As eviction day approaches, the possibility of finding a temporary home for Oakland Maritime Support Services (OMSS) and the 18 small businesses that operate at OMSS remains mired in negotiations between city staff and the Port of Oakland.
A possible agreement, which was discussed after Mayor Jean Quan and new port Executive Director Chris Lytle spoke, seems to have fallen through. At this point, the city is exploring other options, which the port may or may not accept.
City staff is moving ahead to evict OMSS and all the small businesses and hundreds of independent truckers based at OMSS.
At the same time, however, the city is trying to move OMSS from its property to a site it has leased from the port – so work can begin Sept. 3 on the Army Base development project while still preserving truck services and parking that keep the big rigs out of West Oakland.
“I am getting caught in the crossfire between the port and the city,” said Bill Aboudi, OMSS’s owner. “City staff is working with me. They are doing their best, but I have my hands tied.”
The Port Commission recently passed an ordinance saying it will not approve the city sublease to OMSS, unless the company settles a $1 million lawsuit, which is now in federal court awaiting a hearing. That lawsuit, involving wages and hours of employees, is not against OMSS but another company that belongs to Aboudi.
The ordinance says, in part: “The proposed subleasee shall have satisfied all outstanding judgment (s) of any court of competent jurisdiction against the proposed subleasee or its related entities arising from the truck parking or trucking operations of the subleasee or its related entities.”
The port ordinance was passed in the wake of intense lobbying efforts to close down Aboudi’s businesses by the Teamsters Union as part of a campaign to unionize independent truckers at the port.
Last week, OMSS supporters were expressing confidence that the port’s new executive director might allow the city to sublease to OMSS, if the city clearly accepted all liability related to the sublease and stipulated that it believes OMSS can meet its financial obligations.
The letter was written, but no agreement was reached with the port. At this point, the city is considering giving OMSS a month-to-month contract. Bu such a fragile arrangement would make it difficult for OMSS to find financing to do more than $1 million in improvements necessary to operate on the temporary site.
Even if port land is not available, the city has an obligations under a longstanding agreement with San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission to provide 15 acres of truck parking and services so that trucks will not end up on the streets of Oakland communities, said Dexter Vizinau, a consultant who works with OMSS and other army base businesses.
“The city has a mandate to provide 15 acres of parking through this whole development process within the old Army Base,” said Vizinau.
“The city has 150 acres that it is going to develop. OMSS could be moved to somewhere else on the site, where no work is going on, and the project would not be slowed down at all,” he added.
“It shame that the city and the port working together have done this to Bill Aboudi, who runs a viable enterprise that has created jobs and has the support of the West Oakland community,” said Steve Lowe, vice president of the West Oakland Commerce Association. OMSS and other Army Base businesses over the years have “have been sliced and diced,” Lowe said. “We’ve lost a lot of West Oakland businesses in the process. It has not been pleasant to watch.”
The City Council and city staff are “now honoring their commitment to business retention,” he said, but for many years there has been a “ big demonstration of bad faith on the city’s part, and it has cost us dearly.”
“It has been a huge blow to Oakland’s industrial viability,” Lowe added.