Oakland City Council To Consider Four Finalists For Oakland Army Base Development

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Monday July 14, 2008 - 04:34:00 PM

Oakland City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee chopped the Oakland Army Base suitors in half last week, approving a staff recommendation to pare down from eight to four the list of proposed developers for Oakland’s massive 108-acre Gateway Development project. 

Oakland is looking for several economic uses for land turned over to the city following the decommission of the Oakland Army Base, including activities related to the adjacent Port of Oakland, industrial, retail, and entertainment. A development team headed up by the Wayans Brothers of Los Angeles dropped out of an exclusive negotiating agreement with the city for the Gateway Development project last year. 

If the Oakland council approves the recommendation at its Tuesday meeting as expected, the four finalists will be invited to submit requests for proposals within the next four to six months. 

The council will make the final decision on the developer.  

The Gateway Development project will be a test of whether Oakland under the administration of Mayor Ron Dellums will continue to favor locally connected developers or will become a major magnet for national and international development firms. 

One of the four finalists—Oakland-based Phil Tagami’s AMB/California Capital Group—has built several City of Oakland-funded projects, and is now working on the restoration of uptown’s Fox Oakland Theater. 

The other three finalists include one major player in national development, Denver/San Francisco-based Prologis/Catellus, and two major international players, Washington, D.C.-based Federal Development and Chicago-based First Industrial Realty. 

Tagami has been lobbying hard with councilmembers for the Oakland Army Base job, and despite the fact that council approval is months away, on Tuesday turned in letters from 15 Bay Area local unions supporting the AMB/California Capital Group proposal. 

But at Tuesday’s CEDA Committee meeting, Tagami’s company also came under criticism from community residents for $14.5 million in new city funding and loan requests for the Fox Oakland restoration project.  

Calling the initial staff screening and paredown process “excellent,” CEDA Committee chairperson Jane Brunner said that she will be looking at three areas when making the decision as to who will develop the Army Base project. 

“I want to know how many jobs they are going to generate, I want to know how much revenue the project will generate for the city, and I want to see the project’s ‘vision,’ ” she said. “This is a gateway project for the city.” 

Brunner also said she wanted the proposal to have some flexibility built in to accommodate new economic developments in the coming years. 

“The market can change,” Brunner said. “Five years ago, we would have said that the army base development should center around housing. Today, we wouldn’t propose that.” 

Brunner suggested that the RFP contain an alternate retail component in order to meet possible changing economic conditions. 

In response to its original request for qualifications on the Oakland Army Base project sent out in January, 13 firms responded, many of them of national stature. Four of the companies that bid on developing the entire 108-acre site—Hillwood (a Ross Perot company), Oakland Bay Partners (a collection of Oakland and Bay area firms formed specifically for the Gateway project), national development firm Prism Realty, and Oakland-based Triamid Galaxies—did not make the final staff cut for the RFP round of the development proposals. 

Several community residents—many of them from West Oakland—spoke before the committee in favor of including Triamid Galaxies in the list of RFP finalists. The speakers stressed that Triamid was locally based, had talked extensively with West Oakland neighbors of the Army Base to determine what was needed in the area, and could get their project up and running faster than the other developers. 

But Councilmember Larry Reid, a CEDA committee member, said in supporting the staff decision to pare the list from eight to four that while “I know that there are two or three other developers who should be on the short list, I understand that decisions have to be made.” 

Five other firms—Oakland-based Jones Development Company, Modesto-based M&L Commodities, the Oakland Film Center, PCC Logistics (a division of Pacific Coast Container), and San Francisco-based W&E Group—all bid only on a portion of the proposed development. 

In its recommendation, Oakland city staff said that the RFP should ask developers to include the Oakland Film Center and a produce market proposed by Jones Development in their proposal. 

CEDA Committee members also asked that the PCC proposal be included in the RFP as well. PCC conducts national security-based container cargo searches, and said they need to be adjacent to Port of Oakland land in order to continue their operations.