Category: Homelessness

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

Open Letter: Community Leaders Call on Mayor, Council to Improve Services for Unsheltered Residents

Homeless

The following is an open letter to Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Council Members, City Administrator Landreth and Staff, dated June 11.

Recently, about 30 groups focused on Lake Merritt have been meeting to discuss how to safeguard and improve the parks around Lake Merritt, the facilities within it, and the coordination of everyone’s efforts.

As you know, one of the issues concerning our groups has been the growing number of encampments throughout the parklands of Lake Merritt. We know that you receive complaints and worries from citizens.

We have come to the understanding that this is a time for everyone to pull together and work collaboratively to accommodate all our residents, whether regular park users, or people with no shelter.

Therefore, we urge your support and funding in the FY ’18-’19 budget for three efforts to address the city-wide encampment crisis:

1) Improve sanitation and health measures, as outlined by the Homeless Advocacy Working Group, for $1 million: Provide adequate water, hand-washing, health & hygiene facilities, shower capability, porta-potties, and rubbish removal services for all encampments of six (6) or more people-units

2) Support “green teams” established by the unsheltered residents, by providing debris bags, tools, and trash pickup. Establish a small stipend for participation (either through the city directly or through one of the nonprofits), as has been done in many other cities.

Several of these teams already exist and have made noticeable improvements in their areas; we should support this, and we should support the resultant involvement of residents in their communities and in better interaction with city workers.

3) Fund and facilitate three pilot projects of sheltered communities as suggested by the Homeless Advocacy Working Group, for $3 million.

At the request of homeless representatives, at least one of the temporary shelter communities should be a clean-and-sober-only area: Enable three (3) “pilot projects” of “alternative housing models” on City-owned land: (a) 2 to 3 small-home villages; (b) a village of converted shipping containers; (c) a 100-unit comprehensive campus of manufactured housing units, complete with gang kitchen, classrooms, computer room, storage, counseling, and job training.

We have come to agree that unless the unsheltered community members are themselves part of the effort, City efforts will not succeed.

We urge you to appropriate money wisely now, rather than incurring increased expenditures later on in remedial public works, social services, and health services efforts.

Thank you for your attention to our comments.

Endorsers, affiliations, for identification only

  • Dan Altemus, Lake Merritt Breakfast Club, Lake Merritt Advocate
  • Barbara Azad, Adams Point Neighborhood Group Leadership, LMA 
  • Richard Bailey, Former Director Lake Merritt Institute, Board Member LMI
  • Terry Boom, Lake Merritt Weed Warriors
  • Susan Casentini, Autumn Lights Festival, LMBC, LMA
  • Steven Cochrane, Ad Hoc Group for Rotary Nature Center
  • Susan Campodonico, Lake Merritt Institute Volunteer
  • Adrian Cotter, Community For Lake Merritt, Sierra Club, LMA
  • Kathy Dwyer, Friends of Lincoln Park, City Team Ministries 
  • Jennie Gerard, Measure DD Coalition, LM Weed Warriors, LMA Coordinator
  • C.J. Hirschfield, Children’s Fairyland Executive Director, LMA, LMBC
  • Pat Kernighan, Former City Council Member, District 2
  • Caroline Kim, Coalition of Advocates for Lake Merritt
  • John Kirkmire, LakeMerritt.org, LMA Coordinator, LMBC 
  • Kyle Milligan, LMBC, Children’s Fairyland Board, LMA, ALF
  • Mary Ellen Navas,LM Weed Warriors, LMA Coordinator
  • Katie Noonan, Lake Merritt Institute Board, LMBC, LMA, Ad Hoc RNC
  • Susan Porter, Lake Merritt Institute, St Paul’s School Teacher
  • Vivian Romero, Ad Hoc Group for Rotary Nature Center
  • Naomi Schiff, Measure DD Coalition, LM Weed Warriors, LMA, CALM 
  • Nancy Sherman, Measure DD Coalition, W. Oakland Walk, LMA, Ad Hoc RNC
  • Marcille Sibbitt, Oakland Lawn Bowling Club Director, LMA
  • Rob Stewart, Executive Director LM Breakfast Club
  • Bill Threlfall, Measure DD Coalition, Waterfront Action Co-Director
  • Sandra Threlfall, Measure DD Coalition, Waterfront Action Co-Director
  • Mike Udkow, Measure DD Coalition, LM Weed Warriors, Bicycle Trail Council
  • Sarah Van Roo, Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt, LMA
  • Susan Veit, Oakland East Bay Garden Center Inc.
  • Paul Vidican, Lake Merritt Weed Warriors, OPRF Board Member
  • Kathleen Williams, Lake Merritt Weed Warriors
  • David Wofford, Rotary Nature Center Ad Hoc