Oakland invites new proposals for site of controversial residential development

OAKLAND (BCN) — The city of Oakland is seeking new proposals for a publicly-owned parcel of land near Lake Merritt where a controversial residential development was already slated in an apparent effort to comply with state law.

A city memo dated Tuesday invites developers to submit proposals for the nearly 1-acre parcel at East 12th Street and Second Avenue within the next 60 days.

The City Council had already approved the sale of the parcel for $5.1 million in June for a 298-unit residential high-rise with 2,000 square feet of ground-level retail space, despite protests that the deal was potentially illegal.

Protesters even shut down a City Council meeting in May, preventing one vote, but the Council rescheduled and approved the sale to UrbanCore Development on June 16.

But a second reading of the sale was abruptly postponed last week after a memo from City Attorney Barbara Parker leaked to the East Bay Express showed that the Council was advised in February that the plan was likely illegal under the state’s Surplus Land Act.

That law requires the city to make any surplus land available for proposals from affordable housing developers and to give priority to plans to build affordable housing. If a market rate development is built instead, at least 15 percent of the units must be set aside as affordable housing.

After the May protest, City Councilman Abel Guillen renegotiated the deal to include 30 affordable units, still falling short of the 15 percent required under state law. The plan that eventually passed included no affordable units, but UrbanCore agreed to pay $8 million toward affordable housing at another unspecified site.

Eastlake United for Justice member Monica Garcia, who opposed the sale, said in a statement Thursday, “We are very excited about the city’s decision to comply with the law and address community concerns by re-opening the process.”

“As we move forward we urge the city to work with the community to ensure that affordable housing is built on the East 12th parcel, and remain true to the idea that public land should be used for the public good,” she
said.

Nonprofit law firm Public Advocates warned before Parker’s memo was leaked that the sale was likely illegal under the Surplus Lands Act.

Staff attorney David Zisser said his group would continue to watch to make sure the city followed the law.

“The community made this happen through unrelenting pressure and with the law behind it,” Zisser said.

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