In a blow to Oakland, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission voted 12-2 at a marathon meeting today in favor of relocating a major regional government center in San Francisco instead of Oakland.
If the plan wins final approval, the MTC and the Association of Bay Area Governments, which have shared a building near the Lake Merritt BART station in Oakland for 40 years, would move to a building at 390 Main St. in San Francisco, which is between Harrison and Folsom streets.
The two agencies would be joined at the site by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which currently is located in an aging building at 939 Ellis St. in San Francisco and is seeking to move to new quarters.
The Air Quality Management District’s board voted in favor of moving to the 390 Main St. location last week but ABAG’s board has not yet voted. The ABAG board met in closed session for two hours last week to consider the matter but adjourned without making a decision.
However, transit officials who support having all three agencies at 390 Main St. hope that the MTC’s vote today will spur the ABAG board to also support the move.
The MTC voted to spend $150 million to acquire the 390 Main St. building, which was built by the U.S. Navy in the 1940s for military equipment assembly. More recently it has housed a major U.S. Postal Service office.
The two votes against moving to the San Francisco site were cast by MTC members from Alameda County–Union City Mayor Mark Green and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty. The board’s vote followed a 90-minute public hearing and a 90-minute closed session.
The meeting was held at the Joseph Bort MetroCenter at 101 8th St. in Oakland, the building that currently houses the MTC and ABAG.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Oakland City Council members Rebecca Kaplan and Larry Reid and other Oakland officials came to the MTC meeting today to urge the board to consider an alternate site at 1100 Broadway in downtown Oakland.
The MTC, ABAG and the Air Quality District agreed in September 2009 to work together to find a shared facility to replace their current facilities, which they say are undersized and outdated.
MTC staff members said they favor the 390 Main St. building because it meets their criteria for a new site, which include that it be located in Oakland or San Francisco within a half-mile of BART and other public transit and available for purchase and occupancy within two years.
MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger told MTC board members in a recent letter that “time is of the essence” for approving the move to 390 Main St.
Heminger said the current owners of the site have advised the MTC real estate broker that they will take the property to the open market for sale in a competitive bidding process if the MTC does not act this week.
The MTC’s broker, CB Richard Ellis, said if the agency delayed its decision and the property goes on the open market the price could increase by 15 to 25 percent.
Before the MTC board voted, Reid said, “I’m urging you to slow this train down and be fair and give Oakland some consideration.”
Kaplan said the decision should not be made with only incomplete information about the competing sites in Oakland and San Francisco, saying “that’s how we get into never-ending wars.”
Quan told the MTC, “I’m very uncomfortable about your timeline” and accused it of switching the criteria for a new location.”
Quan said, “I’m not sure if you considered everything” and said Oakland is filing a freedom of information request to get more information about all the costs of buying, rehabilitating and operating the building at 390 Main St.
Oakland Deputy Mayor Sharon Cornu said Oakland officials have asked for that information so there is a more thorough comparison of the Oakland and San Francisco sites but MTC officials have refused to provide it.
Cornu said the MTC “should take more time and do the kind of due diligence that taxpayers expect.”
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News
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