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which I believe is the current minimum according to our Living Wage law (somebody please correct me if that’s outdated).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.

I have other video from the forum as well. I apologize for the poor quality of the video. The lighting wasn’t great, and on top of that, I have like the cheapest video camera ever. Also, I just bought it with my tax return, so last night was my very first time using it. I probably should have practiced a little bit beforehand. There was someone else with a video camera there, and I don’t know if she plans on sharing her video or not. I will be uploading all the video from the forum to YouTube as time allows, but it will probably take me a while. I will get transcripts up when I can as well. Greg Hodge and Kerry Hamill did not attend the forum, although Hodge’s wife managed to make it and ask a question. I wondered if maybe there was some kind of school board event that kept them away, but I looked at the board agendas and didn’t see anything.

You can see the At-large candidates answering the same question as well:

So far, I’ve also managed to upload introductory statements from Sean Sullivan and Nancy Nadel.

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19 thoughts on “Finally, a clear answer on Fresh & Easy

  1. James H. Robinson

    Wow. I’m astounded by this. You have a group that not only lacks a decent grocery store, they lack jobs. Meanwhile, here is a potential employer who has decided not to provide a neighborhood with a much needed service because politicians have decided that the jobs don’t pay enough. I’ve been wondering why Emeryville was able to bring in so much retail, while Oakland has not. Now I know why.

  2. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    NN should never have put that info in her newsletter if it wasn’t a done deal. She could instead have said that they were “working” towards a deal. When that work fell through, then announce that. Instead, nothing was ever said officially saying that the deal was definately off. And it was in the Trib because of what was in her newsletter. F&E has ALWAYS said that the way they plan to make it is by not being unionized and by paying lower wages and not offering bennies. So how is this a surprise? NN should have done her homework on them before touting them. And in all honesty, I think this particular reason is all wrong for losing the deal. Why do you have to offer a living wage? Was the City giving Tesco (F&E) some sort of extra bennie?

  3. James H. Robinson

    Does Oakland understand economic development? Does this city have what it takes to bring in basic necessities like grocery stores? I think it is better to pay employees below living wage that to pay NO wage.

  4. Max Allstadt

    While I support a living wage, and I support local, worker owned co-ops, this is crazy. If the choice was between nothing and something imperfect, why the hell did we go with nothing?

    Theres something so self-centered about viewing our city as self contained. By this I mean that it seems like some people think that we can pass rules on regional environmental issues, or that they think we can pass economic laws that ignore competition from beyond our borders. It’s municipal government run amok.

    We need to stop behaving like we’re the only town in town. As much as I care about Oakland, the name of the city I live in isn’t Oakland. I live in the greater San Francisco Bay Metropolitan Area. Look at an image of our city from Google Earth. Turn off all the border overlays. You’ll see a city that’s 30 miles across and 70 long, wrapped around the bay. That’s the real context. Until Oakland City hall realizes that they can’t make laws in a vaccuum, we’re in real trouble.

    Are we really using our political process to micromanage the size of a grocery section in a supermarket? Did voters really vote for this level of intrusion? This is crazy.

  5. James H. Robinson

    Here we are in a recession, in a town that already has high unemployment and low retail, yet we are shooting ourselves in the foot by discouraging a grocery store from opening in Oakland. Amazing!

  6. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    Sorry, forgot to say that the market wage would ultimately prevail, because if they couldn’t get emps at $10/hr, then they’d have to start paying more…

  7. Max Allstadt

    Also, even though I’m not voting for Killian, his answer here was damn good. Contrasting us with Compton is a really resonant point. I just wish his voice was more resonant so I could make out what he said. It sounded good in person.

  8. Chris Kidd

    Am I the only one seeing a clip of the anime ‘Naruto’ as the first clip up top? Not hating on the anime, I’m just a Cowboy Bebop man myself….

    But in all seriousness, this is a pretty clear indication of when ideology trumps practicality; everyone loses.

  9. Californio

    Kerry Hamill and possibly Greg Hodge may have been dealing with the lawsuit over the student who had his head fractured at Piedmont Ave. elementary school. Or recuperating from dealing with it.

  10. Hayden

    In 2003, the City Council (and Port) allowed Wal-Mart to come to Hegenberger with only a token “no groceries” vote. While there are plenty of reasons to dislike big boxes, and low wages even in the absence of a big box, how is it that car-centric Wal-Mart, with its retrograde labor, manufacturing, and other policies, gets built at the end of the day, but a likely better-paying store in a walkable part of West Oakland does not? Perhaps the living wage requirement was instituted on Wal-Mart, and I missed it?

  11. mark

    Fresh and Easy did not come to Oakland because they are are failing as a concept, not because of wages. However, the only reason they looked at Oakland is because they don’t know any better as a new business in this area. Most established companies wont consider Oakland because of the hostile business climate. Between crime, unions, plastic bags and an ineffective city government, it is not worth risking your business to come here. No one wants to go through what Farmer Joe’s went through.

    Our company left Oakland years ago because of crime, and the lack of follow through with the police department. Our business is now in San Leandro with our 300 jobs.

    We would love to come back to Oakland, if only the police would respond/follow up on calls.

    The city council has to stop dealing with plastic bags

  12. james palm

    No suprises here, Ms Nadel is simply following in the footsteps of other City Council in the pocket of Big Labor, the grocery “mafia” of the UFCW Local 5. This is about protecting “market share” for a select few Big Bosses and some spineless politicians dependent on Big Money, including the Silent Mayor. Go Union Neutral, like Whole Foods and Trader Joes! No food for YOU!

  13. V Smoothe Post author

    mark –

    Fresh & Easy is taking a pause from opening US stores, but when they do begin opening their Northern California stores, the reason West Oakland will not get one is because EBALDC wanted them to commit to a certain wage as a condition of their lease, and they wouldn’t. Fresh & Easy has announced one store in Oakland, at 73rd and Bancroft.

  14. Max Allstadt

    V, do you think EBALDC demanded that wage commitment on their own, or that somebody might have been pressuring them?

  15. dto510

    Max – the “left” in Oakland is remarkably united when it comes to putting politics before people. EBADLC has shares the ideology of Nancy Nadel, labor-funded pressure groups like the ironically named East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, and their fellow “non-profit” developers who make a living holding developers ransom for “community benefits” and then abandon the community once they get their check. All that matters is symbolism and union dues, who cares that folks in West O have nowhere to go to buy healthy food? Remember, Doug Boxer tried to block Trader Joe’s over the same issue. For so many of Oakland’s politicians, pressure groups come first and people come last if at all.

  16. Max Allstadt

    dto, that is some pretty heavy stuff you’re laying down. fairly blanket stuff. I don’t doubt that there’s some meat behind it, but I also know that there are a number of issues on the socialism vs. libertarianism continuum where we disagree.

    I’d really like to see you blog on this in more detail.

    I certainly am beginning to notice that business isn’t being made to feel welcome in Oakland. But I’d also like to see if there are any cases where our city’s socialist leanings have done us some good. Please elaborate when you can.

  17. dto510

    Well, I cited labor lawyer Doug Boxer (who endorsed Nadel), and CNA honcho Michael Lighty, who used their authority as Planning Commissioners to delay (they sought to block) liquor licenses for the new Trader Joe’ses because they weren’t union. I believe that Pat Kernighan had to organize constituents to speak in favor of the stores in front of the full PC.

    In late 2007, the city sold EBALDC fifty low-income apartments in Chinatown to preserve as affordable for $4m. EBALDC turned them into “moderate-income” condos. Public comment from Chinatown was overwhelming opposed to the plan, but the Council decided to do what was in EBALDC’s interest, not what was in the interest of the other condo-owners in the building and the low-income Chinese community.

    East Bay Housing Organizations tirelessly promote Inclusionary Zoning as a solution to “gentrification,” helping low-income residents who are somehow “pushed-out” by market-rate development. However, nobody proposes using IZ funds for low-income rentals, instead acknowledging that the law would create middle-income condos, already provided by the market, at what are essentially market prices. If they do discuss this, they say it’s a route to homeownership. But the “inclusionary” condos must be sold back to the non-profit who manages them at a price that non-profit dictates, so the only party who gets the financial benefits of homeownership is the non-profit.

    EBASE is currently promoting a plan to force the truckers to become eligible for union representation, under the aegis of environmental protection (the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports). In fact, the plan has nothing to do with the environment (their claim that organized truckers would be better able to afford truck upgrades is specious, and EBASE says that Port should pay for upgrades anyway), and could jeopardize the Port’s planned transition from trucks to rail by creating a new constituency for truckers.

    These are only recent examples of the selfishness of the “left” nonprofits, who spout socialist rhetoric while single-mindedly pursuing their own interest. To protect union grocery jobs in North Oakland, EBALDC with Nancy Nadel’s encouragement deprived West Oaklanders of their best chance to get a full-service private grocery that didn’t need public subsidy.

  18. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    dto – what I never understood about all the hoopla about Trader Joe’s is that there is already a market in that area. Why not put it somewhere else that needs a market? And I can see being upset about union jobs IF there are public funds involved. Were there public funds? That’s what I kept asking about F&E stores. Was there some other (tax?) incentive?

    Also, I’ve always heard that the real issue with TJ’s was parking and traffic concerns. But ask Commissioner Boxer if he takes the bus or rides his bike to work. He’s against adding sufficient parking in buildings, but won’t leave behind his own car.

  19. Ralph

    i like how you cal this an answer on F&E – Nancy doesn’t give you answer, she tells you what she can sell. i trust her like i trust a used car salesman.