A Bay Area Journalist's First-Hand Account Of How Mayor Jerry Brown Screwed Over Oakland On His Way To Sacramento



J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Oakland Unwrapped Column
UrbanView Newspaper
December 12, 2001

"History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce." - Karl Marx

"Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." - Corinthians

"There’s no puzzles in politics that you can’t solve. Just pieces that ain’t been shook out the box yet." - Unknown

Some more pieces have shaken out of the puzzle box that is Mayor Jerry Brown, enough that I think it is finally putting together a pretty decent picture of the Oakland we may be left with when he’s gone.

Look no further than the pending Jack London Square Partners (JLSP) deal for where things are headed in this city. In case you missed the news, Port Commissioners Phil Tagami and John Protopappas have announced plans to sell the core buildings at the center of Jack London Square to private developers JLSP. (Tagami and Protopappas happen to be Mayor Brown’s most recent political handlers, now that the sexual harassment scandal keeps Jacques Barzaghi in the background.) The Square properties deal was put off temporarily last week, but is scheduled to be finalized at the Port Commission meeting on December 18th.

Brown, of course, seems to hope that we won’t connect him to this deal so long as he doesn’t open up his mouth about it. But who else could have given the go-ahead?
This is becoming one of those classic Brown Administration operations in which these guys take on an actual city problem (the fact that the port real estate ventures are losing money), work a deal out in private over months of time, and then foist a packaged "solution" on the public at the last minute, with little explanation, and little or no time for us to study it or make any comment. There are many ways to describe that type of a government. Democracy is not one of them.

I wrote about a few of the problems with this deal last week. But there are many more. Among them:

* The Port Commissioners are saying that they are making this deal because the port is losing money on real estate ventures. If this is so, why is the Port proposing selling the central Square properties that are making the most money, while keeping the outlying Square properties on either side that are making the least money?

* There is a conflict of interest inherent in this deal that is detrimental to the city’s interests. The Port proposes selling the central businesses to the same group, Jack London Square Partners, who they have already picked to develop the rest of the Square’s real estate. This gives JLSP an almost unlimited ability to manipulate their development decisions so that they will make the most money out of the deal, while the port and the city will make the least. And the way the deal is structured, the Port will be practically powerless to stop it.

* One of the partners in JLSP is Cargill Corporation. Cargill has not been known for its real estate ventures. It started out as a midwestern agricultural business, but it’s main venture on the West Coast has been production of salt from our coastal tidelands. They are a major owner of Bay wetlands areas. One wonders what their further interest might be along the Oakland estuary, and whether the Jack London Square deal might be only a part of a larger piece that we haven’t yet been told about.

Oakland supposedly became a city to a great degree out of a dispute over our port. The word is that Oakland’s first mayor, Horace Carpentier, had the town incorporated only so that it could turn around and grant him the deed to all the city’s waterfront property. It took riots and Supreme Court appeals and 60 years before the city’s citizens could get it back again. With the port in public hands, Oakland prospered. Now, a hundred years later, Jerry Brown is opening the doors for the privatization of Oakland’s waterfront lands.

Has he really made a case that this will leave us better off?