Oakland Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Rep. Barbara Lee, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Phil Tagami and Port of Oakland Commissioner Ces Butler at Friday’s groundbreaking of the Oakland Global project. PHOTO/Steven Tavares

OAKLAND//ARMY BASE PROJECT | Fourteen years after the closing of the Oakland Army Base decimated the city with thousands of jobs lost, ground was broken on the new $1.2 billion cargo and logistics center near the towering cranes at the Port of Oakland.

With Gov. Jerry Brown, Rep. Barbara Lee and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan in attendance, the person behind the private sector effort to develop the former Army base said initial planning to reach the $500 million initial stage of the project was arduous. “Today we look to the future. The path will not be easy,” said Oakland developer Phil Tagami. The second phase of the Oakland Global project encompassing property at the Port of Oakland is already in the earlier planning stage, Tagami said.

One million sq. ft. of new warehouse space will soon be constructed on 140 acres of land owned by the city of Oakland, along with new roads and utilities. The modernization of the port, Tagami said, will allow for fewer trucks on the road and greater efficiency. Later, a second phase of the project on the port side will include cold-storage facilities, an intermodal rail yard and 7th Street grade separation.

In many ways, Oakland is still experiencing the loss in 1999 of over 7,000 jobs at the Oakland Army Base. The Oakland Global project will not replace all the jobs eliminated, but estimates expect the first stage to employ over 1,500 construction workers and later over 1,800 permanent jobs. Andreas Cluwer, a labor leader for the Alameda County Building Trades said Friday, the new opportunities will be quality, high-paying union jobs available for everyone. This is good news for a city still battling some of the highest unemployment in the state.

“Big things are happening in Oakland and this is the first,“ said Quan. Over half the cost of construction comes from state and federal funding. Another $125 million came from Tagami’s California Capital Investment Group and Prologis. The city of Oakland also pitched in $54 million. Quan said the project’s public-private partnerships were key to financing the project. “Without it, the city would not have been eligible for federal grants,” Quan added.

Rep. Lee was able to deliver a pair of transportation-related grants to the project, but in a Congress stricken with sequester cuts and prohibitions on earmarks, Lee said, “Federal dollars are hard to come by now.” She credited U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican appointee to the Obama administration, for understanding the project’s positive impacts to the region in terms of jobs, economic prosperity and the environment. Later, Lee vowed to locate additional federal funds for the city “by any means necessary.”

Gov. Jerry Brown also referenced the partisan upheaval in Washington and the likelihood Oakland would not have received federal grants if planning for the former Army Base had occurred in the current fiscal atmosphere. While Brown lauded the Democratic Party’s dominant rule in Sacramento as a positive for progress, Brown also took a shot at the Tea Party to loud cheers. “If that was [Sen. Ted] Cruz, or one of those crazies, federal funding wouldn’t have happened.”