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Oakland’s exclusive deal to sell city-owned land to charter school draws opposition

The City of Oakland is poised to sell a large plot of land it owns in the Fruitvale neighborhood to a private developer for the purpose of building a new charter school campus.

But the project — and the city’s years-long involvement in it — is suddenly drawing criticism from education and affordable housing activists who say it reflects Oakland’s lack of transparency when deciding how to use public property.

Under the proposed terms of the deal, the city will sell a 9,000-square-foot parcel on Derby Avenue between International Boulevard and E. 15th Street for $450,000. The buyer, an Idaho-based company called Pacific West Communities, Inc. plans to construct a new school campus on the site for the Aspire charter organization’s ERES Academy, a K-8th grade school. The campus was approved by the city planning commission last month.

ERES Academy’s staff say the new facility is critical because the building they’re currently in — located one mile away on Courtland Avenue and leased from a church — is too small.

“The physical nature of the classrooms is super-constrained,” Aspire’s Dean of Students Jesse Johnson told the city planning commission last month. “The children are bumping into each other. It’s crammed.”

ERES Academy currently has 217 students, according to state records, but Aspire, which operates 40 charter schools in California and Tennessee, hopes to grow. The proposed new school campus could accommodate more than 600 students.

City staff say the land deal will put the property, which used to be part of an auto dealership, back into productive use, and that new charter school is in the public’s interest. They also say the city is coming out financially ahead by selling the land.

 

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