Len Raphael 
Member since Oct 22, 2011

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Recent Comments

Re: “Federal Judge Rules Against Oakland, Allows Coal Terminal Lawsuit to Proceed

Good thing the eco orgs are joining the lawsuit because Oakland doesn't have the deep pockets to fix it's original screwup on the contract. Stadium conracts, police and fire contracts, garbage contracts, port contracts, is there a pattern here?

Posted by Len Raphael on 04/22/2017 at 9:29 PM

Re: “Community and Labor Groups Say Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf Has Stacked the Planning Commission with Real Estate Industry Reps

In the planning process for the market rate apartment project between 51st and 49th on Bway, my sense is that the developer took the concerns of the neighbors more seriously than city staff or the planning commission. The developer must have been used to citiy governments less desperate than Oakland's for any development, no matter what the shortcomings.

When neighbors (or nimbies depending on you point of view) questioned the need for every unit to have it's own air conditioning system, the Planning Commission blandly referred it back to staff where it remains buried to this day.

When Kaiser took over the old Welfare building across from Tech, one Planning Commissioner kept going on about Kaiser should be required to place a terrance with greenery on the facade. That Commissioner was a landscape architect. Good idea but trivial in the overal picture. (But she was correct: Kaiser's landscaping is awful.)

Forgetabout the Commission, when I first asked about what city planner was assigned to the project, I was told by experienced staff that I must be mistaken because the staffer who I had inquired about was "too inexperienced to be put on such a large project." He was. and he was.

On the Pleasant Valley Safeway project which would be fine if it were in Pleasanton , it wasn't staff or Planning Commissioners that thwarted the united front of nimbies and smart growthers favoring high density mixed use on that site. It was the highest levels of our former Mayor's administration that was too timid to push the owner of the parcels to go mixed use.

The Commission's makeup reflects the overall failure of several City Hall administrations to guide and encourage growth.

Posted by Len Raphael on 04/22/2017 at 6:05 PM

Re: “Community and Labor Groups Say Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf Has Stacked the Planning Commission with Real Estate Industry Reps

Gary Patton is right that long before our current mayor, the Planning Commission has been stacked with members who depend on development for their livelihood. Hobart Johnson is dead right that much like everything else Oakland city government has done for years is neglect long term planning, be it public safety, schools, public transportation, recreation, or housing. Just take a walk thru Mountain View Cemetery on a weekend and multiply by a 100 the number of people holding picnics on graves, and you'll get an idea of the future impact of the CIty's failure to plan for open space and recreation.

Yes, for the Commissioners to do their volunteer jobs properly, they should be digging into the details of the projects presented to them. My limited experience from attending Commission meetings on the two projects on Bway and 51st is that only a few of the Commissioners make the effort to do that. The others at most seem to have only read the staff report.

You don't have to be an architect or real estate broker to read staff reports. And even many architects are not up to the task of visualizing very large projects. Appointing people outside of the real estate industry, and upgrading city staff qualifications and tightening revolving door employment rules for the staff, would be a better solution for the interests of all residents and businesses, current and future, than filling the Commission with people from the real estate industry, regardless of non-profit or for profit.

Len Raphael

Posted by Len Raphael on 04/22/2017 at 5:13 PM

Re: “New Documents Reveal Oakland Officials Were Aware of Ghost Ship’s Numerous Problems: Raves, Kidnapping, Battery, Assault, And More

It took an entire City of Oakland to create this disaster. That made it difficult to cover up.

Posted by Len Raphael on 02/17/2017 at 6:56 PM

Re: “Oakland Firefighters Say Their Department Is So Badly Managed, Ghost Ship Warehouse Wasn't Even In Its Inspection Database

Useful information to pass on to readers, no matter how contradictory, conflicting, self-serving, and chaotic it may be. This isn't yet another straightforward Oakland budget fight, pitting department against department, neighborhood against neighborhood for gaining more city funding and resources, politician jockeying for position against other politicians. This also involves defending reputation that one or one's fellow staffers bore any responsibility for those deaths.

This kind of infighting is often seen in both the public and private sector organizations when leaders are ineffectual, ignorant, inexperienced, or just not capable of gaining the respect of the people under their responsibility.

I think both MS Kaplan and Mr. Patton are correct that mismanagement starts in the Mayors office, extends thru the City Administrator, and is reflected in incompetent, ineffectual department heads and upper management.

An Oakland mayor does not need to personally have the management skills of ex NYC Mayor Bloomberg, but they have to know how to find a City Administrator who does.. And we don't have to go back to the City Manager form of government that we had before Measure X. Few cities of our size or bigger kept the City Manager structure as they grew.

Regardless of why Mayor Schaaf chose Sabrina Landreth as City Administrator, it is time for Landreth to move on and for Schaaf to break the pattern set by Dellums and Quan of selecting unexperienced or inexperienced City Administrators. Find someone with solid line management experience in a much bigger city, either at the top or just below the chain of command. Not a manager or administrator from a tiny city who you hope will grow into the job. We might well have to offer a much longer, sweeter contract than normal to get that City Administrator. We might have to recruit form the non-profit or the for-profit sectors.

We can't afford to keep stumbling on from one departmental disaster to another.

Posted by Len Raphael on 12/10/2016 at 8:39 PM

Re: “Oakland Officials Order Staff to Withhold Public Records Related to Ghost Ship Fire

Patton is correct again when he says that the acting director at the Building Dept is a conscientious guy and a competent planner, who was put into a position that requires a management skill set that he wouldn't have acquired in his previous position. So many problems in Oakland government are caused by poor management.

The current and previous City Administrators were number crunchers not line managers of big departments. Dan Lindheim, Dellums' City Administrator had never managed anything bigger than Dellums' Washington office. Much of his background was policy and global economics. But Dellums twisted his arm to become City Administrator because he wanted someone he could trust.

With weak management in the upper layers of crucial city departments, our city government is no more prepared to handle the growth we face now than it was to handle the recession of a few years ago.

Posted by Len Raphael on 12/07/2016 at 10:11 AM

Re: “Oakland Officials Order Staff to Withhold Public Records Related to Ghost Ship Fire

Agree with both of the comments above. This appears to be the deadly result of the systemic disfunctions of at two city departments, Fire and Building, and probably Police as well, to set up efficient systems to share information and to manage staff to make sure the systems are used properly and staff perform efficiently and timely. Along with that, there seems to be a remarkable failure of management to prioritize responses to complaints based on even number of people at risk and potential worst case harm.

Nothing new about these operating problems at City Hall. Been like that for many years, even decades. Normally the only damage is economic or discomfort to tenants getting screwed by landlords for substandard living conditions, builders and developers delayed for months over minor items and inconsistent inspectors and charged huge fees for the privilege, or residents forced to live with blight. Construction inspection and plan review failures of the growing building boom here probably won't even be discovered until the big one hits.

Ever since the Feds came in to oversee OPD, there was much talk about changing the "culture" at OPD. Far too many of Oakland municipal government need cultural change as well as house cleaning of many layers of their management.

Instead we'll get mass grief counseling, legal lynching of the dumshit master tenant, and an inspector and maybe an asst fire marshal taking early retirement.

Since the is after all, one of the most deadly building fires in CA history and made headlines across the country for several days, something more dramatic might be done to give the illusion of change. That's shaping up to be big cutbacks in allowable number of artist live/work units along with requirements for putting in good stuff like sprinkler systems which are so expensive that most artists won't be able to afford the rents.

Just as we overhauled the City Ethics Commission, and voters overwhelmingly approved an independent civilian Police Commission this past November, it's time to establish an independent Commission of residents and business people to oversee rehabbing of the Building and inspection department. After that task, another commission to examine the Fire Department.

Posted by Len Raphael on 12/07/2016 at 1:57 AM

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