OAKLAND -- The October surprise at the Oakland Army Base wasn't that the city and developers finally reached a $1 billion deal to transform it into a warehousing and logistics center.
It was that most of the businesses already there, including the backbone of Oakland's film industry, were given no more than three months to pack their bags.
One day after the Army Base deal was signed last week, Oakland officials sent out eviction notices to about 40 businesses at the base, including the 32 companies that comprise the film center.
The orders present a hardship for many of the companies whose work requires heavy equipment and lots of space.
Urban Recycling Solutions, a firm that collects construction debris, was given 30 days to find a new home for its mounds of crushed materials that rise several stories above the neighboring warehouses.
"We have to have a transition period," the company's Tom Chasm said. "They're essentially putting us out of business so the developers can make hundreds of millions of dollars."
The Army Base is one of the Bay Area's largest public-private partnerships with $242 million in state funds already earmarked. The proposed rail improvements and warehouse developments are anticipated to create about 5,000 jobs and help revitalize the adjacent Port of Oakland.
Up until last year, the City Council had mandated that the project also include a new home for the film center, whose companies have
The mandate was removed after the city and developers considered it too burdensome. But the development team and the film center still traded proposals for a new film center on the base.
And even last month, the businesses said Oakland officials told them they wouldn't have to move until June at the earliest.
"No one communicated there was a chance of us only having 90 days," said Tim Ranahan of Ranahan Production Services. "We were supposed to be in the loop on everything."
Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell said developers initially planned to relocate the businesses on nearby land owned by the port. But with the Port's portion of the Army Base project not moving ahead in unison with the city's, there was no space available to house the businesses.
To preserve the big state grant, lead developer Phil Tagami has to start construction on the city land by December 2013, which means the existing buildings must be demolished starting no later than May.
Blackwell said the companies at the base likely would be allowed to stay beyond their eviction dates, which were based on the terms of their leases.
"We're not going to be unreasonable," he said. "I think we will be able to work with folks on an orderly process."
The film center, which consists of three big warehouses, formed eight years ago at the base. It constitutes the Bay Area's largest collection of production service firms, providing a one-stop shop for filmmakers shooting in San Francisco and the East Bay.
The center's importance to Oakland's film prospects spurred council members to originally order that it stay at the base. "This is an industry, not individual businesses, and so there is a synergy around them being located in proximity to each other," Councilmember Desley Brooks said during Tuesday's council meeting.
The center said it has already gotten feelers from San Francisco and Richmond, although there is no guarantee it will find enough space to keep the businesses together.
City officials visited the center on Friday to consider alternative locations outside the Army Base. Possibilities in Oakland include the American Steel Studios, which is home to Burning Man artists and the nearby Pacific Pipe Company Building.
The Army Base location was ideal because it allowed for a quick trip to shooting locations in San Francisco, said Sean House, a prop maker, who heads Outhouse Productions.
His section of the warehouse was filled with bizarre creations, including a fabricated snow plow, giant warthogs and a devilish four-eyed Pug that was used in a Weird Al Yankovic video.
"This would be a lot to move in three months," he said.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.