OAKLAND -- Redevelopment of the Oakland Army Base was supposed to get city residents back to work, but initial estimates show that the thousands of projected construction jobs might not materialize for years, if at all.

City officials were shocked recently when the project's largest contractor, Turner Construction Co., told them that its work at the base would generate only about 1,000 jobs over the next seven years and that it might have as few as 50 workers there during the first few years of construction.

"When I saw the numbers, I jumped," said Pat Cashman, the city's point person on the Army Base development.

The $247 million first phase of the project, set to begin late next year, involves substantial grading work, which isn't labor-intensive, Cashman said.

An aerial view of the Oakland Army Base looking east in Oakland, Calif. in December, 2008. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group Staff Archives)
An aerial view of the Oakland Army Base looking east in Oakland, Calif. in December, 2008. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group Staff Archives) ( LAURA A ODA/STAFF )

Providing jobs for Oakland residents has been a driving force behind the effort to transform the city's share of the former Army Base into a logistics and warehousing center servicing the nearby Port of Oakland.

The city demanded that half of all jobs go to Oakland residents and secured $500,000 a year to establish a center in West Oakland to help workers get training for anticipated Army Base jobs.

When the City Council approved the deal in June, a city news release stated that "the project requires that 50 percent of the projected 3,000 construction jobs and 2,200 operational jobs go to Oakland residents."

Sean Maher, a spokesman for Mayor Jean Quan, said those figures actually were based on the Port of Oakland also developing similar facilities on its half of the 360-acre Army Base.


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However, the port has no immediate plans or any contracts in place to develop its property. It also isn't required to guarantee that jobs from any future development go to Oakland residents.

Initially, the port had signed onto a plan to fully develop the entire base, but before the city decided to move forward with its project, the port decided to hold off on building warehouses and logistics facilities until it gets a better sense of market demand.

The port currently is moving ahead with expanding a rail yard, said the port's project director, Mark Erickson. The $55 million project is estimated to generate about 55 jobs before its completion in 2015.

Councilwoman Jane Brunner, who worked for a year to secure the local hire requirements, fumed Tuesday when she saw the 1,000-job projection at a council committee meeting.

"This is why government is not trusted," she said.

A city-commissioned report released after that meeting estimates that 1,523 on-site construction jobs will be produced from the city's project and the port's rail yard project. When the port moves ahead with developing its share of the Army Base, the construction job total would rise to 2,686.

The project's developer, Phil Tagami, said city officials had "jumped the gun" regarding construction-job estimates, which still haven't been finalized. The original projections of about 3,000 construction jobs, he added, were based both on developing the port's property and on making infrastructure improvements that are now on hold because voters defeated Alameda County's infrastructure tax measure.

"We've been utterly consistent," he said.

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.


Some of the large warehouses on the Oakland Army Base stand  empty off Maritime Road  in Oakland, Calif. on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012. (Laura A. Oda/Staff)
Some of the large warehouses on the Oakland Army Base stand empty off Maritime Road in Oakland, Calif. on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012. (Laura A. Oda/Staff) ( LAURA A ODA/STAFF )