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Proposal by Wayans brothers a boon to Oakland

Editorial, June 16, 2005

FOR too many years, the abandoned Oakland Army Base has been the source of grandiose schemes that ended up being nothing more than pipe dreams. Everything from a casino to a convention center to a big-box superstore to a high-tech campus has been proposed for the site, yet today it remains a vacant reminder that redevelopment is easier said than done.

Now, almost seemingly out of nowhere, a glimmer of hope has returned for the old base, in the form of the hilarious Wayans brothers, whose ticket to fame came from the TV show "In Living Color" and some pretty funny flicks such as "Scary Movie" and "White Chicks."

The Wayans brothers want to build a major film and television production studio on 70 acres of the defunct 125-acre base. Their plan includes shops, restaurants and a luxury hotel.

On Tuesday, the City Council will vote on the Community and Economic Development Committee's recommendation that the city exclusively negotiate with the Wayans brothers over the next year for use of the site.

This should be a slam-dunk yes vote. If Emeryville can have Pixar and San Francisco can have Lucasfilm, Oakland by all means shouldn't pass up the chance of landing Wayans Studio or Wayans Two Snaps or whatever the brothers end up calling the place. The studio/theme park should give the local economy a big boost. The Wayans management team says it expects to bring more than $1 billion annually to Oakland's economy and provide job training and sports facilities for teenagers and young adults.

Naturally, the City Council should move quickly on this opportunity but also ensure that officials negotiate a smart deal. Oakland's track record of doing that with developments is spotty at best.

And although we believe a first-class studio and theme park would go far in helping Oakland's economy and image, fans of the celebrity brothers shouldn't get their hopes so high that they start believing a production studio will solve all of the city's problems overnight.

That would only happen in a movie.

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