Noel Gallo was the only member of the Oakland City Council who voted last week against the council’s behind-closed-door decision to sell public land at Lake Merritt to UrbanCore to build a majority market-rate project, which was opposed by the E12th Coalition and its supporters.
In an interview with radio station KPFA 94.1 last Friday, Councilmember Gallo, who represents District 5 in East Oakland, discussed the reasons he opposed the decision.
The following are excerpts of his remarks:
We’ve been at this one issue with this one property for a number of months. I strongly believe that if it’s public land that the city owns, it needs to remain with the public…
Oakland has very limited public land that the public owns, and that land belongs – not to the City Council, not to the mayor – it belongs to the people. And it should remain with the public for public good.
Once (we) sell it, it belongs to the developer. The developer can choose to do whatever he or she pleases (with it).
I served on the Oakland Board of Education for 20 years and when it comes to school land, it belongs to the state. You cannot sell it to a private entity without giving (first choice) to governmental or other (public agencies). You don’t sell it – you lease the land.
That (E. 12th) land sits right at Lake Merritt, and the taxpayers (passed) Measure DD, where we have committed to spending millions and millions of dollars to improve the lake, the channel, the walkways, the trails, (and) the estuary.
That lake belongs to everybody, whether you’re poor, in between, young or old . You should have the ability … to use it, not just for rich market-rate people.
Right now … they are building Brooklyn Basin, 3,100 units that are market rate (housing), a block away from this (new) development. At the other end of the lake, there is a big high-rise condominium development.
UrbanCore a month ago won a contact to build affordable housing over at the Coliseum project in East Oakland. They are building a big high rise with a number of units of affordable housing. The City of Oakland owns the land and (is) subsidizing (it) to the tune of millions of dollars.
If (we) can do it in that part of East Oakland, why can’t (we) do it there (by the lake)?
Politics get involved. Those of us who represent a minority community, we forget, and the dollar becomes more important than taking care of our people.
We talk about race and equity all the time, but we wind up doing the opposite.