Oakland Housing Authority creates a new loophole?

East Bay blog, indybay.com has article back in September that claims the Oakland Housing Authority is using pulling funds from it poorest residents in the Section 8 program and using the money to build more high end and privatized mixed projects like Hope VI. Could these diverted funds be used to purchase the Courthouse project at Telegraph & 3oth St. project that was just cleared for building?


Redwoods Chopped


On Friday, October 23rd. Trammell Crow got its wish and chopped down the two, 100+ year old redwood trees. Unfortunately, these trees were not incorporated into the blueprints of their planned 145 unit condo development. The Oakland  Planning Commission didn’t seem to care.

Courthouse Demolition Has Begun

As a big FU to the neighboring community, Trammell Crow has begun demolition on the Courthouse building without notifying any of its neighbors. This is par for the course in the way this developer has related to this community.

So far we have learned that the Oakland Planning Dept. issued the demolition permit on Friday the 25th by Eric Angstadst. This came as a surprise as the building permit hasn’t been issued yet as this is awaiting conditions to be met along with approved tree removal permits.

At issue: that the demolition permit violates condition #33, which was to prevent the decoupling of a building and demolition permit by the Oakland Planning Commision. The decoupling of the demolition and building permit was being sought by developer Tramell Crow from the planning commission back in April, but was denied unless the wanted to conform to new conditions. So, they decided to live with condition #33–“A demolition permit to demolish the historic resource, Courthouse Athletic club, shall not issued prior to building permit approval and commencement of the actual construction.” The building permits have not been issued – so the demolition permit was granted against the explicit language of Condition #33. Also, condition 22, that the condition of tree removal must be approved before demolition. This process is not to be completed until 5PM this evening. The planning department has ‘rewritten’ condition 22 to say that demolition can proceed as long as they don’t destroy the trees.

How can city bureaucrat Angstadt unilaterally give Tramell Crow what the Planning Commission denied?

Save the Redwoods

On the Courthouse property there are two large, old redwood trees. They are estimated to be over 100 years old. They are not to be saved according to Trammell-Crow’s plan to develop over a hundred condos on the 2935 Telegraph property.

Part of the permitting process was to get tree permits for the two redwoods trees as they qualify for heritage tree status. When Robert Brokl inquired with the city about the tree removal permit, he was told that it was a ‘done deal’ finished back in May. Members of our Save The Courthouse group noticed that the following permitting requirements were not met:

  • no public sign posted on the property listing the permit #, trees and public input phone number
  • no tags on the trees themselves
  • adjacent property owners weren’t all notified

After it was brought to the attention of the city of Oakland’s planning department that developer Trammell-Crow were again, not following proper  procedure, signs appeared on the trees and at the front of the property. These signs however, were not the official red permits issued by the city nor did they have the correct permit and public input dates on them. By August 24th, newer signs have been posted. They now give a public input time deadline in September.

Please call the city phone number to protest the cutting down these heritage trees!
Call (510) 615-5850


Maybe Jerry Brown Will Notice?

I just noticed on Jerry Brown’s Facebook ‘fan page’ that he was fighting to protect trees. Ironically, members of the Oakland Planning Commision that he appointed don’t seem to care so much. Commissioners Zayas-Mart and Colbruno voted to destroy the over 100 year old Redwoods as well as the historic Courthouse building on Telegraph Ave.

An interesting hypocrisy is that commissioner Madeleine Zayas-Mart  works for the SF architectural firm Solomon ETC/WRT which touts, “committed to sustainable design and ecological principles” and cared so much for using ‘green’ building materials in the ugly  building that will replace a historic brick structure and chop down over 100 year old redwood trees.

I posted a comment to Jerry’s page with the request that he maybe talk some sense into them. Maybe he’ll make better appointments next time.

Jerry Brown's Facebook Fan Page

Trammell-Crow in Rough Financial Waters?

It is our suspicion that developer Trammell-Crow is in very difficult position financially, after reviewing documents that showed Oakland Housing Authority’s concern of their ability to go through with their planned development.

Yesterday Reuters reported that Trammell-Crow’s parent company, Richard Ellis, reported a substantial 6.6 million dollar loss for the 2nd quarter.

NEW YORK, July 29 (Reuters) – CB Richard Ellis Group Inc (CBG.N), the world’s largest commercial real estate service company by revenue, posted a second-quarter net loss on Wednesday compared with a year-ago profit, as leasing and sales declined sharply.

The company said it had a net loss of $6.6 million, or a loss of 2 cents per share, compared with a profit of $16.6 million, or 8 cents per share, a year ago.

Read the full story.

Mirage High End Condo Project Dooms Courthouse?

The Oakland City Planning Commission that was appointed by Jerry Brown (the two new commissioners from Dellums are no improvement) wasn’t dubbed the Approval Commission for nothing–the commissioners supported Condomania developers with unbridled passion. Some market rate condo projects were built, some are half-built–the most notorious being “CityWalk” in the shadow of City Hall with its torn Tyvek wrapping flapping in the breeze. In my neighborhood, Temescal, where the condo development pressures were especially strong, the hurricane has passed and most of the proposed projects are “on hold,” the sites of approved projects with entitlements are for sale, attractive and affordable cottages, small businesses, and apartments, once presumed toast, are being rented out. Even the beloved Kingfish Pub is about to reopen with a new operator.

But local tornadoes threaten “sites” like the Courthouse Athletic Club at 2935 Telegraph at the foot of Pill Hill, in the stretch between Uptown and Temescal.  The Courthouse with its unusual Colonial Revival facade is a forlorn, empty landmark, soon to be (if we’re not lucky) one of the highest profile victims of the ongoing impact of the Commissioners’ unthinking zeal–condomania slamming up against the economic reality of overproduction and sated demand for a niche market.

Trammell Crow Residential, a Dallas-based housing developer, bought the site for $7.7 million, closing down the gym in the former mortuary–eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. TCR submitted plans for a 5 story, 142 unit, high-end condo project. The City of Oakland tends to pick the pockets of out-of-town developers by giving them a higher bar to jump over, so TCR even conducted an EIR. (Only one, for the Global Video condos, was required of all the Temescal projects, and again for unlucky out-of-towners.) The project and the EIR were dutifully approved by the Planning Commission in August, 2007. The EIR did note that the Courthouse was in an area of several distinguished period revival mortuary businesses–including others facing uncertain futures–which constituted a potential landmark district. 

That was so yesterday. TCR, realizing their project was going nowhere, quietly shopped it around. TCR’s good fortune was to find an eager new buyer–the Oakland Housing Authority. OHA was willing to pay $9 million for the site with entitlements, a sale that would have flown completely under the radar had not TCR resisted a $30,000 mitigation fee. TCR also wanted one of the  conditions of approval from 2007 modified, at the demand of OHA. TCR now wanted to clear the site before obtaining the building permits. Only these issues caused the radical change of developers and plans to publicly surface. Instead of being approved administratively as first planned, the Planning Commission and Landmarks Advisory Board weighed in two years later. Unfortunately, they flubbed their chances for a do-over.

But OHA isn’t just any deep-pocked developer still standing while others lost their shirts. Hugely controversial, as the largest landlord in the City, they’ve been sued by the City Attorney over the “condition of unabated criminal activity (including drug sales and prostitution) at some sites,” *and by their own calculations have some $75 million in deferred maintenance, for which they got a $10.6 million federal stimulus grant. They resisted onsite managers for years, and flatlands neighbors of their projects (redundancy since OHA is only IN the flatlands) must monitor their projects. 

OHA’s participation, now revealed, was problematic, especially since the project grew from one costing $25 million under TCR to a $40 million, 115 unit, “workforce housing” OHA project with the same footprint. TCR had done an EIR, OHA would undoubtedly need federal funds and therefore more (federal) review was required. This was pointed out to them by noted environmental attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley, HUD, and the State Office of Historic Preservation. Rather than comply, OHA dropped out. Or did they?

But inertia can keep even phantom projects moving forward. TCR decided to go through the motions of compliance with the 2007 conditions, thereby rendering moot the neighbors’ appeal to the City Council of the Planning Commission’s renewed go-ahead. TCR is completing plans and permits for their original market rate condo project and demolition nears. 

First, they will ante up close to $500,000 in fees–”two staff positions”, according to one City employee–so no questions are likely to be asked about whether TCR will simply put the lot up for sale post-demo, or whether OHA will suddenly reappear with rekindled interest and money. Who other than OHA could meet TCR’s price, especially considering the additional costs of demolition and site cleanup? And, despite OHA’s strategic “withdrawal” while the building stood, will the feds indulgently relent and open their vault to OHA once it’s gone? 

The Courthouse sits in Dist. 3, and that district’s Councilperson Nancy Nadel has raised (in June 3 e-mails we’ve obtained) the important questions to staff: 

“We are very concerned because community folks who had used public records to look into the housing authority’s plans for the site, saw that Trammell Crow is financially stressed and there was some info that their bank was about to foreclose. Therefore it seems like we can do some research just like we do on individual homes to see if they are moving to foreclosure and see if we have some authority to prevent a project from turning into another CityWalk…

The OHA deal has died and TC says they still have their equity partner. However, I greatly fear that we will have a gaping hole or a half finished building in yet another site for 5 years after having destroyed a viable building and an historic one at that? Is there any way to assure they have the money they need for the project before they start?”

Not bloody likely, at last by staff, not with those fees to a financially-strapped city! A call to the Bank of the West “relationship manager” (aka loan officer) in Newport Beach discerned that the Bank was funding the demo and site cleanup. Partners with TCR since the heady days of 2005, the Bank now must ponder throwing good money after bad. The banker–innocently?–inquired about how the neighborhood would take an OHA project.  

Letters to Bank of the West President Michael Shepherd might help, though: Michael Shepherd, President/CEO, Bank of the West, 180 Montgomery St., 25th Floor, San Francisco, Ca. 94104. Or bring it up with your local Bank of the West manager.

–Robert Brokl
July 1, 2009

Shooting At Nearby OHA Property

On the afternoon of Friday, June 19th neighbors were frightened by what again appears to be another shooting in front of an Oakland Housing Authority apartment building. Police units responded and filled Marting Luther King Blvd. and 30th St. area with police cars. This story has not appeared in the Oakland Tribune or San Francisco Chronicle. We have requested the Oakland Police Department respond with information on this incident.

OPD Statistic of June 19th MLK Blvd. Shooting

OPD Statistic of June 19th MLK Blvd. Shooting

OHA Out Of Courthouse Story Featured in Tribune

The recent “pullout” of OHA out  of the Courthouse deal is featured in the Oakland Tribune. It mentions how developer Trammell Crow found OHA to pay a ridiculous 9 million dollars for their formerly 5 million dollar project for the Courthouse Athletic Club building on Oakland’s Telegraph Avenue. Are there any taxpayer groups out there want to figure out this waste of tax dollars?

Save the Courthouse/No OHA’s member Tao Matthews said in her interview

that she would like to see the Courthouse building reused as a school, library, job-training center or a medical building. “We support any of those that would be used by people who live and work in the community”.

Our community group’s Robert Brokl is also quoted.

Brokl is still suspicious that the housing authority will re-enter the picture. Trammell Crow’s permit applications are pending, and if the building and demolition permits are granted, he vowed to appeal because he doesn’t believe the developer has the money to build the condos.

“It’s not an improvement to have a vacant lot,” he said.

Read the full story at the insidebayarea.com (Oakland Tribune) website.

Important Neighborhood Meeting 6/22

Neighborhood Meeting Reminder
Tonight – Monday, June 22nd at 6:30PM!

WHAT: Important meeting to discuss our next steps to keep OHA out of our neighborhood and preserve the Courthouse building at Telegraph and 30th St.

WHERE: The Veranda Community Room, 532 30th St.

WHEN: Monday, June 22nd at 6:30PM

OHA has stated that they are no longer interested in developing the site yet the developer is getting ready to proceed with demolition. OHA can then re-enter the picture without having to follow previous guidelines. Let’s not let OHA get away with another back room deal!

If you need further info about the meeting, you can call 510-452-7618

OHA Bows Out? Don’t Bet On It!

Tonight at the community meeting held at St. Augustine’s Church, Oakland councilmember Nancy Nadel announced that she was told by OHA that their contract with developer Trammell Crow has expired and that they are no longer interested in purchasing the site. Trammel Crow however, has proceeded with submitting the money to the city to proceed with their planned demolition. What if OHA decides to resume the deal after demolition? Has OHA  fronted the nearly $500,000 to TC outside of public perview so they can get their permit? The way we have seen OHA operate you can’t count them out.

OHA’s Secret Development Plan Draws Attention of State Agency

OHA’s efforts to not draw publicity of their plan to have developer Trammel-Crow demolish the historic Courthouse building and sell them the Telegraph Ave. property for their Low Income Housing Project development has now received the attention of the State Office of HIstoric Preservation.

OHA’s attempt to negate procedure and not apply the Section 106 process to their plan has prompted Milford Donaldson, the State Historic Preservation Officer, to advise them that, “does not appear appropriate for OHA to include the demolition of a property as a condition of purchase.”

Below the copy of the email is an OHA document that states “The Authority receives federal funds for its public housing program.”





New Emails Released From OHA

After first being stonewalled by Oakland Housing Authority in our request to look at documents per Public Information laws, OHA has relented and released (as they promise on their website) important emails revealing communications between OHA director Phil Neville and developer Trammell-Crow. These documents are also available as PDFs in our Documents section.



Police Action at OHA Building

On May 7th at 4:30PM, Oakland police rolled up to the OHA owned and managed building on 30th St. and MLK. Over a dozen police squad cars and vehicles were parked along MLK and parts of 30th. Crime is a big problem with OHA managed housing and this is a common site in front of their units. Now OHA wants to build a huge project just down the street from this one on Telegraph Ave. Neighbors and business people are concerned as OHA has a terrible track record of maintaining safety in their building. This will also set up a crime corridor between their two housing units along 30th street. This street has started to improve the last several years but this be a major setback if this project is approved.