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“Stupid” Fliers Handed Out at Target May Not be So Stupid After All

Container trucks pull into Bobac's Alameda warehouse location. (Action Alameda News)

Container trucks pull into Bobac’s Alameda warehouse location. (Action Alameda News)

Fliers circulating at Alameda’s new Target location, warning of environmental concerns over a proposed West Oakland United States Customs Examination Station, may not be as “stupid” as characterized by City of Alameda officials in a press release today.

Deputy City Manager Alex Nguyen distributed a statement to the media today that said:

Stupid Flier & Facebook Page Aimed at Scaring West Alameda

There is a flier and Facebook page being circulated in Alameda “warning” people that a US Customs Examination Station is coming to the West End.

This is NOT true.

A small group of people are gathering petition signatures in front of the new Target store to fight the US Customs Examination Station from coming to, apparently, West Oakland. It appears that they are purposely misleading Alamedans in order to get signatures by asserting that the Station is coming to Alameda, next to the Target store.

Neither the flier nor the Facebook page has any attribution. Whoever is behind this effort clearly does not believe in accuracy, facts, or truth.

However, there is an existing US Customs Examination Station in Alameda behind Target, near the corner of Mitchell Avenue and Fifth Street, and one opponent of the West Oakland project says that Alameda residents should be concerned about it.

Bobac CFS Corporation operates the existing Alameda examination station, and, according to its website, the station, “has over 341,000 square feet of warehouse space…is capable of handling over 100+ containers at a time” and “this facility is a Customs Examination Station designated by U.S. Customs that is also approved to handle USDA and FDA examinations.”

The pictures that accompany this article were taken at Bobac’s Alameda location; the entrance to the site has been relocated with the construction of Target, but to find it, we simply followed to the new entrance a container truck that had come to Alameda via the Webster Tube.

West Oakland Opposition

Brian Beveridge, Co-director of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, told Action Alameda News that his organization is opposed to the proposed examination site in West Oakland because of the site’s proximity to residential neighborhoods and recreational areas for children, and the possibility that the containers inspected there may be carrying hazardous or dangerous cargo.

He pointed out that Customs and Border Protection falls under the Department of Homeland Security, and that its website explains that it has “a priority mission of keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. It also has a responsibility for securing the border and facilitating lawful international trade and travel while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws and regulations, including immigration and drug laws.”

A scenario less nefarious than one involving drugs, weapons or explosives, Beveridge said, might be that of a cargo container that has been fumigated with poisonous gas to kill any insects that may have come from overseas.

He pointed out that hazardous or dangerous cargo may already be coming through the Webster Tube to Alameda for inspection at the Bobac site, and that Alameda faces the same land-use issue coming to a head in West Oakland, namely, that increased housing density is running up against commercial and industrial uses, such as the examination stations.

“We feel its [putting a station at the West Oakland location] an inappropriate land use in that proximity to residential and recreation uses. We think that the cargo should be inspected as close to the point of entry as possible, at the port of Oakland,” he told Action Alameda News.

He continued, “We’ve been working for 10 years to minimize local truck emissions from the Port of Oakland, and we anticipate this new station will create between 600 and 1,200 truck trips a month, and the trucks will have to line up around the blocks, as its hard for them to get in and out of the site. There are several residential areas downwind of the proposed site.”

Beveridge said that his organization is handing out a flier about the proposed West Oakland site, but they aren’t handing it out in Alameda.

“We don’t support people making stuff up to create hysteria in the community,” he said. “But I would challenge the City of Alameda to understand the nature of this problem before putting out a press release saying its a bunch of lies. Maybe they should have a hearing about what sort of cargo is coming through the Webster Tube and going to Bobac. People in Alameda need to decide if they want that kind of cargo travelling through town. Maybe it’s more interesting now that more housing is going up in the area.”

He also pointed out that federal regulations would permit any of the cargo types that get routed to the new West Oakland examination site to potentially get routed to the Alameda site, because of its close proximity.

His organization has contacted U.S. Representative Barbara Lee’s office to ask them to look into protocols regarding hazardous cargo, and the process by which Customs and Border Protection selects a site. Beveridge says the feds don’t have a public comment policy, and they rely on local zoning, hence the petition drive and leafletting that has sprouted up over the West Oakland site.

By press time, Deputy City Manager Alex Nguyen had not responded to follow-up questions by e-mail.

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