Wayans inspiring 'hope' in Oakland -- City Council committee
enthusiastically endorses brothers' plans for movie studio at
By Heather MacDonald, Oakland Tribune
OAKLAND — A City Council committee gave two snaps up Tuesday
to a plan to turn the defunct Oakland Army Base into a theme
park and movie studio.
Under the plan, endorsed by the Community and Economic Development
Committee, the city would negotiate exclusively for 12 months
with the Wayans brothers, who want to build a major film and
television production studio — complete with shops, restaurants
and a luxury hotel — on 70 acres of now-vacant land.
"We see Oakland as a sleeping giant," said Keenen
Ivory Wayans, flanked by his brother Marlon. "We want to
get in early before everyone realizes how great it is."
The usually sedate committee meeting turned raucous, with city
staffers and residents alike jostling to take a picture with
two of the four Wayans brothers, the force behind several Hollywood
blockbusters, including "Scary Movie" and, most recently,
More than four dozen Oakland residents pleaded with the committee
to quickly give the plan the green light before the Wayanses
have second thoughts. The Wayans first rose to stardom on the
TV show "In Living Color," where they famously reimagined
Siskel & Ebert as two African-American — and flamboyantly
gay — film critics quick to give good movies "two snaps
people told the council the project had the potential to restore
Oaklanders' pride in their city and roll back the poverty, crime
and blight that has bedeviled Oakland for decades.
"This project could reduce and overturn two decades of
negative television images of Oakland," said John Green,
an Oakland resident. "Oakland would not be a laughingstock
Although details of the proposal were sketchy, the Wayans' management
team said the theme park and movie studio could contribute more
than $1 billion annually to Oakland'seconomy and provide job
training and sports facilities for Oakland's teenagers and young
adults, not to mention something to do on a Friday or Saturday
"It's about time our children have something to be proud
of," said Oakland resident Samantha Thomas.
After the meeting, Keenen Ivory Wayans said he was humbled by
the outpouring of support from the community but quietly warned
the development was not the answer to all of Oakland's problems.
"Change begins with a drop of hope," he said. "It's
part of a bigger answer."
The full council is expected to consider the proposal at 6 p.m.
Tuesday in the council chambers at City Hall, One Frank Ogawa
Plaza. At the same time, the council will also weigh a plan
to enter into an exclusive negotiating agreement with Opus/Legacy
West Wind to develop the remaining 50 acres of the Army Base.
Although Opus/Legacy West Wind once held a now-expired exclusive
negotiating agreement to develop the entire base, Curtis Smothers,
a company representative, said it would not stand in the way
of the Wayans brothers' plans.
Council President Ignacio De La Fuente (Glenview-Fruitvale)
said he was "absolutely" in favor of the agreement
but wanted to make sure the legal issues with Opus/Legacy West
Wind could be resolved and the details finalized, a position
echoed by Vice Mayor Jane Brunner.
"You want us to do it fast, but we should do it smartly
and fast so it doesn't fall apart," Brunner said.
Councilmember Larry Reid (Elmhurst-East Oakland) praised the
Wayans for their commitment to Oakland and the city's youth.
"You have brought a sense of hope and pride to Oakland,"
Keenen Ivory Wayans said he and his brothers chose Oakland because
they wanted to give back to a community "reflective of
Named after the housing project where the brothers grew up in
New York, the Wayans' Fulton Project Development Group will
pay $150,000 to cover outside consulting fees within 10 days
of council approval.
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