The planned construction project at the old Oakland Army Base is colossal undertaking by the City of Oakland—a 330-acre, $800-million behemoth that city officials hope will help create jobs and pump millions into the local economy.
The Oakland City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee approved a community benefits package for the project at its meeting on Tuesday afternoon, moving the item to the city council for approval and giving the council the chance to decide if it wants to approve a series of recommendations aimed at making sure Oakland residents—and especially those who live in West Oakland—have access to the 3,000 jobs the project is expected to create.
“We truly need these jobs,” Doyle Williams, a West Oakland resident and member of the Drywall Lathers Union 68L, told the committee. “There are so many of us out of work now who live in the immediate area that need this employment.”
The recommendations were crafted by a working group chaired by Councilmember Jane Brunner (District 1) and included West Oakland residents, representatives from the Building Trades Council of Alameda County, community coalitions like East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), OaklandWORKS, Revive Oakland!, and contractors for the project and the developer, Prologis/CCIG Oakland Global, LLC.
The working group held nine meetings over the past year, and came to a consensus that the community benefits package should include a 50 percent local hire policy for construction and operations jobs, creating a jobs center that would track all the construction hires, and a community jobs agreement that would serve as the policy for the city, as-yet-to-be defined community stakeholders, and organized labor.
“The issue really was how are we going to get local residents working,” Brunner said of the working group’s focus. “We decided as a group that nothing would come to city council that was not a consensus. And we didn’t vote anything up and down, we reached consensus on every item.”
The working group’s efforts informed the report presented to the committee Tuesday by Al Auletta, the city’s Army base project manager. About 100 people packed into the Sgt. Mark Dunakin room on the first floor of Oakland City Hall for the meeting, many wearing bright yellow stickers provided by EBASE that had a picture of a fork lift operator and read “Revive Oakland! Demanding good jobs for Oakland.”
Many of the speakers at the meeting either served on the working group or work in a construction trade. Doug Bloch, who represents Oakland Teamsters who drive trucks and work in warehouses at the Port of Oakland, urged the council to adopt the recommendations and called the project a “once in a lifetime opportunity to create good union jobs for Oaklanders.” He said the community benefits package is a “wish list of what the community would like to see in the Oakland Army Base project.”
“It’s a good a good starting place for the city and us to negotiate with the developers,” Bloch said.
Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente (District 5) was the only person to speak at the meeting who raised reservations about the community benefits package. De La Fuente cited concerns about the project going forward, pointing out that the Port of Oakland and the city have yet to reach an agreement with the developer. “The best intentions don’t always come to a reality,” he said.
De La Fuente mentioned the stalled Oak to 9th project that is intended to redevelop 64 acres along the waterfront as an example of a project for which community organizers and councilmembers worked hard to develop a community benefit agreement, only to see the project struggle to get off the ground. “We have this great community benefits package that is not going forward because there’s no project,” De La Fuente said. “So I’m going to make sure that everything we do actually translates.”
Andres Cluver, the secretary-treasurer for the Building Trades Council of Alameda County, agreed that there are a lot of financial hurdles the Army base project has to overcome to get started. Still, he said in an interview after the meeting, the CEDA committee “took a real big step” in approving the working group’s recommendations and sending the community benefits package on to the council for final approval.
“Various community groups and labor coming together for what’s going to be a win-win for everyone is, I think, really important,” he said.