Concerns about maintaining local small businesses and the jobs of hundreds of mostly minority employees who work for them are coming to a head as the city prepares to clear tenants off its Army Base land by Sept. 3 or potentially lose $242 million in state matching funds for the project.
In recent weeks, city staff has been under intense pressure by members of the council to make sure that the small businesses are temporarily relocated to port land so the project can start on time.
At the same time, city staff, stressing the need to be prudent, have moved forward with evictions of the businesses, which could result in either driving the companies out of business or forcing them to leave Oakland.
Some council members and community groups, frustrated at the slow pace of planning and implementing the transition, have questioned staff’s commitment to the goal of keeping the small businesses in Oakland.
Affected companies are Impact Transportation; PCC Logistics, which provides critically important customs inspections for the port; and Oakland Maritime Support Services (OMSS), which has earned kudos for providing trucking parking and support services that keep big rigs off the streets of West Oakland.
Over3,000 port trucker drivers make use of OMSS services.
According to the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, the City of Oakland and the Port of Oakland have “dropped the ball” in the planning for the Oakland Army Base development, meaning that one or more of the small businesses could be forced to close.
“The city has given master developer, CCIG (owned by Phil Tagami), a clear path to plan a schedule that stands to benefit his project alone without regard to current local small businesses occupying the (Army Base), local employees currently employed on the (base) or the impacts on the surrounding community,” according to a written statement by WOEIP.
Last Thursday, the Port Commission placed what some say are unattainable obstacles in the way of OMSS, which could keep it from moving onto port property with a temporary 30-month lease
Although the City of Oakland has agreed to assume all risks associated with the move of OMSS and its truck support services, the port has chosen instead to impose its own penalties on OMSS, according to WOIEP.
Those penalties require the owner of OMSS to settle ongoing litigation that involves another company that belongs to him – AB Trucking.
OMSS is the home of 18 small, mostly minority, family-owned businesses that provide drivers with a one-stop location to find repairs, sign painting, oil changes, fix and replace tires, as well as little food and medical care.
“We worked for years to get the big rigs and their pollution out of West Oakland, and OMSS and its owner Bill Aboudi have made that possible. How can the port just shut that down without regard to the impact on the community,” said Margaret Gordon of WOEIP.
As of this week, all the affected companies have eviction notices from the city. Impact Transportation and PCC Logistics have been promised leases by the port. However, they still do not have them in hand.
Impact Transportation and PCC are going ahead with renovating their temporary sites, based on the promise of a lease.
U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apparently concerned about the uncertainty of PCC’s survival at the port, is reportedly looking at other possible sites to do inspections, including the old Horizon Beverages building on West Grand Avenue in West Oakland or a location in Alameda that would require moving trucks through the tube.
The possibility of moving uninspected cargo, containing any number of potential hazards through the streets of local communities, is alarming to WOEIP.
According to Brian Beveridge of WOEIP, he spoke with the Bay Area CBP official, who told him that the position of customs is that any inspection site within a six-mile radius of the port is close enough
The issue of guaranteeing the safety of the cargo is the responsibility of individual cities and their municipal codes that govern truck traffic, Beveridge said he was told.
In a June 3 letter to customs Area Port Director Reginald Manning, Gordon of WOEIP told customs that West Oakland residents would oppose the move of inspections into the community.
“Any cargo that is suspect should be inspected in close proximity to the port on the West Side of Highway 880 which separates port activity from the West Oakland Community. Our community does not support any activity, which we deem to be at the risk of health, safety and welfare of the people of this neighborhood…Any attempt to establish this type of use in our community will be met with resistance.”
A call to Eric Batts at CBP in San Francisco was not returned to the Post by press time. Phil Tagami’s office replied to questions but refused to comment without a complete WOEIP statement, not satisfied with receiving the part that was quoted by the Post.
“We would need a complete copy of the WOEIP written statement to know whether we can respond,” Tagami’s office said.