Danny Wan, who has been the Port of Oakland's interim executive director since July, on Thursday, Nov. 14 was appointed to that role on a permanent basis.
Wan has been the Port of Oakland's attorney for six years and was the first openly gay member of Oakland's City Council from 1996 to 2000. A resident of the city, he also represented Oakland and the neighboring cities of Alameda and San Leandro on the board of the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD).
The Port of Oakland is a department of the City of Oakland and has three major business lines — the Oakland seaport, one of the largest container ports in the U.S., Oakland International Airport and real estate, including Jack London Square in downtown Oakland.
In an interview on the port's website, Wan said the seaport is doing very well, handling record volumes of cargo, and that the airport is growing steadily and the port is financially stable. The Port of Oakland handled a record 2.589 million containers in its fiscal year ending June 30. Through October of this year, it said overall volumes — imports, exports and empty containers — are at similar levels.
"However, we do have several challenges. Our expenses are still growing faster than our revenues. We need to plan ahead for an environment that may be not so stable. Our economy may be slowing down and we are in a situation where global trade is in flux. So we need to plan for that," he said.
An issue that has created a major controversy at the port during the past year is a proposal by the Oakland Athletics to build a new ballpark at the Howard Terminal on Oakland's waterfront, close to Jack London Square, a bustling entertainment district that is popular with residents and visitors to the city. The baseball team also wants to build housing units adjacent to the proposed stadium.
However, many of the maritime interests in the port oppose the stadium, saying the waterfront property should be reserved for maritime uses. While Howard Terminal is not used for loading and discharging ships, drayage companies use it to park and store containers on chassis. Truckers also feel traffic from the ballpark will worsen congestion and make local streets near the port less safe because of the large numbers of pedestrians.
Ship pilots are also concerned about potential problems with navigating the port's turning basin because of lights from the proposed stadium and recreational boaters who will be attracted to the area, much as they are to the South Beach area at the San Francisco Giants' Oracle Park.
Wan noted that the port is an "enterprise agency" and a valuable economic engine and job creator for both the city and surrounding region. He said the port wants to grow jobs for local residents.
The Port of Oakland does not receive tax revenues and depends on leases to help support its operations. So good relationships with tenants are necessary to help the port grow its business, he said.
Wan succeeds Chris Lytle, who retired in July after six years at the helm in Oakland. Thursday's announcement caps a two-month, nationwide search.
"We're fortunate to have Danny as the port's new chief executive — not only is he an experienced public professional, he is also a local leader with demonstrated commitment to the communities the port serves," said board President Ces Butner.
The port directly employs more than 450 people and together with its business partners says it supports more than 84,000 jobs.