By Ken Epstein
Until recently, West Oakland community leader and conservationist Margaret Gordon was involved in billionaire John Fisher’s real estate and stadium development project at Howard Terminal, which is public land in the Port of Oakland.
She has now withdrawn her support and actively opposes the development. In an interview with the Oakland Post this week, she said she had been involved from the start several years ago, working with others to produce a community benefits agreement with the A’s, for which the A’s were to to pay.
But the A’s reneged on their promises, she said.
âWe as a community should hold everyone to the test around the issue of fairness,â Gordon said. “The A’s started to talk about equity and ended up putting [all the costs] return to the city. It is not fairness. Unmitigated environmental problems – this is not fairness. I don’t believe they are going [build affordable] housing – this is not fairness.
Gordon, co-founder of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), served on the Harbor Commission and fought for decades to reduce the impact of industrial pollutants that cause respiratory disease and improve overall air quality in his community.
She said her goal in working with A’s development was to design social justice and environmental justice projects to support West Oakland, Chinatown, Jack London Square and Old Oakland, four areas that would be most affected by the massive project. .
âWe agreed with the city to sit down and do a community benefits agreement, which included education, environmental improvements, housing, jobs and business development,â she said. âWe met for almost two years to try to develop our own agreement with the City and the A’s. We finalized our project by telling them that this is what we want.
But then the A’s changed position. âSuddenly, the A’s stopped the process. We wanted more conversations in the negotiations. But there were never any negotiations to finalize the agreement on community benefits, âshe said.
âThere was no meeting with the As or the city staff. Never.”
Gordon said she was not encouraged by the role of the mayor and city staff in the process. “I don’t see who is going to hold the A’s to enforce community benefits,” not the mayor, city administrator or city staff, she said.
She said city leaders are “so hungry for money and development, as long as it’s not in [their] piece, [they] don’t care, âshe said, adding that the A’s and the city should adopt benefits for Oakland that are” fair and equitable, or stop lying and saying you are doing benefits for the community. “
She said that the poor, African Americans, Latinos and others would not benefit from this project. âI don’t see them building affordable housing next to the million dollar townhouses. I just don’t see it.
People visited the Howard Terminal area in December, and it occurred to them that the plans were to create a “whole new town within Oakland,” a new gated town exclusive to the wealthy.
“They decided to release the final environmental impact report (EIR) during the holidays, thus minimizing the public’s contribution,” she said. “The staff, the town of Oakland, they obviously don’t care [about community benefits], otherwise they wouldn’t have written the EIR like they did, âGordon said.
âThey keep talking about fairness, but they don’t practice fairness. This [Environmental Impact Report] is the proof. This is all problematic.
Many of the necessary mitigation measures have not been taken into account, Gordon continued. The stadium is said to be built where thousands of huge semi-trucks are now parked at the Howard Terminal, but the city and the A’s still haven’t said where said where the truck parking lot will be moved, meaning they could return to the city streets, polluting residential neighborhoods.
Officials have also not offered solutions to the heavy traffic jams that will be produced by the development.
Not only will Oakland residents miss out on community benefits, they’ll also end up footing the bill for much of the project, Gordon continued.
âWe the public are going to end up paying for the infrastructure,â she said. “It’s going to use public money.” Over $ 800 million in public funds will be used for the project.
âThe As’s should pay for this. The rich who are going to move there should pay for it, âGordon said.
âI’m not surprised to learn that the A’s have reneged on promises made to the community,â said Paul Cobb, editor of the Oakland Post. âThe As’s want hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, but they don’t want to pay for community benefits like every other developer does.
âThey give up on affordable housing and then turn around and bully our elected leaders saying that if they don’t get what they want, they will leave. Our elected leaders should end this drama now. They need to focus on jobs, homelessness, public safety and the real issues affecting Oakland residents, not the continued fictional game played by the A’s. â