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Proposed Office Tower Is ‘Direct Threat’ to Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, Community Leaders Say

Supporters of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, a revered downtown entertainment venue, and its owner, highly respected Oakland leader and community advocate Geoffrey Pete, want to block city approval for a 27-story office tower adjacent to Geoffrey’s and in the midst of Oakland’s Black Arts Movement and Business District (BAM). Protesters came out in force at a recent Planning Commission meeting, taking the members to task for considering the proposal by out-of-town developer Tidewater Capital.

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Renderings of 1431 Franklin St. office building in downtown Oakland. The building will dwarf Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, the lowest building seen above. Courtesy of Tidewater Capital.
Renderings of 1431 Franklin St. office building in downtown Oakland. The building will dwarf Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, the lowest building seen above. Courtesy of Tidewater Capital.

By Ken Epstein

Supporters of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, a revered downtown entertainment venue, and its owner, highly respected Oakland leader and community advocate Geoffrey Pete, want to block city approval for a 27-story office tower adjacent to Geoffrey’s and in the midst of Oakland’s Black Arts Movement and Business District (BAM).

Protesters came out in force at a recent Planning Commission meeting, taking the members to task for considering the proposal by out-of-town developer Tidewater Capital.

Some of the issues at stake were laid out at the meeting by Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, one of 26 speakers at the April 5 public hearing.

“The development (Tidewater) is proposing a direct threat to Geoffrey’s Inner Circle. The Black Arts Movement and Business District needs parking, galleries, a coffee shop, signage to commemorate Black Oaklanders – it needs all those things,” Miley said.

“Geoffrey’s used to be the Athenian Niles Club, where the Republican white male establishment would meet. African Americans were excluded, there was racial bias,” Miley continued. “Eventually Geoffrey purchased that place. Geoffrey’s means a lot to us who live in Oakland and have been here for a long, long time. It’s symbolic.”

Tidewater Capital has submitted two alternate development proposals – one for an office tower and another for a residential tower– to the Planning Commission to build on the parking lot at 1431 Franklin St., directly behind Geoffrey’s at 410 14th St.

The proposed 39-story residential building was approved by the Planning Commission in February and but was held up awaiting an appeal hearing at City Council. The other proposal for the 27-story office tower was heard by commissioners on April 5, but the final decision was postponed until May 17.

During discussion, planning commissioners acknowledged they went through the entire design review process for the building without knowing that the BAM district existed. The district was created in 2016 by City Council resolution but never implemented by city staff.

Oakland filmmaker Cheryl Fabio told commissioners she made a documentary on local blues music venues. “(Geoffrey’s) is the only surviving establishment. You’re killing off the last piece of it,” she said.

“There is a conversation here about the good of Oakland, and there’s a conversation that you’re putting a man out of business.”

Kitty Epstein, professor of urban studies and education and a 30-year Oakland resident, said, “This entire proposal and discussion by the Planning Commission is so full of racism that it’s embarrassing to me as a white person to watch this happen in this city.”

Citing racial bias in this case, Epstein pointed to the composition of the Planning Commission, which is not diverse; adding that only 9% of construction work in Oakland goes to African Americans; and that the “entire process has completely ignored that there’s a Black Arts district in that area. So unimportant was it to you and the Planning Department that you didn’t even bother to notice it until a month ago. And you have not put it into your plans yet.”

Mr. Pete asked the commission to postpone its decision. “We request a continuance of this meeting due to the pending appeal on the previous residential (development) approval for this site.  (I) should not be penalized by having to file a second appeal on the very same grounds, while the first appeal is pending.”

Further, he said, “The Planning Commission erroneously approved a residential project despite admittedly conducting an improper review process. They ignored their own procedures with respect to review of projects within the BAM cultural district.”

He added, “The commission should not approve any other projects within the (BAM) district until they officially map BAM’s boundaries.”

Pete said the proposed skyscraper would throw his building into shadow, threaten the fire escape behind his building, and remove the parking lot his business needs for customers. In addition, he said, the vibrations from the construction of the project could jeopardize physical stability of his building.

In his remarks, construction director of Tidewater Capital, emphasized that his 10-year-old Bay Area company, which also owns and manages Eastmont Town Center in East Oakland, has conducted extensive community engagement.

“(We) try to take a “hands-on, collaborative approach to create spaces that preserve the character of the neighborhood while boosting economic activity and generating benefits for all stakeholders,” he said.

In their discussion, planning commissioners voted to postpone the decision on the project to give Mr. Pete time to reach an agreement with Tidewater. However, they expressed little interest in considering speakers’ suggestions to reject the project or postpone a decision until the city’s BAM district in downtown Oakland was implemented and funded.

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Activism

Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

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Art

Mayor Breed, Actor Morris Chestnut Attend S.F.’s Indie Night Film Festival

On June 1, the acclaimed Los Angeles-based Indie Night Film Festival arrived at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco. San Francisco native Dave Brown, Founder and CEO of the Indie Night Film Festival, has a vision for the film industry that is squarely focused on promoting the many talented producers, actors, and designers contributing to this billion-dollar industry. The festival has been running for 12 years and it’s only up from here, he says.

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(Left to Right) Dave Brown, CEO, Indie Night Festival, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and actor Morris Chestnut. Photo by Y’Anad Burrell
(Left to Right) Dave Brown, CEO, Indie Night Festival, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and actor Morris Chestnut. Photo by Y’Anad Burrell

By Y’Anad Burrell

On June 1, the acclaimed Los Angeles-based Indie Night Film Festival arrived at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco.

San Francisco native Dave Brown, Founder and CEO of the Indie Night Film Festival, has a vision for the film industry that is squarely focused on promoting the many talented producers, actors, and designers contributing to this billion-dollar industry.  The festival has been running for 12 years and it’s only up from here, he says.

A weekly celebration of cinematic artistry designed to elevate emerging talent while providing a platform for networking and collaboration, entrepreneur Dave Brown created Indie Night to bridge gaps within the filmmaking community by fostering connections between like-minded individuals worldwide. The Indie Film Festival currently has over 450 film submissions worldwide, and its cinematic vault only continues to grow.

The festival showcased over 10 short films and trailers, and featured Faces of the “City: Fighting for the Soul of America,” produced by veteran actor Tisha Campbell.  This film is about the vibrancy and legacy of San Francisco. The festival also previewed “When It Reigns,” a trailer by Oakland’s burgeoning filmmaker Jamaica René.

Indie films have not just challenged traditional cinematic norms; they’ve shattered them. These films offer unique storytelling perspectives and push creative boundaries in truly inspiring ways. With their smaller budgets and independent spirit, they often tackle unconventional subjects and portray diverse characters, providing a refreshing alternative to mainstream cinema. As a result, indie films have resonated with audiences seeking an escape from formulaic blockbusters and are increasingly celebrated for their authenticity and originality.

Organizers say the mission of Indie Night is to elevate the craft of independent artists and creators. It also provides a venue for them to showcase their work, network, and exchange information with new and established creatives. It creates a community that values and supports independent art.

For more about the Indie Night Film Festival, visit www.indienightfilmfestival.com.

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Bay Area

Sen. Wiener, Mayor Breed Announce Bill to Shut Down Fencing of Stolen Goods

On June 3, San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed joined State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to announce a bill aiming to combat fencing, the sale of stolen goods. Authored by Wiener and sponsored by Breed, Senate Bill (SB) 925 would allow San Francisco to create permitting requirements to regulate the sale of items commonly obtained through retail theft and impose criminal penalties for those who engage in this practice.

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By Oakland Post Staff

On June 3, San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed joined State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to announce a bill aiming to combat fencing, the sale of stolen goods.

Authored by Wiener and sponsored by Breed, Senate Bill (SB) 925 would allow San Francisco to create permitting requirements to regulate the sale of items commonly obtained through retail theft and impose criminal penalties for those who engage in this practice.

“The sale of stolen items in San Francisco has created unsafe street conditions and health and safety hazards that have negatively impacted residents, businesses, City workers, and legitimate street vendors,” states a statement released by the mayor’s office.

San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) Chief Bill Scott praised the effort.

“I want to thank Mayor Breed and Senator Wiener for identifying new ways to combat the illegal fencing of stolen goods. This will help our hard-working officers continue to make progress in cracking down on retail theft,” said Scott.

Under the legislation, San Francisco can require vendors to obtain a permit to be able to sell items deemed as frequently stolen by asking for documentation that the merchandise was obtained legitimately, such as showing proof of purchase.

The legislation also establishes that those in violation would receive an infraction for the first two offenses and an infraction or a misdemeanor and up to six months in county jail for the third offense.

Under this bill, people can still:

  • Sell goods with a permit
  • Sell prepared food with a permit
  • Sell goods on the list of frequently stolen items with a permit and proof of purchase.

“In San Francisco we are working hard to make our streets safer and more welcoming for all. SB 925 would greatly help us get a handle on the sale of stolen goods, all while taking a narrow approach that specifically targets bad actors,” said Breed.

Wiener says the cultural richness of San Francisco and the livelihoods of legitimate street vendors are threatened when bad actors are allowed to openly sell stolen goods on the city’s streets.

“With this bill we’re taking a balanced approach that respects the critical role street vending plays in our community while holding fencing operations accountable for the disruption they cause. It’s critical that everyone feel safe on our streets, including street vendors and neighborhood residents,” said Wiener.

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