Category: Gentrification

Tenants Up the Ante in Fight for Renter Protections

Oakland Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Dan Kalb (standing behind Kaplan) spoke Tuesday at a rally in front of City Hall to demand legislation to increase tenant protections. Photo by Ken Epstein

By Post Staff

Oakland organizations that represent tenants are increasing the pressure on city government to pass legislation to close “destructive loopholes” in city law that allow landlords to displace long-term and low-income tenants.

“While there were large gains after the passage of Ballot Measure JJ (a tenant protection measure) in November of 2016, there remain loopholes, and speculating landlords have quickly exploited these,” said Leah Simon-Weisberg, managing attorney of the Tenants’ Rights Program at Centro Legal de la Raza.

Among the groups’ top issues are an “unprecedented” number of tenants who complain they are being evicted by landlords to move into the duplex or triplex where they live. Tenants are also complaining that landlords take advantage of a “substantial rehabilitation exemption” to raise rents significantly, even though the repairs were nothing more than normal building maintenance.

The tenants’ rights coalition held a rally Tuesday in front of City Hall to present a list of legislative demands to close these and other legal loopholes. Joining the organizers were City Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Dan Kalb.

The coalition includes Centro Legal de la Raza, Association of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Causa Justa/Just Cause, East Bay Community Law Center, Eviction Defense Center, Oakland Warehouse Coalition, East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC) and JDW Tenants’ Association.

One demand is to close the Substantial Rehabilitation loophole that allows landlords to exempt units from rent control after alleging they have substantially improved the property.

Said Marlon Jones, a tenant who is a member of the JDW Tenants’ Association, “I have lived in my apartment for 38 years.  My landlord purchased the property way under market during the foreclosure crisis.  He has completed some repairs, but the unit was always occupied and was never in such bad conditions that we could not live here.

“There is no reason that I should lose rent control and just cause protections.  If this property is exempted, I will become homeless.”

Another legislative demand would amend the law that creates an owner-occupied duplex/triplex exemption from Rent Control and Just Cause Protection.

Josephine Hardy, long-time tenant of an Oakland triplex said, “I have lived in my unit for 46 years.  Once the landlord moves into the triplex where I live, he will be able to evict me requiring no just cause, and he does not even have to provide any relocation.”

The coalition also wants to change existing law so landlords are required to pay relocation assistance for all no-fault evictions, including when a landlord raises the rent above 10 percent and the tenant is forced to move within 12 months of the increase.

“My landlord owns eight single family homes that he purchased.  We have had no repairs, and last month he served us all 60-day notices stating that he was going to double our rent as of November 1, 2017,” said Norma Sanchez, a member of ACCE.

According to Jonah Strauss, executive director of the Oakland Warehouse Coalition, action must be taken not just to pass new ordinances but also to ensure that city departments, the City Administrator and the City Attorney enforce them.

Pointing to the growing problem of landlords evicting tenants by “falsely claiming” owner occupancy, Councilmember Kaplan said, “It is incredibly important that we continue to push. Both to make sure that the laws we pass are implemented and make sure that we close loopholes that are being abused.”

She said she wants to modify the law so that claims of owner occupancy “have to be documented.

“We have to do what we can to close the loopholes, said Councilmember Kalb. “What you are hearing now is a commitment of at least some of us on the council … to get these new amendments passed as soon as possible. We can do it over the next few months.”

Published October 1, 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

Public Banking in Oakland Scores a Victory

A public banking forum is scheduled for Monday at City Hall

Susan Harman of Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland spoke at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

 

The Oakland City Council this week passed a resolution authorizing a public bank feasibility study, the next step on the road to making the bank a reality.

The resolution, co-sponsored by Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan, Dan Kalb, and Abel Guillén, authorized a feasibility study of a regional public bank with the ability to provide community benefit lending and handle cannabis business deposits.

The study was funded by the City Council at $75,000, the City of Berkeley at $25,000, and private donors, many from the cannabis industry.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Berkeley Councilmember Kriss Worthington contributed to the study, making it a collaborative, regional effort, according to Councilmember Kaplan.

Councilmembers Kaplan and Kalb will host a community forum on public banking and renewable energy Monday, Sept. 25, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Oakland City Hall, 3rd Floor.

The forum, co-sponsored by Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland and Local Clean Energy Alliance, will discuss how a public bank in Oakland could help fund local renewable energy resources for our new Community Choice program, and bring jobs and economic benefits to communities throughout Alameda County.

The featured speaker will be Wolfram Morales, chief economist of the Sparkassen public banks of Germany, discussing how Germany’s public banks have financed that country’s astonishing conversion to 85 percent renewable energy.

Speakers will include Nicholas Chaset, new CEO of Alameda County’s East Bay Community Energy, a new community choice aggregation organization that will provide electricity to the county primarily from renewable sources of energy.

Also on the panel will be Greg Rosen, founder and principal of High Noon Advisors, and an energy expert; and Jessica Tovar, an organizer for the East Bay Clean Power Alliance.

For more information, contact Barbara@localcleanenergy.org

Published September 22, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Close $9 Billion Commercial Property Tax Loophole to Fund Schools, Says Statewide Coalition

Left to Right: State Senators Nancy Skinner and Scott Weiner and Assemblyman Rob Bonta speak at “Make It Fair” Proposition 13 reform townhall meeting Saturday Sept. 9. Photo by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstein

Hundreds of Bay Area residents attended a town meeting in Oakland recently to find out about the growing, statewide “Make It Fair” coalition that seeks to overturn a commercial property tax loophole that costs the public as much as $9 billion a year in lost revenue that could be used for schools, health clinics, parks and libraries.

The town hall meeting, held Saturday, Sept. 9 at the First Congregational Church of Oakland, was part of the coalition’s organizing efforts to build awareness, ahead of a ballot initiative in 2018 or 2020.

“California has the world’s sixth largest economy, yet many of our schools and services lack the basic funding they need,” according to a Make It Fair coalition flyer.

“ Big corporations and the wealthy are making more money than ever. They can afford to pay their fair share,” the flyer said.

The loophole is written into Proposition 13, passed by voters in 1978, part of what referred to as Ronald Reagan’ “tax revolt,” which assesses property taxes, including those on commercial properties, at their 1975 value and restricts annual cost-of-living increases to a maximum of 2 percent.

Owners of businesses started since the passage of Prop. 13 pay a higher rate. As a result, some of the largest companies, like Chevron, Intel and IBM, pay low property taxes, but startups and newer businesses pay much more.

Speakers at the town hall included State Senators Nancy Skinner and Scott Weiner, Assemblyman Rob Bonta and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson.

“It going to take all of us working together to make a make a fix to Prop. 13. We’re going to go to the ballot,” said Senator Skinner, explaining that the there is not the political support in the Legislature to pass the reform.

“It’s a third rail issue,” she said. “It still has this aura of untouchability.”

Challenging the commercial tax loophole will require people to “deal with the 50-year campaign from the radical right to delegitimize government, (convincing many people that) all government programs are a problem, that putting any money into government is a waste of money,” said Senator Weiner.

Calling for “people over profits” and “people over corporations,” Assemblyman Bonta said the Democrats have a supermajority in the Legislature, making the present the perfect time for closing the Prop. 13 loophole.

But he emphasized that coalition will need large-scale grassroots support to pass the constitutional amendment.

“This is not an easy battle – the opposition will be fierce,” Bonta said. “Some will see this as an existential threat.”

Organizations endorsing the campaign include the California Federation of Teachers, California Teachers Association, League of Women Voters of California, California Alliance for Retired Americans, California Nurses Association, SEIU California, Filipino Community Center and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN).

Speakers the town hall explained that the campaign will have to overcome a deluge of false and misleading publicity, clarifying to voters that the initiative will:

Guarantee existing Prop. 13 protections for residential property and agricultural land;

Close the millionaire, billionaire, and big corporation tax loophole by requiring all commercial and industrial properties to be assessed at fair market value, putting California in line with how the majority of the country assesses property;

Restore over $9 billion a year for services. About half of the new revenues, $3.6 billion, will support schools and community colleges;

Make It Fair requires transparency and accountability for all revenue restored to California from closing the commercial property tax loophole.

For more information go to www.makeitfairca.com/about/

Published September 19, 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

Communities Mobilize to Repeal State Law That Restricts Renter Protections

Affordable housing protest at Oakland City Hall

Affordable housing protest at Oakland City Hall

By Post Staff

Rob Bonta and two other member of the State Assembly are sponsoring a bill, AB 1506, to repeal the Costa Hawkins Act, which prevents local governments from passing laws to protect California communities from the runaway rental crisis that is engulfing the state.

Affordable housing advocates are asking supporters statewide to support the bill authored by Assemblymembers Bonta, Richard Bloom and David Chiu.

“This will be a heavy lift and we need all hands on deck,” according to an email sent out by Bonta’s office earlier this year.

“The bill is pretty straightforward as it repeals the Costa-Hawkins law…. We are asking all of our local advocates and their partners to help by sending in letters of support, making phone calls, writing op-eds, setting up meetings with key Assemblymembers and mobilize constituents in support of AB 1506,”
the email said.

For a list of housing committee members, go to http://ahcd.assembly.ca.gov/membersstaff

Passed in 1995, Costa-Hawkins prohibits cities from enacting rent increase limitations on certain kinds of exempted dwelling units, allows rent increases on subtenants following departure by tenants of rent-controlled tenancies and prohibits “vacancy control” — the regulation of rental rates on units that have been voluntarily vacated by the previous renters at an amount other than what the open market would bear.”

Costa Hawkins also prohibits any type of controls on rents or leases of condominium units or single-family homes.

According to James Vann, co-founder of the Oakland Tenants Union and a supporter of AB 1506,“The repeal of Costa Hawkins the is absolutely critical to help stop the displacement that is running rampant in this state – the law prevents cities from enacting any kind of effective control on rents.

“Real estate and landlord groups have been vociferously lobbying against repeal,” Vann said. They were able to block the repeal effort two years ago, but pro-tenant organizations were not as strong at that time, he said.

“We need for tenant and pro housing advocates to lobby the Legislature for the bill to come up next year,” Vann said.

Landlords groups that are fighting the repeal bill argue that developers will not build homes if they fear their projects might fall under rent control.
“Rent control builds no new housing, and that has to be our focus in the Legislature,” said Debra Carlton, spokeswoman for the California Apartment Association in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times.

For more information go to www.tenantstogether.org/campaigns/repeal-costa-hawkins-re

Published August 17, 20017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oakland City Councilmembers Reluctant to Call Housing State of Emergency

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Housing protest in Oakland

By Ken Epstein

The City of Alameda has been in the spotlight in the past few weeks after it declared a housing crisis state of emergency, which includes a temporary freeze on rent increases and blocks evictions.

But the Oakland City Council appears to be unwilling to follow the path that Alameda is treading.

The Oakland Post sent questions to the mayor and all eight city council members this week, asking if they would support declaring a housing state of emergency.foreclosure action 3  8 12 003.preview

Most of the councilmembers did not reply to the questions. Those who did reply did not speak in favor of calling a housing state of emergency in Oakland.

The Post also asked the officials if they were willing to take other immediate actions to slow down the displacement tidal wave, including: backing a housing development impact fee, which would be used to exclusively support affordable housing; strengthening rent control so it would have teeth to protect tenants from huge rent increases; and imposing relocation or other fees on landlords who evict tenants.

Councilmember Dan Kalb and Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan responded to the questions.

Council members who did not respond were Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Desley Brooks, Anne Campbell Washington, Larry Reid, Noel Gallo and Abel Guillen.

Councilmember Kalb said:

“I strongly support efforts to make sure the City Council prioritizes the construction of lower- and moderate- income housing, including housing for families.

Protest for housing in Boston, as gentrification sweeps through cities across the country.

Protest for housing in Boston, as gentrification sweeps through cities across the country.

“I’m certainly fine with additional market rate housing as well, but I want to put an emphasis on the lower and moderate income portions of the spectrum. We need some type of inclusionary housing requirement for ownership housing, and I intend to put forward legislation on this.

“I am proud to have been the author of the landmark ordinance that helps protect tenants from harassment, including prohibiting attempts to influence a tenant to vacate via intimidation or coercion. We need to make sure that this law is fully implemented and enforced.

“I support instituting a requirement that requires landlords to submit applications for any rental increase beyond the annual cost-of-living increase that is already allowed.

Kalb supports development impact fee to fund affordable housing.

“Another ordinance that I have been working is condominium conversion legislation that will better protect renters from displacement.”

Vice Mayor Kaplan said:

” We must do more than just admit that we have a housing problem, we must also take action to solve it.  That is why I have been working hard to pass real actions to stop the wave of displacement and protect and expand affordable housing.

“This includes recently winning funding for enforcement of tenant’s rights laws, so we don’t have so many people being displaced.  Thanks to the efforts of Councilmember Brooks and myself, along with a grassroots coalition, we were able to get this funding passed despite resistance.

“Now I am continuing to work for stronger relocation assistance laws, improving the rent board, an affordable housing impact fee and other strategies.  My proposals to expand relocation assistance will be coming to the City Council in the coming month.”

Mayor Schaaf’s office said:

The City Council has voted in favor of Mayor Schaaf and Councilmember Abel Guillen’s proposal to declare a shelter crisis.  The measure will provide more housing for the homeless population.

“On the question of strengthening rent control, the mayor’s office said, “Property ownership and management encompasses many financial responsibilities which need to be factored and balanced in order to respond thoughtfully to this question.

There have been good discussions at the Housing Cabinet about various revisions and amendments to the City’s renter protection and rent adjustment regulations.  These are being considered by the Housing Cabinet and will be presented to the City Council early next year.”

Her office said the mayor supports impact fees for creating affordable housing and other infrastructure improvement.

On the issue of charging landlords fees for tenant evictions, her office said, “There are various proposals, which “are scheduled for discussion some time early next year.”

Also being discussed, the mayor’s office said, are an increase in the renter assistance program fee and potential eviction/relocation fees and Ellis Act fees.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, December 13, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Community Protesters: Amid Housing Crisis, Why is Council Funding More Police?

Community member's protested at last Tuesday's City Council to spend money on more police instead of dealing with Oakland's housing crisis. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

Community members protested at last Tuesday’s City Council  meeting against the council members decision to spend money on more police instead of dealing with Oakland’s housing crisis. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

By Tulio Ospina

The Oakland City Council voted Tuesday evening to accept a controversial $1.875 million federal grant from the US Department of Justice that would pay 18 percent of the cost of hiring 15 additional Oakland police officers over three years.

The grant requires the city to “match” the federal funds by spending an additional $10.25 million from its general funds in order to receive the $1.875 million.

According to a city report, most of the city money will be appropriated from future budgetary cycles, taking $6.5 million from the 2017-2019 budget.

Speaking at the council meeting, Oakland Police Deputy Chief David Downing said that receiving the grant is a cheaper way of increasing staff to better do community policing.

“Nothing is better than having a walking officer on the street with direct contact with the community each and every day,” he said.

City councilmembers in support of the resolution cited increased crime and robberies in Oakland as reasons they were voting to fund hiring the 15 new officers.

But dozens of community members and housing rights activists filled City Hall to speak out against the resolution, claiming that the Oakland Police Department is already overfunded—receiving nearly half the city’s budget—and that the extra spending flies in the face of Oakland’s housing and displacement crisis.

“Police do not stop the cause of crime,” said one Oakland resident at the council meeting. “Increase people’s dignity, their sense of self-worth, their ability to attend schools, have a warm meal with their families. Good housing is a deterrent to crime.”

Other community members referred to how under-resourced and under-funded the city’s Rent Adjustment program and other anti-eviction services are, making them barely enforceable.

“We can’t spend millions of dollars on 15 officers when 1,000 residents are being displaced per month,” said Ramiro Montoya, a member of East Bay Housing Organizations.

“I experience crime in my neighborhood daily and understand that more cops in the street is not the solution. We need more services for people to improve their lives,” said Montoya.

Desley Brooks was the only councilmember to vote against the resolution, questioning why the council was not as proactive about funding housing solutions amid a housing crisis.

“We keep talking about a housing crisis and the city puts no money towards actually addressing it,” said Brooks.

“And who pays $10 million to get $1.8 million? That’s just bad math,” she said.

“Here’s proof that there’s money and, if there’s truly a housing crisis, we’re choosing not to fund it,” said Brooks. “The council isn’t being honest if they’re saying that they are concerned about a housing crisis.”

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan was also skeptical about the city’s willingness to spend millions on hiring new police after being told for months that there was not enough funding for enforcement of tenants’ rights laws and having to scrape to fund the Housing Equity Roadmap earlier this year.

Kaplan noted that the resolution was really a budgetary adoption as opposed to a grant match.

“It feels procedurally weird to me that $10 million is to be adopted entirely outside the budgetary process,” said Kaplan. She ultimately abstained from the vote.

After the public comments section of the agenda item, attendees dropped red painted dollars of “blood money” from the balconies in protest of the resolution.

“The health of a city is about public safety. and that relies on services and people’s access to decent affordable housing, access to income and to food,” said Robbie Clark of Causa Justa: Just Cause.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, December 12, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

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)

 

Oakland Steps Out for Faith with a Joyful Noise

The city of Oakland has long been considered the citadel for progressive civil rights and political movements involving activism for racial and social inclusion and equity.

 In response to neighbors’ complaints about the loud sounds of music coming from churches, ministers and churches called for a public demonstration of respect for its churches instead of using the police and fines to punish their congregations.

More than 30 pastors stood in solidarity with Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. They were joined by city and county officials along with the SambaFunk! drummers, church choirs, gospel soloists and Black Arts groups.

True to its radical and revolutionary roots, Oakland is redefining respect for religion. Ministers called for the city to declare itself, to be a sanctuary city for its sanctuaries.

The First Amendment and religious freedom were embraced by a coalition that included the Oakland NAACP, the Post News Group, Baptists, Methodists, Muslims, Mormons, COGICs, AME, Catholics, the Black Arts Movement, Soul of Oakland, Oakland Private Industry Council, Pastors of Oakland, Baptist Ministers Union, Seventh-day Adventists and many others.

The event took place Saturday, Nov. 7 in front of the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church on Adeline Street in West Oakland. It was the response to a city noise complaint against Pleasant Grove that kicked off the current solidarity movement.

Speaking at the event, Amos Brown of the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco said his church has faced similar attempts to silence worship.

He told the crowd that earlier this year “two rogue cops” entered his church one afternoon to tell parishioners to quiet down during a service, where a gumbo band was playing in honor of a church member who had passed away.

But he told the police: “We are going to sing, we are going to shout. We’re going to let nobody tell us to shut up.”

The arts community and the religious community are coming together, said Theo Williams of the SambaFunk! drummers, who performed at the event.

“We came here to stand with you in solidarity,” he said. “This is monumental.”

Said Mayor Libby Schaaf, who spoke after Theo Williams, “This city has some strong roots, and these roots are in our faith community and our arts community.”

“My city has some SambaFunk!,” she said.

City Councilmember and Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, who is a rabbi, urged people to raise their voice and sing out in praise.

“It is a miracle that we are still here to sing praises,” said Kaplan, referring to the holocausts faced by Black people during the Middle Passage, Jews during World War II and indigenous people in the United States during the Trail of Tears.

“We give thanks that we have survived to this day,” she said. “Let us use this as a force to unite.”

Bishop Joseph Simmons of Greater St. Paul Baptist Church praised church and community members who have spoken up about attacks on the right to worship.

“I want to thank the people who complained because your complaints made us stand up,” he said.

Rev. Ray Williams of Morning Star Baptist Church said people have to stand up to forces that want to push them out of the city.

“We used to steal away to Jesus to worship,” he said. “(But) we aren’t going to steal away anymore. We’re here to take back what gentrification has taken away from us.”

“We need our council members to have the courage to challenge chase bank for reneging on it’s promise to Oakland,” said Post publisher Paul Cobb.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 13, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)