Rockridge residents fear possible cuts in police and criticize Safeway plan
on May 29, 2009
Rockridge residents meeting last Thursday said they were shocked at news of possible cuts in Oakland’s police force and unhappy about Safeway’s planned expansion
“In October, we will be in a serious condition, if we do not get the stimulus money,” said District 1 Councilmember Jane Brunner, who was invited to speak at the Rockridge Community Planning Council meeting held at the library on College Ave. She explained that to fill a general fund deficit of at least $83 million cuts will come in library service and park maintenance. However, the biggest impact, Brunner said, will be on the police department, which accounts for 44 percent of the general fund spending
Mayor Ron Dellums proposed laying off 140 police earlier this month. He said the cuts would be necessary if the city fails to find outside funding. The 73-year old former congressman, is counting on federal stimulus money for a three-year $67 million Community Oriented Policing Services grant.
Dellums has been lobbying Capitol Hill, however, Brunner was skeptical about his chance for success.
“The Mayor has lots of connection in the East. However, the money the mayor is asking for accounts for about 6 percent of the $1 billion COPS program, and we are not sure if the City will get that much,” she said.
Brunner blamed Oakland’s deficit on a fall in revenue from property and retail sales taxes, which are the primary sources of the city’s revenue.
“Condos are not selling, car dealerships went out of business, and the city’s assessor is reassessing the price of property,” said Brunner.
Residents disagreed. “I think there is a structural issue that the city has to fix,” said Robert Firehook, an attorney who lives in Rockridge.
Others pointed out the city’s need to modify its pension plans. “My cousin’s husband is a retired firefighter, and even after he is retired, he is getting an allowance for his uniform,” said Joanne Irwings, a 62-year old resident. Brunner said the city was still negotiating with the fire department about possible cuts.
Brunner added that council members are voluntarily taking salary cuts, because “we cannot ask our staff to do something we do not do.” However, at the same time, they may not be able to afford to take a 25 percent pay reduction, because of the Bay Area’s high cost of living.
Brunner also asked for community input, saying that there will be a joint public meeting of the mayor and city council scheduled on May 28th and June 1st before the council adopts the budget on June 16th and June 30th..
Residents also expressed concerns about the plan for expanding Safeway’s College Avenue location.
Local architect, Jerome Buttrick presented his own environmental impact report.
“Their plan does not look like a typical College Avenue retail shop, but sometimes more like a Walnut Creek Shopping Center,” said Buttrick referring to Safeway’s plan for two stories and a 5,000 sq ft. store surrounded by another 11,000 sq ft of small retail shops.
Buttrick’s report showed that already congested College Avenue will get an 135 additional cars per peak hour, and 1,500 additional cars per day – all looking for parking. Buttrick added that residents who live on 63rd and Alcatraz streets are the ones who are going to be most impacted.
Some residents were furious about Safeway. “I went to a meeting on April 29th at the Claremont Hotel, but they did not answer any question,” said Burk Zimmerman who lives on Hillegass Street. Zimmerman went on to ask what kind of tools that they have to prevent the Safeway’s plan. Stuart M. Flashman, Chairman of Rockridge Community Planning Council, said that there are community groups formed such as Friend and Neighbor of College Avenue and Concerned Neighbors.
Others said they should have a political campaign, lobbing the city council members. “We can show them that there is not an economic benefit that will outweigh the negatives,” said Nina Lindsay, an Avon Street resident. Stuart said that they have to take a swift action before it is decided.
Flashman said the neighborhood group will continue to press the city council and will try to meet with Safeway officials.
Image: Councilmember Jane Brunner explains the impact of budget cuts to the Rockridge residents
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