200 Army Base Jobs on the Line

Dexter Vizinau, an Oakland business consultant who has been representing several of the businesses being relocated in the Army Base development project.

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor Officials with the Port of Oakland’s longtime cargo inspection company announced this week that they will have to lay off a portion of their workforce, and Oakland will immediately see a drop in the amount of cargo destined for its port if an ongoing conflict involving a move from their Army Base operations center is not resolved within the next two weeks. “It’s the eleventh hour. I want to bring some urgency to this. Their jobs, their lives, their livihoods are at stake here,” said Dexter Vizinau, an Oakland business consultant who has been representing several of the businesses being relocated in the Army Base development project. “They’ve been committed to Oakland, and Oakland should be committed to them,” he said. Abdel Zaharan, Chief Financial Officer for Oakland-based Pacific Coast Container Logistics, told members of the Oakland City Council at last Tuesday’s meeting that his company has “been served by U.S. Customs with a notice that come May 20th, they will be diverting cargo elsewhere. “ That means more than 150,000 square feet of warehouse space and almost 200 jobs will be on the line. Without that business, I cannot continue to pay that rent, and I don’t need the folks.” PCC sales representative Brandon McDonnell added that his company “has already lost sales to other ports because of the uncertainty of us being able to maintain and work the cargo” as soon as next month. “If we don’t have a future home, we’re going to have to ask our Chinese sales offices and our South American sales offices to redirect cargo to other facilities and different ports.” Zahran and McDonnell were part of a large contingent of PCC employees who appeared at Tuesday’s meeting to ask the Council to intervene in the relocation negotiations. Among other activities, Oakland-based Pacific Coast Container Logistics provides cargo inspections for the port under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security as well as contraband discovery and drug enforcement. The company is one of several that is being required to move from the City of Oakland portion of the old Army Base property to the Port of Oakland portion to make way for the city’s massive Gateway Development project at the base scheduled to begin later this year. City of Oakland officials and Councilmembers thought that a deal had been reached last month with the Port of Oakland to move the companies into warehouses on the Port Army Base property, but the agreement began to fall apart in the last two weeks over negotiations over a swap of a small parcel of land between the two Oakland government agencies. “Unfortunately we are in the middle between the port and the city because of this land swap,” Zaharan said. “There’s nothing that we’re doing to cause the delay” in moving from the city property to the port property. “We don’t have a lease with the port, and the port won’t give us a lease to move into until the city signs off on it.” Based upon the understanding that they were going to be able to move into the port warehouses, PCC and several other companies involved in the relocation signed notices agreeing to be out of the City of Oakland property by May 31. The companies are now asking the city for a one-month extension of that eviction date while the negotiations with the port are worked out. “I’ve already had discussions with the chiefs of Customs,” Zaharan said. “If I get an extension from the city, I can run down to Customs and they will allow us to stay put and will not divert cargo and will continue to do business with us until we have a permanent home to move into.” Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell, who has been working with the Army Base relocation problem for several months, said that a meeting has been scheduled this week between City of Oakland officials, Port of Oakland officials, and Army Base master developer CCIG to try to work out the land swap between the port and the city that would allow the company move into the Port warehouses. Blackwell said that CCIG (headed by Phil Tagami)  must sign off on any land swap agreement as the city’s contract with the developers granted them a portion of property in one of the warehouses called “the notch” that is central to the land swap. Councilmembers scheduled a vote for its next meeting on a 30-day extension on the Army Base property evictions if an agreement is not reached by that time.
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