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4 May

Opinion: East Oakland Major Housing Development Coming

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For 10 years, residents of East Oakland have been hearing promises about how the former Oak Knoll Naval Hospital site will be redeveloped by Irvine California based developer SunCal.

The Post will examine SunCal’s projected economic impact and benefits to the East Oakland community. East Oakland residents want to know if SunCal will commit to African American jobs, construction sub contracts and business opportunities in the commercial and housing phases of the development.

Twenty years ago, the Navy closed this hospital that had served many veterans who had fought for the equal rights of all to get jobs and build businesses. Now we want to know if SunCal’s plan will eviscerate the vicious cycle that has kept able-bodied Black men from being hired in this city.

Council President Larry Reid, who recently teamed up with councilmembers Desley Brooks and Rebecca Kaplan to spearhead an East Oakland resident-based cannabis initiative, will be asked where he stands on jobs and affordable housing opportunities that will flow to Oaklanders, like the former creek that ran through Oak Knoll. Several other developers have also proposed commercial and residential mixed-use projects downtown and throughout the city with promises of major community benefits and jobs for Oakland residents.

Uber’s much ballyhooed community benefits plan needs a lift since it fell flat after making promises it didn’t keep. But Reid predicts this much needed commercial and housing project is going to be a major victory for his East Oakland constituents. SunCal held some community meetings with the neighboring residents to gather their ideas and suggestions for the plan that was submitted to the City of Oakland.

The Oak Knoll community plan covers 187 acres with 935 homes. According to David Soyka, SunCal’s senior vice president of public affairs, “The project will create thousands of construction jobs, with a strong emphasis on local hire and job training for Oakland residents.”

Soyka said SunCal’s monumental plan calls for restoring the creek, creating walkways, bike and running paths and open public spaces that include a four-mile trail that hooks up to the regional trail system.

They even plan to build Monument Park, which will be dedicated to the Oak Knoll veterans. Before the project is scheduled to be formally presented to the City Council for a vote this summer we will continue to solicit reviews from community-based groups, the faith-based community and minority veterans.

As Oakland is now experiencing fires from damaged and abandoned buildings, Oak Knoll, too, was once the site of vandalized buildings and evidence of homeless encampments. Soyka says they have since “added full time security to prevent further damage to the property,” and he said SunCal will “ensure public safety and protect the surrounding communities.”

If the City Council approves SunCal’s plan, they expect to begin construction in 2018 with homes available in 2019. Larry Reid is also a veteran who has championed Hire Oakland policies, low-income affordable housing and minority business opportunities through the years.

Will SunCal follow his lead and build a monument to his policies by letting the economic benefits, like the former creek, flow to the East Oakland residents?


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