And just like in the last one, nothing happens.
So. The Kaiser Center is a rather lovely historic building across the street from Lake Merritt that the City owns, and that’s been sitting empty for the past four years, since the City closed it after losing several hundred thousand dollars a year on it while trying to operate it as a concert venue. A 2006 bond measure would have turned the building into a desperately needed new Main Library, but alas, it fell 2,755 votes short of the two-thirds threshold needed for passage. And then the building was just back to sitting there, empty, with nothing going on.
Then, a year ago (PDF), after receiving an unsolicited offer, the City Council directed staff to start negotiating with Live Nation to reopen and operate the building as a concert venue. Then negotiations went on and on and basically, as of February, nothing had happened. At the Community and Economic Development Committee meeting when we learned this, we also learned that it wasn’t only Live Nation interested, and that the Peralta Colleges and the Symphony also wanted to use the Kaiser Center for performances and the Committee told staff to keep talking to Live Nation and also talk to the other groups and work something out with everyone.
And so now we’re back and well, still nothing has happened. Well, I guess one big thing happened – we figured out that fixing the building so it’s useable is going to cost even more than we had previously expected. At February’s meeting, the estimated cost of repairing the facility to make it useable was $3.7 million (PDF). but now we’ve actually sat down and priced everything out, and realized that to re-open and keep the facility operating long-term, the total cost of repairs and renovations will actually be $5.5 million (PDF). So that’s exciting.
Other than that, basically, staff has continued to negotiate with Live Nation about operating the arena, and then with the Peralta Community College District about operating the Calvin Simmons Theater “on behalf of the Alliance for the Performing Arts,” which is a group of cultural arts organizations including the Oakland East Bay Symphony and the Oakland Ballet. Apparently, all the groups are willing to contribute some money towards repair, but they can’t afford the full cost, and of course, the City doesn’t have any money to fix it up either.
District 5 Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente, who has clearly just had enough, was basically like, “Just do something, anything!”
District 2 Councilmember Pat Kernighan asked if anyone from either Live Nation or Peralta was in the room to answer questions, which, of course they weren’t, although apparently the talks between the two groups have thus far revealed that it appears there will be some way of structuring the shows so that Live Nation and the cultural arts groups using the Calvin Simmons Theater will be able to coexist. Details still to be worked out, of course.
Then, Kernighan was like, “So, has the Peralta Community College District Board approved taking on the responsibility of operating this theater?” And naturally, it turns out they haven’t. And Kernighan was like, “Yeah, you should probably deal with that.”
And then CEDA Director Walter Cohen was all, “This is too complicated, and we should just negotiate an agreement with Live Nation.” And De La Fuente was like, “Just figure it out yourself and do something and bring it back before recess, whether it’s Live Nation or anybody else, I don’t care.” And District 1 Councilmember Jane Brunner was like, “We should get stimulus money to fix the building.” And City Administrator Dan Lindheim was all “There is no stimulus money available for that.” And then they all agreed that staff should just bring them back “either an agreement or a proposal from Live Nation or another capable financial entity” by July, that was pretty much it.
So, to sum up: We are no closer to paying for the repairs needed to re-open the Kaiser Convention Center than we were when we last checked in. In fact, we are perhaps further from paying for them, since the anticipated cost is higher now. After directing staff in February to include the Peralta Colleges and the Symphony in their negotiations along with Live Nation, the Committee has now decided that doing so is just too complicated, and is now directing staff to go back to negotiating with Live Nation, and basically make Peralta and the Symphony Live Nation’s problem, assuming an agreement can actually be reached. We’ll get another update on progress in July. I’m on the edge of my seat.