In a confidential legal opinion issued in February to the City Council, Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker told councilmembers that their plan to sell the East 12th Street parcel to UrbanCore Development for the construction of luxury apartments would be in violation of state law – California’s Surplus Land Act.
According to the written opinion dated Feb. 17, which was obtained by the East Bay Express and released yesterday, Parker told the council that the East 12th Street parcel “qualifies as surplus land, and the California Surplus Land Act requires the city to offer the property to ‘preferred entities’ designated in the act, for 60 days before agreeing to convey the property to UrbanCore.”
Under the law, the developer would be required “to rent or sell at least 15 percent of project units to lower income households at an affordable rent or housing cost,” according to the Parker’s written opinion.
The city councilmembers ignored Parker’s advice and voted last month to sell the property to UrbanCore to build the 298-unit apartment tower overlooking Lake Merritt. The final agreement also calls for no affordable housing on site.
The council agreed to the sale of the public land to UrbanCore for $5.1 million, plus an additional $8 million to build other housing and community benefits.
The final vote on the sale is scheduled for the July 7 council meeting, starting at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.
“I’m shocked to see this in black and white, knowing that the City Council went against their own legal opinion,” said Monica García, a member of the neighborhood group Eastlake United for Justice, which has been leading a coalition of local residents opposed to the sale of the city parcel to a private developer for luxury housing.
“As taxpayers, we want to know why they’d go against it,” she said, “It’s the taxpayers who pay every time the city loses a lawsuit.”
“We think the council should immediately postpone tonight’s vote and offer an explanation for why they chose to defy the legal opinion,” said García.
Opponents of the project, represented by attorneys at Public Advocates, have repeatedly told the council that the sale was in violation of the California Surplus Land Act and that a decision to approve the sale of the parcel would lead to a lawsuit.
The Post has called Mayor Libby Schaaf for her reaction to the council’s decision in light of the city attorney’s legal opinion. Schaaf, who was a member of the city council when a number of the decisions were made on the sale of the parcel, could not be reached by press time.