Down to the wire, the City of Oakland and community members are close to saving Oakland Maritime Support Services (OMSS), a nationally recognized truck yard that provides parking and one-stop support for 3,000 big rigs a day that serve the Port of Oakland.
Bill Aboudi, owner of OMSS, met Tuesday with Mayor Jean Quan and Deputy Mayor Sandré Swanson, who pledged to do everything in their power to make sure the company receives a 30-month lease to move to a temporary site on port land.
At press time, the port has already given a lease for the property to the city. But the Port Commission had added conditions that OMSS must meet, and the port’s new executive director has the final decision on whether the city will be allowed to give OMSS a sublease.
The city has sent a letter to the port saying that it is satisfied those conditions have been met. At present, the port’s legal staff is reviewing that letter and will advise new Port Executive Director Chris Lytle, who will make the final decision.
At stake for the city is whether polluting big rigs will be kept out of West Oakland, which would be in jeopardy if the company closes, say community activists who have worked closely with OMSS for years to reduce truck traffic and parking on residential streets in their neighborhoods.
Moreover, OMSS and other companies must move immediately off the Oakland’s Army Base property so the city’s massive development project at the base can start by Sept. 3, which is the deadline Oakland must meet to avoid jeopardizing $242 million in state matching funds.
“We don’t have the luxury of waiting,” said Assistant City Manager Fred Blackwell at a recent Community and Economic Development Committee meeting. “It is important for us to do what we’re doing now (proceeding with the evictions),” he said, because the city does not want to “have to have embarrassing conversations with the state about not being able to spend the money.”
If OMSS is unable to secure a sublease, Aboudi says he has no choice but to go to court to fight the eviction.
“I don’t want a fight with the city and the port. We just want to do business, but OMSS is too important to the lives of community members and hundreds of workers and small businesses,” said Aboudi, who had a court date scheduled Thursday afternoon to attempt to block the eviction.
OMSS, which has been running into obstacles put in its way by the city and the port for over two years, is one of the companies that face eviction by Sept. 3 from their homes on the city’s Army Base property.
While other companies have repeatedly been thwarted in their efforts to receive leases to move, OMSS has additionally been confronted with determined efforts by the Teamsters Union, which has intensely lobbied the port and the city to shut down the company as part of its efforts to unionize drivers who own their own trucks.
Recently, the Port Commission placed what some are calling almost insurmountable obstacles in the way of OMSS. Although the city had agreed to assume all risks associated with a sublease to OMSS, the commission is requiring that Aboudi settle and pay penalties in an ongoing litigation that involves another company that he owns, AB Trucking.
Hoping to resolve the issue, the mayor has spoken with the port’s executive director, and the city sent a letter to the port saying it is satisfied that Aboudi and OMSS are able to meet their obligations, and that letter is currently being reviewed by port attorneys.
OMSS, a kind of co-op, is the home of 18 small, mostly family- and minority-owned businesses that provide 24-hour-a-day trucking services, including engine repair, sign painting, oil changes, repair or replace tires, a truck scale, live scan fingerprinting, as well as a mini-mart and medical services.
Other army base companies, PCC Logistics and Impact Transportation, this week were sent drafts of new leases for port property and have already been approved to begin start working on their temporary sites, according to the port.
The companies are reviewing the leases before signing them and have already begun to do the work that is necessary so they can move.