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.
Anyway, the reason I’m writing about the article at all is because of this:
Carletta Starks, an aide to Oakland City Council woman Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland), said the shopping center is part of a redevelopment zone and specific conditions apply to any lease there. For example, Starks said, there are tight controls on subleasing, and the lease also requires a living-wage agreement, something objected to by Fresh & Easy, saying it already paid competitive wages.
Which is just total jibberish, and I can’t even understand what it’s supposed to mean. You have to pay a “living wage” if your business is in a redevelopment area? News to me, and to my employer, located in a redevelopment area, who currently pays me $8.50/hr. Seriously – that’s absurd. Redevelopment areas have absolutely nothing to do with wages or subleases. Could you imagine? The City shouldn’t be imposing any conditions on leases at the Jack London Gateway shopping center, because we don’t own it. We sold it in to EBALC, and PPI. It’s the property owner, not some law, that kept a grocery store and the 30 jobs it would have provided out of West Oakland over thirty nine cents an hour. I don’t know if Cecily Burt simply got Starks’s comments wrong, or if Starks is lying about the living wage requirement on purpose, or if she is really that clueless about redevelopment areas, which is probably the most disturbing option of all three. The living wage requirement only applies to select recipients of City financial assistance of $100,000 or more, something that nobody has ever claimed Fresh & Easy asked for.
Whether Nancy Nadel had any input into EBALDC’s decision doesn’t matter. She made it very clear at the All Candidates Forum that she endorses the decision, and would rather see no grocery store in West Oakland than one that paid only $10/hour. This is beyond unacceptable. Food access is a ginormous problem in West Oakland, and the District 3 Councilmember should be fighting tooth and nail to get a real grocery store in the neighborhood, not standing in the way of one. It is way past time for her to step down and let someone who has their priorities in order take over that office.
UPDATE: In case anyone was doubting that this claim about a living wage being required in this location for whatever reason is absolute bullshit, I just spoke with two other tenants at the Jack London Gateway shopping center, McDonalds and KFC. Both businesses confirmed to me that their starting pay is minimum wage, $8/hour. So why is Fresh & Easy being held to a different standard than Jack London Gateway’s other tenants? Why?!!? Why is a full-service grocery store that provides organic produce held to a higher standard than fast food restaurants? Why?!!!!! In case I haven’t made it clear yet, I am absolutely enraged by this decision. District 3′s Councilmember should be raising hell with EBALDC over denying food access to West Oakland’s residents. Instead, Nancy Nadel supports their decision and her aide is making up excuses in the newspaper defending it. District 3 needs a Councilmember who cares about food access and food security. Vote Sean Sullivan!
- 05.05.08 Still waiting on Mandela Foods
- 05.01.08 Mandela Foods Cooperative: Subsidizing Failure
- 04.28.08 Finally, a clear answer on Fresh & Easy
- 04.01.08 West Oakland is not getting a grocery store anything soon
- 02.01.08 Green jobs, Fresh & Easy
- 11.14.07 Look out Whole Foods, here comes Fresh & Easy