James Vann on the Oakland A’s Proposal

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Guest blogger James Vann submitted this post to the East Bay Times but they rejected it saying that it was too “broad [a] critique” of the A’s plan to obtain a parcel on the Laney College campus. And this morning a puff piece appeared on the front page of the Chronicle touting  A’s president Dave Kaval as an all around great guy – including a timeline for building  the stadium- leaving community members to wonder what kind of “public process” will be actually pursued. 

Are the A’s Out to Harm Oakland?

by James Vann

The Oakland community strongly supports the Oakland A’s and urges the team to remain in the City. Unfortunately, the team’s seeming response is “to heck with what is good for Oakland.”  The secretive decision recently revealed by the A’s threatens the existence of much of Chinatown and the low-income Eastlake residential neighborhoods; will pressure and cause abandonment of highly popular Laney Community College and its working-class body of students; will overtax the only two local streets that serve the area; will destroy the wildlife and ecology of Lake Merritt and the Channel to the Bay, and will turn the communities surrounding Peralta and Laney over to speculators, land-grabbers, and gentrifying boutique and luxury developments.
At an A’s-hosted  “listening tour” on August 30 at La Estrellita Restaurant in the Eastlake district, A’s President Dave Kaval stated that the A’s were still in the information-gathering stage and a decision on location was months away.  To the contrary, just the day before onAugust 29, Kaval delivered a 4-page letter to Peralta trustees and Chancellor Jowel Laguerre announcing that the A’s had selected the Peralta site and requested the opening of negotiations.  The misrepresentation was followed on Sept 12 with release of Kaval’s public announcement and promotional  video.
The off-repeated “month’s-away-to-decision” declarations were belied by the splashy A’s video and premature announcement. The video features developers; out-of-area business owners; commercial associations foreseeing new stores and restaurants (as though no displacement is necessary to make room for the envisioned new establishments); construction unions forecasting “jobs, jobs, jobs” (forgetting that the number of jobs is the same irrespective of location); and certain city policymakers (who immediately backed off  their prior-recorded compliments).  The video features no area residents.
Selection by the A’s of the Peralta site lacks logical justification.  Superimposing the A’s own “bare-bones” stadium option on the site reveals that the parcel can barely contain a 35,000 seat stadium and bleachers, with little to no remaining area for offices, accessory buildings, service vehicles and storage, off-street parking, or gathering space.  A more desired A’s rendering depicting a circular stadium surrounded by bleachers has no chance of fitting on the small parcel.  It is unbelievable that the A’s would not be aware of the expansion limitations of the Peralta site.
In addition to the Peralta site being too small, it is inconceivable that the ecological and environmental impacts highlighted by The Audubon Society and The Measure DD Community Coalition on birds, fish, wildlife, and humans can ever be mitigated.   Also unstoppable once approvals for the stadium are obtained will be real estate vultures swooping into Chinatown and the Eastlake buying up low-rise buildings, single-family homes, and ethnic businesses to be replaced by high-rise luxury hotels and condominiums.  Displacement of the areas’ thousands of present residents will be total.  In Oakland’s current out-of-control housing market, once an existing resident is displaced from their housing, only 2 choices are available:  Out-of-Oakland, or, join the growing thousands of homeless who populate the streets and sidewalks of neighborhoods throughout the city.
It is difficult to blithely ignore the ‘natural fit’ and ‘rightness’ of the Coliseum area for the A’s new mega-stadium.  Even if the A’s want no part of the present joint-use Coliseum, practically unlimited and unencumbered land exists there to choose from.  BART already serves the area with a generous station, pedestrian overpass, and bus-transit transfer center; convenient and accessible rail connector to Oakland Airport; generous unoccupied city land is present to accommodate any desired parking configurations; all needed utilities exist in the vicinity; no housing or commercial establishments exist to be impacted; no residents to be displaced; little if any environmental challenges to mitigate; and land galore throughout the area that literally “begs” for compatible housing, commercial, technological, industrial, and office developments for various futures and visions.
The vast Coliseum area is ripe for immediate development.  Thoughtful planning could assure an equitable “win”-“win” solution for the Oakland A’s team and organization as well as for the greater East Oakland community and for the whole of the City of Oakland.
StAy the Right Way !

 

 

 

 

Wellstone Democratic Club on the Laney Proposal for the A’s Stadium

This letter from the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club was sent to the Peralta Trustees and the Oakland City Council and Mayor with serious concerns on the A’s choice of a parcel at the Laney College site for a new stadium.

October 6, 2017

To Peralta College Trustees and City Officials:

The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club has been active in Oakland and Berkeley for many years, including endorsing many of the current Peralta trustees and members of the Oakland City Council. We are writing to express our concerns about the Oakland A’s proposal to build a stadium on a thirteen acre chunk of public land already well used by Laney College students and teachers.

Our first question is why alternative sites are not being considered. The Coliseum location has much of the necessary infrastructure in place including- a BART station, Cal train, numerous buses and freeway access. Additionally, the Coliseum site has parcels that can be assembled immediately for further projects such as entertainment and office venues. This can be done with very little impact on the surrounding community.

Next the Howard Terminal site has proximity to Jack London Square and public support. The Laney College site is the only one which has the potential to completely change the character and cultural fabric of the surrounding neighborhoods. We want a full study of all of these alternatives before any decisions are made.

The study on the Laney site should include impacts on: the student body for whom this campus is convenient and accessible, the small business community serving low income and recent immigrant Oaklanders, neighborhood housing stock, its price and availability and wildlife, particularly bird habitat which has been supported by the oldest wildlife preserve in the nation at nearby Lake Merritt.

Oakland tax payers through Measure DD have made investments in the Lake area that have resulted in nearby publicly owned parcels becoming much more attractive for development, but we believe that any transfer of this land to private ownership should be considered over a long deliberative community engagement process. Any changes in ownership or longterm usage would reverse the direction that taxpayers took when they funded these improvements.

The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club calls for a deep study that starts and ends with extensive public comment, and includes a detailed examination of the possibilities of locating a stadium at other locations.

Sincerely,

Pamela A Drake, Wellstone Club Local Politics Chair

 

 

“The Force” & the Oakland Police Accountability Coalition: A Story Untold

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Many members of the Oakland Police Accountability Coalition, some of whom have worked on police reform for decades, have struggled to reconcile the portrayal of the Oakland community, its police department and the fight for police reform which ultimately led to the passage of Measure LL–an independent police commission-with the power to impose discipline and passed by 83% of the voters last fall with the film, the Force. The final product was more significant for what it left out than what it described.

First off, the filmmakers were embedded with the department and that shows in its point-of-view. And even within that access the emphasis was very narrow, following one officer whose community engagement was shallow, to say the least. The film itself came off like an episode of Cops when it came to its portrayal of the Black community, showing only the most dysfunctional interactions with individuals who were experiencing life threatening stress.

The thesis as told by The Force is an old cliche, a cop’s life is tough-he has to deal with difficult even dangerous people. That may be a part of the story but it’s not the whole story, certainly not the one that has yet to be told.

For instance the film took pains to explain away a rash of police killings, showing video from police cameras that purported to hold them blameless. But there was no mention of the shooting death of an unconscious man on the Lakeshore Avenue off ramp that same summer at the hands of a rookie officer. A huge peaceful vigil was held near where he died yet somehow a year later the DA found the killing “justifiable.” The police had video which former Chief Sean Whent IMG_20150612_212616promised to share with the community but never did.  Thirteen months later the city paid out a $1.2 million wrongful death suit on behalf of the dead man’s family. Once again, there was  no mention of this incident or its aftermath in the film which perhaps did not fit the already established narrative.

Peter Nicks and his crew probably thought their film was almost in the can when the news on OPD and its trajectory toward reform blew up. At that point the filmmakers had an opportunity to fully explore what had gone so wrong that a department under a Negotiated Settlement Agreement, that is court oversight of its reform measures for over a decade, could have jumped the tracks once again and found itself in the middle of a national scandal; but it was an opportunity lost. It appeared that Nicks and his crew had run out of steam and then decided to run out the clock just as wave after wave of ugly revelation hit Oakland and the Bay Area police community.

Since then many officers who were involved in the cover-up of this OPD-underage pimping/youth-sex-trafficking scandal have been promoted to OPD command and at the same time the initial charge that led to the NSA so many years ago, that of racial profiling continues to require the court’s oversight.

While all this was going on, the Oakland community, never willing to accept the dangerous status quo, continued to organize against police aggression. There is a story to be told here that would rival any drama now in theaters but alas it remains almost completely untold. The absence of even a mention of People United for a Better Oakland, PUEBLO, the organization that doggedly worked on police accountability for decades  is  particularly galling.

There are some illuminating scenes of powerful Black Lives Matter demonstrations and discussions of tactics and goals at Anti Police Terror Project meetings, one of the groups working toward ending police brutality, but there is not one scene of any of the 30 community organizations which wrote and passed the Police Commission initiative, Measure LL. One member of APTP is seen suggesting a police commission as a path to change but ultimately, that group decided against supporting the measure as “reformist.”

18839239_307755119662088_2859169411652791691_nFor all that, many members of the Anti Police Terror Project continue to apply pressure in the streets and at city council meetings for reduced police budgets and the abolition of policing as we know it. There is no doubt that their efforts have made a difference and some of us continue to show up for those calls. We see no contradiction in taking to the streets while lobbying at the ballot box, because we believe that the broadest strategy continues to be necessary in this struggle.

But to have altogether left out the band of dedicated community representatives who pulled off a huge electoral victory with almost no cash and no paid consultants in favor of hours of rookie cops riding around in police cars, is to downplay, at best, the story of the creativity, tenacity and community dedication that are at the heart of transforming police community relations. We continue to wait for that history to be told but please don’t expect to find it in Peter Nicks the Force.  14523289_1794031850880854_5149506198094883856_n

Further references: https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/the-force-is-a-methodological-failure/Content?oid=9073235

https://hyphenatedrepublic.wordpress.com/2017/09/16/policing-history-peter-nicks-ahistorical-the-force-erases-context-and-facts-about-opd/

https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/oakland-police-chief-doubles-down-on-promoting-the-cops-who-covered-up-the-celeste-guap-case/Content?oid=7922863