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Oakland A’s Ballpark Update: Howard Terminal Community Benefits Agreement Process Revealed

This Oakland A’s Howard Terminal Ballpark Update is fueled by an email sent from a frequent reader of Oakland News Now. The email is based on a communication sent from Veronica Cummings. Veronica Cummings is the Stakeholder Engagement Lead for the City of Oakland City Administrator’s Office (according to her Linkedin profile). She describes herself as “a big picture visionary with the ability to identify and implement the micro details to make organizational jigsaw puzzle pieces fit together. I specialize in large-scale program development/management with an uncanny ability to connect people and things.”

Veronica Cummings has been involved with Howard Terminal and The City of Oakland for the past year and nine-months. While her profile shows no background in City and Regional Planning, and no previous experience with projects of this kind, she is armed with a Master Of Public Policy Degree from The Goldman School of Public Policy at Cal (GO BEARS!). Indeed, her background is in event planning, and she’s fluent in Italian. Her last job, until May of 2019, was working for Robert Reich, former Secretary of U.S. Department of Labor, who’s now the long-time Professor at the same Goldman School of Public Policy at Cal Veronica graduated from. Today, Ms. Cummings writes at Linkedin, she’s a member of the “Sports Facilities Real Estate Team”, or here are her words:

“Member of the City of Oakland Sports Facilities Real Estate team for the Oakland Athletics mixed-use ballpark development project proposal at Howard Terminal.

Manage the process to develop an equity-centered Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) through engagement with all Oakland stakeholders, which includes community members, the Oakland Athletics, the Port of Oakland, and other City of Oakland staff.

CBA will include policies and provisions that cover affordable housing, employment, economic development, education, environment, transportation, and culture.

That is news, because a search for “Sports Facilities Real Estate Team” and “Oakland” reveals no previous reporting of such an entity, and raises a ton of questions. Questions like: was the Oakland Sports Facilities Real Estate Team formed during the effort to keep the Raiders in Oakland, or just for the Oakland A’s? What about the Warriors. The potential legal implications here with respect to the current lawsuit against the Raiders are enormous and damaging, but for now, I digress.

Cummings wrote the following on December 31, 2020 at 9:19:39 AM PST, or last night, which was sent to me by my reader, today. For those sports media types who wrongly claim the Howard Terminal Project is not going anywhere, here’s resounding proof to the contrary. That written, a closer look at what she reports points to what my source warns may be a path toward a conflict:

Can’t have a new ballpark at Howard Terminal without a satisfactory CBA, was I’m sure you know – and right now, the Transportation Cohort will likely be voting to crater the Agreement, as the A’s, City and Port cannot possibly satisfy the needs list assembled to keep the area from becoming a replica of the traffic snarls of gameday Santa Clara.

However, check out Estolano Advisors, new consultants that Veronica, Darlene, Taj and others have brought on board: could be that a broader, smarter, more comprehensive plan could be forthcoming.

The layout of next steps for the Planning Group for The Howard Terminal Project:

Dear Stakeholders:

As the Planning Group, we want to share our thanks with each of you for your work in 2020 and introduce how we will plan for the Howard Terminal Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) process going forward in 2021.

When we began our work on developing the Howard Terminal CBA in January, we knew our road ahead in 2020 would be challenging. We knew that our equity-centered, data-driven, and collaborative multi-stakeholder CBA process was the first of its kind, and as with all firsts, we were navigating together with equal parts optimism and caution. Thanks to your commitment, together we achieved the following important milestones:

January: Over 150 community members and stakeholders participated in the CBA orientation at Preservation Park to get involved with the CBA.
February: Over 100 community members from the four impacted areas (Chinatown, Jack London, Old Oakland, and West Oakland) collectively selected community representatives to the Steering Committee.
March – August: Almost 200 community members organized into seven Topic Cohorts held 50+ virtual meetings and developed a robust list of initial recommendations.
August – November: The Steering Committee continued to meet to refine the recommendations.

While we have collectively gathered an impressive initial list of recommendations, too little substantive progress has been made since August. We have heard – and share – the frustration of many Steering Committee members in this regard. We are now at a point at which we must reassess and redirect the process in order to achieve the goal of reaching a CBA term sheet in 2021. As part of that reassessment, we have decided to hire an experienced third-party consultant to bolster our team.

At the beginning of this CBA process, six local Black consultants were approached, and all but one, Surlene Grant, who has been working with the group from the outset, either declined to work on the project or did not respond to multiple outreach efforts. Therefore, beginning in January 2021, the services of Estolano Advisors will be retained to work closely with the Planning Group to provide technical review, advice, and guidance on advancing the CBA process and initial list to a final term sheet.

Estolano Advisors is a woman- and minority-owned consulting firm that specializes in inclusive urban planning and public policy, which includes experience with multiple Community Benefits Agreements. Estolano Advisors has worked positively with the City’s Department of Race and Equity previously, has a history of working on projects of this magnitude, and we have a high degree of confidence they will be able to assist us as we work collaboratively towards a successful conclusion to this process.

We are working hard to develop a path forward, including a detailed plan of action and schedule, and will update all stakeholders in early 2021. In the meantime, please continue to contact Veronica Cummings, Stakeholder Engagement Lead with the City of Oakland City Administrator’s Office, at vcummings@oaklandca.govwith any questions, concerns, or suggestions you may have.

Developing a CBA is challenging. In true Oakland fashion of meeting challenges, we are doing so even amid the pandemic. Thank you again for your continued engagement and invaluable service to your community.

Sincerely,

Howard Terminal CBA Planning Group

Stay tuned.

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