The Oakland Valdez Building Fire that occurred on Friday morning July 7th was a devastating blow to the process of building new market rate housing in an area previously known as Broadway Auto Row. Marked as the fifth such fire to strike an apartment building under construction in Oakland and Emeryville, California, many are suspicious that the cause is the result of a deliberate action.
The building that was burned down as it was under construction was created by PYATOK with the developer Wood Partners out of Atlanta, where I’m visiting my Mom as I write this, and have been here for a few months. Thus, I watched the horrible aftermath of the event via Twitter, and then looked at the website for the planned venue.
Called “Alta Waverly Mixed-Use Market Rate”, the facility lacked any units that would be truly affordable. A finished product, combined with the demand for market rate housing in Oakland, would have helped ease the overall upward price pressure just be increasing the supply of units at that level of price in the Valdez Corridor.
This is what the website reported:
“Alta Waverly is located at 23rd and Valdez in downtown Oakland and will be premier market rate mixed-use development for Wood Partners in the Broadway Valdez Specific Plan area. The building is situated on a sloping, irregular site that creates three distinctly different street frontages. The site is where the Oakland city grid meets the hills, creating a unique interface between the larger downtown buildings and the small-scale neighborhoods to the north…The project will include 196 market-rate apartments and up to 31,500 SF of retail. Residential amenity spaces include a fitness room, resident lounge, outdoor barbeques and fireplaces, a dog run with a pet-washing area, and a rooftop deck overlooking the downtown skyline and Oakland hills.”
A nice concept dashed by fire. But who did it? Wood Parners says that the site at 2302 Valdez St. was well secured, and with cameras installed. If that’s the case, the one possible reason behind the incident has to be that it was an inside job. That is, someone who was on the property, or had access to it, either accidentally or intentionally set off a series of actions that caused what was the devistating fire.
Given that 2302 Valdez St. is a market rate housing structure, and the other fires that have happened in Oakland and Emeryville were also to similar buildings, and no one has been caught, that possibility, as distasteful as it may be to the builders, has to be investigated. And it has to be done fast, because 2302 Valdez St. is not the only building PYATOK and Wood Partners have planned for Oakland. The other one is called 14th & Alice Market Rate Housing.
The description for 14th & Alice Market Rate Housing is much like Alta Waverly Mixed-Use Market Rate: “14th and Alice is located in an evolving arts and shopping district located at the intersection of the Chinatown and Lakeside neighborhoods along a critical stretch of 14th street connecting Downtown Oakland and Lake Merritt. This 7-story mixed-use project has tall retail fronts the full length of 14th street and two residential entries, one oriented towards Downtown and the 12th Street Bart station, and the second to the 14th street corridor and Lake Merritt.”
The website reports that the project is “On The Boards”, meaning in the planning and design stage.
I have to take time to note that 14th and Alice is where my friend, the late Oakland Post journalist Chauncey Bailey was killed by Devaughndre Broussard and under the direction of Yusuf Bey IV and Antoine Mackey while on his way to work August 3rd 2007 – the pair did not like that Chauncey was investigating the finances of Your Black Muslim Bakery. I hope Wood Partners and PYATOK craft some way to remember him as they build the structure. Here’s my vlog from that time:
Wood Partners and PYATOK must take steps to make sure this does not happen again. They must think the unthinkable: investigate the possibility that someone with some ties to the project, some way of gaining legal access, may have been responsible.