A month after a very disheartening and disenchanting decision by the City of Oakland to award the project to our competitor, I'm still trying to make sense of it, with no luck in coming up with a satisfactory rationale beyond the most cynical. While disappointing, we truly believe that we proposed the best and highest use for the building, considering Oakland's needs, the historic significance of the building, the high economic impacts attainable, the sustainable community benefits embedded, the unprecedented community and institutional partnerships forged, the arts-centric programmatic offerings, and the financial commitments secured.
Given the newfound interest, investment and opportunities that exist in Oakland, and the current climate of discontent in the city's record of executing equitable developments, community benefits and responsible disposition of public assets, I think a vision-forward approach is only appropriate. While everything understandably always comes down to the money, when you put money and a subjective assessment of risk first, you invariably clip your wings in terms of the heights you can achieve and what is ultimately possible. In turn, Oakland is, and historically has been, relegated to taking what it gets instead of getting what it wants.
Moving forward, we hope that you will all remain diligent in holding city officials and the developer accountable to their stated commitments to listening to and engaging a diverse community, and to implementing an authentic process to create a space which addresses Oakland's needs and desires first.
The district councilperson has asked that you share your ideas about future uses for this Oakland icon by sending your input to his staff member. You can find this information and also contact city officials at the contacts on our site- www.1LMoakland.com/take-action.
The developer has also committed to conducting a listening tour, and was charged by council with identifying an alternative plan to the current strategy of re-purposing the Oakland Auditorium arena as office and retail space. While select councilpersons and the developer have suggested that the arena will ultimately not be retained for its historical uses, it's important to ensure that an authentic and transparent effort is put forth to explore the options. We obviously don't agree with the assessment based on the opinion of our team of professionals, but that said, your voice and insights are necessary to this process.
Lastly for now- the mayor, city staff, council and even our detractors all conceded that our vision for a hotel, hospitality school and comprehensive workforce training facility in partnership with OUSD and the Peralta colleges was innovative, exciting and warranted an earnest effort to pursue the vision on another site. Our team, including our investment and community partners are also very much interested in pursuing this vision, so your voice also needs to be heard in ensuring that there is some follow through and that city officials consider our "community benefit by design" strategy when implementing new economic, workforce, community and cultural development initiatives- through the mayor's Director of Equity and Strategic Partnerships, the Department of Race and Equity, and frankly, as a standard mode of operation moving forward.
The heart and soul of the city depends on it.
Stay tuned, stay informed and stay engaged,