West Oakland Specific Plan, West Oakland Truck Management Plan, the Lake Merritt Station Area Plan, Let’s Bike Oakland 2019 Bike Plan, and the 2017 Oakland Walks! Pedestrian Plan. The projects are designed to address safety, goods movement, accessibility, equity, and sustainability needs facing Oaklanders and Oakland’s Port today.
Did the public have an opportunity to provide input on the projects to be funded before the City applied for the grants?
Yes. Not only do these projects advance long-standing City plans and priorities developed through independent in-depth community engagement processes, as described above, the City also led a more recent, robust engagement process related to this specific suite of projects. Engagement included:
- Over 500 in-person surveys conducted in Chinese, Spanish and English with an emphasis on hard-to-reach populations, including at bus stops in West Oakland, Chinatown, and Downtown Oakland, as well as online surveys targeting those same neighborhoods;
- Three community meetings held in West Oakland, Jack London Square, and Chinatown;
- Two maritime stakeholder workshops; and
- Ten key stakeholder meetings with community leaders in Chinatown, Downtown, West Oakland, Old Oakland, and Jack London Square, and with transportation advocates.
Why did the City apply for grant funding for the waterfront rather than other priority neighborhoods?
The City has applied for 30 transportation grants over the last two years for projects located throughout Oakland, as informed by our equity-centered Capital Improvement Plan. Of the 30 applications submitted, six included elements of these projects. As a result of the Federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and last year’s State Budget surplus, there is more money for infrastructure than ever before. As a City, we have been able to develop and submit competitive grant funding proposals for high priority projects that reconnect the neighborhoods of West Oakland, Chinatown, and Downtown to one another and to their waterfront, as well as other critical projects that connect East Oakland neighborhoods to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline, improve connections between transit centers, address critical traffic safety needs, and improve crosstown connections for active transportation and transit. Fortunately, we have the capacity to develop and apply for funding for many projects.
Are the projects being funded included in the City’s Capital Improvement Plan or other transportation plans?
Yes. All projects are in the City’s Capital Improvement Plan, and numerous additional plans. To view more details on all the plans these projects advance, please see Attachment B of the City’s report to City Council, dated November 4, 2022: https://oakland.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=5898413&GUID=52EF1F26-C985-4799-A380-D5529E48202C&Options=&Search=.
Can these funds be used for other critical needs in Oakland, like affordable housing or addressing homelessness? Can they be used in other neighborhoods like East Oakland?
No. These funds can only be used for transportation projects around the seaport and surrounding waterfront. Specifically, the State legislation directs these funds to “improvements that facilitate enhanced freight and passenger access in and around the seaport and waterfront and to promote the efficient and safe movement of goods and people.”
Why is the City applying for grants if the waterfront ballpark project hasn’t yet been approved?
As noted above, these grants would implement projects on the City’s Capital Improvement Plan, independent of the ballpark. The sooner we secure funds, the sooner the substantial public benefits of these projects can be realized for Oakland, its people, and its Port. And - if we don’t act now, the City risks losing $300 million in State and Federal funding to implement long-delayed improvements that the City and Port urgently need, ballpark or no ballpark.
What will happen if the waterfront ballpark never gets built?
By implementing approved City plans and priorities on existing City streets, these projects will enhance the safety, accessibility, efficiency, connectivity, equity, and sustainability of Oakland’s transportation system for all users, regardless of whether or not a ballpark is ever built at the former Howard Terminal.
Is the City redirecting funds to the ballpark development that were meant for the Port’s supply chain, safety, and infrastructure needs?
No. The City and Port jointly advocated for $279.5 million in the 2021 State budget for “improvements that facilitate enhanced freight and passenger access in and around the seaport and waterfront and to promote the efficient and safe movement of goods and people.” The proposed transportation projects work to accomplish these goals.
Is the City trying to fast-track grant approval?
No. The City applies for grants for projects in the City’s Capital Improvement Plan on an ongoing basis was funding sources become available. The City has no influence on grant timelines. Those are set by Federal, State and Regional granting agencies, and decisions are made on those agencies’ terms and schedules.
Does accepting these grants mean that the A’s ballpark is approved?
No. Advancing these transportation projects is not a “yes” vote on the proposed Waterfront Ballpark District. However, without these investments, redevelopment of the former Howard Terminal, including the construction of up to 3,000 new affordable and market-rate homes and more than 18 acres of new public parks on the West Oakland waterfront, cannot move forward.
What will happen if the City turns down these grants?
Oaklanders would lose $300 million in funding for critical City infrastructure projects. The City would have to return awarded grants or identify approximately $50 million from its own budget to provide the required local match for improvements to Broadway and 7th Street, severely impacting funding for other transportation projects Citywide or the City’s General Fund. The City would also have to decline pending grants of up to $307 million due to lack of local matching funds, further delaying important work such as the reconstruction of Embarcadero West, one of the greatest bottlenecks for freight and passenger rail on the West Coast, and jeopardizing future competitive grant opportunities Citywide – including, but certainly not limited to – transportation grants.