Town Politics

It seems like the whole town of Oakland was in attendance at the Community and Economic Development Agency (CEDA) and Planning Commission Meeting. The hearing room in Oakland’s City Hall was filled to capacity to hear the status of the Wayans Brothers-Pacifica Capital’s bid for a four month Exclusive Negotiation Agreement (ENA) with the city of Oakland for development of the old Oakland Army Base. The famed Wayans brothers’ plans to build studios and a shopping center at the West Oakland site stroked the community’s interest and inspired some theatrics of their own at the meeting. Before the Wayans’ item was addressed, however, there were matters of the Oakland World Trade Center and Fox Theater Projects.

Seeing as how Oakland has the fourth largest port – a fact that Councilmember Henry Chang pointed out – the committee awarded C.H. Johnson over $40,000 to determine the feasibility of establishing an Oakland World Trade Center. Sanjiv Honda of the East Bay News Service pointed out that plans for an Oakland World Trade Center have been explored since 1988. He also claimed to have the only copy of plans drawn up in 1992-1993. In the end, the council agreed the project needed to move forward now. Phase One was approved to bring the financial projections before the ‘delivery’ Phase 2 will be explored.

But if the project has been crackin’ since 1988, what’s another decade? (WTFeezelle!?) Seeing as how crack was in full effect around that time, I can forgive the delay, but other than that there’s no excuse for this to be in the “Planning Phase” in 2007.

Drama soon ensued when the Fox Theater Project informational report turned into fighting words. Apparently, the project is supposed to award 50% of the contracts to local businesses and 20% of that to small local businesses. A local community figure, Mr. Carey, passionately explained how the project dishonored that commitment by dropping contracts and awarding them to firms located in Dublin, Livermore, and other such (rich, white) areas. He was rebutted by a Mr. Brunner, who pointed out that several other factors, such as suspended or revoked licenses, poor safety records, no local presence, and lack of experience, among other factors, was what soured partnerships.

Mr. Brunner’s comments caused a good deal of restlessness among Mr. Carey and members of the audience. The council, chaired by Ms. Jane Brunner (no relation), sided with Mr. Carey, which caused Mr. Brunner to walk out in protest. At that point Mr. Carey accused Mr. Brunner of gutting the city of its funds, and extended an invitation to “meet outside.” Councilwoman Brunner had to call the room to order and alert security.

Get used to that sort of action when the Fox Theater opens and witnesses its first Sideshow-type chillin’ situation while Jefferey’s, Club 17th (aka Mingles, Part 2), and the soon to be hopeful Club O (opening where Jimmy’s is currently located, but still needs approval).

Everybody in the room, already excited about the Wayans project, got even more juiced after the near altercation. When the Wayans Brothers-Pacifica Capital ENA agenda item was reached, community leaders, educators, actors, local businesspeople, and activists all offered up their two cents in support of the project. Even City Councilmember Desley Brooks, who isn’t on the Planning Commission, shared her two minute endorsement of the agreement. And while all committee members were on board, Chairwoman Brunner shared some concerns with the proposal before rushing it through to the next step. Among her worries were:

  • Land Purchase Price
  • Boundary issues on the complex that had to be resolved
  • Deadline benchmarks that are too loose
  • Detailed Traffic Plan
  • Environmental Cleanup Responsibilities to be outlined

So basically, the committee chose to withhold its approval of the plan until July 17 or a point when Chairwoman Brunner’s concerns could be addressed.

If they are actually interested in increasing the quality of life in West Oakland and making Oakland a DESTINATION POINT, the Exclusive Negotiation Agreement should be air-tight. It means the difference between bringing the city of Oakland to greatness or simply remaining on the “Brink of Greatness,” as one speaker in favor of the project pointed out.


King Anyi, Oakland, California


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