Category: Community

Eastlake Community Group Says “Fight Continues” to Stop E. 12th Street Luxury Tower

A coalition of protesters opposing the E. 12th Street luxury tower shut down the Oakland City Council meeting on May 4. Photo courtesy of ABC7

A coalition of protesters opposing the E. 12th Street luxury tower shut down the Oakland City Council meeting on May 4. Photo courtesy of ABC7.

By Ken Epstein

A group of neighbors who are leading the fight against the luxury apartment tower by Lake Merritt – Eastlake United for Justice – is saying it is determined to keep public pressure on the City Council to ensure that “they are making a is a sincere effort to secure low-uncome affordable housing on E. 12th St.”

Members of the Eastlake group said they were heartened by the city’s decision to issue a “Notice of Intent and Offer to Convey Property,” dated July 14, which implies that the city “has decided to comply with the law and put the parcel back out to bid, as the community has demanded from the very beginning,” according to the East Lake group’s media release.

But at the same time, “the fight continues,” the news release said, because they find a number of reasons for concern that the city is not seriously seeking affordable housing proposals to develop the parcel.

Complicating the process, the new notice is not a formal “Request for Proposals,” the usual way the city seeks applicants to purchase or lease property.

In addition, the press release said, “The city’s notice to developers does not mention an affordable housing requirement or priority. It gives just 60 days for proposals to be developed and submitted. And the notice was quietly distributed to a very limited list of agencies including very few housing developers and a handful of agencies that do not develop housing

“This looks like an attempt to comply with the bare minimum of the law to avoid a lawsuit, then hand the parcel back to UrbanCore for a luxury tower,” the news release said.

Asked about the new offer and the still existing proposed agreement with UrbanCore, Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney told the Post on Wednesday, “I have no comment on this project.

According to Councilmember Abel Guillon, who represents the district where the proposed project would be built, “The 60-day notice is not a cover for anything. It is merely an extra step of due diligence,”

He added: “I think the city’s practice is to consider all proposals, solicited and unsolicited.  The next step will depend on the nature of any responses the city receives to the notice.”

Guillen said the City Administrator and City Attorney will be reporting back to the council on the. parcel and its potential development.

Also questioned about the new project and why he city had not issued an RFPP was Patrick Lane, city Development/Redevelopment Program Manager of the Department of Economic and Workforce Development.

“It is what it is,” Lane told the Post. “It is letting people know there is an option for the site.”

He said the contract withi UrbanCore had not been passed by the City Council because the final vote had been postponed.

Lane said he had referred the Post’s questions to the City Attorney last week but had not received a reply.

The Post had asked: How will offers be prioritized? Will offers to build affordable housing be privileged? What is the city going to do with the agreement with UrbanCore , which was already approved by council at the first of two meetings?

Will UrbanCore have a priority for consideration under this notice?

The city had sent out its new offer to 18 agencies including the CA State Parks Department, AC Transit, P.G.& E., CALTRANS, the Oakland Unified School District , the East Bay Regional Parks District., Port of Oakland , BART and East Bay Municipal Utilities District.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 25, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

City of Oakland Declares Humanist Hall a Neighborhood Nuisance

Gentrifying neighborhood threatens historic venue’s survival, according to staff.

Celebration at Humanist Hall. Photo courtesy of Humanist Hall.

By Tulio Ospina

Humanist Hall, a non-theistic church that has been a cultural resource for under-served communities in Oakland since 1941, has been designated a public nuisance by the City of Oakland, based on complaints of neighborhood residents.

According to the staff at the hall, located at 390 27th Street between Telegraph Avenue and Broadway, recent gentrification in the area around the venue has led to new residents repeatedly filing complaints against its hours of operation, noise levels, presence of children outdoors and patrons “loitering” outside the building.

Humanist Hall at 390 27th St. in Oakland has been in operation since 1941. Photo courtesy of the East Bay Express

Humanist Hall at 390 27th St. in Oakland has been in operation since 1941. Photo courtesy of the East Bay Express

After nuisances are reported, the city can impose penalties such as fines and evictions if the annoyances continue. Since June of this year, Humanist Hall has been fined $4,000 due to noise complaints—$1,000 per offense—a sum that could put the hall out of business.

“We host a lot of cultural events for people who otherwise couldn’t afford them,” said David Oertel, Humanist Hall president, pointing out that the church hosts community events, which include Mexican family occasions—such as quinceañeras and baptisms—transgender weddings, cultural dances, barbecues and political meetings.

Once a year, the Humanist Hall hosts a voodoo festival that brings international patrons to Oakland from as far away as Trinidad and Puerto Rico, said Oertel.

The Humanist church is not a profit-seeking entity but is dedicated to offering its space to support the political, spiritual, cultural and ethnic values of minority communities, he said.

Greg Minor, assistant to the city administrator, states the city has had issues with the venue for the past 10 years, mostly due to noise levels during the day and especially after curfew.

With regard to steps to mediate or encourage conflict resolution between the neighbors before resorting to punitive measures, Minor responded that mediation is a usual first step for the city in these situations.

Nonetheless, he was unsure what steps had been taken in this circumstance because he has only been working in his current position for a short time.

Minor said complaining residents have been unwilling to speak publically with the press for fear of retaliation.

Oertel said he has not been able to talk to those who have complaints, claiming they have been secretive and aloof and “not very interested in being in a community with the people who they are in the community with.”

Humanist Hall entered into a settlement agreement with the city last month and agreed to start complying with the city’s conditions in order to avoid paying the fines.

Oertel claims that obeying every regulation has been difficult for the church.

“One of the agreement’s conditions is that we have to report to the city the expected number of guests that will be attending each event,” said Oertel. “But a lot of these people come to family occasions and bring their extended families and we end up with a hundred people.”

Last week, the organization launched an online petition calling on Mayor Libby Schaaf to “encourage condo owners and renters to respect the social norms of the neighborhood – our neighborhood – that they have moved into.”

“Apparently, one homeowner complaining to the city is enough to shut down Humanist Hall, even though 20,000 people per year who use our hall would have to go without it,” says the petition.

Within a week, the online petition has garnered over 1,600 signers.

Young McClymonds Warriors Tour South Africa

McClymonds High School's "Culture Keepers" left Monday on a flight to Johannesburg to tour South Africa. Photo by Jumoke Hinton.

McClymonds High School’s “Culture Keepers” left Monday on a flight to Johannesburg to tour South Africa. Photo by Jumoke Hinton.

By Post Staff

A group of young women from McClymonds, their mentors, and teachers – known as “Culture Keepers” – left Monday from the San Francisco International Airport for a tour of South Arica.

The travel program is designed to help students “collectively gain a better understanding of who African American women are culturally; expand our roles as global citizens, and to build an intergenerational, transnational understanding of what it means to be Black women and girls,” according to Kharyshi Wiginton, the primary organizer of the trip.

“We plan to use our knowledge and experiences to educate our families and communities. In short, the ultimate goal of this project is community transformation,” she said.

Many community supporters have stepped forward ensure the young women have the opportunity to travel abroad and experience South African culture.

“Exposure to foreign culture can help youth challenge their thoughts, beliefs, and personal comfort zones, which is a catalyst for growth,” said educator and organizer Carroll Fife.

Participants in the tour include: Kierra Bassette-Cotton, Jonae Scott, Dana Nicole Williams, Reginae Hightower, Axia Fuller, Leahnna Smith, Fanae Clark, Nakaya Laforte, Alexis Hill and Cierra Marzette.

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

The San Francisco Foundation Donates $34 Million to Oakland Nonprofits

Huge grant will mean jobs, training and affordable housing

(L to R): Dominique Parker, Renelle Malone, Kiyle Adams, Regina Jackson, Mayor Libby Schaaf, Destin Colbert and Fred Blackwell at the East Oakland Youth Development Center. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

(L to R): Dominique Parker, Renelle Malone, Kiyle Adams, Regina Jackson, Mayor Libby Schaaf, Destin Colbert and Fred Blackwell at the East Oakland Youth Development Center. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

By Tulio Ospina

The San Francisco Foundation (TSFF) announced on Tuesday that it is donating $34 million dollars to a number of Oakland nonprofit community organizations, a gift of an anonymous donor.

TSFF, now headed by Fred Blackwell, former Oakland City administrator, is one of the largest community foundations in the country and gives out millions of dollars every year through grants and fellowship programs.

According to Jane Sullivan, the foundation’s vice president, this is the first time TSFF has made a donation of this scale.

“The foundation wanted to invest heavily in Oakland’s key organizations and infrastructure,” said Sullivan. “We know people in Oakland are being displaced and being withheld from tech opportunities. We are looking to help create the opportunities for those in Oakland that need it the most.”

The grants are estimated to result in 731 new affordable housing units being built, 2,502 new jobs created and ultimately 62,570 people served.

The foundation made the announcement of its awards at a well-attended press conference at the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC), which provides support under-served youth in poor neighborhoods and one of the recipients a large donation.

Having recently made renovations and additions to their facility—including a more expansive wellness center, a dance room, and martial arts dojo—EODYC will use its $1 million grant to pay off the debt it accrued with one-third of what it is receiving from TSFF, said Regina Jackson, president of the center.

“With the $ 2 million grant we acquired from the foundation, Asian Health Services is devoted to expanding access to health services for underserved communities, newly-arrived immigrants and sexually exploited minors,” said Sherry Hirota, CEO of Asian Health Services.

“This includes establishing school-based clinics that help address issues of trauma that so many of youth experience in Oakland.”

The Unity Council received $3 million in support of building the second phase of the Fruitvale Transit Village, which will develop 270 units of housing in Fruitvale, 80 of which will be affordable housing.

Other beneficiaries included:

The EastSide Arts Alliance, which received $1 million to secure its building;

Urban Strategies Council, which was awarded $1.2 million to pay for CEO transition and low-income housing development;

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which received $1 million to support its Restore Oakland/Restaurant Opportunity Center;

Destiny Arts Center, which was awarded $1.3 million to eliminate the organization’s debt service, expand its work with incarcerated youth at the Alameda Juvenile Justice Center and increase participation of LGBTQ youth in the organization’s “Moving the Movement” program; and

A $4 million grant, which will support seven Oakland based high-tech programs: Black Girls Code, David Glover Center, Hack the Hood, Hidden Genius Project, Qeyno Labs, #YesWeCode and Youth Impact Hub – designed to ensure that a diverse workforce is available for technology employers.

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

McClymonds High’s Original Warriors Celebrate 100th Anniversary

McClymonds graudates

McClymonds graudates

By Ken Epstein and Ashley Chambers

McClymonds High School, the school of champions and home of the original Warriors, is celebrating its 100th anniversary next week with a series of events that honors generations of graduates and recognizes the continuing importance of the school in the West Oakland community.

The celebration will feature Joe Ellis, who played in the NBA for the Warriors, who will be master of ceremonies; and keynote speaker Ben Tapscott, former McClymonds coach and teacher.

President Obama awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to Bill Russell

President Obama awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to Bill Russell

A special honoree will be Inez Gray-Harvey, 100 years old, who graduated from the school in 1933.

The Oakland Post will be honored at the celebration for its long-term commitment to the Oakland community.

A free meet and greet for members of the extended McClymonds family will be held Friday evening, July 24, at 6 p.m. at the E-One Entertainment Club at 200 Hegenberger Road in Oakland.

McClymonds band

McClymonds band

A free memory tour of McClymonds High School, including the gym, library and cafeteria, will be held Saturday morning, July 25, 10 a.m., at McClymonds High, 2607 Myrtle St.

The main event, which is already sold out, will feature dinner, live music and a program at the Sequoyah Country Club on Saturday, July 25. A souvenir book, “McClymonds High School’s First 50 Years,” will be distributed to guests.

The “School of Champions,” started in 1915 as a summer school, was named after former OUSD Superintendent J.W. McClymonds. In 1927, McClymonds transitioned into a standard school for both junior high and high school students.

McClymonds Warriors recognized in Sacramento

McClymonds Warriors recognized in Sacramento

It was first located at 14th and Myrtle, now the site of West Oakland Middle School. The school moved to its current building on 26th and Myrtle in 1957.

Initially, student enrollment at McClymonds was predominantly white, according to George Randolph, class of 1960, and Tina “Teague” Dright, class of 1961. Students of color began to attend the school in the 40s and 50s during the Great Migration of African Americans to the area after World War II.

img_19712“A lot of people that came through those doors have gone on and done great things in the world,” said alumnus George Randolph. “The spirit that came out of those people, we see it in what they’re doing now.”

McClymonds has a long list of notable graduates, including:

Lionel Wilson, a superior court judge and Oakland’s first African American mayor;

Ron Dellums, former U.S. Congressman and mayor of Oakland;

Nicholas Petris, State Senator;

School board members James Norwood, Sylvester Hodges, Lucella Harrison and David Anderson;

Mayor Lionel Wilson

Mayor Lionel Wilson

Many professional athletes, among whom are Bill Russell, NBA Hall of Fame; Frank Robinson, MLB player, Hall of Fame; Curt Flood, MLB player; Vada Pinson, MLB player; and Jim Hines, Olympic Gold medalist, 100-meter dash record holder.

In the field of music, graduates include jazz musician Pete Escovedo, MC Hammer, Grammy award-winning rapper, and musician Yancie Taylor.

“The events will be fast paced, but there will be plenty of time to talk and reconnect,” said Sylvester Hodges, class of 1960, who is part of the group that has been organizing the celebration for the past year.

Also at the Saturday night celebration, guests will be asked for a resolution calling on the Oakland Unified School District to promise to never change the name of McClymonds High School, no matter what reforms or redesigns the district adopts in the future, said Hodges.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 18, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

City Council Mum After Exposure of Confidential Legal Opinion

Council ignored City Attorney’s advice that sale of Lake Merritt parcel was illegal

Josh Healey, an Eastlake resident, spoke Tuesday against the City Council's decision to sell the East 12th property to a private developer. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

Josh Healey, an Eastlake resident, spoke Tuesday against the City Council’s decision to sell the East 12th property to a private developer. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

By Tulio Ospina and Ken Epstein

The Oakland City Council was uncharacteristically at a loss for words this week after public exposure that it had moved ahead on a controversial sale of city property near Lake Merritt to UrbanCore Development, ignoring the confidential legal opinion of its own attorney.

The council had approved the sale of the property in a 6-0 vote last month, and the motion was scheduled for final approval at Tuesday night’s council meeting and was expected to be a formality.

Robbie-Clark-300x199

Robbie Clark speaks at City Council meeting.

But without a word of explanation, councilmembers pulled the final decision from the agenda. They never once referred to the exposure of the city attorney’s legal opinion, though it was discussed by a number of speakers at the meeting.

The final vote was postponed to the council’s July 21 meeting.

Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker’s written opinion, issued on Feb. 17, had warned councilmembers their plan to sell the parcel across from the lake on East 12th Street to build a 315-unit luxury apartment tower would be in violation of state law – California’s Surplus Land Act.

In the confidential document that was obtained by the East Bay Express and released Monday, Parker told the council that the East 12th Street parcel “qualifies as surplus land, and the California Surplus Land Act requires the city to offer the property to ‘preferred entities’ designated in the act, for 60 days before agreeing to convey the property to UrbanCore.”

Under the law, the developer would be required “to rent or sell at least 15 percent of project units to lower income households at an affordable rent or housing cost,” according to the Parker’s written opinion.

The deal approved by the council on June 17 would sell the property to UrbanCore for $5.1 million, plus an additional $8 million to build other affordable housing elsewhere in Oakland with some additional community benefits. None of the units in the proposed building would be rented at a rate affordable to most Oakland residents.

One of those who spoke at the council meeting on Tuesday night was David Zisser, an attorney at Public Advocates, which is representing the community members who are fighting the sale of the property.

“We were not surprised by the city attorney’s opinion,” he said. “After all, we have been saying the same thing for months.”

“What is surprising is that the council decided to go ahead with the sale anyway,” he said, adding that he was glad councilmembers had pulled the property sale from the agenda.

Local resident Oscar Fuentes criticized City Attorney Parker, an elected official, for keeping silent – never revealing her legal opinion to the public.

“Wasn’t the city attorney obligated by her duty to the City of Oakland to give (the people) her actual interpretation of the law? I think the people deserve an answer,” he said.

Robbie Clark, an activist in local fights in opposition to gentrification and displacement, said that the council’s Lake Merritt property deal “is the kind of decision that helps gentrification continue.”

Instead of selling public property for private development, the city needs to “set aside land for affordable housing,” Clark said. “Those are the kinds of laws we need to enforce.”

“It’s hard to say we’re going to crack down on crime when some of that crime comes down from the city,” said Josh Healey, Eastlake resident.

One city hall observer stated, “Barbara Parker is supposed to be the city’s ultimate watchdog as city attorney. But since she is not seeking re-election, she doesn’t care enough to save taxpayers money and legal hardship.”

“If she were running again, she would be hyper-vigilant rather than denying the public its right to know what is going on,” according to the observer.

In an interview with the Post this week, Monica García, a member of the neighborhood group Eastlake United for Justice, spoke about her organization’s reaction to the exposure of Parker’s opinion.

“I’m shocked to see this in black and white, knowing that City Councilmembers went against their own legal opinion,” she said.

“As taxpayers, we want to know why they’d go against it,” she said, “It’s the taxpayers who pay every time the city loses a lawsuit.”

In addition to postponing the vote on the property sale, the council should “offer an explanation for why they chose to defy the legal opinion,” said García.

Opponents of the project have repeatedly told the council that the sale was in violation of the California Surplus Land Act and warned that a decision to go ahead with the sale would lead to a lawsuit.

Mayor Libby Schaaf – a member of the city council when a number of the decisions were made related to the sale of the parcel – did not respond to the Oakland Post’s request for a comment on the public exposure of Parker’s confidential opinion.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 11, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Community Leader José Dueñas, 63

By Post Staff

Jose Duenas

Jose Dueñas

José Dueñas, a highly respected community leader in Oakland, passed away suddenly, Saturday, June 20 at his home. He was 63.

He was known widely as an expert in international trade, business and politics and an inspirational community organizer in Alameda County.

Dueñas served as former administrator of the Port of Oakland, former CEO of the Bay Area World Trade Center and former CEO of the Hispanic Engineers, Builders and Contractors (HEBCo) organization.

Most recently, he was president of the Alameda County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Dueñas strongly backed Desley Brooks’ proposal for a Department of Race and Equity. In a text message earlier this month to Post publisher Paul Cobb, Dueñas wrote that he wanted to work with Cobb “to create a coalition of Latinos and African Americans and Asians to discuss how to deal with the inequities in the county.”

Born and raised in Oakland, Dueñas attended Oakland public schools during the era of the Civil Rights Movement, which he claimed fueled his life’s devotion to public service.

A graduate of Fremont High School, he attended college to study engineering.

His subsequent accomplishments and commitment to serving the Latino community and communities of color in Alameda County have earned him wide praise over the years.

Dueñas’ community involvement started at a young age when he helped organize La Raza Basketball Association in Oakland, which led to him to mentor young Latinos and other youth from underserved communities.

As a leader in Oakland’s international trade arena, he worked to establish the opportunities to put Oakland and the East Bay on the global trade map.

Viewing and rosary services will be held 5 p.m. to 8 p., Monday, June 29 at the Holy Angels Funeral and Cremation Center, Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, 1051 Harder Road in Hayward.

A mass will be held Tuesday, June 30 at 10 a.m. at St Elizabeth Catholic Church at 1500 34th Ave. in Oakland.

A community celebration will be held at a later date, to be announced. In lieu of flowers, In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Jose Dueñas Memorial Scholarship Fund, payable to the Hispanic Community Affairs Council (HCAC) and mailed to P.O. Box 3151, Hayward, CA  94540.  HCAC is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization, No. 94-2951649.

Courtesy of the Post, June 28, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

OUSD Consultant Lance Jackson’s Company Sued in Corruption Scandal

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is paying consultant Lance Jackson to head its Facilities Planning and Management Department

Lance Jackson

Lance Jackson

through the district’s contract with Seville Group Inc. (SGI), while Jackson continues working as an executive of the company, whose owner, along with school board members and a superintendent of schools, pleaded guilty in a corruption scheme in a Southern California school district.

The criminal prosecutions are over, but lawsuits against Seville that came out of the case are slowly moving ahead. Sweetwater Union High School District and San Diegans for Open Government are suing Seville, along with another company, to return $26 million on the grounds that their contracts with the school district were “tainted,” by bribing public officials, and therefore invalid.

In the widely publicized case, which finally concluded last year, a school board member went to jail and a number lost their positions. The district’s superintendent went to jail and paid a fine.

The former superintendent Sweetwater Union High School District was sentenced in April 2014 to jail. Photo courtesy of San Diego station ABC Channel 10.

The former superintendent of Sweetwater Union High School District  in Southern California was sentenced in June 2014 to jail. Photo courtesy of San Diego station ABC Channel 10.

According to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, “Between 2008 and 2011, the defendants frequented San Diego-area restaurants with contractors and others racking up hundreds of dollars in food and drinks at a time, in some cases reaching more than $1,000 per outing. Defendants were given Los Angeles Lakers playoff tickets, concert tickets, theater tickets, Rose Bowl tickets, Southwest Airlines tickets and trips to Pebble Beach and Napa Valley.”

The owner and president of Seville, Rene Flores, cooperated and testified for the prosecution. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was on informal probation until June 20, 2 014.

In addition to his interim consulting position in the school district, Jackson serves as Chief Operating Officer of Seville, part of the company’s seven-member executive leadership team.

School construction project in OUSD

Oakland Unified School District school construction project

Seville receives $30,000 a month, an equivalent of $360,000 a year, for Jackson’s services to OUSD, part of the company’s contract to provide construction management services to the district.

Jackson’s position with the company goes back to 2002, according to Bloomberg.

Seville has a nearly $11 million, three-year contract to provide project management oversight of OUSD’s construction projects. Jackson was hired by the school district as the interim replacement for Tim White, who was forced out of his $156,000-a-year position as head of Facilities Management in February after 14 years in the district.

Seville is being paid for Jackson’s work from school bond funds for what the district estimates is 75 percent of the work that Tim White was doing. As head of Facilities Planning and Management, Jackson oversees the expenditure of at least $435 million in taxpayer bond money.

The Southern California lawsuits are seeking the return of $26 million that SGI of Pasadena and Gilbane of Providence, R.I., received to oversee the Sweetwater district’s $644-million, voter-approved Proposition O bond program and a part of an earlier bond program.

“It was filed to recoup some of the bond (management) fees that we paid,” said Manny Rubio, public information officer of the Sweetwater school district in an interview with the Post.

State law – Government Code 1090 – prohibits officials from entering into a contract in which they have a financial interest and nullifies contracts made in violation of that law.

“The facts really aren’t in dispute. The people that received the gifts admit receiving them. Those that gave the gifts admit giving them,” said John Moot, outside legal counsel for Sweetwater, speaking in an interview with the newspaper U-T San Diego.

Responding to the lawsuit, lawyers for the contractors, Gilbane and Seville, said the district attorney’s charges were inflated, and the gifts to public officials were constitutionally protected free speech.

“Despite the rhetoric and rampant media coverage, the meager slaps on the wrist that flowed from the prosecution utterly belie (the D.A.’s) claims and prove the criminal charges were overblown and lacked evidentiary support,” the lawyers for the two companies said in court papers.

In rejecting one of the defendants’ claims, a San Diego judge in December 2014 ruled that the meals, trips and gifts were criminal acts and not constitutionally protected free speech.

Judge Eddie Sturgeon said that law the contractors cited did not apply if the conduct was illegal. He wrote that the gift were clearly meant to influence the decisions of the school officials, and the guilty pleas of the contractors and officials confirmed that what they did was illegal, according to UT-San Diego.

OUSD spokesperson Troy Flint responded to the Post’s questions about the hiring of Lance Jackson and the payments to SGI in light of the ongoing Southern California lawsuits.

“When we appointed Lance to his current position, we were aware of the investigation in San Diego,” Flint said. “We reviewed the matter to the best of our ability, and we determined that Lance was not involved in any way.”

He continued: “We retain our confidence in Lance based on that review and the caliber of work he’s done for us. We won’t hold what appears to be the actions of a few bad apples against Lance.

“Our work with SGI in general, and with Lance in particular, has been above board and extremely satisfactory. What the owners of the company may or may not have done in Southern California is not reflected in the work with OUSD or in Lance’s performance.”

Attorney Cory Briggs of San Diegans for Open Government told the Post that a trial or settlement to the case may be a year-and-a-half away. “If there’s a conflict of interest, (the companies) have to repay everything they’ve been paid,” he said.

The Post requested but at press time had not received comments from OUSD Board President James Harris or other board members, Lance Jackson or Supt. Antwan Wilson. General Counsel Jacqueline Minor was contacted but was out of the office.

Vote on Luxury Apartment Tower Postponed, As Councilmembers Seek Improved Community Benefits

By Ken Epstein

A number of Oakland residents have been waiting to see what the City Council will do next after protesters shut down the May 5 council meeting where the council was scheduled to authorize the sale of a piece of lakefront property to a private developer.

Abel Guillen

Abel Guillen

The issue was not on the May 11 council agenda and is not scheduled to be discussed next week at the May 19 council meeting.

In interviews with the Post, councilmembers said they are extending the time before bringing the motion to a final vote to allow staff and Councilmember Abel Guillen – who is leading the effort – to negotiate with the developer for more community benefits, including the possibility of affordable units on site.

At their May 5 meeting, councilmembers were stunned when well-organized protesters chained themselves together, seized control of the meeting and forced the council to adjourn without conducting any business.

The protesters – a coalition that included a neighborhood group called Eastlake United for Justice and black seed – produced a bullhorn and turned the meeting into a rally for their demands, calling for public property to be developed for affordable housing and other public uses – not sold to private companies to build luxury apartments as a one-time boost to the city’s budget.

The council is set to sell the piece of city-owned property at the corner of E. 12th Street and Lake Merritt Boulevard for $5.1 million to build a luxury apartment tower.

The proposed developers are Michael Johnson and his company Urban Core Development and Johnson’s financial partner UDR, a self-administered real estate investment trust (REIT) based in Denver that owns, operates, buys, renovates, develops, and manages multifamily apartment communities located throughout the country, headed by CEO and President Thomas Toomey.

Councilmember Guillen told the Post that he and city staff are having productive talks with the developers, and the final proposal should come to the council in June.

“We’re still in negotiations with the developers, trying to get the best deal possible for the City of Oakland.” he said.

Thomas Toomey

Thomas Toomey,  CEO of UDR

He continued: “I’m working on having affordable housing on site or offsite and other community benefits. We’re looking at all options.”

But Guillen cautioned affordable housing advocates not to expect too much.

“At the end of the day, we’re not going to please everybody here in Oakland,” he said. “We need both affordable housing and market-rate housing, and this project is really about market-rate housing.”

One-bedroom apartments at the proposed building will rent for about $3,100 a month.

Michael Johnson  of Urban Core Development. Photo by Ken Epstein

Michael Johnson of Urban Core Development. Photo by Ken Epstein

Council President Lynette McElhaney, who backs the property sale, said Guillen was prepared to make a motion at the disrupted May 5 meeting asking for additional time to negotiate with the developer.

“We haven’t scheduled (the issue) yet,” she said. “I´m not sure yet when it will come to council. I’ve been leaning on Abel’s leadership.”

“It’s his district, and there are concerns he has had that he wants to be addressed,” she said. “We needed the time to get in touch with the developers to discuss things he thought would enhance the project.”

At a recent Community and Economic Development Committee (CED) meeting, Guillen requested that the city seek a new appraisal on the property. He said he believed the property was worth about 25 percent more than what the city is selling it for.

Committee members, including McElhaney and Larry Reid, rejected this proposal.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 16, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Tagami’s New Deal to Bring Coal to Oakland Draws Opposition

A pile of coal sits near the Crandall Canyon Mine northwest of Huntington. Mining experts say Utah has about 40-45 years of coal left. Photo courtesy of Kristin Nichols, Deseret Morning News.

A pile of coal sits near the Crandall Canyon Mine northwest of Huntington. Mining experts say Utah has about 40-45 years of coal left. Photo courtesy of Kristin Nichols, Deseret Morning News.

By Ashley Chambers

Now that the Oakland Army Base development project is well underway, city developer and project manager Phil Tagami is working on a behind-the-scenes $53 million deal to ship coal from Utah through the new Oakland trade and logistics.

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

Last year local residents spoke out, and the City Council and the Port of Oakland have voted not to allow coal to be shipped through the port.

The Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund Board last month approved funding that would allow four counties in the state to acquire interest in the port in Oakland, according to The Richfield Reaper.

Utah is the14th largest producer of coal in the U.S.

The coal would be exported as soon as summer 2017 through a terminal at the Army Base that is expected to begin construction later this year. The new Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal will be designed to transport “bulk commodities” including iron ore and oversized equipment.

While the deal is still being negotiated, according to reports, the project is Tagami’s deal and has remained off the city’s radar until recently.

Tagami said his seven years of securing approvals and environmental entitlements for the Oakland Army Base project allow him to “lease space to a private company that can export just about anything except ‘nuclear waste, illegal immigrants, weapons and drugs,’” as reported in the Contra Costa Times.

However, according to a number of residents, bringing coal into the city could jeopardize everything that community residents and activists have fought for in massive Army Base development project – among them, clean energy and reduced environmental impacts on the West Oakland community adjacent to the port and to the city in general..

“This (Army Base) is city property, and at least half of the total investments are public money,” said Brian Beveridge of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP) and resident of Oakland. “Ultimately, Tagami and his group is a tenant of the City of Oakland; they don’t own the land.”

There are two core local environmental impacts, said Beveridge – “hundreds of pounds of coal dust emissions in the area, with 150 to 850 pounds of coal dust lost in transit.”

Secondly, “Oakland has a greenhouse gas reduction plan. Everything we’ll have gathered will be lost” by buying and exporting coal into the city, he said.

“Coal is one of the worst greenhouse gas producers in the world,” Beveridge added.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has also voiced her opposition to the export of coal in the city, voting last in May as a councilmember in support of a resolution against the transport of fossil fuels through the city.

Although Utah has already approved funding, winning support for the deal in Oakland is likely to be a hard sell.

According to the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization, coal burning is responsible for one-third of U.S. carbon emissions and leads to as many as 13,000 premature deaths every year and more than $100 billion in annual health costs.

In 2013, Tagami told Sierra Club leaders that there was no way he would consider coal as a commodity, according to Michelle Myers, director of the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter.

Myers suggested that the city amend the development agreement to allow them greater oversight on Tagami’s role as project manager and developer on the project.

“(Councilmembers) clearly expressed that they don’t want this type of commodity coming through the community, but they don’t have the legal levers to prevent it,” she said. “This is public land. They could potentially repeal his authority.”

Added Beveridge, “The city needs to define more clearly what kind of action and activities are appropriate to happen on their public land.”

“We have to connect our world-view to our local view, and exporting coal is a disconnect,” he said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 9, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)