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School District Leases 2 Closed School Properties to Developer for 75 years

One property was leased for $3,000 a month, the other for $4,000 a month

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Photo courtesy of element5digital via unsplash

The Oakland Board of Education has approved the 75-year lease of two school properties to a developer without first going through a process for public input and posting the item on the public agenda only three days before the vote.

Though agenda items in general must come before the board two times before final approval, this resolution only came up once and was approved last week in a 5-2 vote. Board President Shanthi Gonzales and Boardmember Mike Hutchinson opposed the deal.

“The first time it was made public was when it was posted on the agenda 72 hours before the board meeting, and it was during a pandemic over Zoom. There has been no public engagement around these leases at all,” said Boardmember Hutchinson in an interview with the Oakland Post.

“This has been under wraps for the last six-to-eight months,” he said.

The lease of the two properties allows the schools to be torn down and replaced by town houses and other housing, including market-rate housing, commercial space and possibly a Black cultural center and some housing for teachers.

While the supporters of the deal say they are thrilled because these developments will in include some housing for teachers and school employees, representatives of both the teachers’ union and the classified workers’ union, SEIU 1021, spoke at the meeting against the development, raising concerns that the properties were leased for a small amount of money, likely unaffordable to school employees and not utilized for educational purposes.

The leases were likely considerably below market rate for the two properties, which was for 65-years, with permission for the developers to extend the agreements for an additional 10 years.

One property, the former Tilden Child Development Center, at 4551 Steele St. near Mills College, was leased for $3,000 a month. The other property, the former site of Edward Shands Adult School, at 2455 Church St. next to the mall at Eastmont Town Center, was leased for $4,000 a month. Allowing for inflation, the cost of the leases will increase by 3% per year.

According to Hutchinson, there was only one bid for the Tilden property and the Shands site was not awarded to the highest bidder.

The Oakland Post has requested videos of the last two school board meetings, as well as copies of the final leases that were modified at last week’s board meeting. The Post also requested copies of appraisals for the two properties, the public notice that the district sent to developers and copies of all the bids submitted by developers.

As of Wednesday, the Post has not received any documents from the school district.

The developer, Eagle Environmental Construction, is a Black-owned firm. According to plans, the deal now pledges that at least 50% of the units will go to teachers and other school workers.

The plans also include space to Cypress Mandela, a local job-training program, and also for a hub for the Black Cultural Zone.

However, lease opponents are skeptical whether these promises will actually come to pass.

“There is nothing in the lease itself about providing the space to the cultural zone, and there are no penalties imposed if teacher and other workforce housing, isn’t built” Hutchinson said.

 

“I have serious concerns about the legality of the process,” he said. “I have no issues with Eagle Environmental Construction, and I support the Black Cultural Zone. But my responsibility is to manage our public resources and there are no guarantees that the marginal benefits will ever be provided.”

At Shands, the developers plan to build 68 units of housing and other commercial space. At the site of Tilden, the developer wants to build 20 two- and three-bedroom townhouses.

“We never really got on the same page about how we are balancing the competing goals of community benefit, revenue generation and affordable housing,” Board President Gonzales said told Oaklandside.

“Why isn’t this going to be an adult education training center? Why is this going to be turned into workforce housing when we heard our workforce can‘t afford it and don’t want to live there,” said Hutchinson at the meeting, quoted in Oaklandside.

Teacher union representative Vilma Serrano, also quoted in Oaklandside, urged the district to use the properties to rebuild adult education programs.  “I ask the Board to vote no… and instead to take the time next year to be able to respond to the concerns and questions raised by (teacher union) members as well as Oakland community members.”

Board member Gary Yee, quoted in Oaklandside, supported the development because “We have an opportunity to clean up the blight, to hire local contractors, (and) to hire young people from our schools,” he said. “Sure, we have an opportunity to earn a little bit of money, but the money is the last part of this. The main thing for me is to be a good partner to our neighbors.”

Bay Area

Council Approves Additional Public Safety Investments

Councilmember Thao’s amendments included direct investments in West, Central, and East Oakland, including West Oakland Community Centers, Central Oakland traffic safety, and Oakland 911 response. 

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Stop typography on a sidewalk in Sterling Virginia during the fall photo courtesy of Obi Onyeador via Unsplash

Councilmember Sheng Thao

Councilmembers, community leaders, and city staff,  approved public safety investments for Oakland recommended by Councilmember Sheng Thao

These additions, approved Monday afternoon, included investments that align with the city’s reimagining public safety goals. The City Council unanimously approved Councilmember Thao’s budget amendments, which included investments in:

  • Traffic Calming and Sideshow Prevention
  • Faster 911 Response
  • Restoring Foot Patrol officers in business corridors during the holiday season
  • Business District Ambassadors
  • Adding Public Restrooms near homeless encampments
  • Investments to job training and resources

“My top priority is public safety, which means addressing violent crime, street safety, poverty, and homelessness,” said Thao.

“These budget amendments invest in our community and increase our Police Department’s ability to prevent and respond to violent crimes. These amendments will also protect our business corridors so Oaklanders can feel safe while they shop, and in turn, invest in our Oakland businesses.”

Said Oakland Police Chief LeRonne L. Armstrong, “I would like to thank Oakland City Council Member Sheng Thao and other Council Members for their vote and support with additional funding.

“These funds will provide walking officers in our business districts across the city during this holiday season. The funds allow us to restore much needed public safety services, walking officers, while our community and visitors shop across our city.”

Councilmember Thao’s amendments included direct investments in West, Central, and East Oakland, including West Oakland Community Centers, Central Oakland traffic safety, and Oakland 911 response.

“These amendments also help address decades of divestment from our BIPOC communities in East Oakland,” she said. “By bringing investments into street safety, beautification, and city services. It is important that we stay committed to equity for East Oakland.

“Our office made a point to work with Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, Councilmembers Treva Reid and Loren Taylor to bring these amendments forward, and I thank them for their strong partnership in this work,” said Councilmember Thao.

 

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Bay Area

Where Do Negotiations Go Now After A’s “Howard Terminal” or Bust Ultimatum?

The A’s are seeking to develop 55 acres at the Port of Oakland. The proposal includes a 35,000-seat baseball stadium, which would cost $1 billion, or 8.3% of the total project.

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Oakland A's Photo Courtesy of Rick Rodriquez via Unsplash

FILE – In this Nov. 17, 2016, file photo, Oakland Athletics President David Kaval gestures during a news conference in Oakland, Calif. TheAthletics will be phased out of revenue sharing in the coming years as part of baseball’s new labor deal, and that puts even more urgency on the small-budget franchise’s plan to find the right spot soon to build a new, privately funded ballpark. Kaval, named to his new A’s leadership position last month, is committed to making quick progress but also doing this right. That means strong communication with city and civic leaders as well as the community and fan base. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

John Fisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nikki Fortunato

Rebecca Kaplan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oakland’s City Council rejected the A’s proposed non-binding term sheet, which the team had presented to the City along with an ultimatum, “Howard Terminal or Bust.”

At a packed City Council meeting last week, attended by 1,000 people on Zoom, many residents were angry at what they viewed as the A’s real estate “land grab” at the Port of Oakland and either said that the team should leave or stay at the Oakland Coliseum in East Oakland.
Rejecting the A’s term sheet, councilmembers at the July 20th meeting voted 6-1 with one abstention to make a counteroffer, approving city staff’s and Council’s amendments to the A’s term sheet.

Council’s vote was to continue negotiating with the A’s, and the A’s gained substantial concessions, $352 million, enough to return for further negotiations, in Oakland. The Council’s vote didn’t derail A’s pursuit of Las Vegas.

Now, over a week since Council’s vote, neither A’s President Dave Kaval nor owner John Fisher have spoken publically on the A’s intent to continue bargaining with Oakland for their proposed $12 billion waterfront development at Howard Terminal.

The A’s are seeking to develop 55 acres at the Port of Oakland. The proposal includes a 35,000-seat baseball stadium, which would cost $1 billion, or 8.3% of the total project.

In addition to the stadium, the development features 3,000 condominium/housing units; over a million square feet of commercial space (office and retail); a 3,500-seat performance theater, 400 hotel rooms and approximately 18 acres of parks and open space.

The most fundamental sticking point, along with all the other complications, is whether a commercial/residential development, ‘a city within a city,” in the middle of a working seaport are compatible uses for the land. Many experts are saying that the existence of upscale residences and thousands of tourists strolling around will eventually destroy the Port of Oakland, which is the economic engine of the city and the region.

According to Kaval, who had pushed for the Council to approve the ultimatum, “We’re disappointed that the city did not vote on our proposal … we’re going to take some time and really dig in and understand and ‘vet’ what they did pass and what all the amendments mean.”

Although the A’s stated a willingness to be open to the amended terms Council approved, Kaval expressed uncertainty whether the Council’s amended term sheet offers “a path forward.”

“The current [amended] term sheet as its constructed is not a business partnership that works for us,” said Kaval, saying the team would have to examine the Council’s counter-offer before deciding to resume negotiations or return to Las Vegas or focus on finding a new home someplace else.

City Council President Bas and Mayor Libby Schaaf joined city and labor leaders to discuss the Council’s vote. Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan made it clear that the amended term sheet the Council approved should be considered a “road map for future negotiations … a baseline for further discussions.”

Upon Kaval’s dismissal of the Council’s stated positions, Fife said, “I don’t know where we go from here,” abstaining from the vote on the proposed term sheet.

Many find Kaval’s statement confusing because he used words like partnership but apparently ignored and/or disregarded the City of Oakland – the A’s major stakeholder and a business partnership since 1968, more than 53 years.

Some are asking if the A’s understand that Oakland’s 53-year relationship with the team is the basis for the meme “Rooted in Oakland?” Are the A’s willing to accept, as the Council has determined, that the terms of the business “partnership” must be equitable and mutually beneficial for all of “us”?

And the question remains after a 53-year relationship, is it reasonable to terminate that relationship or negotiate further for an equitable and mutually beneficial business partnership?

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Bay Area

East Oakland Fire Brings the City’s Struggle with Homelessness Into Light

Just after midnight on July 24, 2021, an empty warehouse in the Melrose District of East Oakland caught fire; by 12:30 a.m. the structure was engulfed in flames, the intense heat snapping power lines and causing nearby transformers to blow, leaving nearly 1,500 customers without power.

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Firefighter sprays water toward the remnants of a structure that caught fire in the early morning hours of July 24, 2021. The intense heat snapped power lines and blew transformers leaving 1,486 customers without service (Photo Credit/ Franklin Avery)

Just after midnight on July 24, 2021, an empty warehouse in the Melrose District of East Oakland caught fire; by 12:30 a.m. the structure was engulfed in flames, the intense heat snapping power lines and causing nearby transformers to blow, leaving nearly 1,500 customers without power.  

Days before the fire, a homeless encampment with a few tents were pitched up against an outside wall of the wood warehouse, according to a resident of the neighborhood. 

Early Sunday morning, just before 1 a.m. an alert of a structure fire went out on the Citizen app. Videos posted by citizens in Oakland showed different angles of a two-story structure on fire on the corner of 12th St. and 45th Ave near High Street. 

According to an eyewitness account, the building was completely engulfed in flames at 12:30 a.m. Firefighters arrived on the scene at 12:40 a.m. and went to work on the flames, containing the fire to the warehouse and preventing it from threatening nearby buildings. 

An apartment building next door was evacuated for a short time. One resident hosed down the roof as large embers threatened the building before firefighters arrived. Eyewitness video shows firefighters walking through a smoke-filled hallway of the apartment building. 

Although the fire is still under investigation, an eyewitness to the fire and resident of the Melrose District, Franklin Avery, recounted his experience. “Two evenings ago, while walking my dog Roosevelt, I met up with Gerald, one of the street people I know…He confirmed my suspicion that one of the new tents that was placed on the sidewalk caught fire. He was there at the time, and he said that he tried to put it out by running across the street to the smog place to get buckets of water to throw at the blaze. Gerald said that the fire kept spreading because he couldn’t run back and forth fast enough.” 

As Oakland struggles with a swelling homeless population, fires in encampments have tripled over the past 2 years, according to a KTVU article.   

Garbage, hazardous materials, cooking equipment, generators, and illegal wiring have contributed to many of the fires throughout Oakland, adding pollution to the air and burnt out structures and cars dotting the landscape. Housed residents worry about keeping their homes safe from fire. What is the solution? 

In 2019, Oakland opened its first 24/7 safe rv parking location for recreational vehicles. Today there are three sites open to the homeless with a fourth planned. Each site has power and plumbing. No fires have been reported at any of the sites to date. More resources need to be put into finding all the unhoused safe, sanitary living conditions. 

Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan told The SF Chronicle “When RVs are parked in managed locations with proper utilities, they don’t tend to have fire problems.”

Information in this article is sourced from eyewitness accounts, Citizen app, KTVU, and The San Francisco Chronicle.

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