Archive for July, 2019

Opinion: City’s Kaiser Center 99-Year Lease Proposal “Lacks in Benefits to Marginalized Communities”

Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, circa 1917. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

By Ayodele Nzinga, MFA, Ph.D.

Ayodele Nzinga

In 2014, the City of Oakland issued an RFP for the redevelopment of the  Henry J Kaiser Center and Calvin Simmons Auditorium. Two proposals were considered. One was a  detailed a robust reuse of the historic site with “baked in community benefit”, and self-accessed itself to supplement funding for cultural affairs.

The other proposal offered a less defined plan for the use of the site, and at one point considered market rate offices and perhaps a brewery as a use for the refurbished building.

The city accepted the latter proposal and entered into a relationship with Orton Development in 2015 and has bent over backward ever since to accommodate shifting iterations of the project now described as arts and nonprofit offices with a 1,500-seat theater.

In April 2019, the Community Coalition for Equitable Development filed an appeal opposing the April 3rd, 2019 Planning Commission decision granting Orton Development a Conditional Use Permit and clearing the way for the negotiation of a 99-year lease between the Developer and the City, privatizing this public site for the length of the agreement.

The appeal, which is scheduled to be heard by City Council this month, cites a failure on the part of the developer to engage stakeholders,  calls out a lack of benefit to marginalized communities,  questions the benefit to the City of Oakland, and was fueled in part by the city’s failure to enact its equity policies regarding the use of publicly owned property.

The negotiations between CCED and the developer have  become a struggle, not over the levels of the anemic concessions contained in the term sheet of a project that was not designed with equity as a lens; but for a way to construct mechanisms that animate and implement some of the equity strategies  the city has yet to employ.

Oakland changed between 2014 and 2019. The change is easy to observe in the correlation of the proliferation of cranes in the sky,  the not so subtle change in the city’s demographics, and the rising price of living working and creating in The Town. Oakland is booming, but the effect of the boom doesn’t benefit all Oaklanders equally.   Oakland has an equity problem.  It has studied the root causes of these prevalent inequities, and crafted strategies informed by data and best practices to mitigate displacement and create more equitable outcomes.

The problem is, that as of this moment, the city does not seem to have found a way, or lacks the will, to implement the equity strategies outlined in multiple city policies, documents, and guidelines.

An approach suggested in the Mayor’s Task Force on Arts, and Housing suggests that the City utilize existing properties or buy properties on which to create equitable outcomes for artists at risk of displacement. The Calvin Simmons and the Henry J Kaiser represent unique opportunities to implement equity strategies. They offer an opportunity for the City to do a better job for the community than they did with the Fox, which presents an insurmountable access barrier in the price of production for the few days a year it is available to the community.

This project has become subject to Oakland’s Art Ordinance percent and is subject to the city Impact fee on new development, both grandfathered in. However, the developer was never instructed to use an equity lens. At what point does a failure to enact policy become a form of benign neglect?

The Henry J. Kaiser Center appeal is scheduled to be heard by City Council on July 9.

Ayodele Nzinga, MFA, Ph.D. is executive producing director of the the Lower Bottom Playaz, Inc.

Published July 4 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

$44.4 More Million for Homeless

Affordable housing, parks, illegal dumping, potholes are top priorities

Clockwise from top, Councilmembers Loren Taylor, Nikki Fortunato Bas,Rebecca Kaplan, Sheng Thao, who introduced the budget that the Council passed on June 24.

By Post Staff

In an unusual unanimous vote, the Oakland City Council passed the Oakland Together budget that included $44.4 million in amendments to the administration’s original proposal, focusing city investments on the homeless crisis, affordable housing, maintaining local parks and tackling illegal blight remediation.

The Oakland Together budget, approved on June 24, also restored cuts to Parks Maintenance positions and increased funding around police accountability and workforce development.

The budget was introduced by Council President Rebecca Kaplan together with Council­members Nikki Fortunato Bas, Loren Taylor, and Sheng Thao.

“I want to thank my colleagues for working hard to provide for the needs of our community,” said Council President Kaplan. “A special thank you to Councilmembers Thao, Bas and Taylor for serving on the budget team, and to Councilmembers McElhaney and Kalb for their thoughtful amendments. And to Vice Mayor Reid and Councilmem­ber Gallo for their successful advocacy for pro-active illegal dumping removal and cracking down on people who trash Oakland. “Although we made significant progress, there is still critical work to do including valuing working people and increasing funding for workforce development.”

One key inclusion for police reform was funding to study the CAHOOTS model of sending EMT and mental health workers to respond to appropriate 911 calls reducing the need for police to intervene in an individual experiencing a mental health crisis.

For housing and unsheltered neighbors there is funding for mobile showers and restrooms, a navigation center, a tiny house village project and additional safe parking sites.

The Oakland Together bud­get adds funding for food se­curity and healthy options by adding funding to Meals on Wheels and the Alameda Food Bank and piloting a healthy food conversion program in corner stores in East and West Oakland.

To alleviate blight and il­legal dumping, the Council added a fourth illegal dump­ing crew, additional cameras and enforcement measures, and an educational outreach program to assure that people know Oakland is not the place to dump their trash; and assist homeowners and other small property owners in adding an Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) or other projects to their properties, the budget adds evening hours at the per­mit desks for planning/build­ing.

The budget amendments se­cured funding for workforce development programs, and the council still needs to assure the programs are fully funded and working to help unem­ployed and underemployed community members get the training they need to secure living wage jobs, said Kaplan. Employment in the Black com­munity is much higher than their unemployed white coun­terparts, and a thriving work­force development program that focuses on equity is a solid step to balance the inequity, she said.

There is also the issue of impact fees. It is important to have transparency around funds paid to the city for the benefit of community.

Finally, city staff gave much in the downturn, some even count among Oakland’s working homeless. It’s time to thank them for making the sac­rifices the city needed and re­ward them with a contract that shows that residents value the work they do every day to keep the city running efficiently and effectively, said Kaplan.

Published Jul 3, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Chesa Boudin Runs for SF District Attorney

 

East Bay Civil Rights attorney Pamela Price introduces Chesa Boudin, who is running for district attorney of San Francisco, at a fundraiser in Oakland June 23. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

Running for San Francisco District Attorney to challenge the system of mass incar­ceration, SF Deputy Public Defender Chesa Boudin has gained the backing of civil rights attorney Pamela Price and other East Bay progres­sives.

“The system is broken,” Boudin said, speaking at a fun­draiser in Oakland on Sunday, June 23. ” If we can’t do bet­ter in San Francisco, in the Bay Area, where can we do better?”

Hosting the fundraiser were Price; civil rights icon Howard Moore Jr; Fania Davis, a lead­ing national voice on restor­ative justice; Allyssa Victory, Shirley Golub, Royl Roberts and Sheryl Walton. Boudin’s San Francisco endorsements include former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, Democratic Party Chair David Cam­pos and Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Aaron Peskin and San­dra Fewer.

Boudin has served as Depu­ty Public Defender since 2015, handling over 300 felony cas­es. He is running against Suzy Loftus, Nancy Tung, and Leif Dautch – who hope to suc­ceed eight-year incumbent DA George Gascón, who is not running for reelection. The election takes place on Nov. 5.

A graduate of Yale Law School, Boudin earned a mas­ters’ degree in public policy and is a Rhodes Scholar. His campaign emphasizes that he knows “firsthand the de­structive impacts of mass in­carceration.” He was only 14 months old when his parents were incarcerated for driving the getaway car “in a robbery that tragically took the lives of three men.” His mother served 22 years, and his father may never get out.

Introducing Boudin at the fundraiser, Price said, “When I heard about this young man, I did my research. I was blown away immediately. We have a real warrior among us. We have someone who has over­come obstacles, whose life, profession and whose spirit epitomizes what we need in our district attorney.”

“We know that our criminal justice system has been com­pletely corrupted by injustice and racism,” she continued. “(The system) is upheld and sustained by people who prac­tice it and are committed to its perpetuation… Chesa is in so many ways our greatest hope.”

In his remarks, Boudin called for an end to criminal justice practices that are insti­tutionalized but have clearly failed.

“We know that we have 25 percent of the world’s prison population in the U.S., and 2.2 million people are behind bars on any single day,” he said.

“We’re promised equal jus­tice under the law, but instead we have discriminatory money bail,” he said. “We believe in treating the mentally ill and the drug addicted, but instead this system puts them in solitary confinement.”

Boudin’s program includes creation of a “Wrongful Con­viction Unit,” would decide whether to reopen the investi­gation of certain cases, elimi­nating cash bail, effectively prosecuting police misconduct and refocusing resources to work on serious and violent felonies.

“(Change) has to start with people who understand how profoundly broken the system is, not just because they read it in a book but because they ex­perienced it,” he said.

For more information about Chesa Boudin’s campaign, go to www.chesaboudin.com/

Published July 3, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post