One of the last bureaucratic hurdles facing the massive Oak to Ninth housing development along the waterfront was removed Monday when the State Lands Commission approved a land swap that opens the shoreline for development.
The commission's action removes a public trust designation from 8.7 acres of land within the proposed development project — land that until the vote could be used only for public benefit. The port will replace those public trust lands with similarly sized industrial parcels at the former Oakland Army Base.
Oakland Harbor Partners, LLC, a partnership between developers Signature Properties and Reynolds and Brown, received city approval for plans to build a mix of 3,100 market-rate and affordable residential units and 200,000 square feet of new retail and commercial space on waterfront land between Oak Street and Ninth Avenue, south of Jack London Square. The 64-acre project will include two renovated marinas and more than 31 acres of parks, sports fields and public open space and will take more than a dozen years to complete.
The current agreement with the Port of Oakland calls for the developer to pay $18 million for the land, 25 percent of which is due at close of escrow and the rest on or before June 15, 2015. The developer also will pay to clean the land so it can be used for housing and recreation.
The Alameda County Central Labor Council and the Building Trades Council support the project, which the developer says will bring 10,000 new jobs to the region, many of them for local residents.
"It will have a significant impact on the short-term and long-term economy," Andreas Cluver, secretary-treasurer of the Building Trades Council, told the commission. "There is 30 percent unemployment in construction trades."
But others are concerned about use of public lands for private development, as well as swapping lovely public lands along the waterfront for gritty, landlocked parcels in the middle of the old Army Base.
Judith Offer, a poet and playwright, said 50 percent of the development's new parkland will be situated between the buildings, giving it the feeling of private, not public space.
"Nobody using the (waterfront) trails will go into the middle of a courtyard," she said.
Sandra Threlfall, executive director of Waterfront Action, said she was "sad but not surprised" by the vote. She said she is not opposed to the project but is opposed to giving up increasingly rare public trust lands for housing, especially when the trust lands only represent 10 percent of the development area.
She later said she was disappointed that the commission seemed uninterested in spending the time to determine whether the Army Base parcels, which are owned by the Army Reserve, already have a state trust designation. If that is the case, they are not eligible for the swap, she said.