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California High Speed Rail

Oakland And The East Bay Should Be Part Of California High Speed Rail

Oakland needs California High Speed Rail, and CHSR needs Oakland. Contrary to popular belief, California High Speed Rail tracks and right-of-ways are being built as I write this, and under California Governor Gavin Newsom considerable progress has been made to date.

It has been a long time since I worked on getting an Oakland Terminus for West Oakland and on behalf of Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, but I still keep an eye on it. And for good reason: the continued development of the route structure is such that Oakland’s absence from it looms larger as time passes. For those who need to get up to speed on this matter of Oakland and California High Speed Rail, here’s the record of my involvement from my Oakland Focus Blog post of July 13th, 2008, called “California High Speed Rail Authority Bypasses Oakland After My Work to Avoid This”. Here it is:

California High Speed Rail Authority Bypasses Oakland After My Work to Avoid This – From Oakland Focus July 13, 2008

highspeedrail

California High Speed Rail (read here), an issue I birddogged for Elihu Harris when he was Mayor of Oakland, is still alive and kicking. One of my major objectives was making sure Oakland was not bypassed in the formation of the route; something I also warned Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown about when he took office in late 1998.

At the time I encouraged Mayor Harris to hand off the issue to Jerry Brown, which led to the pair arriving at a “Mayor’s meeting” (record here) to advocate for Oakland’s inclusion in the route system. In 1997, I successfully pushed for this article to be developed and ran in the SF Chronicle, to get the “Oakland View” in the public eye.

At the time, Mayor Harris didn’t believe the system would ever be funded, and so viewed it as a lost cause. But I argued that we could not afford to take a chance on that outcome and that at least Oakland should be considered. Mayor Harris agreed.

I also worked behind the scenes, and sometimes in front, to cause the new train to be a part of the new Bay Bridge. Again, that was an initiative I was confident would see reality when I left the Mayor’s Office. It did not.

So, I went to apply a focus on the matter of the Super Bowl in Oakland, and forgot about High Speed Rail. Then I went to start Sports Business Simulations, and really just forgot about the matter entirely, but confident that the foundation I created would be built on by then-Mayor Jerry Brown.

It wasn’t.

If you look at the final route proposed, it’s clear Oakland is nowhere on it. That makes me cry. All the work and advocacy I did just to have Jerry Brown drop the ball on that initiative too. That’s three “Jerry” failures: The Super Bowl, Uptown, and High Speed Rail, and a confirmation that precious few people really — if you excuse my french really care about Oakland.

Jerry Brown came here to remake his image in 1994; now the voters, which seem to be adverse to reading, rubber stamped him in as California AG. Look, that post is the right place for him, even better than the role of Governor, which he seeks, but Oakland has suffered under the weight of his personal ambitions.

That even points to the current scandal in Oakland as a sign of how really few people place the City’s interests ahead of their own. It stinks. And I have no desire to go back — don’t read into this — I got burned out on the selfishness long ago. I’m in a better place now, ironically, thinking about me rather than the City. . And besides, the City doesn’t care enough about itself to have people involved who care about it.

Elihu warned me to “use that brain on yourself rather than others” because in the end, few would care.

Sadly, he’s right.

The Oakland I envisioned was a far better place than the City I live in. My Oakland would have hosted a Super Bowl, been on the final route for High Speed Rail, and had a real Uptown that consisted of 2 million square feet of shops and restaurants and 1,000 units of housing. That’s why I set up and present a meeting at The Internation Council of Shopping Center’s Spring Convention in Las Vegas in 1997 and eventually got Forest City here to come here to Oakland, the next year.

I still have letters from downtown Oakland real estate brokers thanking me for that.

Now what we have in Uptown is just a mear fraction of what we could build.

The City of Oakland and Jerry Brown foolishly permitted Forest City to talk it into residential and not commericial development. Why? Because it was making a retail development in Union Square in San Francisco and didn’t want competition.

Yep. Oakland let itself get screwed out of downtown retail. And nothng’s gotten better.

Let’s take Mayor Ron Dellums. I’ll take him. I hold out a smigen of hope — but not much. Not much at all.

More later. I’m pissed. Oakland insists on carrying the stench of loser city. So be it.

Now, It’s 2022, And Oakland Needs The Promise Of High Speed Rail To Recover From The Pandemic

I do not care what anyone says, the simple fact is that paid work is being done on California High Speed Rail as I write this. That represents lost jobs that Oakland and East Bay dwellers could benefit from having access to. The fact is that right now, we have nothing like California High Speed Rail to cause us to not need it; the idea of developing CalTrain to be as fast as high speed rail never materialized, and I for one thought the argument that it could was more to stop talk about high speed rail in California, than anything else.

But, obvious by the fact that work on HSR is being done, now, high speed rail is in our future. Working to stop it will only leave us with hundreds of miles of unfinished track, in what will be giant proof California lacks the will and initiative to complete big projects. Many suffer from our collective inability to reshape our economy, most notably those without the ability to make a better life for themselves without help. That’s where government comes in, and that’s why we must make sure that California High Speed Rail serves the people who need it most: and they are in Oakland and the East Bay more-so than in many other places along the route as it is, today. And that gets me to my other point.

Rod Diridon, Sr. deliberately worked to keep Oakland out of the California High Speed Rail picture, and thank God I’m alive to tell people about what he did. In case you do not know, Rod Diridon, Sr is the man famous for pushing for high-speed rail for California. Starting first with initiatives to cause light rail development in BART-less San Jose, high-speed rail was always a dream objective. To that end, he played a major role in forming, and then was chairperson of, the California High Speed Rail Authority. I know because, as Elihu’s representative, I was a constant presence working to make sure Oakland was included in the final route structure. As I wrote before, and it bears repeating..

At the time, and this was 1998, the California High Speed Rail consultants basically said that Santa Clara County, which includes San Jose, was entirely in the West Bay, and not the South Bay. The result was to throw their revenue models that once favored the truly more populated East Bay into a place where the West Bay looked better.

Why?

The consultants were under political pressure to favor the West Bay and San Jose, and one of the people applying that pressure at the time was Santa Clara County Supervisor Ron Diridon. To make a long story short, Diridon, a major High Speed Rail advocate, was not a fan of having Oakland in the High Speed Rail system. Between his blocking Oakland (and a cabal of South Bay politicians who worked to move the project to favor that part of the SF Bay Area), the consultants cooking the numbers to make one part of the Bay Area look better than the other, and then-Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown’s lack of interest in really making Oakland a part of High Speed Rail, Oakland faded out of the picture.

In this, I want to take time to thank the legendary Judge Quentin Kopp, who, as a California state senator, authored the legislation establishing the California HighSpeed Rail Authority. Judge Kopp was a friend and advocate for having Oakland as part of High Speed Rail in California (he dropped the ball on not wanting rail on the new Bay Bridge, though), and made sure his door was open to me as Elihu’s representative. I know Judge Kopp’s now not keen on the California HighSpeed Rail Authority, but I have an idea that I think will turn him around.

California High Speed Rail Can Pay For Itself And An Oakland Terminus, At Howard Terminal Ballpark, Should Be Part Of It

If you look at the California High Speed Rail Route, and wonder why Oakland and the East Bay are left out of it, blame Rod Diridon. But the best way to get over his actions, is to put Oakland and the East Bay back in the network. California High Speed Rail can be made to pay for itself, and the best way to achieve this is for the State to make the rights-of-way automatic tax increment financing collection zones, and have one state agency collect the property tax revenue payments from what would be a kind of super-project-area.

That way, property tax money from future development at stations and at rights-of-way could be captured and used to mitigate losses, or pay for the whole thing. If a 45-year- property tax collection period for just $2 billion in base year assessed value at a four percent rate of annual growth, can produce $1.6 billion, then using the entire California High Speed Rail lands would certainly produce a base-year-assessed value of at least $150 billion. If that’s the case, the state agency would collect $121 billion. That’s more than enough to pay for the project’s projected cost of $83 billion, according to the California High Speed Rail Business Plan.

Moreover, a new California High Speed Rail route that has Oakland in it, must have stations at The Coliseum for East Oakland, and Howard Terminal Ballpark as the Oakland Terminus. Having California High Speed Rail at Howard Terminal Ballpark is, in itself, a revenue game-changer for a project already poised to bring several billion in new money to Oakland.

We can do this. We must do this.

Stay tuned.

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