Elaine Brown: Famed Oakland Black Panther’s Coliseum Developer Associate Sued By African American Tenants In San Francisco – Oakland Information Now

McCormack Baron Salazar’s not doing Elaine Brown or Dave Stewart any favors in their quest to own the City of Oakland’s portion of the Coliseum Complex. Black tenants living in Plaza East Apartments in San Francisco don’t have kind words for the giant organization, and have filed a lawsuit against it.

Elaine Brown is the famous member of the Oakland Black Panther Party who’s made a name for herself later in life via a commitment to building low-income housing and providing jobs for African Americans.

Lately, Ms. Brown, who has been and is CEO of the non-profit corporation called Oakland and The World Enterprises, Inc. since 2014, submitted a letter of intent to present a bid for the City of Oakland’s portion of the Oakland Coliseum Land (The Oakland Post’s article here presents her Coliseum-related efforts). However, that entry was sent in late, and while city staff was evaluating development and land purchase proposals sent in by two other black development groups: one helmed by Oakland A’s pitching legend Dave Stewart and the African American Sports and Entertainment Group, represented by Ray Bobbitt.

So, Elaine Brown was invited to join Stewart’s group, which in turn inexplicably snubbed the AASEG, and in the process brought a problem with her that she may not have been aware of.

Prior to teaming with The Oakland A’s Legend, Brown had gained a partner in the community development firm called McCormack Baron Salazar for her project called “The Coliseum Dream” . According to The Oakland Post:

Highlights of the The Coliseum Dream are: readiness to purchase the city’s 50% interest; positive discussions with the Oakland A’s; installation of Black Panther Studios as development anchor, which will be the first Black-owned film studio on the West Coast; ability to finance the entire development, estimated at $5 billion; building of hundreds of affordable housing units; development of a luxury hotel and department store; creating and supporting youth tech, arts and business training centers; construction of a supermarket in a food desert; making Oakland a tourist destination. Vince Bennett, president and CEO of MBS, a multi-billion-dollar housing developer based in St. Louis, said: “MBS is ready to immediately enter into a purchase and sale agreement with the City of Oakland and become the master developer of the entire site.”

McCormack Baron Salazar Development Company Focus Of Lawsuit In San Francisco By Black Tenants

That’s great, but the sad news is the same multi-billion-dollar McCormack Baron Salazar firm which has eight black staffers among its 66 “Key Team Members”, and none at above the title of regional vice president, is being sued by a black tenants group in San Francisco. That’s right: just across SF Bay from Oakland. All things considered, did anyone bother to check that out?

Well, the one media organization who did, wrote the piece that serves as the foundation for this post: The San Francisco Public Press. I found it just by going to Google, typing ‘McCormack Baron Salazar’ and then clicking on “News” for the news section results. It was number three down in the list.

In its October 18th online edition of The San Francisco Public Press, staff writer Madison Alvarado wrote:

Six months after San Francisco agreed to lend the developer of a run-down Western Addition public housing complex $2.7 million for emergency repairs, the work is behind schedule and many residents at Plaza East Apartments say their units remain damaged by mold, leaks and pest infestations — even after repairs were done.

The city loan includes funds for sewage repairs, replacement of electrical panels and dilapidated appliances and fixtures, fire alarm upgrades, and new streetlights, as well as $198,000 for social services. Five months into what’s projected to be a year-long program, $476,000 has been spent and 25% of repairs are complete, according to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Economic Development.

Though contractors have made some fixes, including fire alarm updates, new street lighting, and repair or replacement of some washers, dryers, refrigerators and dishwashers, many residents said they are still struggling with broken appliances, deteriorated flooring and inadequate repairs.

Juan Jones, for example, said his ceiling started leaking less than two weeks after maintenance personnel patched a hole in his bathroom floor caused by a burst pipe. The videotaped leak, which Jones said occurs when the shower is used, began at least four months ago and drips through an electrical box.

Jones, one of 18 tenants suing developer McCormack Baron Salazar over health and safety concerns, detailed a litany of other repairs he is waiting on. These include faulty appliances, kitchen tile separating from the floor, a broken window and non-functional electrical sockets.

“This is how they pretty much treat the Black community living in projects,” he said. “It’s really, really messed up because there’s people with worse conditions in their house than me and they live in it every single day — and nothing is happening.”

McCormack Baron Salazar rebuilt the public housing complex with 193 units in 2001 and managed it until June, when the John Stewart Company took over day-to-day management following a San Francisco Public Press report in March that revealed the development’s dilapidated conditions.

In other words, the San Francisco black tenants suing McCormack Baron Salazar were calling them a slumlord. One tenant involved in the lawsuit, Rockesha Norris’, is quoted as saying this about McCormack Baron Salazar: “They’re not protecting us. So many times people are coming and talking to us and we just don’t trust them.”

And so it appears that Ms. Brown wants to bring the firm Black tenants in San Francisco are suing and don’t trust to be part of what’s supposedly a black developer team for the Coliseum, right?

In defense of McCormack Baron Salazar, the firm points to “supply chain issues, resident availability and entry access” as the reason the punch-list of tasks has not been completed. But, and according to Madison Alvarado, McCormack Baron Salazar has pointed to declines in spending for public housing as the reason for deterioration of places like Plaza East Apartments, which it was responsible for, for 21 years until this year, when the City and County of San Francisco turned management over to The John Stewart Company.

All of this shines more light on the following questions:

  1. Why did the Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf not order the black developer groups represented by Bobbitt and Stewart to team up? When I asked The 50th Mayor that question during my recent interview, she didn’t address it.
  2. According to the Oakland Post, Elaine Brown claims a cozy business relationship with Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval: We have been in discussions with Dave Kaval, A’s president, over the last two years about our Coliseum Dream, and Dave has unequivocally stated that if we were to acquire the City’s 50%, he would work with us. And, we have told Dave, we are willing to partner with the A’s.

Ah. What’s going on here considering that Kaval has told me on camera the Oakland A’s have no interest in what happens at the Coliseum, and that they’re focused on Howard Terminal? I first asked him about that in the matter of AASEG at The Coliseum, and he remarked that the City was on a different path at the Coliseum, and they were focused on Howard Terminal. But what I think the issue is involves AASEG’s interest in bringing the NFL back to Oakland.

Dave has all but screamed “KEEP THE NFL OUT” by his words and actions, from saying that there’s not enough room at the Coliseum, to presenting a Coliseum land-use plan that calls for the destruction of the now former home of The Oakland Raiders and shrine to some of the greatest games played in sports history. It’s a weird position considering that A’s Owner John Fisher could own both the A’s and a new NFL team in Oakland, per NFL rules. When I think about that, and Ray Bobbitt’s efforts, and with Loop Capital’s involvement, where its CEO Jim Reynolds, alone, is worth $600 million, it’s just weird Fisher’s not been in contact with AASEG, to date. But I digress.

On the matter of Elaine Brown and McCormack Baron Salazar, I have reached out to her a number of times, as we are “Facebook Friends” as of now. But that’s meaningless because Ms. Brown has never, not once, responded to my attempts to invite her on my show, or even provide helpful information to me, or even say “hello”. Since I’ve never met her in person, there’s no good reason for the treatment. Moreover, I never base my view of someone solely on what others say about them. I never adopt the insecurities of other people. I’ve got enough of my own, thank you. With that, I welcome her contact to be better informed about this.

On that note, what has to stop is this development of an Oakland climate where some blacks in business are seemingly directed by someone white, and have no problem attacking another black person. In my case, I am constantly treated as if I’m Mr. White guy by some of the people who are part of the Oakland black business community, and to the point where I just don’t care what they think because the basis for such thinking is so stupid it could be a Dave Chappelle comedy routine (And in case you seek a hidden message there, forget it. The fact is, Dave’s the only one who could take this situation and find humor in it, agree or disagree with his take).

What’s not funny is the not-to-hidden message that if a black person owns a media company, it should not try and influence mainstream media, or be the authority on any subject outside of the black community. That’s one memo I tossed in the trash years ago.

In my opinion, this climate in Oakland is why Dave Stewart and Ray Bobbitt are not connected regarding the Coliseum, and the Mayor of Oakland should be ashamed of herself for setting up this racist circus where white-ran organizations (including the City of Oakland with the Mayor and the City Administrator) are pulling organizational puppet strings while black folks act like second-class citizens. It does no one any good, and as we have just seen with McCormack Baron Salazar, may have opened the doors for a white-owned billionaire real estate company that black tenants in San Francisco regard as a slumlord.

Stay tuned.

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