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Mayor Jerry Brown Accused Of Permitting Developer Forest City To Avoid Hiring Minority Contractors

This appeared in SF Bay View online and was written by local contractor Joe Debro.

Jerry Brown's Uptown plantation

by Joe Debro -

I examined all of the legal documents produced by the City of Oakland for the Forest City project. Contrary to the impression that Jerry Brown took the lead, this project was initiated under a Black mayor, Mayor Elihu Harris. Regardless of that fact, Jerry Brown elevated this project to a much higher level of developer greed.

The mayor probably got paid. His payment was probably much like the $50,000 he was paid by Zhone Technology after selling them Oakland land for $1.5 million below market.

Forest City is not required, by contract, with sanctions, to provide any community benefits. The City of Oakland leased them all of the land at below market prices. The City of Oakland provided all the financing for this project.

The City of Oakland used eminent domain to take some of the property from two business owners and give it to these private developers. The Forest City company was not required to spend any of their own money.

This is a no-money-down deal. Forest City developers were given about $100 million in subsidy. The lawyers, the architect, engineers insurance brokers nor the banks were voters in Oakland.

Forest City is guaranteed 12 percent profit. This same kind of redevelopment deal is made in San Francisco often.

After Oakland gave them the store, Forest City chose a white general contractor who did not have to bid competitively for this contract. The general contractor's company and the developer's company both have little or no diversity in their executive suites or their ownership.

This kind of Apartheid should disqualify them from doing business with the City of Oakland as it did with the country of South Africa. The policy of the City of Oakland and the City of San Francisco should be not to do business with companies that don't have diversity in their ownership or their executive suites. A remedy for such discrimination might be a joint venture.

The imprudent part of this deal for Oakland minority contractors is that they are being told that they now have a great business opportunity. They are going to be allowed and encouraged to compete for work on this project.

Minority contractors must bid, but the general contractor did not have to bid. This same general contractor now gets a chance to shop subcontractors' bids. The big building trades unions determine who trains and who works on this project.

Jerry Brown has created an Uptown plantation on which all of the overseers are white. Those who work for prevailing wages are white, and those who work for living wages are people of color. They will be the subcontractors who bid on this work.

The City of Oakland continues to export capital and import workers. So does the City of San Francisco.

I mentioned community benefits. Community benefits are those residuals that are left after the developer is gone. One of the things that should be required of anyone who builds in Oakland or in San Francisco is that 20 percent of each project should be affordable units.

The unions should be required to produce 100 union cards for our unemployed workers on a project of this size. The work force should be 50 percent City of Oakland or union workers.

That is, 50 percent of the total hours worked on this project must be worked by Oakland residents, without counting those who reside in Motel 6. There must be a requirement that the general contractor joint venture with a local general contractor at a 33 percent level, and the profit and overhead must be split. These requirements, along with sanctions, must be a part of the Development and Disposition Agreement.

The voters of Oakland and of San Francisco should insist that all redevelopment deals contain this community benefits package.

Joe Debro is co-founder of the National Association of Minority Contractors, a general engineering contractor and a bio-chemical engineer. He may be reached at Transbayd@aol.com.
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