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Concerns Over Army Base Jobs as Development Breaks Ground

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As the city prepares to kick off its long awaited land-sea transport hub development at the old Army Base, West Oakland community activists are raising concerns about the project, seeking to ensure that the city and developers deliver on the promise of jobs and protect the environmental health of the local community.

The $1.2 billion Oakland Global Trade and Logistics Center, which will break ground Friday afternoon on city land adjacent to the Port of Oakland, will “create thousands of jobs, boost port competitiveness, reduce environmental impacts and help revitalize Oakland,” according to the press announcement released last week by the office of Mayor Jean Quan.

Yet estimates of how many jobs the project will create, originally as high as 8,000 construction and permanent jobs, have diminished as groundbreaking day has approached.

According to Mayor Quan’s press release last week, “Phase I will generate an estimated 1,500 on-site construction jobs,” which means 50 percent or about 750 jobs will be go to Oakland residents over the next four years or five years.

However, as late as October 2012, Quan told KCBS the development will “create about 5,000 good paying, blue collar jobs, of which at least half … have to be from the City of Oakland. And we’re going to make sure it’s more if we can.”

“If we are looking for this project to create thousands of jobs, we’re likely to be disappointed,” said Brian Beveridge, co-director the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEI), which has worked for years to clean up West Oakland, and is part of OaklandWorks, which worked to ensure local residents benefit from the Army Base development.

Construction projects nowadays involve many fewer workers than in the past, and state-of-the-art warehouses, when they are finally built, will be highly automated, producing many fewer jobs than many people had hoped for, said Beveridge.

Though still supportive of the Army Base development, which can create some jobs for Oakland and boost the Bay Area and the national economy, he said, it will not be the economic engine that will create the levels of employment that Oakland must see in order to end chronic unemployment.

City Council members were upset last year when they were told at a meeting that the project would only produce about 80-90 jobs in its first 18 months.

“We were told by (city officials) that there would be about 80 jobs the first year for operating engineers, pile drivers and laborers,” said Margaret Gordon, co-director of WOEIP.

When the city puts out a figure like 1,500 jobs, “we do not know if they are talking about full-time or part-time, people who work for months or only a day or two, office staff or lawyers, laborers or carpenters. They have not broken it down,” she said.

In addition, Beveridge said, the local hiring agreement, which pledges 50 percent of all the jobs will go to local residents, applies to the construction phase of the project, not to the companies that will operate at the finished project

“Phil Tagami says he’s totally committed to local hire, but his partners, like Prologis, are not so committed,” when it coming to guaranteeing that Oakland residents are hired at the companies that build and lease at the project, said Beveridge.

“They didn’t want to have any constraints on them. When they lease warehouses, they want to have as much latitude as possible when negotiating with their future tenants,” he said.

Further, Quan in her press statement seems to claim credit for “220 jobs already created by the construction of the rail yard.” However, that is a Port of Oakland project and has nothing to do with the city’s developer, CCIG, owned by Phil Tagami.

According to a port spokesman, the rail yard project so far has hired 123 Oakland residents, a mix of full time and temporary employees.

Disagreeing with Mayor Quan’s press statement that celebrates that the project is going to “reduce environmental impacts,” Beveridge said that at this point, the city is committed to making the project “just as clean as the law requires.”

However, there has been a great deal of resistance on the part of the city and the developer to meeting with the community and regulatory agencies to discuss its plans to mitigate the impacts that result from building the project and installing increased shipping capacities, trucking and rail lines.

“The city’s agreement covers the legal requirements for clean air,” said Beveridge. “(But) what the air district is saying is they would like to see innovative projects above and beyond the requirements of the law. They say they will help to bring other resources to the project to bring make it the greenest, most innovative project possible, but there doesn’t seem to be interest in that.”

Added Margaret Gordon: “There is no air toxic emission reduction mitigation plan. The city has allowed the master developer to do air quality monitoring, which is part of a plan, but it’s not a total plan. None of the air quality regulatory groups have signed off on any emissions reduction plan.”

“All they say is that they will meet ‘standard conditions of approval,’ which could mean anything,” said Gordon.

In addition, there is no plan for where all the additional trucks will be parked or the containers and the chassis will be stored.

The city did not require the master developer to create a transition plan for where trucks would go when the Army Base truck-parking site was shut down. There was no plan for what would happen to inspections of hazardous cargo when the city evicted that company that did it at the Army Base property.

Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell was contacted a number of times by the Post, but he did not return calls.

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A’s Ballpark Traffic Will Negatively Impact West Oakland Residents

The Oakland Department of Transportation released a report over a year ago estimating that game days would bring an additional 10,000 cars to the area, at least 7,500 of which will be looking for parking. And what are the A‘s offering these drivers? 2,000 parking spots. Those remaining 5,500 cars will park in front of the homes and along the truck routes closest to the ballpark, legal or not. 

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Besides touting the hollow tagline “Rooted in Oakland,” Dave Kaval hasn’t been listening to most Oaklanders. For over a year we’ve been voicing our concerns about traffic issues related to the A’s proposed ballpark; and now, following the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR)  and the Term Sheet, it’s evident that John Fisher and the Oakland A’s care more about putting money in their pockets than about the real people who will be negatively impacted by their project.

As a long-time West Oakland resident I remember less than a decade ago when huge semi-trucks used to park overnight and idle during the day on West Oakland neighborhood streets, creating diesel exhaust and continuous loud noise from running generators to keep refrigerated trucks cold. 

Our neighbors fought then for the development and approval of the West Oakland Truck Management Plan, a proposal that was only made possible by the designation of Howard Terminal as a 24/7 holding area for these trucks. Now trucks use Howard Terminal to wait between dropping off and picking up containers and avoid peak traffic periods so they can be more efficient without interfering with the daily lives of West Oakland residents.

The DEIR makes it clear that keeping these trucks off of residential streets is not a priority for the A’s. The report acknowledges that Howard Terminal serves this essential function but concludes that these activities will just go elsewhere. “

Assumed to move to other locations” is not a plan. “Likely need to find a location outside the Seaport” is not an analysis of this impact. “Other locations” will inevitably be back in front of our homes, at the cost of our health and our children’s safety. Where is the mitigation measure for that impact?

I am equally concerned about the safety of drivers and pedestrians if a huge entertainment and luxury housing development approved at the port. Dave Kaval has talked for years about making this new ballpark bike and pedestrian friendly, but the DEIR has uncovered the truth: the A’s have committed to very few improvements that actually make access to Howard Terminal safer and easier, to some degree because it’s simply not possible to upgrade a working Port – among the largest on the West Coast – into a commercial entertainment zone that attracts tens of thousands of people to events.

Unlike the Coliseum site, which is one of the most transit-accessible ballparks in the country, access into Howard Terminal is restricted to two streets, the most frequently used of which is residential, and is a mile walk from the nearest BART station. 

Currently, 25% of A’s game day visitors to the Coliseum arrive on BART, which drops them off right at the stadium gate. How does Dave Kaval think use of transit to get to games at the port will be close to that – or as he claims, will increase – when the nearest BART station is a mile walk away?

The Oakland Department of Transportation released a report over a year ago estimating that game days would bring an additional 10,000 cars to the area, at least 7,500 of which will be looking for parking. And what are the A‘s offering these drivers? 2,000 parking spots. Those remaining 5,500 cars will park in front of the homes and along the truck routes closest to the ballpark, legal or not. 

The A’s are asking 10,000 vehicles to line up down residential streets, blocking not only essential truck deliveries to and from the Port, but also local residents’ movement to and from our own homes. As long as fans buy their tickets, the A’s don’t care where they will park.

As a parking alternative, the City of Oakland has designated certain residential areas to have Residential Parking Permits (RPP) installed. These permits will last until 11 p.m., not the customary time limit of 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. The residents of the four impacted areas, West Oakland, Old Oakland, Jack London and Chinatown should not have the financial burden of paying for RPP.

 If the A’s have a lease with the Port for 66 years, they should pay for parking permits for all residents in the impacted areas for 66 years.

It is crucial that the Oakland City Council, particularly Council-member Fife, stand with West Oakland residents, parents, long-time community members, and all those who will face the significant and detrimental impacts of the A’s proposed development at Howard Terminal and refuse to certify the EIR for this project.

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Oaklanders Celebrate May Day with Caravan, Vacant Home Art Installation

Hundreds of workers and a coalition of over 25 Bay Area groups celebrated May Day in Oakland with a car / bike caravan, block party, and an art installation that explored ways of opening and occupying vacant housing units.

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Cherri Murphy (center), of Gig Workers International, speaks to a crowd of protestors on a flatbed truck at the Lake Merritt Bart station in Oakland. Photo by Zack Haber on May 1st.

Makayla Walker waves a Black Lives Matter flag during a caravan to celebrate May Day, also known as International Workers Day, in Downtown Oakland. Photo by Zack Haber on May 1st.

Hundreds of workers and a coalition of over 25 Bay Area groups celebrated May Day in Oakland with a car / bike caravan, block party, and an art installation that explored ways of opening and occupying vacant housing units.

The celebration started as about 80 vehicles and about 40 people on bicycles gathered at Lake Merritt’s Bart Station. Standing on a flatbed truck behind a red and white sign that read “MAY DAY WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE,” Minister Cherri Murphy, with Gig Workers Rising, was the first to address the crowd.
“Welcome to May Day 2021…as we unite low wage workers, fight against police violence and killings, and demand housing for all!” she said.
The flatbed truck then led the caravan on about a five and a half mile route through Chinatown, Downtown Oakland, then stopped outside Oakland’s Whole Foods Market, stopped again by Lake Merritt, then returned to downtown. Vehicles and bikes had signs attached to them in support of workers, Black life, housing for all, and against police violence.
Some bikers had signs which read “EVERY WORKER NEEDS A UNION.” An activist named Makayla Walker stood up putting her body outside of a car’s sunroof while waving a large flag that read BLACK LIVES MATTER. A UHAUL truck had a large orange sign attached to it which read “from OAKLAND to KABUL, DOWN WITH CAPITALISM.”
Drivers in the caravan honked their horns loudly. The honks were at their loudest when the caravan stopped outside of Whole Foods Market. As vehicles blocked a road to access the market, Nell Myhand, co-chair of the California chapter of The Poor People’s Campaign, stood in the flatbed truck and addressed the caravan and grocery shoppers.
“We’re here outside of Whole Foods…to say that we’re in solidarity with Amazon workers in Bessemer and Amazon workers around the globe because 15 dollars an hour and a union is a modest demand,” said Myhand. “What we really need is a living wage, which here in the Bay Area is 30 dollars.”
Organizers of the caravan chose the site because Jeff Bezos, currently the world’s richest person, founded and is the CEO of Amazon, which owns Whole Foods Market. Workers in an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama recently lost their vote to unionize, but those that led the unionization effort say Amazon illegally interfered with the process. In her speech, Myhand also said that all workers, including those who do unpaid care work, deserve a living wage, safe work environment, and dignity.
Hashid Kasama, a worker from Fresno and member of Rideshare Drivers United who makes ends meet by doing gig work delivering groceries for the app based Instacart company, spoke outside of Whole Foods in support of The Protect the Right to Organize Act. The proposed legislation, widely known as The PRO act, would expand the right to unionize to many app based gig workers. Such rights were limited in California after the state passed Proposition 22.
“I am boldly requesting all of you in the audience to please tell your co-workers, friends and family to support The PRO-Act by any means necessary,” Kasama said. “My son needs to eat and I, as his father, need flexibility. But that doesn’t mean I have to lose my rights as an employee.”
After speeches ended outside of Whole Foods Market, the caravan stopped on Lake Merritt Blvd just east of Oakland’s central branch library and next to a patch of grass that serves as a popular hang out location for the city’s residents. Rachel Jackson of The People’s Strike Bay Area spoke out against police killings there.
“In the devastation of COVID,” she said, “one thing that never stopped is murders by police concentrated in communities of color and the neighborhoods where so-called essential workers live.”
Jackson specifically mentioned Breonna Taylor, Dante Wright, Tyrell Wilson, Miles Hall, and Mario Gonzales, who all died during interactions with police.
After stopping by Lake Merritt, organizers encouraged caravan participants to independently move to a vacant home in the Lower Bottoms neighborhood of West Oakland as the last stop for the May Day celebration. At that location, participants ate food and listened to speeches and DJs in front of the vacant home. House the Bay, an organization that works to get people off the the streets and into empty housing, helped organize the event. A purple and white sign draped out of the home’s window read “LIBERATE HOUSING.” The front door was unlocked and people entered and exited.
The home is owned by Sullivan Management Company (SMC) East Bay, a company owned by Neill Sullivan, who organizers said they consciously targeted. The anti-eviction mapping project has shared data showing Sullivan purchased over 350 properties after the 2008 foreclosure crisis and served over 350 eviction notices in a six year period ending in 2016.
A small plaque outside the home explained that the project was an art installation called “what you’ll need to get in and stay” that aimed to “take a closer look at tools and symbols of vacancy and squatting to deconstruct our fears around attaining homefulness.” Literature was given out for free to share information about extralegal methods of entering, occupying and securing vacant homes.
Inside the house, activists had written messages on walls against profiting off of housing by keeping homes empty. One section of wall writing near the home’s entrance described the home’s history, claiming it was owned by a Black family from 1978-2011 until Sullivan purchased it for $100,000, then repeatedly took out reverse mortgages on the home and profited off of the interest while leaving it empty.
“Organizing around housing is very much part of what makes working class lives livable” said a person involved with opening the art exhibit in the vacant home. They asked not to be named out of fear of retaliation.
“This action was to demonstrate we could do it and to share skills with people,” they said. “The goal is to get to the point where it’s not outside activists but it’s everybody cracking houses on their blocks.”

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What Oakland’s Homeless Audit Says About Evictions, Policing, and Fire

Although the audit was vast in its analysis, this guide attempts to outline key points from the audit related only to evictions and hygiene services, police response and costs, and fire department response and costs.

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A tent in Oakland that serves as a home for a resident, October 2, 2019 Photo Credit: Zack Haber

On April 14, Oakland’s City Auditor Courtney Ruby released an audit of the city’s homeless encampment management interventions and activities for the fiscal years 2018-19 and 2019-2020. The 95-page report includes data and estimations about interventions, populations, costs, and availability of services related to homeless people and their communities. 

Claiming that the city “lacked an effective strategy…and did not provide sufficient policy direction or adequate funding,” Ruby also included recommendations for better addressing homeless communities. Although the audit was vast in its analysis, this guide attempts to outline key points from the audit related only to evictions and hygiene services, police response and costs, and fire department response and costs.

Evictions and hygiene services

The audit’s data on evictions and hygiene services is limited to the 2018-19 fiscal year and the first eight months of the 2019-20 fiscal year, when the city suspended most homeless evictions and cleaning interventions due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. During this timeframe, the city evicted 181 homeless communities. Of these evictions, 123, or about two-thirds of the total, were classified as “re-closures,” which the report defined as occurring “when homeless individuals return to a previously closed [homeless community].”  In the fiscal year 2018-19, about 60% of evictions were re-closures. From July 2019 through February 2020, this ratio increased, and about 77% of evictions were re-closures.

The audit reports 1,599 interventions classified as “hygiene and garbage services,” and defines such interventions as “providing portable toilets, hand-washing stations, regular garbage service, and/or traffic barriers.” For each of these services performed per homeless community, the audit counts one intervention. These interventions are lumped together and lack individual data, meaning that the audit did not report precise data on how often the city provided trash pick-up to homeless communities.

The audit reports that the city increased its hygiene and garbage interventions. From 2018-19, the city provided 797 such interventions, or about 66 per month. During the first eight months of 2019-2020, the city performed 802 such interventions, or about 100 per month. After March 2020, in response to COVID-19, the audit claims the city increased the number of homeless communities that receive hygiene interventions from 20 to 40, but the vast majority of homeless communities in Oakland still do not get hygiene and/or trash services with any regularity. The audit estimates that there are at least 140 homeless communities in Oakland but acknowledges “that this estimate may be conservative.”

Police response and costs

Data recorded in the audit shows police response to 911 calls in homeless communities was not timely. While over 99% of 911 calls were classified as “Priority 2,” which the audit claims “ideally should be responded to in 10 to 15 minutes,” data provided by OPD showed the median police response time to Priority 2 calls was two hours in 2018-19, while the mean response time was four hours. In 2019-20, response time slowed by about 50%, with the median response time being about three hours, while the mean response time was about six hours. Data OPD listed related to response time range show the department took over two days to respond to at least one 911 call in 2018-19 and over six days to respond to at least one other 911 call in 2019-20. Although OPD recorded 1,458 calls to homeless communities during the two years of the audit, the audit only analyzed 988 of these calls, claiming that “response data was incomplete” for 470 calls.

The audit records OPD using about $3.1 million in costs associated with homeless communities. But that $3.1 million does not include an accurate account of overtime pay. OPD only started recording overtime pay related to homeless communities in February 2020, just before the frequency of interventions, notably evictions, declined dramatically.

About $1.7 million, a slim majority of OPD’s recorded costs related to homeless communities, are recorded as labor costs that went to the three members of The Homeless Outreach Team. The Homeless Outreach Team consists of one sergeant and two officers who dedicate 100% of their time to homeless community work. 

    The Abandoned Auto Unit incurred over $800,000 in labor costs to provide support at moderate to large homeless community evictions. They were responsible for “traffic control and tagging and towing vehicles at [homeless communities] when necessary.”  About $600,000 went to labor costs incurred by Patrol staff responding to 911 calls.

Fire Department response and costs

The audit reports that The Oakland Fire Department responded to 988 fires in homeless communities in 2018-19 and 2019-20, which is more than one a day. The data recorded shows that the OFD response times for such fires were timely, arriving in just over seven minutes and 50 seconds to over 90% of calls. Such responses were slightly faster than responses to non-homeless community related calls, which, in 90% of cases, OFD responded to in about eight minutes and 10 seconds. OFD has recorded no injuries to firefighters fighting fires at homeless communities. One homeless resident died in 2020 as a direct result of a fire. The audit did not record fire-related injuries to homeless people or their lost possessions.

OFD-related costs accounted for an estimated $1.8 million in funds related to homeless communities in 2018-19 and 2019-2020. About $676,000 went to “fire prevention labor,” which includes labor costs associated with fire hazard inspections, investigations related to fires, and removal of hazardous waste. Over $ million went to both labor and equipment costs related to “fire suppression.” Fire suppression costs include costs related to fighting fires and rescue activities. OFD costs related to homeless communities rose over 40% from 2018-19 to 2019-20 while total fires at homeless communities increased about 17% over these years.

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