Category: Transportation

Phil Tagami’s Uninspected Trench Harms Port, Could Cost Taxpayers Up to $5 Million

By Post Staff

Work on a portion of developer Phil Tagami’s Army Base project has been at a halt since March because the job was not built to Port of Oakland safety specifications and also utilized contaminated dirt that has to be dug up and replaced.

In an Oakland Post article on April 3, 2014, the newspaper revealed that work had halted on the trench. Shown are Mayor Jean Quan and Phil Tagami at Army Base groundbreaking. Photo Courtesy of Oakland Local

In an Oakland Post article on April 3, 2014, the newspaper revealed that work had halted on the trench. Shown are Mayor Jean Quan and Phil Tagami at Army Base groundbreaking. Photo Courtesy of Oakland Local

When the work will be resumed and who will have to pay for the errors has not yet been announced by city officials. The total cost could run as high as $5 million, according to Post sources.

The work in question was done by a contractor hired by the city’s agent, Master Developer Phil Tagami of CCIG, to dig a trench around the Army Base project.

The trench will contain underground electrical wiring that is placed within conduit and buried – what is referred to as the “utility corridor.” The Port of Oakland says the part of the trench that goes through its property is not deep enough because large vehicles and stacked containers could potentially damage or break the electrical lines.

According to sources, the Port of Oakland is also saying the trench should be covered by a concrete cap over the conduit.

Overall, the Army Base infrastructure project covers 160 acres and involves earthwork, grading, drainage, replacement of utilities and public roadway improvements. The total estimated cost is $270 million and will be completed on a four-and-a-half year timeline.

The city will not have to pay the costs of replacing the material in the trench, according to Assistant City Administrator Arturo Sanchez, speaking Tuesday at the meeting of the city’s Community and Economic Development (CED) committee.

“The material that went inappropriately into the trench – that cost will be borne by the contactor,” he said.

However, according to Post sources, the contractor who built the trench is not expected to pay for the additional work. Therefore, the name of contactor who will pay is still unspecified.

John Monetta

John Monetta

In addition, the Port of Oakland has come up with changes in its specifications for the trench, and these costs will have to be paid, said John Monetta, the city’s real estate manager at the Army Base Project.

According to Post sources, the port made its specifications clear from the beginning, and Tagami chose to ignore them.

Seeking answers to the costs to the city, Councilmember Lynette McElhaney said, “It is my understanding that the project doesn’t have any excess funding. We need to understand what the (change) is and what the fiscal impact is. “

Responding, Assistant City Administrator Sanchez said, “We believe we have a way to resolve it without it having a significant impact to the financial picture of the project.”

The total cost to replace the contaminated material and upgrade the trench is still not known, according to city staff

Tom Chasm

Tom Chasm

In addition, city staff is saying the problem of the contamination can be traced to aggregate left at the base by Urban Recycling Solutions, a company that is no longer in existence. But under questioning by Councilmember McElhaney, staff admitted that the material – crushed concrete and asphalt – was placed in the trench without being tested.

Tom Chasm, former manger of Urban Recycling, said the aggregate his company left at the base was tested and up to industry standards.   There is no way to know if Urban Recycling was the source of the material used in the trench or if it was dumped by a different operator, according to Post sources.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 4, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Port Commission Kills Tagami’s Army Base Ambitions

By Post Staff

Fresh developments have raised new concerns about the City of Oakland’s Army Base project, led by its master developer and project manager Phil Tagami.

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

The first blow came last Thursday when Tagami learned that he was not going to land a contract with the Port of Oakland to develop the port’s property at the Army Base.

The port decided not to go with Tagami because he could not bring money to the table, and the port is not in a position to take on debt, according to the Post’s sources.

The decision not to go ahead with the developer, who had an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with the port, was made at a closed session meeting of the Oakland Port Commission.

The second blow was the failure of the city to secure a nearly $50 million U.S. Department of Transportation “TIGER Grant” to help finish the infrastructure project the city has hired Tagami to head on the city’s Army Base property.

At this point, the financial future of Tagami’s project is tied to the passage of Measure BB, the Alameda County Transportation Commission’s proposal that would raise between $100-$200 million for the project, according to estimates.

The sales tax measure, which would be on the November 2014 ballot, would fund $7.8 billion in road, freeway and transit projects. A similar measure failed in 2012, largely because it grants $400 million for a BART extension to Livermore, which would pay for one that one station to the rail line.

“Most of Tagami’s developments are predicated on his use of the city’s or the port’s money. He uses taxpayers’ monies for his salary, and then he develops corporate welfare strategies to self-enrich while ignoring the promises to hire Oakland residents,” said Post Publisher Paul Cobb. “By holding the city’s Army Base lot as ransom in the CWS trash dispute, he could pocket another $2 million while also seeking to be the developer of other downtown properties. All of this occurs dring his record of delinquincies in payments to the city.”

According to Tagami’s email newsletter, Measure BB would pay for “infrastructure upgrades, including roadway and truck route improvements” on the project.

“Without new funding, Alameda County will lose job opportunities, experience increased traffic on degraded streets and highways, suffer potential cuts on buses and BART and see more costly transportation services for youth, seniors and people with disabilities,” the newsletter said.

Neither Tagami nor Mayor Jean Quan responded to the Post’s questions about possible jeopardy to future funding for the city’s Army Base project.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 20, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Phil Tagami Responds to Oakland Post

Rendering of Army Base Project

Rendering of Army Base Project

By Post Staff

Master developer Phil Tagami of CCIG responded on Thursday to questions from the Oakland Post.

He was asked when the city’s Army Base property would be ready for California Waste Solutions (CWS).

“The city has requested an earlier delivery date of July 2016 in January 2014, and such a date is possible if the current sequencing plan continues without interruption or unreasonable weather delay,” Tagami said.

“On May 19, 2014, the city requested that we study delivery of the site for and earlier date – perhaps as early as Q4 2015,” he said. “That analysis is still on going and may require several other agreements with both public and private parties to be modified. There are costs associated with the changes under a number of scenarios under consideration, the total cost is not yet fully understood.  The disposition of the BNSF controlled easement being a primary issue.

Tagami was asked if he was opposed to the CWS contract and in favor of Waste Management.

“We have no interest or position on that matter,” Tagami said “We do support the sale and transfer of the land to CWS and CASS (another company) at the earliest commercially feasible date. I have been personal friends with the Duong family (CWS owners) since 1992 and have a potential business relationship with Mr. Juarez and Viridis bio-fuels vis-a-vie our railroad interests in Oakland Global Rail Enterprise providing service to their site. “army base

He was asked how he responds to residents’ charges that he has a conflict of interest at the Army Base, standing to gain in his private enterprises if companies lose their places or are evicted from base property.

“We are unaware of any such claims, and if there are such claims they indicate a total lack of understanding of the agreements in place,” he said. “There is simply no benefit to CCIG under such a scenario”

“In fact it is quite the opposite, as the infrastructure project as a whole relies upon the sale of the property.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 13 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland Mayoral Candidates Talk Army Base Jobs

By Ashley Chambers

Oakland is in the midst of a hot mayoral campaign season, and the city is beginning to see a rising concern about unemployment and jobs as top issue for candidates, along with public safety and affordable housing.

Dan Siegel

Dan Siegel

This week, the Post asked a number of the candidates what their stance is on the $1.2 billion Oakland Global Army Base project’s s promise of thousands of jobs for city residents.

The candidates were asked if they believe results so far of the Oakland Global project are transparent to public oversight and if equal opportunity to jobs is available to all Oakland residents?

If they become mayor, the Post asked, how would they ensure that major development projects that utilize public funds and public land deliver on promises to local and minority residents?

Master developer Phil Tagami of California Capital & Investment Group (CCIG) has served as the city’s agent on the project. Until recently, transparency has been stifled amid concerns that local, minority residents are not getting jobs on the project.

Mayor Jean Quan and Joe Tuman did not return the Oakland Post’s requests for an interview for this article.

Civil rights attorney Dan Siegel said he strongly “disagrees with the model for the Oakland Army Base development where the master developer has so much control over the project. That concentration of authority explains the inadequate efforts to hire local residents.”

The city needs “complete transparency and strict, impartial oversight over city development projects,” said Siegel.

Libby Schaaf

Libby Schaaf

Siegel says his highest priority as mayor would be “creating good paying jobs for Oakland residents…and require a developer such as Tagami to pay for the recruitment and training of workers to fill the jobs at the Oakland Army Base.”

Councilmember and mayoral candidate Libby Schaaf also expressed her concerns.

“This half-billion dollar project should be creating thousands of jobs. It’s frustrating to see the slow hiring process and the slow hiring of Oaklanders,” she said.

However, she says, the horizontal infrastructure development is slow work that will not employ many people, but later there will be vertical development of warehouses and business that will create more jobs. “I am very optimistic that the vertical construction will indeed hire thousands more,” she said.

Bryan Parker

Bryan Parker

Promoting the hiring of ex-offenders, Schaaf says Oakland should “look at hiring Oaklanders first, hiring ex-offenders and taking care of our own,” adding that the the city must also to ensure that local, minority firms have a fair chance at winning contracts in the city.

“We need to work with a variety of firms to ensure we get great projects, like the Army Base,” she said. “There are far too many locally grown firms already here that we should be using.”

Deeply involved in the port’s side of the Army Base project, Port Commissioner Bryan Parker says the project is in “the first inning of a nine inning ballgame,” referring to the five-year construction phase of the project and the vertical construction that will come afterward.

“I want to see more African American jobs created – as an underrepresented group, that is fair,” Parker said. “However, we must also recognize Oakland’s overall diversity and also make sure all races, ages, and sexual preferences are addressed in our job plans.”

Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca Kaplan

He said that the 425 jobs created – half of which have gone to Oakland residents – is “fairly significant.” A city consultant has projected 1,523 construction jobs for the first phase of the project, he said.

“As mayor, I am going to insist that any developer who develops in Oakland receives all the benefits Oakland has to offer, but in exchange, invests in our economy including vital safety services,” Parker said, emphasizing his support for re-entry residents.

“Investing in our re-entry residents is a step at making a safer Oakland,” he continued.

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan says she is backing local jobs by ensuring that the city addresses “the disparity in city contracting between large corporations and local, minority-owned firms.”

City administration “needs to do a better job when it comes to enforcing the local hire rules in place” at the Army Base Project, she said.

As mayor, Kaplan says she won’t “just promise local jobs and do a ribbon cutting but make sure we’re actually creating the jobs.”

Courtney Ruby

Courtney Ruby

“Oakland is the best city in the Bay Area, but it has the worst city government,” said City Auditor Courtney Ruby. “A big part of the problem is a failure in leadership that has squandered opportunities by bouncing from crisis to crisis, always looking for a political solution, instead of implementing sound decisions by focusing on results.”

“The only way we can rebuild trust in local government is to focus on transparency and results,” Ruby said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 15, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

West Oakland Residents Not Receiving Army Base Jobs

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Post has received replies from Master Developer Phil Tagami and the City of Oakland providing some of the numbers detailing the construction jobs Oakland residents have obtained so far at the $1.2-billon Oakland Global Army Base project.army base

To date, the project has produced jobs for 425 workers, who have worked a total of 95,515 hours. Of these, 14,264 hours went to African Americans, according to data supplied by the city.

In other words, while African Americans represent 27.3 percent of the city’s population, they have received 14.9 percent of the total work – underrepresented by 45 percent.

Only 3,503 hours or 3.7 percent of the total hours went to workers who live in West Oakland, the community next to the Army Base that is directly impacted by Port of Oakland truck and maritime traffic.

According to another city report, 171 new hires were put to work between Oct. 1, 2013 and Aug. 1, 2014. Of these, 98 or 57 percent were Oakland residents, though 25 of these were apprentices, who are near the bottom of the pay scale.

Workers in West Oakland, zip code 94607, were hired in eight of the Oakland positions, including four who were apprentices.

Tagami, who is both the primary developer and the agent hired by the city to oversee the project, has said the Army Base is in the initial five-year phase of the development, which will take 20 years to complete.

Concerned about what many are saying are unsatisfactory numbers of new jobs, community members are asking about what results have been produced by the West Oakland Job Resource Center, which has sent only 11 workers to the Army Base through June.

construction at army base

Phases of Army Base development

The job center was funded by the City Council at about $500,000 a year to serve as a jobs pipeline and clearing house for the project. It was designed as a watchdog over all the new jobs to avoid the broken promises of the past, to ensure a place at the table for Oakland residents who want to break into good construction jobs.

But somehow, either in the way the agreement was ultimately written or by staff interpretation, the job center has turned into something else.

Deborah Barnes, manager of the city’s Department of Contracts and Compliance, explained that contractors and unions are allowed to bypass the jobs center to send people to the Army Base.

“There is no provision in the Community Jobs Agreement or the Project Labor Agreement that designates the Job Resource Center as a ‘clearinghouse’ for all jobs on the Oakland Army Base Project,” said Barnes, describing how the city is implementing the center.

“The unions do not inform the Job center of every new hire they send to the project. There is no provision in the (agreements) that requires the unions to provide this information to the center,” she said, adding that the information can be taken from reports contractors submit to the city.

However, when the proposal for the job center was approved by councilmembers, they were told that it would be a “clearinghouse” for jobs at the Army Base, said Lynette McElhaney, whose district includes West Oakland and the Army Base.

“It is supposed to be a clearing house, to do outreach and provide resources – a place where employers can find workers and that will support job seekers,” she said.

McElhaney she had been told by staff that the job center has only sent 11 workers to the Army Base. “They tell you how many hours people have worked, but not how many people are represented by those hours, how many people are from West Oakland,” she said.

Brian Beveridge, a leader of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project and OaklandWorks, sat at the table and was part of the negotiations that produced the agreement to create the job center.

“We tried to create a system that doesn’t punish the people who have always had the jobs (in the past) but would help the workers who have not been part of the process,” he said.

If a contractor needed a worker, he could call the job center or the union, which would notify the job center. “There was supposed to be to be a simultaneous call to both the job center and the union,” he said.

The job center would maintain a central database of workers, their skills and training needs that employers could draw upon and would provide transparent proof of whether the city and developers were “delivering on their promises or not,” said Beveridge.

But now, he said, “We essentially have the same system that we had before the Job Center. They’re still not putting people in West Oakland to work.”

Like in the past, the system is “failing the people in West Oakland who really need to work,” Beveridge said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 15, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Commentary: The Transfer of Army Base Property to CWS Is “Critically Important”

By Phil Tagami

I do not think it is productive or appropriate to frame conflict where there simply is none. The transfer of the subject site to CWS is critically important for all parties as the anticipated sale proceeds of the site are needed to balance the sources and uses to satisfy the state matching grants that all parties benefit from.

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

We are generally unaware of the details of the city’s new trash /recycling contract other than what we have read in the newspapers.

We have a standing request to Public works and CWS to better understand the nature of the proposed CWS operations now that they are doing the whole trash/recycling operation opposed to just the recycling as originally intended for the north gateway site.

The CEQA requirements for the OAB project include 660 conditions and mitigation of approval many that are in specific to operations. Air quality and trip generation are just a few sensitive areas that need to be better understood to ensure compliance.

There remain a large number of issues that could impact the delivery of the public infrastructure and thereby impact delivery dates for all of the parties. We wrestle with these each and every day. It is in all parties’ interest to get out of the ground as soon as possible.

Though we are benefiting from the dry spell we need to guard against the onset of winter rains as we are unable to conduct a number of important construction operations in inclement weather.  Getting too much going at one time could lead to unintended consequences and unforeseen costs.

The Oakland Global team has been working diligently with City staff to ensure all of the base tenants/development partners can get access to the site in a timely basis and have access to utility connections.

A few changes have been introduced by the temporary location of OMSS in the north gateway and the interim bicycle parking for the bay bridge in late 2013 that lead to a re-sequencing of the project from what was originally proposed. We have been working on yet another re-sequencing with the city staff to reduce the overall delivery of the project by as much as 10 months.

New delivery dates for the various development sites is anticipated in the next 30-45 days pending city staff approval.

 

 

Phil Tagami Responds to Post on Facebook

By Ken Epstein and Ashley Chambers
 
Master Developer Phil Tagami has responded on Facebook to a Post article questioning Oakland’s commitment to ensuring that the city’s $1.2 billion Army Base project hires local residents and overcomes the historic barriers that have kept Black workers out of good paying jobs in the construction trades.

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

 
Besides serving as the primary developer of the Oakland Global base project, Tagami was hired as the city’s agent to oversee the project. He has frequently failed to respond to questions from the Oakland Post.
 
According to Tagami, the city is 209 days into a “20 year development window on the project,” which will have a “66 year life.” The initial phase of the project will take five years and is “meeting and exceeding requirements,” Tagami wrote on Facebook.
 
Overall, he wrote, the number of hours worked total 95,515, of which Oakland residents worked 51 percent.
 
So far, the project has created a total of 425 jobs, 13 percent of which have gone to African Americans. In the 2010 census, 27.3 percent of the city’s population was listed as Black, which means that African Americans are more than 50 percent underrepresented on the project. 
 
Under the Army Base community benefits agreement, the job resource center was supposed to be the clearinghouse for all jobs. Tagami wrote that   in compliance with the base’s job policies, his company CCIG “utilizes the West Oakland Job Resource Center to identify and employ Oakland residents.”
 
However, through June, the job resource center has sent 11 workers to the Oakland Army Base.
 
The Post reported last week that the city sent a letter to Tagami in May saying that contractors are free to hire anyone they want after they try one time and are unable to find a local worker to fill a position at the base.
 
Rendering of Army Base Project

Rendering of Army Base Project

Tagami’s statistics do not indicate the racial breakdown of workers hired as journeymen and apprentices, nor does it provide a racial breakdown of workers by numbers of hours worked.

 
Most Oakland workers hired at previous city-funded projects were employed in the lowest paid building trades – as laborers and apprentices. In recent years, only 5 percent of journeymen hours on these city-funded developed have gone to African Americans.
 
Further, under the Army Base agreement, workers who are hired at the project are supposed to be listed on the city’s website along with the zip code of their residence.
 
With the zip codes available to public view, everyone would know if the project were meeting its local hiring goals and how many of those hired live in West Oakland, the “fence line” community that feels the social and environmental impact of living next to the base and the Port of Oakland.
 
That information has been slow in coming, but the city is in the process of producing a report of zip code data.
 
Tagami’s statement did not say how many Oakland residents who were not previously union members went to work at the base.
 
Four African American construction workers who received support from the Oakland Post to overcome obstacles to working at the Army Base have still not been able to find work at the development.
 
The Post, with help from the city, purchased equipment for the four workers and put up the money to pay union fees. The workers went to orientations and classes, filled out the forms and wrote resumes.
 
Ultimately, the four were told they had to go out and find a contractor who would sponsor them, and they could then go down to the union with a sponsor’s letter and be put to work.
 
They are still seeking a sponsor.
 
Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 8, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

OMSS $25-Million Army Base Development Will Hire 300 Local Workers

By Ashley Chambers

In its marathon negotiations with the city, Oakland Maritime Support Services (OMSS) owned by Bill Aboudi has faced countless obstacles over many years, even after the City Council approved an agreement.

Bill Aboudi

Bill Aboudi

But this week, Aboudi finally signed a 55-year lease with the City of Oakland to develop 17 acres of land on the Oakland Army Base to provide truck parking, related trucking services and jobs to local residents.

This victory means much more than a 24-hour a day service for truckers traveling through the Port, providing parking space other than West Oakland neighborhoods for polluting big rigs.

The OMSS development means construction jobs for Oakland workers and a place for dozens of small businesses to operate and provide for their families.

This Army Base Development will provide 300 permanent and construction jobs for Oakland residents and pledges to invest in the minority community. Expected to start in 2015, the project is an OMSS partnership with Turner Group Construction and other local and minority firms.

The facility will be a model for ports all over the country, said Dexter Vizinau, a consultant for OMSS who has been working on this deal with the city for seven years.

“It’s important that African American businesses in Oakland be able to take advantage of the opportunity the army base development means to the city and the community,” he said in a prepared statement.

“West Oakland must be less impacted by the activities of the port, and we will do our part to ensure the trucking community stays out of the neighborhoods,” he continued.

A critical environmental benefit in the project is that the city has granted OMSS the exclusive right to sell truck fuel on the Army Base for 10 years, designed to encourage trucks to buy gas on the base rather than driving into neighborhoods for fuel. OMSS has agreed to donate a portion of the fuel sales to local nonprofits.

Vizinau acknowledged Councilmembers Lynette McElhaney, Larry Reid, Desley Brooks and Rebecca Kaplan for their support of the project, calling McElhaney “our champion against tremendous odds.”

“There have been so many challenges getting (the contract) over the hurdles,” said McElhaney. “I’ have continued to push for Bill Aboudi to get what needs, to make sure his contract mirrored the same kind of considerations we have given to the Master Developer (Phil Tagami). Fair is fair.”

“I’m confident of Bill’s commitment to hire Oakland, to turn local opportunities into jobs,” she said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 1, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Council Approves West Oakland Development Plan

Rendering of development on 7th Street at West Oakland BART Station.

Rendering of development on 7th Street at West Oakland BART Station.

By Ken A. Epstein

The West Oakland Specific Plan, designed to guide and encourage residential, commercial and industrial development on 1,900 acres of land next to downtown Oakland, was approved at the City Council this week.

Some community members wanted to postpone the decision, protesting against the plan. They are concerned about the ongoing displacement of the West Oakland community. They say the plan lacks teeth, especially a way to maintain and build affordable housing to keep current residents in the city.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

On the other side, some West Oakland residents are complaining the approval is a year and half late, jeopardizing the possibility of development projects in the area, especially the Mandela Village plan at the West Oakland BART station.

Council members voted for the plan 7-0. Desley Brooks abstained, arguing the passage should be postponed for a few months until affordable housing provisions could be added to the document. She points to the displacement of the elderly, disabled and people of color that has swept through the city and especially West Oakland in recent years.

“Why is there a rush to adopt a piecemeal plan? A whole lot of things are falling through the cracks,” said Brooks. “ We need to build housing for the people who want to move here and the low-income and middle income people who are already here – to maintain the rich diversity that makes Oakland special.”

According to the city, the plan will result in no displacement of residents and create about 28,000 jobs over the next 10 years.

In the works since 2010, the specific plan looks at land use, economic and market conditions, infrastructure deficiencies, transportation, public safety and security.

The plan will create a blanket West Oakland Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the area, which means developers, as long as they stay within the plan’s guidelines, will be able to move ahead on projects without dealing with zoning approvals.

The plan focuses on four “Opportunity Sites” to be developed: the Mandela/West Grand area, the San Pablo corridor, the area around the BART station on 7th Street and the area next to the Port of Oakland around 3rd Street. At these sites, transit, housing, light industrial and retail outlets will be developed.

Councilmember Lynette McElhaney, who represents West Oakland, was the primary member of the council advocating for the plan.

She says that opponents are understandably deeply concerned about the gentrification forces that are leading to the displacement of so many low-income and middle-income residents. But their concerns about the plan are unfounded.

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

“The things people things are afraid of, I don’t find in the plan.” she said.

In addition, McElhaney says some activists are proposing solutions that do not deal with the actual economic forces that are unfolding in West Oakland and throughout the city.

For instance, many groups do not want to build market-rate housing. But the lack of market-rate housing in Oakland is driving up existing rents and home price because people with money want to move here and are willing to pay more.

“More market rate housing removes pressure on existing units,” she said. “In some ways, the thing people fear is producing the thing they are afraid of.”

McElhaney also says that people are unrealistic about development prospects. Developers want to build in San Francisco, but they do not want to build in Oakland, she said. The only one willing to build in the city are Oakland-based developers like Michael Ghielmetti and John Protopappas.

“It would be great to build something, but we’re not building,” she said. “Oakland can’t beg a developer to come to the city right now. The reality is that you can’t get (developers) to come here without incentivizing the development.”

On the other hand, there are speculators who have snapped up property in West Oakland in the hope that Emeryville real estate development will spill into West Oakland, she said, but they will be disappointed.

“That’s not going to happen,” McElhaney said. “This plan very much constrains any residential growth.”

The plan includes the suggestions of local people who want to keep a lot of the area zoned as industrial land for companies that will produce jobs. If industrial land ends up being rezoned for housing, prices will soar, and industrial uses would be forced out, she said.

In summary, she said, “This is a very conservative plan that will not relieve housing congestion” but attempts to strike a balance between commercial, residential and industrial development, as well as maintaining the cultural integrity of the area.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 21, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Merchants Say New International Blvd. Buses Will Damage Businesses

Fruitvale District businessmen want to know if Mayor Quan will help them

Fruitvale District merchants and supporters protest on International Boulevard on Friday, June 6

Fruitvale District merchants and supporters protest on International Boulevard on Friday, June 6

 By Post Staff

A coalition of merchants with businesses in the Fruitvale, San Antonio, and Eastlake districts along International Boulevard are calling for the city and AC Transit to offset what they see as negative impacts of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

Particularly impacted are business owners in the Fruitvale District, which is a section of International Boulevard with a dense concentration of thriving businesses. To publicize their concerns, the businessmen are holding a rally on Friday, June 6 at noon at the intersection of 38th Avenue and International Boulevard.

Raising awareness of the impacts this new system will have on local businesses and parking, especially in the Fruitvale district, these business owners are calling on Mayor Jean Quan and District 5 Councilmember Noel Gallo to commit to their proposals.

quan signOrganizers say that, so far, Gallo is responding to their concerns.

According to Sean Maher, Mayor Quan’s communications director, the BRT project will provide more than $23 million in public infrastructure improvement, including roadway, bicycle and pedestrian amenities.

According to AC Transit, the project will cost approximately $200 million. It is planned to run 9.7 miles from Downtown Oakland to Downtown San Leandro with a loss of over 500 parking spaces along this stretch.

All left turns will be prohibited, and from 14th Ave. to 107th Ave. (7.1 miles) on International Blvd, vehicle traffic will be reduced from four lanes to two.

Construction on the project is set to begin in April 2015.

Merchant proposals to moderate these impacts are estimated at $6 million. These solutions aim to help business owners continue their regular operations during and after BRT construction.

Businessman say the need solutions to parking losses; increased public safety services for pedestrians; loading zones to offset the loss of traffic lanes; financial assistance and consulting help for businesses that lose revenue; and a relocation fund for those businesses forced to close as an effect of BRT.

“This could destroy the area because there will be no parking. Right now, there are 149 parking spaces from High Street to

Hugo, Merchants Association leader

Hugo Guerrero, Merchants Association leader

29th Ave. What is the solution for this? The city has no answer,” said Hugo Guerrero, CEO of the Merchants Association, who also says safety in the Fruitvale district is a big concern.

The city and AC Transit say they are spending $23 million for parking and business impact mitigation measures.

Three hundred businesses are at risk with this project, said Andy Nelson, staff member at the East Bay Asian Youth Center. He has been a supporter of the merchants, helping them organize to make their concerns heard.

Rather than the $6 million worth of requested changes, the city and AC Transit are offering $1 million for these 300 businesses and technical assistance, he said.

“It’s woefully inadequate, and these businesses don’t need (technical) assistance. They are viable now,” said Nelson.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 6, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)