By Ashley Chambers and Ken Epstein
The City Council this week approved a 55-year lease for a 17-acre, $25 million development to create a new up-to-date home for Bill Aboudi’s Oakland Maritime Support Services (OMSS) as part of the Army Base Gateway project.
The development will be a big win for West Oakland residents who do not want to return to the days when polluting trucks filled city streets, and drivers parked overnight in West Oakland. The project will also mean jobs for local small businesses and Oakland workers.
The City Council voted Tuesday night to give Aboudi a lease on the property, which he will develop with Turner Group Construction and other local and minority firms to hire well over 50 percent local residents.
“There has been a problem in the West Oakland community for a long time about trucks driving through the community and parking there,” said Paul Junge of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce at the city’s Community and Economic Development (CED) meeting Nov. 12.
“Because of the good work OMSS does, that problem is greatly reduced if not eliminated. I salute the staff of the city and the port for working with OMSS through these difficult times,” he said.
In addition to Turner Group Construction, the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce support Aboudi ‘s commitment to hiring local and minority Oakland residents.
“We’re bringing the community together with this project,” said Len Turner, owner of Turner Group Construction and a member of the African American Chamber of Commerce.
According to Jose Dueñas, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, “If there’s somebody that’s committed to minorities and making sure that they get the jobs, I don’t think there’s anybody better qualified to do that than Bill Aboudi.”
Representing the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, Carl Chan said, “We realize that this is going to be creating a lot of local jobs and benefitting many of our local residents and also including our community. It’s going to be a good project.”
OMSS for years has been caught into a vise between some city administrators and master developer Phil Tagami on one side and the Teamsters and its supporters on the other.
Tagami and city staff have seemed bent on pushing Aboudi out of business to make way for the Oakland Global development on the site by the Port of Oakland. The way the city has written its agreements, if for some reason Aboudi fails to sign a lease by Dec. 4, the property would go to Tagami.
At the same time, the Teamsters and its supporters have intensely lobbied city council members against Aboudi.
Fundamentally, they have seen him and his company as leaders who have opposed pushing truckers who are independent owner operators to become employees at large trucking companies and who will then join the union, according to some observers.
OMSS, temporarily occupying five acres on Wake Avenue, not only provides parking for big rigs but also houses 18 minority-owned small businesses that provide truck repairs, food and other services. OMSS started in 2007. The company was originally selected from among four other firms that responded to the city’s Request for Proposals (RFP).
After many years of unending conflicts, Aboudi is breathing a sigh of relief. “It’s a long time coming. We’re going to meet or exceed all the community benefits requirements that are out there,” said Aboudi, who estimated the project would mean about 900 permanent and construction jobs.
“This project provides infrastructure that supports the truckers who support the Port of Oakland. It means emission reduction for the community, because of a lot of new green technologies It’s a big win for the truckers and community,” he said.
Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 21, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com