by Lynda Carson
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Oakland City Council gave the green light on July 15 to move forward with the West Oakland Specific Plan (WOSP) and its companion legislation aimed at gentrifying West Oakland. WOSP is being spearheaded by wealthy investors planning to gentrify the old Oakland Army Base and major portions of West Oakland that are cyncially being called Opportunity Sites.
The City Council voted 7-0 for the West Oakland Specific Plan on July 15, with Desley Brooks abstaining. Many community members spoke out against the massive gentrification scheme, charging that WOSP will result in the displacement of thousands of longtime low-income renters in West Oakland.
The council was scheduled to vote again on a second reading of the WOSP legislation for final passage on July 29, but the vote was postponed and the council is going on recess for the month of August.
Millionaire Phillip Tagami has teamed up with wealthy Wall Street investors Hamid Moghadam, Douglas D. Abbey, and T. Robert Burke to carry out the massive gentrification project. These are the wealthy investors who are the movers and shakers in the combined redevelopment schemes to gentrify the old Oakland Army Base and West Oakland.
The AMB Company founded by Moghadam, Abbey, and Burke, and presently called Prologis Inc., and the California Capital Investment Group founded by millionaire Tagami make up the master development team working with the Oakland Redevelopment Agency and the Port of Oakland to develop the entire former Oakland Army Base under one vision.
Opportunity Sites in Oakland
As part of the same gentrification vision, the Redevelopment Agency has been taking steps to gentrify major parts of West Oakland — the Opportunity Sites.
The massive #1 Opportunity Site in West Oakland stretches all the way from East 14th Street to Emeryville, and from Adeline Street to Interstate 880, and is a major part of the WOSP gentrification plan. Four other Opportunity Sites in West Oakland will also be affected by WOSP.
Once WOSP becomes the law of the land, the plan is to target the Opportunity Sites for redevelopment and maximum exploitation by wealthy developers. WOSP will be used as a marketing tool to attract developers to the Opportunity Sites. Low-income people need not apply, and have been abandoned to fend for themselves once this gentrification scheme gains traction.
WOSP is also being designed as a sneaky way for developers and the City of Oakland to get around complicated Environmental Impact Reports and zoning regulations, in the effort to develop the Opportunity Sites as quickly as possible. Additional Specific Plans similar to WOSP exist to redevelop the Coliseum area and the Lake Merritt area in Oakland.
In the pocket of wealthy investors from Oakland and Wall Street, Mayor Jean Quan and the City Council are rapidly moving forward on this massive plan destined to displace thousands of West Oakland’s low-income households.
WOSP will result in major rent increases for low-income and working poor residents in West Oakland, and will displace many of them from their housing in the process. According to public records, 78 percent of households in West Oakland are renter-occupied, with median incomes of $28,055 for the average three-person household in 2011.
Community Resistance to WOSP
The controversial plan has met with resistance and protests against gentrification by local groups including Justa Causa/Just Cause, Against The Struggle, and Elaine Brown, a former member of the Black Panther Party.
In a July 15 email, Robbie Clarke of Just Cause wrote: “The recently released draft plan of WOSP outlines a number of areas ripe for development in West Oakland and calls for incentives for investment in these areas. Organizers against it say the plan will displace working families who have lived in West Oakland for years and that it was not created to keep current working-class residents/families of color in the neighborhood.”
Indeed, in all of Oakland’s plans for WOSP, city officials and staff have refused to adopt any affordable housing requirements, claiming that it would be a disincentive for developers that would hinder them from investing in each neighborhood, thus creating lopsided development throughout the city.
West Oakland has a high concentration of poverty that surpasses most other parts of the city, and 33 percent of its residents are below the poverty level. WOSP will pave the way for the construction of thousands of condominiums and market-rate apartments that poor people will not be able to afford. Tenants moving into these new developments will not have Just Cause renter protections. Additionally, the new market-rate housing developments will compel rents to skyrocket throughout West Oakland as a direct result, eventually forcing the existing poor out of their rental units when landlords impose rent hikes.
The coordinated policies and investment activities about to take place will eventually leverage $243 million in State Trades Corridor Improvement Funds, $32 million in local agency funds, and as much as an additional $200 million in funding from various federal agencies. All of this funding will end up being used as a marketing tool to displace the poor from their housing in West Oakland, in the name of gentrification.
WOSP’s Wall Street Interests
The AMB Company (presently called Prologis Inc.) and the California Capital Investment Group founded by millionaire Phillip Tagami plan to enhance their already massive fortunes by spearheading the corporate attack to gentrify the Oakland Army Base and West Oakland.
In 2011, Prologis and AMB Company merged to become Prologis Inc., the largest industrial real estate company in the world with $51 billion in assets under its management during the first quarter of 2014. Prologis Inc. has 1,400 employees, and is headquartered in San Francisco. It was co-founded by wealthy industrialists Hamid Moghadam, Douglas D. Abbey and T. Robert Burke.
According to Forbes, Moghadam, age 58, the chief executive officer for Prologis, was paid a total of $15,190,029 in compensation during 2013, and SEC filings revealed that he owned 2,359,762 shares of AMB Company common stock in 2000. The stock for Prologis Inc., was going for $41.46 per share on July 15, 2014. He is also a Trustee of Stanford University, and is on the executive committee of the Board of Urban Land Institute.
In 2013, Douglas D. Abbey of Bridge Housing, age 64, received $160,000 in total compensation from the Macerich Co., and he owned 6,461 shares of their stock as of July 15, 2014. The stock is worth $67.73 per share, a total worth of $437,603 in stock ownership. He also was paid $203,442 from Apollo Commercial Real Estate Finance Inc., and owns 19,988 shares of stock from Apollo, valued at $16.61 per share for a total worth of $320,000 in stock ownership. As of March 2000, according to SEC filing statements, Abbey owned 1,460,561 shares of common stock (AMB Company/Prologis Inc.). The stock for Prologis Inc., was going for $41.46 per share on July 15, 2014.
In March of 2000, T. Robert Burke, age 71, owned 1,099,789 shares of common stock of AMB Company/Prologis Inc., according to SEC filings. According to Prologis Inc, Burke received $147,495 in total compensation in 2011 and owned 218,463 shares of stock. Prologis stock traded at $46.41 per share on July 15, 2014. Burke is also a co-founder of Metropolitan Real Estate Equity Management, LLC., which operates as a subsidiary of the notorious Carlyle Group LP., after its acquisition during 2013.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Carlyle Group has become notorious for making billions on the so-called war on terror. Notorious investors in the pro-war corporation included ex-president George W. Bush and members of the family of Osama Bin Laden.
The other major player wanting to gentrify the Oakland Army Base and West Oakland is the California Capital Investment Group founded by millionaire Tagami, who became notorious when he pulled out a shotgun and threatened to use it against members of the Occupy movement during a November 2011 protest in Oakland. California Capital Investment Group has made over a billion dollars in business deals in Oakland including the East Bay since its inception over 20 years ago, and has merged with Tribune Commercial, according to their website.
Mayor Quan’s 10 K Plan
Meanwhile, other gentrification plans are being promoted by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. On March 5, 2014, Mayor Quan announced that she wants to bring 10,000 new renters into Oakland and wants to build 7,500 new housing units at 15 projects across the city, as a way to capitalize on Oakland’s hot rental market. She wants to turn Oakland into a playground for the rich and powerful.
By comparison, former Mayor Jerry Brown’s 10 K plan resulted in displacing thousands of low-income renters from their housing, and resulted in rent increases for tens of thousands of renters.
Brown was the mayor from 1999 through 2007. Rent increases in Oakland rose only 8 percent from 1996 through 1997, yet rose more than 30 percent from 1998 through 1999 after Brown became mayor of Oakland. The landlords followed Brown’s lead to gentrify Oakland with their total war on renters by instituting the “eviction for profit system,” which displaced thousands of low-income renters in their search for higher income renters.
From September 1998 through December 1999, “30 Day” no-cause evictions rose by 300 percent in Oakland, with 56 percent of evictions being families with children, and 75 percent of the evictees being people of color. At that point, most renters being evicted earned less than $25,000 per year and paid between $600 to $700 in rent per month for one-bedroom apartments in Oakland.
Rents have been constantly increasing through the years in Oakland. By the summer of 2012, according to the East Bay Express, one-bedroom apartments around Lake Merritt went for around $900 to $1,000 per month but, by the end of 2012, the rents rapidly increased to around $1,000 and $1,200 per month.
In some neighborhoods, rental costs escalated even more drastically. One-bedroom apartments near Adams Point rented for around $3,000 per month, and one-bedroom units in the Jack London area charged $1,800 and more per month. Rents have continued to rise since 2012. According to Axiometrics, Oakland’s rents increased by a whopping 10 percent during 2013.
Once Mayor Quan’s plan to bring in 10,000 new renters kicks in, in addition to WOSP, the rents are expected to skyrocket even further in Oakland.
Lynda Carson may be reached at email@example.com