Commissioners of the Port of Oakland voted unanimously at their most recent meeting to give Phil Tagami’s team of developers an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) to bargain for the next six months to come up with a financially viable plan to build on the 170 acres of the old Oakland Army Base that are owned by the port.
Two previous ENAs awarded to Tagami and his partners on the $600 million project failed to produce a final agreement, primarily because he could not produce the private funding or grants to finance the project, and the port was unwilling to take on the debt.
Nothing was asked about why Tagami was granted a sole source contract or what had changed since his last two ENAs with the port were allowed to expire. No one asked about his record on the city’s Army Base project, which undercut local small businesses and has led to a significant increase in big rigs being parked in West Oakland neighborhoods.
The port is reluctant to take on new debt, since it is already struggling to pay nearly $1.3 billion it owes for past deals that resulted in multimillion-dollar losses.
The sole objection was raised by Oakland resident Gene Hazzard, a public speaker who read a statement released by the port when Tagami’s previous ENA expired.
“The port must answer to the public and be responsible as guardians of public resources,” said the statement read by Hazzard. “The port takes very seriously its obligation to proceed with the redevelopment plans in the most prudent and strategic manner. Therefore port staff recommends terminating exclusive negotiations as a responsible course of action.”
“What has changed? What you’re doing is irresponsible,” said Hazzard.
“I am very excited about approving this ENA,” said Commissioner Victor Uno, business manager and financial secretary for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 595.
“I think this is a huge step forward for this project and for what we’ve been trying to do for many years… to get a developer who’s going to ally with both the city and the port to move this project forward,” he said.
“(Tagami) has been a good partner,” said Commissioner Bryan Parker, who was appointed to the port board by Mayor Jean Quan and is running against her for mayor.
“We’ve finally come together with the city,” said Commission President Ces Butner. ”It’s a very, very monumental position for us to take at this point.”
Raising the single financially cautious note was consultant John Bowe, a special advisor to port staff.
“We want to minimize the port’s direct expenditure,” he said. “We want to attract world class direct investment, but we need to do that from investment from others, not so much from the port itself.”