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Oakland Army Base - Mayor's Office was "Deep Throat" of issue

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A few weeks back I took a hard look at the proposals for the redevelopment of the Oakland Army Base and concluded that given the weaknesses of both, AMB/CCG (AMB Partners with California Commercial Investments) lacking really good cash flow analysis, and Federal Oakland Associates not having as much fiscal firepower but a complete proposal, and the racial split between them, that the two groups be combined.

Well, two days later I received a rather curious phone call from someone who said "Zennie, for the purpose of this call, I can't tell you who I am, but I read your column and have some information for you. I'm going to send it to the San Francisco Chronicle Oakland office for you." Well, the person who called didn't even leave his phone number for me to call, let alone meet him "on the bottom level of an underground garage just over the Key Bridge in Rosslyn," as was the case in The Watergate Scandal.

So I called the Oakland office of the SF Chron, where I blog, and talked to Henry Lee, who said he didn't see a package with my name on it. Yikes! That means two things: 1) it was never sent to me, or 2) someone else there got it. (Not cool.)

I think it was sent there.

So here I am in Georgia with my Mom, but not without resources or informants back home, even though it didn't matter in this case. Still, once I saw Cecily Burt's article in the Oakland Tribune today (Monday, July 26th) it didn't take me but a second to determine who the sender and caller was associated with: AE3 Partners and Oakland City Hall, and more specifically a representative from the Mayor's Office (but I'm withholding the name of the caller).

According to Burt's text, the 35-page, $6,000 document written by the Oakland engineering consulting firm for the Mayor's Office (but without Mayor Dellums' knoweldge) came to the same conclusions I did in my own column, only no one had to pay me $6K, and I didn't write 35 pages to come to it. Not to be flip, but the Mayor's Office just could have called me with an open communication, and the persons at the Chronicle who got the document could have emailed or called me. Plus, the rep from the Mayor's Office could have called to follow up with me. He didn't.

In Burt's report, she writes:

A copy of the report was mailed to the Tribune last week with a return address from City Hall. The package included an anonymous letter urging greater public scrutiny of both teams and urged a merger.

The leak of the report has irritated some who said they view the tactic as a last-ditch attempt to gain political support for Federal's proposal, which features 700,000 square feet of large-scale retail and other office uses. Others wondered why the report wasn't shared as part of the public record.

Well, I'm glad to know I was first to get the report before the Tribune, but it seems someone at the SF Chron took me out of a "scoop" - big deal. My constant philosophy is that analytical talent trumps "first get" of information all the time, and since the report came to the same conclusion I did, its nothing new.

The two groups should be merged. I know that, according to Burt's account, Councilmember and Vice Mayor Ignacio De La Fuente says that "Splitting the baby, giving a piece to this guy and a piece to that guy, would be the worst political decision we could make. We have plenty of room for retail. We only have one port and only one Army base." But he's wrong here. Look, when it comes to tequila, no one knows how to pick 'em better than Ignacio, and I should know because he introduced me to Don Julio, only the best, last year. But when it comes to economic development, he sometimes picks politics over logic.

The Oakland Army Base is so large it calls for a mix of uses: industrial, housing, and retail, to create a new town in town, but mostly industrial. Again, I'm not a fan of movie theaters (as the Federal proposal calls for), but some retail to serve whatever housing base goes there is necessary. In my view AMB/CCG should be the mater developer with Federal working within that umbrella.

Its too bad the Mayor's Office didn't play the issue straight-up with open communication (But then considering the whole A's issue, I'm not surprised). According to the Tribune, not even Mayor Dellums was given advance word of the report's existence. I understand from long experience with the City of Oakland that some people think they're holding all the information cards, but I consistently laugh at those people. None of this is complicated, and sharing ideas and information always works to everyone's advantage.
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