OAKLAND | Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid has little taste for the master developer in charge of turning the Oakland Army Base into a potential cash cow for the city. Reid again criticized the developer California Capital & Investment Group (CCIG) and the city for its treatment of a handful of small businesses located on the base slated for removal. If the city does not begin clearing the land for cleanup by the end of May, it risks losing $174 million in federal dollars earmarked for the project.
However, during a city council committee meeting this week, Reid said the evictions send a poor message to small business owners interested in setting up shop in Oakland. “If I was a small business, I wouldn’t even think about coming to Oakland after what we’ve seen this year,” he said. Later, Reid asserted CCIG, the master developer chosen by the city, stands to gain greater benefits from the deal than the city.
“I’m sorry,” said Council President Pat Kernighan, “I cannot agree with your statement. The City of Oakland is going to reap huge benefits in jobs, taxes and economic activity.” Reid, though, said he respectfully disagreed and called for the city auditor to assess the city’s partnership with CCIG led by Oakland developer Phil Tagami, along with an unrelated inquiry into the return of $600,000 in stimulus money to the federal government. “If she wants to do the city some justice, she should take on those two areas and come back with a finding,” said Reid. “And maybe she’ll prove me wrong. If she asks the right questions, she’ll prove me right.”
Bill Aboudi, an outspoken critic of the city’s moves and owner of a private trucking company at the base, told the four-member Community and Economic Development Committee, he just wants to be treated fairly. A hard-hitting article a week earlier in the East Bay Express detailed Aboudi’s woes, including owing $235,000 in back rent to the city and allegation he mistreated his workers, according to a class-action suit claiming nearly $1 million in back wages, by denying them lunch breaks. Aboudi told the committee the article “hurts,” but says the allegations are untrue. While addressing Councilmember Libby Schaaf, Aboudi said facetiously, “You know I don’t have a whip and I don’t beat my drivers and I treat them right,” while holding up a photo of Schaaf in the past spending a day with one of his truckers.
Schaaf disagreed with Reid’s description of the owner’s plight, noting the leases were initially intended to be short term and contained no relocation benefits. “In other words, these companies realized great savings by entering into these leases,” says Schaaf. City staff, however, added due to the large physical size of the companies facing eviction and prohibitive costs, no formal relocation programs have been offered to them by the city
Following public comment, Reid again hammered the city’s treatment of the business owners. “Boy, you guys got screwed not once—you guys got screwed big time second,” he said. “It’s beyond my comprehension. It’s almost like the city said really don’t care about it, we just want to collect the rent.”
Reid said he wasn’t criticizing city staff, but instead the bureaucracy, including himself. “If I had known that all along my vote would have never been there.”