Archive for August, 2014

Oakland Mayoral Candidates Talk Army Base Jobs

By Ashley Chambers

Oakland is in the midst of a hot mayoral campaign season, and the city is beginning to see a rising concern about unemployment and jobs as top issue for candidates, along with public safety and affordable housing.

Dan Siegel

Dan Siegel

This week, the Post asked a number of the candidates what their stance is on the $1.2 billion Oakland Global Army Base project’s s promise of thousands of jobs for city residents.

The candidates were asked if they believe results so far of the Oakland Global project are transparent to public oversight and if equal opportunity to jobs is available to all Oakland residents?

If they become mayor, the Post asked, how would they ensure that major development projects that utilize public funds and public land deliver on promises to local and minority residents?

Master developer Phil Tagami of California Capital & Investment Group (CCIG) has served as the city’s agent on the project. Until recently, transparency has been stifled amid concerns that local, minority residents are not getting jobs on the project.

Mayor Jean Quan and Joe Tuman did not return the Oakland Post’s requests for an interview for this article.

Civil rights attorney Dan Siegel said he strongly “disagrees with the model for the Oakland Army Base development where the master developer has so much control over the project. That concentration of authority explains the inadequate efforts to hire local residents.”

The city needs “complete transparency and strict, impartial oversight over city development projects,” said Siegel.

Libby Schaaf

Libby Schaaf

Siegel says his highest priority as mayor would be “creating good paying jobs for Oakland residents…and require a developer such as Tagami to pay for the recruitment and training of workers to fill the jobs at the Oakland Army Base.”

Councilmember and mayoral candidate Libby Schaaf also expressed her concerns.

“This half-billion dollar project should be creating thousands of jobs. It’s frustrating to see the slow hiring process and the slow hiring of Oaklanders,” she said.

However, she says, the horizontal infrastructure development is slow work that will not employ many people, but later there will be vertical development of warehouses and business that will create more jobs. “I am very optimistic that the vertical construction will indeed hire thousands more,” she said.

Bryan Parker

Bryan Parker

Promoting the hiring of ex-offenders, Schaaf says Oakland should “look at hiring Oaklanders first, hiring ex-offenders and taking care of our own,” adding that the the city must also to ensure that local, minority firms have a fair chance at winning contracts in the city.

“We need to work with a variety of firms to ensure we get great projects, like the Army Base,” she said. “There are far too many locally grown firms already here that we should be using.”

Deeply involved in the port’s side of the Army Base project, Port Commissioner Bryan Parker says the project is in “the first inning of a nine inning ballgame,” referring to the five-year construction phase of the project and the vertical construction that will come afterward.

“I want to see more African American jobs created – as an underrepresented group, that is fair,” Parker said. “However, we must also recognize Oakland’s overall diversity and also make sure all races, ages, and sexual preferences are addressed in our job plans.”

Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca Kaplan

He said that the 425 jobs created – half of which have gone to Oakland residents – is “fairly significant.” A city consultant has projected 1,523 construction jobs for the first phase of the project, he said.

“As mayor, I am going to insist that any developer who develops in Oakland receives all the benefits Oakland has to offer, but in exchange, invests in our economy including vital safety services,” Parker said, emphasizing his support for re-entry residents.

“Investing in our re-entry residents is a step at making a safer Oakland,” he continued.

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan says she is backing local jobs by ensuring that the city addresses “the disparity in city contracting between large corporations and local, minority-owned firms.”

City administration “needs to do a better job when it comes to enforcing the local hire rules in place” at the Army Base Project, she said.

As mayor, Kaplan says she won’t “just promise local jobs and do a ribbon cutting but make sure we’re actually creating the jobs.”

Courtney Ruby

Courtney Ruby

“Oakland is the best city in the Bay Area, but it has the worst city government,” said City Auditor Courtney Ruby. “A big part of the problem is a failure in leadership that has squandered opportunities by bouncing from crisis to crisis, always looking for a political solution, instead of implementing sound decisions by focusing on results.”

“The only way we can rebuild trust in local government is to focus on transparency and results,” Ruby said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 15, 2014 (

Oakland “Dumps” Waste Management

By Ken A. Epstein

Waste Management (WM) lost out on a billon-dollar, 10-year contact to handle trash removal and recycling for Oakland when the City of Council went for a more compelling proposal by a homegrown West Oakland Company that practices local hiring and is willing to offer the services that the council has asked for.Waste Management

The vote went 8-0 for California Waste Solutions (CWS) at the council’s July 30 meeting. Rejected, Waste Management, the nation’s largest trash hauler this week made a last ditch attempt to sway the council.

CWS already handles recycling in half of the city and has a facility in West Oakland. The company has promised the community it will move its operations to a new plant that it will build at the Army Base.

Councilmembers reported that they were under a lot pressure this week to reverse their vote, but they stuck to their decision.

“We’ve been getting pressured, but what’s important to me is doing what is best for Oakland residents,” says Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.

WM took its complaints to some of the local media, which seemed to be outraged on behalf of the company. The company has hired lobbyists, including former City Council President Ignacio de la Fuente, and has threatened to file a lawsuit.

Though negotiations were over and the votes were cast, the company this week came out with a new, sweeter offer. Waste Management was trying to influence the council ahead of its second vote Wednesday night whether to reaffirm the decision in favor of CWS at the previous meeting..

bdy_residualsCouncilmember Lynette McElhaney led the opposition on the council to the Waste Management bid even though city staff had presented what she called highly biased and “slanted” staff reports in favor WM, which has picked up trash in Oakland as long as anyone can remember.

CWS offers a better deal for city residents, starting with a considerable savings on rates, especially to commercial customers, according to McElhaney. CWS also has provisions for local hiring and plans to create a customer call-in center in Oakland, which WM closed down and moved out-of-state several years ago at the cost of local jobs.

In addition, CWS has listened to the council’s priorities, working with Civicorps, a nonprofit based in West Oakland that creates jobs for young people, and partnering with East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) to convert organic waste to energy to reduce electricity rates.

Like any newcomer that replaces an incumbent, CWS still has to overcome a lot of skepticism about its capacities. At this point, the company is set to purchase equipment and expand operations, getting up to speed for a smooth transition when its trucks roll at the end of June 2015.

The company says it has backup provisions, plans A, B, C and D in place to ensure that all transitions will be seamless.

Ultimately, the council voted Wednesday night 7-1 for CWS, opposed only by Noel Gallo, who favored Waste Management. “I vote for the best rate and the best service for the long haul,” he said.

Praising the decision, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said the council had to stand fast when staff pushed for a Waste Management deal that would have meant trash pickup rate increases of 45 percent or more. Because the council pushed for a better deal, the rate increases will be less than half of that original amount, she said.

In addition, Kaplan said staff stacked the game in favor of Waste Management by shaving six months off its contract. With six months less, a competitor like CWS would have under a year, rather than a year and half to prepare for taking over waste pickup in Oakland.

Councilmembers and people attending the council meeting applauded former Mayor Elihu Harris, who with his then aide Councilmember Larry Reid worked 22 years ago to help CWS get a start in West Oakland.

“I appreciate that you (the council) have faith in a local company,” said Harris, speaking at the end of meeting. “That is what Oakland is all about. (About) 70 percent of their employees are Oakland residents – that’s what Oakland is all about.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 15, 2014 (

West Oakland Residents Not Receiving Army Base Jobs

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Post has received replies from Master Developer Phil Tagami and the City of Oakland providing some of the numbers detailing the construction jobs Oakland residents have obtained so far at the $1.2-billon Oakland Global Army Base base

To date, the project has produced jobs for 425 workers, who have worked a total of 95,515 hours. Of these, 14,264 hours went to African Americans, according to data supplied by the city.

In other words, while African Americans represent 27.3 percent of the city’s population, they have received 14.9 percent of the total work – underrepresented by 45 percent.

Only 3,503 hours or 3.7 percent of the total hours went to workers who live in West Oakland, the community next to the Army Base that is directly impacted by Port of Oakland truck and maritime traffic.

According to another city report, 171 new hires were put to work between Oct. 1, 2013 and Aug. 1, 2014. Of these, 98 or 57 percent were Oakland residents, though 25 of these were apprentices, who are near the bottom of the pay scale.

Workers in West Oakland, zip code 94607, were hired in eight of the Oakland positions, including four who were apprentices.

Tagami, who is both the primary developer and the agent hired by the city to oversee the project, has said the Army Base is in the initial five-year phase of the development, which will take 20 years to complete.

Concerned about what many are saying are unsatisfactory numbers of new jobs, community members are asking about what results have been produced by the West Oakland Job Resource Center, which has sent only 11 workers to the Army Base through June.

construction at army base

Phases of Army Base development

The job center was funded by the City Council at about $500,000 a year to serve as a jobs pipeline and clearing house for the project. It was designed as a watchdog over all the new jobs to avoid the broken promises of the past, to ensure a place at the table for Oakland residents who want to break into good construction jobs.

But somehow, either in the way the agreement was ultimately written or by staff interpretation, the job center has turned into something else.

Deborah Barnes, manager of the city’s Department of Contracts and Compliance, explained that contractors and unions are allowed to bypass the jobs center to send people to the Army Base.

“There is no provision in the Community Jobs Agreement or the Project Labor Agreement that designates the Job Resource Center as a ‘clearinghouse’ for all jobs on the Oakland Army Base Project,” said Barnes, describing how the city is implementing the center.

“The unions do not inform the Job center of every new hire they send to the project. There is no provision in the (agreements) that requires the unions to provide this information to the center,” she said, adding that the information can be taken from reports contractors submit to the city.

However, when the proposal for the job center was approved by councilmembers, they were told that it would be a “clearinghouse” for jobs at the Army Base, said Lynette McElhaney, whose district includes West Oakland and the Army Base.

“It is supposed to be a clearing house, to do outreach and provide resources – a place where employers can find workers and that will support job seekers,” she said.

McElhaney she had been told by staff that the job center has only sent 11 workers to the Army Base. “They tell you how many hours people have worked, but not how many people are represented by those hours, how many people are from West Oakland,” she said.

Brian Beveridge, a leader of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project and OaklandWorks, sat at the table and was part of the negotiations that produced the agreement to create the job center.

“We tried to create a system that doesn’t punish the people who have always had the jobs (in the past) but would help the workers who have not been part of the process,” he said.

If a contractor needed a worker, he could call the job center or the union, which would notify the job center. “There was supposed to be to be a simultaneous call to both the job center and the union,” he said.

The job center would maintain a central database of workers, their skills and training needs that employers could draw upon and would provide transparent proof of whether the city and developers were “delivering on their promises or not,” said Beveridge.

But now, he said, “We essentially have the same system that we had before the Job Center. They’re still not putting people in West Oakland to work.”

Like in the past, the system is “failing the people in West Oakland who really need to work,” Beveridge said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 15, 2014 (

Commentary: The Transfer of Army Base Property to CWS Is “Critically Important”

By Phil Tagami

I do not think it is productive or appropriate to frame conflict where there simply is none. The transfer of the subject site to CWS is critically important for all parties as the anticipated sale proceeds of the site are needed to balance the sources and uses to satisfy the state matching grants that all parties benefit from.

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

We are generally unaware of the details of the city’s new trash /recycling contract other than what we have read in the newspapers.

We have a standing request to Public works and CWS to better understand the nature of the proposed CWS operations now that they are doing the whole trash/recycling operation opposed to just the recycling as originally intended for the north gateway site.

The CEQA requirements for the OAB project include 660 conditions and mitigation of approval many that are in specific to operations. Air quality and trip generation are just a few sensitive areas that need to be better understood to ensure compliance.

There remain a large number of issues that could impact the delivery of the public infrastructure and thereby impact delivery dates for all of the parties. We wrestle with these each and every day. It is in all parties’ interest to get out of the ground as soon as possible.

Though we are benefiting from the dry spell we need to guard against the onset of winter rains as we are unable to conduct a number of important construction operations in inclement weather.  Getting too much going at one time could lead to unintended consequences and unforeseen costs.

The Oakland Global team has been working diligently with City staff to ensure all of the base tenants/development partners can get access to the site in a timely basis and have access to utility connections.

A few changes have been introduced by the temporary location of OMSS in the north gateway and the interim bicycle parking for the bay bridge in late 2013 that lead to a re-sequencing of the project from what was originally proposed. We have been working on yet another re-sequencing with the city staff to reduce the overall delivery of the project by as much as 10 months.

New delivery dates for the various development sites is anticipated in the next 30-45 days pending city staff approval.



Is Phil Tagami Stacking the Deck Against California Waste Solutions?

By Ken A. Epstein

The Oakland Post has been hearing community concerns that Army Base Master Developer Phil Tagami of CCIG may have been trying to undermine the city’s new trash and recycling company – California Waste Solutions (CWS) by keeping the company waiting to move ahead with the construction of its new facility at the North Gateway of the Oakland Army Base.

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

CWS has already put up $600,000 to show its commitment and was supposed to take possession of the Army Base property in 2013. Now, the company is being told it will get the land in 2016, though some people close to the project says it will not be turned over until 2017 or 2018.

According to Post Publisher Paul Cobb, he has heard from many sources that, “The developer in effect is saying he can’t give CWS the North Gateway, and there seems to be no one in this administration that is taking control of this project. They just seem to listen to whatever Tagami says.”

Responding, Tagami sent an email to the Post, saying, “It is in all parties interest to get out of the ground as soon as possible.” Tagami’s statement is printed in full at his request on the Post’s website at

Paul Cobb

Paul Cobb

CWS says it will take about 18 months to build its $80 million facility at the North Gateway section of the base – 27.3 acres that has been set aside for indoor recycling facilities and an additional seven acres for truck parking.

A key part of the company’s operations, the CWS facility will dedicate 200,000 square feet to process and transfer the various components of the city’s trash stream – composting, organic materials and recyclables like paper and metal.

The site will also house the truck corporation and maintenance yard and become the new headquarters for CWS and its employees.

Until CWS takes possession of its property and builds the facility, the company has arranged with East Bay Municipal District (EBMUD) to utilize some of its property.

People close to the Army Base project have suggested that Tagami and CCIG have never wanted to give any property to recyclers – Cass metals and CWS – even though the City Council voted to give them space on the base, said Cobb.

The problem, says Cobb, is economic. Tagami has been hired to be the city’s agent but is also a private businessman who will make less money if property goes to CWS.

“Any space that is turned into a warehouse is a revenue for the city and revenue for CCIG (Tagami),” he said. “When recyclers get a lease, there is no revenue for Phil – there is just rent for the city.”

“ I’m hearing that his financial interests as an individual are in conflict with the city and its overall goal,” which is to use a portion of the base property for CWS, Cass metals and OMSS, to get the recyclers and truck parking out of the West Oakland community, Cobb said.

Cobb noted that if the city had structured an arrangement with Tagami that is similar to the $1.5 million payment to the city that it required from CWS, Tagami would be paying the city for the privilege of receiving the contract, rather than the city subsidizing him at the same time he is benefitting.

Cobb says it is in the interests of the city to turn the base property over to CWS on or before July 1, 2015, but that seems to be opposite for Tagami.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 15, 2014 (

Kaplan Wins City Disparity Study

Study will examine city’s practices of contracting with Black- and women-owned businesses

Mayoral candidate and City Council President Pro-Tem Rebecca Kaplan has successfully fought for the City of Oakland to conduct a legally-required disparity study to protect equal economic opportunity in the community.

Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca Kaplan

Even though the City Charter requires the study to be done every two years, one has not been conducted since 2007, seven years ago.

Oakland, like much of the country, has a troubling history of excluding Black-owned businesses and woman-owned businesses from an equal opportunity to participate in city-issued contracts, according to Kaplan.

The last time this disparity was studied in Oakland large gaps and inequalities were discovered.  In recent years, in spite of community concerns, no further study was conducted.

People in the city have been so concerned about this issue that voters adopted a legal requirement in the City Charter that mandates Oakland to regularly conduct disparity studies and to take action to make sure that everyone has an equal chance to participate in business, jobs and the economy, Kaplan said.

Oakland City Charter §808(b), states: “Every two years, the City shall conduct a race and gender disparity evaluation to determine if the city has been an active or passive participant in actual, identifiable discrimination within its relevant market place.

“If such disparity evaluation evidences such discrimination, the City Council, in order to remedy the discrimination, shall establish a narrowly tailored race and/or gender business participation program, as substantiated by the disparity evaluation, for the bidding and awarding of purchases and contracts.”
Kaplan sent a public letter to the mayor and administration calling for efforts to be launched immediately to deal with this disparity problem.  In addition, Kaplan fought for and won the money to begin the work that must be completed and calling for greater fairness in city contracting.

“I am very thankful that our efforts were able to help start these important steps – this problem has gone on for too long,” Kaplan said. “We need to take action to identify the disparities that exist, and to make our contracting process more fair to everyone in the community. I am glad we were able to find the money to help solve this important problem.”

The city is preparing to contract for the new disparity study, and City Administrator Henry Gardner will be in charge of that process.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 8, 2014 (

Phil Tagami Responds to Post on Facebook

By Ken Epstein and Ashley Chambers
Master Developer Phil Tagami has responded on Facebook to a Post article questioning Oakland’s commitment to ensuring that the city’s $1.2 billion Army Base project hires local residents and overcomes the historic barriers that have kept Black workers out of good paying jobs in the construction trades.

Phil Tagami

Phil Tagami

Besides serving as the primary developer of the Oakland Global base project, Tagami was hired as the city’s agent to oversee the project. He has frequently failed to respond to questions from the Oakland Post.
According to Tagami, the city is 209 days into a “20 year development window on the project,” which will have a “66 year life.” The initial phase of the project will take five years and is “meeting and exceeding requirements,” Tagami wrote on Facebook.
Overall, he wrote, the number of hours worked total 95,515, of which Oakland residents worked 51 percent.
So far, the project has created a total of 425 jobs, 13 percent of which have gone to African Americans. In the 2010 census, 27.3 percent of the city’s population was listed as Black, which means that African Americans are more than 50 percent underrepresented on the project. 
Under the Army Base community benefits agreement, the job resource center was supposed to be the clearinghouse for all jobs. Tagami wrote that   in compliance with the base’s job policies, his company CCIG “utilizes the West Oakland Job Resource Center to identify and employ Oakland residents.”
However, through June, the job resource center has sent 11 workers to the Oakland Army Base.
The Post reported last week that the city sent a letter to Tagami in May saying that contractors are free to hire anyone they want after they try one time and are unable to find a local worker to fill a position at the base.
Rendering of Army Base Project

Rendering of Army Base Project

Tagami’s statistics do not indicate the racial breakdown of workers hired as journeymen and apprentices, nor does it provide a racial breakdown of workers by numbers of hours worked.

Most Oakland workers hired at previous city-funded projects were employed in the lowest paid building trades – as laborers and apprentices. In recent years, only 5 percent of journeymen hours on these city-funded developed have gone to African Americans.
Further, under the Army Base agreement, workers who are hired at the project are supposed to be listed on the city’s website along with the zip code of their residence.
With the zip codes available to public view, everyone would know if the project were meeting its local hiring goals and how many of those hired live in West Oakland, the “fence line” community that feels the social and environmental impact of living next to the base and the Port of Oakland.
That information has been slow in coming, but the city is in the process of producing a report of zip code data.
Tagami’s statement did not say how many Oakland residents who were not previously union members went to work at the base.
Four African American construction workers who received support from the Oakland Post to overcome obstacles to working at the Army Base have still not been able to find work at the development.
The Post, with help from the city, purchased equipment for the four workers and put up the money to pay union fees. The workers went to orientations and classes, filled out the forms and wrote resumes.
Ultimately, the four were told they had to go out and find a contractor who would sponsor them, and they could then go down to the union with a sponsor’s letter and be put to work.
They are still seeking a sponsor.
Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 8, 2014 (

New Restaurants: Does Their Workforce Looks Like Oakland?

Trendy-Restaurant-Amsterdam-magazzinoBy Post Staff

Like a lot of Oaklanders, Professor Kitty Kelly Epstein, likes to check out some of the new restaurants that are opening up in our city  She noticed that many of them had no Black employees.

Kitty Kelly Epstein

Kitty Kelly Epstein

She brought this up recently on her KPFA radio show, Education Today, and on her Facebook page. The response was overwhelming.

People sent her emails and messages promising to bring the issue up with the restaurant managers and suggesting tactics to campaign for more Black employment.

When she checked back at the new places on Grand and Lakeshore this week, she found that the complaining seems to be having an effect. Each of the restaurants she had contacted seemed to have one Black employee during the shift when she stopped by.

“That’s progress compared to a few weeks ago,” said Epstein. “However, a third of the residents of Oakland are African-American. Fairness means that a restaurant shift of 15 people would include at least 5 Black employees. “

This is not a small issue. Black unemployment rates are twice as high as white unemployment in the U.S.

According to Epstein, “We should let restaurants, stores, colleges, developers, and construction contractors know that our personal dollars and our tax dollars won’t go to places that don’t hire Black people in significant numbers for all types of jobs”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 5, 2014 (


Oakland “Locks Arms” to Aid Refugee Children

Mayor Jean Quan and Councilmember Noel Gallo speak Wednesday at a meeting in the Mayor Office bringing together groups and community leaders  to  aid Central American child refugees in Oakland and other Bay Area Cities. Photo by Ken Epstein.

Mayor Jean Quan and Councilmember Noel Gallo speak Wednesday at a meeting in the Mayor’s Office bringing together groups and community leaders to aid Central American child refugees in Oakland and other Bay Area Cities. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken A. Epstein

The Oakland City Council this week unanimously passed a resolution committing to adding the humanitarian relief effort for unaccompanied immigrants to the United States, authored by Mayor Jean Quan, Vice Mayor Larry Reid and Councilmember Noel Gallo.

“The bottom line here is clear and urgent: we are talking about children who need our help, and Oakland stands shoulder to shoulder with everyone offering that help,” said Mayor Quan.

“This is a humanitarian crisis that requires a compassionate and urgent response,” said Councilmember Gallo. “We must do what we can to support the health and wellbeing of these children. Our goal is to ensure that these unaccompanied children get the services they need, and are able to move from federal shelter facilities into the homes of relatives or host families as they await the results of their immigration proceedings.”

Seeking to put teeth in the resolution, Gallo on Wednesday convened a meeting in the Mayor’s Office with representatives of over 30 of churches, nonprofits and community groups to coordinate efforts to meet the children’s and families’ pressing needs. The representatives were mostly from Oakland but also from other East Bay cities and San Francisco.

“We’re reacting to the situation, but we’re not prepared,” said Rev. Pablo Morataya, pastor of Primer Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana on High Street in Oakland.

His church is supporting two families, one from Guatemala and another from Honduras, who are each living in one room in small apartments with relatives.

“The necessities are housing and legal assistance,” he said. “They are already in court up here. And there are young people coming into our city. We don’t know yet how many, but there are many, many of them.”

According to attorneys at the meeting, the young immigrants and adults are entitled to legal representation, but the government does not pay for it. To retain a private lawyer typically costs at least $6,000, and a case can take between two and three years.

Centro Legal de la Raza in the Frutivale District is representing as many of the new immigrants as it can and is referring other clients to nonprofits and private attorneys who are willing to work without cost, said Barbara Pinto, an immigration staff attorney at Centro Legal.

“Locally, we’re locking arms” to help the new arrivals, said Lariza Dugan-Cuadra of the Central American Resource Center of Northern California in San Francisco. She said she knows of 60 families that are going to court in the next few weeks.

Oakland International High School has already taken in 50 immigrant children this year, “and we’re a small school,” said Carmelita Reyes, principal of the Oakland public school.

“We’ve been triaging the best we can, trying to find lawyers – it’s a nightmare,” she said. “Asking someone in the third grade who doesn’t speak English to (represent) themselves is ridiculous,” she said.

Gallo said that that he is working closely with Supervisor David Campos in San Francisco, and Gov. Jerry Brown is willing to provide resources. But so far, the U.S. government is mostly talking about militarizing the border and has not been forthcoming with much aid to help take care of the children.


Students, Teachers Rally to Save Dewey


Carrington Taylor, recent Dewey Academy graduate, spoke Monday  at a rally and barbecue to support the school.  Next to him at left was Dewey student Kelvyn Wallis., who also spoke Photo by Ken Epstein

Carrington Taylor, recent Dewey Academy graduate, spoke Monday at a rally and barbecue to support the school. Next to him at left was Dewey student Kelvyn Wallis., who also spoke Photo by Ken Epstein

By Ken A. Epstein

Students, teachers and community members held a barbecue Monday to muster their forces to protect Dewey Academy, a longtime continuation high school that is sitting on property at Second Avenue and E. 12th Street that a developer wants to buy.

Between dancing and barbecuing hamburgers and hotdogs on the sidewalk in front of the school, the students held a rally to tell their classmates and supporters what is going on.

“They’re trying to come in and take our home – We’re not going to let them. We’re going to fight back,” said Dewey student Kelvyn Wallis.

“If it weren’t for this school, I probably would not know what I’m doing right now.” said Carrington Taylor, who graduated from Dewey in June.

“People who come here don’t think they have a future, don’t think they are going to go very far in life,” he said, but all that changes when they come to the school. By shutting or moving the school, he said, “You’d be destroying those students’ future. Dewey represents a community and a family, not just a school.”

Dewey is situated in a central location, outside neighborhood gang turf, which makes it safer for young people, according to the school’s supporters. The present school site is also easily accessible to public transportation.

The City of Oakland has an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with Urban Core to build a 24-story apartment or condominium building on a city parcel by Lake Merritt and next door to Dewey.

The developer is seeking to buy the school property to add to its project. The district in May set up a “7-11” surplus facilities committee, which under the law would have to declare the property surplus before it could be sold.

The district has also issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ), seeking proposals for a mixed use development of the site adjacent to Dewey on the Oakland estuary, presently occupied by the OUDS abandoned administration building.

The RFQs are due by Aug. 15, and the final decision on the development is scheduled to be voted on by the school board in mid-September.

According to district officials, Dewey would be temporarily moved to another site until a new Dewey Academy can be build alongside a new administration building right across the street from Dewey’s present home.

Dewey supporters argue, however, that any move would disrupt the education of vulnerable students whose lives and studies have been disrupted for a variety of reasons all too many times already.

In addition, supporters are concerned that once the school is moved there is no guarantee it would be able to return downtown. Whatever the promises, continuation high students from East and West Oakland ultimately might not be a priority for space on valuable estuary real estate.

According to School Board President David Kakishiba, district property decisions are being driven by an urgent need for funds to build a new administration building,

Ever since the administration building on Second Avenue was wrecked by water damage in January 2013, the district headquarters has been located in rental office space at 1,000 Broadway in downtown Oakland, the monthly payments covered by insurance.

“We are looking for how we can leverage some district property so we can pay for a new central administration facility or pay for the ongoing lease for the facility,” Kakishiba said in an interview with the Post.

“We’re exploring ways to raise enough money to build a new central administration plus build a new Dewey next to the administration building at the site,” he said.

However, Kakishiba said, the district made a mistake when it began to plan to move Dewey without consulting people at the school and listening to their “legitimate concerns.”

“It was an oversight of the board not to engage the school community earlier,” he said. “My sense is that we will not move forward until we first get those school communities ramped up and involved in the process.”

The policy of the board is to keep Dewey downtown, Kakishiba said. “We want Dewey to remain.”

There are several board members who are committed to expanding Dewey’s links to community college courses, and the school is located right next to Laney College, an ideal location for developing those connections, he said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 2, 2014 (