Category: Environment

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

 

Congress of Neighborhoods Says Mayor’s Illegal Dumping Proposal is “Insufficient”

“The time for partial solutions and unmet promises is over,” says community activist

Trash in East Oakland

By Post staff

Facing mounting pressure to solve the illegal dumping crisis in flatland neighborhoods, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has announced a proposal that community members say is “insufficient and overly focused on enforcement as a solution.”

The East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods raised the demands April 16 at an angry community meeting of 600 flatland residents, where the mayor and city council members spoke.

“The issue of illegal dumping is an issue of access and equity,” says Chris Jackson, Congress leader from District 7. “Equity is everyone getting what they need to thrive. We expect elected leaders to support all of our demands, not the punitive ones they like best.”

Congress is demanding comprehensive solutions to what they see as a public health emergency: One new Public Works crew focused on illegal dumping, three litter enforcement officers, better lighting in chronic dumping areas, a zone-based clean-up system focused on the hotspots rather than simply reacting to complaints.

Responding, Mayor Schaaf and District 2 Councilmember Abel Guillén on Thursday announced plans to hire three litter enforcement officers. However, residents are continuing to press the mayor to meet all of the demands.

Councilmembers Desley Brooks, Annie Campbell-Washington, Noel Gallo, Abel Guillén and Rebecca Kaplan have all agreed to find funding for the demands in the mid-cycle budget review process, which occurs in June.

“We pay taxes just like residents in the hills. We want to see the same level of city services here in the flatlands,” says Congress leader Evangelina Lara of District 2. “We expect all of our demands to be met in the mid-cycle budget review process, as was promised on April 16. We intend to make sure that city officials fulfill their commitments to the community. The time for partial solutions and unmet promises is over.”

“The community’s collective work pushing city officials is creating a reaction,” says Congress leader Manuel Arias of District 5. “We will continue to organize—our children, elders, parents, all residents deserve better. No one’s children should have to walk over garbage to go to school.”

In March, the Congress of Neighborhoods held a “trash tour” that began at Mayor Schaaf’s home and visited trash hot spots in Oakland flatlands, designed to show elected leaders the difference between how the city takes care of hills and flatland streets.

Published May 11, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Mayor’s Role in Taking Kaplan Off Air Quality Board “Is Politics at Its Worst,” Says Boardmember

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan received appreciation and an award on her lat last day on Bay Area Air Quality Management (BAAQMD) board. Kaplan is shown with BAAQMD board Chair David Hudson, member of the San Ramon City Council.

By Ken Epstein

 Members of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) board paid tribute recently to Oakland City Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan at her last meeting on the regional body. A few members criticized Mayor Libby Schaaf for indulging in “politics at its worst” to remove the councilmember from the BAAQMD board and encouraged Oakland residents to work for Kaplan for mayor.

 

“It’s ridiculous that you have to leave this board. I think it’s politics at its worst,” said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, a board member representing Sonoma County.

“The fact that someone bright and capable and articulate as you is being replaced after two years, well shame on the mayor,” she said.

Added Boardmember Supervisor Scott Haggerty, representing Alameda County, “For those of you who think Rebecca should be here, maybe you should help her run for mayor.”

Kaplan, who served for two years as one of Alameda County’s two representatives on the 24-member board, whose members come from cities and counties from Napa to Palo Alto.

According to a spokesman of the Alameda County Mayors’ Conference, which appoints a representative on the BAAQMD board, mayors have first preference in seeking appointments, but Mayor Schaaf had the right to nominate Kaplan for reappointment to the position.

Kaplan was “not precluded” from reapplying, according to the spokesman, but, “If a council member applies for a position, the councilmember (must) receive the approval of the mayor,” the Mayors’ Conference spokesman said.

Instead of nominating Kaplan and despite a deluge of community letters in support of her reappointment, Schaaf nominated the mayor of Berkeley. In March, the Mayor’s Conference voted to give the position to the mayor of Emeryville.

In her response to the letters in support of Kaplan, Schaaf said her hands were tied, and that she was precluded by the rules of the County Mayors’ Conference from reappointing Kaplan to the board.

As Oakland’s first representative on the board 25 years, Kaplan worked to bring funds to improve air quality in the city, which persistently has had some of the highest levels of air-borne toxic wastes—including cancer—and asthma-causing pollutants—in the Bay Area.

Kaplan has helped secure money for major projects to improve air quality for Oakland and other East Bay cities, including for the Broadway Shuttle, replacing a diesel locomotive engine to clean the air around the Port/Army base and setting up a fund to get old, high polluting diesel trucks off the road.

Members of the BAAQMD board praised Kaplan for what she has been able to accomplish in only two years.

“(Kaplan) represents the kind of person that is the reason I want to be on this board, someone who is a critical thinker, thinks about the big picture and has helped to shape a unique profile for the district,” said Boardmember Mayor Doug Kim of the City of Belmont.

Another board member referred to the time when Kaplan went to North Dakota to stand in solidarity with Dakota Access Pipeline protests (#NODAPL). “That’s walking the talk, you really did it. I thought after that: ‘you know what, Rebecca really means it,’” said Mayor Liz Kniss, City of Palo Alto.

“You’ve distinguished yourself as a thoughtful advocate for human health. You’ve done a very effective job articulating concerns in communities most affected by air pollution, which certainly includes your city (and) which your mayor should appreciate. I know we do,” said Vice Mayor Rod Sinks, City of Cupertino.

“We’ve gotten the message about cash for clunkers. We’ll make sure we carry that mantle,” said Supervisor David J. Canepa, San Mateo Count.

Speaking to the board, Jed Holtzman of 350.org Bay Area member said, Rebecca is the kind of textbook example of what the public would like to see on this board and any board in terms of consciousness and engagement.”

She paraphrased a minister she knows in her remarks: “If you woke up this morning, you still have work to do. I ain’t done.”

The video of the discussion at the April 4 BAAQMD board meeting can be viewed here

Published May 5, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Stopping the Stadium Mega-Development Was an Important Victory, But This Fight Is Far from Over

Oakland Coliseum

By Alvina Wong

After four months of organizing by Laney students, faculty, and staff, Chinatown and Eastlake residents, and Lake Merritt environmentalists, the Peralta Board of Trustees decided to end talks with the Oakland A’s about constructing a stadium mega-development next to Laney College.

Alvina Wong

Their decision is a testament to our communities’ power to fight for a future where we can stay and thrive.  We also know that this fight is far from over.

Since 2014 when BART and City officials completed the Lake Merritt Station Area Plan, Chinatown and Eastlake have been bombarded with a wave of luxury condo developments, soaring rents, and mass displacement of longtime residents.

At the time, many of our organizations demanded that we be included in the city-led ‘community-engagement process’.  We advocated for affordable housing and storefronts, parks and open space, and resources for working class immigrant and refugee communities.

Despite countless meetings, letters, and petitions to city officials, none of our communities’ needs were reflected in the plan.

Instead, we got a plan that incentivized high-density market-rate development by rezoning the neighborhood to allow developers to build up to 275 feet in some areas, without a conditional use permit.

Our vision for a neighborhood where new immigrants and refugees could stay and thrive was noted, but no policies were put in place to help realize this vision.

The Lake Merritt Station Area plan, like the West Oakland BART plan and many others, has paved the way for developers to turn Chinatown and Eastlake into playgrounds for the wealthy, with 20 and 30 story luxury apartment buildings that literally cast shadows over our communities.

So, when the Oakland A’s decided to build a stadium with upscale stores and hotels next to Laney College, our communities quickly decided that we needed to oppose it.  Chinatown and Eastlake groups joined with Laney students, faculty, and staff who were fighting to protect Laney as a public resource.

Groups that had been working for years to restore Lake Merritt and its saltwater channel also joined the fight.  We went door-to-door and classroom-to-classroom.  Despite the A’s aggressive PR campaign, we found that people overwhelmingly opposed the stadium at Laney.

While we were successful in stopping the A’s stadium mega-development at Laney, we know that there are more developers that want to use this public land for their own profits.

Many of us have been part of building community, culture, and resources in neighborhoods that formed as a result of racist housing covenants, suffered from disinvestment after white flight, and are now threatened with mass displacement.  In these times, we’ve learned that our public land is one of the last remaining places where we can build the resources our communities need.

For us, this decision to say no to a stadium at Laney opens the door for our communities to say yes to stewarding this land to serve the public good.

It helps us transition away from looking at land as a commodity that exists to maximize profits for the wealthy, and toward looking at how this land can help sustain our lives and communities for generations to come.

As for big corporations like the A’s that benefit from Oakland’s public infrastructure and diverse communities, they should have been giving back all along – whether that means supporting public education institutions like Laney College, affordable housing and good jobs for local residents, or growing in ways that take leadership from working class people of color who want to stay and thrive.

We hope the Oakland A’s will stay the right way.  Oakland has already invested millions of public dollars in the Coliseum.  Now it’s the A’s turn to invest in East Oakland’s communities.

Alvina Wong works with the Stay the Right Way Coalition and is employed by the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN).

Published December 13, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Port of Oakland Passes Groundbreaking Jobs Policy

 

After 21 months of negotiations with the local community, the Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to approve a “Good Jobs” policy on the Port’s new state-of-the-art warehousing complex.

Community groups say this be one of the most equitable job policies in the warehousing and logistics industry, setting a standard for online retailers like Amazon. And because it provides pathways to good jobs for primarily low-income people of color, it begins to curb economic inequality and structural racism.

A number of environmental groups asked the Port Commission to the delay the vote, but the commission voted unanimously to approve the lease.

Calling for postponement was a group of regulators, local, regional and national environmental advocates who requested the commission delay accepting this lease until port staff engages in good faith negotiating on the environmental elements of the new warehouse. The environmental group says it is committed to jobs but just as committed to clean air and healthy neighborhoods in West and East Oakland and the 880 corridor.

During the campaign for the jobs policy, a demonstration was held at the Port of Oakland focusing on a Ban the Box policy, and many formerly incarcerated workers testified at the Port Commission. Photo courtesy of EBASE.

So far, the port has agreed to discuss the group’s environmental concerns but never scheduled meetings, according to the environmentalists.

The warehouse development sits on the port’s side of the former Oakland Army Base – a massive, incredibly valuable, publicly-owned property. OaklandWorks and Revive Oakland, a coalition of community, labor, and faith groups, led the negotiations with the Port and won an even stronger agreement than its 2012 deal on the city-owned part of the Army Base.

With the rise of online retailers like Amazon, jobs in warehousing and logistics – or “goods movement” – have become increasingly common. These jobs are typically low-paying and often part-time, temporary, and/or subcontracted.

The new port warehouse jobs policy establishes a model that other cities could follow, including living wages; limitations on the use of temporary agencies; equal protections for subcontracted workers; and one of the strongest Ban the Box policies in the country.

“As the port becomes a gateway for the booming tech, online, and app-centric economy, we are creating policies that lift low-income workers and communities of color,” said Jahmese Myres, Revive Oakland Coalition Director.

“With racism and economic inequality on the rise during the Trump Era, we are helping to ensure that low-income people of color have good jobs and can stay in their homes,” she said.

Cities across the country recently submitted proposals to lure Amazon to build their new headquarters in their areas. The bidding war outlined community giveaways rather than what the company could do for cities struggling to create living wage jobs with benefits that would allow workers to afford housing and provide for their families.

This comes at a time when low-income communities of color are increasingly being pushed out of many urban areas due to the high cost of housing and the lack of opportunity for formerly incarcerated workers.

However, the port agreement can serve as a model for how community driven negotiations result in better outcomes for workers and residents, particularly people of color who have been shut out of good jobs.

In addition to living wages, the agreement would mandate local hire, equal protections for subcontracted workers, and one of the strongest “Ban the Box” policies in the country. The latter curtails discrimination against the formerly incarcerated, who are disproportionately people of color.

“With one of the strongest Ban the Box policies in the country, the Army Base redevelopment is standing against discrimination, employment inequality, and the racial injustices that we face daily,” said Saabir Lockett, a formerly incarcerated Oakland resident.

“Policies like this create a more sustainable relationship between employers and local residents, giving more of us the chance to provide for our families with dignity,” said Lockett.

Published November 11, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

East Oakland Organizations Unveil New Grassroots People’s Agenda

Speakers Tuesday evening at the East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods rally at Oakland City Hall were (L to R): Mercedes De La Torre of Communities for a Better Environment, Andre Spearman of Oakland Community Organizations and Vernetta Woods, Oakland Community Organizations Photo by Ken Epstein.

East Oakland residents gathered in front of city hall his week to unveil a community-created East Oakland People’s Agenda.

The agenda, based on community needs, was created Sept. 30 at a Community Assembly of the newly-formed East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods, attended by Oakland residents who live in communities between Lake Merritt and the San Leandro border

The release of the agenda on Tuesday, Nov. 7 was intentional—one year ahead of the 2018 elections— announcing residents’ determination to vote for candidates and ballot measures that align with their agenda.

“We are inspired by the hundreds of East Oaklanders who made our Community Assembly such a fantastic success,” says Sonya Khvann, an EBAYC leader and resident of District 2. “We are ready to fight for the agenda that we created there.”

The East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods is an umbrella organization formed by six of East Oakland’s most prominent community organizations, whose members are fed up with a lack of action on extremely pressing problems in East Oakland—including housing and homelessness, fears about immigration raids, illegal dumping, gun violence and the street-level sex trade, air quality and the lack of green space, school quality and safety, and good jobs for the unemployed.

Beginning in January, members of East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods will start a process of research and trainings to prepare residents to advocate effectively for the People’s Agenda.

“We are in this for the long haul,” says Andre Spearman, a leader with Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) and District 5 resident. “We are serious about building the power we need to be in charge of our communities.”

Evangelina Lara, an EBAYC organizer and a District 2 resident, says the purpose of the Congress is to provide East Oakland with the same kind of clout that more affluent neighborhoods have. “We represent the East Oakland majority,” said Lara. “Politicians are on notice that they need to respond to OUR agenda.”

“Residents from all four East Oakland City Council Districts came together to create this agenda,” says Alba Hernandez, an OCO organizer and a District 6 resident. “Our members are working together to make it come true.”

Published November 10, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Congress of Neighborhoods Seeks Community Power in East Oakland Flatlands

Esther Goolsby of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) spoke last Saturday at the first community assembly of the Congress of East Oakland Neighborhoods. Photo by Ken Epstein

 

By Ken Epstein

Hundreds of local residents packed into an elementary school gymnasium last Saturday to attend the kickoff gathering of the East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods taking the first steps to bring together the kind of flatland coalition that can force public officials to take the needs of their communities seriously.

The meeting, held at International Community Schools at 2825 International Blvd., was organized by some of the strongest community-based organizations in East Oakland: Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Just Cause: Causa Justa, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), East Oakland Building Healthy Communities, EBAYC and Oakland Community Organizations (OCO).

The main purpose of Saturday’s meeting was to create a common vision for going forward.  To develop this vision, participants attended one of nine workshops: fair share of city services, including ending illegal dumping; homelessness, displacement and affordable housing; community peace and safety; holding elected officials accountable; creating a clean healthy environment; jobs, including jobs for youth and the formerly incarcerated; quality education; big development projects, such as the A´s stadium; and immigration.

Leading the meeting were representatives of East Oakland neighborhoods San Antonio, Fruitvale, Elmhurst and Sobrante Park.

In an interview with the Oakland Post, Vernetta Woods, a leader of Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) who lives in District 7, says she believes the event will build more unity and a more powerful voice for East Oakland residents.

For her, the main issue is education, the failure of the Oakland public schools.

“We’re coming. People power is here,” she said.  “We need thousands to come together on this thing, not just one race or one organization. If that happens, we can make changes.”

Teresa Salazar, a leader of Just Cause: Causa Justa who has lived in the San Antonio area for 23 years, explained the different organizations that are working together are creating a “stronger power.”

“Rent is increasing. Is that the New Oakland – a lot of people living under the bridge?”  She asked.

“At International (Boulevard) and 15th (Avenue), there is a lot of prostitution – Is that the New Oakland?

“No, Oakland needs a big change,” said Salazar. “Everybody needs to participate, to organize for change, for there to be a New Oakland.”

The Congress of Neighborhoods plans to release its “East Oakland Community Agenda” Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 5:30 p.m. outside City Hall.

For more information, email Nehanda Imara at nehanda@eastoaklandbhc.org or Alba Hernandez at alba@oaklandcommunity.org

Published October 8, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Community Groups Oppose Proposed A’s Stadium Near Laney College


“Stay the Right Way” coalition held a press conference and rally Tuesday at Peralta Community College District headquarters to oppose a proposed A’s stadium on Peralta land. Photo by Ken Epstein.

 

By Ken Epstein

A coalition of community groups has come together quickly to oppose a proposal to build a new A’ stadium adjacent to Laney College and Oakland Chinatown on land owned by the Peralta Community College District.

“The A’s announcement of their preferred new stadium location threatens the survival of the vibrant, diverse and working class communities of the Chinatown and Eastlake-San Antonio neighborhoods. There is no way to build the stadium without negative impacts on the most vulnerable residents and small businesses,” according to a statement released by the Oakland Chinatown Coalition.

The organizations working to stop the stadium development, which call themselves the “Stay the Right Way Coalition,” held a press conference and rally Tuesday morning in front of the Peralta district headquarters at 8th Street and 5th Avenue in Oakland.

Among the groups in the coalition are the Oakland Chinatown Coalition, Causa Justa: Just Cause, Save Laney Land for Students Coalition, Eastlake United for Justice, AYPAL: Building API Community Power, 5th Avenue Waterfront Community Alliance, Vietnamese American Community Center of the East Bay, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) and Oakland Tenants Union.

Students from MetWest High School near Laney also spoke at the press conference.

A’s President Jack Kaval announced on Sept. 12 that Peralta College public land is the team’s choice to build a new stadium to replace the Coliseum.

“It’s really the strongest location when it comes to private financing, and that’s really an important component to be successful,” Kaval told the San Francisco Chronicle

The 35,000-seat, 13-acre ballpark development would be privately financed and include restaurants, bars and hotels.

In a published statement to the community, Peralta Chancellor Dr. Jowel Laguerre said, “I want to make clear the following: No decision, no commitments and no deals have been made.”

He said before making any decision, Peralta’s governing board will “work with the community and the colleges to assess the impact on students, faculty, staff, and classroom environment, the community surrounding us, the residents of the area and the city overall.”

Signs at Tuesday’s rally said, “No A’s on 8th (Street),” “If you come, we strike,” No line drive thru Chinatown” and “Don’t steal our base.”

Many people love the A’s, said Alvina Wong of Asian Pacific Environmental Network. “But we also know that the A’s is a business, and this business decision to move the stadium is very concerning to our community. “

A delegation of students from MetWest High School spoke out against the proposed stadium. Photo by Ken Epstein

Roger Porter, a member of Laney College’s English Department faculty and himself a Laney graduate, said, “There’s no way you can build a stadium right here and not totally disrupt our institution (Laney) right there. People have to pass from a BART station there, to get here. We’re talking about bars…about nightlife and fireworks. Let’s be real about the situation.

“We believe that ultimately this is gentrification. They are trying to to move our institution,” he said. “You can’t claim something for your own, and its already occupied and already being used in a beautiful way.”

“There’s a reason why we don’t celebrate Christopher Columbus.”

The Chinatown Coalition’s statement drew a connection to the stadium proposal and the displacement that is already impacting local residents and small businesses.

“Our neighborhoods are already in a housing and real estate speculation crisis, with many long term small businesses getting displaced and closing due to rising retail rent,” the statement said. “Even the potential of a stadium coming is like dumping gasoline on a wildfire.”

Published September 23, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Community Groups Build East Oakland Neighborhood Power

Local residents attend recent meeting to oppose illegal dumping.

By Ken Epstein

Some of the major community organizations in Oakland have joined together  as the East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods to hold a community assembly  to build the collective strength of local residents to impact neighborhood issues such as trash and blight, potholes, the sex trade, homelessness, rising rents and the frustration of dealing with city officials and public agencies that do not pay attention.

The first meeting of the community assembly will be held Saturday, Sept. 30, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at International Community School, 2825 International Blvd. in Oakland. Food, childcare and translation will be provided.

The East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods includes the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Just Cause; Causa Justa, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), East Oakland Building Healthy Communities, East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC) and Oakland Community Organizations (OCO).

“We expect 1,000 people at the assembly to discuss our values, make plans and discuss strategies and to hold Oakland officials accountable,” said Evangelina Lara, a leader of EBAYC and resident of the San Antonio neighborhood for 18 years.

“These are the issues that the residents themselves have decided are the most important,” she said. “This assembly is bringing together six  (Oakland) organizations to build real power, from the lake to the San Leandro border.”

Andre Spearman, an OCO leader, said the community-based organizations have been working together on some issues for a long time, but they have begun to feel that in order to have more clout, residents from throughout East Oakland need to work together on common issues.
In the past, he said, “We’ve had some victories,” working in individual neighborhoods, “but it doesn’t seem like enough power to really change things, to hold officials as accountable as they should be.”

“If you don’t have power you don’t get consulted,” he said.

For more information, email Nehanda Imara at nehanda@eastoaklandbhc.org or Alba Hernandez at alba@oaklandcommunity.org

Published September 13, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Neighborhood Coalition Awaits City Council Decision on East 12th Street Development

A rendering of the E. 12 Street Coalition's housing proposal.

A rendering of the E. 12 Street Coalition’s housing proposal.

By Tulio Ospina

The East 12th Wishlist Design Team, supported by the neighborhood coalition Eastlake United for Justice, has submitted a proposal to build a 100 percent affordable housing development on the contentious East 12th Street Remainder parcel by Lake Merritt.

Early in November, the neighborhood team decided to partner with Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA), an affordable housing developer that has built several projects throughout Oakland, including a senior center not too far from the parcel.

The team’s proposal, developed with extensive community input, includes 98 units of exclusively affordable housing, small commercial enterprising space, rooftop gardens and a safe pedestrian pathway connecting the property to Lake Merritt.

The proposal is for a low-rise building, unlike the high-rise tower proposed for the site that was defeated earlier this year by community opposition.

“We see this as becoming a home for low-income Black and Brown families here in Oakland,” said Katie Loncke, an organizer with the East 12th Wishlist coalition

Meanwhile, UrbanCore—the company behind the previous high-rise proposal—has partnered with the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) and resubmitted a new proposal to the city that would still include a high-rise tower of market-rate housing in addition to a smaller adjacent building of affordable housing units, said members of the Wishlist Design team.

“It’s a tiny affordable housing box being overshadowed by a luxury tower,” said Loncke. “It reminds me of the “poor door” buildings in New York where low-income people are told to go through one door while the wealthy go through another.”

The Post contacted UrbanCore, which was unwilling to share details about its proposal.

The City Council is expected to make a decision on which housing proposal to accept in January.

According to Loncke, the council will look at the proposals’ number of units, the developers’ experience, cost efficiency and community benefits and then decide based on their own criteria which project is the best fit.

On Nov. 20, the community group hosted a “guerilla art” exhibit wherein they reached out to 11th graders at Coliseum College Prep Academy in East Oakland and asked them to contribute a series of murals depicting gentrification.

“It was amazing to see how the students made the connections between gentrification and other global issues without ever using words,” said Loncke.

“These young artists really understood the effects that gentrification and displacement have on Oakland’s low-income communities of color,” she said.

Oakland is now ranked the nation’s fifth most expensive rental market, with Black and Latino residents being some of the hardest hit by the city’s affordability crisis.

According to city statistics, the number of Black residents in Oakland decreased by nearly 40 percent between 1990 and 2011.

“We are saying that if you want to consume Oakland’s murals, music and film, Black and Brown people have to come along, too,” said Brytannee Brown, an organizer for the art installation.

“Black and Brown youth and families are being pushed out of Oakland every day by skyrocketing housing costs. We refuse to become cultural artifacts,” she said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, December 5, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)