Town Business: On the Oakland City Council’s agenda for the week of January 18

On Tuesday night, the Oakland City Council is planning to renew two expensive court-mandated contracts for police oversight, establish a Privacy Advisory Commission, sell two large blocks of city-owned land in the Uptown to developers for $9.45 million, take a final vote on three new firearms safety laws, and discuss ways of providing shelter for the homeless.

[jump] Selling land Uptown: The city owns a lot of real estate that was once under the control of the Oakland Redevelopment Agency. Now all this land is being put up for sale. One chunk includes two surface parking lots on Webster and Valdez streets between 23rd and 24th streets in the Uptown. The city council will vote on whether to sell this land to a team of developers who are proposing a five-story 234 unit apartment building, a public parking garage with 242 spaces, and ground floor retail. The apartment building will include an affordable housing component — 24 apartments priced for renters who earn between fifty and eighty percent of the area median income. The city paid $4,050,000 for the property in 2010, and will sell the land for $9,450,000, earning the city a profit of $5,400,000. However, the city will purchase back the 242 space parking garage from the developer for $13,468,780 when it is completed.

In other real estate news, last week the Port of Oakland confirmed that it is authorizing Ellis Partners to sell its Jack London Square properties, which includes seven buildings and lots on the waterfront, to the CIM Group.

Oakland’s three new gun laws include a ban on storing firearms and ammunition in unattended vehicles on public streets, unless they’re in a locked container; a ban on “high capacity” gun magazines that can hold ten or more rounds; and an ordinance requiring guns stored in residences be secured in safes or with trigger locks. The NRA has already warned Oakland that it will sue the city to prevent implementation of the high capacity magazine ban and the in-home secured storage law. And it appears that the city will have to meet and confer with Oakland’s police officers’ union to negotiate the new rules for storing guns in vehicles. One of the main goals of the in-vehicle secured storage law is to reduce the number of guns stolen from police cars. According to recent reports, it appears that a significant number of guns are stolen each year from the vehicles of law enforcement agents in the Bay Area.

Police oversight contracts: In 2000, the City of Oakland and the Oakland Police Department were sued by more than one hundred people, most them Black, who alleged that OPD officers were racially profiling them, and in some cases planting drugs on them and brutally arresting them. To avoid having the city’s police department taken over by the federal government, the city signed a settlement agreement in 2003 promising to accomplish an extensive list of reforms. Overseeing this reform process are outside contractors. This week the city is reauthorizing two police oversight contracts. One contract with Police Performance Solutions, LLC is being extended by $650,000, bringing the total contract amount to $5,894,320. The second contract extension is with Warshaw & Associates for $165,000, bringing the total amount to $495,000. Since 2003, Oakland has spent millions in an effort to come into full compliance with the settlement agreement, and millions more in newly filed police misconduct lawsuits.

Privacy commission: Just over two years ago, many Oakland residents objected to a proposal that sought to establish a city-wide surveillance hub called the Domain Awareness Center (DAC). In response, the city scaled back the DAC to be a Port of Oakland-only surveillance system. The city council also set up an ad hoc committee to provide advice on ways to strengthen privacy protections as the DAC is built out at the Port. Now, the city is making this ad hoc committee permanent. The new Privacy Advisory Commission will will have nine members appointed by the mayor and approved by the council. One of the first and most important tasks of the privacy commission will be to draft a surveillance technology ordinance that will apply to all future surveillance technologies that Oakland might acquire and use. Tuesday night’s vote will be the second reading of the ordinance establishing the privacy commission.

Homelessness Crisis: Last year the city allocated $260,000 for programs to assist the homeless. Tomorrow night the city council will consider a range of assistance programs and a new allocation of as much as $6,590,000 toward helping the homeless. Ideas include expanding the number of winter shelter beds in Oakland by as many as fifty, subsidizing the Oakland Housing Authority’s transitional housing voucher program, and creating a “tiny-homes” pilot program to house the homeless in small, “flexible” shacks.

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