Category: Coliseum City

Stopping the Stadium Mega-Development Was an Important Victory, But This Fight Is Far from Over

Oakland Coliseum

By Alvina Wong

After four months of organizing by Laney students, faculty, and staff, Chinatown and Eastlake residents, and Lake Merritt environmentalists, the Peralta Board of Trustees decided to end talks with the Oakland A’s about constructing a stadium mega-development next to Laney College.

Alvina Wong

Their decision is a testament to our communities’ power to fight for a future where we can stay and thrive.  We also know that this fight is far from over.

Since 2014 when BART and City officials completed the Lake Merritt Station Area Plan, Chinatown and Eastlake have been bombarded with a wave of luxury condo developments, soaring rents, and mass displacement of longtime residents.

At the time, many of our organizations demanded that we be included in the city-led ‘community-engagement process’.  We advocated for affordable housing and storefronts, parks and open space, and resources for working class immigrant and refugee communities.

Despite countless meetings, letters, and petitions to city officials, none of our communities’ needs were reflected in the plan.

Instead, we got a plan that incentivized high-density market-rate development by rezoning the neighborhood to allow developers to build up to 275 feet in some areas, without a conditional use permit.

Our vision for a neighborhood where new immigrants and refugees could stay and thrive was noted, but no policies were put in place to help realize this vision.

The Lake Merritt Station Area plan, like the West Oakland BART plan and many others, has paved the way for developers to turn Chinatown and Eastlake into playgrounds for the wealthy, with 20 and 30 story luxury apartment buildings that literally cast shadows over our communities.

So, when the Oakland A’s decided to build a stadium with upscale stores and hotels next to Laney College, our communities quickly decided that we needed to oppose it.  Chinatown and Eastlake groups joined with Laney students, faculty, and staff who were fighting to protect Laney as a public resource.

Groups that had been working for years to restore Lake Merritt and its saltwater channel also joined the fight.  We went door-to-door and classroom-to-classroom.  Despite the A’s aggressive PR campaign, we found that people overwhelmingly opposed the stadium at Laney.

While we were successful in stopping the A’s stadium mega-development at Laney, we know that there are more developers that want to use this public land for their own profits.

Many of us have been part of building community, culture, and resources in neighborhoods that formed as a result of racist housing covenants, suffered from disinvestment after white flight, and are now threatened with mass displacement.  In these times, we’ve learned that our public land is one of the last remaining places where we can build the resources our communities need.

For us, this decision to say no to a stadium at Laney opens the door for our communities to say yes to stewarding this land to serve the public good.

It helps us transition away from looking at land as a commodity that exists to maximize profits for the wealthy, and toward looking at how this land can help sustain our lives and communities for generations to come.

As for big corporations like the A’s that benefit from Oakland’s public infrastructure and diverse communities, they should have been giving back all along – whether that means supporting public education institutions like Laney College, affordable housing and good jobs for local residents, or growing in ways that take leadership from working class people of color who want to stay and thrive.

We hope the Oakland A’s will stay the right way.  Oakland has already invested millions of public dollars in the Coliseum.  Now it’s the A’s turn to invest in East Oakland’s communities.

Alvina Wong works with the Stay the Right Way Coalition and is employed by the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN).

Published December 13, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Poll Shows Most Oaklanders Want Oakland A’s to Stay at the Coliseum

Laney “is the worst site you can pick to put a baseball stadium,” says Council President Larry Reid

The ballpark would be built at the current site of the Peralta Community College District headquarters, across the street from Laney College.

Oakland Rising, an alliance of nine Oakland grassroots groups, conducted a poll of 2,526 registered voters between Oct. 21 and Nov. 6 to find out where people stand on the Oakland A’s proposal to build a stadium at Laney College near Lake Merritt.

Results show that 4 in 5 people living in Oakland want the Oakland A’s to stay at the Coliseum and invest in East Oakland, rather than construct a stadium and ballpark village next to Laney College, Chinatown and Eastlake.

“This poll is a true reflection of what Oakland communities want.  The people we spoke with oppose constructing a stadium at the Laney site which would inevitably push out and could destroy historic cultural neighborhoods,” said Oakland Rising Executive Director Jessamyn Sabbag.

“People also overwhelmingly support keeping the stadium in East Oakland as part of a plan to create safety, stability, and fair economic investment that benefits the Black and Brown working-class and immigrant families who live in the surrounding neighborhoods.”

The A’s proposal to construct a stadium, tourist businesses, and luxury housing next to Laney College would push people out of the surrounding Eastlake and Chinatown neighborhoods.  According to the 2010 Census, 78 percent of Chinatown households are renters.  Nearly 90 percent of Chinatown residents are of Asian descent and 45 percent speak a primary language other than English.

“In Chinatown and Eastlake, immigrants and refugees have spent generations building communities where people can thrive.  Our friends, churches, doctors, and stores are here.  We will not allow the A’s owners destroy the sanctuaries we’ve built,” said Alvina

Wong, Oakland Lead Community Organizer at Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN).
Oakland Rising’s poll included more than four times the number of people than a Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce-commissioned poll, according to the community organization.

The Chamber’s poll of 500 Oakland voters found support for the Peralta Community College District site next to Laney College by a 2-1 margin.

Oakland Rising’s poll included registered voters with a diversity of voting histories, not just ‘likely-voters’, a methodology that has historically silenced the voices of working-class people of color who may not vote in every single election.

  • 4 in 5 Oaklanders want the A’s to stay at the Coliseum and invest in East Oakland.  2,227 of respondents live in Oakland.  82 percent of people living in Oakland support the A’s remaining at the Coliseum, 5 percent are opposed, and 13 percent undecided.
  • 84 percent of African American voters, 80 percent of Asian voters, and 87 percent of Latino voters support the A’s staying at the Coliseum rather than constructing a new stadium and ballpark village at Laney.
  • Young people overwhelming support the A’s remaining at the Coliseum.  93 percent of people age 18-24 and 85 percent of people age 25-34 support this position.
  • Middle class and working-class people responded the A’s should stay at the Coliseum and invest in East Oakland.  86 percent of people making less than $50,000 a year, and 81percent of people making $50,000 – $100,000 a year support this position.

Speaking at the City Council’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee meeting last week, Council President Larry Reid said he has talked to A’s President Dave Kaval saying that he hopes the team will stay at the Oakland Coliseum.

“I met with him and said, ‘That is the worst site you can pick to put a baseball stadium,’” Reid said. “You need to leave it at the Coliseum where all the transportation infrastructure in the world comes to.”

Published November 25, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Students and Staff Say Laney College Threatened by Proposed Ballpark

Front row: part-time instructor Evan DeGennaro, student Lauren Jelks.
Top row (l to r): student John Reimann, librarian Evelyn Lord, student Aisha Jordan, student Dejon Gill, librarian Phillippa Caldeira, instructor Kimberly King, student Joseph Chen, library staff and alumni Michael Wright. Photo by Ken Epstein.

Ken Epstein

A number of students, instructors and employees at Laney College in Oakland are organizing to take a stand against the proposed A’s stadium in downtown Oakland. While many are themselves A’s fans, they are worried that the crowd-filled stadium and exploding property values that accompany the development would spell the end of their unique and beloved college as well as historic Chinatown and downtown neighborhoods.

“I know the opportunities this development affords to people, but I don’t know how you mitigate the noise and the crowds of people who come in for a live game or concert,” said Michael Wright, a library employee and Laney alumni, who is a member of the campus group opposed to the A’s downtown project, the Laney Land for Students Coalition.

“They have corporate, big business interests. Their interests and their wants will supersede the college,” said Wright.

“A lot of people, 68 games a year, monster truck rallies and concerts, these are the disruptions across the street from the college we are talking about,” added student Dejon Gill

The group is part of the Stay the Right Way coalition, which is opposing the project, and is allied with the Oakland Chinatown Coalition, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) and other organizations.
In interviews with the Post, students and staff discussed what they believe is at stake.

They began meeting in September after reports appeared in the media about the proposed project, though it was not until Sept. 12 that the A’s organization formally sent a proposal to Peralta.

The A’s proposal may be called a stadium project, say members of the Laney group, but in reality, the plan is considerably more than that. It’s about real estate development and speculative land investment.

“This is real estate gold we’re sitting on. They are appealing to a certain class of people. It is the 1 percent. They want single white people who have the money who pay to play and live in these overly expensive units,” said Laney librarian Phillippa Caldeira.

A resolution opposing the stadium, pointing to the project’s connection to real estate development, was by the Laney Faculty Senate.

“A ballpark adjacent to Laney College would further drive intense, high-speed development, gentrification and displacement in the neighborhoods surrounding the college, including historic Chinatown, West Oakland and Eastlake, and would be devastating to the low-income, vulnerable communities we serve,” it read.

The A’s want to put their ballpark on the site of the Peralta Community College District headquarters at E. 8th Street and 5th Avenue, across the street from Laney College and next door to Oakland Chinatown.
Peralta’s administration is adamant that no decision for or against the project has been made and that the communitywide discussion has just begun. Ultimately, the Peralta board will decide.

John Reimann, a student, retired carpenter and former officer Carpenters Local 713, said he had done research on John Fisher, majority owner of the Oakland A’s, and found out that Fisher is not a friend of public education.

Fisher, son of the owners of The Gap, chairs the board of the KIPP Foundation, which is dedicated to training teachers for the KIPP charter school network. He also co-chairs the Charter School Growth Fund and is a real estate investor and hotel owner.

The students say they are fighting for Laney because it is a special place that provides a unique and nurturing environment for students. The college, founded in 1953, serves 10,000 students, predominately first generation, low-income and students of color and is the flagship of the Peralta district’s four colleges.

“A lot of our students have families, have children, have full-time jobs,” said Aisha Jordan, who serves on Laney’s student government.

“The attitude of our staff (is supportive). This is really an awesome school.”

Student Dejon Gill agreed:

“The community college is the place where returning students of a certain age can bring their life experiences. The sense of community is very special here at Laney,” he said.

“A lot of our students live in a disruptive environment,” said Laney instructor Kimberly King. “They need a safe place, a calm place where they can go.”

Published October 30, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

A’s Stadium Proposal “Is a Once in a Lifetime Opportunity,” Say Fans and Local Businesses

Carl Chan

By Ken Epstein

Supporters are mobilizing to support the latest proposal to keep the Oakland A’s from moving out of Oakland –  to build a 35,000-seat stadium next to Laney College and Lake Merritt that would transform both the immediate area and all of downtown Oakland.

The A’s corporation is seeking to purchase the property currently occupied by the Peralta Community College District headquarters, and the company appears willing to negotiate a number of community benefits to sweeten the deal.

The final decision will be made by the elected Peralta Board of Trustees.

Backers of the deal include many A’s fans and supporters of what is often called the “growth coalition,” regional alliances that exist in most metropolitan areas, composed of real estate developers, contractors, financiers, many local politicians and construction unions.

Andreas Cluver

One A’s fan who spoke at the Oct. 10 Peralta board meeting was Jennifer Medeiros, who has lived in Oakland for 19 years. She calls herself a “passionate A’s fan”

“I’ve been involved in efforts to try to keep the team in Oakland since 2001,” she said. “This is the first time I believe the Athletics are truly committed to Oakland and working with the community to build a premier experience for the fans and to be a model of collaboration between public and private entities.”

Andreas Cluver, secretary-treasurer of the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council told board members he believes a deal can be negotiated that is a “win-win” for the Oakland community and the A’s.

“We have been partnering and talking with them, and they are fully committed to having strong local hire provisions for not only Oakland residents but for residents of the impacted area,” Cluver said. “We think that spirit will carry into the discussions around community benefits, benefits for the community college and benefits for Oakland residents.”

Carl Chan, who has worked in Oakland Chinatown for 40 years, is a member of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and the Oakland Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council NCPC).

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” for Oakland and the Chinatown community, he said.

“I want to embrace the potential improvements: public safety, business opportunities, jobs and resources to improve our community, especially workforce housing,” he said.

“I’m not here to support a ballpark, but I’m here to support a project with ballpark that will benefit the city,” he said, emphasizing that there will be many obstacles to overcome, including traffic congestion in the area.

Jose Macias, a member  of the family that owns La Estrellita Restaurant at 446 E. 12th St. in Oakland, said the ballpark would be a shot in the arm for local business.

“(Like) many merchants, we feel this would be a great thing. We could have more foot traffic, revitalize our area…(bringing) safety, which is much needed,” said Macias.

“Remember, the A’s are family, really family,” he added.

Another speaker was a fan named John who moved away from Oakland 32 years ago but comes back 40 times a year for A’s games.

“In San Jose, people ask me if I feel safe going to Oakland at night,” he said.

“I say yes I do. And that’s because there is a major league baseball stadium there. There’s a police presence there. There’s security there. I feel safe,” he said. “I know if there was a stadium built (downtown), that would improve this area, along with all the jobs and opportunities like that.”

Published October 30, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Fans, Neighbors Differ Over Proposed A’s Stadium

A packed Peralta board meeting opened discussion Tuesday evening on proposed A’s ballpark project next to Lake Merritt. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

Meetings of Peralta Community College District’s Board of Trustees are generally sparsely attended, but this week an overflow crowd filled seats and folding chairs and stood along the walls at the district headquarters near Laney College to speak out for and against the 35,000-seat stadium that the Oakland A’s want to build on the site.

At one point during the meeting on Tuesday evening, opponents of the stadium began chanting, “Ain’t no power like the power of the people because the power of the people don’t stop!” A’s supporters tried to drown them out with “Let’s go, Oakland!” – a chant that is popular at A’s games.

Supporters of building the A’s stadium in downtown Oakland on 8th Street and 5th Avenue next to Laney College and Chinatown included A’s fans from Oakland and around the Bay Area, business owners who argued that the increased foot traffic and development would be a shot in the arm for the downtown economy, building trades unions, the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce.

Opponents included senior citizens, high school students, organized by groups in the Oakland Chinatown Coalition, students and instructors in the Save Laney Land for Students Coalition, members of Eastlake United for Justice, 5th Avenue Waterfront Community Alliance, Coalition of Advocates for Lake Merritt and Causa Justa; Just Cause.

They say they want the team to stay in Oakland but not at Lake Merritt, where the stadium and associated development projects would swamp low-income neighborhoods, jeopardize the future of Laney College and destroy natural habitats.

The administration and board of Peralta are planning for an inclusive process to discuss the proposal, which the A’s organization initially sent to Peralta on Sept. 12.

“The board has not had any time (so far) to consider this issue,” said Peralta Chancellor Dr. Jowel Laguerre.

Sharon Cornu, a consultant who is working with Peralta to lead the community discussion, emphasized that the process is just beginning. “Let’s begin with where we are today,” she said. “There is no commitment, there is no decision, and there is no deal. “

“We’re here to start the process of community benefits and engagement so the trustees can make a decision in the best interests of the Peralta Colleges’ community,” she said.

Speakers in favor of the proposal included Carl Chan of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

“This is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said, arguing that the stadium would be good for public safety, jobs, business opportunities and workforce housing.

Alice Lai-Bitker, business owner and former county supervisor, said, “I’m really optimistic about the A’s proposal. I am hoping it will benefit Laney students and businesses and residents nearby in Chinatown and Eastlake. ”

Among the speakers opposed to the stadium was Jing Jing He, who said Chinatown residents, including senior citizens, came to Tuesday’s meeting to “fight for the life of their community.”

“The A’s team has tried to leave Oakland in the past few years,” she said. “They only stayed because San Jose denied their move, and now they say they’re all for Oakland.”

Focusing on environmental impacts, Cindy Margulis, executive director of the Golden Gate Audubon Society, said, “We understand the A’s want to be downtown, but this particular site is a catastrophe for the (wildlife) refuge at Lake Merritt.”

James Vann, a member of the Stay the Right Way Coalition, said the project would not be good for Oakland.  “The impacts are monumental. There will never be a way to mitigate the impacts on the channel, on traffic, on the neighborhoods, on freeways, on the college.”

Alvina Wong of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) handed the board a petition opposing the project signed by 1,700 Chinatown residents.

“We’re here, and we’re living here every single day. We don’t get a choice to go somewhere else,” she said. Local residents would be crowded by tens of thousands of A’s fans “who are coming here for one single purpose,”

While her organization has brought people to the meeting and hired translators, the A’s corporation has not done anything yet to reach out to the community.

“I don’t know how we can keep trusting this process,” said Wong.

Published October 13, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

 

Coalition Wants Coliseum City to Produce Jobs and Housing for Residents

By Ashley Chambers

In the wake of the City Council decision to amend the Coliseum Area Specific Plan to protect businesses in the Oakland Airport Business Park, a coalition of local residents, Oakland workers, youth and faith leaders are stepping up efforts to make sure that the new development plan follows through on commitment to community benefits that include jobs and affordable housing for East Oakland residents.

Jahmese Myres

Jahmese Myres

The passage of the specific plan at the end of March means that zoning changes and environmental approvals are in place if the city can secure a deal to build a massive entertainment, retail, housing, and hotels complex that would be built around new sports arenas for the Oakland A’s and Raiders.

The specific plan, as passed, impacts 800 acres, including the current sports complex, parking lots, the area around the Coliseum BART station and the Oakland Airport Business Park, across the freeway form the Coliseum, which employs 8,000 workers and houses 150 businesses.

Though they want to see the project move ahead, members of the community benefits coalition want residents of East Oakland to enjoy the fruits of that development, not suffer the intense gentrification and environmental impacts that often go along with big development projects.

“The plan should protect current, longtime, deep-rooted residents of East Oakland,” said Rev. Damita Davis-Howard of Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), one of the groups in the coalition.

Seventy percent of Oaklanders are renters, Davis-Howard said. “With new development, there’s automatically a rise in costs. We don’t want current residents to be driven out because rents go up,” she said.

With the proposed project, over 5,000 residential units would be built around the new sports venues. Without a substantial amount of affordable housing units included in the project, current residents who make $30,000 or even $50,000 a year are likely to displaced.

“We need affordable housing, affordable grocery stores, and somewhere that we can go to just relax, like a nice family park,” said Theola Polk, a member of East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO) who has lived in East Oakland for over 30 years.

,“This area needs the same respect as the Coliseum City [project],” said Polk. “We want all of Oakland to look as good as Coliseum City is going to look; we want to get the same benefits.”

The transformation of Oakland neighborhoods has been long underway in other parts of the city – such as Uptown and West Oakland. However, new development often welcomes affluent renters and homeowners at the expense longtime residents.

“There’s a lot at stake with this project because this is a really critical time in our city. Oakland is changing, and we want to see a project that really impacts Oakland in very positive ways,” said Jahmese Myres, campaign director with the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), which is part of the coalition.

“We have a choice to have a really corporate, cookie-cutter, formulaic development that has no relation to the surrounding community, or we can have a project that helps the community thrive with good jobs, affordable housing, cleaner air and allowing long-term residents to stay in the community,” Myres said, also a resident of East Oakland who lives within a mile of the proposed project.

Citing data that shows the median household income for East Oakland at $31,000 a year, Myres says housing in the project should “allow for folks making that income to be able to live in those units.”

The development could create up to 20,000 jobs and it’s really important that those jobs be real quality jobs that allow people to take care of their families, Myres added.

It’s important that “people working at the Coliseum now – ushers, ticket takers, etc. – that they keep their good union jobs, too. They’re also members of our community in a number of ways,” she said.

The city entered an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with a development team, which will present an outline of what the community benefits would include in June. The ENA expires in August but could be extended.

Organizations in the coalition include EBHO, OCO, EBASE, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Public Advocates, Unite Here 2850, Urban Peace Movement, SEIU-USWW – which represents workers at the Coliseum arena, Causa Justa/Just Cause, the Building Trades Council, Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy, and Partnership for Working Families.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 20, 2015 (Postnewsgroup.com)

City Council Votes to Protect Businesses in the Path of Coliseum City Project

By Ken Epstein

The City Council voted Tuesday to keep residential development out of the Oakland Airport Business Park, passing the Coliseum Area Specific Plan without the the zoning amendments that would allow market-rate condominiums and apartments to be built in the area.

Dexter Vizinau

Dexter Vizinau

Councilmembers overwhelmingly passed the community-backed motion to preserve the 150 businesses and 8,000 jobs that would have likely have been displaced over time.

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said she had heard community members’ concerns that the specific plan could eliminate the business park and that she was backing changes that would protect local businesses and jobs.

“I offered the amendment to remove housing from the (business park) zoning that is before us,” Kaplan said. “I have verified that the development team is fine with the change.”

Backing the amendments to the amendments to the plan developed by staff and consultants, Councilmember Desley Brooks said, “It’s important that we retain industrial land in this city. Loss of jobs happens when industrial lands go away.”

Businessman Dexter Vizinau spoke in favor of the change. “ It’s great to see this project moving forward. It’s about business retention, business expansion and business attraction,” he said.

“Not every kid wants to sell popcorn, clean a bathroom or punch a cash register. We want to make things. We want to build things.”

Rev. Damita Davis-Howard

Rev. Damita Davis-Howard

Also speaking at the meeting were representatives of a coalition of East Oakland residents who are determined that any “New City¨ Coliseum agreement that the council signs with a developer must contain iron-clad community benefits.

Among the groups in the coalition are Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), Just Cause/Causa Justa, East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO) and Communities for a Better Environment (CBE)

Residents are deeply concerned about avoiding higher rents, providing decent jobs for workers in East Oakland and affordable housing for people who earn less than $50,000 a year.

“The threat of displacement of thousands of residents has not been addressed adequately,” said Rev. Damita Davis-Howard of OCO.

“We need to develop strategies now that will protect residents 10 years from now,” she said. “The project should protect and invest in the exiting culture of our city.”

The city currently has an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with a development team that is working on funding and talking to the Raiders and the A’s.

The ENA expires in August but could be extended.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 3, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Opinion: As Coliseum City Project Moves Ahead, Councilmembers Vote Not to Sacrifice Jobs for Growth

By Kitty Kelly Epstein

Thank you to Councilmembers Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Rebecca Kaplan, Larry Reid and Annie Campbell Washington for removing residential zoning from the area of the Airport Business Park at this week’s Community and Economic Development Committee meeting.

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

The councilmembers’ vote shows there no need to sacrifice 150 businesses and over 8,000 jobs. This has nothing to do with saving the sports teams or building the stadium that would be on the opposite side of the freeway”

This is a super-important issue in Oakland. Lots of wealthier people want to live here because of our great weather and cultural diversity.

The problem is that the affluent move in and the diversity stops, because the jobs and affordable housing needed by regular Oaklanders are pushed out. So then Oakland ends up like San Francisco – a sort of Disneyland for the affluent – with lots of jazz clubs and soul food and no soul and no African-Americans.

The speakers at the council committee were powerful – parent leader Henry Hitz; education professor Kimberly Mayfield; socially-minded business leader Bob Schwartz; great organizer and graduate student Carroll Fife; Oakland native and business leader Dexter Vizinau; educator and public safety advocate Rashidah Grinage; workforce development professional Gay Plair Cobb; community leader Saleem Shakir-Gilmore; and others.

Fred Ellis, Jaron Epstein, Robyn Hodges and lots of others have given big support to this effort.

This change will need to pass the City Council next Tuesday, but we are confident that this will happen, because it is completely logical for Oakland’s growth as a city where people can live, work, and thrive all in the same place.

Isn’t that the green, sustainable goal for the planet? Let’s make it happen right here.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 27, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Coliseum City Proposal Would Build at Least 5,750 Units of Market Rate Units But No Guaranteed Affordable Housing

Coliseum City Rendering

Coliseum City Rendering

By Ken Epstein

While many people are looking at the proposed Coliseum City development as the best and last chance to keep the Raiders and A’s in town in exchange for glitzy new stadiums, not as much attention has been given to the investment possibilities that may be just as, or more important, to developers and their hedge fund backers – market rate housing that could go for $3,000 or more a month per unit and commercial development.

Alongside the stadiums and sports-related entertainment and hotels, the goal is to “create a new residential neighborhood with an array of housing options, ” according to the draft Coliseum Area Specific Plan.

The plan would change zoning and land use guidelines for the 800 acres that include the Coliseum, the area around the Coliseum BART Station and the Oakland Airport Business Park located more or less between the Wal-Mart store next to Hegenberger Road and the 66th Avenue exit on Highway 880.

What is at stake for Oakland in this project is not just the promise of future jobs, which may or may not materialize, but existing jobs.

According to many community activists and business observers, if the general plan and zoning proposals associated with the Coliseum Area Specific Plan are allowed to go ahead, they would effectively eliminate the city’s only dedicated office-industrial park.

By amending zoning to “Mixed Use” the plan could incorporate tech campuses’ desire to house high end workers in luxury condos close to their work place.  Or alternately the zoning change could threaten many of the business types the plan actually encourages to stay and/or relocate there, including technical campuses with R&D, administration and manufacturing on site, production such as high value printing operations, specialty artisan food production, wholesaling for domestic markets and global export products such as wine, specialty agricultural and marine products.

The result would potentially push out many of the 150 businesses there now, which employ over 8,000 workers. Many of these are good stable jobs, such as warehouse, that pay $50,000 to $75,000 a year. Such jobs are the city’s future, and the subject of multi-million dollar regional studies such as the Regional Goods Movement Study, and the Design It Build It Ship It Logistics & Advanced Manufacturing study.

The way the proposed general plan amendments would work, knowledgeable observers say, is that when a major part of the industrial park is changed by to allow retail and residential units, the market value of the land would more than double,

Some businesses would leave because rising market values would encourage them to sell their properties, and others would be increasingly impacted by nearby residential uses that are not very compatible with production, warehouse and other industrial uses, with their noises, smells and truck deliveries.

Revolution Foods, headquartered in the Airport Business Park, is one of the businesses that could be adversely affected by residential development. According to Fortune, the company serves over 200,000 healthy meals daily to school districts across the country and has a total of over 1,0000 employees, at an annual gross revenue of about $70 million.

At present, the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) calls for the project to contain 5,750 units of housing, including, 1,700 units in the area between Edgewater Road and the San Leandro Estuary where the city’s highly used corporation yard is located.

According to city staff and the proposed EIR, residential housing use would not be permitted in most of the business park. Industrial land use zoning will be maintained, they say. So, there is nothing for local businesses and workers to fear.

But all may not be what it seems.

The proposed general plan amendments and the zoning changes in the EIR are two different documents that contradict each other for the areas known in the plan as CO-3 & CO 4.

The proposed general plan amendment to Regional Commercial (CR) would allow 125 residential units/gross acre, and both CR and Business Mix (the current non-residential designation) allow residential units.

Another general plan change would allow 250 residential units per gross acre.

While the plan has a goal of a minimum of 15 percent of affordable housing units, city staff says that building units that can be affordable to Oakland residents will depend on future negotiations between the City Council, investors and a developer.

There is no ironclad promise of affordable housing built into the plan at present.

According to city staff, the plan to move the city’s corporation yard would have to overcome many hurdles and is not in the cards at present.

The corporation yard and all its employees would have to be moved at a cost that is not yet calculated and to a site that has not yet been determined.

In addition, the property is owned by the Port of Oakland and leased by the city – which would have to find a way to obtain the land from the port. By law the port must charge the land’s full market value.

The port has never said it favors this change and traditionally has wanted no residential at all in the Business Park.

Yet the general plan and zoning changes have forged ahead despite community and business owners’ complaints that they have not been involved in the process.

City staff have repeatedly said in public: “We have our marching orders.” But they have not explained from whom these orders are coming.

The specific plan passed the Planning Commission last week and is scheduled to be heard next Tuesday, March 24, 1:30 p.m., at the meeting of the Community and Economic Development Committee at City Hall.

From there, the proposal will go go to the City Council.

Coliseum City Development Should Benefit Oakland Residents, Say Local Groups

 Mayor Libby Schaaf does not support building sports arena in business park

By Ken Epstein

At least three local organizations and coalitions are pushing to make sure that the Coliseum City project – if it comes to pass – will provide economic and social benefits to the people who live and work in Oakland, not only the owners of the sports franchises, developers and hedge fund investors who are hoping to build a massive, entertainment, housing and hotel complex around new stadiums for the A’s, Raiders and possibly for the Warriors.

Libby Schaaf

Libby Schaaf

Taking somewhat different approaches are the OaklandWorks Alliance, the Oakland Heritage Alliance and a community benefits coalition that includes Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) and Just Cause/Causa Justa.

Weighing in on the issue, Mayor Libby Schaaf called for Coliseum City plans to include a mix of uses and did not support a proposal to but the Warriors arena in the middle of the business park, would would likely to eliminate a number of local buisnesses and jobs.

“There are no current plans for putting a basketball arena below the 880 freeway, nor do I see that as the most desirable location for any future new sports facilities,” Schaaf said. “Oakland needs to balance housing, entertainment, retail, businesses and industries to ensure we have a vibrant economy and great quality of life for our residents.”

Members of the OaklandWorks Alliance said they would support the Coliseum City Specific Plan and draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) if they are modified to deal with a number of specific concerns.

The OaklandWorks Alliance is made up of individuals and eight local organizations, including Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP).

Revolution Foods, based int the Oakland Airport Business Park across from the Coliseum, is one of the businesses that would be impacted by zoning changes. According to Fortunte, the company  serves over 200,000 healthy meals daily to school districts across the country and has a total of over 1,0000 employees..

Revolution Foods, based in the Oakland Airport Business Park across from the Coliseum, is one of the businesses that could be adversely affected by zoning changes. According to Fortune, the company serves over 200,000 healthy meals daily to school districts across the country and has a total of over 1,0000 employees.

In a letter to the Oakland Planning Commission, several OaklandWorks members wrote:

“African-American workers make up 28 percent of Oakland residents and 5 percent of the hours worked on city-funded construction jobs. This means that African-Americans are underrepresented more than five-fold in city-funded employment.”

“Any project on which this injustice is not rectified should not be built.”

The OaklandWorks letter also criticized city staff for failing to involve community members in a democratic process.

“Residents of East Oakland should be involved at every step of every decision-making process. This has not occurred thus far,” the letter said.

Robert Schwartz of Key Source International (left) and James Curtis, president of the Oakland Commerce Corporation, wait for their opportunity to speak at the Oakland Planning Commission public hearing Wednesday at City Hall. Photos by Ken Epstein.

Robert Schwartz of Key Source International (left) and James Curtis, president of the Oakland Commerce Corporation, wait to speak at an Oakland Planning Commission public hearing. Schwartz says the Specific Plan, as it is currently written, would allow developers to rezone property in the buisness park to build housing, thereby eliminating businesses and jobs in the city.

“There was no community participation until the Specific Plan was completely developed, and then city staff provided ‘information’ sessions for people to ask questions.”

The plan should only provide housing for people at the median income of Oakland residents, the letter said. “Our land and city services should not be used to build housing for people who do not live here.”

The OaklandWorks letter also calls for not rezoning the Coliseum Business Park across Highway 880 from the Coliseum arena.

The business park houses “approximately 150 businesses and employs 8,065 workers, according to statistics provided by Oakland’s economic development department,” the letter said. “These businesses could be disrupted by: a) Increased land prices created by the possibility of residential uses; b) Restricting business activities which are allowed by the current zoning.”

Naomi Schiff and the Oakland Heritage Alliance are supporting mitigations proposed by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board, which have been included by Planning Commission staff in their draft Coliseum Area Specific Plan.

If the arena or Coliseum are torn down, the developer should make financial contributions to improve East Oakland communities to offset the loss of the historic buildings, according to the proposed mitigations.

“The amount of any such contribution shall be as negotiated between the city and the developer(s), as ultimately determined by the City Council,” according to the proposal. “Mitigation shall be provided as financial and/or cultural enhancement. Such contribution shall be commensurate with the cultural value of the Coliseum.”

Groups in the in a community benefits coalition include Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), Just Cause/Causa Justa, E), East Bay Housing Organization (EBHO), Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) and East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), which is closely allied with the Building and Construction Trades Council and other local labor unions,

This coalition, which came out in force to speak at last week’s Planning Commission meeting, is asking for an increase in the percentage of affordable housing in the proposal. The plan at present talks about provisions for 15 percent affordable housing, but the plan itself 1,700 units of market-rate housing at the site of the Oakland Corporation Yard, facing the Bay.

The demands are also for “good jobs with living wages,” protections for tenants so they will not be “pushed out by rising rents,” and protections to prevent air pollution and build a grocery store, youth center and other public services in nearby East Oakland neighborhoods.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 14, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)