OAKLAND -- A plan to redevelop Oakland's long-shuttered Army Base cleared a crucial hurdle Tuesday on its way to a final vote next week, but city negotiators say they will continue to work to ensure that the nearly $1 billion development will maximize job opportunities for city residents.
The City Council's four-member Community and Economic Development Committee voted 3-0 with one abstention Tuesday to forward the Army base deal to the full council. While two council members wouldn't commit to approving the deal without additional concessions, there seemed little will to risk letting the deal fall apart.
"I want a project," said Councilmember Jane Brunner, who has led efforts to secure local hire guarantees. "I want as much as I can get in that project, but I want a project."
The Army base is by far the city's biggest project -- and potentially the most vulnerable.
If the City Council doesn't approve it next Tuesday, the city and the Port of Oakland risk losing $242 million in vital state funding. The California Transportation Commission had set aside the funds for the port to use for the Army base, but after repeated delays state officials have warned that it could earmark the money elsewhere if a deal is not approved next week.
The development team of Prologis and Oakland-based California Capital & Investment Group have proposed transforming the former base into a warehousing and logistics center serving the nearby port.
The project also includes improving street access and rail capacity for the port, constructing a deep water terminal to handle goods too big for shipping containers and relocating two major recyclers from West Oakland neighborhoods to the base.
After four years of negotiations and environmental studies, the city and developers have reached agreement on nearly every point except a plan to ensure that the project provides maximum benefits to Oakland residents.
The developers have agreed to construct the project with union labor, limit temporary workers, make sure that half the workers are Oakland residents, and help fund a West Oakland jobs center.
But community groups are fighting for additional concessions from Prologis, which will build and rent the new warehousing and logistics facilities. They want to expunge a clause that exempts future tenants with fewer than 50 employees from the local hire requirement. They also want to prevent employers from asking on applications whether applicants have prior convictions and strengthen Oakland's residency requirements that currently allow workers to claim Oakland as their home after living in the city for just seven days.
"These loopholes are serious," said Kate O'Hara of Revive Oakland. "We wouldn't be here if they weren't."
Councilmember Nancy Nadel, who abstained from voting on Tuesday said she won't approve the deal unless Prologis agrees not to ask about prior convictions on applications. "It would really make a big difference to so many people who have to change their lives when they get out," she said.
California Capital's Phil Tagami told council members that Prologis was concerned that additional requirements would make it harder to attract tenants.
"It's difficult to ... dictate to companies how they're going to operate their businesses when they come to Oakland," he said.
Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente said he supported the additional concessions, but cautioned about pushing too hard for them. "This is an absolutely incredible package that we have in front of us," he said. "We have to make sure that this project actually happens."
Since being shuttered in 1999, Oakland's Army Base has been considered for a movie studio, Indian casino, retail center and office complex.
After several plans fell through, Tagami and Prologis stepped up with the much less glamorous, "Working Waterfront," proposal they said could restore the blue-collar jobs lost from the base closure.
The developers would sign long-term leases for the land, which is owned by the city and the port, and charge rent to the warehouse firms and transport companies that would set up shop along the waterfront.
The first phase of the project, scheduled to begin next year, would include infrastructure improvements, followed by the construction of the warehouses and logistical transport centers. Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6345.