Category: Economic Development

Councilmembers Reluctantly Pass Stop Gap WIB Budget

They say they want to revisit the budget by Sept. 30

 By Ken Epstein

City Councilmembers this week reluctantly approved a new Oakland Workforce Investment Board (WIB) budget for 2015-2017 that will make drastic cuts in jobs and job training programs for youth and unemployed adults.

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

Unhappy with the cuts to services for jobseekers, councilmembers also voted to hold a meeting before Sept. 30 to revisit and amend the WIB budget submitted by city staff.

Councilmembers on the city’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee said at their Tuesday meeting that they had no choice but to temporarily pass the budget in order to keep the flow of funds for jobs and training programs from being interrupted,

Carroll Fife

Carroll Fife

The proposed WIB budget will now go to the full council for approval,

Councilmembers said they want to meet in the fall to discuss the concerns raised by community members and representatives of nonprofits that operate programs in the community.

The top concern of the speakers at Tuesday’s CED meeting was that the WIB is making deep cuts in its budget and program that are not justified by the tiny reduction of federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) jobs funding that pays for Oakland’s programs.

According to WIB Executive Director John Bailey, while the federal money was only reduced by 1.3 percent compared with last year, the WIB budget is reducing money for youth by 15 percent and funding for adult programs by up to 24 percent.

Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee.

Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee.

Another major issue is that the city diverts too much of the money to pay for its administrative staff. Speakers at the meeting complained that the city takes 32 percent off the top for overhead, and the city makes no contributions to support the programs.

Pressed for specifics by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, Bailey could not explain why so much of job funds are used to pay for city staff.

Councilmembers said they want the WIB to come to the fall meeting with a detailed explanation of how it spends the money that is diverted from direct services to Oakland residents.

Speakers also complained that the WIB does not provide adequate

Agnes Ubalde

Agnes Ubalde

opportunity for the public to participate in the budget process, saying that public meetings are held at 8:30 a.m., making attendance impossible for many people who work or who are looking for work.

“It doesn’t make any sense that Oakland has its funding cut by less than 2 percent, and the service providers will be reduced by 15 to 24 percent – this budget is the antithesis of the values expressed by this council,” said Gay Plair Cobb, CEO of the Oakland Private Industry Council.

Speaking at the meeting, Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee, said that when her husband was unemployed, he went to many job agencies and got a runaround. But when he went to the PIC, he was listened to, treated humanely and helped.

The city needs to support these services that are more effective than 100 new cops to combat crime and support unemployed workers and their families, Brooks said. “Or are we going to keep repeating this pattern of murder, incarceration and demoralization?”

The WIB board is dysfunctional, said community member Carroll Fife. “I have been barred from attending these meetings, and service providers say they feel they will be retaliated against if they speak up.”

Defending the work of the board was WIB Chair Agnes Ubalde, vice president and community development officer of Wells Fargo Bank.

“Our board is transparent. Our budget process is open,” she said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 28, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Lakeshore Avenue Landlord Raises Monthly Rent from $1,080 to $3,870 to Force Tenants Out

Oakland attorney steven Schectman and teants speak Wednesday at a press conference across the steet from the 1918 Lakeshore Avenue apartment building owned by landlord Russell Flynn. Photo by Ken Epstein

Oakland attorney steven Schectman and tenants speak Wednesday at a press conference across the steet from the 1918 Lakeshore Avenue apartment building owned by landlord Russell Flynn. Photo by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstein

A group of tenants are resisting a landlord’s ongoing attempts to kick them out of their apartments, just a few blocks away from the site of the new luxury high-rise tower that will be built at the corner of East 12 Street by Lake Merritt.

The 16 tenants in 10 of the units at 1918 Lakeshore Ave. facing Lake Merritt, many of whom have multiyear leases, last year received a notice to raise their rents about fourfold.

“The rental of said premises will be the sum of $3,870 per month instead of $1,080 per moth as heretofore payable,” said the landlord’s letter to tenant Mohsin Sharif.

According to Oakland attorneys Steven Rood and Steven Schectman, who this week filed a lawsuit for damages on behalf of the tenants, the building was bought in the last year by landlord Russell Flynn, with the intention of pushing out the tenants and renting the units at a higher rate.

Speaking at a press conference in front of the building on Wednesday, the attorneys and the tenants they represent accused Flynn, as well as the previous landlord, of using harassing tactics to drive people out of their homes, like illegal astronomical rent increases, fraudulent lease forms, spy cameras in hallways to watch tenants and repeatedly turning off the water to the building.

“Flynn is one of the largest private owners of rental housing stock in the Bay Area (mostly in San Francisco), controlling more than 3,600 rental properties, and is, by his own admission one of California’s leading proponents of both ‘vacancy de-control’ and the Ellis Act (evictions),” according to the lawsuit.

One of the tenants is Cortez Pheniz, who has lived in the building since February 2013.

The harassment by the landlord has gotten bad “just recently,” he said.

“It’s really stressful,” said Pheniz, who has worked as a bus driver for Golden Gate Transit since 1998.

Another male tenant works is a fourth grade teacher in Oakland. A woman tenant does community organizing work and event planning.

Other speakers called on tenants like themselves throughout the city to organize and fight against being displaced.

Responding for the landlord, property manager of the building Lucky Stewart told the Post, “There’s a lot of tenants that have been there for 20, 30 years. They are wonderful tenants who can give more facts and truth to these ridiculous claims.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 19, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

City Council Approves Sale of Land for Lake Merritt Luxury Apartment Tower

Protesters stayed late Wednesday night to oppose the sale of the East 12th STtreet property. Photo by Ken Epstein

Protesters stayed late Wednesday night to oppose the sale of the East 12th STtreet property. Photo by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland City Council voted Wednesday night to go ahead with the hotly contested sale of a one-acre parcel of public land to a local developer and his out-of-state partner to build a luxury apartment tower at East 12th Street next to Lake Merritt.

After several hours of debate on both sides, the vote went quickly, 6-0, with one abstention, in favor of the sale.

Voting in favor were Councilmembers Abel Guillen, Desley Brooks, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Larry Reid, Annie Campbell Washington and Noel Gallo.

Dan Kalb abstained, saying he liked the deal but was not sure it was legal. Rebecca Kaplan was absent.

In the last week, Brooks joined the negotiations between Guillen and the development team, securing an additional $8 million from the developers for the city to use sometime soon to build affordable housing somewhere in the Eastlake/San Antonio area.

Councilmembers supported the arguments of city staff, who strongly urged the council to approve the deal, calling it a win-win for Oakland that includes sale of property for $5.1 million, $700,000 in community benefits, in addition to the $8 million.

Speaking at the meeting, construction workers, union leaders and trainees from the Cypress Mandela Training Center in West Oakland said they wanted to work. A representative of the Oakland NAACP said the organization supported the project.

Several speakers said this project is one of the few that has gone to African American developers. Black contactors and developers for the most part never win city contracts, they said, and it is these businessmen who provide jobs for Black workers.

Opponents of the deal argued that the issue was not about obtaining community benefits to move away but to maintain an existing community that is in the process of being displaced to make way for the wealthy who are willing to pay whatever landlords charge in order to live by the lake.

Furious at the council’s vote, Eastlake neighbors and their supporters shouted:

“Shame, shame, shame! We reject this luxury tower on public land! We reject the violent displacement of Black and Brown people from Oakland!”

Some representatives of the neighborhood group are saying they will fight the property sale in court.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 19, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland School District to Tear Down West Oakland School to Build Industrial Kitchen

Community members who are opposed to the Marcus Foster kitchen project include West Oakland residents (left to right) Lynne Horiuchi, Jeff Baker, and Madeline Wells. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

Community members who are opposed to the Marcus Foster kitchen project include West Oakland residents (left to right) Lynne Horiuchi, Jeff Baker, and Madeline Wells. Photo by Ashley Chambers.

By Ken Epstein

Despite vocal opposition of some community residents, the Oakland Unified School District is moving ahead with plans to demolish Marcus Foster School in West Oakland and build an industrial-style kitchen to provide healthy meals to schools throughout the city.

Some community members are angry that the plans for replacing the school at West and 29th streets have been underway since 2012, and they only learned of them in January.

Some are concerned that a school building will destroyed in a community that has lost many of it public buildings and has long been short-changed by the city in the allocation of public services.

They are also saying the new kitchen will bring pollution producing trucks into an area that already is burdened with extreme levels of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

The school at present houses a few special education classes and special education administrative offices. The gymnasium is open for community use.

The district for the past few months has been holding public engagement meetings with community members. In the meeting, district staff have explained the project’s community benefits and their efforts to reduce the environmental impact of trucks and the industrial kitchen.

Marcus Foster is scheduled to close this month, and a public hearing will be held in September, followed by asbestos removal and the demolition of the school this year.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 16, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland Is Losing Its Racial, Age and Economic Diversity, Says New Report

Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org/

Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org/

By Ken Epstein

Oakland is a city facing the loss of its racial, age, economic, cultural and social diversity, driven by the loss of affordable housing and a huge wealth gap, according to a new report produced by the City of Oakland.

The racial gap in household income is stark, with whites earning about double that of African Americans and other people of color.

Margaretta Lin

Margaretta Lin

Median household income of white families between 2008 and 2012 stood at $81,159. African American household income was $35,050, down from $42,975 in 2000.

The median income for Asian Americans between 2008 and 2012 was $45,238, down from $46,323 in 2000.

Latino families earned an average of $44,455, down from $53,341 in 2000.

The report, “Housing Equity Road Map,” cited a recent national study by the Brookings institution, which found that Oakland has the 13th highest income inequality in the nation, improving from 2012 when it ranked number seven.

In terms of housing affordability, Oakland has been first or second in the nation for the highest rent increases for multiple consecutive quarters.

Oakland’s median rental market list price is $2,200, and the median home sales price is $438,900, according to the report, which cited Zillow.

Renters who earn Oakland’s median income have to pay over 70 percent of their income for housing costs in order to afford a median rental-listing price in the city.

The rising cost of housing by itself is causing increased levels of poverty in Oakland and throughout California, according to Margaretta Lin, a primary author of the report and director of Strategic Initiatives for the city’s Housing and Community Development Department.

Economic growth will not solve but actually contributes to the city’s affordable housing crisis, the report found

Between March 2013 to March 2014, 17,000 new jobs were added in the East Bay, and 143,000 new jobs are forecasted by 2020, the report said. The growth in jobs is bipolar, mostly in the high wage professions and in the low wage sector.

“However, housing production is not keeping pace with the escalated demands, nor is sufficient housing being produced that is affordable to many existing residents and the growing lower-income workforce,” according to the report.

“Lower-income seniors, persons living on disability income and homeless people face nearly insurmountable barriers in finding housing that is affordable,” the report said.

Demographic changes in the city have been dramatic.

The number of children and youth in Oakland has declined 16.7 percent from 2000 to 2010, compared to 3.9 percent in Alameda County.

There continues to be a steady decline of the city’s African American population, 24 percent, 33,502 residents, between 2000 and 2010. Since 1990, the city has lost 54,003 Black residents.

During the foreclosure tsunami, Oaklanders lost their homes and their family nest eggs. In East Oakland, home ownership declined by 25 percent between 2006 and 2013.

Over 11,000 homes were foreclosed.

The City’s Council’s Community and Economic Development (CED) committee will schedule a special full council meeting to discuss the  report, “Oakland Housing Equity Roadmap,” including recommended policy strategies, which is available at www.policylink.org/sites/default/files/oakland-housing-051215-a.pdf

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 14, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

OUSD’s New Bond Policy Raises Concerns About School Construction

School construction project in OUSD

School construction project in OUSD

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Unified School District has adopted a new policy that will allow it to revisit how it will spend its construction bond funds, raising concerns that some building projects might be left in the lurch as the new administration moves ahead on its own priorities.

Mike Hutchinson

Mike Hutchinson

The new policy is designed to establish “criteria to equitably allocate bond funds for facility upgrades, modernizations and construction projects to meet strategic and programmatic goals,” according to a report to the school board at the May 27 board meeting.

The policy was developed by a 17-member committee appointed by the superintendent and approved unanimously by the school board at its May 27 meeting.

This new policy will “determine present and future planning and decisions on bond project prioritization,” according to the report presented at the board meeting.

The policy is needed because “(the district’s) needs are greater than the bonds approved by Oakland voters – we have more needs than we have money,” said Mia Settles-Tidwell, the district’s Chief of Operations and one of the leaders of the policy design committee.

OUSD Supt. Antwan Wilson

OUSD Supt. Antwan Wilson

Other leaders of the committee are Lance Jackson, Interim Chief of Facilities, Planning and Management, and Olis Simmons, president and CEO of Youth UpRising, a nonprofit agency that has two charter schools at the site of Castlemont High School in East Oakland.

A number of community members are asking what will happen to the projects already promised under the existing district facilities master plan and Measure J draft plan.

According to some people, nearly all of the remaining bond funds are already allocated, and reprioritization would require the elimination of projects already on the list.

So far not announced, the process for implementing this policy will be elaborated by administrative regulations that are considered by the superintendent to be his sole prerogative. The regulations are scheduled to be revealed at the June 10 board meeting.

The policy and regulations will determine how the district will utilize the unspent Measure J bond funds, which total $355 million, and the unspent $65 million in the Measure B bond, as well as future bonds that may be approved by Oakland voters.

One of two members of the public who spoke on this issue at the board meeting was school activist Mike Hutchinson, who provoked a strong reaction from the superintendent.

“This makes me a little bit nervous,” Hutchinson said, “because we don’t have extra money sitting out there to be reprioritized.”

“I am (worried) we going to be taking (money) away from somebody who already thinks they have their project coming,” he said. “Are we going to do that to McClymonds? Are we going to do that to Fremont? Are we going to do that to Glenview? Are we going to do that to the Foster kitchen?”

He continued: “A lot of us in the community get a little bit nervous when we see an outside consultant who has been hired to manage measure J (bond funds).” And this is the same person who is interim head of facilities, and he is the same one who is developing bond prioritization policy, Hutchinson said.

“I don´t think this passes the smell test. We have to be able to do better,” said Hutchinson.

He called on the school board to accept its responsibility to make policy. “Any prioritization of our money need to be directed by the board,” he said “If there’s ongoing to be a new committee, (it) needs to be appointed by the board, not by the superintendent. We no longer have a state administrator.”

Hutchinson told the Post he was concerned the district was preparing to shift bond money to pay for its proposed $100 million dollar headquarters project on Second Avenue.

Responding to the criticisms, Supt. Antwan Wilson said, “You can’t continue to sit here and listen to comments that are just completely inaccurate, week after week, month after month, same old thing.

He continued: ”We will send a message to one of our community members who continues to give wrong information about what an oversight committee does. This is no new process here in Oakland that deviates from anywhere else.”

By the Post’s deadline, the school district had not returned a request for answers to questions about the new policy.

To read the district’s existing Measure J spending plan, go to
http://legistar.granicus.com/daystar.legistar6.sdk.ws/View.ashx?M=F&GovernmentGUID=OUSD&LogicalFileName=75844.pdf&From=Granicus

To read the district’s existing list of Facilities Master Plan projects, go to http://mkthinkstrategy.info/ousdpublic/docs/OUSD%20Facilities%20Master%20Plan%20Projects%20Pipeline%205-16-12.pdf

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 4, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Community Voices Fill City Hall, Luxury Apartment Building Blocked

Guillen’s proposal collapses as Brooks, Kalb and Gallo refuse to support it

Pam Hall of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) spoke  at a rally Tuesday evening  in front of city hall. "A person who works at a regular low-wage job can't afford to live in Oakland," she said

Pam Hall of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) spoke at a rally Tuesday evening in front of city hall. “A person who works at a regular low-wage job can’t afford to live in Oakland,” she said.

By Ken Epstein

Before Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, the proposal to sell a city parcel to build a luxury apartment tower at Lake Merritt seemed like a done deal. But in the face of determined and passionate opposition of a coalition of community members, the deal disintegrated.

Opponents rallied in front of City Hall, and 91 people turned in speaker cards, almost all to speak against the sale of the one-acre parcel to Urban Core Development and its financial partner UDR.

The debate lasted from about 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

The crowd of opponents was barred from entering the council chambers. But the low rumble of their chants, “Housing Is a Human Right,” reverberated through the closed door, a constant presence in the room.

Speaker after speaker demanded that the council open the upstairs gallery, which had been closed for this meeting.

The council had set up overflow rooms to watch the proceedings on television, and individuals who had signed speaker cards were allowed to enter the chambers when their names were called.

The closing of the gallery was one of a number of security measures taken by the council Tuesday evening, including locking all but one of the entrances to City Hall and increasing police presence, after opponents shut down the council’s meeting May 5 to block the previous attempt to approve the sale of the public property.

Finally after hours of public speakers, Councilmember Abel Guillen made the motion to approve the deal, citing the community benefits he had negotiated with the developer during the past month, including a pledge of 30 units of “moderately” priced units in the 298-unit building.

But the five votes he needed were not there.

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan had left the meeting earlier, saying she had to recuse herself because of a campaign contribution.

That meant that only seven of the council’s eight members would be voting on the motion.

Councilmember Dan Kalb said he could not support the motion because the city may have violated the California Surplus Land Act, a contention of the protesters and their legal representatives at California Public Advocates.

Councilmember Noel Gallo said that he supported the use of public land public for public good and had opposed the sale of school district property to private developers when he was on the school board.

“I was not for selling public land at the school district, and I will not be for it at City Hall,” he said.

“Lake Merritt is a jewel, but it is a jewel for all of us, not just for a select group that can afford it,” said Gallo.

Gallo also demanded that the city attorney advise the council on whether the property sale was in violation of the California Surplus Land Act. But the city attorney’s representative refused to comment.

“If you don’t respond, you don’t give me a whole lot of direction,” Gallo said, adding he had no other choice but to vote no on the proposal.

Councilmember Desley Brooks raised concerns that Urban Core Development owned only 2.5 percent of the proposed project, while the national real estate corporation UDR owned 97.5 percent.

She also said she was “disappointed” in the community benefits, which did not address the seriousness of the affordable housing crisis in Oakland.

She said that when she originally considered supporting the proposal, she had believed “there was going to be a substantive community benefits package, not just a skateboard park, graffiti abatement and (a donation) to Children’s Fairyland.”

The 30 moderately priced units were in fact not moderate or affordable to people who live in Oakland, she said. “I am deeply troubled.”

Finally, Guillen withdrew his motion. Councilmembers Annie Campbell Washington and Larry Reid did not speak on the motion, and Lynette McElhaney had supported it.

“I can count” the votes, Guillen said.

The future of the project is now up in the air. Brooks made a motion, which passed unanimously, to come back to the next council meeting with a new proposal based on improved community benefits.

Speaking to Guillen, Brooks said, “I hope you can sit down with the community and the developer to see what you can work out.”

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 4, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Land for Luxury Apartment Tower Goes to City Council for Final Vote

Vote scheduled for Tuesday, June 2

Members of Eastlake United for Justice

Members of Eastlake United for Justice

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland City Council is set to vote Tuesday evening on a controversial proposal to sell a city-owned parcel to build a luxury apartment tower at the corner of East 12th Street and Lake Merritt.

The council had been originally scheduled to approve the property sale on May 5 when its meeting was shut down and taken over by protesters demanding that public property should only be developed for public use.

Councilmembers informally agreed to postpone the final vote for several weeks to give Councilmember Abel Guillen time to negotiate increased community benefits with the developer. Guillen represents District 2, where the property is located.

The final list of the benefits features a modest reduction of the monthly rent for 30 units of the 298-unit project, though not to a rate that many in Oakland would consider to be affordable.

Besides reducing prices on 10 percent of the units, the developer has agreed to make donations for a number of different public services.

However, the current proposal does not satisfy the demands that have been raised by the neighborhood activists, who say it still lacks affordable housing.

“It’s not affordable – not to the people living in the (Eastlake) zip code,” and it’s not affordable for people living in Oakland, said Monica Garcia, a member of the neighborhood group, Eastlake United for Justice. “Public land should be for the public.”

Abel Guillen

Abel Guillen

“We don’t have any idea where this laundry list of community benefits came from,” she continued. “Community benefits are generally generated in meetings with members of the community. These came from the councilmember or the developer.”

Garcia said the benefits are crumbs and do not address the housing crisis that is driving people out of Oakland and robbing the city of its diversity.

“We have not seen real leadership from the council on housing issues yet,” she said.

“We will be at the meeting to speak out against this proposal – against this use of public land.”

The agreement between the city and the developer would reduce the cost of 30 units, to be rented at three different levels between 80 percent and 120 percent of the East Bay’s Area Median Income (AMI) – which is about $99,000 for a family of three. The median income for a family of four in the Eastlake area is about $38,000 year, says Garcia.

Ten units would be rented at 80 percent of the AMI – $1,461 for a two-bedroom apartment.

Ten units would be rented at 100 percent of the AMI – $2,044 for a two-bedroom apartment.

And, 10 units would be rented at 120 percent of AMI – $2,466 for a two-bedroom apartment.

In addition, the developer would pay for a number of community benefits, including:

$150,000 towards building or maintaining a skateboard park;

$25,000 to support Children’s Fairyland;

$100,000 to support graffiti abatement and neighborhood beautification in the area;

And, $50,000 to plant trees east of Lake Merritt and by San Antonio Park.

The developer will also work with Councilmember Guillen and city staff to find potential space in District 2 that can accommodate between 50 and 70 affordable housing units. The developer will pay some of the predevelopment cost of this project.

Garcia was also unimpressed with the proposed agreement’s commitment to hire local workers for the project, saying the agreement “doesn’t have any teeth.”

In fact, the agreement leaves the promise of local jobs up to the developer to figure out.

The proposal says that within 120 days of signing the contract, the developer “will complete a plan…to accomplish a 25 percent good-faith-effort goal for local hiring for new jobs created during construction.”

The proposal does not distinguish between journeyman and apprenticeship jobs. Nor does it focus on hiring people from the less affluent zip codes in the city.

In addition, the “developer will consider using a Union General Contractor at the Developer’s sole discretion.”

Unlike this project, hard-fought negotiations over the Army Base development lasted for several years and resulted in the developer of that project eventually agreeing to a 50 percent local hire program and a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) that protects union jobs.

The buyers of the property are Urban Core Development, a local company, and UDR, a Denver-based national real estate corporation. Almost all the project will be owned by UDR.

“The proposed ownership of the project will include a 97.5 percent interest for UDR and a 2.5 percent interest for Urban Core,” according to the report submitted by city staff for Tuesday’s council meeting.

“UDR will serve as the Managing Member of the LLC and provide the required guarantees necessary to secure the project capital as needed,” the report continued. “Both companies will work together jointly throughout the predevelopment and construction phases, and UDR will manage the marketing, leasing and property management of the property.”

UDR, Inc., the city report said, is a leading multifamily real estate investment trust in the U.S. In 2014, the company owned 51,293 “apartment homes” across the country.

Eastlake United for Justice is planning to hold a rally Tuesday night in front of Oakland City Hall at 8 p.m.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 1, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

 

 

“Path Not Found” – Report Says Low-income Students Lack Computer Access

By Nikolas Zelinski

The Level Playing Field Institute (LPFI) has released a report titled a “Path Not Found” that chronicles the lack of computer classes available to lower-income students and students of color in California high schools.pathnotfound_report_main

The report finds “the higher a school’s percentage of underrepresented students of color, the lower the likelihood of a school offering any computer science courses whatsoever.”

Nearly 75 percent of high schools with the highest percentages of underrepresented students of color offer no computer science courses, and 75 percent of high schools with the highest numbers of low-income students offer no computer science courses.

This is during a time when the tech industry is booming, and the country’s demographics are shifting. “Last fall, for the first time in history, students of color made up the majority of first graders nationwide,” according to the report.

This disparity is currently demonstrated by Google’s diversity data released last year. Combined, African Americans and Latinos only comprise five percent of the technical workforce. Other major tech companies show similar statistics.

Mitch Kapor

Mitch Kapor

Nationwide economic projections indicate that there will be more than 1.3 million job openings in computing and mathematical occupations by 2022.

During a press conference for the report, Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus Corporation said, “All of my experience in the tech industry leads me to believe that no great startup can come into existence without skilled software developers. Because they’re the people that transform the visions and design into working code. Software developers are completely essential to the innovation economy.”

Kapor continued, “Even here in Silicon Valley, our schools are woefully behind in preparing the next generation to acquire these skills. We’ve seen time and time again, that students who are not born into privilege are at a disadvantage compared to their more privileged peers.”

According to Dr. Julie Flapan, executive director for the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools, “Upper-income schools have what we call preparatory privilege. Students who have exposure to computers at home, after-school coding classes, or summer robotics camps, are better prepared for the advanced placement (AP) courses that are already offered at their schools.”

“This is why it’s important to expand introductory level courses across the state, to ensure that all students have equal exposure to computer science,” Flapan concluded.

Some success in achieving demographic equality includes a program recently trialed in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), in partnership with the University of California Los Angeles, and the National Science Foundation.

The equity focused curriculum called “Exploring Computer Science” shows participation directly mirrors the overall demographics of LAUSD. The course utilizes interest-based learning at its core, and uses that concept to teach web design, and coding.

To ensure computer access for underrepresented students of color, and underprivileged students, the “Path Not Found” report lists some key strategies.

One of the solutions is to make computer science count as either a mathematics course, or science high school graduation requirement.

Other methods include expanding access to in-school and out-of-school programs designed to develop computing interest among underrepresented groups; while emphasizing hands-on projects, field trips, extracurricular activities, and mentorship programs.

Also, ensure that funding prioritizes programs serving low-income students of color and other underrepresented groups.

Many members of the press conference panel explained that role-models who look like the students they are teaching is one of the biggest factors to success.

 Courtesy of the Post News Group, May 24, 1015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Unanswered Questions as OUSD Moves Forward on Headquarters Development

How will the district pay for the project, estimated to cost $100 million?

Rendering of new OUSD headquarters complex, "Design Conception One."

Rendering of new OUSD headquarters complex, “Design Conception One.”

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland Unified School District is moving ahead with its plan to tear down the district’s old administration building on Second Avenue and East 10th Street and replace it with a new educational complex.

The district is currently looking at three separate “final conceptual designs” for the property, and all of them would contain office space for at least some administrators and their staff, a conference center and theater for parent and staff training, a student-run café, parking for some employees and a new school for Dewey Academy with a gym and multipurpose room.

Dewey at present is located nearby at Second Avenue and East 12th Street.

Additionally, one of the proposals includes keeping the façade or other parts of the old administration building. And another design proposes to build some units of housing, but staff has emphasized that these units would be affordable or for teachers, not market-rate housing.

The administration is taking the three conceptual designs to next Wednesday evening’s board meeting, hoping for board approval to move ahead with one of the designs, based on the superintendent’s recommendation.

To publicize the design proposals, the district held three meetings this week in different parts of Oakland. However, the meetings were poorly advertised, and only about six members of the public attended the first two of the events.

A number of questions remain to be answered.

Why is the district proposing to build at new campus for Dewey Academy?

Dewey was originally included in the project when the district was trying to sell the school property to Urban Core Development to add to its plan to build a luxury apartment tower adjacent to the school at East 12th and Lake Merritt Boulevard.

Building a new campus for Dewey – which is relatively new – significantly contributes to the estimated $100 million price tag for the new complex and may mean that other school construction projects would have to be scrapped.

What part of the central office administration would fit into this new complex?

According to the district, the new headquarters will contain office space for 300-350 people. However, a school district fact sheet said that in 2014, there were 940 central office staffers, though it did not break down what job classifications were part of that number.

Although the district has said one of its main goals was the consolidation of central office workers under one roof, it would seem that it will not be able accommodate everyone without continuing to send staff to satellite locations or to lay off a huge number of administrators and their support staff.

How will the district pay for this complex?

The obvious pot of money is school bond funds, but there are legal restrictions that must be observed, and most of the money may be earmarked for other projects.

Rumors are circulating that the administration may want to sell the site the old Lakeview Elementary School to developers. The district has already notified Community Schools and Student Services Department staff who work at the closed school that they will be transferred, mostly to OUSD headquarters at 10000 Broadway.

 Will there be enough parking?

The proposals call for only about a total of 400 parking places for central office staff, Dewey staff and people utilizing the conference center.

A number of staff members will be expected to take BART or bus to work. However, many staff members have duties that require them to frequently visit school sites or other off-site meetings. Some would have difficulty doing their jobs without availability of a car.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 23, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)