large building with street sign in front
The 1960s Police Administration Building is outdated and unsafe. Some city officials see an opportunity to change how the site is used. Credit: Amir Aziz

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The nine-story, deteriorating Oakland Police Department headquarters could be torn down in the not too distant future and replaced with housing.

The City Council on Tuesday voted to begin seeking proposals for the redevelopment of the Police Administration Building, or PAB, at Seventh Street and Broadway in downtown Oakland. 

A separate vote at the same meeting set the stage for the police department’s main offices and more to be relocated to a new center in East Oakland.

“It is clear the PAB has not undergone the needed renovations to ensure the department is housed in a state-of-the-art facility which meets necessary safety standards,” wrote councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Carroll Fife, the authors of the plan. “At the same time, the City is in serious need [of] housing and commercial space.”

Fife and Kaplan’s plan calls on developers to submit proposals that include at least 600 housing units, at least one-third of which are affordable for low-income residents, and a ground floor space for shops or community uses.

Fife told The Oaklandside that she’s been in talks with three organizations and nonprofit developers with ideas on “how to utilize this large parcel of public land for public good.” She emphasized the need for units that are affordable to low-income residents, as Oakland has fallen far short of its state-mandated affordable housing goals and faces even steeper targets in the coming years. 

The legislation also calls on the administration to award contracts equitably, prioritizing “small, BIPOC, and women-owned firms.”

The PAB complex, built in the 1960s, includes the nine-story tower as well as smaller six- and two-story buildings. Currently, the police chief’s office, the OPD crime lab, the records departments, the police academy, and other functions are all housed at the site. 

The plan to redevelop the property has been in the works for several years. A 2017 feasibility study found that “all building systems inside the PAB are well beyond their useful life,” likely requiring major renovations in the near future. The building is not safe for either staff or members of the public, Kaplan said.

The Oakland Police Officers Association did not respond to questions about the union’s stance on the redevelopment plans or the relocation of police administration services to East Oakland. The OPOA office is located about a block away from the PAB building.

The city had previously identified 633 Hegenberger Rd. (the Operation HomeBase COVID-19 isolation trailer site) as a location where a new “service center,” including a police building, could be constructed. The city is also looking into locating the new center at the Coliseum site.

Kaplan told The Oaklandside that the relocation of the police functions to East Oakland while making way for the housing project downtown would be a “win-win.” 

“This will provide better service and conditions for that work, while also allowing a major parcel on the key Broadway corridor to be revitalized in a way that better connects downtown, Old Oakland, Chinatown, Jack London Square and a major corridor for pedestrians, transit, wheelchairs, and bicycles,” she said in a text message.

OPD’s main offices could soon relocate to East Oakland. Credit: Amir Aziz

The 2017 feasibility study included a real estate analysis that found the current PAB location would be “attractive to developers of both office and residential properties,” noting its proximity to BART. But it said the neighboring county-run courthouse and bail bond businesses nearby could make it less desirable to some. The old Glenn Dyer Jail is also on Seventh Street, although it was closed in 2019.

The property is city-owned, so under the state’s Surplus Land Act, it has to be offered first to affordable housing developers and other government agencies for redevelopment before it’s offered for other purposes.

The PAB site is not the only publicly owned property slated to be replaced with housing in the immediate vicinity. Redevelopment as a mixed-use complex is also in the works for county facilities on Broadway between Fourth and Fifth streets, the former site of the coroner’s office and other services.

The PAB resolution was on the consent calendar, a package of typically less-controversial items passed all at once by the council, instead of through individual votes.

Councilmember Loren Taylor said it “makes sense to start having and exploring these conversations,” but asked about the impact of the vote on the resolution.

“This resolution opens the door to beginning a process but does not make any decision or award any proposal,” responded Kaplan. “It’s simply the first step that allows us to begin to undertake those discussions with the community.”

Natalie Orenstein covers housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. She was previously on staff at Berkeleyside, where her extensive reporting on the legacy of school desegregation received recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists NorCal and the Education Writers Association. Natalie’s reporting has also appeared in The J Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, and she’s written about public policy for a number of research institutes and think tanks. Natalie lives in Oakland, grew up in Berkeley, and has only left her beloved East Bay once, to attend Pomona College.