Ada Chan’s controversial Planning Commission nomination was rejected by the Oakland City Council on a vote of 3-4-1 not long before midnight last night, after the City Council heard more than twenty speakers. City Councilmembers said their decision was based on a lack of community consensus and the need to attract more investment in Oakland, as well as discomfort with advocacy work she’d done in San Francisco.
Ms. Chan’s opponents made a clear and convincing case for consensus on Commission candidates. They pointed to missed meetings and bad experiences with organizations she worked for in San Francisco. Ms. Chan’s supporters were pretty strident and made the mistake of coming off as somewhat anti-development. The mayor’s legislative liaison, Miguel Bustos, presented a letter from Dellums praising Ms. Chan as a step toward comprehensive long-term planning, which made her sound like a document.
Oddly, several of Ada Chan’s supporters felt the need to dispel a “rumor” about her residency, confirming that she does indeed live in Oakland. Ms. Chan addressed the subject in her poised presentation, admitting to living in San Francisco for two years (the shame!) as the result of an eviction. Further distancing herself from the stain of San Francisco Supervisor socialism, she allowed that such policies are not desirable in Oakland, but did compare her work in the Mission to Oakland’s recent tussle over industrial land-use.
Besides the expectation that Planning Commission candidates not meet widespread opposition, the biggest reason the Council declined to confirm Ms. Chan is the work she did for activists in San Francisco. The planning policy proposals she promoted in the Mission and SOMA are radical even by San Francisco standards, and clearly turned off most of Oakland’s City Council. Indeed, Councilmembers Kernighan and Chang cited the Mission Interim Zoning Controls debate, also referenced by a developer stymied by MAC years ago, as evidence that the developers’ fears were well-founded.
Jean Quan said that the Asian Chambers of Commerce shouldn’t expect so much of a candidate just because she’s Asian, and suggested the Chinatown Chamber seek to meet with all candidates for important offices (I think they do). Jane Brunner, after complaining about how Ignacio “organized” for the meeting, said that she wanted to confirm Ms. Chan because she’s tired of the “Old Boys’ Club” where “young people get on a Commission because they had a drink with the right people.” This intrigues me. No, not the implication that everyone who’s currently on important commissions is unqualified. With whom can a young man like me have a drink to get on the Planning Commission, Ms. Brunner?