BART, Angry at Omission, Enters Fight To Redevelop Laney Community College By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR
The Oakland-based developer seeking to develop portions of Laney College and Peralta Community College District properties has apparently neglected one of the most powerful stakeholders in the area: the Bay Area Rapid Transit District.
Oakland developer Alan Dones, trying to win support for his plans to redesign portions of Laney Community College, met with Laney staff and students this month, but has left out, and angered, BART officials.
Late last year, Peralta Board of Trustees gave Chancellor Elihu Harris the ability to negotiate an exclusive one-year contract with Dones and his Strategic Urban Development Alliance (SUDA) to form a development plan for the Laney Faculty and Student Parking Lot and the Peralta Colleges District Office, both on East Eighth Street, as well as other undefined Laney properties.
Because of controversies raised concerning the proposal, Harris has never executed the contract. Dones, meanwhile, has worked to build community support for his plans.
But this week, in a presentation to Peralta Trustees on development plans for BART’s Lake Merritt Station, BART Director Carole Ward Allen said, “I have not talked to Alan Dones. The only thing I know about his proposals are what I’ve heard in the media.”
Allen said later, “My concern is that when Alan began jumping out on his proposal, he should have contacted all of the agencies concerned. He did the opposite, and that leads to making enemies, instead of making friends. [BART] staff is angry about this.”
Ward Allen has two level of interest in the Dones’ proposal. She represents the Oakland flatlands area on the BART Board of Directors. In addition, she is a professor in Laney College’s Black Studies Department.
Dones’ oversight is significant because the underground BART tracks between the Lake Merritt and Fruitvale stations run directly underneath Laney College. BART has veto power over what can be built on top of its tracks.
“BART owns subsurface easement within which the system operates,” said BART Property Development Real Estate Manager Jeffrey Ordway in an e-mail. “When the subsurface easements were conveyed to BART, we also secured approval rights of anything built above our system. We can’t stop something from being built, but we can control what is built so that it doesn’t interfere with our system. So, although we don’t own the property and air rights above the BART system, we do have fairly strong control over what gets built above us.”
For instance, Ordway wrote, BART has the right to consider how much load stress any development would put on underground BART train lines.
At press time, BART public information officials were unsure as to how much of Laney and Peralta property is affected by these BART rights.
Dones did not answer telephone messages left in connection with this story.
BART officials said they did not necessarily mean they opposed Dones’ plans, but want to work with him on the project.
BART wants to increase the number of parking spaces at its Oak Street parking lot, which sits between Eighth and Ninth avenues directly across Fallon Street from the entrance to Laney College. Dones’ development proposal includes a plan to increase parking for Laney faculty and staff. Ward Allen said that one solution would be the construction of a high-rise parking structure on the BART parking lot as a joint venture of BART, Laney, and Peralta.
She said that it seems so obvious that she is puzzled why Dones didn’t initially approach BART with the idea. Meanwhile, BART is moving forward with its own development plans for the area.
One long-range proposal on the transit agency’s list is the development of a transit village at the Lake Merritt Station site, modeled after the successful village at BART’s Fruitvale Station, but with differences in the two locations. The Oakland Main Library, the Oakland Museum, and Laney College, are all within walking distance of the Lake Merritt station.
“Fruitvale is in the middle of a thriving commercial district,” she said. “In the Lake Merritt BART Station area, you are in the middle of a public service area. Any transit village plan should work in conjunction with these existing facilities in some manner.”
How those plans are finalized, according to Ward Allen, depends upon a series of meetings planned in upcoming months between BART and various stakeholders surrounding the Lake Merritt Station. The first meeting is scheduled in March.›