Category: Coliseum City

Coalition Wants Coliseum City to Produce Jobs and Housing for Residents

By Ashley Chambers

In the wake of the City Council decision to amend the Coliseum Area Specific Plan to protect businesses in the Oakland Airport Business Park, a coalition of local residents, Oakland workers, youth and faith leaders are stepping up efforts to make sure that the new development plan follows through on commitment to community benefits that include jobs and affordable housing for East Oakland residents.

Jahmese Myres

Jahmese Myres

The passage of the specific plan at the end of March means that zoning changes and environmental approvals are in place if the city can secure a deal to build a massive entertainment, retail, housing, and hotels complex that would be built around new sports arenas for the Oakland A’s and Raiders.

The specific plan, as passed, impacts 800 acres, including the current sports complex, parking lots, the area around the Coliseum BART station and the Oakland Airport Business Park, across the freeway form the Coliseum, which employs 8,000 workers and houses 150 businesses.

Though they want to see the project move ahead, members of the community benefits coalition want residents of East Oakland to enjoy the fruits of that development, not suffer the intense gentrification and environmental impacts that often go along with big development projects.

“The plan should protect current, longtime, deep-rooted residents of East Oakland,” said Rev. Damita Davis-Howard of Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), one of the groups in the coalition.

Seventy percent of Oaklanders are renters, Davis-Howard said. “With new development, there’s automatically a rise in costs. We don’t want current residents to be driven out because rents go up,” she said.

With the proposed project, over 5,000 residential units would be built around the new sports venues. Without a substantial amount of affordable housing units included in the project, current residents who make $30,000 or even $50,000 a year are likely to displaced.

“We need affordable housing, affordable grocery stores, and somewhere that we can go to just relax, like a nice family park,” said Theola Polk, a member of East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO) who has lived in East Oakland for over 30 years.

,“This area needs the same respect as the Coliseum City [project],” said Polk. “We want all of Oakland to look as good as Coliseum City is going to look; we want to get the same benefits.”

The transformation of Oakland neighborhoods has been long underway in other parts of the city – such as Uptown and West Oakland. However, new development often welcomes affluent renters and homeowners at the expense longtime residents.

“There’s a lot at stake with this project because this is a really critical time in our city. Oakland is changing, and we want to see a project that really impacts Oakland in very positive ways,” said Jahmese Myres, campaign director with the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), which is part of the coalition.

“We have a choice to have a really corporate, cookie-cutter, formulaic development that has no relation to the surrounding community, or we can have a project that helps the community thrive with good jobs, affordable housing, cleaner air and allowing long-term residents to stay in the community,” Myres said, also a resident of East Oakland who lives within a mile of the proposed project.

Citing data that shows the median household income for East Oakland at $31,000 a year, Myres says housing in the project should “allow for folks making that income to be able to live in those units.”

The development could create up to 20,000 jobs and it’s really important that those jobs be real quality jobs that allow people to take care of their families, Myres added.

It’s important that “people working at the Coliseum now – ushers, ticket takers, etc. – that they keep their good union jobs, too. They’re also members of our community in a number of ways,” she said.

The city entered an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with a development team, which will present an outline of what the community benefits would include in June. The ENA expires in August but could be extended.

Organizations in the coalition include EBHO, OCO, EBASE, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Public Advocates, Unite Here 2850, Urban Peace Movement, SEIU-USWW – which represents workers at the Coliseum arena, Causa Justa/Just Cause, the Building Trades Council, Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy, and Partnership for Working Families.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 20, 2015 (Postnewsgroup.com)

City Council Votes to Protect Businesses in the Path of Coliseum City Project

By Ken Epstein

The City Council voted Tuesday to keep residential development out of the Oakland Airport Business Park, passing the Coliseum Area Specific Plan without the the zoning amendments that would allow market-rate condominiums and apartments to be built in the area.

Dexter Vizinau

Dexter Vizinau

Councilmembers overwhelmingly passed the community-backed motion to preserve the 150 businesses and 8,000 jobs that would have likely have been displaced over time.

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said she had heard community members’ concerns that the specific plan could eliminate the business park and that she was backing changes that would protect local businesses and jobs.

“I offered the amendment to remove housing from the (business park) zoning that is before us,” Kaplan said. “I have verified that the development team is fine with the change.”

Backing the amendments to the amendments to the plan developed by staff and consultants, Councilmember Desley Brooks said, “It’s important that we retain industrial land in this city. Loss of jobs happens when industrial lands go away.”

Businessman Dexter Vizinau spoke in favor of the change. “ It’s great to see this project moving forward. It’s about business retention, business expansion and business attraction,” he said.

“Not every kid wants to sell popcorn, clean a bathroom or punch a cash register. We want to make things. We want to build things.”

Rev. Damita Davis-Howard

Rev. Damita Davis-Howard

Also speaking at the meeting were representatives of a coalition of East Oakland residents who are determined that any “New City¨ Coliseum agreement that the council signs with a developer must contain iron-clad community benefits.

Among the groups in the coalition are Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), Just Cause/Causa Justa, East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO) and Communities for a Better Environment (CBE)

Residents are deeply concerned about avoiding higher rents, providing decent jobs for workers in East Oakland and affordable housing for people who earn less than $50,000 a year.

“The threat of displacement of thousands of residents has not been addressed adequately,” said Rev. Damita Davis-Howard of OCO.

“We need to develop strategies now that will protect residents 10 years from now,” she said. “The project should protect and invest in the exiting culture of our city.”

The city currently has an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with a development team that is working on funding and talking to the Raiders and the A’s.

The ENA expires in August but could be extended.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 3, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Opinion: As Coliseum City Project Moves Ahead, Councilmembers Vote Not to Sacrifice Jobs for Growth

By Kitty Kelly Epstein

Thank you to Councilmembers Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Rebecca Kaplan, Larry Reid and Annie Campbell Washington for removing residential zoning from the area of the Airport Business Park at this week’s Community and Economic Development Committee meeting.

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

The councilmembers’ vote shows there no need to sacrifice 150 businesses and over 8,000 jobs. This has nothing to do with saving the sports teams or building the stadium that would be on the opposite side of the freeway”

This is a super-important issue in Oakland. Lots of wealthier people want to live here because of our great weather and cultural diversity.

The problem is that the affluent move in and the diversity stops, because the jobs and affordable housing needed by regular Oaklanders are pushed out. So then Oakland ends up like San Francisco – a sort of Disneyland for the affluent – with lots of jazz clubs and soul food and no soul and no African-Americans.

The speakers at the council committee were powerful – parent leader Henry Hitz; education professor Kimberly Mayfield; socially-minded business leader Bob Schwartz; great organizer and graduate student Carroll Fife; Oakland native and business leader Dexter Vizinau; educator and public safety advocate Rashidah Grinage; workforce development professional Gay Plair Cobb; community leader Saleem Shakir-Gilmore; and others.

Fred Ellis, Jaron Epstein, Robyn Hodges and lots of others have given big support to this effort.

This change will need to pass the City Council next Tuesday, but we are confident that this will happen, because it is completely logical for Oakland’s growth as a city where people can live, work, and thrive all in the same place.

Isn’t that the green, sustainable goal for the planet? Let’s make it happen right here.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 27, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Coliseum City Proposal Would Build at Least 5,750 Units of Market Rate Units But No Guaranteed Affordable Housing

Coliseum City Rendering

Coliseum City Rendering

By Ken Epstein

While many people are looking at the proposed Coliseum City development as the best and last chance to keep the Raiders and A’s in town in exchange for glitzy new stadiums, not as much attention has been given to the investment possibilities that may be just as, or more important, to developers and their hedge fund backers – market rate housing that could go for $3,000 or more a month per unit and commercial development.

Alongside the stadiums and sports-related entertainment and hotels, the goal is to “create a new residential neighborhood with an array of housing options, ” according to the draft Coliseum Area Specific Plan.

The plan would change zoning and land use guidelines for the 800 acres that include the Coliseum, the area around the Coliseum BART Station and the Oakland Airport Business Park located more or less between the Wal-Mart store next to Hegenberger Road and the 66th Avenue exit on Highway 880.

What is at stake for Oakland in this project is not just the promise of future jobs, which may or may not materialize, but existing jobs.

According to many community activists and business observers, if the general plan and zoning proposals associated with the Coliseum Area Specific Plan are allowed to go ahead, they would effectively eliminate the city’s only dedicated office-industrial park.

By amending zoning to “Mixed Use” the plan could incorporate tech campuses’ desire to house high end workers in luxury condos close to their work place.  Or alternately the zoning change could threaten many of the business types the plan actually encourages to stay and/or relocate there, including technical campuses with R&D, administration and manufacturing on site, production such as high value printing operations, specialty artisan food production, wholesaling for domestic markets and global export products such as wine, specialty agricultural and marine products.

The result would potentially push out many of the 150 businesses there now, which employ over 8,000 workers. Many of these are good stable jobs, such as warehouse, that pay $50,000 to $75,000 a year. Such jobs are the city’s future, and the subject of multi-million dollar regional studies such as the Regional Goods Movement Study, and the Design It Build It Ship It Logistics & Advanced Manufacturing study.

The way the proposed general plan amendments would work, knowledgeable observers say, is that when a major part of the industrial park is changed by to allow retail and residential units, the market value of the land would more than double,

Some businesses would leave because rising market values would encourage them to sell their properties, and others would be increasingly impacted by nearby residential uses that are not very compatible with production, warehouse and other industrial uses, with their noises, smells and truck deliveries.

Revolution Foods, headquartered in the Airport Business Park, is one of the businesses that could be adversely affected by residential development. According to Fortune, the company serves over 200,000 healthy meals daily to school districts across the country and has a total of over 1,0000 employees, at an annual gross revenue of about $70 million.

At present, the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) calls for the project to contain 5,750 units of housing, including, 1,700 units in the area between Edgewater Road and the San Leandro Estuary where the city’s highly used corporation yard is located.

According to city staff and the proposed EIR, residential housing use would not be permitted in most of the business park. Industrial land use zoning will be maintained, they say. So, there is nothing for local businesses and workers to fear.

But all may not be what it seems.

The proposed general plan amendments and the zoning changes in the EIR are two different documents that contradict each other for the areas known in the plan as CO-3 & CO 4.

The proposed general plan amendment to Regional Commercial (CR) would allow 125 residential units/gross acre, and both CR and Business Mix (the current non-residential designation) allow residential units.

Another general plan change would allow 250 residential units per gross acre.

While the plan has a goal of a minimum of 15 percent of affordable housing units, city staff says that building units that can be affordable to Oakland residents will depend on future negotiations between the City Council, investors and a developer.

There is no ironclad promise of affordable housing built into the plan at present.

According to city staff, the plan to move the city’s corporation yard would have to overcome many hurdles and is not in the cards at present.

The corporation yard and all its employees would have to be moved at a cost that is not yet calculated and to a site that has not yet been determined.

In addition, the property is owned by the Port of Oakland and leased by the city – which would have to find a way to obtain the land from the port. By law the port must charge the land’s full market value.

The port has never said it favors this change and traditionally has wanted no residential at all in the Business Park.

Yet the general plan and zoning changes have forged ahead despite community and business owners’ complaints that they have not been involved in the process.

City staff have repeatedly said in public: “We have our marching orders.” But they have not explained from whom these orders are coming.

The specific plan passed the Planning Commission last week and is scheduled to be heard next Tuesday, March 24, 1:30 p.m., at the meeting of the Community and Economic Development Committee at City Hall.

From there, the proposal will go go to the City Council.

Coliseum City Development Should Benefit Oakland Residents, Say Local Groups

 Mayor Libby Schaaf does not support building sports arena in business park

By Ken Epstein

At least three local organizations and coalitions are pushing to make sure that the Coliseum City project – if it comes to pass – will provide economic and social benefits to the people who live and work in Oakland, not only the owners of the sports franchises, developers and hedge fund investors who are hoping to build a massive, entertainment, housing and hotel complex around new stadiums for the A’s, Raiders and possibly for the Warriors.

Libby Schaaf

Libby Schaaf

Taking somewhat different approaches are the OaklandWorks Alliance, the Oakland Heritage Alliance and a community benefits coalition that includes Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) and Just Cause/Causa Justa.

Weighing in on the issue, Mayor Libby Schaaf called for Coliseum City plans to include a mix of uses and did not support a proposal to but the Warriors arena in the middle of the business park, would would likely to eliminate a number of local buisnesses and jobs.

“There are no current plans for putting a basketball arena below the 880 freeway, nor do I see that as the most desirable location for any future new sports facilities,” Schaaf said. “Oakland needs to balance housing, entertainment, retail, businesses and industries to ensure we have a vibrant economy and great quality of life for our residents.”

Members of the OaklandWorks Alliance said they would support the Coliseum City Specific Plan and draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) if they are modified to deal with a number of specific concerns.

The OaklandWorks Alliance is made up of individuals and eight local organizations, including Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP).

Revolution Foods, based int the Oakland Airport Business Park across from the Coliseum, is one of the businesses that would be impacted by zoning changes. According to Fortunte, the company  serves over 200,000 healthy meals daily to school districts across the country and has a total of over 1,0000 employees..

Revolution Foods, based in the Oakland Airport Business Park across from the Coliseum, is one of the businesses that could be adversely affected by zoning changes. According to Fortune, the company serves over 200,000 healthy meals daily to school districts across the country and has a total of over 1,0000 employees.

In a letter to the Oakland Planning Commission, several OaklandWorks members wrote:

“African-American workers make up 28 percent of Oakland residents and 5 percent of the hours worked on city-funded construction jobs. This means that African-Americans are underrepresented more than five-fold in city-funded employment.”

“Any project on which this injustice is not rectified should not be built.”

The OaklandWorks letter also criticized city staff for failing to involve community members in a democratic process.

“Residents of East Oakland should be involved at every step of every decision-making process. This has not occurred thus far,” the letter said.

Robert Schwartz of Key Source International (left) and James Curtis, president of the Oakland Commerce Corporation, wait for their opportunity to speak at the Oakland Planning Commission public hearing Wednesday at City Hall. Photos by Ken Epstein.

Robert Schwartz of Key Source International (left) and James Curtis, president of the Oakland Commerce Corporation, wait to speak at an Oakland Planning Commission public hearing. Schwartz says the Specific Plan, as it is currently written, would allow developers to rezone property in the buisness park to build housing, thereby eliminating businesses and jobs in the city.

“There was no community participation until the Specific Plan was completely developed, and then city staff provided ‘information’ sessions for people to ask questions.”

The plan should only provide housing for people at the median income of Oakland residents, the letter said. “Our land and city services should not be used to build housing for people who do not live here.”

The OaklandWorks letter also calls for not rezoning the Coliseum Business Park across Highway 880 from the Coliseum arena.

The business park houses “approximately 150 businesses and employs 8,065 workers, according to statistics provided by Oakland’s economic development department,” the letter said. “These businesses could be disrupted by: a) Increased land prices created by the possibility of residential uses; b) Restricting business activities which are allowed by the current zoning.”

Naomi Schiff and the Oakland Heritage Alliance are supporting mitigations proposed by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board, which have been included by Planning Commission staff in their draft Coliseum Area Specific Plan.

If the arena or Coliseum are torn down, the developer should make financial contributions to improve East Oakland communities to offset the loss of the historic buildings, according to the proposed mitigations.

“The amount of any such contribution shall be as negotiated between the city and the developer(s), as ultimately determined by the City Council,” according to the proposal. “Mitigation shall be provided as financial and/or cultural enhancement. Such contribution shall be commensurate with the cultural value of the Coliseum.”

Groups in the in a community benefits coalition include Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), Just Cause/Causa Justa, E), East Bay Housing Organization (EBHO), Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) and East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), which is closely allied with the Building and Construction Trades Council and other local labor unions,

This coalition, which came out in force to speak at last week’s Planning Commission meeting, is asking for an increase in the percentage of affordable housing in the proposal. The plan at present talks about provisions for 15 percent affordable housing, but the plan itself 1,700 units of market-rate housing at the site of the Oakland Corporation Yard, facing the Bay.

The demands are also for “good jobs with living wages,” protections for tenants so they will not be “pushed out by rising rents,” and protections to prevent air pollution and build a grocery store, youth center and other public services in nearby East Oakland neighborhoods.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 14, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Proposed Coliseum City Project Could Cost Oakland 8,000 Jobs

 

The City of Oakland has relased the detailed plans for a proposed 800-acre “Coliseum City” to rise upon Oakland’s existing Coliseum site and 550 acres of adjacent land on the other side of I-880. The plan includes nearly 6,000 units of housing, three hotels, over 500,000 square feet of retail space, and nearly 7 million square feet of science, technology, office, and industrial space.

The City of Oakland has relased the detailed plans for a proposed 800-acre “Coliseum City” to rise upon Oakland’s existing Coliseum site and 550 acres of adjacent land on the other side of I-880. The plan includes nearly 6,000 units of housing, three hotels, over 500,000 square feet of retail space, and nearly 7 million square feet of science, technology, office, and industrial space.

By Ken Epstein

Whether the proposed massive Coliseum City project would manage to save any of Oakland’s three major sports franchises is uncertain.

There are a lot of questions in the air about where the A’s and the Raiders are likely to land, and it appears that the Warriors all are but gone.

But what is certain, according to many community activists and business observers, is that the rezoning proposals that are part of the project would effectively eliminate the city’s only industrial park, pushing out 150 businesses that employ over 8,000 workers.

Many of these are good stable jobs, such as warehouse, that pay $50,000 to $75,000 a year.

The way it would work, knowledgeable observers say, is that as soon as the industrial park is rezoned to allow retail and residential units, the market value of the land would more than double.

Companies would have to move if could not pay the higher rents. Property owners would have incentives to sell and move to other cities.

Even the news that zoning changes might be in the works could encourage speculators to begin to snap up properties, as has been occurring for years in West Oakland.

The city administration’s proposal, contained in the Coliseum Area Specific Plan and several volumes of documents in an Environmental Impact Report, is designed to establish new land use and zoning regulations that will guide development in the area around the Oakland Coliseum and the Oakland International Airport for the next 25 years.

The draft plan was released on Aug. 28 and the final plan was released on Jan. 30 – developed by city staff and consulting firms for the past few years. Although there have been a number of public input sessions, there has been no collaborative planning process.

The timeline calls for the specific plan to be approved by the Planning Commission on March 4 and forwarded to the City Council for approval in March or April.

The plan has been kept purposely “flexible” or indeterminate because the content of the project ultimately will depend to a large extent on who the developers will be and what they will want to build on the 800 plus acres that include the Coliseum and its parking lots, the Oakland Airport Business Park across the freeway from the Coliseum and waterfront area along the Bay.

 

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, February 20, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

Coliseum City: What Are the Benefits for East Oakland Residents?

Coliseum City Entertainment District (rendering)

Coliseum City Entertainment District (rendering)

By Ken Epstein

A number of community members spoke at a public hearing this week at the Planning Commission, raising concerns about how East Oakland neighborhoods and businesses will be impacted by a city proposal to clear the way for the massive development called Coliseum City.

This development seems like a “formularic corporate development…. this is like an alien space city,” dropped into East Oakland, said Nehanda Imara, a community organizer for Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) who lives about a mile from the proposed development.

“It’s a beautiful project, but it doesn’t seem like it includes the people who live on the outside,” she said. “We’d like some of the benefits surrounding the project,” including jobs, better air quality and affording housing.

Artist's drawing of Coliseum City

Artist’s drawing of Coliseum City

The development project has the potential to go in different directions, Imara said. “It could be connected to the community, or it could be disconnected from the community.”

The city’s proposal, contained in the Coliseum Area Specific Plan and several volumes of documents in an Environmental Impact Report, is designed to establish new land use and zoning regulations that will guide development in the area around the Oakland Coliseum and the Oakland International Airport for the next 25 years.

The draft plan was released on Aug. 28 and the final plan was released on Jan. 30. – developed by city staff and consulting firms for the past few years.

The timeline calls for the specific plan to be discussed at a couple more community meetings and then approved by the Planning Commission and forwarded to the City Council for approval in March or April.

The plan has been kept purposely “flexible” or indeterminate because the content of the project ultimately will depend to a large extent on who the developers will be and what they will want to build on the 800 plus acres that include the Coliseum and

Nehanda Imara

Nehanda Imara

its parking lots, the Oakland Airport Business Park across the freeway from the Coliseum and waterfront area along the Bay.

A number of community members complained that public input has been inadequate.

“I attended one of the library meeting to which this document refers. There was no planning done by the community. Staff simply made presentations and answered a few questions,” said Fred Ellis, who represented OaklandWorks Alliance.

“This is unlike the lengthy process which took place in West Oakland,” Ellis continued. “Few East Oakland residents are even aware of these zoning changes or their implications.”

Robert Schwartz, who owns a company at the business park, said he had submitted a letter with his objections to the proposal in October, but city staff never responded.

He said the proposed zoning changes that would allow residential development where the business park is located would cause the market values of the properties to skyrocket, effectively ending the business park.

Local industries and the jobs they produce can only can to stay in Oakland if the city is committed to protecting the industrial zoning designation of the area, Schwartz said.

“This is not a good idea. This is the only business park we have (in Oakland),” he said.

Schwartz asked why the city was in such a hurry to pass the plan and is seemingly reluctant to involve community and business people in the planning process. “You’re talking about a 25 year (development) plan, and all of a sudden it has to be passed in 25 days,” he said.

Senior citizen Carolyn Holloway said the people she knows are concerned they will be forced to move away.

“They feel they will be displaced. They feel they will have to move to Stockton or Sacramento,” she said.

“We don’t really see many benefits for residents,” she said. “What about sidewalks? Or trees?”

Theola Polk said that she and other senior citizens are feeling that Coliseum City offers nothing to people who live in East Oakland.

“We’d like to know if you’ve forgotten us, she said. “Have we been overlooked? When will our area get a facelift?”

Upcoming meetings on the Coliseum Area Specific Plan:

Wednesday, Feb.11, Community Workshop, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. ,81st Avenue Library meeting room , 1021 81st Ave. 

Tuesday, Feb. 17, Business and Property-owners Meeting,  9: a.m. – 11 a.m. OneToyota community meeting room , 8181 Oakport St. 

Wednesday, March 4, Oakland Planning Commission,  6 p.m., in City Council Chambers, Oakland City Hall, One Frank H. Ogawa Plaza).  The Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing to consider certifying the Coliseum Plan Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), and recommending to the City Council adoption of the Final Specific Plan and the proposed new Planning Code and General Plan amendments.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, February 7, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

#BlackLivesMatter Movement Raises Demands at Oakland City Council Hearing

The community marched for Black Lives Matter during the Jobs and Economy March to reclaim Martin Luther King's legacy on Monday, Jan. 19 in East Oakland. Photo by Ken Epstein.

The community marched for Black Lives Matter during the Jobs and Economy March to reclaim Martin Luther King’s legacy on Monday, Jan. 19 in East Oakland. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Post Staff

In response to police abuse and violence in the City of Oakland, the Anti Police Terror Project is making its demands for an end to what they call” a war on Black lives” and  are sending the message that “Black Lives Matter.”

Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee.

Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee.

The project is a coalition of over 20 local organizations, including the Onyx Organizing Committee, Workers World, the Alan Blueford Center for Justice, Healthy Hoodz, Young Oakland, Asians for Black Lives, Black Out Collective and Black Brunch.

The Onyx Organizing Committee convened the coalition to create a sustainable, replicable model across the country to combat police terrorism.

“This came out of the desire to get off the defense, to stop feeling like we were chasing dead bodies,” said Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee.

“This is an epidemic,” she said.

“As the movement grows, the conversation on the war on Blacks lives (is expanding) to talk about all the ways this is a war on Black lives including economic violence, physical violence, psychological violence and educational violence,” Brooks continued.

The movement’s demands are not based on the work of a few individuals but are the result of the collective anger and experiences of many people and organizations, she said.

“They are based on the community’s expertise of actively living in these streets,” Brooks said.

In an interview Thursday with the Post, she said that the movement’s demands would be raised Saturday at the City Council’s public meeting about #BlackLivesMatter.

She said organizers do not want to see a “dog and pony show” but were expecting that their demands would to be directly responded to and that action would be taken quickly after the meeting.

Among the demands are:

* Drop the charges and rescind the “ransom” against the Black Friday 14 protesters;

* Make Oakland the Sanctuary City it is supposed to be and provide amnesty for all immigrants;

* Stop to all abuse and violence against LGBTQ people committed by law enforcement;

* Locally, the Oakland Police Department receives 69 percent of the city budget and nationally, the police receive 51 percent of the budget. These funds should be redistributed for co-ops whose purpose will be to improve the quality of life for oppressed nationalities by building schools, grocery stores, medical facilities and create living wage jobs with benefits;

* Assure the right to peacefully protest. The streets belong to the people;

* Stop profiling, targeting, stopping, frisking and killing Black and Brown families;.

* A community review board should have true jurisdiction over the Oakland Police Department;

* The  police should get out of our schools;

* A complete overhaul of the Police Bill of Rights;

* Police officers receive leave WITHOUT pay when under investigation for a questionable shooting.  Killer cops should be fired;

* Protect the rights of all people to vote, especially disenfranchised populations like those on parole and probation;

* Abolish practices that continue to penalize people returning home from prisons and instead create “welcome home” packages that include housing, jobs, educational opportunities and counseling;

* Create a taskforce comprised of the most impacted community members to devise alternative plans to imprisonment.**

 With respect to development and employment in the proposed Coliseum City Project:

* Decision-making by residents of East Oakland on the plan for Coliseum City and surrounding areas;

* A hiring policy that ensures that jobs go to Blacks and Latinos in proportion to the percentages of these groups living in East Oakland, including jobs for the disenfranchised who are on probation and parole – even for violent offenses;

* No displacement of local small businesses and expanded opportunities for minority businesses;

All housing developed with city funds should be affordable to Oakland families living at the median income;

* Conduct a Health Impact Assessment that lays out how many Oakland residents will be displaced as a result of the Coliseum City Development and other undesirable outcomes;

* And, commit to providing living-wage jobs with benefits to all employees of the Coliseum City project, from the janitor to the retail clerk.
* Several Oakland pastors said they will ask the city to stop the practice of using 32 percent of job Training funds for city staff overhead and redirect the money to job programs serving youth and the unemployed.

*A number of community members and leaders also have told the Post that they plan to attend the City Council hearing to raise their concerns and suggest proposals for change.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 24, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Local Small Businesses Object to Coliseum City Development

By Ken Epstein

Representatives of small businesses are complaining that city staff is on a fast track to adopt a formal plan for a massive Coliseum City development project, which has reached the final stages of approval without consulting affected companies.

Robert Schwartz of Key Source International (left) and James Curtis, president of the Oakland Commerce Corporation, wait for their opportunity to speak at the Oakland Planning Commission public hearing Wednesday at City Hall. Photos by Ken Epstein.

Robert Schwartz of Key Source International (left) and James Curtis, president of the Oakland Commerce Corporation, wait for their opportunity to speak at the Oakland Planning Commission public hearing Wednesday at City Hall. Photos by Ken Epstein.

The rezoning of the area for a stadium, housing and retail development on the Oakland airport side of Interstate 880 will eliminate much of Oakland’s only business park and many of its small businesses, which employ local residents, according the businessmen.

“I object to the plan, which will effectively over time destroy the business park without discussion or community input as originally promised and budgeted for when the planning process was instituted. Good paying business jobs will be sacrificed for sports, entertainment and residences without consulting the present community,” according to Robert Schwartz, long time Oakland resident and owner of Key Source international on Oakport Street in the business park.

Schwartz and others spoke Wednesday at a poorly announced Oakland Planning Commission public hearing on the plan.

City staff and a consulting team have been working on the plan for the past two years. Schwartz and others are saying they have been allowed to comment on the plan after it was designed but not to be part of the design process itself.

Fred Ellis speaks for the OaklandWorks Alliance at the Planning Commissiion public hearing.

Fred Ellis speaks for the OaklandWorks Alliance at the Planning Commissiion public hearing.

The Coliseum City plan, according to the City of Oakland’s website, “seeks to transform the underutilized land around the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and Arena into a world-class sports, entertainment and science & technology district that boasts a dynamic and active urban setting with retail, entertainment, arts, culture, live and work uses.”

The 800-plus acre site includes the present coliseum arena and the area on the west side of the freeway w, where the Oakland Airport Business Park is located and extends all the way to the waterfront.

Objecting to the characterization of the business park as “underutilized land,” Schwartz said that industrial- and light-industrial use land sells for less than retail-use and residential-use land. Therefore, if zoning for industrial use is removed, the market value of the land will go up.

Existing businesses will sell out and move out of Oakland. New companies will not be able to afford to set up shop in the city.

Schwartz says he does not see the utility to the city of eliminating good jobs at long standing local businesses in favor of creating poorly paying jobs at stadiums for “popcorn vendors.”

In a letter to the city’s department of Planning and Building, James Curtis, president of the Oakland Commerce Corporation, agreed with Schwartz.

“We object to your plan to cross the 880 freeway and intrude into our existing Port of Oakland Business Park,” he said. “That appears to use an unnecessary and detrimental encroachment on the existing businesses in the park.

“Part of the (Coliseum) Plan should include funding to improve the infrastructure and help revitalized its’ appeal for future expansion and job creation,” said Curtis.

Speaking on behalf of the OaklandWorks Alliance at the Wednesday hearing, Fred Ellis read a statement backing the small business’ concerns.

“We oppose any rezoning without the opportunity for full community discussion by the affected communities,” said Ellis. “We oppose zoning changes that appear to remove East Oakland’s only business park and displace at least one of Oakland’s long standing and important businesses.”

“Few East Oakland residents are even aware that such immense and important policy changes are occurring,” Ellis continued. “The staff has provided no justification for proceeding without a participatory advisory committee of Oakland residents.”

“The planning process for East Oakland needs a restart,” he said.

Among the organizations in OaklandWorks are the West Oakland Environmental Indicators project, Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO), Oakland Black Caucus, Concerned Black Men and the John George Democratic Club.

Some people are saying that the rush to approve the project came from former Mayor Jean Quan’s administration, and there could potentially be a different approach under Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Speaking informally after the public hearing, one staff member said: “This project didn’t start with a clean slate. We heard: ‘Here are your marching orders.’”

Schwartz has said he does not oppose moving ahead with the building of new sports arenas on the Coliseum property but is against the city’s plan to eliminate the business park on the West side of the freeway.

Before it is approved, the development plan has to overcome other hurdles, including the concerns of the Port of Oakland and the EBMUD, which are both impacted by the proposal. The plan must also gain the backing of the developers, who are working to put together private funding for the project.

The Planning Commission has scheduled hearings on the development plan on Feb. 4 and Feb. 9 and a vote on Feb. 18. If passed, the proposal will go to the City Council, where it could be approved in March.

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

Bay Area Groups Call for 96 Hours of Action to “Reclaim King’s Legacy”

“Jobs and Economy” march on Monday from Fruitvale BART to Oakland Coliseum

Martin Luther King Jr. Arrested.

Hundreds of people from more than two-dozen groups associated with the Anti-Police Terror Project (APTP) will join thousands around the country in 96 hours of action over the Martin Luther King Weekend, Jan. 16-19.

In response to a call from Ferguson Action, organizers seek to reclaim Dr. King’s legacy and radical stance against poverty and all forms of violence.

The weekend’s events will culminate in a Jobs and Economy March for the People on Monday, Jan. 19, beginning at 11 a.m. at the Fruitvale BART Station, Oscar Grant Plaza, and ending at the Oakland Coliseum, where a massive Coliseum City development project is planned.

Coliseum City Entertainment District (rendering)

Coliseum City Entertainment District (rendering)

The project, which has yet to be approved, is proposed to include development of up to three sports stadiums, market-rate condominiums, hotels and an entertainment complex in the heart of East Oakland.

As planned, it would wipe out the city’s only business park.

The concerns of many Oakland residents, specifically people of color, are that they could be displaced or otherwise negatively impacted. The protesters are questioning why the city would support a project unless it provides jobs, housing and community development for Oakland residents.

“We march to demand an end to economic violence, police violence, educational violence and psychological violence that is perpetrated without consequence in our communities ” according to a statement by the APTP.

Proposed Coliseum City

Proposed Coliseum City

The group is also demanding that the Coliseum City project include: 1) Decision-making by residents of East Oakland on the plans for Coliseum City and surrounding areas; 2) A hiring policy ensuring that jobs go to Blacks and Latinos in proportion to the percentages of these groups living in East Oakland and including jobs for the disenfranchised who are on probation and parole; 3) No displacement of local small businesses and expanded opportunities for minority businesses; and 4) All housing developed with city funds should be affordable to Oakland families at the median income.

“We have seen the Black population of urban communities shrink all over the country,” the call for the protest said. “In Oakland the African-American population has shrunk from 49 percent to 27 percent. We want to stop the policies that have led to this shrinkage and turn it around so that African-Americans are able to live and thrive in this city.”

The APTP is a coalition of over 20 groups, including the Onyx Organizing Committee, Workers World, the Alan Blueford Center for Justice, Healthy Hoodz, Young Oakland, Asians for Black Lives, Black Out Collective, Black Brunch, and CRC

For more information, go to www.postnewsgroup.com.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 17, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)