As mentioned last week, the Planning Commission approved a 40-story tower at 1314 Franklin. The tower approval had been delayed two weeks while the Oakland Chinatown Coalition (OCC) and the Black Arts Movement and Business District (BAMBD) worked with the tower’s developer to secure a better community benefits agreement (CBA) for the project.
Below is a statement from the Community Coalition for Equitable Development, the main advocacy organization for both OCC and BAMBD, about the agreement the groups made with the developer.
Last week’s approval of yet another downtown development project [1314 Franklin]--this one a massive, 634-unit tower--actually signifies a win-win-win for developers, labor unions, and community advocates who have been pushing hard for equitable development and consideration of displacement impacts over and above the city’s impact fees, which do not address direct mitigation in the neighborhoods where development is happening. After months of negotiation, and a delayed vote by the Planning Commission to allow for more time, the Community Coalition for Equitable Development resolved a number of key issues with the developer, including on-site affordable housing, local hire, displacement mitigation, cultural retail, small business support, open space concerns, and the use of public art fees.
While we are not yet at liberty to discuss the specifics of this agreement, we would like to address the false narrative being pushed by developers and pro-development advocates, which has unfortunately been repeated in the media, despite there being no direct evidence to support those claims. Most of the assumptive opinions put forth thus far have not been privy to specific details of CBAs which have been negotiated, and some of what’s been said and reported has conflated one development for another, as if there are no differences whatsoever between each individual project for which community advocacy has resulted in CBAs. It’s disingenuous, for example, to equivocate a project announced before the imposition of impact fees, with a project which appeared on the Planning Commission calendar after impact fees, since that changes the entire economic composition of both the project and CBA negotiations.
In actuality, CBAs are not responsible for market shifts, or for a project which didn’t have financing in the first place being unable to find financing after the fact. Community advocates are also not responsible for projects in which the developer always intended to sell the property. It’s simply factually incorrect to infer that CBAs are the reason construction has not yet started on some of these projects, and also reflects wishful thinking which doesn’t take into account that there are many economic factors which may be encountered in the process from a proposed project to a finished building. In the case of this most recent project, the project’s financing was never in question, so the idea that a CBA could cause their project not to be built is inherently false. In reality, our Coalition worked closely with the developer to reach a mutually beneficial understanding which not only allows the project to go forth, but does so in a way which reflects and respects community concerns. This model actually sets a new baseline for collaboration between developers and community, and shows that it is possible to do things other developers have claimed was impossible--as long as there is sincere intention on the developers’ part to work with the neighborhood. What is needed now are official city policies around CBAs and community process, so that advocates don’t have to continually go through the lengthy and intensive process of appealing planning decisions at the last minute for each new project.