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City Council: Village Marketplace Gets Nod, Police Chief Explains Occupy Actions

Monday's meeting was a love fest for the proposed development. But Councilman Jim Prola asked Chief Spagnoli some pointed questions about sending San Leandro police to the Occupy Oakland protests.

The proposed Village Marketplace project got an unofficial nod when the City Council met Monday night.

Redevelopment official Cynthia Battenberg repeated an estimate that the city would lose about $3 million on the project.

That's the difference between the $6 million the city paid for the old Albertson's property on the 1500 block of East 14th Street and the $3 million it is thought to be valued at today.

But council members accepted Battenberg's view that the retail development and plaza would repay that investment by giving downtown a boost.

The briefing was meant to assure developer David Irmer that the city had no significant objections to the project before he and redevelopment staff iron out details like how much he should pay the city for the 1.7 acre parcel.

Council members by and large praised the project. The only mildly discordant note came from Councilman Jim Prola.

Although he supported the project overall, he questioned the labor policies of Fresh & Easy, the grocery chain that would be the development's anchor tenant.

"What would happen if the store tried to organize," Prola asked, saying he intended to follow up with company officials.

 San Leandro police sent to Oakland

Prola also asked a pointed question when Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli reported on the two times to help police the Occupy Oakland protests.

Spagnoli said the first time was on the morning of Oct. 25, when Oakland officials evicted campers from Frank Ogawa Plaza.

The second time was the the night of Nov. 2, when San Leandro police helped quell the violence that erupted after a peaceful, day-long general strike.

Spagnoli said she acted under a mutual aid agreement that allows her to decide whether the city can afford to help to another jurisdiction in an emergency.

She said the two deployments cost about $20,000.

Prola expressed relief that it hadn't cost more but questioned the rationale for the first deployment.

"What is the emergency on the 25th with people sleeping," Prola asked.

Spagnoli said there were public health issues with the encampment. She said Oakland officials had requested aid because they knew breaking it up would cause civil unrest.

Prola went on to criticize the behavior of Oakland police during the Occupy protests and during labor actions in the past.

In the only public comment on Spagnoli's presentation, Mike Katz-Lacabe, a school board member and political activist, said the mutual aid process left all the decisions up to law enforcement officials.

He said there needs to be more civilian control of police departments.

Leah Hall November 09, 2011 at 01:23 AM
Regarding the Villiage Marketplace approval process, have any of these questions already been posed and addressed within city council and other city run forums: 1. Why is the city focused on building new commercial space while there is a considerable amount of vacant and recently torn down buildings in the downtown area? Would it be more advantageous economically and from a city planning perspective for the city to a) focus on selling and leasing existing vacant commercial space first? and b) hold on to the Albertson's site a few more years in order to create a more advantageous project? 2. While acknowledging Councilman Proala's reservations, I am also concerned about the following: has the design team adequately considered the long term viability of these national chains, especially Fresh & Easy. If these stores fail in San Leandro and are boarded up within a few short years, are the negative impacts likely to outweigh the short lived positive impacts? Consider reports such as this one which appeared in the Financial Times dated 4/19/2011, "Case strengthens for Tesco to ditch Fresh & Easy" "Fresh & Easy, Tesco’s underperforming US groceries chain, belies its name....Break-even was originally pencilled in for 2010. That paradise has now been postponed until 2012-13..." http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/ed7de1c2-6a6c-11e0-a464-00144feab49a.html#axzz1dADsc7LX
Fran November 09, 2011 at 04:25 AM
And Leah, why were you not at the meeting last night? I was there to throw in my 2 cents. Of course, F & E balance sheet is bleeding red, but who cares? Our city council loves it. When the projections of property taxes, sales taxes were up on the screen, they were talking about the misty fountain. LOL. It was like the Twilight Zone.
Fran November 09, 2011 at 04:35 AM
"Why is the city focused on building new commercial space while there is a considerable amount of vacant and recently torn down buildings in the downtown area?" Leah, not only that, they want to tear down the union bank building! An occupied building. For another one of these projects. Why don't you go question them on that? haha
Leah Hall November 09, 2011 at 07:28 AM
Thank you for attending and speaking up at the meeting, Fran! I like fountains as much as the next person - but Twilight Zones, not so much.
David November 09, 2011 at 02:42 PM
And that's really more to my posts on this topic--I don't particularly care if a private enterprise is willing to throw away shareholder money on an ill-advised investment, but I have to wonder if there's really a need for F&E or any grocery store in that location, or if it will end up being another large vacant retail location on E. 14th in the near future.
Craig Williams November 09, 2011 at 08:11 PM
Is there a saturation point for retail in a city?We pull in quite a few dollars from both our San Leandro and Oakland people via our retail sector which is quite strong with Costco , Walmart ,KMart, Home Depot, Bay Fair and downtown to mention some of it.Downtown to me always seems pretty busy . Its not easy finding parking space, not impossible but not easy.We're 99% consumer and 1 % citizen.
Leah Hall November 09, 2011 at 08:27 PM
I'm not clear what you mean by saturation, but I'll try to respond to your question by reframing it using a couple of articles on mixed-use development which I linked on a previous Patch article (and again below). “With a receptive mindset among citizens and elected officials, such places should be infinitely replicable; doing so may actually be easier than trying to /squeeze a little more spending/ out of our citizens’ mostly fixed disposable income.” "It is common to think that big box stores (e.g. Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Target) and shopping malls will bring your city or county some good tax revenue, but in a recent analysis of different types of urban development in Sarasota, FL (my hometown), leading urban planner Peter Katz, Director of Smart Growth/Urban Planning for Sarasota County and founding executive director of the Congress for the New Urbanism, found that this is not the case." "Mixed-Use Downtown Development Creates the Most Tax Revenue" http://ecopolitology.org/2010/07/28/mixed-use-downtown-development-creates-the-most-tax-revenue/ "Mixed-Use Downtown Development Puts Standard Malls' Tax Yield to Shame" http://citiwire.net/post/2133/ Of course, every state's tax structure is different, and these articles are about Florida projects. The studies to seem to be fairly current, one is dated 2010.
Craig Williams November 09, 2011 at 09:09 PM
I would support mixed use, with residential above retail. Jerry Brown wanted that in Oakland on San Pablo Ave. but had opposition from local residents. Village Marketplace is further away from local residents. Chain stores have a big advantage in terms of development since stand alone independent retailers are almost never part of the new development process. Wage wise retail is a pay check away from poverty. I wish our educators and elected officials would focus more on technical training and high tech instead of waiters and retail.
Fran November 09, 2011 at 10:42 PM
If there's a positive to this economic downtown, then I'd agree the shelving of the Crossings is it. Our schools are overcrowded as it is. They call it smart Growth because it smartly fattens their wallets. These consultants, architects and developers make tons of money. Again, Leah, follow the money. I bet you that Peter Katz guy lives in a huge mansion and has three suvs. At any rate he doesn't live in one of these sh#t hole developments. Even if all that residential was to be built, the city would see very little of the property taxes, most would be used to pay off the bonds. The same with this Village Marketplace, as residents we have very little to gain, except perhaps a little convenience if you choose to shop there. Tomorrow the oral arguments begin for the redevelopment lawsuit. If anyone wants updates, let me know.
Leah Hall November 10, 2011 at 12:30 AM
You might be right, Fran. I'd love to take a look at the Crossings. Is that what was previously proposed for the Albertson's/Lucky site? Speaking from experience, most architects and related designers I know are in the profession to help make positive change and are modestly compensated. When I went to school, at least, we all were pretty wide-eyed. I'm wiser but still not a pessimist, at the end of the day. Not to say there aren't some greedy designers and architects too, but far more are hard working and care a great deal about what they do.
Leah Hall November 10, 2011 at 12:52 AM
Turns out, I believe, that Fran is talking about the project proposed at the BART station (which I presume is on hold due to the uncertainty of the Redevelopment Agencies in California). The architectural firm for that project was one of the best in multi-family housing. I would be very excited if it gets back in line, a great firm that does thoughtful, community engaged projects! http://www.dbarchitect.com/images/dynamic/articles/article_rows/attachment/2009-10_designing_tods.pdf
David November 10, 2011 at 02:23 AM
The design doesn't matter, the implementation of TOD, with its massive set-aside for "very-low income" housing would be an enormous negative for SL, taking our tax dollars away from city services and delivering it to the developer and also doing absolutely nothing to bring people who can spend money in the downtown, again, by definition "very low income" people don't have money to spend. Never mind it makes no sense to take tax dollars to build new housing when there's an oversupply of it.
Leah Hall November 10, 2011 at 02:46 AM
The design doesn't matter? Never mind the knife in my architect heart... Try telling that to the dearly departed Steve Jobs. Once again, I believe you are doing a marvelous job of cherry picking here. Great if you are fond of pie, not so great when you are trying to bring lots of folks together to look forward...
David November 10, 2011 at 01:46 PM
the design doesn't matter when the idea itself (TOD) is hugely flawed from multiple angles (financing, marketplace dynamics, downtown vitals, etc etc).
Jim November 12, 2011 at 03:24 PM
We need cheaper housing as well as good paying jobs. I would not support Britis owned Tesco coming to take more money out of the community to support international corporations thatl see us as azip code and profit margin. people can't live on minimum wages while the 1% go to the Carribean we are stuck in traffic trying to find good jobs! We need a living wage and health care for all not globalized handouts to low balling companies like Fresh &EZ!!!
David November 12, 2011 at 04:59 PM
Do you voluntarily pay more at local grocery shops? If you haven't noticed, housing has gotten much, much cheaper lately for some reason...and continues to do so (down another ~5% this year so far, and 40% from the peak). Indeed, inflation-adjusted housing prices are now the same as they were in 1999-2000, and if forecasts are correct, will hit 1997-1998 prices in the next year or so.
David November 12, 2011 at 05:40 PM
Economics lesson from Gene Simmons: “The mess is our fault – corporations have no responsibility. Capitalism is the best thing that ever happened to human beings. The welfare state sounds wonderful but it doesn’t work. Governments hand out more money than they have to support welfare and they land in debt. Then they have to borrow money… that’s bad business."
Linda November 13, 2011 at 05:18 PM
Why not convince or put energy into Trader Joes who says we dont fit there demographics, As we have to go to Castro Valley or another city to get very reasonable priced and organic produce, why not invest in Pelton center make over and bringing in advertisement for what is there and promote it, it is a pleasant experience to go to this area, this space dose not need another restraunt or coffee shop, to me all of this is a very shallow look at what really would be good for the down town,

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