While the Grand Jury only investigated three recent city development projects, it is concerned that the city’s misuse of closed sessions in discussing development of city property is a systemic problem. Public deliberations are important. The city must provide an environment whereby public participation in developer selection is invited. In addition, developers must believe that they will be treated fairly and equitably, thus promoting a competitive selection process benefiting the city. The city must follow open meeting laws to prevent further misuse of closed session meetings and eliminate the inequities in the developer selection process.
The Oakland City Council misapplies the real estate negotiation exception to the openmeeting requirements of the Brown Act and the Oakland Sunshine Ordinance, thereby shielding the deliberative processes – including discussions and debates regarding project vision, project scope, feasibility issues, community benefits, and the ultimate selection of a developer – from public scrutiny.
The city’s closed session agendas for discussions of the 1911 Telegraph and 12th Street Remainder projects did not comply with disclosure requirements in the Brown Act and the Oakland Sunshine Ordinance.
The Oakland City Council violates the city’s Sunshine Ordinance by failing to discuss publicly the advisability of selecting particular developers for projects on city-owned property before making final decisions (section 2.20.120(B)) and failing to disclose the parts of closed session discussions that were not confidential (section 2.20.130).
Unauthorized closed sessions prevent the public from witnessing council deliberations, preclude public input into planning, and restrict public participation in the selection of appropriate developers for city-owned property.
The city of Oakland unfairly applied the requirements of its RFP for 1911 Telegraph by allowing the successful proposer to wait until after it was chosen to provide required financial information.
A developer was allowed to change the scope of its proposal for 1911 Telegraph at the last minute. This put the other proposers at a disadvantage, and resulted in the city choosing that developer without the benefits of staff analysis of the new proposal
Oakland City Councilmembers privately discuss projects with developers whose proposals are pending, and the communications are not disclosed publicly before one developer is selected. This compromises public scrutiny of the selection process because citizens have no ability to assess the strength or weakness of private arguments made by developers in support of their proposals.
The city of Oakland must comply with the Brown Act and city of Oakland Sunshine Ordinance provisions relating to the real estate exception. The city must limit closed session discussions concerning proposed real estate development projects to price and terms of payment, and ensure that deliberations on matters such as project vision, project scope, feasibility issues, community benefits, and selection of a developer are conducted openly, allowing the public to be informed about and comment intelligently upon proposals for use of city-owned property.
The city of Oakland must follow its Sunshine Ordinance by conducting open meetings in which councilmembers discuss publicly the advisability of any proposed disposition of city-owned property before making final decisions.
The city of Oakland must update its training for public officials on open meeting laws to prevent the city from misapplying the real estate negotiation exception.
The city of Oakland must enforce requirements of its RFPs even-handedly to create a level playing field for all proposers, and to allow city staff a full record with which to vet competing proposals.
The city of Oakland must treat developers who respond to an RFP equitably by informing all RFP respondents whether changes to proposals after the submission date are permitted.
The city of Oakland must adopt rules to address private communications between councilmembers and proposing developers before a developer is selected.