Last Minue Scramble to Save Army Base Jobs and Businesses; Without Base Businesses, Trucks and Uninspected Cargo Could End Up in Local Communities

May 31, 2013

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

With Assistant Oakland City Administrator Fred Blackwell admitting to City Councilmembers that the administrator’s office “probably could have done a lot more” in advance to plan for the relocation of Port-related businesses from the old Army Base, Oakland city officials engaged in a series of detailed negotiating meetings this week and last to meet an extended deadline to move those businesses over to Port of Oakland property.

Fred Blackwell

Several tenant companies representing hundreds of jobs-including customs inspectors Pacific Coast Container and truck support firm Oakland Maritime Support Services-had originally been given until the end of this month to vacate from the old Oakland Army Base to make way for the massive Gateway development project scheduled to break ground on the property this fall.

However, after complications developed in relocating the companies to warehouses on the Port of Oakland portion of the Army Base property, City Council authorized a two-week extension for the evictions.

Officials from PCC, OMSS, and other affected companies have said that because their work with the port requires them to be in a location immediately adjacent to the port, they could be forced to go out of business if they cannot make the move to the port portion of the Army Base.

Some Oakland community leaders are saying that companies may already be lining up to take over those port-support contracts if the vacating Army Base businesses aren’t able to move to locations near the port, which could potentially mean that big rig trucks loaded with uninspected cargo could be moving through the streets of West Oakland or other nearby communities.

Brian Beveridge of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project and OaklandWORKS coalition told members of Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee this week, “Recently, Horizon Beverage was purchased by a local developer, and we understand that the new property owner is hoping to move the U.S. Customs Service to the new property.”

OaklandWORKS followed up later in the week with a letter of protest to Reginald Manning, local area port director of the US Customs and Border Protection service, saying in part that moving the customs inspection from port property to the Horizon Beverage site would be a “type of use [that is] not acceptable to our neighborhood. Any cargo that is suspect should be inspected in close proximity to the port (separated) from the West Oakland Community. Our community does not support any activity which we deem to be at risk of health, safety and welfare of the people of this neighborhood.”

PCC currently holds the contract for customs inspections for the Port of Oakland, but PCC representatives have reported that officials of the United States Customs and Immigration Enforcement Agency have issued a Request For Proposal for a replacement company in the event PCC is forced to go out of business because of the relocation problem.

According to the San Francisco Business Journal, Oakland business entrepreneur Tom Henderson bought the 92,000-square-foot Horizon Beverage property late last year from Port of Oakland Commissioner Ces Butner.

The Horizon property is located at Wood Street and 20th Street near Raimondi Park, just across 880 Freeway from the Port of Oakland. Henderson reported to the Business Journal that he plans to set up a conglomeration of companies in the Horizon building under a newly-formed limited partnership company called Berkeley Healthcare Dynamics.

Among other properties, Henderson already owns the old Oakland Tribune Tower Building-which he purchased in 2011 from former Port of Oakland Commissioner John Protopappas-and the Community Bank of the Bay headquarters at 17th and Broadway in downtown Oakland.

Tom Henderson

Henderson could not be reached for comment before deadline for this story.

In his remarks to the CED Committee members, OaklandWORKS’ Beveridge criticized city officials for not starting the process of relocating the Army Base businesses “until the eviction notices went out.”

Meanwhile, Assistant City Administrator Blackwell told committee members that even though Army Base developer Phil Tagami’s California Capital and Investment Group is handling the evictions and collecting rents from the vacating Army Base business tenants, the developer is not required under its Army Base development contract with the city to assist in finding new locations for those businesses.

“Unfortunately,” the Assistant City Administrator said, “comprehensive retention strategy was not something that was included in the Request For Proposals or the RFQ that the City put out and therefore was not really a part of the scope of work for CCIG.”

Blackwell said that at least two more negotiating sessions-including one on Friday of this week-will be needed with representatives of the Port and Tagami’s CCIG company before any deal is expected.

Tagami’s consent to the relocation may be required because of the possibility it could involve CCIG giving up rights to Army Base property contracted to the company under its development agreement with the city.

City Council has scheduled a review of the tenant relocation on June 11, with Port of Oakland Commissioners expected to vote on possible leases for the relocating businesses two days later.