Category: Health

Complaint Against Oakland Unified for “System-wide Violations of Rights of Children with Disabilities”

sunbelt-special-education

By Post Staff

Disability Rights of California has filed a complaint against the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) on behalf of the district’s special education students, alleging that “OUSD’s policies and practices result in system-wide violations of the rights of children with disabilities under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA),” according to the nonprofit agency.

“We are moving forward. We asked the state for a mediation process to resolve the complaint, and the state has assigned a mediator,” said Maggie Roberts, associate managing attorney at the disability rights agency, which receives federal funding to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.8954362

The agency is representing 10 named students with disabilities and a class of all special education students in the district. The complaint was filed in March with the California Department of Education.

The complaint alleges systemic failures that include not providing qualified staff; not offering special education programs and services based on disability related needs; and not providing or even budgeting funds to provide individualized accommodation such as curriculum modifications and behavioral supports to students with disabilities in general education classrooms.

disabilityequalityIn addition, the district is not meeting the needs of Limited English families, lacking staff to provide interpretation and translation services to non-English language proficient parents, who receive documents and notices in English rather than their primary language;

Further, the district has failed to provide students with mental health or behavioral needs services in the required least restrictive setting and instead placing them in segregated environments, according to the complaint.

The complaint also says OUSD’s systemic noncompliance with IDEA has a disparate impact on students of color, especially Latino students whose families are not proficient in English.

Of 5,074 OUSD students in Special Education, 1,880 are Latino, and 2,072 are African American. Together, they make up they make up 78 percent in the district’s special education program.

According to the state, about 10 percent of California students receive special education services. Most common are specific learning disabilities, such as reading difficulties, which are connected to students falling severely behind in their classes. Second most common are speech and language impairments.

One of the named complainants, TA, is a nine-year old boy in the third grade with a developmental disability.  Because OUSD did not provide TA with any services for the first seven weeks of this school year, and did not implement his legally required Individualized Education Program (IEP) during the last school year, TA’s mother requested a hearing, the complaint said.

As a result, OUSD agreed to provide the needed services. Four months later, it still has not provided TA with agreed upon services, including behavior support services, individual speech therapy, or a one-to-one aide in his classroom.

Instead, OUSD wants to move TA from his school and place him in a segregated nonpublic school, which would be his eighth placement since preschool, the complaint said.TA’s mother is frustrated by the district’s failure to assist her son, the complaint continues, quoting the child’s mother.

“My son has fallen far behind in school, and his behavior problems have gotten worse. Four months ago, the OUSD finally agreed to provide TA with all of the services he needs. OUSD is still not providing my son with what was agreed to. I don’t know what else to do to get the school district to give my son what he needs.”

According to Roberts, attorney at the agency, Disability Rights California usually files complaints on behalf of individuals. However, in this case, OUSD has long-term violations that are systemic, and district fails to implement changes even after hearings where they promised to institute remedies.

“This is unprecedented,” said Roberts in an interview with the Post, explaining that the agency has asked the state to become involved.

“The state (Department of Education) is ultimately responsible for implementing federal and state laws, and we wanted to make sure the state is aware, that even when cases went to complaint, OUSD didn’t implement settlement agreements.”

Roberts continued, “This is a problem that has been around for a long time. They have found ways to limit the programs. They do not offer services or have plans in place to deliver services.”

As a result of failure to offer adequate services, many of Oakland’s special education students drop out of school or barely graduate. “Many don’t go on to college or community college because they’re not equipped for that,” she said.

There are special education programs that exist, which OUSD could offer, that provide the latest computer technology and teachers equipped with up-to-date teaching methods.

In these programs, children of parents – particularly more affluent parents – do better in school and often go on to college.

“If the state does not do something to do to fix (these issues), and the district doesn’t do anything, then we will we will consider litigation,” said Roberts.

OUSD is well aware of these issues, she said. A 2013 report commissioned by OUSD found widespread deficiencies in its special education program, and is available at www.ousd.k12.ca.us/SpecialEdAssessment

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

Hundreds Defend ‘Afrika Town’ Community Garden

The Afrika Town community garden and mural are located at 23rd Street and San Pablo Avenue in West Oakland. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

The Afrika Town community garden and mural are located at 23rd Street and San Pablo Avenue in West Oakland. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

By Rasheed Shabazz

rasheed-headshotOver 300 community members in support of a community garden in West Oakland recently participated in a performance event to protect the garden from destruction.

The “Afrika Town” Garden sits on a lot on San Pablo Ave., at 23rd and Brush streets in West Oakland, just blocks from the “Uptown” district in downtown Oakland.

A year ago, the vacant lot reeked of urine and was littered with trash and syringes. Today, more than a dozen garden beds filled with fruits and vegetables provide fresh food to anyone who asks within an impoverished food desert.

On April 3, a day billed as ‘Liberation Day,’ the Afrika Town garden lot featured live poetry and musical performances, a “Know Your Rights” workshop by Oakland’s Copwatch, and a children’s jumper. Hundreds attended throughout the day in solidarity with the vision for an Afrika Town in Oakland.

Last fall, volunteers at Qilombo–a social center adjacent to the lot–cleaned up the lot and collaborated with Planting Justice and college students to plant vegetables to feed the community.

Back in February, organizers painted blocks on the sidewalk red, black and green, and hoisted banners on San Pablo Ave. that read, “Karibu, Afrika Town,” Swahili for welcome. Afrika, spelled with a k, is also a Swahili term.

On March 7, hundreds came to the garden and painted a large “Afrika Town” mural on the side of Qilombo’s building. It features Black Panthers, Kwame Nkrumah, and other artwork inspired by the liberation movement. The colorful mural not only attracted the approving eye of residents, activists say, but also the attention of developers.

On March 26, the current property owner, Noel Yi, along with his realtor Gary Robinson, came with Oakland Police and demolition equipment with an intent to destroy the garden. Afrika Town volunteers stood between bulldozers and the lot’s fence to prevent the uprooting of the garden.

After negotiations, the owner agreed to give volunteers one week to dig up the beds before the bulldozers would return.

Instead of removing the fruits and vegetables, lead volunteer Linda Grant and others organized to defend the garden.

“We want this to be a resource for the community,” said Danae Martinez, a community college professor of African American Studies at Laney and Merritt Colleges. Her students helped plant the garden and paint the mural. “We want it to be for Black people and about Black people.”

The garden is just a seed for Afrika Town, envisioned as an autonomous zone for Black people.

“A lot of other races and cultures have a designated space, like Chinatown, or Fruitvale, or Hills for the White folks,” said Emani Alyce, a volunteer at Qilombo. “Afrika Town is a space where Black folks can come and feel comfortable with.”

After lobbying from activists and supporters, and a call from Oakland City Councilwoman Lynette Gibson, Yi and Robinson agreed to work with Afrika Town’s gardeners.

Despite the small victory, volunteers are still concerned with gentrification, particularly the West Oakland Specific Plan. Abiola said, “We had a small victory today. It’s nowhere near over.”

Courtesy of the Post News Group, April 16, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Opinion: Oakland Needs Office of Race and Equity

“Allow ourselves to become comfortable with being uncomfortable”

 By Desley Brooks

It is widely known now that I have called for an office of Race and Equity to be established in the City of Oakland. Voices have risen up across our entire city from residents, community

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

organizations, agencies, and other elected officials discussing the need for such an office in our city.

The most resounding voice on the issue is in absolute agreement of a need for an office of Race and Equity. However there are other opinions as well ranging from moderate consideration, outright disagreement, as well as those who are undecided.

Race is a subject that we handle very interestingly in America. It impacts so much of the atmosphere in the worlds of business, politics, education, and family life, whether we admit it or not.

Yet we are largely uncomfortable having meaningful discourse around this thing that is so prevalent in our day-to-day lives. Because we are uncomfortable talking about race, many of us tend to pick a side on an issue concerning race and just stand on that square, unwilling to really hear the perspective of others.

If we are going to address racial inequalities in our city, we are going to have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

We are going to have to be willing to respectfully listen to the opinions and ideas of others that may not always sit well with us or even stir up emotions of fear, anger, and guilt.

Racial equity is not an issue of politics – it is an issue of humanity that can be addressed through a political process.

I obviously believe in the need for such an office in our city, but I’m not asking anyone to blindly join this cause or agree with me automatically.

I invite all of us to explore the facts and consider the climate in our city as it relates to race and equity in Oakland.

My hope is that we all will allow ourselves to be comfortable being uncomfortable and asking ourselves questions and reflecting personally on our experiences and beliefs relating to race and racism.

Desley Brooks is a member of the Oakland City Council, representing District 6.

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

Unless Last-ditch Efforts Succeed, Doctors Hospital to Begin Closing in April

 

Doctors Medical Center

By Post Staff

Despite pleas from the public and staff at Doctor’s Medical Center in San Pablo, the doors to the hospital that houses West Contra Costa County’s only emergency room are scheduled to begin closing on April 21.

The West Contra Costa Healthcare District board voted March 26 to shutter the hospital but will wait until April 21 to give those interested in saving the hospital time to review a last-ditch proposal by a group that specializes in saving hospitals.

Residents and interested others packed the boardroom and expressed frustration and outrage that the board would close the hospital.

“It’s a shame,” said a man who didn’t want to be identified. “This hospital is very important to this community.”

The hospital averages 100 to 115 people in the emergency room a day. It stopped taking ambulance traffic in September 2014, and emergency room traffic dropped to about 50 a day – but those numbers have increased and people began coming back, according to records.

Doctor’s Medical Center has the region´s only cardiac unit, cancer center, diabetes-wound care, and sleep lab program. With the hospital closure those departments will be gone.

Some at the board meeting voiced frustration, saying that if the hospital could remain open until January, it might be saved by an influx of cash from Chevron’s Richmond refinery. T

The refinery has pledged about $15 million to the hospital – about $5 million for three years – as it revamps the refinery, but payments the payments do not begin until the work begins in January.

And, it is likely that when the hospital goes, the doctors’ offices that surround the hospital will go, too. And with the closure, about 700 employees, some of the highest paid jobs in area, will lose their jobs.

The hospital’s financial problems, which officials blame mostly on low reimbursement rates for Medi-Cal and Medicare patients, began in the 1990s. Those patients account for about 80 percent of the hospital’s total patients.

Another 20 percent are uninsured and commercial patients.

Doctor’s originally opened as Brookside Hospital in 1954.

When the hospital contracted with Tenet Health Systems in 1997, the agreement lasted just seven years before Tenet pulled out in 2004. Voters approved a $52-a-year parcel tax in 2004 and raised $5.6 million a year, but it wasn’t enough to stop the operating losses.

Then in 2006, the district filed for bankruptcy protection. When the hospital emerged from bankruptcy, its managers tried other ways to save the hospital to no avail.

The state and even other health care companies provided cash and received funds from the advance payments of the parcel tax. Even a second parcel tax in 2011, which raised about $5.1 million a year, didn’t help.

The hospital still fell into an $18 million a year deficit.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, April 5, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

State of Black Oakland (SOBO) Holds “People’s Assembly”

State of Black Oakland, March 28. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

State of Black Oakland, March 28. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

By Rasheed Shabazz

Hundreds of Black activists, educators, entrepreneurs, healers and artists convened last weekend for “a People’s Assembly” to discuss and strategize solutions to improve life for Black Oakland.

The enthusiastic daylong “State of Black Oakland (SOBO) gathering was held Saturday, March 28 at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in downtown Oakland.

The assembly was a “listening space” where a coalition of Black-led organizations called on attendees to discuss what needs to be done to improve the lives of f Black people in the city.

Over a quarter of Oakland’s Black population left the city since 2000. Organizers wanted to bring Black people together to build on Oakland’s unique contributions to the Black Power Movement.

“It’s really important to remember that Oakland was the epicenter of the Black Power Movement on the West Coast,” said Liz Derias, co-convener of SOBO and an organizer of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.

One of the discussion circles at the State of Black Oakland, which was held at Geoffrey's Inner Circle on March 28. Ovr 500 peeople attended the day, according to event organizers, to discussion solutins to the challenges facing Black residents of Oakland. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

One of the discussion circles at the State of Black Oakland, which was held at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle on March 28. Over 500 peeople attended the day, according to event organizers, to discuss solutions to the challenges facing Black residents of Oakland. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

The legacy of the Black Panther Party and other Black “do-for-self” organizations was evoked throughout the day.

“We say Black Lives Matter, but we have to have some Black Power to enforce it,” said Community Ready Corps (CRC) Founder Tur-Ha Ak. The assembly focused on CRC’s Nine Areas of Self-Determination: economics, politics, education, health, family, media, art, traditions and ways, and self-defense.

The common thread between all of the areas was Black self-determination.

During three facilitated sessions, attendees joined smaller discussion-circles to talk about solutions in the nine areas. Within the circles, participants discussed their experience within that area and explained what “self-determination” looked like within that context, and shared potential solutions.

In the area of economics, attendees talked about past and possible solutions, such as a Black business listing, food and housing cooperatives, changes in Black consumer spending and workforce training for the tech economy.

The media session, facilitated by Cat Brooks, co-chair of the ONYX Organizing Committee, discussed the need to challenge negative images of Black people in media and the need for Black ownership of media outlets and cultural spaces.

The self-defense session focused on broadening the notion of what self-defense means. “Self-defense is not only individual or physical, but it is collective and connects to all the other areas”, Ak said.

Participants discussed the need for Black people to protect themselves from what CRC defines as “primary predators”  – white supremacy – and “secondary perpetrators” – so-called ‘Black-on-Black crime’.

Organizers noted that this first “State of Black Oakland” builds on a history of collective convening of Black people in the Bay Area to assess the status of Black folk.

During the 1970s, annual “State of the Race” conferences regularly convened in the Bay Area following the 1974 Pan-African Congress in Tanzania.

Reflecting on SOBO, Oba T’Shaka, professor emeritus of Africana Studies at San Francisco State University, said, “It’s very positive. It builds on the Black Lives Matters Movement and is pulling in people from different walks of life.” He added, “The democratic way has been consistent with our culture.”

Organizers see this assembly as part of a process to develop a Black “People’s Agenda.” Event organizers did street outreach in the weeks ahead of the event to get input from Oakland residents. The plan is to host two more assemblies this summer, in West Oakland and East Oakland, analyze the information within the nine areas, and develop an agenda.

SOBO was organized by a coalition of organizations, including Eastside Arts Alliance, Black Organizing Project, All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, African American Studies at Merritt College, Onyx Organizing Committee, the Community Ready Corps, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and Race for the Times.

For more information about SOBO, visit Facebook.com/sobo2015 or email stateofblackoakland@yahoo.com.

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

Support Grows for City of Oakland Department to Address Racial Inequality

By Ashley Chambers

A number of community leaders are speaking out in support of a new city department designed to decrease inequities and racial barriers in city policies and operations, such as housing, development contracts, employment, and education.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

The proposal to create a Department of Race and Equity in the City of Oakland, developed and led by Councilwoman Desley Brooks and supported by several councilmembers, seeks t address some of the main issues are frequently being raised by Oakland residents: gentrification and the lack of affordable housing, jobs at city-funded projects and access to city contacts, environmental and air quality, as well as other health conditions in minority and disenfranchised communities.

“We think about gentrification and displacement, and we think about the role that the city plays in perpetuating the invasive class remake of our city,” said Robbie Clark, housing rights organizer with Causa Justa: Just Cause.

“We know that a department like this is at the core of the types of change that we need to see on a local level to stop that tide of displacement and to stop gentrification from continuing to happen,” Clark said.

The department would answer directly to the City Administrator and would be implemented as soon as December of this year – if approved by the City Council.

The department would provide education and technical support to city staff and elected officials to address systemic racism in city operations “with a focus on how the city does business, including human resources, contracting, access, funding and decision-making,” according to the proposal.

“The city spends enormous amounts of money on development in Oakland. Twenty-eight percent of the people who live in this city are African American, yet they get only five percent of the hours on those jobs,” said Kitty Kelly Epstein, an education professor and member of OaklandWorks.

“What happens when you don’t have anything specifically devoted to dealing with an issue as major and primary and hurtful as racism in this society is, people get afraid to bring it up,” Kelly Epstein said.

“If we do the work of actually allocating and designating a department to that work, then people won’t be shut down when they want to bring up the fact that there is great inequity,” she said.

There is the notion that there are two Oaklands, residents have said: one has access to minor investment from the city, declining jobs and parks and schools that are closing operating limited resources. The other Oakland has access to better schools, parks, greater investments that benefit the community and more responsive government.

Imagine East Oakland’s Havenscourt neighborhood compared to the Glenview. Some neighborhoods require a bus ride or long drive to complete such daily tasks as grocery shopping or going to the bank.

“There’s no way that a city should be able to develop, do any type of business and not represent the citizens that live right there,” said Esther with Communities for a Better Environment (CBE). “It’s time for all of us to step up, be responsible and understand that we need to start leading with our hearts before our pockets.”

“There is an urgency with respect to people of color being able to have equal participation in this city,” said Councilwoman Brooks.

In response to inquiries of how much it will cost to operate this new department, Brooks said, “Think of the costs that communities have suffered for far too long not being able to participate fully in the government that they pay into. When do they get that return in dividends?”

“We will have to look like we have looked for other things that have been unbudgeted and find a way to make this happen. I would hope that we don’t just look at the dollars and cents, but we will look at truly moving a full community forward,” said Brooks.

Some of the organizations supporting the Department of Race and Equity are Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC), East Oakland Building Healthy Communities, Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), ONYX Organizing Committee, and People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO).

The proposal will go to the City Council on March 31.

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

A Push for Alameda County to Fund Reentry Programs

By Ashley Chambers

A number of local groups are challenging how Allemda County is spending the  millions of dollars a year it has  begun receiving to partially offset the state decision to save money by shifting many inmates from state prisons to local jails.

Keith Carson

Keith Carson

The Urban Strategies Council and a number of other organizations, including the Ella Baker Center through its Jobs Not Jails campaign, disagree with how the funds are divvied up, saying not enough public safety funds in Alameda County go to support individuals reentering society from prison.

The Jobs Not Jails campaign is asking that half of the $34 million a year, or $17 million, go to reentry services.

In a letter to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, the Ella Baker Center cited statistics that show that a shift in how these funds are invested could reduce recidivism and produce savings for the county.

Over half of the county’s budget – in excess of 60 percent – currently goes to the sheriff’s and probation department.

The  Ella Baker letter also cites statistics that show a decline in the total number of felony arrests in Oakland by nearly 28 percent since 2011 when Assembly Bill 109 was passed to reduce the number of inmates in state prisons.

Prop. 47 was passed last year reducing penalties for some nonviolent crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor and has resulted in further decline in the jail population.

Local organizers say now is the best time for the Board of Supervisors to start shifting how they are spending the money.

Junious Williams

Junious Williams

“The way we’ve operated our system hasn’t worked,” said Junious Williams, CEO of The Urban Strategies Council, pointing to a continuing high recidivism rate in Alameda County.

“There’s too much investment on incarceration, parole, and probation, and it’s not very effective,” he said.

“There is an imbalance in our investments, and that is not very constructive for our society,” Williams added, noting that funds are directed toward enforcement and incarceration rather than reentry programs and supportive services.

Nearly 27 percent of the county’s 2013-14 public safety budget went towards reentry programs.

“What would it mean to invest in more programs and services to help people on probation and that are coming out of prison to be successful?” Asked Williams.

Investing half or more of funds to job training, housing, and wraparound services for the reentry community would not only reduce the number of people going back to jail for a crime committed after their release, but also contribute to safe and strong communities, say organizers.

The Ella Baker letter says: “Jail beds cost nearly $50,000 a year while providing an ‘On the Job Training’ (OJT) employment opportunity costs $4,000 and can provide paid job experience that can lead to a long-term position.”

Supervisor Keith Carson is supporting a proposal to begin directing the funds – $17 million – to community-based organizations that work with the reentry population beginning July 1, 2015.

Ella Baker Center campaigns for "Jobs Not Jails"

Ella Baker Center campaigns for “Jobs Not Jails”

“I think it’s very important that we have community funds,” said Supervisor Carson, “and that 50 percent are spent on reentry programs that are community-based, that are diversified and that work.”

The county recently formed a Community Advisory Board, made up of community members from all five districts who work with the formerly incarcerated. This board will guide the process of how community-based groups are chosen to receive funds for their work to support reentry individuals.

“There are very few community-based groups providing mental health services, drug and alcohol treatment, workforce development,” and other services, Carson said.

“This is really about independent programs that are community-based, since there hasn’t been monies going into that direction, to provide those services for the purposes of serving everybody, including the reentry population,” he said.

He continued, “Now, locally we have an open democratic process to try to figure out how to have the best impact for the reentry population.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 15, 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)

 

 

Residents Want Port of Oakland to Negotiate Development Project’s Impacts

Rendering of Army Base Project

Rendering of Army Base Project

By Ken Epstein

The future of Oakland as a conduit for global commerce took a big step forward recently when the Port of Oakland and Union Pacific Railroad started construction on a project to link the ongoing development at the old Oakland Army Base to the railroad’s main line.

But community activists are asking if Oakland residents are going to be part of this commercial future and if they are going to have a say in this public investment.

They want the port to sit down with them to negotiate the benefits and the impact of this project. They say the port had a few meetings with them and then stopped meeting.

“They’ve presented nothing to us –they have not given us any idea of the level of community benefits they are considering,” said Margaret Gordon of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project and OaklandWorks Alliance.

“We’ve given them proposals, and they have not responded to us.” Gordon said. Port officials only met with local residents three times to discuss community benefits, the last time right before the election, said.

Amy Tharpe, Port of Oakland

Amy Tharpe, Port of Oakland

In addition, she said, the port never explained the development plan to the community.

As of Wednesday of this week, the port has sent a message offering to schedule a meeting in February to talk with community members.

“The Port of Oakland has never sat down and said what benefits represent their commitment to the people of Oakland, said Brian Beveridge of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project and OaklandWorks.

“My question is: ’Why does the port continue to demand unilateral control over the community benefit discussion with West Oakland residents? What are they so afraid of?’” Asked Beveridge.

In response to community complaints, the port is saying it will restart community benefits meetings after it picks a developer for the port side of the Army Base development project.

The $25 million project is financed by the Port of Oakland and the California Transportation Commission’s Trade Corridors Improvement Fund. It’s part of a $100 million port effort to significantly expand Oakland rail capacity.

A 7,400-foot lead track and the reconfiguration of adjacent tracks should be completed in October. Once finished, the port will be better positioned to receive bulk rail shipments at the former army base from Union Pacific and BNSF railroads.

The port and City of Oakland expect to transform Trans-Pacific supply chains at the 360-acre former army base logistics center. Located on the Port’s Outer Harbor, it would include warehousing, trans-load facilities and a dry-bulk cargo terminal.

“Connecting the Oakland Army Base to the national rail network is a milestone for us,” said Chris Chan, the port’s engineering director. “To be successful, we must have good rail access.”

Bulk shipments of commodities such as Midwest grain and beef could be delivered to Oakland by rail, trans-loaded into containers at the port, and then exported via Asia-bound container vessels.

According, to Amy Tharpe, the port’s Director of Social Responsibility, the Port of Oakland is interested in meeting with community members who will be impacted by the Army Base project.

“The Port of Oakland is committed to developing a community benefits package for the redevelopment of the Port’s portion of the former Oakland Army Base,” said Tharpe.

“To ensure this we have to hear from the people in our community who will be impacted by the project and could benefit from it,” she said. “We’ve held several meetings that began last year with multiple key stakeholders from more than ten community groups.”

“Once a development partner is selected,” she continued, “the Port will schedule more community meetings to create a specific community benefits agreement.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, February 8, 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)