The City of Oakland has based its defense of the lawsuit against the Oakland Coal Ban and filed by Phil Tagami on behalf of the development team lead by his California Capital Group, Inc., on the claim that the City collectively did not know the plan for the OBOT was to handle coal.
UPDATE: City of Oakland plans to file appeal of ruling rejecting coal ban – click for more info.
San Francisco-based Federal Judge Vince Chhabria’s 37-page decision in favor of the plaintiff, Mr. Tagami, was based primarily on one simple fact: the development agreeement, which focused on the creation of a terminal that would facilitate the transport of minerals including coal, was agreed to and signed by the City of Oakland. In other words, the City of Oakland had to know that the OBOT would be used for minerals transport, including coal.
The Judge’s full decision:
Oakland elected officials (including most recently Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb to me on Facebook) still say they didn’t know OBOT was to handle coal.
The problem with Councilmember Kalb’s claim is that two video interviews I made with then Oakland Economic Development Director Fred Blackwell refute what seems to be the City’s party line of “we didn’t know”: one in his office and the other at the groundbreaking for what was called “Oakland Global”, but is the OBOT.
In his office on August 16, 2012, Blackwell said to me that “For those who don’t know, break bulk commodities are things like iron ore, grain, things like that… This will be the only deep water break bulk marine terminal in Northern California…” Blackwell also touted the use of rail connected to the terminal, as a kind of gift to the environmental justice movement. Here’s the video:
But Blackwell specifically mentioned iron ore, which is a kind of cousin to coal, and used in the production of steel, and he mentioned grain, and “things like that..” – the “thing” he was thinking of was coal.
In this video below at the November 13th, 2013 Oakland Global Groundbreaking, Mr. Blackwell repeated the project’s focus:
Moreover, many of the participants who attended the groundbreaking ceremony, and who talked about the OBOT, knew that the idea was to build a terminal that handles commodities. Here’s the full set of videos from Zennie62, and which have a number of interviews with political players who have been involved in this project, in some way:
That OBOT might take in coal is something that Elizabeth “Betsy” Lake, now the City of Oakland’s new assistant city administrator and point person for negotiations on development projects, also knew in 2013.
In an letter dated September 12, 2013, and directed to the City of Oakland and the developers (called the “Parties”) and reporting transfer of the Oakland Army Base land called “Parcel E” to the City of Oakland, she includes a number of exhibits, and this language from the Lease Disposition and Development Agreement, and referring to the intent to handle coal:
“The proposed use of Parcel E is as part of a new working waterfront and break bulk commodities terminal. See site plan attached as Attachment D. The transition by the major U.S. ports to container terminal and mechanized operations has forced break bulk products, mainly commodities (e.g. lumber, coal, sulfur), to be transported via truck to vessel, or to operate from secondary, smaller ports (e.g. Stockton) both of which limit the capacity, decrease the efficiency and increase the cost of these types of bulk product shipping operations. The proposed Oakland Bulk Oversized Terminal, using Parcel E and other adjacent land, would link rail to vessel break bulk shipping operations. “
Here is that 108-page letter:
That’s also not the first time the intent to build a facility that handles commodities as part of the CCIG / ProLogis Plan was introduced: all one has to do is look at the May 30th, 2012 Oakland City Council Agenda Report. That was to introduce the resolution to the Oakland City Council to approve the Oakland Global Project, called the Oakland Bulk Terminal. Page 9 of that report explains that the West Gateway Marine Terminal would be restored as a “commodities / break bulk facility.”
The definition of “commodity” is “a basic good or raw material” and includes the afforementioned iron ore, sulphur, and coal. Since the fact that the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal was to handle and transfer commodities including “iron ore and coal”, according to Ms. Lake, was and has been constantly mentioned in the planning and formation of the project, why didn’t the Oakland City Council express any real concern in 2012?
The answer to this is detailed and complex, and related to a massive loss of institutional memory in Oakland that I first pointed out in 2011, but best summarized by explaining that if the proposed land use for the project had not been approved, Oakland stood to lose $242 million in funding from the State of California that was preliminarily secured for the Army Base. Moreover, the original intent of the transfer of the Army Base Land was the expectation that the City of Oakland had a plan to restore the loss of low-skilled, high wage jobs to West Oakland.
One has to ask the question why isn’t the City of Oakland interested in creating such jobs in Oakland, today? Many of the large numbers of homeless in Oakland are (estimated at around 7,000 at present) are working poor – not making enough money to afford housing. With this, the City Council preaches building to solve part of the problem (a lack of affordable housing) and not the other part of the problem (a lack of low-skilled, high wage jobs).
Is Oakland’s current City Council , are the majority so in the hands of high-end real estate developers and land speculators that they’re trying to re-write the City’s own Army Base redevelopment history? Are some of the persons who protest against the project being manipulated by those same high-end real estate developers and land speculators who see prime real estate property on the Army Base, and don’t really care about poor African Americans in Oakland?
It would seem so at this point in time, and their actions threaten to increase the homeless population on an annual basis. It’s not that coal is being phased out; the real problem is that no one in Oakland has addressed the problem of the lack of low-skill, well-paying jobs. And in this, Oakland has completely forgotten how to do economic development.
Stay tuned. I’m not done.
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media