Possible Extension for OUSD Land Sale Talks

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday September 01, 2006

With Oakland Unified School District officials confirming a report that an extension is being considered on a deadline to reach a contract agreement over the sale of OUSD downtown properties, local activists continue to escalate activities to stop the sale altogether. 

OUSD Deputy Director of Communications Alex Katz confirmed a Montclarion newspaper report that California Superintendent for Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and representatives of east coast developers TerraMark and UrbanAmerica are considering extending the deadline past the Sept. 15 date called for in the exclusive negotiating agreement signed last June between the two parties. 

Katz said he was in a meeting in Sacramento last week in which the proposed extension was discussed. 

Katz also said that the superintendent’s office is “paying close attention to events in Oakland. This thing is on their minds. They’re listening.” He would make no prediction as to what action the state superintendent might take, however. 

If no contract agreement is reached by the Sept. 15 deadline and no extension to the deadline is agreed to by the parties, the proposed deal with TerraMark/Urban America would die, and the state superintendent would have the option of pursuing contract negotiations with other developers who submitted proposals, or else drop the sale plans altogether. 

The proposal to sell 8.25 acres of prime Lake Merritt-area OUSD property—including the administration building and five school sites—has drawn a firestorm of criticism from Oakland activists and politicians, including all eight members of the Oakland City Council and six of the seven members of the advisory OUSD Board of Trustees. 

Most of the opposition has centered around the fact that legal authority to sell the land is held by state superintendent O’Connell, not by the local school district, under the terms of the 2003 state takeover of the Oakland Unified School District. 

The Montclarion quoted OUSD School Board President David Kakashiba, a vocal property sale opponent, as throwing cold water on the extension. “Why would we need more time?” Kakashiba was quoted as saying. “Just terminate (the process) and start over.” 

But a key member of the Ad Hoc Committee to Restore Local Control/Governance to Oakland Schools, the citizens coalition that has been leading the fight against the proposed sale, said that “while it would be better to reject the deal out of hand, extending the deadline would be a small victory. Clearly, it would mean that the state superintendent and the developers are trying to make a show of listening to the community.” 

The Ad Hoc Committee representative asked that their name not be used because they had not gotten clearance to speak about the extension proposal from the organization. 

Meanwhile, Ad Hoc Committee members are gearing up for the final public hearing on the proposed sale, scheduled for next Wednesday, Sept. 6, 5:30 p.m., at district’s administration headquarters at 1025 Second Ave. 

At the conclusion of that hearing, trustees are scheduled to vote on Trustee Noel Gallo’s proposal to recommend an educational center for the downtown site, to include a new administration building and a multi-grade school complex in place of the residential high-rise development proposed by the developers. In addition, OUSD staff members have promised a presentation on the fair market value of the OUSD properties, as well as a long-term projection of student attendance in the West Lake/Chinatown area. 

Committee members have been circulating petitions calling for immediate restoration of local control of the Oakland schools, a freeze on any OUSD property sales, and a freeze on the use of the final $35 million borrowed from the state by former State Administrator Randolph Ward in his last days on the job. Members said they plan to send the completed petitions to O’Connell.