Archive for November, 2013

Army Base Project Overcomes “Almost Insurmountable” Obstacles

By Ken A. Epstein

Now that the Oakland City Council has approved the $25 million, 17-acre development to build a parking and services center for trucks adjacent to the Port of Oakland, the project seems like an obvious win for everyone.

Lynette McElhaney

Lynette McElhaney

Who can argue with a development that supports thousands of truckers who are necessary to the functioning of the port, creates 900 permanent and construction jobs and improves air quality for Oakland neighborhoods plagued with off the charts asthma rates?

However, behind the good feelings expressed at the near unanimous vote at last week’s council meeting, the final passage of Bill Aboudi’s Maritime Support Services (OMSS) project was the result of years of bitter conflict and tortuous negotiations that are indicative of the state of the democratic process in Oakland and the kind of nearly insurmountable obstacles many small businesses must overcome to do business in the city.

Opposed to the project were the Teamsters, who only have a toehold among port truck drivers and want to organize them into the union. They have been portraying Aboudi as anti-worker.

About 90 percent of the trucks that are registered to service the port are owned by independent operators. Only about 10 percent work for big companies, and of these, about 100 are members of the Teamsters.

Steve Lowe

Steve Lowe

In addition, Tagami and some city staff seemed bent on pushing Aboudi out of business in their rush to make way for the Oakland Global development at the port, according to observers. The way the city has written its agreements, if for some reason Aboudi fails to sign a lease by Dec. 4, the property and project would go to Tagami.

What some people say is that the city essentially gave Tagami an economic incentive not to be anxious to work with the administration and council to reach an agreement with Aboudi.

In the face of the intense lobbying and opposition, Councilmembers Larry Reid, Desley Brooks and Rebecca Kaplan were unwavering in their support for the project.

The new members of the City Council, who started in January, had a particularly hard time sifting through the long history and various allegations against OMSS and personal attacks on Aboudi.

According to many observers, one of the new councilmembers, District 3 Councilmember Lynette McElhaney, stood out as one who did the research, listened to all the sides, learned the issues and worked hard to make sure the conflict could be resolved.

She is credited with being instrumental in finally convincing the Teamsters to drop their opposition to the project.

McElhaney says her foremost interest was in keeping the trucks off the streets of West Oakland, and she discovered that Aboudi had been doing that. She also learned that most of the charges against Aboudi and OMSS were false or extremely exaggerated.

“The allegations made against OMSS are not true and harmed that man,” she said. “West Oakland has suffered, and the city has had to pay additional costs on this project, as people kept organizing against allowing it to move forward.”

“It is not the purview of this council not to do business with a company that won a competitive bid,” she said.

McElhaney said that a number of community leaders and organizations, particularly Brian Beveridge and Margaret Gordon of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project and Steve Lowe of West Oakland Commerce Association, played a major role backing the project and helped bring her up to speed on the development’s convoluted history.

A long-term problem at the port has been the indifference of city and port officials to truckers and the key role they play at the port, as officials focused almost exclusively on pushing ahead on their moneymaking development project, said Lowe, vice president of the West Oakland Commerce Association.

Larry Reid

Larry Reid

Officials failed to develop a transition plan that took into account the needs of truckers and West Oakland residents, who want to keep polluting trucks out of their neighborhoods, he said.

Officials also seemed to have no interest in retaining local companies at the port, even though they fit in with future plans for developing port-related business.

One company that left was Bay Area Kenworth, a $60 million business that sold and repaired trucks and planned to move from diesel to LNG (natural gas) fuel.

“They couldn’t make a deal with the city, so they moved to San Leandro,” Lowe said.

“In all the exchanges with the city and the port, the idea of business retention was given short shrift. They should have been thinking of ho are we going to retain the businesses we have and how can we work together to do it,” said Lowe.

“The port and the city were negligent in caring for their tenants.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 29, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Holds Meeting on West Oakland Hazardous Cargo Inspections

By Ashley Chambers

Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s office hosted a meeting last week so community members could finally talk to the officials who want to bring big rigs into West Oakland to perform inspections of hazardous cargo coming into the Port of Oakland.

Port of Oakland Custom's Inspectionss

Port of Oakland Custom’s Inspectionss

West Oakland community leaders have been raising concerns that U.S. Customs plans to sign a contract with entrepreneur Tom Henderson to inspect potentially hazardous cargo, including explosives, poisonous gas and nuclear materials, at the old Horizon Beverage building at 1700 20th St. in Oakland.

While U.S. Customs officials did not provide clear estimates of the anticipated truck and cargo traffic they would inspect, the meeting last Thursday did bring together for the first time Henderson, leaders of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), staff from Lee’s office, Councilmember Lynette McElhaney, Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell and City Zoning Manager Scott Miller.

Inspection at port

Inspection at port

In order to conduct inspections, Henderson, the warehouse owner, must first obtain city permits to inspect for contraband and for hazardous materials but apparently does not have staff certified to handle hazardous materials, said Brian Beveridge of WOEIP.

According to Beveridge, U.S. Customs considers that the dangers uninspected cargo may pose to local communities is a city issue, not a concern of U.S Customs and Border Protection, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

“There’s a real disconnect between federal government policies on safety around this issue and government statements on why we spend a lot of money on anti-terrorism,” said Beveridge.

Customs representatives said they would take the appropriate action if there were a risk to the community such as explosive cargo. According to the U.S. Customs website, the most serious terrorist threats to the country are through containers at the port.

Beveridge and others are concerned that the city of may not fully understand what is at stake.  “The city doesn’t seem to understand the nature of a Customs warehouse and zoning rules to protect the public,” he said.

Councilmember McElhaney is planning to hold a follow-up meeting so U.S. Customs can provide more detailed information about its day-to-day operations.

 

Aboudi’s Army Base Project Means 900 Jobs and Reduced Pollution

By Ashley Chambers and Ken Epstein

The City Council this week approved a 55-year lease for a 17-acre, $25 million development to create a new up-to-date home for Bill Aboudi’s Oakland Maritime Support Services (OMSS) as part of the Army Base Gateway project.

The development will be a big win for West Oakland residents who do not want to return to the days when polluting trucks filled city streets, and drivers parked overnight in West Oakland.  The project will also mean jobs for local small businesses and Oakland workers.

Jose Dueñas of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Len Turner of Turner Group Construction and Carl Chan of Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce spoke at last week's Community and Economic Developent Committee (CED) meeting to support  favor of the OMSS. Photo by Ken Epstein

Jose Dueñas of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Len Turner of Turner Group Construction and Carl Chan of Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce spoke at last week’s Community and Economic Developent Committee (CED) meeting to support favor of the OMSS. Photo by Ken Epstein

The City Council voted Tuesday night to give Aboudi a lease on the property, which he will develop with Turner Group Construction and other local and minority firms to hire well over 50 percent local residents.

“There has been a problem in the West Oakland community for a long time about trucks driving through the community and parking there,” said Paul Junge of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce at the city’s Community and Economic Development (CED) meeting Nov. 12.

“Because of the good work OMSS does, that problem is greatly reduced if not eliminated. I salute the staff of the city and the port for working with OMSS through these difficult times,” he said.

In addition to Turner Group Construction, the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce support Aboudi ‘s commitment to hiring local and minority Oakland residents.

“We’re bringing the community together with this project,” said Len Turner, owner of Turner Group Construction and a member of the African American Chamber of Commerce.

According to Jose Dueñas, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, “If there’s somebody that’s committed to minorities and making sure that they get the jobs, I don’t think there’s anybody better qualified to do that than Bill Aboudi.”

Representing the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, Carl Chan said, “We realize that this is going to be creating a lot of local jobs and benefitting many of our local residents and also including our community. It’s going to be a good project.”

OMSS for years has been caught into a vise between some city administrators and master developer Phil Tagami on one side and the Teamsters and its supporters on the other.

Tagami and city staff have seemed bent on pushing Aboudi out of business to make way for the Oakland Global development on the site by the Port of Oakland. The way the city has written its agreements, if for some reason Aboudi fails to sign a lease by Dec. 4, the property would go to Tagami.

At the same time, the Teamsters and its supporters have intensely lobbied city council members against Aboudi.

Fundamentally, they have seen him and his company as leaders who have opposed pushing truckers who are independent owner operators to become employees at large trucking companies and who will then join the union, according to some observers.

OMSS, temporarily occupying five acres on Wake Avenue, not only provides parking for big rigs but also   houses 18 minority-owned small businesses that provide truck repairs, food and other services. OMSS started in 2007. The company was originally selected from among four other firms that responded to the city’s Request for Proposals (RFP).

After many years of unending conflicts, Aboudi is breathing a sigh of relief. “It’s a long time coming. We’re going to meet or exceed all the community benefits requirements that are out there,” said Aboudi, who estimated the project would mean about 900 permanent and construction jobs.

“This project provides infrastructure that supports the truckers who support the Port of Oakland. It means emission reduction for the community, because of a lot of new green technologies It’s a big win for the truckers and community,” he said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 21, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com

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Truckers Call Third Work Stoppage

By Ashley Chambers

Their backs to the wall, independent truckers at the Port of Oakland have voted to authorize a third work stoppage since Augustport trucks as they await the results a meeting with local and state officials over new emission standards that will put many of the truckers out of business on Jan. 1.

Honking big rigs surrounded Oakland City Hall last week as members of the Port of Oakland Truckers Association (POTA), an informal organization of independent truckers, met with Port of Oakland Executive Director Chris Lytle, Deputy Mayor Sandré Swanson, and members of the California Air Resource Board (CARB) and Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) to protest new CARB emissions standards that go into effect in January that prohibit trucks built before 2007 from working at the port.

As a result of the regulations, truckers would have to take out loans for $60,000 to $80,000 to buy new trucks, and their old vehicles will have little resale value.

The truckers are demanding a one-year extension on the CARB regulations and a “green emissions fee” of $50 per load to help pay the costs for upgrading their trucks.

They are also asking for a $50 congestion fee for trucks that are being forced to wait in line for four to six hours to drop off loads at terminals that are inefficient and understaffed.

In addition, truckers are demanding that the city drop its lawsuit against two owner-operator truck drivers for their alleged participation in a work stoppage Aug. 19 and drop an injunction on protests at the port.

CARB has denied demands for a deadline extension and funding.

Before the Nov. 13 meeting ended, Mayor Jean Quan and Port Director Lytle said they would look into helping find funding for truckers.

The trucker association could strike as early as next week if there is no response to their demands.

“We are fighting for jobs over here in the Port of Oakland. Oakland and the State of California cannot afford to lose 800 jobs in one day,” said Frank Adams, a spokesperson for POTA and a trucker who has worked at the port for almost nine years.

“We’re hoping that the Port of Oakland and the city can step up and get funding for truckers that need to stay in work,” he said.

While truckers have a little over a month to comply with clean-air emissions standards. CARB has given transport corporations seven years to meet the same requirements. Truckers are asking for equal treatment from the port and CARB.

A strike would shut down economic activity at the port, which amounts to about $8 million a day.

According to Sean Maher, Mayor Jean Quan’s representative, state agencies are seeking funding to help truckers purchase new vehicles. However, he said, there is no possibility of postponing the Jan. 1 deadline.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 21, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

PUEBLO Presents Award to Radio Journalist Davey D

By Post Staff

Nationally recognized radio journalist Davey D Cook recently received a Community Leader Award recently at the 24th anniversary celebration of People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO).

Davey D. Cook receives PUEBLO's Commuinity Leader Award from Jay Jones. Photo by Ken Epstein

Davey D. Cook receives PUEBLO’s Commuinity Leader Award from Jay Jones. Photo by Ken Epstein

Speakers at the celebration, which was held Nov. 9 at the First Congregational Church in Oakland, talked about PUEBLO’s work this year. Among its projects are: a new BIO Reentry Program, which will provide support for the formerly incarcerated; and a new Urban Farm Incubator, which will help trainees secure sub-acre land plots for their own urban form businesses.

Other projects include a Youth Greening Oakland King Estates Community Garden, assisting students in learning sustainable living skills through create of a large garden with a small budget; and a Wage Fairness Project, in five students interviewed day laborers in East Oakland about their work conditions and are now working with experts in wage and hour law to brainstorm policy proposals for the city.

Davey D is an adjunct professor Hip Hop historian, syndicated talk show host, radio programmer, producer, deejay and a media and community activist.  Originally from the Bronx, New York, he moved to California and graduated from UC Berkeley.

He is the founder and webmaster of Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner, widely considered to be one of the oldest and largest Hip Hop sites on the web: www.davey.com.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 21, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Protesting Port Truckers Surround Oakland City Hall

port trucksBy Ashley Chambers

Independent truckers lined up around Oakland City Hall Wednesday honking their horns and demanding an extension on the January 2014 deadline for new emissions compliances required at the Port of Oakland, which could effectively put many of them out of business.

While the big rigs made noise outside, members of the Port of Oakland Truckers Association (POTA), an informal organization of owner operators, pressed their demand for a deadline extension with officials of the California Air Resource Board (CARB), Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), Port of Oakland Executive Director Chris Lytle, and Oakland’s Deputy Mayor Sandre Swanson.

Truckers are demanding that the city drop its lawsuit against two owner-operator truck drivers for their alleged participation in a work stoppage Aug. 19. Truckers are also asking for the city to drop an injunction on protests at the port.

Besides asking for a one-year extension on the January deadline, they are seeking a “green emissions fee” of $50 per load to pay loans for upgrading their trucks in compliance with the emissions standards; a “congestion fee” paid by the terminal per hour to truckers who have to wait more than two hours, unpaid, for a load; and a pay raise, which would be the first in 10 years.

Truckers are being forced to purchase new trucks that comply with the clean-air emissions standards put forth by the Port and have nearly a month to meet this requirement. Loans for new trucks range from $60,000 to $80,000, according to the truckers.

However, transport corporations were given seven years to meet the same standards. In light of this, truckers are asking for equal treatment from the port and CARB.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 14, 2013 (www.postsnewsgroup.com)

Proposed Youth Curfew Fails for Lack of Support

By Ken A. Epstein

A proposal for a youth curfew in Oakland died this week at the city’s Public Safety Committee meeting in the face of opposition by City Council members and the outraged hostility of young people and their supporters who filled the council chambers.

Brought to the Tuesday evening committee meeting by District 5 Councilmember Noel Gallo, the  “Juvenile Protection Curfew

Speaking at Tuesday's Public Safety Committee meeting,  four teenagers performed a poem with the refrain, ““I’m here today to say that a curfew does not reduce crime. They criminalize us in our day to day."  Shown are the four (L to R): Pablo Paredes, Michele Ramos, Diana Bonilla  and Daniel Ramos. Photo Ken A. Epstein

Speaking at Tuesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting, four teenagers performed a poem with the refrain, ““I’m here today to say that a curfew does not reduce crime. They criminalize us in our day to day.” Shown are the four (L to R): Pablo Paredes, Michele Ramos, Diana Bonilla and Daniel Ramos. Photo Ken A. Epstein

Ordinance” was designed to help remedy the “victimization, exploitation and criminal activities that adversely impact youth in the City of Oakland.”

Gallo’s suggestion was to create a seven-day-a week, 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and also would ban young people from being in public during school hours, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. He emphasized he did not wish to to have young people arrested but instead called for 24-hour-a-day youth action centers where those detained would be taken for family and academic counseling and resources.

While Public Safety Committee members declined to send the proposal to the full council for a vote, the committee voted to hold hearings on how the city can help reduce truancy and support students.

Speaker after speaker argued that a curfew would violate young people’s rights, underscoring their tense relations with Oakland police officers, who speakers said regularly harass, racially profile and arrest teenagers.

“There are lots of problems (in the schools), but a curfew is the bigger problem. I don’t want someone to take our constitutional rights away from us,” said Andre Mouton, who has worked with young people in East Oakland schools,

“(Young people) will run, and these police shoot. They will treat them like meat. We don’t want one kid killed by a curfew law,” he said.

Some young people talked about their reasons for being out at night, including taking a bus home from work, or soccer games, as well as buying dinner for younge siblings.  An undocumented young man said the curfew could mean he would be picked up and deported.

A group of four teenagers performed a poem with the refrain, ““I’m here today to say that curfews do not reduce crime. They criminalize us in our day to day,” recited Pablo Paredes, Diana Bonilla, Michele Ramos and Daniel Ramos.

I’ve been kicked out of my house numerous times,” with the result that she is out of the house after 10 p.m., said Patricia Carter. “Should I go to jail because I don’t have good parents?”

Councilmember Libby Schaaf and Lynette McElhaney opposed the curfew, as did Councilmember Dan Kalb, who said he wanted police to devote their attention to high priority 911 calls.

“If they’re stopping a bunch of 16-year-olds hanging out a little later than normal … I don’t think that’s a good use of their time,” he said.

Police Chief Sean Whent opposed the curfew on grounds that it would be difficult to enforce and strain his already limited resources. “I think it would really impair our effectiveness and really impact our ability to do other stuff like violent crime prevention,” he said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 14, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

 

 

Oakland Considers Backing Richmond’s Eminent Domain Ordinance

CouncilmembersDesley Brooks speaks at a press conference  Tuesday in front of Oakland City Hall in support of a resolution backing Richmond in its conflict with the banks. The press conference was called by  Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. (ACCE). Shown (L to R): Jose Vega, Helen Duffy (directly behind Jose), Bill Chorneau, Barbara Fuller, Yvonne Stanford, Councilmember Brooks, Lynette Neidhardt and Heleane Carpenter

Councilmember Desley Brooks speaks at a press conference Tuesday in front of Oakland City Hall in support of a resolution backing Richmond’s eminent domain policiy. The press conference was called by Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. (ACCE). Shown (L to R): Jose Vega, Helen Duffy (directly behind Jose), Bill Chorneau, Barbara Fuller, Yvonne Stanford, Councilmember Brooks, Lynette Neidhardt and Heleane Carpenter. Photo by Ken A. Epstein

By Ken A. Epstein

Wells Fargo Bank has been lobbying the Oakland City Council to kill a council resolution that backs the City of Richmond “for boldly advancing a local principle reduction program” to provide relief to homeowners who are underwater or facing foreclosure.

Wells Fargo officials have talked to council members and sent information about why the council should oppose the resolution. “They (Wells Fargo) sent out a whole packet of information about an inch thick, with reasons why we should be very careful about the (Richmond) legislation,” said Councilmember Desley Brooks.

“Wells Fargo is taking it very seriously. They’re putting a lot of effort into it, to be sure,” said Anthony Panarese, a staff member of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), which supports homeowners who are fighting foreclosure.

The resolution – backed by Noel Gallo, Brooks and Larry Reid – is a limited to a statement of solidarity with Richmond and declares Oakland’s intention “to study whether it should embark upon a similar strategy.”

Richmond on July 30 became the first municipality in the nation to work for local principle reduction for distressed  homeowners, when it offered to purchase more than 600 city mortgages from major Wall Street banks and other servicers.

If the current investors are unwilling to sell the loans, Richmond will consider using its eminent domain authority to acquire the loans – still compensating the current investors at fair market value.

“For the last few years, we have seen Wall Street Banks challenge every effort to rebuild our hardest hit communities from the foreclosure and economic crisis,” said Brooks,  “Today we need to show solidarity with bold leaders of Richmond in their effort to break the status quo as defined by Wall Street and rebuild their communities.”

Brooks says she is not particularly focusing on Wells Fargo. She said in the past the bank has been responsive to concerns raised by the city. “They’ve reached out and done some good work (in Oakland),” she said. “But as a city, we need to look out for the best interests of those who live here. Something is desperately wrong when so many people are underwater and are losing their homes.”

The majority of council members appear to support the resolution or a similar one proposed by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.  But the debate over the issue at the Tuesday night meeting degenerated into conflicts among council members, and a final discussion and vote were put off to the council’s Nov. 19 meeting.

Meanwhile, a federal judge recently dismissed a bank lawsuit challenging Richmond’s eminent domain program for underwater mortgages on the grounds that it was premature.

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer said he felt the case, brought by Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank on behalf of holders of underwater mortgages, was not “ripe for determination” since Richmond had not exercised eminent domain and might never do so.

For more information about Richmond plan, visit: www.saverichmondhomes.org.

 

 

 

Noel Gallo Wants Youth Curfew

By Post Staff

Oakland City Councilmember Noel Gallo is preparing to introduce an ordinance to create a curfew in Oakland that would bar young people under the age of 18 from being out in public after 10 p.m.

Designed by Gallo to reduce the numbers of juveniles who are perpetrators or victims of crime, the proposal calls for fines,

Noel Gallo

Noel Gallo

community service or jail time for any unaccompanied child or teen found outside in a public area or inside a business between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. any day of the week.

Parents could be penalized if their children are picked up by police.

According to Gallo, council member for District 5, the law would prohibit anyone under 18 from being in the street, park, public outdoor space or car between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., unless they are accompanied by an adult age 21 or over or involved in certain activities, such as traveling to or from work, completing an errand on behalf of a parent or attending an official school, religious or city-sponsored recreational activity.

The proposal also bans young people from being in public during school hours, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Maya Rapier

Maya Rapier

“I am not doing a curfew to lock everybody up, but if I am going to be able to help children and young people. I need to get them off the street,” Gallo said. “That’s the problem we have here in Oakland: we are all feeling sorry about (crime), we are all crying about it, … But we’re not taking the proactive measure to keep our kids at home.”

“When I look at the data from the police department, I see that children are committing crimes and are the victims of crime. And with the low graduation rate, the high drop out and truancy rates, it’s alarming,” said Gallo, who added that he favors setting up centers in West Oakland, East Oakland and Central Oakland where police can take young people, where they will receive counseling and other services.

The ordinance is already stirring opposition from youth and community groups, some of whom are raising concern over the findings of a new report by the ACLU, Black Organizing Project and Public Council that Black and Latino youth in Oakland are being arrested at shockingly high rates, often for minor offenses.

Black youth in Oakland comprised three quarters of all juvenile arrests by the Oakland Police Department during the past seven years, even though they make up only a quarter of the population. More than half of these arrests were not upheld.

“This curfew and Councilman Noel Gallo’s words are offensive to me as a youth who enjoys many aspects of Oakland, both its day- and night-life. I understand, as many youth do, that Oakland is a dangerous city and that violence and crime affects all citizens both directly and indirectly,” said Maya Rapier, an Oakland high school student, in a letter to the media.

“The problem with the curfew is that it does not address the root causes of Oakland’s crime problem and problem of youth violence,” she said. “By having police officers arrest, fine or incarcerate youths, you may be taking a few of them off the street, but you are not giving them the help they need to make better lives for themselves.”

“An alternative to wasting money on arresting youth could be to open more teen facilities, where we can go to hang out in a safe environment, and open more accessible resource centers,” Rapier said.

Gallo said he plans to introduce the proposal to the city’s Public Safety Committee, Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. at Oakland City Hall.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 1, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Concerns Over Army Base Jobs as Development Breaks Ground

By Ken A. Epstein and Ashley Chambers

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.

Port of Oakland

Port of Oakland

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 a 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.

Brian Beveridge

Brian 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.

Margaret Gordon

Margaret Gordon

“Phil Tagami says he’s total committed to local hire, but his partners, like Prologis, are not so committed,” when it comes 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.

Neither the mayor nor Asssistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell responded to the Post’s questions asking why the city did not negotiate Oakland hiring requirements for companies that build and lease at the project.

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 fulltime 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 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.

So far, the mayor has not said what she will do to expand employment opportunities, for example, whether she would support an effort to direct tax revenues generated by the development to hiring additional city employees to expand teen centers, expand re-entry programs for the formerly incarcerated, upgrade city parks and fix streets.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 1, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)