A developer has big plans for Oakland’s Bates Street corridor, but will zoning laws and residents permit it?

The intersection of Bates Street and Boulevard of the Allies would be revamped under Oakland Gateway Ventures' plans. (Photo by John Hamilton/PublicSource)

It all started as a plan to build an apartment complex. In 2014, a development group spent $2.6 million to buy up a strip of homes in Oakland, knock them down and put up a high-rise. Now, the group has bigger ambitions to build a combination of a hotel and apartments, the second largest parking garage in the state, an office building, new highway exits and a wider main road. It’s estimated to cost $650 million.

Who is building it and what could implementing a project of such scale mean for Oakland?

The developers that go by the name of Oakland Gateway Ventures [OGV] say this project would solve countless issues in the Pittsburgh neighborhood, from parking and traffic to unwanted sewer drainage. Problem is, this is bigger than anything Oakland zoning ordinances allow, and some Oakland representatives aren’t happy with how the developers are conducting business.

The May meeting

A typical Oakland community meeting might focus on parking woes, maybe loud college students. One community meeting in May, however, led Oakland residents to the revelation that their neighborhood may be due for a great change. A 19-acre, multimillion-dollar change.

State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, had called the meeting to gather community input on a proposed large-scale development near the corner of Bates and Zulema streets. OGV’s hotel plans from nearly four years ago are small potatoes compared to the blueprints of today.

Its plans have exploded. Besides the office building with green space on the roof, the hotel-apartment complex and the parking facility with 3,000 spaces, OGV now aims to restructure three highway exits, rearrange the sewer system, build a rainwater retention pond and add a new bike lane along Bates that would connect to the Eliza Furnace Trail.

But some community members were already concerned that OGV — which is composed of five senior partners — was not taking adequate care of the homes they purchased in recent years. Neighborhood leaders worried about the zoning laws that these structures would appear to violate. And a few community leaders felt the developers were misrepresenting the level of buy-in from other leaders.

Close to 40 Oakland residents sat among state senators, PennDOT representatives and city planning staff at the May meeting. Wheatley’s chief of staff, Kirk Holbrook, said the developers weren’t invited in order to focus the meeting on gathering community input, but this didn’t stop OGV from making its voice heard. To ensure residents were aware of the project’s most recent revision, OGV sent along a Powerpoint presentation for Wheatley to show at the meeting.

The presentation included the names of dozens of government officials and businesses — Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, UPMC, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the names of many lawmakers in the room.

Pittsburgh District 3 Councilman Bruce Kraus, among others, found this alarming. He, and all the other officials in the room, had only met with developers for “courtesy visits.” No one there had ever announced their support for the project.

“They’re logo-ing their materials such that this elected official or that entity is in support of the project,” Kraus told PublicSource. “It’s disingenuous… I’m being kind to use the word ‘disingenuous.’”

Bill Kane, one of the principal members of OGV, contested the idea that the presentation was misleading. The title of the slide in question read, “Stakeholder Outreach.”

“They’re just people we visited,” Kane said in an interview to PublicSource. “They don’t support the project.”

After hearing community pushback at the meeting, Wheatley also decided he could not support the project. His chief of staff, Kirk Holbrook, said that as a general rule, their office will side with residents when they strongly oppose a new development.

“Our objective is just to make sure the residents are heard,” Holbrook said. “There is no way we would support something that did not have the support of the community groups. Our hope is they’ll go back to the drawing board, they’ll continue hearing suggestions and they’ll be able to come up with something that will be seen as beneficial to both parties.”

Kraus said he met with one of OGV’s frontmen, Robert Dauer Jr., in September 2016 for a courtesy meeting to learn about the developers’ plans. At the time, he thought of the plan as a “pipe dream.”

Kane sees it differently.

“We want all the facts out there. If you see those, it’s hard to say no,” Kane said.

So what are the facts?

Blueprints

Kane said the project kept growing larger out of necessity. In 2007, he drafted up the idea to build an apartment complex, but over the past decade, each kink in their design forced a solution that would increase the scale of the project. Kane said they now have tentative plans to put a retail space and underground parking within the building.

One early design of the hotel high-rise was 20 stories. It was too tall and would shade people’s homes. Kane thought that would be disrespectful, so he added plans to knock down the shaded homes and build offices in their place. The office would be short on one side, leaving the homes across the street unshaded.

“The project grew,” Kane said. “People kept coming saying: ‘You gotta do this, you gotta do that.’”

Oakland Gateway Ventures has been in talks to purchase all of the properties on Bates Street down to I-376. They plan to widen the street and add a bike lane. (Photo by John Hamilton/PublicSource)

Kane claims once OGV showed the city their plans for the apartments, the city requested the developers to give 30 to 40 feet of their property to alleviate a 40-year-old traffic problem by widening Bates Street, adding right and left turn lanes at the Boulevard of the Allies and adding a bike lane. In exchange, OGV would get to build into Zulema Parklet that sits behind the property. Kane says OGV would leave the parklet open to the public and pay taxes on the green space. So widening Bates became a centerpiece of the project. Now they would widen the street all the way down to I-376.

This change meant restructuring the exits from the highway. According to OGV’s blueprints, both the Oakland and Glenwood highway exits would expand to two lanes, leading into a four-lane Bates Street and an extended Halket Street, respectively. Halket Street would then serve as another entrance into Oakland—the only one off of I-376 besides Bates Street. OGV would also build a ramp off the eastbound highway onto Second Street.

With the project now including state and federal roads, OGV is looking to partner up with the state to fund it. Kane said OGV will pay for all $650 million up-front with the hope that the state would pay them back for the highway portion in installments over the next 30 years. OGV would ask the state to pay interest at a fair-market bond rate.

It’s unclear at the moment just how much financial support the massive project has garnered outside of OGV. According to PennDOT’s press officer Steve Cowan, OGV informed PennDOT that they could get $50 million in federal funding through a congressman.

Kane said he’s met with U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., and the congressman showed “strong interest,” but has not committed any financial support.

Shuster’s transportation and infrastructure communications director Justin Harclerode confirmed Shuster and staff had met with the developers and “encouraged the group to continue working with PennDOT and the state in the ongoing development of their plans.” He added, "Congress does not earmark funds for specific projects."

Over time, Kane and his team started to look at the project differently. Stating that Pittsburgh, and partly Oakland, has been “an economic engine that has kept Southwestern PA running,” Kane wanted this project to be the “gateway” into Oakland. That meant adding one more piece.

“Don’t call it a parking garage,” Kane said.

Off of Bates Streets near I-376 in Oakland, Oakland Gateway Ventures plans to build the second largest parking garage in the state. They call it a multimodal parking facility. (Photo by John Hamilton/PublicSource)

If you call it the state's second largest parking garage, Kane would correct you. It will be the largest "multi-modal parking facility" in Pennsylvania, he says. OGV plans to build it halfway up Bates Street on the hillside. The facility would hold cars, bikes, UPMC shuttles, Pitt shuttles and Port Authority buses. It would have compressed natural gas, a bikeshare service, showers and even a laundry service, so bicyclists and nearby hotel customers could get their clothes cleaned.

Next to the parking facility, OGV also plans to construct a rainwater retention pond, which the hotel and parking facility would draw upon for plumbing water.

Seems like a cool project—what’s the problem?

What’s so farfetched about apartments, a hotel, offices and more parking in Oakland? For many, it comes down to city zoning laws.

The plot of land on which OGV plans to build their high-rise is currently zoned as “Oakland Public Realm-D,” a designation that permits buildings to be, at maximum, 85 feet tall. This means that even OGV’s initial plans were more than double what zoning allows; the current height proposal is undecided.

In addition, the team intends to build its parking facility on an area designated as “hillside” by the zoning code. Intensive development is not recommended in “hillside” zoning areas. They’re prone to flooding and landslides.

Sabina Deitrick, a lawyer who specializes in urban redevelopment, said there are too many channels that OGV would have to pass through to overcome zoning ordinances. A project like this would require OGV to appeal to both the city zoning board and the planning commission — a process that allows residents to share their opinions and concerns.

“They’ve got a lot of places to get through,” said Deitrick, who is also an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. “If all the Oakland groups show up at those meetings and are totally against the project, it won’t happen.”

Ray Gastil, director of city planning, said public testimony is built into the planning commission’s review process. At the moment, OGV is not far enough into its planning to schedule any hearings with the planning commission, but by the time they are, Gastil said community input will be important to the review process.

“We would expect them to have had a [public] meeting,” Gastil said.

Kane said in the future they plan to meet more with the community to hear their feedback. It’s been a challenge, he said, trying to keep residents in the loop while also attempting to do business.

“Community groups matter,” Kane said. The project is “so big. Everyone needs to get involved.”

The residents

Oakland residents have different outlooks on how this project will affect the community.

For example, OGV plans to raze a church for the Bates Street widening, but its pastor has nothing but positive things to say about the developers.

“They shared their ideas to make Oakland more accessible,” said Lance Rhoades, pastor of Tree of Life Open Bible Church on Bates. “Whenever I say, ‘Hi, we’re a church, we’re in Oakland,’ people go ‘I don’t want to go on Bates Street.’ If that’s what people outside of Oakland think of Oakland, then as people inside of Oakland, we have a responsibility to make that better.”

Rhoades added that OGV offered to help him find a new property for his church, going beyond what he expected.

Houses owned by Oakland Gateway Ventures on Bates Street are vacant. They will eventually be demolished. (Photo by John Hamilton/PublicSource)

But tensions are high regarding 219 properties in the area that OGV says it has signed contracts with the owners to purchase. Kane said only 11 of those properties were occupied by homeowners. The rest were rental properties.

But, for the few homeowners affected, the issue is not that OGV asked them to leave, it’s how they asked them to leave.

Paul Wieckowski, a resident of Oakland since childhood who owns a home off of Bates, said OGV “alluded” to the fact that there could be "eminent domain involved." That’s the power of the government to remove residents from their homes for the development of things like highways and public buildings.

“I’m not an unsophisticated guy,” said Wieckowski, adding that he was approached by OGV in early 2016 but has not signed any papers to move forward with selling his home. “I have a feeling that because I live in that area they think I’m less than capable.”

Kane denies OGV ever threatened eminent domain on anyone. In fact, according to real estate records, he overpaid for many Oakland properties.

By 2014, the group spent roughly $2.6 million to acquire a strip of homes along Bates Street between the Boulevard of the Allies and Zulema Street, paying much more than each house was valued. For instance, 3415 Bates St. was assessed at $55,700, while OGV paid $500,000 for the home.

Even if someone did threaten eminent domain in Pittsburgh, Deitrick said it would be an empty threat. “The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh is the only agency that can eminent domain in this city,” she said. The URA has confirmed it is not affiliated with OGV.

Some Oakland residents are also criticizing OGV for not properly maintaining the homes it has purchased along Bates. Since 2015, Rebekkah Ranallo, the director of external relations for the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation [OPDC], said her office has received an influx of calls complaining about the condition of OGV’s homes on Bates. The first buildings seen when motorists exit I-376 into Oakland, they say these homes have been occupied by vermin and littered with trash.

Almost every house along this strip has failed inspection since 2016, sending the developers to housing court twice in the past. Their last date in housing court was July 20 for the “accumulation of rubbish and garbage.” The day before their hearing, however, OGV sent someone to clean up. Liz Gray of the OPDC still showed up to court to make her organization’s displeasure known to the judge. Because of this, District Judge Eugene Ricciardi called OGV from the courtroom.

“I’m a little upset it took so long,” Ricciardi told Dauer Jr.

The violations had been outstanding since March. In the end, Ricciardi fined OGV $700. He also ordered them to present a maintenance plan to OPDC.

Dauer Jr. said  their contractor had become too busy to maintain the houses in the past few months and that it wouldn’t happen again.

“I don’t like that excuse,” Ricciardi said. “Live up to your responsibility for the future.”

Michael Dawida of the nonprofit Scenic Pittsburgh said he supported OGV’s project and was excited to see those abandoned homes disappear. Next to those homes are multiple billboards facing the Boulevard of the Allies.

“We’re gonna knock down some ugly billboards,” Dawida said. “You’re harming the community as a whole by not redeveloping [Oakland].”

The project has grown so large, Kane estimates that, upon city approval, it would take three to four years to accomplish. It’s worth it to him, though.

“People don’t realize,” Kane said. “This isn’t for me. Or my partners. It’s for Southwestern PA.”

Evan Bowen-Gaddy is a PublicSource intern. He can be reached at evan@publicsource.org.

Oakland Gateway Ventures' concept map:

(Courtesy Oakland Gateway Ventures)

  • Genoveve

    It’s good that OPDC is chiming in here, but I think their responses are a little tone-deaf to what some of these commenters are actually expressing. It’s not about OPDC’s stats, or even so much about this article anymore, but rather the double standard in OPDC’s actions. In Oakland. I am a 6th year student (2nd year grad) and Oakland resident. If OPDC “knows me by name” I am un aware. I have never been contacted or surveyed by them or anything else. I don’t own property but I do live here. I am a huge huge advocate for fair and affordable housing for low income families. I lived in low income housing most of my childhood and having that made a big difference to my family. I don’t think anyone disagrees that what OPDC does for the demographic it serves is a great thing. But for OPDC to say that they speak for Oakland and know what the people want is really misleading. The demographic that they serve is a tiny tiny fraction of Oakland’s population. The majority of Oakland is landlords and college students. We can argue if this is good or bad, but it is a fact. And it is not going to change unless Pitt, Carnegie Mellon, and Carlow move somewhere else. Affordable housing should be protected here, but is it stopping Oakland from shaping up? but maybe because of the colleges, there are better communities to invest in housing than Oakland? If OPDC’s housing plans can coexist with the colleges, why can’t they coexist with more business and better housing overall? Have we all visited other college towns? I’m embarrassed when friends visit me here. They can’t believe CMU exists in what is presently Oakland. Parkway onramp traffic. Lord. 2025 plan, let’s have it. Ogv plan, let’s have it. Let’s have it all. Change, change, change, not stonewalling.

  • Bennett R

    Hello from up north! My cousin in Shadyside just tipped me off to this conversation and I have read through Ms. Wilson’s/OPDC’s response posted on their website. I’m an attorney who used to own a rental property in Oakland and have since sold it and retired to the northeast. First I will say that OGV has a lot of work to do, and what their proposed project is lacking is not unusual for a project at this stage. Many of Wilson’s rebuttal points are valid, though one can presume easily resolved as OGV continues its planning. Rome was not built in a day. However, it appears that if OPDC had their way, Rome would never be built at all. What I find most striking and perhaps troubling about this entire exchange is OPDC’s strangely militant response to a balanced news article and a fledgling project that appears to begin to address a lot of problems in and surrounding Oakland. I do not use the term “militant” lightly; as an attorney, I can assure you that the language used by Wilson to presumably defame OGV absolutely qualifies as slander. OGV, you have a case. Take screen shots of Wilson’s statements representing OPDC in the event that any of it disappears from OPDC’s website. It is a very odd, defensive, and I might even say risky and irresponsible stance for a non-profit organization that claims to serve the neighborhood in question. Were I on the board of directors, I would suggest new leadership immediately, for the mere fact that as a board member, I too am liable, if good sense does not prevail otherwise. I’ve never known a Director who drags their company through muck to stay employed long, so perhaps the situation will resolve itself. My gut feeling is that her board has not reviewed her statements, or are simply altogether uninterested. Why would an organization dedicated to planning and development seek to obstruct planning and development? This raises a lot of red flags about OPDC and their business practice. What is the public to take from this? That only OPDC can build it but no one else can? It looks like OPDC is playing it safe with a 2025 Master Plan, in which timelines are vague to non-existent, deflecting any expectation of results for at least the next 8 years, allowing Ms. Wilson a lengthy vacation. You don’t have to be a detective to see that something’s not adding up here. Also, in the closing paragraph of her rebuttal, Wilson asks, “Where is the money coming from?” when in fact her own organization, a publicly funded non-profit, does not disclose this information about itself, save for an “Eat at Chipotle” fundraiser on August 7th. It is inconceivable that Ms. Wilson is marching for the profits of refried beans alone. Follow the money. Disclosure is standard practice among non-profits. Where is OPDC’s money coming from? The Master Plan boasts 4 funding sources, one of which is “Anonymous.” It is unclear if this relates to the organization or simply the plan. Still, not a very solid stance to cast stones from, and suspicious to say the least. This considered, the gall with which Wilson carelessly flings the accusation “possibly fraudulent” at OGV is, again, baffling. After rereading both the original article and rebuttal, it is unjustified and appears desperate. Marty Griffin or another investigative reporter should take a close look at this. Have OGV and OPDC talked recently, or has OPDC completely shut the door on them? While I had the Oakland property, I recall business owners complaining that OPDC frequently presented misleading facts and statistics. I too have heard the stories of OPDC (Wilson in particular) censoring individuals at public meetings, and deliberately holding meetings without notifying relevant parties with invested interest, preventing them from making a case. Again, I’m no detective, but I do know the law, and I do know Oakland, and all signs point to a severe lack of ethics at Oakland Planning and Development. I applaud their mission of “building a better Oakland and helping neighbors thrive.” It is very noble and worthwhile, which makes this viscous commitment to keeping development out all the more perplexing. Where is the Mayor on this? Surely enough OPDC complaints have built to reach his doorstep. As a former property owner, it’s very sad to see Oakland “cutting off its nose to spite its face.” The 16 million dollar financing of affordable rental housing that OPDC just closed on is nothing compared to the billions in revenue and thousands of jobs that the organization has denied Oakland through, as Sally put it, “petty politics and stuffing its own coffers.” Though do keep in mind, OPDC has lost many of these battles too, so there may be hope for a better Oakland yet. Keep looking for the facts and follow the money. Best wishes, and thanks for allowing this old timer to vent a bit about old times. May justice prevail.

  • Melissa

    Basically a lot of people made decisions based upon something that the OPDC never officially approved. Not good for the community, and the road and houses need updated – but I think it serves as a lesson for people not to entertain discussions with developers promising the world until the deal has been fully approved…

  • Oakland Planning
    • T S

      Yep, we’ve read it. More of the same. You’ve been called out as anti-development, unless you’re doing the developing. Your response kind of makes that obvious. May as well own up to it! You guys would call air a bad idea unless you came up with it. Developers know this, Oakland residents may not – but they should!

      • JP

        As an organization, It’s not in OPDC’s best interest to support private development in Oakland. To understand why the fight development, It’s critical to understand where their funding comes from. Community Development Corporations are intended to help empower poor neighborhoods to lift up their citizens and attract reinvestment into their communities. CDCs in low income communities can get hundreds of thousands of dollars in government grants and from corporations looking to shed tax liability. And if a CDC does their job well enough, if it lifts its community out of poverty, the CDC actually puts itself out of a job.

        So why does OPDC exist? Oakland has high property values, has no problem attracting investors, and most of its population consists of middle class college students who are financially supported by their parents. Why is OPDC being subsidized with tax dollars that would otherwise go to a community with real needs? Income. If you just look at census data, Oakland’s residents have very low incomes. Here’s a reference: https://project.wnyc.org/median-income-nation/#13/40.4382/-79.9561

        So who are these thousands of low income residents in Oakland? Students, of course. OPDC knows how to game the system. In this case, the government doesn’t differentiate between a college freshman who earns $15,000 a year in a work study, and the single mother struggling to get by on minimum wage. If it represents low income census tracts, it qualifies for government subsidies.

        But the fact is, OPDC will only continue to exist if it can prevent Oakland from gentrifying and renewing its residential neighborhoods. Left to market forces, too much new development could create housing for both students and non-students in Oakland. The higher rents that new apartments and renovated single family homes could command would attract higher income individuals. If enough higher income individuals moved to Oakland, OPDC would no longer be able to claim these lucrative grants and tax credits. So instead of encouraging reinvestment and redevelopment, OPDC must strive to oppose it. It’s not fair, but it makes for interesting politics.

        • T S

          JP: great write up with a lot of good info, and your closing statement hit the nail on the head. Thanks for putting this out there. An OPDC response to this would be interesting to see. I’ve been talking about this matter with a lot of colleagues since this article went up and posted a comment on behalf of one of them yesterday who used to own rentals in Oakland (which has since been deleted?) and one of his points was all the jobs, revenue, and overall improvement Oakland has missed out on due to OPDC’s anti campaigns. OPDC does good for low income housing but at what cost? It’s like robbing peter to pay paul or healing the wound while killing the patient. Discouraging to think that one can’t exist alongside the other, but I can’t believe that there’s not at least some common room for these two ideals to benefit each other.

        • Oakland Planning

          Contrary to “JPs” assertion that we are primarily funded by tax dollars, only 12% of our budget is government contracts to provide specific workforce and housing programs.

          Oakland is a neighborhood with real needs. Just ask the hundreds of seniors on fixed incomes, single mothers working several jobs, persons with disabilities, and regular working people who live here in addition to students. We know them by name (not just initials on a comment forum), and work closely with residents day in and day out to make a healthy neighborhood. Maintaining affordability in the neighborhood is a priority for us, but so is attracting homeowners – of all incomes. We renovate and sell homes to homeowners as part of promoting stable, healthy, diverse residential neighborhoods and an equitable development strategy that includes a place for affordable housing as well as high priced housing.

      • Oakland Planning

        Your claim that we are anti-development is false. OPDC is on record supporting several of the major developments happening in Oakland right now. A few examples are Walnut Capital’s redevelopment of the former Allman Cadillac site on the Boulevard of the Allies, the Campus Advantage development on Forbes Avenue, the Skyvue development also on Forbes, and Murland Associates development at Forbes/Coltart. These developers engaged our constituents in a transparent process, incorporated their feedback into their plans, and ultimately made proposals that were consistent with zoning and The Oakland 2025 Master Plan, earning them the necessary approvals from the City of Pittsburgh to proceed with their projects.

        • Tal n Bev

          Your claim that your are pro-development is confusing. To clarify, can you be just as transparent about the lawsuits you have launched to keep potential developers with plans for improvement out of Oakland who weren’t on your donor roll? I can’t locate anything about these lawsuits on your website or anything listed under your Guiding Principles that would suggest your organization would go so far as to involve itself in such matters or allot funds to them. How do you account for the lofty expense of such pursuits? The pie charts in your annual reports list only six categories of expenses: Administration, School 2 Center, Community Programs, Real Estate, Planning and Organization, and Job Links. How are your donors and supporters informed of the legal battle expenditures? If you are fortunate enough to receive these services pro-bono as a nonprofit, where do you publicly justify the time, effort, and other resources that are committed to legally stopping other projects? Could these resources have been better spent to actually create low income housing? Transparency and clarity about what you actively work to prevent, in addition to what you support, will be helpful. Can you discuss the outcomes of these lawsuits? Can you discuss how they did or did not benefit OPDC’s mission as stated? Respectfully, Tal and Bev.

          • Oakland Planning

            We have no idea to what you are referring. Could you please clarify?

      • Oakland Planning

        We just launched a new website and are adding new content each day as it is still in soft launch. Our annual reports are posted online every year and mailed to a large distribution list. You are welcome to submit your contact info to questions@opdc.org and we will happily add you to that list, or stop in anytime-235 Atwood Street.

  • Sally Ventriss

    Evan – articles like this are long overdue. I don’t know if you have seen it, but the “response” to this article that Oakland Planning and Development has posted on their website is outrageous and an insult to the integrity of PUBLIC SOURCE. Link Here:

    https://www.opdc.org/blog/2017/8/18/opdc-responds-to-publicsource-bates-street-development-article

    I encourage you and other local media to keep the good work of fair, unbiased, investigative reporting! My comments section response to OPDC is copied and pasted below, just in case it disappears from the OPDC website:

    OPDC has stooped to a new low by challenging the facts of a well researched and unbiased report by Public Source. And to even resort to slander by tossing around the phrase “potentially fraudulent”?? This “response” by OPDC has about as much credibility as Trump declaring “fake news” – an insecure, defensive action by an organization that has much to hide, and highly suspicious. OPDC has prevented so much positive progress in Oakland (they won’t tell you that – do your research folks!) by clinging to the unreasonable and outdated stance that Oakland will return to single family owned housing when it is primarily landlord occupied with 3 major universities – some of the finest in the country, by the way. My Oakland property value (and perhaps YOURS too, if you own in Oakland) could have increased ten-fold by now were it not for the business OPDC has scared off by playing petty politics and stuffing their own coffers. Evan Bowen-Gaddy – kudos to you for digging into the truth with this article. The media needs to continue exposing OPDC for its obstructionist past and self-preserving business practices. Wanda Wilson – set your pride aside and do your job! Cut-out the slander and mud-slinging, and the bullying of media coverage that doesn’t swing your way. Public Source has done more of a service to Oakland with this fair article than you have during the entirety of your tenure. If you truly stand for what’s best for Oakland, what do you have to lose by giving potential projects a fair shake? I have been to public meetings you have attended regarding Oakland project proposals. You have been combative and not even so much as CONSIDERED the well-thought-out plans put before you. You have even made efforts to stop presenters from speaking! I do understand your need to “save face” when a developer proposes to do things NOW that OPDC should have done YEARS AGO, but enough is enough: You have held Oakland hostage for too long. Sure, this OGV project has a ways to go yet, but it has a lot of great possibilities that are CLEAR AND PRESENT, even to a novice. Maybe with your help rather than uninformed, biased, and baseless nay-saying, it could become a reality that benefits everyone. By the way, this OGV project seems VERY similar to your own 2025 Master Plan. I notice you point out the few inconsistencies with the 2025 plan but conveniently neglect the many, MANY points of alignment. Seems like these guys are “playing by the rules.” Why the bias? Suspicious! GET THE FACTS, FOLKS! We’ll see if OPDC allows this to be posted. Regardless, I’ll make sure it appears elsewhere – especially if OPDC blocks it from the comments section. This is the last straw – stand up, Oakland! You have been fleeced by OPDC for far FAR too long. OGV – get your story out there. We DO have questions, and we WANT to hear more!

    • T S

      Right on, Sally. It’s about time someone called out OPDC and Wanda Wilson. Long time coming. OPDC has done virtually nothing to seriously improve and advance Oakland. All talk. It’s no wonder they’re threatened by a developer who can come in and do it right. Oakland is crumbling. It needs improved housing, business, commerce, and traffic solutions. OPDC, take a seat. You do not accurately represent Oakland. I’ve often wondered, is Wilson a lone zealot or does her board of directors actually support this obstructionist agenda? My brother’s a developer. These projects take time to comply with all the necessary bureaucracy. OPDC should be working to support something like this rather than snuff it out before it’s even off the ground. Brother has developed in a lot of cities. Says he’s never seen bias like that of OPDC.

      • Oakland Planning

        “Sally” and “TS”: We’re not sure what you mean by OPDC having things to hide. As a public charity, OPDC’s records are publicly available, we maintain our website http://www.opdc.org to allow people to learn more about what we do, suggest things we should be doing, or ways to improve. Our staff are all listed there by their real names, with contact information. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions at all. Nothing in our response to the article is factually incorrect or in any way intentionally misleading. If you know there are facts we are missing, please let us know. We don’t feel there’s anything bullying about offering context and clarity for a published piece of journalism, and there is nothing slanderous in what we have written.

        • T S

          Things are getting interesting. Re: transparency: five years of annual reports have only just now become available on OPDC’s website. This was not the case when I did a thorough search on opdc.com three days ago. OPDC, am I mistaken? Will you go on record to say so when such a thing can be easily proven by cached versions of the website?