School District is leasing two gated school properties to developers for 75 years
The Oakland Board of Education approved the 75-year lease of two school lots to a developer without going through a public process and putting the item on the public agenda just three days before the vote.
Although agenda items generally have to be presented to the board twice before final approval, this resolution occurred only once and was passed by 5-2 votes last week. CEO Shanthi Gonzales and board member Mike Hutchinson turned down the deal.
“It was first released when it was put on the agenda 72 hours before the board meeting, during a pandemic via Zoom. There was absolutely no public engagement for these leases, ”said board member Hutchinson in an interview with the Oakland Post.
“This has been under wraps for the past six to eight months,” he said.
The lease of the two lots allows the schools to be demolished and replaced with townhouses and other housing, including market-priced apartments, commercial space, and possibly a black cultural center and some apartments for teachers.
While proponents of the agreement say they are excited because these developments will include some housing for teachers and school employees, representatives from both the teachers’ union and the classified union SEIU 1021 spoke out against the development at the meeting, raising fears that the Real estate has been leased for a small amount of money that is likely to be unaffordable for school staff and is not used for educational purposes
The leases for the two properties were probably well below the market price of 65 years, with the developers being able to extend the contracts for a further 10 years.
One property, the former Tilden Child Development Center at 4551 Steele St. near Mills College, was leased for $ 3,000 a month. The other property, the former Edward Shands Adult School site at 2455 Church Street next to the shopping mall in Eastmont Town Center, was leased for $ 4,000 a month. Taking inflation into account, rental costs increase by 3% per year.
According to Hutchinson, there was only one bid on the Tilden property and the Shands property was not awarded to the highest bidder.
The Oakland Post has requested videos of the last two school board meetings, as well as copies of the final leases, which were amended at last week’s board meeting. The Post also requested copies of the ratings for the two lots, the public notice the district sent to the developers, and copies of any bids submitted by the developers.
The Post did not receive any documents from the school district by Wednesday.
The developer, Eagle Environmental Construction, is a Black owned company. According to plans, the deal now calls for at least 50% of the units to go to teachers and other school staff.
The plans also include space for Cypress Mandela, a local vocational training program, as well as a hub for the Black Culture Zone.
However, tenants are skeptical as to whether these promises will actually be fulfilled.
“The lease itself says nothing about making the space available for the cultural zone, and there are no penalties for not building teachers and other workers’ housing,” said Hutchinson.
“I have serious concerns about the legality of the trial,” he said. “I have no problems with Eagle Environmental Construction and I support the Black Culture Zone. But my responsibility is to manage our public resources and there are no guarantees that marginal utility will ever be produced. “
In Shands, the developers are planning to build 68 residential units and other commercial space. The developer intends to build 20 terraced houses with two and three bedrooms at the Tilden site.
“We’re never really on the same page as we are balancing the competing goals of community benefit, income generation and affordable housing,” CEO Gonzales told Oaklandside.
“Why shouldn’t this become a community college? Why is this being converted to workers’ housing when we hear that our workforce can’t afford it and doesn’t want to live there, ”Hutchinson said at the Oaklandside meeting.
The teachers’ union representative, Vilma Serrano, also quoted in Oaklandside, called on the district to use the land to rebuild adult education programs. “I ask the board of directors to vote no … and instead take the time next year to address concerns and questions from (teachers’ union) members and members of the Oakland community.”
Board member Gary Yee, quoted in Oaklandside, backed the development because “we have the ability to clean up the rot by hiring local contractors (and) hiring young people from our schools,” he said. “Sure, we have the opportunity to make some money, but the money is the last part of it. The most important thing for me is to be a good partner to our neighbors. “