Oak-to-Ninth Opponents File Lawsuit Amendment

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday September 22, 2006

Opponents of Oakland’s massive Oak to Ninth development project have amended their California Superior Court complaint against the project, asking that the court invalidate the City Council’s approval of the project because the final version of the project agreement was never available to the council or the public at the time of the council vote. 

The Oakland City Council voted to approve an agreement earlier this summer with developer Oakland Harbor Partners for a 3,100-residential-unit, 200,000-square-foot commercial space development on the 64-acre parcel of land on Oakland’s estuary south of Jack London Square. 

The approval sparked several responses from opponents, including two lawsuits, one on alleged California Environmental Quality Act violations and one to attempt to preserve the historic Ninth Avenue Terminal Building, which would be all but destroyed in the proposed Oak to Ninth development.  

Last month, members of the Oak to Ninth Referendum Committee members submitted more than 25,000 signatures on petitions calling for a referendum on the development proposal, asking citizens to block the development. 

Shortly afterwards, Oakland City Attorney John Russo directed the Oakland city clerk to invalidate petitions calling for a referendum on the massive Oak to Ninth project, stating that “the Referendum Committee omitted maps that would have disclosed to voters the public access in the project and attached the wrong ordinance to the petition. Under California Elections Code, these actions automatically disqualified the petition.” 

But according to local preservation activist Joyce Roy, a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits and one of the organizers of the petition drive, the ordinance included with the petitions came from a city website link provided by the Oakland city clerk’s office (an earlier Daily Planet article erroneously said that the clerk provided the petitioners with a copy of the ordinance). 

This week, Roy and attorneys for plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits, the Coalition of Advocates for Lake Merritt (CALM), added amendments to their original lawsuit alleging that the absence of a final version of the ordinance invalidated Council approval of the Oak To Ninth development agreement. 

“The adoption of the ordinance for the development agreement between the city and Oakland Harbor Partners is invalid and must be set aside [because] two readings are required before an ordinance can be adopted,” Oak to Ninth Referendum Committee members said in a press release following the filing of the amendments. The committee said that the agreement voted on by councilmembers at the July council meeting was substantially different from the one approved in the June meeting, even though Oakland’s City Charter requires that substantial amendments cannot be made after the first reading of an ordinance. In addition, the referendum committee members said, “since [the] July 18 [Council approval vote], the development agreement has been materially altered numerous times without going back to the City Council for approval as required by the City Charter.” 

Roy and CALM are being represented by the law offices of Brian Gaffney. 

The Oakland city attorney’s office has not yet filed an answer to the amended complaint.