Photo credit: Make Oakland Beautiful
A potential snag has emerged in
connection to the recently approved Oakland Army Base redevelopment deal.
A new community group called Make Oakland Beautiful has formed to actively protest a portion of the deal that includes the construction of up to five digital billboards near the base of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
The group claims that in the army base agreement, the city all but hid the portion of the deal that includes the billboard agreement, which gives most of the future revenue from the boards to the billboard operator and army base developer.
"This was so on the down low," said Karen Hester who co-founded the group. "No one seemed to know anything about it, including most of the media."
The agreement for the billboards would run for up to 66 years. Revenue generated from rental use of the billboards would be divided up, with 60 percent going to the operator of the billboards, Foster Company. The city and the developers of the army base would divide the remaining 40 percent, according to a May 30 city staff report, with Oakland receiving 75 percent of that amount.
Hester's group said that the large LED billboards also will be, "a visual assault that will accost residents and visitors as they arrive over the new Bay Bridge into Oakland and the East Bay."
"It's very disheartening that this has happened," she added. "I support the development of the army base, but I don't think the city is being a good steward of our natural resources."
Hester said the group is trying to secure a meeting with Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell, who is overseeing the army base redevelopment deal. Make Oakland Beautiful also is directing its anger not just at the city's administration, but towards Councilmembers who voted for the deal.
The community group will hold its inaugural meeting on Thursday, Aug.
23. About 135 people have signed an online petition opposing the army base
The Oakland Army Base deal was passed by City Council with great fanfare in late June. The $1 billion development agreement allows developers Prologis and California Capital and Investment Group to lease roughly 130 acres of the base land and create what they call a state-of-the-art logistics center right next to the Port of Oakland.
Oakland developer Phil Tagami is leading this effort, which will include significant infrastructure improvements, rail expansion and a deep water port terminal.
The deal still needs to clear a final hurdle. The council vote in June gave the city administrator permission to complete final agreements with both the port and developers.
The passage of the agreement by Council came after a 12 years of negotiations - much of it centered on job development for local residents. Government officials, along with developers and the business communities expect the deal to creating thousands of jobs for Oakland.
Blackwell declined to sit down for an interview, but he said in an email that city officials will meet with concerned residents about the billboard. He did not specify a date for the meeting. As for the revenue agreement for the boards, he said, "The billboard agreement is inline with local industry standards for revenue sharing with landowners."
Blackwell indicated that the money from the billboards will be put to "important use."
"While the actual revenue amount received by the city will vary depending on the rental performance of the billboards, the revenue is estimated at between $500,000 and $1 million per annum," he wrote. "While no formal commitment of the revenue has been decided by City Council, there are several programs related to the development project that might be funded. One of them is the job training program to prepare Oakland residents for the new jobs that will be created at the former army base."
Councilwoman Jane Brunner, who in the past has voted against erecting billboards in the city, said her main focus this time around was negotiating good jobs for Oakland.
"The only way to vote down the billboards was opposing the whole (army base) deal," she said.