Ignacio De La Fuente, the longest serving member of the Oakland City Council, may give up his seat for a spot in Governor-elect Jerry Brown's administration in Sacramento, several knowledgeable sources said. De La Fuente and Brown are good friends and were close allies when Brown was mayor of Oakland from 1998 to 2006. If De La Fuente were to leave, then the city would hold a special election within 120 days to fill his seat. He represents Oakland's Fruitvale and Glenview districts.
De La Fuente declined to comment on reports that he is considering a job with Brown. But his departure would not come as a surprise to City Hall insiders. Brown often turned to De La Fuente to push through his initiatives in Oakland. De La Fuente was council president during Brown's tenure and held considerable sway over city government. But De La Fuente's influence in City Hall diminished after Brown left to become attorney general. De La Fuente also was a strong backer of Don Perata's campaign for mayor, and he and Mayor-elect Jean Quan have never been close.
Speculation has been swirling around City Hall as to who would run to replace De La Fuente. Fruitvale businessman Mario Juarez, who faced off against De La Fuente for council in 2008, is expected to run, as is Oakland school board member Noel Gallo, who represents the same district as De La Fuente. Another rumored candidate is Henry Rosales, executive director of the Spanish Speaking Citizens Foundation and a member of Quan's mayoral transition team.
De La Fuente's former aide, Carlos Plazola, an Oakland lobbyist, is expected by some to mount a challenge, but one knowledgeable source said Plazola may not be interested. De La Fuente's current aide, Claudia Burgos, a policy analyst, also is rumored to be considering a run if her boss goes to Sacramento. Former De La Fuente aide Libby Schaaf was elected to the council last month to replace Quan. De La Fuente has served on the council for eighteen years, since 1992.
Jack London Square Sold
The Oakland Port Commission approved the proposed sale last week of most of the buildings in Jack London Square to San Francisco-based real estate investment company, Divco West. Under the deal, Ellis Partners, the private development firm that had been the majority owner of the buildings, will now own a 1.5 percent stake, while Divco West will own 98.5 percent. Ellis Partners, however, will continue to run day-to-day operations at the square.
Ellis Partners reached the deal with Divco West after a request by its creditors to bring in more capital investment. Ellis Partners had obtained about $130 million in mortgages on buildings in the square to renovate them, but has had trouble attracting tenants to help finance more planned construction. Questions also have surfaced over the years as to whether Ellis Partners have managed the square well.
The sale of the buildings required the commission's approval because the structures are on land owned by the port. The port sold the buildings to Ellis Partners for a total of about $23 million in 2002 and 2005. Divco West was founded and is run by Stuart Shiff.
DOJ Says Pot Farms Are Illegal
The Obama Justice Department has warned the City of Oakland that its plan to tax and regulate four large medical cannabis farms early next year is illegal, California Watch reported, citing anonymous sources. The Justice Department reportedly said that because the farms will be separate business entities from medical marijuana dispensaries, then the required link between patients and cultivators will be broken. The city, however, is setting up the farms that way so it can tax them separately from the dispensaries.
Cops Still Won't Pay Pensions
The Oakland police union is still refusing to pay into its pension plans, saying that it doesn't "trust" City Hall to hire more cops from the money it will save, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The union's hard-line stance comes as the department continues to lose officers through attrition and follows the city council's decision to lay off eighty cops in July because of the union's refusal to contribute to retirement plans. Quan has said that she will hire more officers if cops agree to start paying 9 percent of their pensions — just as all other city employees unions do.
More than two hundred Oakland A's fans packed City Hall last week to voice support for a new waterfront ballpark. ... Quan selected for her transition team supporters of her mayoral opponents in an effort to unite the city. ... Ex-BART cop Johannes Mehserle was denied bail while he appeals his conviction for killing Oscar Grant. ... Former NBA star Magic Johnson bought a struggling housing development in Oakland's Uptown district. ... Thousands of Oakland school kids shivered in cold classrooms because old heaters wouldn't turn on. ... Kaiser Permanente donated $7.5 million to Oakland public schools to help fund middle school health-care centers. ... Prosecutors are attempting to convict the owners of dead goats that were eating overgrown brush at Oakland's former Oak Knoll Naval Hospital of animal cruelty. ... West Oakland finally has a grocery store. ... Former Alameda Point developer SunCal is suing the City of Alameda for more than $100 million. ... Richmond wants to be the home of a second Lawrence Berkeley Lab campus. ... Emeryville City Councilman Ken Bukowski admitted to the Bay Citizen that he was addicted to methamphetamine. ... And PG&E's SmartMeters will not have to undergo health-effects testing.