Category: Coliseum City

Local Small Businesses Object to Coliseum City Development

By Ken Epstein

Representatives of small businesses are complaining that city staff is on a fast track to adopt a formal plan for a massive Coliseum City development project, which has reached the final stages of approval without consulting affected companies.

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 for their opportunity to speak at the Oakland Planning Commission public hearing Wednesday at City Hall. Photos by Ken Epstein.

The rezoning of the area for a stadium, housing and retail development on the Oakland airport side of Interstate 880 will eliminate much of Oakland’s only business park and many of its small businesses, which employ local residents, according the businessmen.

“I object to the plan, which will effectively over time destroy the business park without discussion or community input as originally promised and budgeted for when the planning process was instituted. Good paying business jobs will be sacrificed for sports, entertainment and residences without consulting the present community,” according to Robert Schwartz, long time Oakland resident and owner of Key Source international on Oakport Street in the business park.

Schwartz and others spoke Wednesday at a poorly announced Oakland Planning Commission public hearing on the plan.

City staff and a consulting team have been working on the plan for the past two years. Schwartz and others are saying they have been allowed to comment on the plan after it was designed but not to be part of the design process itself.

Fred Ellis speaks for the OaklandWorks Alliance at the Planning Commissiion public hearing.

Fred Ellis speaks for the OaklandWorks Alliance at the Planning Commissiion public hearing.

The Coliseum City plan, according to the City of Oakland’s website, “seeks to transform the underutilized land around the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and Arena into a world-class sports, entertainment and science & technology district that boasts a dynamic and active urban setting with retail, entertainment, arts, culture, live and work uses.”

The 800-plus acre site includes the present coliseum arena and the area on the west side of the freeway w, where the Oakland Airport Business Park is located and extends all the way to the waterfront.

Objecting to the characterization of the business park as “underutilized land,” Schwartz said that industrial- and light-industrial use land sells for less than retail-use and residential-use land. Therefore, if zoning for industrial use is removed, the market value of the land will go up.

Existing businesses will sell out and move out of Oakland. New companies will not be able to afford to set up shop in the city.

Schwartz says he does not see the utility to the city of eliminating good jobs at long standing local businesses in favor of creating poorly paying jobs at stadiums for “popcorn vendors.”

In a letter to the city’s department of Planning and Building, James Curtis, president of the Oakland Commerce Corporation, agreed with Schwartz.

“We object to your plan to cross the 880 freeway and intrude into our existing Port of Oakland Business Park,” he said. “That appears to use an unnecessary and detrimental encroachment on the existing businesses in the park.

“Part of the (Coliseum) Plan should include funding to improve the infrastructure and help revitalized its’ appeal for future expansion and job creation,” said Curtis.

Speaking on behalf of the OaklandWorks Alliance at the Wednesday hearing, Fred Ellis read a statement backing the small business’ concerns.

“We oppose any rezoning without the opportunity for full community discussion by the affected communities,” said Ellis. “We oppose zoning changes that appear to remove East Oakland’s only business park and displace at least one of Oakland’s long standing and important businesses.”

“Few East Oakland residents are even aware that such immense and important policy changes are occurring,” Ellis continued. “The staff has provided no justification for proceeding without a participatory advisory committee of Oakland residents.”

“The planning process for East Oakland needs a restart,” he said.

Among the organizations in OaklandWorks are the West Oakland Environmental Indicators project, Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO), Oakland Black Caucus, Concerned Black Men and the John George Democratic Club.

Some people are saying that the rush to approve the project came from former Mayor Jean Quan’s administration, and there could potentially be a different approach under Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Speaking informally after the public hearing, one staff member said: “This project didn’t start with a clean slate. We heard: ‘Here are your marching orders.’”

Schwartz has said he does not oppose moving ahead with the building of new sports arenas on the Coliseum property but is against the city’s plan to eliminate the business park on the West side of the freeway.

Before it is approved, the development plan has to overcome other hurdles, including the concerns of the Port of Oakland and the EBMUD, which are both impacted by the proposal. The plan must also gain the backing of the developers, who are working to put together private funding for the project.

The Planning Commission has scheduled hearings on the development plan on Feb. 4 and Feb. 9 and a vote on Feb. 18. If passed, the proposal will go to the City Council, where it could be approved in March.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 23, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Bay Area Groups Call for 96 Hours of Action to “Reclaim King’s Legacy”

“Jobs and Economy” march on Monday from Fruitvale BART to Oakland Coliseum

Martin Luther King Jr. Arrested.

Hundreds of people from more than two-dozen groups associated with the Anti-Police Terror Project (APTP) will join thousands around the country in 96 hours of action over the Martin Luther King Weekend, Jan. 16-19.

In response to a call from Ferguson Action, organizers seek to reclaim Dr. King’s legacy and radical stance against poverty and all forms of violence.

The weekend’s events will culminate in a Jobs and Economy March for the People on Monday, Jan. 19, beginning at 11 a.m. at the Fruitvale BART Station, Oscar Grant Plaza, and ending at the Oakland Coliseum, where a massive Coliseum City development project is planned.

Coliseum City Entertainment District (rendering)

Coliseum City Entertainment District (rendering)

The project, which has yet to be approved, is proposed to include development of up to three sports stadiums, market-rate condominiums, hotels and an entertainment complex in the heart of East Oakland.

As planned, it would wipe out the city’s only business park.

The concerns of many Oakland residents, specifically people of color, are that they could be displaced or otherwise negatively impacted. The protesters are questioning why the city would support a project unless it provides jobs, housing and community development for Oakland residents.

“We march to demand an end to economic violence, police violence, educational violence and psychological violence that is perpetrated without consequence in our communities ” according to a statement by the APTP.

Proposed Coliseum City

Proposed Coliseum City

The group is also demanding that the Coliseum City project include: 1) Decision-making by residents of East Oakland on the plans for Coliseum City and surrounding areas; 2) A hiring policy ensuring that jobs go to Blacks and Latinos in proportion to the percentages of these groups living in East Oakland and including jobs for the disenfranchised who are on probation and parole; 3) No displacement of local small businesses and expanded opportunities for minority businesses; and 4) All housing developed with city funds should be affordable to Oakland families at the median income.

“We have seen the Black population of urban communities shrink all over the country,” the call for the protest said. “In Oakland the African-American population has shrunk from 49 percent to 27 percent. We want to stop the policies that have led to this shrinkage and turn it around so that African-Americans are able to live and thrive in this city.”

The APTP is a coalition of over 20 groups, including the Onyx Organizing Committee, Workers World, the Alan Blueford Center for Justice, Healthy Hoodz, Young Oakland, Asians for Black Lives, Black Out Collective, Black Brunch, and CRC

For more information, go to www.postnewsgroup.com.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 17, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Growth Is Exploding in Oakland, Say Developers

 Local business people packed into the grand ballroom in Oakland Marriott City Center last Friday to hear Mayor Jean Quan, Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf and a panel of five major Bay Area developers talk about the development free-for-all that is beginning to unfold in Oakland.

The event, called “Oakland Structures,” was sponsored by the San Francisco Business Times at a cost of $70 a head and was billed as offering insight on the big changes that are coming to the city.

“Investors are converging on Oakland in unprecedented numbers, and it’s a pivotal time for the city. Oakland can no longer be considered to be on the ‘verge,’” according to the announcement for the event.

Claremont Lanai Tower (rendering)

Claremont Lanai Tower (rendering)

Remarkably for Oakland, African Americans and Latinos were absent from the speakers’ platform and few in number in the ballroom.

Beside the present and future mayors, speakers included Michael Ghielmetti, president of Signature Development Group, which along with a major Beijing investor, is building 3,100 units of market-rate housing on the Embarcadero in Oakland; and Floyd Kephart, chairman of the Renaissance Companies, Inc., who hopes to build the massive Coliseum City project near the Oakland Airport.

Other Bay Area developers who shared their views on Oakland’s future and their projects were Michael Cohen, co-founder and principal of the Strada Investment Group; Phil Kerr, president of the Northern California City Ventures; and Scott Smithers, managing principal of Lane Partners LLC.

“We are hungry for development after winning the Nov. 4 election,” said Mayor-elect Schaaf, in an interview with the SF Business Times a few days after the election.

“However, we also have tremendous needs. We are an old city, and we have incredible deferred maintenance,” she said, emphasizing developers have to expect to pay city fees.

She told the developers at the Business Times event that her goal is to create “predictability and clarity” for development projects in the city, hire “kick-ass (staff) who get things done” and make the City of Oakland “the least irritating government possible.”

Uptown Station, formerly the Sears building (rendering).

Uptown Station, formerly the Sears building (rendering).

Floyd Kephart said that he represented a number of investors who want to build the Coliseum City project, which has been proposed but not yet approved by the city.

The project has already stirred concerns among city residents – some who want to assure that jobs and housing go to local people and others who say that the project as proposed would create a destructive, not constructive, presence in the city.

“I don’t know what the future will bring, but I know it’s coming,” said Kephart, who said that he and the financiers he represents would like to go ahead with the full project that has been proposed by city staff and consultants.

“We don’t know exactly what form it will take,” he said, but the city has created a great proposal. “We’re not trying to change that. We’re trying to implement that.”

As proposed, the huge complex would contain new stadiums for up to three teams, 1.9 million-square-feet of retail and office space, several hotels and restaurants and

Brooklyn Basin (rendering)

Brooklyn Basin (rendering)

entertainment.

“All of us (financiers) live on demographics” who base their decisions looking at the trends, Kephart said. “I represent 40 private equity hedge funds. Private capital goes where the opportunities are.”

“There is no doubt that capital is coming here,” he said. ”The question is whether it will build the future “ that Oaklanders want.

This development is going to take time, Kephart said. “It’s a process, and it never comes out the way” people expected it would be at the beginning of the process.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, December 15, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)

Coliseum City Proposal Remains in Play; Community Raises Questions

A artist's iew of the Colisuem City might look like

A artist’s iew of the Colisuem City might look like

By Ken Epstein

Many people are furiously committed to a plan to knock down the Oakland Coliseum and replace it with a glitzy Coliseum City complex – which could include up to three sports arenas as well as hotels, entertainment, housing, retail and restaurants.

The Coliseum City plan, according to the City of Oakland’s website, “seeks to transform the underutilized land around the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and Arena into a world-class sports, entertainment and science & technology district that boasts a dynamic and active urban setting with retail, entertainment, arts, culture, live and work uses.”

Probing questions about the plan are being raised by city leaders, mostly focusing on how to put together the financing and the costs that will have to be borne by Oakland taxpayers.

The value of the massive project is generally taken for granted. More or less unexamined are concerns about the value and impact of the project on the people who live in the city.

Yet Oakland residents and business owners are pressing forward with their own questions. How many and what quality jobs would there be for local residents? Would the proposed housing be only for the affluent?coliseum_city_rendering.0_standard_709.0

Who will be able to afford to go to the expensive venues and restaurants? How would a colossal development parachuted into the middle of the city impact surrounding neighborhoods and companies in East Oakland?

Some community members are saying they would like to see new stadiums built but question the purpose of the massive complex, which they say could negatively impact East Oakland residents and would effectively destroy the city’s only business park, pushing small businesses out of the city.

The city is already moving ahead with the Coliseum Area Specific Plan, which if passed would change zoning requirements and make other permit amendments, putting into place the legal basis for the project if and when financing and other issues are resolved.

Speakers at recent public hearings have questioned why community input was not sought before the draft specific plan was released and why the city allowed such a short period for public comments on the voluminous plan.

There were complaints that the plan’s proposed Environmental Impact Report only deals with Coliseum area property, ignoring impacts on nearby residents and neighborhoods.

Before final approval, the project would have to be passed by the Coliseum’s Joint Powers Authority, as well as the Oakland City Council and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

The project also has designs on what is presently the Oakland Airport Business Park, which contains property owned by the Port of Oakland, therefore requiring the Port Commission to weigh in.

Will Proposed Coliseum City Benefit or Displace East Oakland Residents?

 The City of Oakland has relased the detailed plans for a proposed 800-acre “Coliseum City” to rise upon Oakland’s existing Coliseum site and 550 acres of adjacent land on the other side of I-880. The plan includes nearly 6,000 units of housing, three hotels, over 500,000 square feet of retail space, and nearly 7 million square feet of science, technology, office, and industrial space.

The City of Oakland has relased the detailed plans for a proposed 800-acre “Coliseum City” to rise upon Oakland’s existing Coliseum site and 550 acres of adjacent land on the other side of I-880. The plan includes nearly 6,000 units of housing, three hotels, over 500,000 square feet of retail space, and nearly 7 million square feet of science, technology, office, and industrial space.

 

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.

Proposed Coliseum City

Proposed Coliseum City

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)