By Ken Epstein
City officials seem to be moving full steam ahead on a plan to knock down the Oakland Coliseum and replace with a glitzy Coliseum City – which could include up to three arenas and hotels, entertainment venues, housing, retail and restaurants – even though no money so far been found to put the project in motion.
If the proposal is approved by the Coliseum’s Joint Powers Authority, along with the Oakland City Council and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, the zoning and other permit amendments will be in place if the financing can be put together.
Seeking funding, Mayor Jean Quan announced in the spring that she secured funding from the crown prince of Dubai, but that promise has not been substantiated.
However, the mayor now says she has worked out an agreement to build at least part of the deal – a new Raider’s Stadium in exchange for giving free land to the team to build the $900 million to $1.2 billion project.
As part of the deal, city and Alameda County taxpayers will pay off $120 million still owed for the 1990s overhaul of the Coliseum that would be demolished. In addition, the city would pay for other subsidies to prepare the site.
At a public hearing Wednesday night at City Hall at the Planning Commission, many residents raised concerns that the officials want to build a new city in East Oakland and bring new people into the area while ignoring the people who live in the existing city.
They say city is rushing to approve the Coliseum City plan, which does not does not offer sufficient guarantees of local jobs and moderate- and low-income housing and more generally ignores the needs and voices of the East Oakland community that surrounds the proposed project.
In addition, they argue the community was not involved for two years when the plan was drafted and only have less then two months to comment on the 168-page draft Coliseum Area Specific Plan and the extensive draft Environmental Impact Review documents, reportedly developed at a cost of over $5 million.
“(This plan) may not happen, but is it going to serve the people in East Oakland?” Asked Nehanda Imara from Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), who was concerned about the zoning amendments.
“This is a deal between the planners, the developers and the city,” said another speaker. “The haves nothing for the people who live here,” to mitigate the environmental and noise problems they will experience as a result of the project.
“The people who lived here the longest, we get the all the burnt of it,” the speaker said. “It’ just not right.”
This is a low-income housing area (in East Oakland),” said Anwan Zeidi. “When you start putting in something like this, you are going to drive the people out.”
In an interview with the Post, Coliseum area businessman Bob Schwartz complained about the whole process
“This thing has been worked on for two years,” he said. “There was supposed to be community input, and money was in the budget for it,” but there was no outreach to the affected community, he said.
“Now, we’re asked to comment on it when the plan is done and is very hard to change,” he said. “They want to pass this almost immediately.”
Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 4, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)