By Tulio Ospina
Nearly 200 community members attended the East 12th Street Wish List planning event in front of the Kaiser Convention Center on Sunday to collectively brainstorm proposal ideas for how the East 12th Street parcel could be utilized.
The event, held Sunday, Aug. 23, was hosted by Eastlake United for Justice, a group of neighbors from the East 12th Street community who led the fight against the construction of a luxury apartment tower by Lake Merritt that the Oakland City Council was poised to approve in July.
According to the group’s Facebook page, the purpose of the event was to “discuss with the community how the prime piece of public land can best be used for public good.” The gathering featured live performances, served food and had activities for all ages.
D. Alwan, a member of Eastlake’s Affordable Housing and Anti-Gentrification Committee, programmed the Imagine & Design tent, where community members were invited to provide feedback on the city’s management of certain issues and give suggestions for how the city could improve its services to residents.
“We asked people about eight questions for feedback around what they loved about Oakland and concerns they have, the kinds of businesses and services that folks want and the kind of community spaces people need,” said Alwan.
The neighborhood organization collected nearly 400 responses, with plans to share them publicly.
“These few hundred responses are the first time that the community’s feedback has been asked for in a proactive way,” she said. “The first time that community members were invited to come and talk and share and imagine.”
According to Alwan, issues of housing affordability and health were the most prevalent concerns among neighbors.
In terms of criticisms, community members overwhelmingly cited the city “prioritizing developers over its constituents” and its low-income housing communities.
Meanwhile, Alwan counted nearly 70 proposal ideas from community members for what could be constructed on the East 12th Street parcel.
In general, most proposal ideas were presenting affordable housing, safe passage for pedestrians from the lake to the site, a place for green space for community gardens and public housing for elderly folks, young children and immigrant families, said Alwan.
The next goals for Eastlake United for Justice are to transcribe the proposals and make visual representations that will be available to developers and, eventually, the city to review.
“The ideal situation is that a proposal will come out of this,” said Alwan. “We’re up against the city’s lack of will for a participatory process. No city representative attended the planning process and there have been no inquiries about what the feedback was,” she said.
At Sunday’s event, two members of the Oakland Unified School District announced their plan to submit a proposal to build affordable teacher housing on the East 12th Street site and to build new facilities for Dewey High School.
“Whoever gets the chance to move forward with their proposal, I very strongly encourage them to work with the community to fulfill the public’s desires,” said Alwan.
“This is public land being paid for by tax-payer dollars and the community should be in a leadership position to determine its outcome.”
Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 27, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)