East Bay Pickets Target Controversial Developer By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday April 12, 2005

Protesters plan to target the San Francisco offices of Simeon Properties today (Tuesday), challenging the firm’s plan to bring a Super Wal-Mart to the Oakland Metroport, near the Oakland International Airport. 

Simeon has partnered with Cherokee Investment Partners of Cherokee Simeon Ventures, a firm created to develop toxic waste sites in the Bay Area. The joint venture is no stranger to controversy. 

An ongoing battle in Richmond has pitted some residents, nearby property owners and environmental groups against the firm’s plans for a 1,330-unit housing complex along a toxic waste dump at Campus Bay. 

Protests have prompted a change in toxic cleanup oversight at most of the property to a stricter state regulatory agency. The activists are calling for a similar oversight switch at the adjacent UC Berkeley Field Station.  

Cherokee Simeon has also been selected by the university to transform their Field Station into an academic/corporate research park renamed as Bayside Research Campus. The UC site features many of the same pollutants as Campus Bay. 

Organized by the Wal-Mart Metroport Coalition, Thursday’s demonstration targets the firm’s plans to bring a 150,000-square-foot Super Wal-Mart to the Hegenberger Gateway site. The pickets at Simeon Properties offices at 655 Montgomery St. in San Francisco are scheduled from 1:45 to 4 p.m. this afternoon, while coalition members attempt to meet with company officials. 

The coalition is composed of a variety of organizations including the Sierra Club, ACORN, the Central Committee of Conscientious Objectors, the East Bay Community Law Center, Just Cause Oakland, the Green Party, the Urban Strategies Council and the Wilson Riles-Oakland Community Action Network. 

Demonstrators are asking the company for youth scholarships along health care and job training funds, said Sierra Club organizer Anna Oursler. 

“We also organized a town hall meeting with over 200 attending last week in which we educated the community and sent a strong message to our city council that Wal-Mart is not welcome in Oakland,” Oursler said. 

“Today’s meeting is to demand that the developer sit down with the community to address mitigation and community benefits in East Oakland,” she said. 

Oursler said the coalition was formed after the Port of Oakland awarded Cherokee Simeon the right to develop the project on the basis of plans that called for office space, a BART station and a full-service hotel on the 23-acre site, then allowed the firm to drop the hotel and office space and retarget the site for commercial outlets. 

Representatives of Simeon Properties were unavailable for comment Monday afternoon.ª