Monthly Archives: April 2008

Fresh & Easy update in the Trib. Also, shame on you, Nancy Nadel!

So today’s Trib has a story about the Fresh & Easy situation. It’s fine. It doesn’t say anything that hasn’t been covered here, but it’s good to have all the information in one place rather than scattered over months of posts. But this is ridiculous:

Lorie Alemania, president of Portfolio Property Investors — which, along with the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation represents the third partner in JLG Associates — said Fresh & Easy’s decision was disappointing, but not wholly unexpected, given its announcement this month that the company would not open any new stores for three months.

Fresh & Easy announced their East Bay locations way before they announced they were pausing from opening US stores, and West Oakland, one of the very first Northern California location they had talked about, was never on the list. East Oakland was. If the store on 73rd and Bancroft never opens, then that is a result of Fresh & Easy’s financial problems. The lack of a store in West Oakland is entirely about conditions EBALDC placed on the lease. Continue reading

The field training problem with police recruitment

So I promised yesterday to talk about the Field Training Officer (FTO) problem. Here’s the story. Once Police Officer Trainees complete Oakland’s police academy, they cannot immediately begin working patrol positions. Instead, they have to complete a four month long field training program, where they work with an FTO. The Council asked the police department last fall about the possibility of running concurrent academies in order to more quickly fill vacant positions in the police force, and in response, the department explained that doing so would not place more officers on the street, due to the limits of the field training program. This is what the report (PDF!) said: Continue reading

Trying something new

First, I want to say how thrilled I am that I’ve been getting so many comments lately. It’s very exciting, and I’ve expanded the recent comments section on the side here to display 10, not 5 comments.

Anyway, it seems clear that there’s a lot of things people want to talk about that aren’t particularly relevant to what I’m posting about, and I really would rather the discussion stays at least relatively close to the topic of the post. But I don’t want to deny people a forum to talk about other Oakland political issues, so I’m going to try posting open threads here every few days.

I’ll link to stuff I find interesting, but am not planning on writing a whole blog about, and then you guys can feel free to talk about whatever you’re concerned about, whether or not I’ve written about it here. We’ll see how it works. Anyway, here’s your first open thread. Enjoy!

TagamiVision now has interviews up with District 3 City Council candidates Sean Sullivan and Nancy Nadel. Here’s a quick preview:

Watch the whole thing on Novometro Television.

Finally, a clear answer on Fresh & Easy

Okay, so we finally have a firm answer on whether Fresh & Easy is coming to West Oakland or not. They aren’t. At last night’s All Candidates Forum, someone brought up the issue of a lack of grocery stores in West Oakland. As you may remember, Nancy Nadel had said in her Winter newsletter that Fresh & Easy had signed a lease at the formed Eugene Market space and would be open by “mid-2008.” Afterwards, she said that lease negotiations were still underway. Although there has never been a new report confirming that they signed a lease, people still keep saying that Fresh & Easy will be opening at the end of the year.

Last night, Nancy Nadel finally confirmed that Fresh & Easy is not coming to West Oakland, explaining that they were at one point close to signing a lease, but that the deal fell through because Fresh & Easy would not agree to a “living wage.” “So, do we want a company that won’t pay not even prevailing wage, but living wage, which is not very much.”

Here are Sean Sullivan and Nancy Nadel’s answers to the question:

I find this outrageous! People want to be able to buy food. People deserve a grocery store near where they live. Now we discover that a grocery store wanted to come to West Oakland, and we said no because they pay only $10/hr (plus benefits) instead of $10.39/hr, which I believe is the current minimum according to our Living Wage law (somebody please correct me if that’s outdated). This is exceedingly upsetting to me. Fresh & Easy, as I’ve noted before, is taking a pause from opening any more US stores right now, so who knows if they would have ended up opening anyway. But to reject the possibility of a grocery store in West Oakland over thirty nine cents an hour for starting positions is unconscionable. I am very disturbed that Nadel appears to endorse this decision. Continue reading

OPD says we’re on track for 803. I’m not so sure.

On February 25, 2008, a representative of the Oakland Police Department, who called himself a recruiting specialist, when describing the accelerated police recruitment plan, the one we just funded with $7.7 million, told the Measure Y Oversight Committee that they had a “drop dead deadline” of March 31st to have 300 applicants in background in order to fully staff the two police academies beginning on May 19th.

Okay, so in case you don’t remember, I was hell-bent against this funding allocation. I said that it would not get us to 803 by the end of the year, that it would create serious deficit problems down the road, and that it was exceedingly irresponsible of the City Council to approve the request. Continue reading

Candidate Forum tonight

The District 3 City Council candidates and the At-Large City Council candidates will be available for questions tonight from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at the First Christian Church on 111 Fairmount Avenue.

The forum will be moderated by Pastor Sandhya Jha, and will allow introductions from each candidate, general group Q&A, and breakout groups so people have a chance to meet the candidates personally.

Who’s the developer candidate for District 3?

So I’ll preface this by saying I don’t really care that much about campaign contributions. I prefer to judge a candidate based on what their positions will mean for everyone in Oakland, not by the few people who might get rich off those positions.

Anyway, I’ve been a little upset lately by the rumors flying around that Sean Sullivan is the developer candidate, and even more disturbed by the rumor that these rumors were being pushed by Nancy Nadel. I preferred not to believe that, trying to think the best of her. But now that she’s left a comment here saying that Sean is “financied by the developers” and suggesting we “look at the sources – look at his FPPC statement,” I guess the time has come to do just that. I will say that I am very disappointed in her accusations and find the attack very low. Continue reading

Jean Quan: out to lunch in San Ramon

Jean Quan (one of only two members of the City Council to endorse Nancy Nadel, by the way) is pretty much always out to lunch when it comes to crime and public safety, and her comments to the SF Chronicle on Tuesday were no exception:

“I have people yelling and screaming because they’re so fearful,” City Councilwoman Jean Quan, whose district includes several of the restaurants that have been robbed recently, said earlier in the day. “I tell them, you want me to promise that you’ll be safe forever? I can’t do that. People get robbed everywhere, even in San Ramon.”

OMG! People want to feel that they have a reasonable expectation of safety. That is not a lot to ask. Of course terrible things happen everywhere, but they happen a whole hell of a lot more often in Oakland. Does anyone else ever read those weekly crimes lists? They’re horrible! Here’s last weeks (xls!).

Yes, Jean Quan, people do get robbed in San Ramon. In fact, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, in all of 2006, a whopping 25 people got robbed in San Ramon. You know how many robberies were reported in Oakland last week? 158. There were 79 vehicles stolen in San Ramon that year. 308 vehicle thefts were reported in Oakland last week. There was one rape reported in San Ramon during all of 2006. We had ten reported last week. This woman doesn’t have a clue what’s going on in Oakland or how the people of Oakland feel. And she thinks she’s going to be Mayor?

Planning Commissioners like Emerald Views

I missed most of the Design Review Committee meeting last night and all the public comment, but did get out of work early enough to catch what Madeleine Zayas-Mart and Suzie Lee had to say. C. Blake Hunstman, strangely, wasn’t there.

Anyway, they pretty much ignored the irrelevant questions in the staff report and it sounds like they’re both on board. Madeline Zayas-Mart talked about how the building would add vibrancy and safety to the neighborhood, and seemed to really like the design and appreciated what it would improve both the streetscape and the skyline. Suzie Lee was a little more pro-garden. She began her comments by saying that after 30 years of living in Oakland, she saw the garden for the very first time last month, and that she asked a bunch of friends and neighbors about it, and none of them had ever heard of it. But she did think that it was beautiful, and that the city made a huge mistake by not accepting the donation offer. She said that she supported the building (but possibly with a smaller footprint) only after any private fundraising efforts to preserve the garden are exhausted.

I just don’t get this talk of privately raising money for the garden at all. I mean – fine, if they can get the money to buy and maintain it, great. I would still prefer to see the site opened to the public, increasing the amount of open space in the neighborhood, and I would prefer to see the building there, but if they had the cash to keep the garden, I’d at least see the point in having that discussion. But we all know that there’s no way they’re raising $8 million to buy the thing, and they aren’t coming up with any land to swap – if either of these were an option, they would have produced them sometime in the 19 months they’re been trying to stop the development.

Emerald Views project goes to Design Review Committee today

So my attempt to not blog this week doesn’t seem to be going very well. There’s just too much going on!

So, in case anyone had any doubts on how anti-development idealogue Dr. No, aka Dan Lindheim, current Director of Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency, felt about the Emerald Views project, they can put them to bed now.

Normally a project would go to Design Review after the Environmental Impact Report is completed, but someone has decided that this project deserves preliminary review, except, of course, that the comments staff requests from the DRC aren’t really about design at all. Instead, the report requests the DRC provide comment on 5 subjects, 4 of which they really aren’t tasked with addressing.

Here’s the conclusion to the staff report (PDF!):

Staff recommends the DRC provide preliminary comments and direction on the design of the proposed project subject to the discussion above Specifically, staff wishes the DRC comment on:
1. The demolition of an A1+ historic resources and possible precedent setting implications.
2. The appropriateness of the site given the number of vacant lots.
3. Compatibility with the neighborhood in terms of height/scale and building design/materials.
4. Potential ability to make the required findings
5. Comments from the LPAB

Staff will return to the DRC after publication of the DEIR for final design review comments.

The report seems more focused on the “garden” than it is about the building that’s supposed to be reviewed and features a bizarro-world description of the one large public input meeting on the project.

We have a process to address to address the concerns listed above (except for “appropriateness of the site given the number of vacant lots” – WTF?), and that process, the EIR, is underway. This tone of the report strongly suggests to me that some would prefer we circumvent that process and just kill the project now, and I find that highly disturbing.

And since I know that bringing up Emerald Views and Schilling Gardens will inspire comments on the appropriateness of tall buildings near Lake Merritt, can I just point out one more time that Swig has submitted applications to build two commercial high rises just as close to the Lake as this project, immediately behind the Kaiser Center, one of which would be significantly taller that Emerald Views, and nobody is saying a damn thing about them.

Pseudonymous posting

As I said yesterday, I encourage my readers to use pseudonyms when commenting if they feel more comfortable doing so. I respectfully ask users to adopt a handle a retain it over time. For future reference, I’d like everyone to know that when you leave a comment, I can see where you’re posting from. I certainly don’t make a habit of looking at this, and for the most part, I don’t care at all. (And by the way, there’s no need to leave a fake e-mail address when you comment. I’m the only one who will ever see it, and I am not going to put you on some kind of mailing list or expose your identity to anyone. The only time I’ll ever use it is if I want to contact you about something privately, and even that’s fairly rare.)

But I do not want to see anyone spamming my blog with slanderous comments about a local political figure under seven different handles in a 24 hour period posted from the exact same IP address ever again. I will inform my readers that you’re doing so.

UPDATE: To clairfy, since my post appears to have caused a lot of confusion – the person using multiple handles was making anti-Ignacio comments.

Go out to eat in Oakland tonight!

CBS5 reports that the Oakland Police have finally made an arrest in the restaurant takeovers:

A 16-year-old San Francisco boy has been arrested in connection with at least one of a recent series of takeover-style robberies of Oakland restaurants, CBS 5 has learned from sources close to the investigation.

The boy, whom one source said confessed his involvement in one of the holdups to police, was already on probation for an armed robbery in Vallejo.

At least two other suspects — including a 15-year-old boy — have been identified and arrest warrants were issued. They were being sought by police, sources said.

15? 16?

Seriously, many of our local restaurants are really suffering right now. Whether or not it’s rational to be afraid to go out to eat in Oakland, people seem to be lately. The restaurant industry isn’t an easy one even in the best of times, so please, support your neighborood entrepreneurs and eat out sometime this week.

UPDATE: It turns out the boy was from West Oakland, not SF.