Category: Army Base Jobs

Environmental Groups Withdraw Lawsuit, Give City Opportunity to Stop Coal

port-of-oakland_Russell-Mondy_flickr-blog

By Tulio Ospina

Environmental groups represented by Earthjustice have withdrawn their lawsuit against the City of Oakland and a group of developers led by Phil Tagami’s CCIG for failing to conduct an environmental review of the possible impacts that exporting coal through Oakland’s former Army Base would have on adjacent communities.

Earthjustice, on behalf of the Sierra Club, Communities for a Better Environment and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, had filed a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) action because the original CEQA review of the new Army Base development, performed over a decade ago, did not include an analysis of the impact of the transport of coal.

Shortly after submitting the CEQA challenge to Alameda County Superior Court, however, the City of Oakland filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that the city had not yet taken any action or claimed any position on the coal deal that could be legally challenged.

According to Irene Gutierrez, an attorney at Earthjustice’s California regional office, new information revealed in the city’s motion to dismiss has clarified the city officials’ position on the coal to the petitioners.

This prompted the environmental groups to take a step back to allow the city to continue its own review.

“We drew the lawsuit without prejudice, which means we have the right to return to court at a later date if we so choose,” said Gutierrez. “We will be following closely what the city is doing and trust that it will keep communities’ interests at heart.”

Currently, city staff is performing its own review of the health and safety impacts that transporting coal through the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT) would have on surrounding neighborhoods and the environment.

The result of this review will end in a final city council vote to determine what action the city will take to either prevent or regulate shipments of coal coming through Oakland.

The city also has the option of requesting an environmental review similar to the CEQA action, although it is unclear whether their environmental review would potentially halt the entire Oakland Army Base construction project, which would have been the result of Earthjustice’s CEQA challenge.

After reading the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, environmental groups learned that the $250 million terminal development’s $53 million in matching funds that would be coming from Utah, where the coal is mined, was pursued by CCIG “without city support, knowledge or involvement,” according to the papers filed by the city.

In exchange for the $53 million in funds, the developers had promised the Utah counties shipping rights to at least 49 percent of the bulk terminal’s annual shipping capacity, potentially making Oakland the largest coal export city in California, according to Earthjustice’s press release.

Furthermore, it was revealed that the funding from Utah still needs to go through various levels of approval there and is being fought by a Utah chapter of the Sierra Club.

“What they’re trying to send over to Oakland is money slated for remediation and mitigation of the effects of the coal mining industry in Utah,” said Gutierrez. “It’s supposed to stay in Utah to help communities effected by mining and is not meant to come here.”

The city also made clear that it is still evaluating actions it may take to regulate the export of coal, such as requiring additional permits, passing new legislation that would apply to the project or requiring an environmental review.

“Up until September, city councilmembers and the city itself didn’t seem to be making firm statements about things like funding, coal or future discretionary permits,” said Gutierrez.

“Now that there is no more pending litigation, we are hoping for there to be more open communication with councilmembers, and we’re looking forward to hearing more about what precisely is on city council’s mind,” she said.

Before setting off for Paris to attend the global warming climate conference, Mayor Libby Schaaf doubled down on her position against exporting coal through Oakland, reiterating the city’s ability to declare coal a health and safety hazard in order to set regulations.

Originally, city councilmembers had chosen Dec. 8 as the deadline to make a final decision, but that date has been pushed back to February of next year in order to give city staff take more time to evaluate the alternatives.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, December 5, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Churches, Community Unite Against Coal in Oakland

Speakers at a community coal meeting included (L to R): Pastor Ken Chambers of West Side Baptist Church, Margaret Gordon of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, and Will Scott, program director of California Faith Power & Light. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

Speakers at a community coal meeting included (L to R): Pastor Ken Chambers of West Side Baptist Church, Margaret Gordon of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, and Will Scott, program director of California Faith Power & Light. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

By Ashley Chambers

Community members and faith leaders held a public meeting this week to oppose the export of coal from a terminal at the City of Oakland’s Oakland Army Base development project.

“The community of West Oakland has high health risks for asthma, cancer and other health challenges that continue to plague our community,” said Pastor Ken Chambers of West Side Baptist Church, who is a cancer survivor, speaking at the meeting Monday held at his church.

One speaker, Margaret Gordon, of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), said the coal trains from Utah would reverse the improvements in air quality the city has made over a number of years.

Pastor Chambers is part of a group of at least a dozen other churches and organizations represented at the Monday meeting, including Pastor Curtis Robinson of Faith Baptist Church and Will Scott of California Interfaith Power & Light – that are pushing back on this proposal to bring coal to Oakland.

The community meeting came in the wake of a lengthy and heated public hearing held last month by the City Council, which brought out opponents and supporters of the coal terminal.

At that meeting, a number of church leaders said the supported the terminal because it would mean jobs, and those who spoke in opposition said bringing coal to Oakland would expose the community – especially West Oakland, which is already challenged with high asthma rates – to greater health risks.

The proposal by Terminal Logistic Solutions (TLS), with the backing of Oakland Army Base developer Phil Tagami, suggests transporting coal in covered cars to reduce the amount of coal dust from spilling out during transit.

However, these measures would not be effective in eliminating this health risks to Oakland and nearby communities, according to those at the

“Because of the wind at the bay, it could carry this coal (dust) to Emeryville, Berkeley and the Oakland hills.”

“This is bigger than West Oakland. We are organizing citywide support from every council district to stand up against this environmental injustice,” he said.

While Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney has not taken a position on the proposal, she spoke at the meeting, saying the city’s limited authority in written into development contract with Tagami.

In June 2013, “When we adopted that development agreement, we pretty much set in stone the current existing regulatory environment. It gives a developer certainty,” said McElhaney, whose district includes West Oakland.

Basically, the agreement limits the city from making changes to certain rules and regulations to the developer.

“But we do preserve, at all times, (the right) to amend or change any regulations as it relates to public health and safety,” McElhaney added.

“We’re hoping that Council President McElhaney and the full council will step in and champion this issue for environmental justice in the City of Oakland,” said Chambers.

The City Council is scheduled to make a decision on the project in December.

Another community meeting is planned for Monday, Nov. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at West Side Church, 732 Willow St., Oakland.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 29, 2015 (postnewgroup.com)

 

 

Environmental Groups’ Legal Action Could Halt Coal Terminal

Sierra Club poster in West Coal. Courtesy of SF Business Times.

Sierra Club poster in West Oakland. Photo courtesy of SF Business Times.

By Tulio Ospina

Environmental and community groups – Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) and San Francisco Baykeepers – have filed a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) action in Alameda County Superior Court challenging the export of coal being through Oakland.

According to Earthjustice, which filed the claim on behalf of the other groups, the original CEQA review of city’s Army Base development, performed over a decade ago, “failed to include any discussion or analysis of the impacts of transporting, handling, or exporting coal from Oakland on surrounding neighborhoods or the environment.”

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

It was not until April 2015 that the public learned that the bulk terminal’s developer, Terminal Logistics Solutions (TLS), had plans to use the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT), to export coal coming from Utah.

Prior to this revelation, Phil Tagami, owner of California Capital & Investment Group (CCIG), with whom the city had signed an agreement to build the terminal, had publically promised that coal was not an option as an export commodity.

After public outcry this year, the City Council has agree to study whether the export of coal through Oakland poses “health and safety” hazards to adjacent communities and those working at the terminal.

A clause in original development agreement between Tagami and the city allows the Oakland to halt shipments of a commodity on the property if those shipments would place workers and adjacent communities “in a condition substantially dangerous to their health and safety.”

Worker at Army Base project

Worker at Army Base project

The environmental groups’ CEQA challenge give anti-coal activists significant bargaining power, since the entire Army Base develop could be halted for up to two years if the groups decide to call for an injunction.

The environmentalists say they do not want to halt a project that is overall good for Oakland but may be forced to do it the city fails to regulate or mitigate the impact of transporting coal through Oakland.

“Our goal in this process is to make sure the public really truly knows what will happen if a coal terminal goes up in their backyards and that the city complies with their desires,” said Irene Gutierrez, an attorney at Earthjustice’s California regional office.

“There was not an environmental review for a project like this (involving coal), and new information has come up, and CEQA allows you to sue if that is the case,” she said.

Army Base project

Army Base project

Meanwhile, the environmental and community organizations have written a letter to the California Transportation Commission (CTC) opposing what they see as a misuse of the public grant that was used to fund half of the project.

They have requested that the CTC provide an extension to the grant’s deadline, which will allow the project to find required matching funding to replace the money the project is hoping to receive from Utah.

The bulk terminal project was funded by $242 million from a voter-approved Proposition 1B Trade Corridor Improvement Funds, which allocated $20 billion in bonds to “advance infrastructure projects and air quality improvements throughout the state,” according to the letter.

CTC funding supports “projects that improve trade corridor mobility while reducing emissions of diesel particulate and other pollutant emissions,” according to Prop. 1B.

“The $242 million from Prop 1B is meant to protect communities from further being polluted and impacted from these industries,” said Jess Dervin-Ackerman of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter.

“The fact that the money is being used to build a coal export terminal flies in the face of (the proposition’s) intentions and is not the right use of that public fund that would make the Port of Oakland host dirtier operations,” she said.

jess Dervin Ackerman, Sierra Club

jess Dervin-Ackerman, Sierra Club

Because $53 million in matching funds for the OBOT would be coming from parts of Utah where the coal is mined, developers claim that regulating or prohibiting coal—or filing an injunction through CEQA—would leave the development stranded without necessary matching funds, thus shutting down the entire project.

To avoid a shutoff the environmental groups have asked for the extension on the deadline for securing matching funds.

“It’s important to affirm that the groups that are participants in the (CEQA) lawsuit are supportive of job creation and economic revitalization in Oakland,” said Gutierrez of Earthjustice. “But they want to make sure the city is informed and takes the measures it can to protect the public and keep the public informed.”

While the City Council has until Dec. 8 to make a final vote on its regulatory options surrounding coal, a number of people are challenging whether the city has the authority to regulate commodities that are being transported on federal railways.

“If this city were to take a position that coal could not be transported in interstate commerce, that would be a problem and would be (federally) preempted,” said Kathryn Floyd, a lawyer for Tagami’s company, CCIG, speaking at a Sept. 21public hearing.

Irene Gutierrez, Earthjustice

Irene Gutierrez, Earthjustice

Disagreeing, Gutierrez says the council does have the power to regulate commodities on city-owned property.

Seeking clarification of the city’s rights, the Post has asked City Attorney Barbara Parker, an elected public official, whether “a simple majority (is) needed in the City Council to determine whether or not the export of coal would constitute a health and safety danger to Oakland residents?”

Parker’s office responded that she “can’t disclose legal advice. Any advice or opinions we provide to clients is privileged and confidential, and in fact we can’t disclose whether or not we have provided advice on any given issue. We can disclose only if the Council waives its privilege.”

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

City of Oakland and Local Businesses Must Hire Oakland Now, Say Community Leaders

Speakers at the Post Salon on jobs for Oakland residents were ( L to R): Gay Plair Cobb, CEO of the Oakland Private Industry Couuncil; Alicia Contreras, executive director of the Spanish Speaking Citizens' Foundation; Margaret Gordon, co-founder of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP); Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember: and Caroll Fife, OaklandWORKS. Photo by Ken Eptein

Speakers at the Post Salon on jobs for Oakland residents were ( L to R): Gay Plair Cobb, CEO of the Oakland Private Industry Couuncil; Alicia Contreras, executive director of the Spanish Speaking Citizens’ Foundation; Margaret Gordon, co-founder of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP); Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember: and Caroll Fife, OaklandWORKS. Photo by Ken Eptein

By Ken Epstein

A seemingly declining jobless rate masks the actual reality in Oakland where 19 percent of the city’s residents live in poverty, and many Oaklanders are being forced out of the city due to a lack of decent paying jobs, combined with out-of-control rent increases.

The issue of joblessness and what city government and local businesses can do right now to hire Oakland was the subject of a recent Oakland Post Salon, where a panel of community leaders discussed how residents can push for solutions to the continuing unemployment crisis.

“We need to call on every employer in the city to hire people from Oakland – an Oakland opportunity challenge so every business can be proud to say, ‘We hire Oakland,’” said Carroll Fife, a member of the OaklandWorks coalition and one of the speakers at the Sept. 27 Post salon.

The opportunity challenge, backed by a growing coalition of organizations, will encourage Oakland’s businesses and restaurants to hire Black and Latino residents and follow up with meetings with owners, as well as public protests, if necessary.

OaklandWorks also wants the city to enforce its local hiring policies on city-funded construction projects. Such a policy was passed during the administration of Mayor Ron Dellums but never implemented by city staff.

“We have a 50 percent local hire ordinance – We want contractors to recognize those priorities,” said Fife.

Gay Plair Cobb, CEO of the Oakland Private Industry Council, moderated the panel and pointed out the realities of joblessness in Oakland.

“We’re talking about the lost, the last, the lonely and the left out – homeless people, the formerly incarcerated, displaced workers, younger and older workers who face age discrimination, those displaced by technology, those who face the barriers of physical limitations and immigrants,” said Cobb.

“All these groups represent the absolute urgency of what is happening and what is not happening,” she said.

Oakland’s official unemployment rate is 12.5 percent, higher than many other places, but the real unemployment rate is probably double that amount, because there are many people who stopped looking for work and are no longer counted, according to Cobb.

“Unemployment for African American youth and Latino youth is off the charts,” she said.

She said federal funding for job training and placement has been declining, but Oakland, unlike nearby cities, fails to invest any funds from its budget to support the programs that are carried out solely by nonprofit service providers.

Compounding the problem, Cobb said, the city spends one-third of its federal job funding for administrative overhead – to pay for city staff instead of putting the money onto the street to help the unemployed.

Another speaker, City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, said creating jobs for Oakland residents needs to be a city priority.

“Our job is to lift up those who are struggling,” she said.

Kaplan said she authored a resolution that requires a Disparity Study, which will show what companies are receiving City of Oakland contracts. Though the resolution was passed and funded a year ago, the study still has not been completed, she said.

“We still need the administration to actually complete the Disparity Study,” she said.

The last Disparity Study, completed over seven years ago, showed, “When (city) contracts go out, they overwhelmingly go out to a handful of white-owned, male businesses, (not) anyone outside the favored few,” said Kaplan.

Kaplan supports removing the oversight of federal job funds from the city, to hire an outside agency that will carry out the oversight more effectively and efficiently.

“Federal money for job training needs to be used for job training, not for administrative overhead,” she said.

Speaker Alicia Contreras, executive director of the Spanish Speaking Citizens’ Foundation, emphasized the common fight of Blacks and Latinos, immigrants, people with disabilities and LGBT workers.

“We have to break barriers,” she said. “When we get all these minorities together, we are not a minority any more. We are a majority. We are all connected. That is the key for Oakland to move forward.”

Margaret Gordon, co-founder of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), said West Oakland residents had been promised jobs on the Oakland Army Base development, but they have not materialized.

“We still have to have a mechanism to connect the jobs to those who are most in need of those jobs,” said Gordon.

For more information, go to Oakland-WORKS on Facebook.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 10, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland’s Coal Train Dispute Pits Public Health vs. Local Jobs

By Tulio Ospina

Hundreds of community members attended Oakland City Council’s public hearing Monday on the health and safety impacts that exporting coal through the former Oakland Army Base could have on residents in West Oakland and surrounding areas.

Those opposed to coal shipments wore red at the public hearing.

Those opposed to coal shipments wore red at the public hearing.

Opponents of coal, backed by expert witnesses, are calling on the City Council to act on a “health and safety” section in the contract between the city and Army Base developer Phil Tagami that would allow the city to halt shipments of a commodity on its property if those shipments would place workers and surrounding communities “in a condition substantially dangerous to their health and safety.”

Monday’s public hearing was the first step for the City Council to make this determination, which could result in halting, regulating or placing a moratorium on shipping coal through the bulk commodities terminal at the army base.

For over six hours, speakers presented reasons why the city should prohibit or allow coal to be shipped through the future Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT).

And those who support the coal shipments wore yellow.

And those who support the coal shipments wore yellow.

The coal discussion quickly polarized into a debate between health, safety and environmental concerns for Oakland residents versus the creation of jobs.

However, a number of observers consider the dichotomy between jobs and public health to be misleading because it is unclear whether shipping coal through the bulk terminal would create any more jobs for Oakland residents than any other commodity—such as wheat or potash—that might pass through the terminal.

At the end of the six-hour long hearing, some of the councilmembers weighed in on the issue with thoughts and questions they felt still needed to be answered.

“There’s no reason to think that if we’re shipping wheat or something else (through the terminal) that there would be any less jobs than coal,” said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan at the end of the hearing. “In fact, there are many products that would generate more jobs than coal.”

Councilmember Desley Brooks questioned the health evidence that opponents of a coal deal were presenting, saying she believes the health experts lack convincing evidence that coal dust and emissions are detrimental to people’s health and the environment.

Derrick Muhammad ILWU Local 10

Derrick Muhammad ILWU Local 10

Her principal concern seemed to be focused on job creation.

“We need to understand the effects of other issues such as poverty on the health impacts and ask ourselves does it outweigh coal,” said Brooks. “I can’t tell people who cannot feed their children that, yet again, they ought to wait for their next job opportunity.”

Pastor Gerald Agee of the Friendship Christian Center said, “The folks who come to our churches that are unable to find jobs and are being pushed out of their places because landlords want more money with rent.”

Agee says public health and safety are his primary concerns. He said his support for coal shipments is contingent on the city’s ability to create a binding contract with the developers to ensure there would be consequences if the operators of the terminal fall short on their health and safety promises.

Meanwhile, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 and Local 34, who stand to gain most of the jobs at the terminal, have rejected the plan to export coal through the bulk terminal.

Longshore workers are opposed to “locking Oakland into a decades-long lease with a coal industry that many say is dying,” according to an ILWU press release.

Jasmin Ansar, a professor of economics at Mills College, told the council that coal is a questionable economic investment, saying the Port of Los Angeles lost money on coal shipment.

“The coal industry is in economic decline, and demand has decreased sharply due to cheaper alternatives such as oil, gas and renewables.”

“It would be a poor investment choice to tie up investment funds in a project that is unlikely to succeed and will likely leave Oakland to become stranded,” said Ansar.

“Coal isn’t going to be making jobs here for people in the community. These are ILWU jobs,” said Brian Beveridge, Co-Director for the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP).

According to Beveridge, not only is it a myth that coal would generate more jobs than any other commodity but there would be “little to no chance that the unemployed and those not in a union would get whatever jobs the terminal would create.”

Beveridge said that he and Margaret Gordon of WOEIP had lunch with the developers of the coal terminal, Jerry Bridges and Omar Benjamin, who offered them 12 cents for every ton shipped through the terminal, which could amount to between six and eight million tons a year.

The developer told them that WOEIP could use the money any way it wants, including opening a health clinic, according to Beveridge, but he and Gordon turned down the offer.

The City Council concluded on Monday that it will keep the public hearing open until Oct. 5, to allow city staff to evaluate the evidence and present options for consideration to City Council by no later than Dec. 8.

The Post asked the City Attorney’s office to clarify whether a simple majority or a super major of seven out of eight councilmember would be needed to declare the shipment of coal to be a “health and safety” hazard under the development agreement. The City Attorney did not reply to the the Post’s question.

City Attorney Barbara Parker’s general position is that, though she is an elected official, she only provides her legal opinion in closed session with the City Council.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, September 26, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

“No Coal, No Way,” Say Protesters

Protesters rally to stop the coal shipments from Utah to the Oakland Army Base, for export to Asia. Photo courtes of Oakland Elects.

Protesters rally to stop the coal shipments from Utah to the Oakland Army Base, for export to Asia. Photo courtes of Oakland Elects.

By Ashley Chambers

A coalition of environmental groups, concerned residents and local leaders held a rally on the steps of City Hall Tuesday demanding, “No coal in Oakland,” opposing a potential project to export the fossil fuel from the Oakland Army Base.

“When City Council Oakland made plans to boost our economy for the public benefit, then public health and safety must be a primary factor in these decisions,” said Margaret Gordon, co-founder of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), speaking at the protest.

“For all the citizens of Oakland, we hope that our public officials will stand by this policy and put an end to this dirty, backroom deal,” she said.

The plan to bring coal to Oakland has become public in the last few months, after Phil Tagami’s California Capital Investment Group (CCIG) became involved in a $53 million investment with four Utah counties with the potential of transporting coal by train and exporting up to 5 million tons of the commodity from a terminal at the Oakland Army Base.

Citing dire health and environmental risks to West Oakland and other parts of the city, local environmental groups including the Sierra Club, WOEIP, 350 Bay Area, and Communities for a Better Environment have called for keeping fossil fuels out of Oakland.

Youth added their voices to the protest, talking about the damaging impacts a coal terminal on already overburdened communities.

“Not all of us have the resources to live a healthy life, but exporting this coal in the city is allowing pollution to happen, making it difficult for a future,” said Allyson Dinh, 16, with the Summer Climate Justice Leadership Academy, speaking at Tuesday’s rally.

“The color of our skin, where we live or how much we make should not dictate if we get to live a long, healthy lifestyle,” she said. “I deserve to live better, we all do.”

Community members called on the City Council and the mayor to do everything in their power to stop the coal terminal.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 24, 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)

 

Army Base Developer Gets Amnesia on Promises to Hire West Oakland Workers

By Ken Epstein

City agent and Army Base developer Phil Tagami of CCIG lashed out recently in an email newsletter against West Oakland community and environmental activist Margaret Gordon as one of a “handful of critics” who have “publically questioned

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

whether the project is creating ‘enough’ jobs” and claimed that “more jobs should be going to West Oakland and African American residents.”

“In reality, there rightly was not a provision in the jobs policies that a particular Oakland neighborhood or ethnicity would receive a priority over another,” according to Tagami’s email “Oakland Global Newsletter” at the end of August.

According to Tagami’s newsletter, African Americans so far have obtained 15.3 percent of the hours worked on the project – about 46 percent below what they should be receiving as 28 percent of Oakland’s population.

Tagami’s present position, however, is at odds with the “consensus “agreement produced by the Jobs Working Group that included community members, labor and city representatives, on Oct. 27, 2011.

The Jobs Working Group met for nearly four years and was facilitated by then Councilmember Jane Brunner for its last year and a half. The report on the consensus agreement was submitted to the City Council on Jan. 24, 2012.

“The goal for local hire is 50 percent of work hours for Oakland residents … with first priority being given to zip codes that comprise West Oakland and City Council District 3, and second priority to areas within the Oakland Enterprise Zone Targeted Employment Area,” according to the Recommendations from the Jobs Working Group on Employment-Related Community Benefits for the Development and Operations at the Former Oakland Army Base.

Margaret Gordon

Margaret Gordon

In the course of the working group’s meetings, there was a recognition and eventual consensus agreement on the need to hire African Americans in jobs in the building trades from which they have been traditionally excluded.

Since legal constraints do not allow for race-based preferences or goals, the working group decided to utilize zip codes with high numbers of African Americans and low income workers. This approach was worked out in consultation with the U.S. Labor Department , according to Gordon and Brian Beveridge, who were both involved in the working group.

“We never said anything about African Americans.. We just talked about West Oakland,” said Gordon.

Further, Gordon and Beveridge say that Tagami and city consultant Julian Gross have been trying to portray them as going back on an agreement they helped to negotiate. Gross was hired by the city as a recognized expert on community benefits agreements.

Tagami criticized Gordon for telling the Oakland Post, “People negotiated one thing, but then the agreement went to labor and other ‘stakeholders,’ and it was changed before it went to the City Council.”

“The notion that there were surprise twists and something was changed in the backroom without everyone who signed the cooperation agreement knowing about it, is not a fair or accurate representation of the city’s process,” according to Gross, quoted in Tagami’s newsletter.army base

“It’s one place they’re trying to adjust history,” said Beveridge. “We were part of a working group that was collaborating to figure out how to get people hired.”

“We never got to sit at the table while the unions and the developer and the contractor were actually in negotiations. .We had (then assistant City Administrator) Fred Blackwell and Julian Gross representing our interests in those negotiations.”

“We wanted to sit at the negotiating table, but we were told by Blackwell that Phil Tagami would not meet with us at the table,” said Gordon.

When the final negotiated agreement went to the City Council, Beveridge and Gordon were told that this was best agreement they could obtain and that all other parties were going along with the agreement.

“They act now like we’re being bad sports” to complain about the agreement, said Beveridge.

“We were asking for them to lower the barriers so that people could get into the jobs,” Beveridge added. ”Maybe we made a mistake signing the (agreement) – then we would be not be getting used the way we are now.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 10, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

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)