Oakland Army Base redevelopment moves forward

January 24, 2012 5:17:25 PM PST
Plans to transform 330 acres of land that once made up the Oakland Army Base are moving forward.

The property is located near the foot of the Bay Bridge in West Oakland around 11th and Maritime Street. Developing the land though, is not a project that would bring jobs to the community overnight. The Port of Oakland is a major export gateway on the West Coast, but redeveloping the base that is owned in equal parts by the city and the Port of Oakland would take time and lots of money, federal redevelopment dollars that can only be used for the army base.

The base closed in 1999, taking with it more than 7,000 jobs, one of them belonging to Shirley Burnell. "The jobs are coming and we want to make sure when they get here, they're for people here in Oakland," she told ABC7. Burnell is just one of several who turned out Tuesday to hear Oakland's Economic Development Committee vote on and pass a "benefits agreement" to give redevelopment jobs to those living in Oakland.

The vote will now move to the full city council, but that will not be the only potential road block. The fight to making the old space new again has been a journey with a lot of tiny steps, the biggest hurdle being money.

"The good news is that they've come together around a plan that is focused on maritime trade-related infrastructure," Isaac Kos-Read with the Port of Oakland said. One plan would use public money, including redevelopment funds, state and federal grants, and bonds to pay to clean up the polluted soil, replace infrastructure, and improve transportation lines.

"This project, if done right, can really help us grow our maritime economic impact in very positive ways," Kos-Read said.

The infrastructure work alone, could cost up to $1 million per acre, and would include stabilizing the parcel's bay fill soil. There has been $424 million in bond funding designated for the port to use for infrastructure, but with federal dollars come federal rules. They must break ground by January 1 2014 or risk losing the proposed matching funds. Right now, the city has about $40 million in designated matching funds with an actual groundbreaking so far off, activists may be putting their cart before the horse.

"I think the city and the port now understand that the community will insist on being players in this process," said Brian K. Woodson, Sr. with Bay Area Christian Connection.

The community initiative will move the full city council which is scheduled to meet next week.