« PreviousContinue »
SAN FRANCISCO BAY NAVAL BASE SITES.
NOVEMBER 17, 1920.
SPECIAL JOINT COMMITTEE OF CONGRESS
A hearing before the Special Joint Committee of Congress on Pacific Coast Naval Bases was held at the chambers of the city council of the city of Oakland, State of California, in the city hali, Oakland, Calif., November 17, 1920, commencing at 3 o'clock p. m.
There were present the following members of the committee: Senators L. Heisler Ball, Henry W. Keyes, and Thomas J. Walsh; Representatives Fred A. Britten, Frederick C. Hicks, A. E. B. Stephens, L. P. Padgett, and Daniel J. Riordan, together with W. M. Coffin, secretary of the committee.
There were also present naval officers Rear Admiral C. W. Parks, chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks; Admiral R. E. Coontz, chief of naval operations; Rear Admiral W. L. Capps, of the Navy Department; Lieut. Commander H. W. Hill, aide to Admiral Coontz.
There were also present Senator James D. Phelan and Representative J. Arthur Elston.
There were also present, representative of the interests of the Alameda site, Mayor John L. Davie, of Oakland; Councilmen W. H. Edwards, F. F. Morse, and W. J. Baccus, of Oakland; K. C. Heck, city engineer of Oakland; Mayor Frank Otis, of Alameda; City Manager Charles E. Hewes, of Alameda; Councilmen Alfred Latham, C. C. Adams, E. J. Probst, of Alameda; C. E. Hickok, city engineer of Alameda; Mayor Louis Bartlett, of Berkeley; and the following from Oakland: Walter D. Cole, president of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce; H. C. Capwell, chairman of the harbor committee of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce; Joseph E. Caine, managing director, Oakland Chamber of Commerce; Joseph H. King, former president of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce; J. R. Knowland, proprietor of the Oakland Tribune.
There were also present: L. H. Newbert, manager of Alameda County district Pacific Gas & Electric Co.; R. A. Gentis, superintending engineer, electrical department, Pacific Gas & Electric Co.; George E. Wilhelm, general manager of East Bay Water Co.
The hearing was presided over by Senator Ball, chairman of the joint committee, and the following proceedings were had:
Senator BALL. The meeting will be in order. You may proceed, Mayor Davie.
Mayor DAVIE. Members of the national committee and the advisory naval board, as mayor of the city of Oakland, I extend to the members
of the national committee a most cordial welcome, and I know the people of Oakland are ready, as they always are, to do their part when it comes to visiting committees to our port.
While Oakland is the only city around the bay that has not a naval site to offer to this commission, we are naturally prejudiced in favor of our own side of the bay, and we certainly hope that the committee will be able to help this side of the bay to a base that will take care of the entire fleet of the United States. From the addresses to which we listened at the luncheon to-day, from Senators and from Congressmen, about the Navy, it is certainly most marvelous We can hardly comprehend what it means to the Bay of San Francisco. While we, as officials and laymen, are of course not prepared to pass opinion upon the qualities of any of the bases around the bay, that being left entirely to the commission, we are content to leave it with them, feeling certain that they will do what they think is best, and we shall certainly abide by their decision.
Senator Ball, in his talk at the luncheon to-day said, “We are not here to make speeches. We are here to do business." Realizing that, I shall say nothing more, but will take great pleasure in introducing his honor Mayor Frank Otis, of Alameda, who will take charge of this meeting from now on, so far as the interests of the site at Alameda are concerned. Gentlemen, Mayor Otis.
Mayor FRANK Otis. Mr. Mayor, members of the congressional committee, United States naval officers, and gentlemen, I desire to supplement, on behalf of the city of Alameda, the cordial words of greeting of his honor the mayor of Oakland, and to add the greeting of the city of Alameda to that of Oakland. I hope and trust that not only will your short sojourn in the San Francisco Bay region be pleasant, but that you will obtain all the data needed to solve the important problem which you have under consideration.
In January, 1917, nearly four years ago, before our Republic had entered the World War, a commission authorized by the Congress and appointed by the President, made a preliminary report on a naval base site on San Francisco Bay. This commission was composed of men eminently fitted for the task assigned to them-namely, five United States naval officers, headed by Rear Admiral James T. Helm. The commission's final report was completed in the last month of the same year, and was ready for the Congress in the early part of the succeeding year. The report embraced over 1,000 printed pages, and discussed the subject in a systematic manner and with painstaking thoroughness. "The selection of the Alameda site was recommended.
Subsequently a second commission of three United States naval officers, headed by Rear Admiral J. S. McKean, made an additional investigation, the Secretary of the Navy accompanying the commission in its local inspection. The report of this commission sustained the findings of the Helm Commission, but recommended that borings be taken to determine the existence of suitable foundations.
I may say, parenthetically, that there has never been a doubt in the minds of those conversant with the subject as to what these borings would show, for wherever such borings have been made in the vicinity of the site the foundation, at a short depth, was shown to be clay, gravel, and hardpan.
Thereupon it was determined by the council of the city of Alameda after consulting with the Oakland Chamber of Commerce,
which had evinced a deep interest in the subject of a naval base site, to hold an election at which the question of giving a deed to the United States of America for the purpose of a naval base site should be submitted and determined.
The city of Alameda derives its title to all salt-marsh, tide, and submerged lands, filled or unfilled, within its boundaries, through a legislative grant made to it by the State of California. . Such lands are held in trust for the establishment, improvement, and conduct of a harbor and other purposes in connection therewith. The city can not grant or give away any of the land, but may grant franchises thereon for wharves and other public purposes, and may lease them for public purposes consistent with the trust and not interfering with navigation or commerce.
The State grant further provides that the city may grant and give the lands or any part thereof to the United States for public purposes of the United States, but no such grant can be made unless authorized by a majority of the electors voting on the proposition at an election therein. This election was held on January 31 of the present year. The people voted in the proportion of 32 to 1 to make the gift to the Nation, provided, however, that a clause should be inserted in the deed that the work of development must be actually commenced before January 1, 1924, or otherwise the land should revert to the city. I believe that the people of the city voted in favor of the gift largely from patriotic motives. You yourselves will note the fact, as you pass along, that city avenues, and as you view the proposed site, that Alameda is a city of homes with developing industries on the southern side of the harbor between the city and the city of Oakland. Alameda is a city of 28,806 population, has a good government of the commission-manager type, and possesses clean moral conditions.
The people of the city could not expect to derive any great amount of material benefit that would come with the establishment of a naval base. Such advantage must naturally go to the much larger cities of San Francisco and Oakland.
The area recommended by the Helm commission was, I believe, about 1,000 acres, located south of the strip along which the Southern Pacific electric lines reach the Alameda feriy slip. Before calling the election the naval authorities decided that they would want an area of 5,340 acres, and this amount was included in the ordinance calling the election. Last February I had the honor of handing to the Secretary of the Navy, in Washington, a deed of the property.
After all, my friends, the dominant question involved in the selection of a naval base site on San Francisco Bay is not whether this or that community will derive some commercial advantage from it, but rather whether the site is the best for the defense of our beloved Nation.
A powerful fleet, under the command of Admiral Hugh Rodman, has come into the waters of the broad Pacific Ocean. Its presence again signified protection to our coast and to our commerce between the Occident and the Orient, and likewise the protection of the rights of this country's citizens on the high seas against the aggressions of aallther nations. While the mission of the fleet is peaceful, it stands os an admonition to the world that the dignity of the Nation will at all hazards be maintained.
The Navy is the Nation's first line of defense and its seagoing services represent the Nation at all times. The fleet must, therefore, be properly cared for by a naval base of suitable dimensions and ample for the handling of modern battleships of the largest size.
With the feeling that you, the members of the committee, as genuine Americans, will give the proposed Alameda site the careful consideration which it deserves, I now on behalf of the city of Alameda again offer the United States of America the Alameda site for purposes of a naval base, all without any cost to the Government.
Senator BALL. Mr. Mayor and gentlemen representing the east side of the bay, I understand that the deed has been given to the Secretary of the Navy. That is correct?
Mayor OTIS. Yes.
Senator BALL. So of course, so far as that element is concerned, it will be held until a definite site is located.
Mayor Otis. Yes.
Senator BALL. This commission is here to-day to hear statements and arguments in presentation of the advantages of the eastern side of the bay as the site for the Pacific coast naval base. The commission proposes to hear the advantages of all the different sites proposed. Where two different sites present equal advantages, then the matter of cost of the project will figure in the determination. And we desire that to-day the eastern side of the bay shall present, as clearly and as concisely as it may, the advantages as its officials and citizens see it; that is, the Alameda site. We would also ask that the stenographer may take down a record of this presentation of views and discussion that may be had here, and we would like to have that record in such shape that we can use it within a few days, as two of the members of the commission are not present, and we think it only right that they should have the advantage of some knowledge as to the presentation. The committee is now ready to listen to the presentation of the Alameda site.
Mayor Otis. I observe a stenographer already in attendance, Senator Ball, so your wishes in that respect will be complied with. I want to state one other matter, though, that I omitted to state, and that is that the deed contained a clause that, unless some action is taken in the way of development before January 1, 1924, the land will revert to the city.
Senator BALL. I understood that.
Mayor Otis. And the deed was of course only lodged with the Secretary of the Navy, in the case the Government desires to avail itself of the land by acceptance, through the proper channels.
Senator BALL. I think the committee understands that.
Mavor Otis. We will now proceed, as desired by you, Mr. Chairman, to show what we deem the advantages of the Alameda site, and, first of all, I will call upon one of Oakland's prominent citizens, a former. president of the chamber of commerce in that city, a gentleman who accompanied me East when the deed was presented to the Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Joseph H. King.
Mr. KING. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen: One of the advantages of this site lies in the matter of value: To fix a value upon a piece of land of this kind is a difficult proposition, inasmuch as it is going up rapidly. In order that we may all be concise, I will give you a few values actually established by sales of similar land consummated
within a period of two years and a half preceding this time, and from these valuations you may draw your own conclusions. And I will commence on the north. In a suit, the city of Richmond against Santa Fe Railway Co., the Federal court awarded a value of $10,000 per acre, after a considerable discussion and investigation, of lands similar to the bay site given or proposed to be given to the Federal Government by the City of Alameda. A short time subsequent to that
Mr. Hicks. Will you point out those lands on the map here, please?
Mr. King. That is going north, on the way to Mare Island.
Mr. King. No, not on this map. A short time subsequent to that, in a suit, the railroad commission of the State of California appraised the value of this piece of land with a wharfing-out right on a point inshore from that line, at $12,500 an acre, the part being valued, the larger part, being submerged. The city of Oakland recently purchased this land, all submerged, or nearly all submerged, at this point here (indicating) as you see it in relation to the proposed site, at from $24,000 to $72,000 per acre [pointing to a tract on the northerly side of the Oakland inner harbor). Coming a little closer in, at the Moore shipyard, the Moore Shipbuilding Co. purchased from the Western Pacific Railroad Co. a land acreage in here at the rate of $40,000 per
When it became necessary for the Moore shipyard to enlarge its plant to meet the demand for work from them, they bought from the Western Pacific Railroad Co. a piece of submerged land with wharfing-out right at $30,000 per acre at this point here. And when it subsequently became necessary for the Moore Shipbuilding Co. to secure further additional land for their new floating dry dock, they offered the Western Pacific Railroad Co. $60,000 per acre for submerged land with a small strip of reclaimed land at that pointcloser in. The railroad commission, in adjusting rates with the Southern Pacific Railroad Co., appraised the land lying immediately to the north, the mole land, filled, at $30,000 per acre.
This land in here (on the Alameda side), filled-in land belonging to the Southern Pacific Co., is leased to the Southern Coal Co. on a basis of $30,000 per acre. Now, we made an offhand appraisement, based on these values, of this land, taking into consideration the present cost of filling, at somewhere in the neighborhood of $6,000 per acre, of about $11,000 per acre, making it a rough value for the 5,000 and odd acres of somewhere in the neighborhood of $60,000,000--based on conditions as they actually exist, and no effort being made to exaggerate conditions as they are.
Mayor Otis. The next speaker on whom I will call is the representative of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce who will
present the advantages of the site in a succinct manner-Mr. Joseph E. Caine.
Mr. CAINE. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives, and gentlemen of the Navy: At the luncheon to-day, Senator Ball told us that his commission was here for work, and requested that that work be not made any harder than necessary. I think in all fairness that I should warn the commission that it is in for 20 minutes or half an hour of real hard work.
Senator BALL. So long as you have information, keep right on. Mr. CAINE. I will try to do it, Senator Ball.