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How Oakland Defeated Coal

The improbable coming together of environmental activists, labor unions, and social justice groups made it happen.
People demonstrate outside Oakland's City Hall on June 27.
People demonstrate outside Oakland's City Hall on June 27. AP/Janie Har

When Oakland city leaders and developers broke ground in November 1, 2013, for the new Oakland Global Trade & Logistics Center, a 322-acre industrial hub at the port of Oakland, it was celebrated as a spark for the renaissance of the economically beleaguered city. The Army base that once occupied that area had been shuttered since 1999, taking thousands of jobs with it. When it’s finished, the new industrial center will include the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, storing volumes of commodities for export to other countries, including China.

One commodity that would not pass through that terminal is coal, the Oakland Global project developer Phil Tagami promised back then. In a December 2013 newsletter from Tagami’s development company California Capital & Investment Group, he made this assurance: