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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Oakland Army Base Tenants Have Still Not Signed Leases For Relocation; Reid Blames Quan For Port Inaction

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL//ARMY BASE | The brisk removal of tenants at the former Oakland Army Base before this September is of utmost importance to the City of Oakland. However, it needs to pick up the pace or risk the embarrassment of losing out on over $176 million in federal funding to refresh the lucrative port property into a driving economic force for the city. In the meantime, the city and Port of Oakland continue to struggle with relocating some of the remaining businesses as precious time continues to be lost.

The city’s property manager, John Monetta, said three of the four businesses still operating at the base had unlawful detainers filed Tuesday morning against them by the city. All four have previously signed stipulations agreeing to vacate their properties, however, but their movements have been slow. Monetta told the Oakland City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee on Tuesday afternoon, the timeline to gain site control of the entire property before Sept. 3 has been shrunk from roughly two months to 45 days. The countdown began yesterday, said Monetta.

When the four businesses will be off the property is still unclear. Monetta told the committee Aug. 1 is a possibility, but representatives and owners from the affected businesses disagreed with the assessment. One representative from Pacific Coast Container Logistics said, although they do not intend to object to the unlawful detainer, they are still at least five weeks away from beginning the process of moving from the former base.

A disconnect between the city administration and the Port of Oakland was evident Tuesday when the committee was told few of the tenants had yet to even sign leases for new digs with the port. Assistant City Manager Fred Blackwell said the lack of a signed agreement was news to him, while Councilmember Larry Reid chided Oakland Mayor Jean Quan for not doing enough to seal the deals at the port.

“We are where we are right now and it seems to me where not getting things done,” said Reid, who asserted Quan or someone on staff should have pushed along the foundering lease negotiations. “It’s almost like were not focusing on bringing this to some conclusion.” Reid asserted Quan’s power among the port’s commissioners is evident since she has appointed a good number of them. He added, if he had known the leases at the port had not been signed, “I would have been on their butts, but I’m not the mayor.”

Alex Rosenthal, outside counsel for the city, said the timetable for removing tenants through legal means could add another week to the timetable, if uncontested by the tenants. California courts, said Rosenthal, typically expedite unlawful detainers, which could speed up the process and ultimately lead to a writ of execution allowing the city to summon the sheriff to evict tenants. The presence of stipulated judgments, said Rosenthal, however, suggests the tenants are unlikely to contest any legal maneuvers.

Bill Aboudi, the co-owner of one of the businesses affected and the tenant without an unlawful detainer filed against it, Oakland Maritime Support Services, says all the remaining tenants want to move. “The decisions are not in my hand, they are in your hands and the propaganda that you listen to,” said Aboudi. “Do I want to fight? No. I just want to run my businesses.”

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