It was a sad chapter in the story of AC Transit, a well-meaning but by turns bullying board director with progressive democratic political ties helps an company new to Oakland push an AC Transit bus stop away from its new store, and right on the door-step of a long established business: Summit Bank at 2969 Broadway.
Now, two years later, the promise of a new, wider sidewalk to make space between the bank and the bus never happened, and workers at Summit Bank are subjected to bus exhaust smoke and people laying in the doorway to the adminstrative offices on a regular basis. “There’s a line to get the bus right out in front of our door,” said one bank employee who did not wish to be identified,” and sometimes people just sit in the place in front of the door.”
The space between the door to the Summit Bank offices on Broadway and the bus stop itself is, well, no space: the bus stop is right outside the door. Moreover, this is a situation that was forced on Summit Bank not just by AC Transit and its board member for the area Christian Peoples, but several members of the Oakland City Council, who made what should have been a decision in favor of a long-established business in Summit, a “left versus right” policy battle.
The idea that “Oakland favored the bank over the bus stop” is completely baseless. What Oakland really did was favor large Sprouts Farmers Market over small Summit Bank – both businesses. But in some media coverage, Sprouts Farmers Market was made to look like a small, local business and completely avoided the truth.
In point of fact Sprouts Farmers Market is a giant, publcly-traded company on the NASDAQ Stock Exchange. It’s reported as having 27,000 employees and more than 280 stores in 15 states in America (UPDATE: Sprouts just opened its 300th store, and is planning up open 13 new stores). It’s revenue in 2015, alone, was $3.6 billion. With all that, Sprouts Farmers Market, which has its own internal public relations staff, and hires outside organizations, was made to look like a small firm, that no one in Oakland knew anything about, but had what the media reported was a “transit plan that made sense.”
Meanwhile, Summit Bank’s family and staff was wrongly painted as racist, in part by AC Transit.
Even though Sprouts Farmers Market didn’t want the bus stop in front of its new facility next to Summit Bank and on the same side of the street, and even though the new sidewalk for Sprouts is three times larger than the bank’s sidewalk, guess what? The Bank was made to look like the bad person for not wanting the same bus stop that “Sprouts officials said it’s too dangerous to put a stop in front of the grocery store because there are so many shoppers entering the market, it would get too congested at that corner,” according to NBC Bay Area.
And here’s my friend H.E. Christian Peoples. Director at Large of AC Transit…
So, let’s get this straight: the same Sprouts Farmers Market developers that offered to pay for bus shelters don’t want the bus stop in front of its store basically for the same reasons that Summit Bank stated: it would interrupt their business. It’s one thing for Summit Bank to make the claim because they are a small business, but a for the City of Oakland to allow a giant company like Sprouts to get away with that argument is questionable. And Summit Bank is called “racist” but Sprouts Farmers Market, which is peppered with claims of racism, is painted as a good soldier for the African American, Latino, and poor in Oakland.
The untold story is how it happened that a small company was forced to accept an environmental siutation that makes getting to work and leaving a challenge for its employees, while a giant sidewalk space, large enough to accommodate a bus stop, is allowed to exist just over on the next block?
The end result was a complete triumph of the fakery politics and news media that claims to be independent and “for the people” but really is the true tool of corporate interests so large and well-monied they can make their true self look invisible to the political eye. That’s what Sprouts Farmers Market managed to do: the real gentification is in allowing a giant business to push around a smaller one. That’s what Sprouts Farmers Market did to Summit Bank.
But Sprouts Farmers Market is a nice addition to the neighborhood…
As a note, this author has been a customer of Summit Bank since 2002. The bank representatitves did not ask me to write this; this Oakland blogger is just plain pissed off with the giant hypocrisy that’s infected Oakland, and long-established small firms like Summit Bank. There is a kind of system of relationships in Oakland that favors the well-monied, white housing real estate developer left, and that group acts just like their counterparts on the right from the perspective of bullying and insult tactics – both in their media and politics. In Oakland, the result is more homeless people than ever before, a large and growing class divide, and a government that doesn’t really care to do anything about it.