East Bay Express: A Disaster Waiting to Happen [Oak Knoll]


"The grounds at Oak Knoll are disgusting," Russo wrote in a strongly worded letter to the bankruptcy trustee's attorney late last month. "The vegetation is largely dead and the Oakland fire chief has declared the area as a major fire threat. There are ninety-plus dilapidated World War II buildings that are just wooden shells — a tinderbox awaiting a lightning strike, the carelessness of a trespasser, or worse."

Oak Knoll was abandoned last fall by its owners, the developer SunCal and its financial backer Lehman Brothers, after Lehman, and then SunCal, filed for bankruptcy. But before leaving the site, crews working for SunCal and Lehman began stripping out the old Navy buildings, readying them for demolition. But then when Lehman ran out of cash and stop paying the bills, the crews took off before completing the work. Now, the property is full of hollowed out buildings and piles and piles of flammable, toxic debris.

Finally, it should be noted that the SunCal/Lehman debacle at Oak Knoll is not directly tied to SunCal's separate plans for a massive housing development at the former Alameda Naval Air Station. But having said that, SunCal's inability to prevent or correct the egregious conditions at Oak Knoll should be a cause for concern for both Alameda leaders and city residents.