Oak Knoll Project Passes Council Committee, Goes to City Council for Approval

Oak Knoll project rendering.

By Ken Epstein

The City Council Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee this week approved zoning changes and development permits for a 918-unit, market-rate housing project at the site of the old Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in the Oakland hills at 8750 Mountain Blvd.

Members of CED voting in favor of the project were Councilmembers Larry Reid, Annie Campbell Washington and Lynette Gibson McElhaney.

Councilmember Noel Gallo voted no.

Already approved Oct. 18 by the city’s Planning Commission, the development will now go to full City Council for discussion and approval.

The 72,000-square-foot development would feature neighborhood-serving commercial uses, restoration of the creek that runs through the site and moving part of the historical Oak Knoll club house to a central location to accommodate commercial and home owners’ association uses.

The remainder of the 183-acre site would be utilized as parks, open space, bicycle and walking paths and streets.

Of those who spoke in favor of the deal at the Tuesday morning, meeting were members of Oak Knoll neighborhood associations, the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, leaders of the Laborers Union, real estate development groups and organizations supporting job training programs for Oakland residents.

Opponents included most construction unions, the Alameda Labor Council and residents and members of neighborhood associations representing East Oakland areas, such as Toler Heights, below Highway 580.

Speaking to opponents of the project, Councilmember Reid said, “This plan is not perfect, but (real estate developer) SunCal really wanted to do something in the city of Oakland.

“We have had hundreds of meetings on the future on that piece of dirt. It’s not the best (deal) but it is something we can live with.”

According to the development’s supporters, SunCal is backing apprenticeship training programs for Oakland residents run by Bishop Bob Jackson’s Men of Valor and Cypress Mandela Training Center.

The homes and the retail development will also bring in millions of dollars millions of dollars in tax revenue and provide thousands of construction jobs, supporters said.

Responding to union critics, SunCal says it has an agreement is with the union that is working on its part of the project – building the neighborhood. Other developers will build the units, and labor is free to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with them, according to SunCal.

In addition, the project will consist of market rate units, but over a period of 6-8 years, the development will by law pay $20 million in impact fees, which can be used in Oakland for affordable housing., according to supporters.

Couincilmember Gallo, who represents the Fruitvale District, explained that he voted against the project because it does not guarantee living wage jobs and its homes are not affordable by most Oaklanders.

“The reality is where I live, they are not market rate people. On a daily basis, they are trying to make ends meet,” he said.

“Look of people who are being displaced. Some are ending up on the street. I want to make sure that those who are currently here in Oakland have an opportunity to stay here, “he said.

According to Jeff Levin of East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), the units will cost on average $884,000, which will require an annual income of about $218,000. A 20 percent down payment would mean buys would have to pay $177,000 upfront.

Published November 1, 2017