Oakland hires guard to bar Caltrans from disputed land

The Associated Press
Wednesday March 20, 2002

OAKLAND — The city and port have hired a private security guard to block Caltrans contractors from the planned staging site for the first section of the long-awaited new span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. 

The legal dispute over who owns 52 acres of waterfront land came to a head Friday when Oakland city and port officials sued state and federal transportation agencies. The twin suits were filed in state and federal courts. 

In federal court documents, Oakland claimed the agencies violated federal base closure, environmental protection and transportation laws, when they invoked a law allowing the Federal Highway Administration to seize property from other federal agencies for critical interstate projects. 

Oakland is seeking an injunction prohibiting Caltrans’ Bay Bridge contractor from using the land and a pier at Burma Road. Plaintiffs also seek an immediate injunction, and backed up the threat with guards. 

Caltrans officials said they were stunned by the Friday’s lawsuit and even more surprised by Saturday’s arrival of a guard. 

“No one wanted this to happen. We needed to resolve this,” said Port Commission President Phil Tagami after he initially denied the guard had been assigned to stop Caltrans. 

Major Jerry Brown would like to develop a four-star hotel and American Indian-run casino at the former Oakland Army base, which closed in 1999 and was to be transferred to the city and port later this year. The city also would like to build an industrial park on the site. 

The port has been using Burma Road for its maritime operations to unload odd-sized cargo. 

It’s just the latest hitch in a project to replace the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, which partially collapsed during the 7.1-magnitude quake in 1989. The work began in January after taking 12 years to get off the ground and seeing a budget zoom from $200 million to the current worst-case estimate of $3.2 billion. 

Caltrans says using the former Army property will save about $30 million because it’s the closest and best possible staging area to the bridge.