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City Government

Mayor’s Brooklyn Basin Project Shortchanges Black Workers, Taxpayers and Minority Contractors

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Brooklyn Basin, a $1.5 billion waterfront condominium project now being built near downtown Oakland, may be a great deal for developers but not so good for local construction workers, taxpayers or local companies that want to do business with the city.

 

 

Historically, a major issue facing Oakland’s flatland communities has been whether private developer projects built on city-owned land will yield jobs for local residents.

 

 

Especially questionable is whether African American residents will acquire any of the well-paying construction jobs that are generally funneled to non-Oakland residents.

 

 

Most recently, Oaklanders waged a hard-fought battle to obtain a promise from the city for 50 percent local hire at the Oakland Army Base development.

 

 

But the city council set the Brooklyn Basin project’s local jobs requirement low at 6 percent of the project hours, and only for entry-level apprentices who live in Oakland.

 

 

The project has no requirement to hire locally for higher-paying journeyman jobs, including truck drivers or heavy equipment operators.

 

 

According to a city report, local entry-level apprentices as of Feb. 24 worked a total of 1,031 hours (or 4.95 percent) of the 20,762 hours worked on the project.

 

 

Most telling are the wages that Oakland residents have received – $22,817.17 (or 1.84 percent) of the total $1,239,617.64 that was paid to the project’s workers.

 

 

Oaklanders have also been raising concerns about whether city staff and the council are transparent in their dealings with big developers in real estate deals that involve public property.

 

 

At present, the city has picked the developer for the 465 units of proposed affordable housing at the Brooklyn Basin – MidPen Housing Corporation – with no concern about whether local-, minority- or women-owned businesses had an opportunity to bid on the project.

 

 

A number of people are complaining that the city is currently violating a promise that was implied when the city’s Department of Race & Equity was unanimously voted into existence by the City Council.

 

 

According to the City Administrator, the Brooklyn Basin’s development agreement with Michael Ghielmetti and his Signature Housing Group provides that the developer is responsible for proposing the affordable housing developer.

 

 

The city reviewed the developer’s affordable housing proposal for MidPen and decided to go with it, according to Karen Boyd, spokesperson for the City Administrator.

 

 

The city had no answers to the Post’s questions about the racial composition of MidPen’s workforce, making it questionable whether racial equity was relevant to its decision on awarding a contract.

 

 

“The city does not have access to the personnel records of MidPen Housing’s staffing information,” said Boyd in response to the Post’s question.

 

 

“While the city’s real estate laws generally require a competitive process in order to dispose of city real estate property, the City Council can waive that requirement if it’s in the best interests of the city,” said Boyd.

 

 

“The fact that the development agreement requiresa process that places the responsibility to select the affordable housing developer on the Brooklyn Basin developer would be sufficient to waive the competitive process when the project goes to council for approval,” she said.

 

 

Last week, the Post reported on the lack of an affordable housing pledge from the Brooklyn Basin developer, making another issue for taxpayers whether the city is generating all the potential income from the project that could have been used for expanded city services and affordable housing.

 

 

The developer paid the city $18 million for 64 acres and agreed to perform the toxic clean up of the site. The city then bought back 4.5 acres of the parcel adjacent to the freeway and opposite the waterfront for affordable housing and paid $22.5 million –following a 2014 appraisal.

 

 

If the entire 64 acres were appraised at the same amount as the 4.5 acres the city bought, the selling price for the entire property would have been worth at least $320 million – about $302 million more than the developer originally paid for the property.

 

 

Based on the city council’s 2006 deal with Signature Housing Group, the city is hoping to come up with $225 million to build 465 units of the only affordable housing that would be in the 3,100-unit development.

 

 

The Oakland Post mistakenly reported last week that Mayor Libby Schaaf was on the city council in 2006 when the project was originally approved. Yet, she has been involved in the deal since she was a city councilmember in 2010 and as mayor in 2014.

 

 

Before serving on the council, Schaaf worked as chief of staff for City Council President Ignacio de la Fuente and as a top aide for Mayor Jerry Brown.

 

Activism

East Oakland Community Clean-up

The office of Councilmember Treva Reid invites you to…

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Oakland Clean Up Flyer

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Bay Area

New Assemblymember Mia Bonta to Caucus With 3 Legislative Groups

The 18th Assembly District includes a large portion of the city of Oakland and the cities of Alameda and San Leandro. Bonta was elected in a special election on August 31, defeating fellow Democrat Janani Ramachandra.

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Assemblymember Mia Bonta, (third from left), with (left to right) Senator Steve Bradford, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurman, U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, assemblymembers Isaac Bryan Reggie Jones-Sawyer, and Kevin McCarty.

Soon after Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) was sworn in last week to represent California’s 18th Assembly District — which covers parts of East Bay — she signed on as a member of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus (CLWC), the California Latino Legislative Caucus (CLLC), and the California Black Legislative Caucus (CLBC).

Bonta is the 11th member of the Black Caucus and the only lawmaker representing a district in the Bay Area. In the Latino Caucus, she is the 30th member, and out of 120 lawmakers in both houses of the state Legislature, she is the 39th woman.

“Special congratulations to our newest member @MiaBonta, who was sworn into the Assembly this morning! #AD18 has chosen a fantastically fearless representative, and I look forward to working with you Assemblymember Bonta! #CALeg,” wrote Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D- San Diego).

Mialisa “Mia” Tania Bonta, who is Puerto Rican of African descent, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University in 1993 and a Master of Education (Ed.M.) from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1996. Bonta also received a J.D. from Yale University Law School in 1999.

Her work experience includes over 20 years working with nonprofits, including serving as CEO of Oakland Promise, a college and career prep program for Alameda County high school students.  She was also president of the Alameda Unified School District Board from 2018 to 2021.

“Congratulations to @MiaBonta on her election to the Assembly, which not only made her the first Afro Latina in the Legislature, but also raised the number of women in the Legislature to an all-time high,” California Lt. Gov., Eleni Kounalakis stated on Twitter.

The 18th Assembly District includes a large portion of the city of Oakland and the cities of Alameda and San Leandro. Bonta was elected in a special election on August 31, defeating fellow Democrat Janani Ramachandra.

“I am deeply honored to represent the 18th Assembly District. Our district has a long history of bold, progressive, leadership and I plan to continue this work in our diverse district,” Bonta tweeted September 7. “I’m ready to fight for bold solutions to issues like homelessness, housing affordability, climate change, and criminal justice reform for AD-18 and all Californians. I am ready to get to work.”

Bonta steps in to replace her husband, Rob Bonta, who vacated the AD 18th seat in April after Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed him California Attorney General, replacing Xavier Becerra, who is now United States Secretary of Health and Human Services.

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City Government

The Next First 100 Days

Building a Healthier Future for Oakland

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Symbol of democracy this picture show a child and his mom voting for french presidential elections. Photo Courtesy of Arnaud Jaegers via Unsplash

In 2022, the voters of Oakland will have an opportunity to elect the next Mayor for our city.  The Mayor of Oakland is the head of the executive branch, in charge of implementing actions and laws that have been passed by City Council and community.

The Mayor also selects and hires the City Administrator, appoints members of key Boards and Commissions, and sets the direction for the Administrative branch of government, thus having a major impact on what actions get taken.

In recent years, the City Council has adopted numerous laws and funded positions and projects – many of which have not been implemented, such as providing gun tracing and cracking down on illegal guns, civilianizing special events, providing pro-active illegal dumping remediation, a public lands policy to prioritize affordable housing, direction to provide healthier alternative locations to respond to homelessness, and many more.

In order to ensure that we build a safer and healthier future for Oakland, is it vitally important to ensure that we elect leadership for the executive branch with the dedication and commitment to take the actions needed to fulfill the needs of our communities.

With serious struggles facing our communities, it is vital that the next mayor take immediate action in their first 100 days – and so, I am undertaking to provide proposals regarding what the next mayor can, and should, do in their first 100 days in office.

These efforts will need to include recruitment and retention for the workforce; effective relationships with County government and neighboring cities to solve common problems; working with stakeholders including to expand equitable economic development and housing for all income levels; presenting and passing proposals at Council and bringing in and properly stewarding the finances needed.

Even within the first 100 days, a mayor can accomplish a great deal – including taking action to implement vitally needed services that already have Council authorization, and thus, can be brought about more quickly.

This is the first installment, a listing of some of the first items that the next mayor can, and should, do to build a healthier Oakland, and which should be factors in our decision-making in the year ahead.

  1. Ensure implementation of the directive to prioritize stopping the flow of illegal guns and stopping gun violence, including implementing gun tracing, tracking and shutting down sources of illegal guns, and providing immediate response to shooting notifications.
  2. Remove blight and illegal dumping, implement pro-active removal of blight rather than waiting for complaints, incorporate blight removal throughout city efforts (rewards program, summer jobs program, etc), to clear up backlog and establish a new normal that it is not OK to dump in Oakland.
  3. Provide healthier alternatives for homeless solutions, including safe parking/managed RV sites, and sanitation/dump sites, to reduce public health risks, including by partnering with the County and others.
  4. Implement previously approved Council direction to switch to the use of civilians (rather than sworn police) to manage parades and special events.  Help ensure community and cultural events can go forward without excess costs undermining them, strengthen the arts and economy and equity of event permitting system, and ensure that expensive police resources are directed where they are needed, rather than wasted on watching parades.
  5. Implement previously approved public lands policy to ensure using public lands for public needs, with a priority for affordable housing.
  6. Make it easier for local residents and small businesses to grow, build, and expand by providing coherent and simplified permitting, and by implementing the Council-funded direction to provide evening and weekend hours and easy online access to allow people to do projects like adding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and make other renovations and construction projects more timely.
  7. Work with stakeholders and community to advance effective and equitable revitalization of the large public properties at and around the Oakland Coliseum, including with housing for all income levels, jobs and business development, sports and entertainment, convention and hotels and more.
  8. Work to speed up vacancies in needed city staff positions, and improve recruitment and retention, and local hiring, to help provide vitally needed services, including for cleanup, parks upkeep, gun tracing, and other community needs.
  9. Fire prevention and climate resiliency.  Our region is facing growing dangers from climate change and fire risk, and we must take action to reduce and remedy risk and protect our communities with a more resilient future, including by planning for and starting fire prevention and brush remediation activities earlier in the year, improving brush removal on public land as well as private, fully staffing the fire department, and improving public infrastructure to protect cleaner air and reduce risks.
  10. Job training and pathways.  Some industries face challenges finding enough prepared workers while many in our community also need access to quality jobs. Support and connect job training programs and quality job policies with growing sectors, and ensure that Oaklanders are prepared for vital openings in needed jobs while allowing our community to thrive.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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