OAKLAND -- The city Parks and Recreation Center introduced a new concessionaire to take over the long-shuttered City Stables on Skyline Boulevard, with work on the property expected to begin this fall.
Mark Zinns, director of the Montclair Recreation Center, introduced Melanie Diamond, of Diamond Equine Services, to a group of 35 people at a meeting at the Montclair Recreation Center on Monday.
The city of Oakland acquired the stables from private ownership in 1994. A local nonprofit managed the stables until 2004, when the concession agreement was terminated because the group was unable to maintain insurance and safely operate the stable.
At the time, neighbors complained of manure piles that were several feet high, attracting flies, excessive dust and horses running loose on the premises. One previous concessionaire even started a grass fire with a lawn mower.
Unsuccessful attempts were made in 2006 and 2012 to find a concessionaire to take over the stable. After a lengthy search, the City Council selected Diamond Equine Services to rehabilitate and operate the facility.
The city expects the concessionaire to provide equestrian services for the general public, including stall rentals, riding lessons, a community garden and a variety of equestrian programs, including programs geared toward underserved youth from all over Oakland. Programs are expected to begin next spring.
The property also includes a historic hacienda that dates back to 1925, according to the city's website, and was occupied by the owners of the property until the 1970s. Currently, the hacienda is in disrepair, said Diamond. There are plans to restore the hacienda and use it as a meeting and classroom facility.
The city has already spent more than $600,000 to maintain and improve the property. Diamond Equine Services is also expected to foot the bill for the rest of the repairs. The full extent of the repairs is not known. Inspections on the property should begin within a week.
Diamond is not concerned about what seems like a daunting project to many.
"I have a lot of support. This won't happen overnight. This is not a quick fix. We are about building legacy," Diamond said. "I have a nonprofit in place with corporate funding."
Diamond's first priority will be to rehabilitate the stables so the group can begin boarding animals and provide a revenue stream for the facility. It's expected that the contract will be signed this summer and work on the property should begin by the fall. The initial contract will be for three years, with the potential for two five-year renewals, Zinns said.
Diamond's goal is to create a sustainable facility using green technology, solar equipment and recycled materials that are already being stockpiled for the cause. Despite the problems with the stables in the past, neighbors were enthusiastic about the project.
"I'm excited about this. If they are able to realize their vision, it will be an asset to the community," said Rebekah Evanson, whose house is adjacent to the facility.
Nick Luby, the father of three children, was also excited about the project.
"It's another jewel for the crown of Oakland, even if it needs a lot of polishing," Luby said.