- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Oakland has paused a plan to sell land for a luxury high-rise in the sparkling Lake Merritt district, possibly killing the idea after months of protests by housing advocates, a councilmember said Friday.

The City Council had been on track to sell the one-acre parcel to a developer who wants to build roughly 300 market-rate units.

Housing activists decried the lack of affordable units in the plan and said the $5.1 million purchase price would be a giveaway for the land.

The city re-opened the parcel for development proposals from government and nonprofit groups. Private developers can bid only if there are no suitable buyers after 60 days.

The move halted a years-long journey that started when the parcel was created from a re-routed street.

Housing prices in Oakland are increasing rapidly, as is the case in the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area. People priced out of renting or owning homes in San Francisco are choosing to settle in Oakland, just across the Bay Bridge.

The council was scheduled to give final approval to the sale in May, when activists stormed the dais and linked arms. Council members called a recess and adjourned an hour later, shouting to be heard over protesters.

Councilman Noel Gallo said Friday that the City Council decided to advertise the property to government and nonprofit agencies as advised by the city attorney.

“What I have seen within the last year or two in terms of apartment rents and the development, I’ve never seen in my entire 60 years,” said Gallo, a lifelong Oakland resident. “Oakland is changing rapidly.”

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