Category: Economic Development

Clergy Leaders Endorse Desley Brooks While Mayor and Developers Raise Money to Defeat Her

Brooks’ opponents are spending nearly $400,000 in District 6

Shown are (top left to right): Pastor Joe Nobles, Pastor Dr. Kevin Ary, Rev. Eric Barfield, Pastor Eli Lloyd D.D. Second Row (not shown): Bishop Johnson, Pastor Joe L Smith, President, Pastor L. J. Jennings and Rev. Michael N Jones Sr. Bottom row: Pastor Larry Atkins, Pastor Dr. Lee E. Henry and Desley Brooks.

By Ken Epstein

A huge amount of outside money is being spent by outside interests tied to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and her developer and building trades allies to back the candidates who are trying to unseat veteran City Councilmember Desley Brooks.

Brooks, who has significant grassroots support and financial backing, is facing four opponents and two Political Action Committees that have war chests totaling over $360,000, close to five times as much as Brooks has raised.

“The influence of outside money has been dictating and changing the culture of our city for years now,” said Angela Thomas, a lifelong resident of Oakland and former family childcare provider who has lived in District 6 for 14 years.

“Now, it seems that same money, currently being directed by Mayor Libby Schaaf and her big money donors, is seeping into a local election in our neighborhood, distorting the facts, rehashing old news and aiming to take out an elected official who has consistently stood up to them and who has also stood up for us, and I take it personally,” she said recently in a media release for a press conference on the steps of City Hall.

“The Mayor and her donors are using her power, influence and big money to take out Desley and poison the water in a local race,” said local civil rights attorney Dan Siegel, a District 6 resident.

The largest of the two PACSs that are funding mailings and canvassing against Brooks is “Oaklanders for Responsible Leadership, Opposing Desley Brooks for Oakland City Council,” which has $81,665 in donations but has already spent $114,479 as of Oct. 20.

Many of the donations to this PAC come from regional and statewide building trades unions, which do not hire very many Black workers on Oakland projects and work together with developers to support continuous gentrification and displacement of local residents.

Among the donations are: Sprinkler Fitters and Apprentices Local 483 PAC in Sacramento for $15,000, International Brotherhood of Electrical workers Local 595 in Dublin for $10,000; Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No 104 in San Ramon for $10,000; and the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California for $10,000.

Other contributors to the Anti-Brooks PAC were Libby Schaaf, $999.99; Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, $7,500; Kenneth Schmier, self-employed investor in Emeryville, $4,990; Lisa Schmier, retired, in Larkspur, $4,990; and Kim A. Thompson, attorney, PricewaterhouseCoopers, $2,500.

The other PAC, “Citizens for a United Oakland, Opposing Desley Brooks for City Council,” has raised $26,100 and spent $31,320 as of Oct. 20.

Donations to this PAC include: Robert Spears, Shoreline Venture Management, $4,500; Derek Benham, Piedmont CEO of Purple Wine, $4,500; Stephan Pezzola of Oakland, business consulting Yorkshire Ventures, $2.500; and Frank Yeary, Berkeley, Executive Chairman, Camberview Partners, $1,000.

Of the four candidates running against Brooks, the one with the most donations is Loren Taylor, who has worked in non-profits and is a PTA president. As of Oct. 20, he listed campaign contributions of $141,041.

Among his contributors are: Jeremy Zachary, Gold Coast Industries, $800; Joe Simitian, Palo Alto, Santa Clara County Supervisor, $800, Andrew Deangelo, General Manager Harborside Health Center, $700; and Louise Godfrey, Piedmont, $600.
Taylor loaned his campaign $8,000 of his personal funds.

Natasha Middleton, a management analyst at the Alameda County Probation Department, has reported $68,874 in donations and $74,862 in expenditures as of Oct. 20.
Her contributions include: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332 in San Jose, $1,600; Leigh Morgan, Seattle, executive, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, $750; Northern Calif. Carpenters Regional Council, $1,600; Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 460, Bakersfield, $1,000; Southern California Pipe Trades District Council 16, Los Angeles, $1,600; and Plumbers and Steamfitter Local Union No. 230, San Diego, $1,600.

Marlo Rodriguez, a Registered Nurse, has raised $24,534 so far.  She has loaned $16,680 to her campaign.  The donations to her campaign are mostly about $100.

Mya Whitaker, a counselor for foster youth, has raised $15,691 at Oct. 20.

Her funders include William Koziol, Crockett, $800; Rebecca Vasquez, Sacramento, $800; Khalil Yearwood, San Francisco with Gibson Dunn, $800; Jason Burke, Sunnyvale, corporate/business official, Aosense, $800.

(Correction: An earlier edition of this story misspelled Mya Whitaker’s name.)

Published November 3, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Report: Oakland Can House 2,000 Homeless People in 6 Months “If Political Will Exists”

Real number of homeless in Oakland is over 9,000

A number of Oakland groups released a “Community-Based Oakland Plan to House the Unhoused” at a press conference Monday at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in downtown Oakland. Among the speakers were Needa B of The Village, Margaretta Lin of the Dellums Institute for Social Justice and Candice Elder of the East Oakland Collective. Photo by Amir Saadiq.

The Housing and Dignity Project released a report this week showing that solutions to housing Oakland’s unhoused residents are available, if the political will exists.

A collaboration between The Village, the East Oakland Collective, and the Dellums Institute for Social Justice,  The Housing and Dignity Project’s report, “Housing Oakland’s Unhoused Report,” is available on the Dellums Institute’s website, http://dellumsinstitute.org/community-justice-data/.

It is the perfect response to the recently released UN Report that called out only two cities in the US for human rights violations of the homeless–Oakland and San Francisco.

As the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha, decried in the recent special report, “The world has come to accept the unacceptable.”  With escalating income inequality and “systemic exclusion” of the poor, nearly one in four of the world’s urban population lives in informal settlements or encampments—883 million people.

These intolerable conditions exist not only in Mumbai, but shockingly, in US cities like Oakland and San Francisco.

With Oakland’s out of control housing market and 75 percent increase in median rents since 2014, escalating numbers of Oakland’s working poor have lost their homes.

Said Needa Bee, leader of The Village, “It took the United Nations to validate what unhoused people have been saying.  Instead of working with us, the City of Oakland has bulldozed community housing, denied its residents struggling to survive access to basic rights to water and sanitation, evicted encampments, and criminalized the homeless.”

Spurred by the City of Oakland’s failure to adequately house over 9,000 unhoused Oakland residents (a more accurate number according to the Alameda County Healthcare for the Homeless Program research), the Housing and Dignity Project recently convened unhoused residents to design strategies that can provide immediate and long-term housing solutions.

“Unhoused residents who have been the most impacted by Oakland’s insane housing crisis know what solutions look like.  The problem is that few people are willing to listen,” said Candice Elder, leader of the East Oakland Collective.

The “Housing Oakland’s Unhoused Plan” harnesses alternative building solutions and community ingenuity with available public land that could provide over 7,000 new housing units for the unhoused.

As former Oakland Deputy City Administrator and co-architect of the Plan, Margaretta Lin, said, “I was at the City of Oakland during the Great Recession and witnessed firsthand the power of government to solve big problems.  We need government to unleash their full powers to partner with unhoused residents and reverse Oakland’s current course.  Systemic exclusion and human rights violations are happening on our collective watch.”

The report identified short term emergency solutions implementable within six months including:

  • Housing 1,200 people in tiny home villages for up to $7,500 per unit;
  • Housing 800 people in mobile homes for up to $35,000 per unit;
  • Utilize 50 parcels of available public land in Oakland that could produce 7,300 housing units.

These scalable solutions could immediately house 2,000 people for about $23 million, less than the cost to build one 40-unit building. In addition, the Housing and Dignity Project has identified city, county, and state available funds for their plan.

Published November 2, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Bernie Sanders Endorses Jovanka Beckles for Assembly

Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Barbara Lee with Jovanka Beckles at get-out-the-vote rally last Saturday.

Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Jovanka Beckles for Assembly District 15 following a weekend rally in Berkeley.

“While in Berkeley, I had the chance to meet with Jovanka Beckles, and I was impressed by her commitment to progressive values,” said Sanders.

“In the State Assembly, she will fight for Medicare for all, a living wage for all California workers, environmental justice and criminal justice reform,” he said. “I’m proud to support Jovanka Beckles in the 15th Assembly district.”

Sanders met with Beckles following an auditorium-packing rally with Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) in a speech excoriating President Trump. Berkeley was the final stop on his dynamic, nine-state Get Out The Vote (GOTV) tour.

The event, on the grounds of Berkeley High School at the packed 3,500-seat Berkeley Community Theater, began with a speech by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín.

Published November 1, 2018

Attacks on Desley Brooks Are “Shameful and Dishonest,” Say Community Leaders

 “Desley has the courage to speak naked truth to the powerful  people with money who run everything,” says Rev. J. Alfred Smith Sr.

Ken Epstein

Until now, District 6, a largely flatland community in East Oakland, has been generally ignored by downtown gentrifying politicians and their allied developer/financier partners.

Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr.

But that is changing as tens of thousands of dollars flow into the district to fuel a campaign of personal attacks and smears designed to unseat veteran Councilmember Desley Brooks, funded by Mayor Libby Schaaf, outside real estate developers and their allied building trades construction unions, according to required Political Action Committee filings.

Many of those who know Brooks and her track record are standing with the council member.

“I support Desley – I haven’t changed,” said Rev. J. Alfred Smith Sr. pastor emeritus of Allen Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland.

Rev. Dr. Harold Mayberry

“No matter what the enemy says, I stand with her because she loves Black people,” said Pastor Smith. “She has never done anything to harm the Black community. She has the courage to speak naked truth to the powerful people with money who run everything.”

“I don’t see the same group crying out to help the jobless and the homeless or to help the neighborhoods in the same way they spend money on downtown (development).

“So, I shall not be moved.”

Brooks’ opponents put out flyers filled with vague and unfounded charges of corruption and dishonesty. But they do not talk about Brooks’ track record.

She has been outspoken in her opposition to police misconduct and racial profiling. She took on powerful interests in her fight for jobs and training opportunities for Black and Latino residents who want to enter good careers in the construction trades.

She opposed powerful businessmen when she worked to pass the city’s cannabis equity ordinance, winning national recognition for her efforts to create opportunities for individuals and communities that bore the

Dan Siegel

brunt of the War on Drugs.

She fought for the resources that have been denied to East Oakland and to create the city’s Department of Race and Equity, part of her effort to end the City of Oakland’s long-term discrimination in contracting against small Black, Latino- and Women-owned businesses.

Rev. Dr. Harold Mayberry, senior pastor of First AME Church Oakland, said, “I live in District 6, and I’ve seen the work that (Brooks) has done. It’s unfortunate that people who don’t even live in the district and in a number of cases don’t even live in Oakland would be attacking a very effective member of the City Council.

“(Brooks’) opponents have not been tested or proven themselves to be productive” Mayberry continued. “I’ve been living here for 23, but I’ve seen nothing like this – it’s a divisive, evil, mean spirited campaign. It’s way over the line.”

Said local civil rights attorney Walter Riley. “It is a smear campaign, full of unjustified attacks on Desley because she has stood up for people in her district. More specifically, she has stood up for Black people in this climate of big money and powerful political interests that are taking control,”

Walter Riley

“They’re coming after her, and we need to defend her,” Riley said, emphasizing that people should not be distracted by Brooks’ past conflicts with people who have disagreed with her.

Dan Siegel, Oakland civil rights attorney and a District 6 resident, said “They are making charges without a shred of evidence, making assumptions, full of a lot of implicit bias.” “An old cliché says that you can tell a lot about a person by their enemies,” he said.

“Desley’s opponents are led by Libby Schaaf, Jean Quan, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Building and Construction Trades unions, which are angry because Desley has demanded that more high paying construction jobs on local development projects go to Black and Brown Oakland residents.

“People need to withhold judgment on the Elaine Brown case, which was lost because of the horrible job done by the City Attorney’s office,” he said. “I am representing Desley in her claim against the City Attorney, and I am confident the facts show that Elaine Brown was to blame in their confrontation.”

“I hope voters in District 6 will focus on the issues rather than the personalities,” said Siegel.

The anti-Brooks Political Action Committees (PACs) are largely funded by three groups: “supporters of Libby Schaaf’s city hall; large unions with mostly suburban, not Oakland memberships; and venture capitalists, developers and real estate investors,” according to an online article “The United Front Against Desley Brooks Part II.”

Published October 28, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Hold Sheriff Accountable for Human Rights Violations at Alameda County Jail, Says New Report

 “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them.”  Hebrews 13:3

Santa Rita Jail, Alameda County

The Live Free Committee of Oakland Community Organization (OCO) released a  report titled “What’s Up With Our Jails?” on Oct. 2, detailing human rights violations  taking place in Alameda County jail.

This important report is available online at www.oaklandpost.org and was published in the Oakland Post.

The 2,600 people held in Alameda County jails daily are our brothers and sisters, fathers, mothers, and neighbors. The jails are ours, as taxpayers and voters, and should reflect our values.

Racial and economic injustices are evident in who ends up in jail. While we work to correct these injustices, our research raises urgent questions about county jail operations:

  • Do our jails meet basic human rights standards?
  • Do we offer persons leaving jail the resources they need to successfully return to our communities?
  • What can we, as a community, do to make a difference?

Who Runs Our Jails?

The Alameda County Sheriff is the elected official with authority over county jail operations. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO), under the direction of Sheriff Gregory Ahern since 2006, also polices unincorporated areas of the county and functions as county coroner.

Sheriff Greg Ahern

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors, also an elected body, is responsible for authorizing the annual ACSO budget and monitoring jail conditions.

Who Is Locked Up?

Alameda County has two jails — the Santa Rita Jail (the larger facility, in Dublin) and the Glenn E. Dyer Detention Facility (a high-rise maximum security jail in Oakland).

In early 2018, the county jails held on average 2,362 men and 236 women daily. The average daily jail population is more than 50 percent African-American, 20 percent Latino, and less than 20 percent white.

Reasons for Incarceration: Only 446 (18 percent) of the 2,598 people held in our jails in early 2018 were actually serving sentences. According to ACSO data from December 2017, of those detained but not sentenced, one-third were bail-eligible.

They remained in custody because they were too poor to afford bail.

Length of Incarceration: Some people are serving sentences of years rather than months in our jails. State prison reforms in 2011 moved many people convicted of nonviolent crimes from state jurisdiction to the counties.

For lower-level offenders, local supervision is supposed to be better than state prison. Yet county jails were never intended for long confinement.

Even pretrial incarceration can take years. In 2013, for instance, Dajon Ford was arrested as a juvenile and spent four years in Santa Rita awaiting trial before community efforts finally won his freedom.

OCO Findings

OCO leaders have heard many complaints about the treatment of people detained in the county’s jails over the years. Based on our research, we find these to be the most serious current problems.

Pregnancy: At Santa Rita, pregnant women are in with the general population unless they ask to be moved to a medical unit, which means isolation 23 hours a day. Multiple sworn testimonies reveal that medical needs for pregnant women are often neglected.

“A very pregnant woman … was in so much pain she could not walk. … Instead of taking her to receive medical care, [deputies] placed her in an isolation cell … [she] began to scream. This went on for hours. … Finally, we could hear the crying of a baby … [she] had given birth, alone,” from a sworn declaration of a woman incarcerated at Santa Rita.

Medical Care: Many lawsuits have been brought against the jails’ for-profit medical care contractors. Sheriff’s deputies are not trained as certified emergency medical responders. In 2015, Mario Martinez died in Santa Rita when deputies ignored cries for help and failed to provide needed medical care.

Food Services: Complaints about poor jail food and kitchen cleanliness — including reports of animal feces and rats — are common. A recent Alameda County Public Health Department inspection found that 24 percent of persons in Santa Rita were not getting their required diets. Canteen food is available, but only to those who can pay for it.

Hygiene Services: Female inmates have testified in recent lawsuits that they cannot get the sanitary supplies they need. During the 2017 hunger strike at Glenn Dyer, inmates complained that they were getting only one set of clean clothes per week.

Isolation: Ten percent of Santa Rita inmates and 20 percent of Glenn Dyer inmates are held in “administrative isolation” — a kind of solitary confinement. Isolation was a major grievance of the Glenn Dyer strikers. Studies have shown solitary confinement can “severely impair prisoners’ capacity for normal human functioning.”

Contact with Family and Community: Family visitation is restricted to 30 minutes. No physical contact is permitted. Visiting hours are available during limited hours, three days a week. The cost of phone and video calls runs about $6 for 15 minutes.

“It kills me mentally to be in jail,” said a young man who was held in Santa Rita.

“A 30-minute visit maximum a week … is not enough. It breaks families. They use visits as punishment, taking visits away,” said two men formerly held in Santa Rita.

Lack of Translators: Although there are bilingual deputies and ACSO has a rulebook in Spanish, there are no dedicated translators on staff. Translation is often done informally among inmates. Language barriers can prevent individuals from participating in programs and services.

ICE and Undocumented Persons: Despite sanctuary policies passed by the Board of Supervisors that restrict contact between ICE and law enforcement, the Sheriff’s Office has posted inmates’ release dates on the internet. This allows ICE to take undocumented persons into custody (even though being held at Santa Rita Jail is not evidence of criminal guilt) and exposes others to harassment or retaliation as they leave the jail.

Release from Jail: People are often released from our jails at night and alone with no more than a BART ticket — without even a few days’ supply of essential medications. Since Medi-Cal benefits are automatically suspended in jail, many people return to the community with no medical coverage.

“They just release you. No referrals. They gave me a $5 BART ticket. I had to walk to the BART station in my [jail] blues,” according to two young men released from Santa Rita.

Re-entry and Rehab Programs: In 2014, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors adopted a re-entry strategic plan to help break the cycle of returning the same people to jail.

The plan, not yet implemented, acknowledges the need to provide inmates with a wide range of services such as housing, health care, mental health and substance abuse services; employment; and education.

Yet rehabilitative programs within Santa Rita Jail remain underfunded and understaffed, serving relatively few inmates effectively. Only the most motivated individuals tend to get the help they need. But society would be better off if everyone received needed services.

They classify people by tattoos, gang, where they’re from. … Couldn’t take college or trade classes in there because of security,” said one young man who had been in Santa Rita.

“There are waiting lists. Everybody is trying to get into a program,” said another young man who did time in the jail.

Our sources report that ACSO’s jail classification system (the way it segregates and houses people for security and other reasons) ends up denying program access to those who need resources the most. (ACSO, unlike state prisons, does not make its classification system public.)

ACSO also routinely excludes formerly incarcerated persons from serving as community program staff and peer mentors within the jail, eliminating another invaluable resource for inmates.

We must reduce the likelihood of people returning to jail. The community has a right to expect that people returning to our families and neighborhoods after staying in our jails will not be worse off than before they were detained.

Community Action Make a Difference

  1. Demand that our jails adopt best practices – changes Alameda County should initiate immediately:
  • Adopt the higher California state prison standards for conditions of confinement, which reflect the needs of inmates held for longer periods.
  • Adopt a supportive model for meeting the critical needs of pregnant women and new mothers.
  • Make the cost of phone calls and jail canteen food affordable for all inmates, as Santa Clara County has done.
  • Prohibit the posting of inmate release information on the internet where it can endanger the lives and safety of those departing custody.
  1. Insist on more effective community re-entry programs.
  • Return to the community is the expected outcome for every person held in our jails. This understanding should drive a comprehensive “needs-based” re-entry plan for each individual. As the re-entry strategic plan adopted by the county in 2014 stated, effective re-entry “begins with assisting the individual at the earliest possible point of contact with the criminal justice system [and continues] through community-based supervision and community integration.”
  • Require A Full Needs Assessment: Every inmate must receive a full assessment of their needs so that they are better prepared to re-enter the community. This means identifying their health, education, housing, and employment needs. Job training and placement are particularly essential to successful re-entry.
  • Release with a Warm Hand-Off: Our jails must ensure that all released individuals have safe transportation, emergency housing if needed and access to critical community services to meet their immediate needs (medical services, mental health care, substance abuse treatment and domestic violence prevention).

Four hours after her 1:30 a.m. release from Santa Rita on July 28, 2018, Jessica St. Louis, 26, was found dead near the passenger pick-up area of the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station, two miles from the jail, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 8, 2018.

The county must ensure that Medi-Cal benefits are reinstated at the point of release. San Diego and Los Angeles counties work with the Department of Motor Vehicles so that everyone leaving jail has an ID or driver’s license. Alameda County should adopt this model.

  • Ensure Continuity with Community-Based Providers: On-site and re-entry programs are better run by community-based providers who can offer continuity of services once people are released, rather than by the Sheriff’s Office whose primary expertise is detention and law enforcement.

In its re-entry strategic plan, the Board of Supervisors concurred that a successful return to the community relies on “high-quality, peer-involved and comprehensive” programs and services.

  1. Hold our elected officials accountable and institute community oversight.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors holds the purse strings of the Sheriff’s Office. Since 2005, the county jail population has declined by 45 percent while the sheriff’s budget for detention and corrections has increased by 92 percent. This large increase in ACSO’s resources raises questions for taxpayers:

How are these dollars being used?

How can money be reinvested in community-based re-entry programs and services?

  • Conduct a financial management and performance audit: The Justice Reinvestment Coalition (a community group that includes OCO) has proposed a Financial Management and Performance Audit to determine how ACSO has used increased resources while its jail population has decreased — and to what effect. The audit is an essential step toward systematic ACSO transparency. We demand that the Board of Supervisors adopt the audit as proposed.
  • Separate coroner duties from the sheriff: In Alameda County, the sheriff is also the county coroner by law. Deaths that occur inside the jails are medically examined by ACSO (including two deaths that occurred within one week in June 2018). Coroner duties must be separated from the Sheriff’s Office.
  • Establish independent oversight: No one can be expected to monitor their own behavior objectively. Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties have initiated independent oversight agencies of their sheriff’s departments. Alameda County should adopt a model of independent community oversight of jail conditions and re-entry programs.

Greater accountability and oversight of the Sheriff’s Office are in the interests of a wide range of stakeholders in Alameda County, including deputies working in the jails.

What’s Next?

The immediate goals of OCO’s Live Free Committee are to guarantee humane jail conditions and to return individuals to the community with the resources to improve their chances for success.

For information about OCO’s jail project as well as sources, methods, citations and notes, see www.oaklandcommunity.org/OurJails  or contact BK Woodson Sr. at servantbk@
oaklandcommunity.org

 

 

 

Mayor Schaaf’s Proposals for Building Affordable Housing on Public Land Challenged

“The mayor and the people who work for her have been trying to kill the public land policy all along,” said Councilmember Kaplan.

By Ken Epstein

Community activists and others are raising concerns about whether the latest affordable housing proposals backed by Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration would event make even a dent in the wave of gentrification and displacement that is remaking the city right in front of their eyes.

Margaretta Lin

Looking at the basic numbers, one of the most contentious issues in the city staff’s proposal is how many affordable units can be built on available public land.  The administration’s report claims that there are only 20 parcels available for housing development and that six of those need to be sold to market rate developers in order to subsidize affordable housing on the remaining 14 parcels, promising only 746 units in the price range that many Oaklanders could afford.

That number of potential units seems like a pittance to affordable housing advocates who point to the magnitude of the crisis – the unending surge of homelessness and the huge numbers of seniors, young workers, teachers and city workers who are being forced out of the city.

The Schaaf administration proposal acknowledges the city owns over 1,000 parcels of land but says only 20 of them are suitable for residential housing.

Rebecca Kaplan

Of those 20 buildable parcels, totaling 24 acres, 14 would be utilized for affordable housing. Of the remaining six parcels, one would be sold for market-rate housing, totaling 492 units, and five be sold for market-rate commercial development, according to staff.

However, there are reports that show there is significantly more public land available, and many more units could be built on those properties, according to Margaretta Lin of the Dellums Institute for Social justice.

A former Deputy City Administrator, Lin led the work on the city’s Housing Equity Roadmap plan in 2014 that was adopted by the City Council in Fall 2015.

Lin says two reports show there are “50 publicly owned vacant or underutilized parcels that the City’s Housing Element identified as suitable for housing development, which could produce over 7,300 new housing units.”

The city owned 36 of these parcels, which are capable of producing over 3,600 housing units per the City’s Housing Element, and other public agencies own the other 14, she said. However, the City sold one of those parcels, capable of producing 25 units, in January 2018 to what appears to be a market rate developer. (The reports are available at www.dellumsinstitute.org/community-justice-data/)

“We commissioned the two public land reports from UC Berkeley Public Policy and City Planning in 2015 because none of the City departments had a full list of City owned land.  With the departure of Claudia Cappio who was briefed on this information, the City administration may be lacking complete information,” she said.

 Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said city staff makes two separate mistakes in estimating of how many affordable units can be built.

“They are under-counting the number of suitable parcels that the city owns, and their estimate is way lower than the number of units that could be built on them, said Kaplan.

Another major contentious issue is how to pay for construction of the affordable housing. City staff wants to sell public land to market-rate developers to pay for affordable housing development.

The “staff strategy assumes” utilizing market-rate development on the six parcels in order to generate revenue to pay for “100 percent affordable housing for the other 14 sites,” said Mark Sawicki, director of Economic and Workforce Development Department, speaking on behalf of the Schaaf administration at last week’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee meeting.

The number of affordable units is constrained by the availability of funding, according to Sawicki’s report. Building 100 percent affordable units on the 20 parcels would increase the total number of possible units on the 20 parcels to 1,080, but it would take 10 to14 years to raise the $112 million needed to cover construction costs.

Staff’s proposal, on the other hand, would only cost the city $6 million (plus the sale of six parcels of land), which could be raised in three to four years, he said.

The question of funding, says Lin, depends on how the city  defines the problem and the solutions.

“If the public policy problem is defined as a State of Emergency especially for people who are the working poor and/or newly homeless, then we would utilize every resource available, especially public lands,” she said.

“The city’s public land policy proposal is based on a traditional housing development model where it costs $500,000 to $650,000 to build one housing unit, and the City needs to provide $150,000 to $165,000 public subsidy.  Instead, if the City utilized innovative housing development and financing models being deployed by other communities, such as new and attractive mobile homes that cost $35,000 a unit, then the (costs) and the public policy proposal would be completely different, said Lin.

Councilmember Kaplan, a longtime supporter of utilizing public property for affordable housing, says the staff “strategy” proposal does not consider other sources of funding: the city’s Measure KK, Alameda County’s A1 housing bond where Oakland is anticipated to receive over $200 million for affordable housing, impact fees, new State housing funds, and foundation grants.

“If they need to sell parcels, why not sell some of those that can’t be used for housing?” Kaplan asked.

Another issue that deeply concerns affordable housing advocates is whether the staff’s strategy would have teeth or would result in something the administration could modify or ignore as wished.

After meetings between staff and housing advocates on developing an affordable housing policy dragged on for almost two years, city staff announced a few months ago that they were no longer interested in passing a policy, instead proposing a “strategy” on how to utilize the 20 parcels of land.

“The mayor and the people who work for her have been trying to kill the policy all along,” said Councilmember Kaplan. “Even if we adopt a strategy, we need a policy,” she said.

The desperate need is for the City Council to adopt a binding public lands policy, said Lin.

According to Lin,  as of December 2017, “there were 20,000 market-rate housing units under construction or in the pipeline, compared with less than 1,500 affordable units.”

“We’re in Oakland’s worst housing crisis in its entire history,” she said. “And affordable housing developers are having a hard time competing with market rate developers for access to land.  An equity based public land policy would solve this access to land problem.  Market-rate housing developers don’t need public resources. They’re doing fine.”

Published August 1, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Moratorium on Sale of Public Land Dies in Council Committee

Esther Goolsby of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE).

By Ken Epstein

A proposed moratorium that would block the sale of public land until the City Council adopts a policy that guarantees “public land for public use,” died in the Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee this week.

Not a single member of the committee—neither Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Annie Campbell Washington, Larry Reid nor Noel Gallo—spoke in favor of the resolution or made a motion to approve it.

Cathy Leonard

While the other councilmembers sat in silence, Councilmember McElhaney opposed the motion, which was supported by 22 speakers this week and many more when it came up at the last CED meeting.

McElhaney said that since the council has scheduled a public lands policy diuscussion for mid-October, “it almost seems that (the moratorium) is moot given that we’re going to make a final decision on a public lands policy” at that time.

Community members were left to wonder whether the council committee’s silence and inaction meant that they remain committed to selling public property before a transparent policy can be passed that restricts the long-standing process of making behind-doors, no-bid agreements with favored market-rate developers that have led to many protests at City Council meetings.

Speaking in favor of the moratorium, James Vann of the Post Salon Community Assembly pointed out that putting something on the agenda for October does not mean that it would be passed at that time.

“This has been going on for years,” said Vann. “Everything that comes before you is usually delayed again and again. The moratorium simply says, put the brakes on. Hold your horses. “Let’s not keep selling public land while we work this out. This will be an incentive to get the (ball) rolling and get this done by October. We need the moratorium.”

Gloria Bruce, executive director of East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), said, “I’m frustrated that you’re still resistant to putting the moratorium in place.” Jeff Levin of EBHO said, The point of a moratorium is to temporarily prevent the selloff of land, which would result in “making the public land policy meaningless.”

Community member Assata Olugbala said the community needs to see a moratorium in writing, quoting James Baldwin, who said, “I can’t believe what you say because I see what you do.”

“Don’t think of it like a moratorium,” she said, “think of it like a prenup. Even in a loving situation people get a written agreement that secures their best interests. Trust but verify.”

Mike Hutchinson said that a moratorium would not be necessary if councilmembers would refuse to sell property until there is a policy.

“We need a pledge from each City Council member that you will not vote for any more land sales until we have a policy,” he said.

“We need action, and the first action we need is relief from the threat of our public land being sold out from under us,” he added. “Where do each of you stand on the moratorium. This is a vote, and this is a decision we won’t forget.”

Esther Goolsby of Communities for a Better Environment emphasized the importance of affordable housing to Oakland’s homeless. “We need to put people in places—not storage units, not cages, not Tuff Sheds—actual homes,” she said.

Kathy Leonard reminded councilmembers that President Donald Trump is (only) concerned “about the wealthy, not the poor.”

If the council shows no concern for preserving public land for affordable housing, she asked, “How are we any different than Trump?”

Published July 20,2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Council Delays Decision on Selling Public Land to Build Charter School

The Oakland school board asked the City Council not to sell the property to the charter school

Derby Street parcel

Ken Epstein

Thirty-six people were signed up to speak at this week’s City Council meeting for and against the proposed sale of public land to an out-of-state developer to build a large charter school in the Fruitvale District.

Aimee Eng

However, the council pulled the item from the agenda, indicating that they needed to talk first to the school district before selling the parcel.

“We received notice from the Oakland Unified School District that we would confer on this matter.  I think it is prudent for us to do so before undertaking action. I would ask that we defer action on this and bring it back to (the Rules Committee) for rescheduling,” said Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney.

Though councilmembers did not discuss or vote on the issue, speakers went ahead with their public comments.

Supporting the sale were children, parents, teachers and administrators of Aspire Eres Academy, a charter elementary school serving 217 students, currently located near Fremont High School in East Oakland.

Mike Hutchinson

They are seeking to build a new home for their school, which is too small and in poor physical condition.

Kimi Kean, Bay Area Superintendent at Aspire Public (Charter) Schools, said that students at Eres Academy “have waited far

too long for an acceptable facility… They need and deserve a new facility.”

She said Aspire has an ongoing working relationship with the city staff to build the school.

“We have been honored to collaborate with the City of Oakland for the last three years to develop a state of the art facility,” she said.

Opposing the sale were school activists, leaders of the Oakland teachers’ union who supported affordable housing at the site and teachers and families from district schools that would be negatively impacted if the large new charter was built near their schools, as well as the Oakland Board of Education.

Kimi Kean, Bay Area Superintendent of Aspire Public (Charter) Schools.

“I want to thank you for postponing the vote tonight,” said School Board President Aimee Eng, who summarized a resolution passed by the board on June 27 opposing the city’s sale of the land for a charter school.

“The school board does not support the sale of the property for the purpose of building an education complex that would house 620 students, which is triple the size of the current school population,” she said.

In the nearby area to the proposed school site, “there are already 18 district and charter schools, serving a similar population,” she said.  “The demographic data also does not support the need for a school this large.”

A school district analysis indicates that a high number of families in the area already go to neighborhood schools. A huge new school at that location would directly compete with existing schools in the area, she said.

Pamela Long, a veteran teacher at International Community School, said, “I support their need for a new building, but we are asking that it not be two short blocks from our thriving schools.

The land should be used for affordable housing, she said.

Bethany Meyer, a special education teacher and member of the executive board of the teachers’ union, said, “This charter school is going to take about 625 students out of the school district, which is about $7 million in lost revenue.”

“From what I am reading, the city stands to gain about $200,000 from the sale, which doesn’t seem to justify the amount of opposition you’re going to be facing,” she said.

School activist Mike Hutchinson said, “It is the not the responsibility of the City Council to sell (Aspire charter schools) public property, a parcel that was never put out to competitive bid.”
The parcel first had an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with the city in October 2015, but “there’s no record of that ENA being extended,” Hutchinson said.

The original ENA included affordable housing on this parcel, and the developer has already knocked down existing affordable housing on adjacent property to make room for this project, he said.

Councilmember McElhaney’s Proposal Would Help “Cash-Strapped” Landlords Evict Tenants

Proposal offers a city-subsidized “incentive” for small landlords  to displace tenants, says housing rights activist James Vann

By Post Staff

The Oakland City Council is scheduled Tuesday to decide on a resolution proposed by Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney that would establish a city loan program to help “distressed low-income homeowners” evict their tenants when the landlord or relative wants to occupy the property.

Lynette McElhaney

Under this proposal, co-sponsored by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, the city would set aside $300,000 “to make available no-interest loans” to “cash-strapped” landlords to help them pay city-required relocation payments to tenants they are evicting.

The $300,000 fund would be created by re-allocating part of the $2.2 million the City Council set aside last year to provide legal representation for tenants facing eviction.

“This is common sense anti-displacement legislation that helps preserve the social and economic diversity of home ownership in our city, especially of African American and other low-income legacy owners,” said McElhaney. “This is about addressing all sides of the

James Vann

displacement issue and not creating pressure on legacy owners to sell the homes they want to return to.”

This past January, the City Council amended the Uniform Residential Tenant Ordinance requiring that tenants who are evicted for an owner or relative move-in receive relocation payments. Payments range from $6,500 for a studio or one-bedroom unit to $9,875 for a three or more bedrooms.

“These payments may pose a hardship for low-income and low-asset owners, especially those who need to recover possession of their homes to support themselves or relatives,” according to Councilmember McElhaney’s press statement.

To qualify for the interest-free loans, owners must meet a set of criteria:

  • Own five or fewer units
  • Be low-income or have less than six months of financial reserves
  • Be denied a cash-out refinance loan on their property, and,
  • Certify that the relative moving in is also low or moderate income and does not own any other real estate

Sharply criticizing McElhaney’s proposal, James Vann, co-founder of the Oakland Tenants Union, said that the resolution was “framed by landlord advisers to (Councilmember) McElhaney, (providing) no opportunity for tenant advocates to review or comment on the proposal” before it was introduced.

The proposal “actually (creates) an incentive for small property owners to get longstanding tenants out of their homes, and in the process, have the city pay for the eviction,” said Vann.

“Meanwhile, there is no monitoring by city. So, many of these (landlords) will only pretend to enter but may never actually occupy the freed-up unit. The owner is then able to re-rent the unit at exorbitant prices,” he said.

 

Backers of “Public Land for Public Good” Challenge City’s Commitment to Market-rate Housing

 

Supporters of utilizing all public land for community benefit, especially for affordable housing, speak Tuesday at the council’s Community and Economic Development (CED) committee. Photos by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

A citywide coalition of community organizations and nonprofits stepped up pressure this week on the Oakland City Council and the Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration to adopt a policy that prioritizes “public land for public good,” calling for building affordable housing rather than continuing the city’s business-as-usual backroom deals that force out Oakland residents to make room for market-rate, high-rise development projects.

At Tuesday’s crowded meeting of the council’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee, councilmembers heard three proposals that will that will be debated in coming months as the council grapples with possible future restrictions on public land sales.

However, perhaps indicating their attitude on the issues, members of the CED committee was unwilling to pass a resolution this week that would have required the city to place a moratorium on the sale of public land while the council debates and adopts a public lands policy.

By blocking new sales of public land, the moratorium would have increased the incentive for the council to adopt a binding lands policy and would have prevented the city from selling off all the most valuable parcels of land before a policy was finalized.

Councilmembers Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Annie Campbell Washington opposed the moratorium. Only Noel Gallo supported it.

But Councilmembers did agree to bring the moratorium back to the next CED meeting on July 17.

Towanda Sherry

One of the speakers in favor of the moratorium was Towanda Sherry of the Beloved Community Action Network. “We are being sold down the river. Every time, we turn around, land is being given away or sold off. We need to put a halt to it right now,” she said.

“We need to have a moratorium because we need to talk. We need to seriously talk so the people’s voice is heard,” she said.

Councilmember McElhaney said she opposed the moratorium because she was unsure of its legality. She said she wanted to hear an opinion of the City Attorney in closed session.

However, the City Attorney had already signed off on the legality the resolution, and the City Attorney’s representative at CED said she was unsure that it was appropriate to address issues about the moratorium in closed session.

One of the three proposals was developed by the city administration, while one alternative was presented by Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Abel Guillén. The third was a “People’s proposal” developed by the Citywide Anti-Displacement Network.

The staff proposal would sell some public land to market-rate developers in order to raise the money to pay for as many as 746 affordable units. The administration has decided it does not want a policy with teeth but instead seeks to pass a “Public Lands Strategy,” which allows the administration the “flexibility” to ignore its strategy when it wishes.

The staff strategy also opposes creating a community advisory board to provide input and oversight on public land sales.

Speaking for the administration, Mark Sawicki, head of the city’s Department of Economic Workforce Development, said, “One percent of the (property) is where we have focused our strategy,” explaining that only 20 of the city’s many parcels are suitable for housing.

Vanessa Riles

The numbers of units that can be built on these sites are limited by zoning and other regulations, he said, and staff is proposing that 14 of the 20 sites be utilized for affordable housing, while six be set aside for market-rate housing and commercial development.

Vanessa Riles of East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO) spoke for the “People’s proposal” developed by the Citywide Anti-displacement Network, which is a comprehensive statement of community values, calls for 100 percent of public land to be used for affordable housing and making city decisions with the full-on inclusion of community voices, particularly African Americans and others who have been most severely impacted by the housing crisis.

“The Citywide Anti-Displacement Network is concerned about the astronomical rate of displacement of individual families in Oakland and the rapid rate of development without transparency, accountability or community engagement,” she said.

The proposal developed by Councilmembers Kaplan and Guillén proposal would require that an average of 50 percent affordable housing be built on all sites and 100 percent of land sale proceeds go to an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which would be overseen by a standing Community Advisory Committee.

This proposal also would require a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with construction unions on large projects that have an estimated cost of at least $40 million.

Kaplan said she supports sending the labor proposal to the city’s Department of Race and Equity for analysis before it is adopted.

“We have an opportunity to use our land for public good, both for what is put on it and also who gets hired, who gets contacts and how we make sure there are decent jobs that benefit our local community,” she said.

“In a time of gentrification, cities can use can use public land as a resource, in addressing high demand for affordable housing and public services to benefit low-income residents who face displacement or even homelessness,” said Sarah Ting, a member of Councilmember Guillén’s staff.

“It’s critical that the way we use public land not exacerbate displacement,” she said.

Published June 29, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post