Fred Blackwell’s a well-known name in the small World of San Francisco – Oakland economic development. He’s best known as the now-former head of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, and a can-do person with a calm attitude and professional acumen. Now, Blackwell is Assistant City Adminstrator for the City of Oakland, and in charge of economic development projects, like the Oakland Army Base.
We met for the first time in his Oakland City Hall Office to talk about the progress of the Oakland Army Base Project to that point about just over a month ago. Either fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your view, not much has changed since this 13-minute video was created, but what’s in the category of “not much” is substantial. Before we get to that, a brief overview of our talk, which you can see on the video above.
The Oakland Army Base Project started as an idea way back in the early 1990s and just before the closure of the active Oakland Army Base was announced. After it was done, the project got off the ground after a series of fits and starts, with the search for a developer. A team formed by Oakland Developer Phil Tagami, Managing Partner of California Commercial Group, won the competition in partnership with (first) AMB Reality and now Prologis.
Over time, the master plan has changed from a “city within a city” including movie studio space, to what it is today: a port-to-rail terminal designed to transport containers from ships coming into the Port Of Oakland, to rail cars for shipment around North America. To do this takes all of the 130-plus acres and over a billion dollars in development (and 2,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs). Blackwell says that now that the plan has been set, the Oakland Army Base Project is in the best shape it’s ever been, and headed toward an anticipated December 13th, 2012 ground breaking.
At the time of our talk, the California Transportation Commission, a state-level body that directs expenditures for transit-related projects, has become “impatient” with the progress of the Oakland Army Base Project. The CTC was set to invest $242 million, but that was in limbo because of staff concerns about the constant changes in the plan. All of those concerns were addressed, and the CTC is now on board with the project, the money set aside for it is safe.
The new story that happened after this video, but written about here at Zennie62.com, is the lawsuit filed by Oakland Activist Gene Hazzard, who’s real intention is to derail it because he thinks, and has said to this blogger, that “Phil Tagami is sucking off the public tit.” That refers to the Rotunda, Fox Theater, and Oakland Army Base Projects that have formed a constant flow of taxpayer dollars to Phil and his company since the turn of the century – a flow that has made him a millionaire. Gene’s arguments are all over the place, and he contends that Phil hasn’t paid money via a set time schedule with respect to the Oakland Army Base Project – that’s what he told me.
The new website Gene has up on the Oakland Army Base Project lawsuit mentions concerns that the environmental review process is moving too fast – nothing about payments not done.
While Gene’s lawsuit has the City Of Oakland up-in-arms because it could result in a significant delay, the fact is it comes up because Phil’s political skills have diminished over the time that he’s succeeded in finishing these projects. Some very high-placed Oakland former elected officials have jumped ship in their friendship with him because they told this blogger they felt they were used. The substance of that view is for another time, but the fact is this information was offered to this blogger without request, and in the normal flow of conversation.
Because this project has great implications for Oakland’s future, Phil has to make sure his relationships with everyone he knows are solid, not just with people he happens to need at the time. That includes Gene Hazzard.