Interesting Oakland news 3/25/11

The following nuggets were too big to relegate to the end of the last post, so they’re getting their own.

Former Oakland fire chief and San Diego city manager P. Lamont Ewell was named Interim Oakland City Administrator. That interim tag means five months, as Ewell was brought in to take care of the budget. Ewell also had a stint as Oakland’s assistant city manager. Dan Lindheim, who was placed in the City Administrator role by former mayor Ron Dellums, will stay on to handle various contract negotiations, including a Victory Court ballpark if it comes to fruition. This comes over two years after Robert Bobb was brought in as a consultant to clean up the budget mess left by his one-time successor, Deborah Edgerly. Bobb was offered the permanent position and declined it to take the helm of Detroit Public Schools. I’m not sure why Oakland’s had to bring in two people to do effectively one job twice in the last four years, but that’s gotta stop. Surely there’s someone out there who’s qualified and actually wants the Oakland City Administrator job.

Oakland is in the bidding for a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory campus. Among the locations being considered are the Oak-to-Ninth site which we’d covered here a while back, the area across the Nimitz from the Coliseum, where the Zhone Technologies building now sits, and the Kaiser Center (the office towers, not the arena). The Trib’s Cecily Burt reports:

Oakland has stiff competition. The cities of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Dublin, Richmond and Walnut Creek have all responded to university’s request for proposals. And UC could very well decided to scrap them all and build the second campus on land it already owns in Richmond. The university is expected to announce the finalists by mid-April, and could make the final choice in June at the earliest.

Nevertheless, Oakland’s putting out several potentially feasible sites. One of the unique wishlist items is space for a 3,000-foot long building. That would seem to rule out O29 since the length of the entire site is barely more than 3,000 feet and would require filling in the bay in a spot. However, this is a government project we’re talking about, so the environmental process could have exemptions or waivers to help it along. Other wishlist items include a desire for minimal environmental cleanup, which may be why LBL is looking beyond the brownfield albeit UC-owned Richmond Field Station.

Landing this project would be a huge win and would more than offset last year’s loss of Clorox’s research pool to Pleasanton. If Oakland doesn’t win the bid, it’ll lose jobs associated with the LBL-run National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, which is located near the Kaiser Center. At least 800 employees would move into the new second campus by December 2015.

How any of this fits with the ballpark is anyone’s guess, since there’s no clear cut favorite. Berkeleyside has more info on what LBL is aiming to build. The RFQ and clarifying Q&A can be found here. An internationally renowned research facility near either the Coliseum or Victory Court is bound to create some kind of halo effect, making surrounding land attractive for peripheral development. Then again, it could also hike up land values in what could be a very speculative market. Either way there’s huge potential. May the best bid win. Going back to the quoted paragraph – a decision could be made in June. Can you imagine a big, bureaucratic government agency (DoE) acting more swiftly and decisively than Major League Baseball? Say it ain’t so, Bud.

10 thoughts on “Interesting Oakland news 3/25/11

  1. Going back to your last sentence R.M., I’m in the camp/of the opinion that a decision by MLB has already been made…we just don’t know about it yet (but I imagine Mr. Wolff does). Anyhow, good luck to Oakland in landing LBL!

  2. I’m starting to get the feeling that Bud will not act until he leaves office in 2012.

    Good news for Oakland… Although, considering current events… I can’t say i’m thrilled to see the nuclear industry expanding… if that’s the work they would be doing.

  3. good luck to Oakland.. That’s huge if they land the project..

  4. Did Zhone go under?

  5. Wait… I am confused. If the Lab picks Oak to Ninth does that mean the long wait for the residential project there is officially over and that project dead?

    • @jeffrey – I think it was mostly dead a while back. Signature pinning its hopes to a ballpark or another developer to come in and buy O29 is not a sign of real faith.

      O29:Signature :: Pacific Commons:Wolff

  6. Oakland (especially downtown) is saturated with condos. I don’t see a need to add any more at this time. Now, If there were some kind of “upscale”, single-family project, then maybe.

  7. Jeffrey,
    Oak to 9th could be the lab and VC the housing/mixed-use development. Remember, the EIR will also cover alternatives to a ballpark, like housing/commercial development.
    David, I’ve read that the lab is also doing research into Antimatter, which could one day act as an energy source and fuel for starships (the geek in me speaking).

  8. too much housing downtown… plenty of room for a stadium though 😉

    Antimatter? That sounds scarier than nuclear!

  9. @Jeffro–when I’ve driven past Zhone’s offices off of 66th (Zhone Way), the building almost looks almost empty. There’s an “Available” sign on it, but some cars parked in the south lot, but not in front or in the north lot. Their website still lists Oakland as their North American Hdqtrs. and some current job listings are posted for Oakland too. Maybe they’ve really scaled back and are using just part of the building and want to lease the rest.

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