Renovated Opera House a Boon for Bayview


When the Bayview Opera House reopens this weekend after a $5.7 million renovation that took nearly three years, the celebration will be well deserved.

There’s also much that still should happen — not only to bring the 1888 landmark to its full potential, but also to lessen the gap in resources between the Bayview and the rest of San Francisco, a disconnect that helps explain why the Opera House’s resurrection has proceeded so slowly.

“I feel ecstatic — it has been such a long haul,” said Barbara Ockel, executive director of Bayview Opera House Inc., the nonprofit that manages the facility for the San Francisco Arts Commission.

Ockel has been in the post since 2008, beginning as interim manager when she happened to be the board member of the nonprofit willing to take on the job. That was midway through the stop-and-start makeover of the facility, which began life as a Masonic Lodge performance hall. In the early 2000s it was touted as a portal to a multiblock “town center,” while in 2007 the “ultimate renovation” of the Opera House was announced at an event that included then-Mayor Gavin Newsom.

A ceremonial ribbon-cutting was held in July, but things will finally get going after the “grand reopening” Saturday. Schoolchildren will head to Third Street and Newcomb Avenue several afternoons each week for arts-related programs. The restored auditorium also will serve as a concert venue, starting with an Oct. 2 appearance by the chamber orchestra Sphinx Virtuosi.

“We have a chance to see this become a real cultural facility,” said Theo Ellington, an Opera House board member who grew up in the neighborhood and still lives there. “When I close my eyes, I see a place programmed year-round — something that reflects the deep roots and history of the Bayview while also bringing in new people,” with events for couples and families several times a week, instead of several times a month as will be the case while getting up to speed.

That sense of possibility exists because of arduous work by believers and bureaucrats. Staffers at the Arts Commission and the Mayor’s Office on Disability found ways to keep the project moving forward. The designers involved — TEF Design and Knapp Architects, with landscape architect Walter Hood taking the lead outdoors — made sure the end result was as pleasing as could be.

“A lot of people fought really hard to make this happen,” said Deborah Frieden, a consultant who worked on the project for more than a decade. “For what we had to work with, we achieved a lot.”

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“Yes on Measure JJ” Campaign Kicks Off to Protect Oakland Renters

Dozens gathered at Lake Merritt to distribute window signs and to talk to community members about voting Yes on Measure JJ. Photo courtesy of the Committee to Protect Oakland Renters.
Photo courtesy of the Committee to Protect Oakland Renters.

Dozens gathered at Lake Merritt to distribute window signs and to talk to community members about voting Yes on Measure JJ. Photo courtesy of the Committee to Protect Oakland Renters.

The “Yes on Measure JJ” campaign kicked off last Saturday at Lake Merritt, as dozens of community members and local leaders gathered to show their commitment to making sure renter protection passes in Oakland this November.

With less than seven weeks before the elections, the Committee to Protect Oakland Renters—a coalition of local housing rights, labor and interfaith organizations—is gearing up for its campaign to spread awareness among voters.

“The campaign is planning to hit the streets and go into neighborhoods, especially with high voting impact, and to also do a voter registration drive,” said James Vann of the Oakland Tenants Union and Post Salon Community Assembly.

“The committee knows that voter registration is fairly low in the flatlands and other neighborhoods where renter protection is most needed,” he said. “That’s where we’re going to have to pull a lot of votes.”

Twenty local organizations are spearheading the campaign efforts to pass Measure JJ and register Oakland voters, including SEIU Local 1021, California Nurses Association, ACCE Action, Causa Justa: Just Cause, Asian Pacific Environment Network (APEN), PolicyLink and the Ella Baker Center.

The ballot measure also has the endorsement of many local politicians, the Alameda Labor Council and the Alameda County Democratic Party.

Locally, there is broad support for the need to pass a strong renter protection law in Oakland and the City Council made a unanimous decision to place the measure on the November ballot.

However, committee members are expecting a highly visible opposition campaign, funded by state and national real estate groups.

“We’re definitely expecting these non-local groups to come out strong, and we’ve estimated they’re going to spend around $3 million to fight this measure,” said Camilo Zamora of Causa Justa: Just Cause.

The estimated spending by anti-rent protection organizations is based on what they have done in other California cities that have put renter protection measures on the ballot in the past, said Zamora.

Already, sources have told the Post that people are receiving phone calls for an anonymous “push” poll opposing the renter protection measure in Oakland.

It is for this reason that this group of community organizations will need all the help it can get, Vann said.

“We’re reaching out to the faith community and other local organizations and asking that they endorse the measure and make it a priority issue in their community,” said Vann.

“Spread the word and reach out to us to help get people registered to vote,” he said.

To get information on how to endorse, volunteer or become a part of the “Yes on Measure JJ” campaign, visit

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Demand for Living Wage Jobs Agreement at Port of Oakland Rally Continues


Carroll Fife (left) and Jahmese Myres spoke Thursday at a community meeting to demand living wage jobs at a new Port of Oakland warehouse development. Photo by Ken Epstein.
Carroll Fife (left) and Jahmese Myres spoke Thursday at a community meeting to demand living wage jobs at a new Port of Oakland warehouse development. Photo by Ken Epstein.

More than six weeks of intense negotiations between the community coalition and the port have focused on the first warehouse in the project, which could produce up to 120 jobs. The warehouse, proposed to be built by CenterPoint Properties, would provide logistics space for transferring and loading cargo and distribution services on a 27-acre plot of the 185-acre Oakland Army Base parcel that belongs to the port.

“More is at stake, however, than the local hiring agreement for jobs at this first warehouse. This agreement is likely to become the model for local hiring at other warehouses and companies that will be built on the port property, according to organizers.”

CenterPoint is a private Chicago-based company, but it is owned by CalPERS, a state agency that manages public employee pensions, including those of many local residents who are SEIU members.

Members of the coalition held a public meeting last Thursday evening at Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church in West Oakland to report to the community on the progress of negotiations.

“As a community coalition, we are holding the port to their promise to do the same or better” than the jobs agreement signed by the city for its portion of the army base development, said Jahmese Myres, campaign director for the Revive! Oakland Coalition, which includes labor, community and faith-based groups.C. FifequoteBx

What is being discussed, she said, is 50 percent local hire and 25 percent for disadvantaged workers in the port’s “local impact area,” and cities Oakland, Emeryville, Alameda and San Leandro.

“The port is hoping to strike a deal by Sept. 22, but there are still a lot of outstanding hot issues. We need to ramp up our organizing and our pressure on CenterPoint… to get a better deal than we did with the city,” said Myres.

Also speaking at the meeting was Margaret Gordon of OaklandWorks and West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project.

She explained that the “roots of the planned project” can be traced back to developer Phil Tagami and then Mayor Jerry Brown.

When the U.S. Army closed the Oakland Army Base in 1999, the land was divided between the port and the City of Oakland. Tagami won the contract to develop the city’s side of the property.

“All of this is public money –the roads, electrical lines, the sewers,” she said. “The developer has not had any private money doing anything – it’s free infrastructure. Now they are talking about building a (private) warehouse.

“The recycling companies, truck parking, warehouses – there are all jobs.”

Carroll Fife of OaklandWorks, who chaired the meeting, underscored the importance of winning a good jobs agreement.

We have an opportunity to set a precedent on how jobs are distributed to Oakland residents,” she said. “There is an ethnic cleansing that is happening in the city right now, and we have to say we aren’t having it.”

Kitty Kelly Epstein said that “local hire” agreements so far have not meant that Black people are getting hired. “This is our public money, and Black people are not getting jobs on city-funded projects.”

She said reported data show that African Americans are only getting 5 percent of construction jobs on city projects.

The coalition of organizations is holding a protest Thursday, Sept. 8 at noon to demand that the port sign a jobs and community benefit agreement with the community. The protest will be held at the meeting of the Port Commission, 530 Water St. in Oakland.

>>Read full article


Source: Ken Epstein‎9‎/‎2‎/‎2016



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