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Oakland City Council postpones vote on WOSP gentrification scheme

July 30, 2014

Prologis Inc. and California Capital Investment Group spearhead scheme

by Lynda Carson

Oakland – On July 29, the Oakland City Council surprised observers by postponing a final vote on the West Oakland Specific Plan (WOSP) without setting a new date. WOSP is a massive redevelopment scheme spearheaded by some wealthy investors planning to gentrify the old Oakland Army Base and major portions of West Oakland that are cynically being called Opportunity Sites, and at first reading on July 15, the City Council voted 7-0 to approve it, with only Desley Brooks abstaining.

Black man holding sign 'Gentrification Social Genocide', webOpponents believe that WOSP will result in the displacement of thousands of long-time low-income renters in West Oakland. Postponement of the final vote gives them an opportunity to press city leaders and the public to reassess the scheme.

Supporters claim that WOSP will result in the remaking of West Oakland into a whole new gentrified community for higher income renters and market rate housing developments. WOSP is expected to result in as many as 5,000 new market rate apartments, 4.7 million square feet of new commercial and industrial space, with as many as 28,000 new jobs, according to City Planner Ed Manasse.

The WOSP legislation does not require any affordable housing units to be developed and provides no protection to keep the existing low-income renters of West Oakland from being displaced by greedy landlords wanting to raise the rents.

Supporters of WOSP do not want to see any new recycling operations permitted in West Oakland. Companion legislation to WOSP that was passed by the City Council changes zoning laws in West Oakland that will conditionally permit present day primary recycling operations within the Third Street CIX zone, which is currently an industrial zone.

But WOSP will exclude primary recycling operations within the Third Street CIX zone in the area bounded by Ettie, Hannah, 32nd and 34th Streets, which is currently an industrial block. WOSP recommends changing the current zoning for residential development, which will result in the loss of future  recycling operations needed by the homeless and long-time residents of West Oakland.

The WOSP legislation does not require any affordable housing units to be developed and provides no protection to keep the existing low-income renters of West Oakland from being displaced by greedy landlords wanting to raise the rents.

Millionaire Phillip Tagami and wealthy Wall Street investors Hamid Moghadam, Douglas D. Abbey and T. Robert Burke have teamed up together to promote the massive gentrification projects in West Oakland. These are the wealthy investors who are the movers and shakers in the combined redevelopment schemes to gentrify the old Oakland Army Base and West Oakland.

The AMB Co., founded by Moghadam, Abbey and Burke, which is presently called Prologis Inc., and the California Capital & Investment Group, founded by millionaire Phillip Tagami, is the master development team that is working with the Oakland Redevelopment Agency and the Port of Oakland to develop the entire former Oakland Army Base under one vision. As part of the same gentrification vision, the Redevelopment Agency has also been taking steps to gentrify major parts of West Oakland and what are being called the Opportunity Sites.

The massive No. 1 Opportunity Site in West Oakland stretches all the way from around East 14th Street to Emeryville and from Adeline Street to Interstate 880. Another massive so-called Opportunity Site stretches along what is being called the San Pablo corridor. There are a total of four other Opportunity Sites in West Oakland being affected by WOSP. The developers call them underutilized areas.

Millionaire Phillip Tagami and wealthy Wall Street investors Hamid Moghadam, Douglas D. Abbey and T. Robert Burke have teamed up together to promote the massive gentrification projects in West Oakland.

Once WOSP becomes the law of the land, the plan is to target the Opportunity Sites for redevelopment and maximum exploitation by wealthy developers. WOSP legislation will be used as a marketing tool to attract developers to the Opportunity Sites. Low-income people need not apply and will be abandoned to fend for themselves once this gentrification scheme gains traction.

The WOSP is also being designed as a sneaky way for developers and the city to avoid complicated environmental impact reports and pesky zoning regulations in the effort to develop the Opportunity Sites as quickly as possible. Other “specific plans” similar to WOSP exist to redevelop the Coliseum area and the Lake Merritt area.

In the pocket of wealthy investors from Oakland and Wall Street, Oakland’s Mayor Jean Quan and the City Council are rapidly moving forward on the massive gentrification scheme that is destined to displace thousands of West Oakland’s low-income households.

Known by locals as the WOSP gentrification scheme, it will result in major rent increases for the low-income and working poor residents throughout West Oakland and will displace many of them from their homes in the process. According to public records, 78 percent of households in West Oakland are renter occupied, with the median income of $28,055 for a three-person West Oakland household in 2011.

The high stakes controversial plan has met with resistance and protests by local groups including Justa Causa/Just Cause, Against the Struggle and such luminaries as Elaine Brown, a former member of the Black Panther Party, according to reports.

The WOSP is also being designed as a sneaky way for developers and the city to avoid complicated environmental impact reports and pesky zoning regulations in the effort to develop the Opportunity Sites as quickly as possible.

In a July 15 email, Robbie Clarke of Just Cause writes: “A large public turnout is expected as opponents fight to maintain relevance to proposals in the plan. The recently released draft plan of WOSP outlines a number of areas ripe for development in West Oakland and calls for incentives for investment in these areas. Organizers against say the plan will displace working families who have lived in West Oakland for years and that it was not created to keep current working-class residents/families of color in the neighborhood.”

Indeed, in all of Oakland’s specific plans, city officials and staff have refused to require any affordable housing, claiming it would disincentivize developers from investing and would create lopsided development throughout the city.

In West Oakland, 33 percent of residents are living below the poverty level. The WOSP gentrification scheme will pave the way for the construction of thousands of condominiums and market rate apartments that poor people will not be able to reside in.

Tenants moving into the new developments will not have Just Cause renters’ protection. Additionally, the new market rate housing developments will compel the rents to skyrocket throughout West Oakland, eventually forcing the existing poor out of their rental units when their landlords decide to demand higher rent.

The coordinated policies and investment activities about to take place will eventually leverage $243 million from the state Trade Corridor Improvement Fund, $32 million in local agency funds, and as much as an additional $200 million from various federal agencies to gentrify West Oakland. All of this funding will end up being used as a force and marketing tool to displace the poor from West Oakland.

In all of Oakland’s specific plans, city officials and staff have refused to require any affordable housing, claiming it would disincentivize developers from investing and would create lopsided development throughout the city.

In a coordinated campaign to gentrify West Oakland, the supporters of the WOSP scheme that submitted letters in August 2010 for a Tiger II grant application to unleash some massive funding for the WOSP include the Alameda Labor Council/AFL-CIO, Laney College, East Bay Asian Local Development Corp., a so-called affordable housing developer, West Oakland Commerce Association, Port of Oakland, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, Metropolitan Transportation Commission/ABAG, and the Oakland Redevelopment Agency.

Wall Street interests involved in WOSP and the Oakland Army Base gentrification scheme

The AMB Co., which is presently called Prologis Inc., and the California Capital Investment Group, founded by millionaire Phillip Tagami, are spearheading the corporate attack to gentrify the Oakland Army Base and West Oakland. They plan to enhance their already huge fortunes by redeveloping the old Oakland Army Base and what are being called Opportunity Sites in West Oakland, once WOSP becomes the law of the land.

In 2011, ProLogis and AMB merged to become what is now called Prologis Inc., the largest industrial real estate company in the world with $51 billion in assets under its management during the first quarter of 2014. Prologis Inc. has 1,400 employees, is headquartered in San Francisco and was co-founded by wealthy industrialists Hamid Moghadam, Douglas D. Abbey and T. Robert Burke.

According to Forbes, Hamid Moghadam, 58, the chief executive officer for Prologis Inc., was paid a total of $15,190,029 in compensation during 2013, and SEC filings revealed that he owned 2,359,762 shares of AMB Co. common stock in 2000. The stock for Prologis Inc. was going for $41.46 per share on July 15, 2014. He is also a trustee of Stanford University and is on the executive committee of the Urban Land Institute.

In 2013, Douglas D. Abbey of Bridge Housing, age 64, received $160,000 in total compensation from the Macerich Co. and he owned 6,461 shares of their stock as of July 15, 2014. The stock is worth $67.73 per share, a total worth of $437,603 currently. Additionally, he was paid $203,442 from Apollo Commercial Real Estate Finance Inc., and he owns 19,988 shares of stock of Apollo Commercial Real Estate Finance Inc., valued at $16.61 per share for a total of $320,000 in stock ownership. As of March 2000, according to SEC filing statements, Abbey owned 1,460,561 shares of common stock in AMB-Prologis.

In March of 2000, T. Robert Burke, 71, owned 1,099,789 shares of common stock of Prologis Inc., according to SEC filings. According to Prologis, during 2011, Burke received $147,495 in total compensation and owned 218,463 shares of stock, which traded at $46.41 per share on July 15, 2014. Burke is also a co-founder of Metropolitan Real Estate Equity Management, LLC, which operates as a subsidiary of the notorious Carlyle Group LP, after its acquisition in 2013.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Carlyle Group has become notorious for making billions on the so-called war on terror, its investors including ex-President George W. Bush and members of the family of Osama Bin Laden.

The other major player wanting to gentrify the Oakland Army Base and West Oakland with the WOSP gentrification scheme is the California Capital Investment Group founded by millionaire Phillip Tagami, who became notorious when he pulled out a shotgun and threatened to use it against members of the Occupy movement during a November 2011 protest in Oakland. The California Capital Investment Group has made over a billion dollars in business deals in Oakland and the East Bay since its inception over 20 years ago and has merged with Tribune Commercial, according to its website.

Mayor Jean Quan’s 10K Plan

In addition to WOSP, on March 5, 2014, Mayor Jean Quan announced that she wants to bring 10,000 new renters into the City of Oakland and wants to build 7,500 new housing units at 15 projects across the city, as a way to capitalize on Oakland’s hot rental market. She wants to turn Oakland into a playground for the rich and powerful.

Jerry Brown’s 10 K plan resulted in displacing thousands of low-income renters and resulted in rent increases for tens of thousands of renters all across the city.

Jerry Brown was mayor of Oakland from 1999 through 2007. Rent rose 8 percent from 1996 through 1997 and more than 30 percent from 1998 through 1999 after Jerry Brown became mayor. Landlords followed Jerry Brown’s lead to gentrify Oakland by instituting the “eviction for profit system,” which displaced thousands of low-income renters in the search for higher income renters.

From September 1998 through December 1999, 30-day no-cause evictions rose by 300 percent, with 56 percent of those evicted being families with children and 75 percent people of color. Most evicted renters earned less than $25,000 per year and paid between $600 and $700 in rent per month for one-bedroom apartments in Oakland.

By 2004, the average minimum cost to rent a studio apartment in Oakland was around $625 per month, compared with around $850 to rent a studio condominium. One-bedrooms were similar: apartments $650, condos $850.

Once Mayor Jean Quan’s plan to bring in 10,000 new renters kicks in, in addition to WOSP, the rents are expected to skyrocket even further in Oakland.

Rents kept increasing through the years, and by the summer of 2012, according to the East Bay Express, one bedroom apartments around Lake Merritt went for $900 to $1,000 per month, rising to $1,000 to $1,200 by the end of 2012. One-bedroom apartments in Adams Point were going for $3,000 per month and in the Jack London area for $1,800 and more.

Rents have continued to rise since 2012, by a whopping 10 percent during 2013, according to Axiometrics. In 2014, the average monthly rental price is $1,868 in Oakland, $2,295 in San Jose and $2,631 in San Francisco.

Once Mayor Jean Quan’s plan to bring in 10,000 new renters kicks in, and if the City Council votes to approve WOSP, rents are expected to skyrocket even further in Oakland.

Lynda Carson may be reached at tenantsrule@yahoo.com.

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7 thoughts on “Oakland City Council postpones vote on WOSP gentrification scheme

  1. Darrell Ford

    Wow what a wordy diatribe it seems you haven’t been paying attention to the conversation and council chambers about adding be affordable housing language. once again here’s a big article slanted in one direction and and no real investigation I wonder if the writer attended one meeting over the last 20 year about this about this topic when you say gentrification let’s put it in real terms historically those homes were occupied by people of African American descent now if are in that home and you’re not African American add yourself to the gentrification equation on top of that if the home you now live in was occupied you displaced someone I didn’t hear any commotin or hollering about displacement you evicted or seize the property former tenants be damned. the West Oakland specific plan is our only opportunity to achieve that infrastructure that West Oakland is lacking. . In the West Oakland neighborhood we have a saying no right to speak or to obtai and procur fres fresh groceries what do busi or do business with a regular bank I don’t happen to think that’s okay

    Reply
    1. robertseeallen

      I-880/7th Street, where BART crosses over UP/Amtrak rail, is ideal for a Bay Area Rail/Transit Hub. Every four minutes or oftener, six minutes to Embarcadero. Frequent Capitol Corridor trains to Sacramento and the Silicon Valley, and San Joaquin’s to the Central Valley. An ideal locus with superb transit access for employees and the public.
      Great site for an inter-city bus terminal serving the entire Bay Area.

      Reply
  2. Robert

    An intermodal rail/bus intermodal station at the BART overhead (I-880/7th Street) should be included in the WOSP. 16 BART trains per hour from there reach downtown San Francisco's BART/Muni Embarcadero station in 6 minutes.

    Such a station would dramatically cut GHG emissions and freeway congestion in the region and serve as a San Francisco Bay rail hub enhancing nearby land values. It would also help commute traffic survive emergency closure of either the Bay Bridge or the trans-Bay tube.

    Reply

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