Oakland Global Project Begins with Groundbreaking Event
The transformation of the former Oakland Army Base into the Oakland Global Trade and Logistics Center officially began with a groundbreaking ceremony November 1 at Maritime Street and Ukraine Street in West Oakland. Under the $1.2 billion plan, the former Oakland Army Base adjacent to the Port of Oakland will become a hub for transporting cargo in and out of Oakland more efficiently. The project will also reduce truck traffic, emissions and wear and tear on the state’s roads and highways.
“Oakland Global” will create 1,500 construction jobs and 2,000 operations jobs, with Oaklanders getting 50 percent of the work and first opportunity at the work, under terms of a Community Benefits Agreement and Project Labor Agreement.
Several elected officials, including Governor Jerry Brown, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Jean Quan, and Councilwoman Lynette McElhaney joined with Port officials, labor union members, community groups, business leaders and the developers California Capital & Investment Group and Prologis to celebrate the beginning of the project.
Mayor Quan noted that the Army Base was once one of the city’s largest employers and that “the community has waited over 15 years for something to finally happen here. This transformation will create thousands of jobs, boost Port competitiveness, reduce environmental impacts, and help revitalize Oakland,” she said. “My top priority has been public safety and creating opportunities for our children. This project is a big win on both counts. The thousands of well-paid, blue collar jobs this project will bring to our City are critical to our ongoing work to build a safer, prosperous Oakland.”
A Team Effort
Mayor Quan thanked Congresswoman Barbara Lee for working to secure federal funding for the project, and the community coalitions Revive Oakland and Oakland Works for working with the City and labor on reaching an agreement to benefit local workers and the community. “This property sat dormant since 1999 and many people thought a project here would never succeed,” Quan said. “It was this team, working late nights and early mornings for months and years at a time, that finally made this project happen. Everyone had to compromise and collectively put our best faith and effort into giving Oakland the project it needed.”
Noting that Oakland Global will increase Oakland’s competitiveness in the global import/export business, Quan said, “Breaking ground on this transformational project marks a great step forward for our entire region. The Port is an economic engine—the top agricultural export gateway in the United States—and this project will grow its business and make it run more cleanly and efficiently. We are looking to the future together and we see a Port that is more competitive, employs more of our residents, and draws more business and culture from across the globe.”
Local Economic Benefits
West Oakland Councilwoman Lynette McElhaney commented that, “this is a moment to be proud of Oakland.” She noted that economic benefits of development haven’t always been equally spread. McElhaney said that ensuring that Oaklanders, including residents of west Oakland in particular, were employed by the project was, “a kind of reparations” for those impacted by the base closure, which disproportionately affected west Oakland residents. “There are opportunities now through the jobs policies and economic opportunities for vendors, contractors and subcontractors,” she said. With the reduction in truck traffic and diesel exhaust as Oakland Global shifts to the use of rail and more energy efficient systems, McElhaney noted that the project would “marry greenbacks to the green economy” and be an investment in the community.
Union Labor Force
Oakland’s Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell, the former head of the city’s Redevelopment Agency, introduced Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda County Secretary-Treasurer Andreas Cluver as a strong advocate for the principles of using union labor for the Oakland Global development and for opening up the ranks of the building trades unions to new local residents.
“This has been a vision for the past 15 years and many people have been involved,” Cluver said. He thanked the people who the Building Trades have worked with over the past five years to make it happen, including Phil Tagami of CCIG who stuck with the process through many challenges; former Councilmember Jane Brunner, who brought together many stakeholders to craft the jobs agreement; and Al Aluetta of the City’s Economic Development department for seeing through the entire workforce process. Cluver also thanked Fred Blackwell, Sandre Swanson, and Mayor Quan for providing leadership, as well as the community leaders from Revive Oakland and Oakland Works who kept the process honest and focused on the jobs issues.
Revive Oakland members include the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council; Alameda Labor Council, AFL-CIO; Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE); East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy; Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice; ILWU Local 6; Machinists Local 1546 and 1414; Oakland Community Organizations; Teamsters Joint Council 7; UNITE HERE 2850; and the Urban Peace Movement.
“There are going to be quality jobs here that can create pathways to careers with union benefits and good wages,” Cluver said. “These jobs will start rebuilding the community.” Cluver added that the CBA set a great standard by setting the goal of 50 percent local hires and training new apprentices. “We also set a limit on temporary workers and were able to ‘ban the box’ on job applications” (so that applicants would not be singled out or miss out on jobs by checking a box stating that they had been convicted of a crime.)
Cluver noted that there was still work to do to ensure that terms of the community benefits agreement were met, saying that, “The road to success is always under construction—no pun intended.”
Work to Begin
Developer Phil Tagami rattled off a series of numbers to highlight some of the key points in the history of the Army Base plan. He noted that it had been 5,147 days since the base closed in September 1999, 3,707 days since ownership of the base was transferred to the City in 2003, and 1,555 days since the developer was selected. Tagami said that 13 developers were evaluated and the team of Turner Construction, Top Grade, and Prologis was awarded the project. Tagami said early work in Phase I would include basic infrastructure improvements, but that the developers were already looking ahead to Phase II and modernizing the working waterfront. Oakland Global is also forecast to generate $2.9 million a year in local tax revenue for the city.
Other speakers at the groundbreaking included California Transportation Commission Chair Jim Ghielmetti, Port President Ces Butner, and Port Director Chris Lytle, who spoke about the importance of the public-private partnership for the project.
Congresswoman Lee Delivers
Congresswoman Lee noted that the Oakland Army Base redevelopment was the only project in the US to get two federal transportation grants. She said that federal funds were hard to come by and that appropriations for projects like Oakland Global were drying up. She praised former Transportation Secretary Roy LaHood and President Obama for their support and “for their focus on Oakland and our logistics center.”
Lee said the base closure led to unemployment and the conversion of the base now was, “about building infrastructure and jobs for the community.” She said the environment in Congress now was difficult but, “we will make sure that funding keeps coming to this project by any means necessary because we are competitive with any other project in the rest of the country.” Lee also noted that the project was “a classic example of what a public, private, environmental, labor, and community coalition can accomplish.” She commented that she was happy to be part of the transformation to “turn this place from a symbol of war to one of peace.”
Governor Brown also credited the elected officials for working in the public interest. He contrasted the cooperation among Bay Area elected officials and constituents with the destructive and divisive partisanship in Washington. He mused that in the current negative atmosphere in Washington, Oakland would not have received federal grants. “If that was [Sen. Ted] Cruz, or one of those crazies, federal funding wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
– Paul Burton