Unanswered Questions as OUSD Moves Forward on Headquarters Development

How will the district pay for the project, estimated to cost $100 million?

Rendering of new OUSD headquarters complex, "Design Conception One."

Rendering of new OUSD headquarters complex, “Design Conception One.”

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Unified School District is moving ahead with its plan to tear down the district’s old administration building on Second Avenue and East 10th Street and replace it with a new educational complex.

The district is currently looking at three separate “final conceptual designs” for the property, and all of them would contain office space for at least some administrators and their staff, a conference center and theater for parent and staff training, a student-run café, parking for some employees and a new school for Dewey Academy with a gym and multipurpose room.

Dewey at present is located nearby at Second Avenue and East 12th Street.

Additionally, one of the proposals includes keeping the façade or other parts of the old administration building. And another design proposes to build some units of housing, but staff has emphasized that these units would be affordable or for teachers, not market-rate housing.

The administration is taking the three conceptual designs to next Wednesday evening’s board meeting, hoping for board approval to move ahead with one of the designs, based on the superintendent’s recommendation.

To publicize the design proposals, the district held three meetings this week in different parts of Oakland. However, the meetings were poorly advertised, and only about six members of the public attended the first two of the events.

A number of questions remain to be answered.

Why is the district proposing to build at new campus for Dewey Academy?

Dewey was originally included in the project when the district was trying to sell the school property to Urban Core Development to add to its plan to build a luxury apartment tower adjacent to the school at East 12th and Lake Merritt Boulevard.

Building a new campus for Dewey – which is relatively new – significantly contributes to the estimated $100 million price tag for the new complex and may mean that other school construction projects would have to be scrapped.

What part of the central office administration would fit into this new complex?

According to the district, the new headquarters will contain office space for 300-350 people. However, a school district fact sheet said that in 2014, there were 940 central office staffers, though it did not break down what job classifications were part of that number.

Although the district has said one of its main goals was the consolidation of central office workers under one roof, it would seem that it will not be able accommodate everyone without continuing to send staff to satellite locations or to lay off a huge number of administrators and their support staff.

How will the district pay for this complex?

The obvious pot of money is school bond funds, but there are legal restrictions that must be observed, and most of the money may be earmarked for other projects.

Rumors are circulating that the administration may want to sell the site the old Lakeview Elementary School to developers. The district has already notified Community Schools and Student Services Department staff who work at the closed school that they will be transferred, mostly to OUSD headquarters at 10000 Broadway.

 Will there be enough parking?

The proposals call for only about a total of 400 parking places for central office staff, Dewey staff and people utilizing the conference center.

A number of staff members will be expected to take BART or bus to work. However, many staff members have duties that require them to frequently visit school sites or other off-site meetings. Some would have difficulty doing their jobs without availability of a car.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 23, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)