Eight Years Later, Tagami Still Hasn’t Started Rotunda Project

Mar 17, 2014

City Fails to Hold Developer Responsible

 By Ashley Chambers

Phil Tagami’s company, Rotunda Partners II, has failed to deliver on its contract with the City of Oakland, never fulfilling the commitment it made eight years ago to develop commercial space adjacent to the Rotunda building.

The developer has never begun construction at the site, which was supposed to be a commercial development – to house restaurants and other businesses.

It also appears the developer may have violated his contract when he sold the property to another company, though the sale was forbidden in the contract without city permission.

The original Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) prohibited any transfer of “any particular interest, stock, or other form of ownership…either voluntary or by operation of law without the written consent” of the city.

However, after purchasing the property from the city in 2004 for $298, Rotunda Partners II, which Phil Tagami is a principal partner in, sold the property in 2006 to San Pablo Commercial Center (SPCC) for $152,000.

Fuad Sweiss

A letter dated June 2006 from the city gave Tagami’s company permission to lease the property, though his company remained responsible for completing the project.

Rotunda Partners did not receive a letter from city staff until May 2013 permitting the sale to SPCC.

SPCC is owned by real estate developer Fuad Sweiss, a former civil engineer who worked for the City of Oakland Post for 18 years until 2006. He is now Deputy Director of Engineering, Department of Public Works, for the City of San Francisco.

SPCC and Tagami, who is still responsible for the project according to the contract with the city, are in default because the commercial development has never been built.

Questions raised at the Feb. 11 Community and Economic Development (CED) committee meeting highlighted the city’s lack of transparency in its relations with Tagami and Rotunda Partners.

Tagami’s sale of property to Fuad Sweiss was “fraud,” said Oakland resident Gene Hazzard, who has been investigating the city’s contracts with Tagami for several years. Hazzard has posted the results of his research at his personal website: www.cleanoakland.com

While questions were raised at the CED committee meeting about whether Tagami was current on payments on his $12 million loan from the city, no one at the city was willing to respond to questions from the Post about these payments.

Tagami’s company sent a letter to the Post saying that its payments on the loan were current.

As a result of a Public Records Act request, the Post has received copies of records of deposit when Tagami’s company made payments.

The payments were: $20,000 on Dec. 1, 2013; $6,666.67 on Dec. 23, 2013; $20,000 on Dec. 31, 2013; and $20,000 on Feb. 4, 2014.

Tagami failed to respond to questions from The Post regarding his payments on the loan. He later tweeted The Post saying our claims in recent stories were “misleading, false, and/or at best grossly inaccurate.”

The Post is hoping to meet with Tagami soon to clarify his position on these issues.  The Post is also seeking to meet with City Administrator Fred Blackwell to find out the city’s position on Tagami’s loan payments and his contract to build  on the Rotunda property.