Tagami Conflict of Interest Charged in Army Base Evictions

Phil Tagami

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor The president of one of the companies that must soon move to make way for Oakland’s development of the old Army Base property has charged that with the city’s assistance, Oakland developer Phil Tagami is operating under a “great conflict of interest” in the Army Base Gateway development. Construction on the 165-acre Army Base property is expected to begin sometime this fall. Oakland Maritime Support Services (OMSS) head Bill Aboudi told members of the Oakland City Council’s CEDA Committee last week that Tagami’s California Capital Investment Group (CCIG) could benefit financially from OMSS’ eviction from the Army Base property, an eviction over which the city has given Tagami full control. “I don’t think it’s fair for the city to relinquish all control” over Army Base property evictions, Aboudi said. At issue is a 15-acre slice of the 165-acre Army Base Gateway Development area that was once the subject of an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) between OMSS and the city to develop a port-support truck facility on the property. The OMSS-Oakland ENA to develop a port-support truck facility on the 15 acres dates back to 2007, long before Oakland reached agreement with CCIG to develop the remainder of the Army Base property. If OMSS and the City cannot reach agreement on a new ENA for any reason, Tagami’s company will take over development of the 15-acre site under Oakland’s agreement with CCIG. The OMSS 15-acre ENA was renewed at least twice by the City Council but has now expired, and Aboudi told CEDA Committee members last week that since that time, negotiations for a renewed ENA with the city have “been backset. We haven’t moved forward.” A Feb. 5 eviction notice from CCIG to OMSS says that the City of Oakland has “appoint[ed] CCIG as its sole point of contact” for any negotiations with OMSS “regarding a possible extension” of the eviction date. Oakland faces a series of looming deadlines to move existing tenants—including OMSS—off of the city’s portion of the Army Base property or else forfeit millions of dollars in federal money for the base redevelopment. Aboudi says that his company, which currently provides trucking-related services to the Port of Oakland, is not fighting the eviction from the old Army Base site, but only wants to ensure that it has somewhere near the port to move before agreeing to any eviction date. OMSS is currently in negotiations with the Port of Oakland to relocate to the port portion of the old Army Base, but as with all of the other Army Base tenants attempting that move, those negotiations have been slow. Tagami’s office was contacted for comment on the Aboudi charges, but Tagami was not available for interview. But District Three Oakland City Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who represents the old Oakland Army base area and sits on the Council CEDA Committee that is overseeing the base development, said in a telephone interview that she thinks Aboudi should drop any protest over the eviction notice and move forward with securing his business with the City and on the Army Base property. “Delaying the eviction notice is just not going to happen,” McElhaney said, noting that the City and CCIG are under a tight federal funding timeline to get the property cleared of all current tenants in order to start construction. “My suggestion to Bill is to move forward with all deliberate speed on finalizing the negotiations on his deal to relocate to the Port portion of the Army Base property and not get bothered by procedural things or spend time bickering or whining over the eviction notice. He shouldn’t be seen as being an obstructionist.” McElhaney called Tagami’s dual developer and agent role on the Army Base project “convoluted,” but pointed out that “while I think there’s so much frustration over who Phil Tagami is and there are a lot of people who want to keep litigating that, that can’t be the primary concern now that we’re in this deal. We’ve got to move forward to secure the federal money and secure the jobs that this project will bring.” McElhaney added that she was “hopeful that we’re going to be able to find a solution for OMSS, that they’ll be able to be located on the Port portion of the property and that they’ll be relocated to a permanent location under a separate (development agreement).”
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