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Uptown Update

OAFC BBS - All Topics: Archive: Uptown Update
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By ramjet on Thursday, October 24, 2002 - 09:06 pm:

Heres the latest on the uptown site forest city housing proposal in today's trib. Lots of unanswered questions about the overall cost. Seems like Mayor Brown and IDLF are the only ones besides the forest city people that are excited about this proposal.

Article Last Updated:
Thursday, October 24, 2002 - 3:08:29 AM MST

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 (Montclair-Laurel).

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 tekgraf on Friday, October 25, 2002 - 01:30 am:

You watch, nothing is going to be built there, not one damn thing. In a year or two, you know what's going to be there? Just another empty lot. If only JB, IDLF and that jackass Schott had the vision, we could be possbily talking about a ball park going up on that site. Instead, we're going to get a empty parking lot. Damn these politicians and owners!!! damn them all to hell! Oops, sorry - got a charleton heston attack.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By kevink on Friday, October 25, 2002 - 08:40 am:

tek, I agree. It's shocking that the Raiders ever moved back when you look at what a mess the Oakland political scene is. You just knew adding Schott to this mix was a recipe for disaster. Oakland could have a nice new ballpark with new businesses to go along with it INCLUDING new housing. But they will get nothing like it!

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By dorrit on Friday, October 25, 2002 - 08:49 am:

tekgraf, just don't be waving guns like Heston,please!
I know your frustration, it drives me crazy too. To do this to the fans is sickening.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By jenmed on Friday, October 25, 2002 - 09:07 am:

If Steve Schott and Ken Hoffman had shown any kind of interest in the Uptown project, and had made a serious commitment to contribute financially, Jerry Brown and IDLF would likely have shown more interest in the project. The Oakland political scene is a mess, but I place the blame for this squarely on Schott's shoulders. For god's sake, the A's didn't even see fit to send a representative to ANY of the ballpark-related meetings of the city council and JPA. In contrast, Schott himself was at the Santa Clara meeting, hat in hand. Disgusting.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By dorrit on Friday, October 25, 2002 - 09:10 am:

How can we expect anything promising when there's no one to support us? This is where I gotta wonder what else we as fans can do. Unless we get backing, I just don't see a way out.

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