Board History

Board of Port Commissioners History

A former governor of California, the owner of a major department store, a prominent attorney, a well-known pharmacist and the proprietor of a busy downtown tobacco shop – their names are woven into the fabric of Oakland history: Dr. George Pardee, H.C. Capwell, Roscoe Jones, Robert Leet and Ben Pendleton.

In 1927 they were celebrated on the front page of the Oakland Tribune as “The Men for the Big Job.” They had been entrusted with the unpaid duty of stewarding the city’s waterfront as the first members of the new Oakland Board of Port Commissioners.

1927 Port of Oakland first board of commissioners, 1927
First Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners, 1927

Two years earlier, under the jurisdiction of a politically divided city council, the municipal harbor had cost Oakland taxpayers $400,000 in a string of annual losses. One year after the appointment of the new independent Board of Port Commissioners, the Port of Oakland could pay its bills from its own earnings and would remain self-sustaining from then on.

The seven Oakland Port Commissioners, who must be residents of the city, serve four-year staggered terms without compensation. The mayor nominates members, and the city council confirms their appointments.

Port Commissioners exercise exclusive control over the use of – and income from – properties within a 16,645-acre swatch of San Francisco Bay and Oakland Estuary shoreline that stretches from the borders of Emeryville in the north to San Leandro in the south.

The Port of Oakland area includes 665 acres of marine terminals; the 2,500-acre Oakland International Airport, 569 acres of commercial, industrial and recreational land under lease or available for lease or sale and 9,700 acres that are presently under water.

As in 1927, members of the Oakland Board of Port Commissioners are achievers, opinion-shapers and decision-makers. Successful in their professions and actively involved in the betterment of their community, they represent the community’s diverse spectrum.

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