By J. Douglas
Caught between the possibility of a loss of thousands of dollars in federal funds on the one hand, and community and City Council concerns over the possible loss of nearly a thousand Oakland jobs on the other, the Jean Quan Administration moved forward this week with a plan to remove several businesses from the old Oakland Army Base by May 31.
Included in the business clusters affected are Pacific Coast Container (PCC) and Oakland Maritime Support Services (OMSS), both of which supply support for Port of Oakland activities, the Oakland Film Center, and Urban Recycling.
PCC employs more than 400 workers on the Army Base and OMSS more than a hundred, while the Film Center is a conglomeration of more than 30 separate businesses.
The businesses, which have been on short-term leases on the Army Base since 2006, are being moved so the city can begin dismantling the buildings they occupy in the first phase of the city’s development of the Army Base property.
Oakland faces the loss of $120 million in federal matching funds on the redevelopment of the Army Base if construction does not begin sometime in 2013.
It is possible that because of their port-related focus, PCC and OMSS could eventually return to the base as part of the redevelopment plan for the area, which is focused on support for the port.
If the Film Center is to be retained in Oakland, however, it must find a new location within the city outside of the old Army Base.
The Film Center has reached an agreement in principle with the city to vacate their premises by the May 31 deadline, although details of the terms have yet to be worked out. The other tenants are reportedly balking over the fact that in order to stave off a possible February eviction by the city, they must sign away their right to challenge their removal from the Army Base property in court.
OaklandWORKS Alliance, a West Oakland based advocacy coalition that includes such organizations as Leadership Excellence, PUEBLO, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, Oakland Black Caucus, John George Democratic Club, NAACP, Oakland Natives Give Back, and Oakland Parents Together, has started an online petition calling on Oakland Administrator Deanna Santana to provide an alternative location and transition plan for the outgoing businesses.
OaklandWORKS is charging that “the city is promising thousands of jobs for Oakland residents in the distant future, while it is unnecessarily destroying the jobs of hundreds who already work on Army Base property.”
Several City Councilmembers also urged administration officials to ensure the retention of the Army Base businesses during the Council’s last meeting of the year this week, with particular emphasis on the Film Center.
Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said, “I continue to be very concerned about what’s happening with the Film Center. It’s now been four years since this council said we expected the Film Center to be relocated [in Oakland], and they haven’t been. Every study we’ve commissioned has told us that the film industry is an excellent job growth target industry for our city, and we are currently in the process of destroying it.”
Oakland business advocate Dexter Vizinau, who represents PCC and OMSS in its negotiations with the city over the relocation, says he hopes that both organizations will find a home in the new development.
“There’s nothing wrong with the city’s proposal for the Army Base,” Vizinau said by telephone this week. “The only question is, are local businesses going to be able to take advantage of this great opportunity? We don’t believe the city should be trading existing jobs for new jobs.”
“You keep the ones you have and grow the rest.”