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Oak to 9th Group Gets 30,000 Signatures

Last Saturday as I was walking down Lakeshore, someone asked if I would sign a petition to force the Oakland City Council to adopt a new plan for the development generally called "Oak To 9th." According to the group sponsoring the petition drive, the Oakland City Coucil didn't keep a promise to preserve the gigantic 9th Avenue Terminal on the site.

I signed the petition, but remarked that with just one week ago, I didn't see how they were going to get the 10,000 additional signatures they needed.

But they got them.

Here's the total story:

Oak to 9th critics say referendum drive successful
Group collects enough signatures to force council to reconsider approval of development proposal
By Quynh Tran

With 30,000 signatures in hand, critics of Oak to 9th development hope to force a new plan along the 64-acre swath along the Oakland Estuary.

The signatures were submitted to the city clerk's office on Thursday.

"We're extremely pleased and gratified that Oakland voters responded to our pleas," said Helen Hutchison, president of the League of Women Voters of Oakland. Hutchison represents a coalition of neighborhood, civic, and environmental groups including the Sierra Club, Oakland Heritage Alliance, and the East Bay Bicycle Coalition.

The group needed signatures from 10 percent of registered voters or about 18,700 signatures for a referendum to force the City Council to reconsider its July 18 approval of the 3,100-residential unit project. A state law allows citizens 30 days to collect the signatures.

The council may repeal its decision or allow voters to decide at the June 2008 election. If a vote is scheduled, work on the project will be suspended until the election.

"We want to have a changed development; however that happens, we would be happy," Hutchison said.

Hutchison said the lack of a proper process has led to a development plan that will limit the public's access to the waterfront, cause traffic problems, and leave low-income residents at risk for health problems.

Councilwoman Pat Kernighan said the council will take up the issue when it reconvenes in September.

"When voters learn all the facts, they will agree it's good for Oakland," she said. "Hundreds of working families worked hard for the community benefits the project will provide, such as jobs and affordable housing."

Using volunteers and paid pollsters, the coalition group hoped to garner 26,000 signatures to have enough valid signatures.

Developer Michael Ghielmetti of Signature Properties in Pleasanton said the success of the referendum drive doesn't change his firm's course.

"We think we have a good project," Ghielmetti said.

The coalition and the Oakland Heritage Alliance also filed two separate lawsuits last month asking Alameda County Superior Court to overturn the council's approval of the development plan.
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