Category: Economic Development

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

 

Open Letter: Support the Right of African Americans to Work on City-funded Construction Projects

 

To Council Members, Mayor, City Staff, and Members of the Public:

Three principles should prevail in upcoming discussions of public land: 1) Democracy and transparency; 2) Racial justice and 3) Housing the current residents of Oakland.

What Should Not Happen:

  • The City should not sell any more public land before discussion and adoption of a policy.
  • The city’s land should not be used for housing affluent non-residents.  It should house current residents of Oakland who are mostly low- or middle-income, or it should be used to serve the needs of those communities.
  • The City should not adopt a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) in a resolution on Public Lands Policy.

Many Oakland residents have never heard of a PLA.   Even the title of the item on the City Council committee agenda which proposes a PLA does not mention that it is being discussed “Subject: Receive A Report on the Public Lands Policy Process and Analysis
from Councilmembers Guillén And Kaplan”

Residents of the city have a right to a detailed, open, well-publicized discussion of proposals about how the expanding amounts of work that their taxes are paying for are being awarded.

African-Americans obtain only nine percent of the work on city-funded construction projects (City of Oakland statistics). African-Americans are 25 percent of the city’s population and the largest percentage of the unemployed and unhoused both nationally and locally.   A project labor agreement could contribute to maintaining that status quo.

What the City Council Should do Instead:

  1.  Immediately enact the ordinance establishing a 180-day moratorium on the sale of public land or until the Council adopts a comprehensive “Public Lands” Policy.  A properly vetted public lands policy will take time.  Harmful sales of public land cannot be allowed in the meantime.
  2. Separate the discussion of jobs policies and lands policy and organize a transparent, understandable, democratic discussion of each.   The Department of Race and Equity should be asked for an equity assessment of proposals

Among items that could be part of a thorough jobs policy discussion:

  • Discuss the differences between a PLA and a public city-adopted jobs policy;
  • Remove discriminatory barriers that result in only 9 percent African-American employment in construction;
  • Prioritize employment of disadvantaged workers;
  • Protect the union rights of employees;
  • Fund job-training and apprenticeship programs that are  geographically accessible to Oakland residents;
  • Living wage requirements;
  • Employ at least 50 percent local Oakland residents;
  • Ban the box to assist the employment of formerly incarcerated;
  • Require a twice-yearly report to Council including trade-by-trade demographic statistics;
  • Increase funding for contract compliance to reflect the expanded work being required by new construction;
  • Incentivize contracting with women and “minority” owned business and other provisions.

Respectfully submitted,

  • OaklandWORKS Alliance (Founding organizations include the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA); Oakland Parents Together (OPT); John George Democratic Club; Oakland Branch NAACP; Oakland Native Give Back).
  • Brian Beveridge, Co-Director, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project
  • Gay Plair Cobb, Member, BWOPA State Board; Executive Board member, NAACP
    Henry Hitz, Oakland Parents Together
  • Robyn Hodges, OaklandWORKS
  • Pastor Anthony Jenkins, Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church
  • Kimberly Mayfield Lynch, Dean of the School of Education, Holy Names University
  • Kitty Kelly Epstein, Professor; Community Assembly of the Post Salon, Host of Education Today on KPFA
  • James Vann, Co-Founder, Oakland Tenants Union and member of the Community Assembly of the Post Salon

(Partial list. Titles for identification only)

Published June 24, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan Endorses Cat Brooks

Rebecca Kaplan (left) and Cat Brooks. Photo by Ken Epstein

 

By Ken Epstein

City Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan, one of Oakland’s most popular progressive political leaders, ended months of speculation about whether she would jump into the mayoral race when she announced last Thursday that she is committing her energy to elect community activist, actor and radio journalist Cat Brooks as mayor of Oakland.

“With a lot of thought and prayer and contemplation” of the social justice issues facing Oakland, “I have come to the conclusion that the best way to strengthen our community’s voice (for our) vital goals is by endorsing and supporting Cat Brooks for mayor,” said Kaplan, speaking at an event held at the Joyce Gordon Gallery in downtown Oakland.

“We will continue to build and move forward together,” she said. “We have an opportunity to strengthen our solidarity, to strengthen our city and to make sure we have a city hall that is responsive to the community.”

Kaplan focused on some of the major social and moral challenges the city is facing that she says are being ignored by Mayor Libby Schaaf.

“We deserve leadership that believes in respect and that believes in justice and understands that we are judged by how we treat the least of these,” she said.

“Every additional person who is homeless should be a heartbreak to all of us and a call to action and a demand to do something about it,” said Kaplan.

She also spoke about what she considers Mayor Schaaf’s failure to punish police who participated in and covered up the Oakland Police Department’s sex abuse scandal.

“The level of police misconduct that has been tolerated is totally unacceptable,” she said, accusing the mayor of intervening to hide OPD officers’ “brutal sexual misconduct,” promoting those who covered it up and punishing those who spoke against it.

A rabbi, Kaplan said a prayer for Brooks’ campaign:

“I pray that you may be protected and strengthened in this incredible journey and that I may be blessed to have the opportunity to work together with you…May your voice be strong, may you be heard.”

Thanking Kaplan and assembled supporters, Brooks invited everyone to “support a vision of justice, a vision of transformation, a vision of mobilizing our people to the polls to take back our city.”

Rather than having to fight City Hall every day, “What if we spent all of our time building the kind of Oakland we want to live in?” she asked.

She said the city should be working to build housing so teachers and low-paid nonprofit employees can afford to live in Oakland.

“It can be done, and if the current administration had the will to do it, it would be done,” said Brooks.

Saying that this is not “a Cat Brooks campaign,” she emphasized that she would hold “people’s assemblies” or town hall meetings during the next two months for input of community people who are struggling to improve conditions and are knowledgeable about the issues.

“There’s amazing work that’s being done on a range of issues, and those will be the voices that determine the direction of this city,” said Brooks. “There are so many brilliant, beautiful ideas that are being ignored by City Hall.”

For more information, go to www.catbrooksforoakland.com/ and www.kaplanforoakland.com/

Published June 15, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Moratorium on Public Land Sales Goes to CED Committee

Representatives of the Post Salon community – Kitty Kelly Epstein (Left), James Vann and Cathy Leonard – speak to a council committee about putting a moratorium on sale of publicly owned land on the City Council’s agenda. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Post staff

The City Council’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee will hear a community-initiated proposal for a Moratorium on Public Land Sales at the committee’s next meeting.

The item was originally scheduled for Tuesday, June but postponed due to the Warriors victory parade. The issue may be discussed at the next CED committee meeting, which will be held June 26.

The moratorium originally was proposed at a Post Salon community assembly discussion on April 29 concerning the lack of a city policy to protect public land and utilize it for truly affordable housing.

“The city allegedly has a policy of preserving publicly-owned land as an irreplaceable resource and giving preference to ‘leasing’ city land, rather than to sell for private profit,” said housing activist James Vann, a spokesman for the Post Salon.
“Despite adopting a policy favoring leasing, the city has continued to sell valuable public property to private developers and corporations for expensive housing, luxury condominiums, corporate offices, and market-oriented development,” said Vann.

Over the last two years, the city has received numerous complaints from the community that “public land should be used for public good,” and lobbying from non-profit housing organizations that public land should be used for affordable housing to aid the city’s critical affordable housing crisis.

A joint committee of city staff and community representatives met for almost two years to develop a new policy on the disposal of city-owned land. Early this year, the badly divided joint committee disbanded, according to Vann.

In the meantime, city staff continues to recommend parcel sales, approved by the City Council with little deliberation.

With the assistance of Councilperson Rebecca Kaplan and her staff, the Salon’s resolution to enact a “180-Day Moratorium of the Sale of Public Land Until the Council Adopts a Public Land Policy” was written as a resolution and placed on the June 12 CED Committee agenda.

Published June 11, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Commentary: State Legislators Join Landlords to Defeat Bonta’s Protections Against “No-Cause” Evictions

On Thursday, May 31, a proposal to enact statewide eviction protections by Assemblymember Bob Bonta (D-Oakland) was defeated in the California Legislature.

Legislators beholden to the big monied interests of real estate and landlord lobbies double-crossed tenants throughout the state by defeating AB 2925, a bill that would require landlords to have a “good reason” to evict a tenant from their housing.

Rob Bonta

If passed, the bill would have prohibited landlords from terminating a tenancy except for reasons such as “nonpayment of rent,” or “breach of contract.”

Currently, in many cities throughout California, landlords may evict for any reason at all, or no reason at all (except retaliation).

Just Cause eviction protection laws help stabilize communities by slowing down the existing “eviction-for-profit system,” which is a cause of the merciless and tragic ever-growing homeless population of families that losing their housing.

Assemblymembers in support of Just Cause:  Bloom, Bonta, Chau, Chiu, Chu, Friedman, Gipson, Gonzalez Fletcher, Holden, Jones-Sawyer, Kalra, Mullin, Mark Stone, Thurmond, Ting, Rendon.

Assemblymenbers who opposed just cause:  Acosta, Aguiar-Curry, Travis Allen, Arambula, Baker, Berman, Bigelow, Brough, Burke, Caballero, Calderon, Carrillo, Cervantes, Chávez, Chen, Choi, Cooley, Cooper, Cunningham, Dahle, Daly, Eggman, Flora, Fong, Frazier, Gallagher, Gloria, Cristina Garcia, Eduardo Garcia, Gray, Grayson, Harper, Irwin, Kamlager-Dove, Kiley, Lackey, Levine, Limon, Low, Maienschein, Muratsuchi, Mathis, Mayes, McCarty, Medina, Melendez, Nazarian, Obernolte, O’Donnell, Patterson, Quirk, Quirk-Silva, , Reyes, Rodriguez, Rubio, Salas, Santiago, Salas, Steinorth, Voepel, Waldron, Weber, Wood.

A slogan that gathering steam is to hold legislators accountable at the polls for failing to back tenant rights: “We’ll remember in November.”

Landlords celebrated their victory against renter protections in an email.

While this is a great victory for rental property owners throughout the state, the fight is not over,” according to the statement released by the East Bay Rental Housing Association.

Every year, legislators find new and creative ways to attack the rental housing industry. The attacks are more extreme in nature and are coming at a pace unseen in recent years. Tenant causes may also be gaining momentum across the state as California continues to struggle to provide affordable housing.”

This article was adapted by James Vann from a column written by Lynda Carson.

Published June 11, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Councilmembers, Community Groups Push Mayor for Funding for Homeless, Job Training and Trash Cleanup

Members of East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods demand the city keep its promises to clean up trash and illegal dumping. Photos by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstein

As the City Council examines a “midcycle” revision of the city’s two-year budget, community groups are demanding the city allocate money to relieve the suffering of Oakland’s rapidly growing homeless population, clean up illegal dumping and trash in flatland neighborhoods, support job-training for low-income Oaklanders and fund social programs for vulnerable residents by reducing out-of-control spending on the Oakland Police Department.

The budget revisions were discussed at Tuesday’s special City Council meeting and  scheduled to be finalized before the end of June.

Mayor Libby Schaaf and the City Administration, in a move that dampened demands for new spending coming from the community and some councilmembers, released a report showing that the 2018-2019 budget includes a projected deficit of $11 million.

To close the deficit, the City Administrator has asked departments to cut two percent of their expenditures.

At the same time the administration is proposing cuts, it is requesting the council adopt $31.3 million in new spending, including $1 million for the homeless, $27.5 million for new appropriations for affordable housing, $982,000 for trash cleanup, $1.6 million to hire three new staff in the Human Resources Department and conduct a Fire Academy, and $167,000 for two new employees for the Oakland Animal Shelter.

No mention was made in the City Administrator’s report of going over the budgeted spending limit for police overtime by $17 million, which more than accounted for the hole in the city’s budget.

Most of those who spoke at the meeting—residents and councilmembers—called on the city to fund concerns and community needs that they said had been shortchanged or ignored when the budget was adopted last year.

Rebecca Kaplan presented a list of new expenditures she is supporting, including cleanup crews for illegal dumping hot spots, public toilets and expanded support for homeless sanitation, job training and apprenticeship programs and support for the Oakland Animal Shelter.

Kaplan also requested changes in administrative practices that would not cost additional money but would require new ways of relating to the community: proactive trash pickup based on focusing on hotspots, not just responding to complaints; working with congregations and community-based organizations to establish alternative homeless encampments; and utilizing less costly security guards instead of police for City Hall security that is being requested by the administration.

Noel Gallo

The city needs to adopt real homeless solutions that “don’t just push the problem from one underpass to the next, at great expense,” she said.

She was also skeptical of the new horse-mounted police unit OPD is reportedly organizing. She asked: who authorized the “ponies”, how much money is being spent and what fund is the money coming from?

Kaplan also raised concerns that the administration has repeatedly failed to carry out resolutions the Council has passed.

“We on the Council should consider that what actually gets implemented is so different than what we voted for,” she said.

OPD overspending for police overtime “essentially accounts for the entire (budget) gap we are talking about,” she said.

Councilmember Noel Gallo proposed that he and his fellow Councilmembers help pay for homeless and trash services by contributing as much as much half of the $600,000 a year each of them receives from the city to operate their offices.

He also said Mayor Schaaf’s office budget is over $3 million. “The mayor should at least contribute a million dollars from her budget,” he said.
A large group from East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods demanded full funding for their proposals to clean up flatland streets.

“Our children pass through piles of filthy, stinking garbage, human feces and the carcasses of dead animals to walk to school,” said Lidia, a spokesperson for the Congress.
“Some of you live in neighborhoods where this would never be allowed,” she said.

Carroll Fife, also speaking for the Congress, criticized the Mayor’s trash proposals.

“We see the proclamations the Mayor is making to the news media about the wonderful things that she is doing… to address the trash issue. We’re here to say it is not enough. It is not even real,” said Fife.

“You have to be honest with the residents of this city,” she said.

James Vann was one of the speakers with the Homeless Advocacy Working Group (HAWG), which is requesting $4.2 million to provide portable bathrooms, shower facilities and clean water at homeless encampments throughout the city.

The $1 million the Mayor is proposing for homeless services is “a pittance—that’s nothing, and it’s not (even) true,” said Vann.

He said the city’s proposed $1 million in new homeless spending is eaten up by the $500,000 the city owes for work on Tuff Sheds that is already completed. In addition, he said providing sanitary services at one site costs about $250,000 a year.

Speakers for the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) called for redirecting some of the money that currently goes to OPD, which accounts for about 43 percent of the general fund.

As little as $10 million taken from police spending would make a dramatic difference in services for the homeless and elimination of trash on the streets, ATPT speakers said.

Posted June 3, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Open Letter: Councilmember Kaplan Challenges Sale of Public Land for Charter School

 Mayor and City Administrator Don’t Want a Public Lands Policy, Says Kaplan

By Rebecca Kaplan

The Community and Economic Development (CED) committee of the Oakland City Council voted two weeks ago to forward to the full council the sale of public land at Derby Street in the Fruitvale District for development of a charter school.  The sale was on the City Council agenda last week but was withdrawn without explanation. In response to the proposal, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan sent the administration and the mayor the following letter:

Rebecca Kaplan

I am writing to you to share questions and concerns about your proposal to sell a parcel of the City of Oakland’s public land, which is zoned for multi-family residential, to sell for a charter school, without public lands policies regarding jobs and other standards.

During the administration’s prior presentation on the Derby St. parcel, in 2015, you stated that “The new development could also produce over a hundred new affordable housing units for the residents of Oakland.”  In addition, your 2015 report, both verbally and in writing, stated that the negotiations would be for a lease, not a sale.

Now, you have brought forward a proposal to sell the land for a dramatically increased size charter school, not housing, despite our large and growing housing crisis.

In addition, I am concerned about the public lands policy effort.  As you may know, there have been extensive meetings over the past two years to develop a public lands policy.

When I proposed last year to adopt a policy setting certain standards for use of public lands, and for quality jobs, local hiring, and other public benefits for public lands, the administration requested that my proposal not move forward, due to your claim that there was already a public lands policy development process underway covering many of the same topics.

I have been participating in many of those meetings now, and, in recent weeks, the administration has stated that you do not intend to bring forward or propose a public lands policy, for how public land would be used for the public good, local jobs, and other benefits, despite extensive work by a broad community coalition to develop such policies.

Instead, you have suggested a listing and case-by-case basis.  And now, in the absence of either a policy, or of the strategy list the administration says you will bring forward, we are being asked to go ahead with the sale of this particular piece of public land, with no analysis or understanding of how it fits into a public lands policy or strategy.

In addition, it contains no mention of quality jobs, local hiring, ban the box, or other community benefits.

Furthermore, while this decision would have substantial impact on the overall school system in Oakland, we have received letters from OUSD leaders, stating that they have not been consulted on this decision, and expressing further concerns as well.

Please clarify:

  • Why is affordable housing not included?
  • What jobs policies or other community benefits will be included?
  • Why is the administration retracting your prior commitment to a public lands policy? On whose direction was this decision made?
  • What consultations on this decision have taken place? With whom? Has OUSD been included in these discussions?
  • What is your analysis of the potential impact of the proposed project, including the impact on surrounding schools?
 Published May 26, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Mayoral Candidate Cat Brooks Pledges to “Turn the Tables” on Business as Usual in Oakland

Cat Brooks

By Ken Epstein

“It’s time to turn the tables” on the developer- and financier-led displacement agenda that currently runs Oakland, says mayoral candidate Cat Brooks, radio host, actor and justice activist, who wants the city to move in the direction of utilizing its resources to solve homelessness, promote education, build housing that regular people can afford and spend public safety dollars to eliminate conditions that give rise to crime.

Brooks formally kicked off her campaign May 1 on Radio Station KPFA, speaking to Brian Edwards-Tiekert, who until that morning was her co-host on the “Up-Front” driver-time public affairs program on the station.

Taking at least a six-month leave of absence from KPFA, she is focusing on organizing the majority of Oaklanders “who can’t afford to purchase power in City Hall,” she said in the interview.

Win or lose, she hopes her campaign will build “a base of 10,000 … to push to save the soul of the City of Oakland,” Brooks said.

She said her campaign will promote the voices of the unhoused, immigrants and poor people, “who in the last four years have borne the brunt of a neoliberal mayor who has put development over people.”

Central to her program is dealing with “the housing crisis like the epidemic that it is,” mustering the city-wide commitment to turning around the alarming rise in homelessness and uncontrolled rent increases that are displacing tens of thousands of Oaklanders.

“We need to deal with the unhoused crisis in this city like a bomb dropped in the middle of our city – because it did, a gentrification bomb,” she said, calling for the city to build 4,000 affordable units.

“We have to take a stand on the side of our most vulnerable residents,” she continued.

Not a fan of solving crime by increasing policing, Brooks said, “We should actively be walking away from militarized policing and incarceration.”

She said that police funding drains almost 50 percent of the city’s budget, including $30 million a year in unauthorized overtime. A significant amount of that money can be redirected to solve the city’s social problems, she said.

People in Oakland rightfully want to be safe, but the current approach is not working well, she said, adding that there are many car break-ins and burglaries, and the police department’s homicide solve rate is only a little over 30 percent.

Rather than increasing the numbers of police, the city can increase public safety by hiring “community ambassadors,” “training (people) for community safety,” she said, recognizing that “police should not be the solution to every single issue.”

“At the same time, (we should be) reforming and holding accountable the Oakland Police Department, finally for the first time in that department’s history,” said Brooks.

For information on Cat Brooks’ campaign, go to www.catbrooksforoakland.com/

Published May 12, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Council Committee Approves Sale of Public Land to Charter School

Public hearing will be held at Tuesday’s City Council meeting

Activists say the proposed 625-student charter school would drain students from existing nearby schools, such as those at the César Chávez Education Center, located at 2825 International Blvd. in the Fruitvale District.

By Ken Epstein

The City’s Community and Economic Development (CED) voted unanimously to approve the sale of a publicly owned parcel of land for a K-8 charter school in the Fruitvale District that community activists say would compete with and undermine nearby public schools.

Councilmembers Noel Gallo, Annie Campbell Washington and Lynette Gibson McElhaney voted in favor of the sale, which now goes to the City Council for a public hearing next Tuesday.

The school, Aspire Eres Charter Academy, is currently located at 1936 Courtland Ave., near Fremont High School, serving 217 students. The proposed three-story school would serve 620 students, nearly three times as many as attend the existing school.

The 9,000-square-foot property is located on the northwest side of Derby Avenue between East 15th Street and International Blvd, which city staff intends to sell to a private developer for $450,000.

Parents, children and staff at the charter school told city councilmembers they desperately need a larger and more up-to-date space.

“We’re currently in a very cramped, dated facility,” said, Kimi Kean, superintendent of Aspire Public Schools 11 Bay Area campuses.

The sale of the property was already approved by the city’s Planning Commission on April 18.

According city staff, the property must be sold and rather than leased to the developer because of legal requirements connected to the $30 million in funding that the project is receiving from the state.

Opposing the sale of public land to the charter school, school activist Mike Hutchinson said, “Charter schools are in direct competition with our public schools. For every student who goes to charter schools, that (money) doesn’t go to the public school, schools, it goes to the charter school.”

Underscoring the impact of charters on the Oakland Unified School District, a new report released this week says that charters cost OUSD $57.3 million in funding every year. The study, called “Breaking Point: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts,” was commissioned by In the Public Interest, an Oakland-based think tank.

Furthermore, Hutchinson said, the charter would be located only two blocks away from two elementary schools housed at the Cesar Chavez Education Center, which the school district and the city spent tens of millions of dollars to build.

“This will destroy (those schools),” he said.

Tyler Earl, a legal fellow with Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), said that selling the property to a developer to build a charter school was a violation “in total disregard of the city’s responsibility to properly consider this land for affordable housing.”

“(You are) getting rid of this land without considering the state law (that says) you must first consider affordable housing. This must be done – it’s required by law, and it’s required by city ordinance,” he said.

Published May 10, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oaklanders Urge City to Take Legal Action Against NFL and Raiders

 

Shown (L t R): Bob Bobbit, Griz Jones, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, (behind Kaplan is Geoffrey Pete), Councilmember Noel Gallo and John Jones III.

 

Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan and Councilmember Noel Gallo stood in solidarity with community members and the “Forever Oakland” group for a press conference May 1

on the steps of City Hall urging the city to take legal action against the NFL and Raiders.

The “Forever Oakland” and “We Stand with Oakland Citizen Driven Initiative are working with Councilmembers Kaplan and Gallo as they request that the Oakland City Council retain, under a contingency-fee agreement, Jim Quinn, Michael Fay with Berg and Andropy and Eric Hochstadt with Weil, Gotsal to explore Oakland’s legal options against the NFL and the Oakland Raiders’ decision to leave Oakland.

“After a year of collecting data and working with several local based community groups, it’s time for the City Attorney’s office and our local municipalities to do what’s right for all Oakland and Alameda County tax payers and push forward to become a client for the #1 Anti-Trust Lawyers within the USA,” according to a media statement released Monday.

“The Forever Oakland / We Stand with Oakland Citizen Driven Initiative has brought “a Gift” to the table that will greatly benefit our community and municipalities. This is a “Win – Win” for everybody. We are in total support of the Oakland City Council to become a client and further explore options in pursuing a law suit against the NFL and the Oakland Raiders,” the media statement said.

According to Councilmember Kaplan, “We must stand up for the tax-payers of Oakland and Alameda County. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to work together with dedicated advocates on this goal”.

“In light of these new developments and the continued public and media interest in this subject, Supervisor Miley, Councilmember Gallo, and I believe that the reasonable and responsible decision is to take advantage of this incredible opportunity and begin exploring the legal action that the citizens of our community are responsibly calling for,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta.

“These citizens have gone above and beyond to do their part. It is now imperative that we as civic leaders do our part,” he said.

In addition to Kaplan and Gallo, speakers at the press conference included Griz Jones of Forever Oakland, Ray Bobbit of We Stand with Oakland and John Jones III of Forever Oakland.

Published May 6, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post