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Not good for Uptown site

OAFC BBS - All Topics: Archive: Not good for Uptown site
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By oaktown_fan on Thursday, October 24, 2002 - 05:46 pm:,1413,82%257E1726%257E945958,00.html

Questions arise as to what plan
will cost city Company won't put price on subsidy
required for 1,000-unit Forest City development

By Robert Gammon

OAKLAND -- Although developers of a proposed large downtown housing project are now receiving kudos for design changes, some top city officials and housing advocates want to know how much the project is going to cost taxpayers.

"I feel like I'm shopping for a new suit and I really like the suit, but I don't know what it's going to cost," said City Councilmember Dick Spees

Spees went one step further and called the
presentation of the proposed housing project by
developer Forest City Enterprises during a council
committee meeting Tuesday "disingenuous" for not
specifying the city's costs.

Previously, the proposed public subsidy for the
Forest City project -- which essentially snuffed out some hopes earlier this year for a new Oakland A's ballpark -- had been pegged at $41 million to $51 million. The development is to be built on the
so-called Uptown site, a few blocks north of City Hall.

Forest City officials Tuesday refused to set a new
price tag on the subsidy, saying they want to see
whether council members like the design changes to
the now 1,000-plus-unit development. Forest City
officials and city staffers promised to have an exact subsidy figure by the Nov. 12 City Council meeting.

Several sources close to negotiations between the
city and Forest City said the new subsidy has grown
by about $20 million. The new figure, they said, likely will be between $60 million to $70 million.

"It's an outrage," said one local official who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. The project has strong backing from Mayor Jerry
Brown, who has close ties to top Forest City executives. Brown earlier this year issued a gag order on city staff, forbidding all public criticism of the Forest City deal.

Supporters of the development, meanwhile, say any rise in the subsidy can be attributed to the economic downturn, the increased number of
apartments in the project, and expensive design changes.

City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, one of the most vocal backers of the project, said removing and replacing the old Sears garage on 19th Street will cost an extra $12 million to $13 million.

Forest City had come under intense criticism for its earlier plans to keep the three-story garage at its current site. The entire Uptown project,
which includes mostly one- and two-bedroom apartments, is to be built between 18th and 20th streets and bordered by San Pablo and Telegraph avenues.

Supporters of the project argue the new subsidy is closer to $40 million, adding that the higher figure includes costs the city would have paid anyway. Those costs include acquiring land and readying it for development.

"Regardless of what we do with that site, we need to clean up the area and build infrastructure," De La Fuente said. But critics of the project allege Forest City and development supporters are attempting to manipulate the true costs to taxpayers.

They point out the city typically attempts to recoup the costs of acquiring and readying land by subsequently selling it to the highest bidder.
Camden Development, for example, has offered the city $7 million for property a few blocks away, where it plans to build 480 housing units.

By contrast, Oakland never put the Uptown property out to bid for housing and plans to rent the property to Forest City, possibly for nothing. Under the previously proposed deal, Forest City would only pay rent if it makes a 12 percent rate of return or more on its investment.

De La Fuente argued that the two sites -- Uptown and the Camden site at 14th and Jefferson streets -- are substantially different. The Camden site benefits from nearby publicly subsidized projects such as the federal building and City Center, he said. Uptown, on the other hand, has no such help.

Along with the parking garage, other proposed changes to the Uptown project include a park on 20th Street and less retail space along Telegraph Avenue. Instead of a supermarket, Forest City now wants smaller stores on Telegraph, such as a bookstore or cafe. The development also no longer would be gated.

Also, Forest City plans to bring in another developer to construct a 19-story apartment building on the site, increasing the total number of housing units from 800 to more than 1,000. About 20 percent of the apartments would be considered affordable housing. The rest would rent for whatever the market will bear. Costs of the project changes are sure to spark controversy. The previous proposed subsidy of $41 million generated strong opposition from city staffers, local developers and
housing advocates who were upset the city would consider granting that much to one developer.

City officials said in June that a $41 million subsidy would drain Oakland's Redevelopment Agency and leave it with no funds for other projects
during the next two to three years. In addition, an Oakland Tribune analysis earlier this year found that a $41 million subsidy would be the largest by far the city has granted for a housing project.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By diamond_lil on Thursday, October 24, 2002 - 06:07 pm:

Actually this is good news for the site being preserved and kept available for future use for the Ballpark Redeveloment Master Plan. But still, it will only have a chance with a change in ownership of the team to a local group interested in making this project a reality. We can only hope.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By eyleenn on Thursday, October 24, 2002 - 08:07 pm:

The whole Forest City project smells bad to me. Why no supermarket? Are the residents supposed to buy groceries at overpriced gourmet boutiques?

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By ramjet1 on Friday, October 25, 2002 - 10:43 am:

The Forest City housing plan will be dead by this time next year. The concept needs to much public funding to work. The city officials and economic advisors know that you dont spend public money to develop market rate housing with the intention of stimulating the surrounding economy. You stimulate the economy with retail or entertainment or even office space. The housing comes later. Unfortunately JB and IDLF are too closely connected to Forest City and lost in a fog of political patronage to see the big picture.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By bleacherdave on Friday, October 25, 2002 - 11:07 am:

Anybody remember Oakland's redevelopment of the late 60's? 14th and Broadway most prominent intersection in the cite, the was a vacant lot for 10? years waiting what was to become the City Center development..............

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By ramjet1 on Friday, October 25, 2002 - 02:44 pm:

I remember that and a whole lot more projects that never got off the ground, or morphed into something totally different then what was originally planned. City Center is a perfect example the original concept there was for an enclosed suburban style shopping mall.

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