Two Laney College development contracts go in opposite directions on this week’s Peralta Community College District Trustee agenda, with the expected appearance of developer Alan Dones’s proposal failing to materialize, and the New Art Building “piggyback” modular contract returning after a two-week delay.
The regular Peralta Trustee meeting will be held today (Tuesday), 7 p.m., at the Peralta District headquarters on 333 East Eighth St. in Oakland.
The Dones development proposal has been on hold since last December, one month after the outgoing Board of Trustees authorized Peralta Chancellor Elihu Harris to enter into an exclusive, one-year contract with Dones’s Oakland-based Strategic Urban Development Alliance (SUDA) to draw up commercial development plans for the Peralta Administration Building and certain Laney College properties.
Harris backed off negotiating a contract with Dones after complaints from Laney College faculty, staff, students, and administrators, and after critical articles appeared in local newspapers. Three weeks ago, Harris appeared ready to move forward with the contract, reluctantly, telling participants at a chancellor’s meeting that he was going to present the contract proposal to trustees at this week’s board meeting, but without his recommendation.
The Dones contract proposal failed to appear on this Tuesday’s agenda, however, without explanation.
The Laney New Art Building contract resurfaced after local union leaders gave it their go-ahead. Trustees are being asked to ratify a contract already reached between Chancellor Harris and a San Joaquin County modular building contractor.
The proposed $8.1 million art building is scheduled to be constructed on the East 10th Street site presently occupied by the Laney tennis courts, and will replace the existing art annex. Laney must vacate the existing art annex by December to make way for CalTrans work on the site. CalTrans will pay $7 million of the construction costs.
Last month, Chancellor Harris reached an agreement with Meehleis Modular Builders of Lodi to construct the building out of modular parts prefabricated in the company’s San Joaquin County plant using a controversial piggyback clause of the California Public Contract Code. That piggyback clause—under which school districts can circumvent bidding on construction contracts by attaching themselves to a contract already reached between another school district and a modular builder—is currently being reviewed by the state attorney general’s office.
But local labor leaders complained of the proposed Meehleis contract on other grounds—that the construction work on the New Art Building would be done at less-than-union rates. It was union complaints that reportedly caused Harris to withdraw the Meehleis contract from consideration at the trustees meeting two weeks ago.
But Peralta Federation of Teachers President Michael Mills said last week that “that issue has been fully vetted” with representatives of the Alameda County Building Trades Council during a meeting with Peralta General Services Director Sadiq Ikharo, “and the building trades unions are happy. There will be union wages paid on-site.”
In his memorandum to Harris for Tuesday’s meeting, Ikharo noted that Meehleis would “pay prevailing wage in the market in which this public work is to be performed” and would “affiliate with unions. Nearly all the subcontractors are either union members or affiliated with unions.” That language was not included in the general services director’s backup material when the issue originally came before the board April 12.
Representatives of the Alameda County Building Trades Council were not available for comment.
In other agenda items scheduled for Tuesday’s meeting, trustees will review the district’s Athletic Facilities Use Fee Schedule and Philosophy for Use of Facilities Statement. The issue of fees for outside use of Peralta Colleges athletic facilities surfaced at the April 12 meeting, held at the College of Alameda, when representatives of the Alameda High School track team complained that what they called “excessive fees” were preventing their team members from practicing on the College of Alameda track.ª