Category: Homelessness

New Year, New Leadership, New Oakland?

 Rebecca Kaplan unanimously elected City Council President

Oakland swears in new City Council members (L to R): Nikki Fortunato Bas, District 2; Sheng Thao, Disrict 4: and Loren Taylor, District 6. Photo by Howard Dyckoff.

By Ken Epstein

Oakland honored its newly elected city leaders this week at a swearing-in ceremony held in the City Council Chambers of Oakland City Hall.

Sworn in were Mayor Libby Schaaf, who elected to a second term: Nikki For­tunato Bas, the city’s first Filipina-American council member, representing Dis­trict 2. Sheng Thao, the first Hmong-American council member in the state of Cali­fornia, representing District 4; and Loren Taylor, a third generation Oakland resident, representing District 6.

Making the increased strength of local progres­sives, Councilmember-at- Large Rebecca Kaplan was unanimously elected council president by her colleagues. , The council’s most powerful position, the president pre­sides over City Council meet­ings, influences the council’s agenda and makes appoint­ments to council committees and some outside agencies.

Newly Elected Council President Rebecca Kaplan (left) stands with Cat Brooks, a progressive runner-up in the Oakland mayoral race and co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project. Photo by Howard Dyckoff.

Kaplan, the first openly LGBT+ Council President in Oakland’s history, distanced herself from some of the city government’s past practices, pledging that her leadership would be based on a commit­ment to social justice, inclu­sivity and working closely in coalition with the local com­munity.

“We must acknowledge injustice and prejudice exist and we need leaders to assure we work together to move our city forward,” Kaplan said in a prepared statement.

“I believe in giving all Councilmembers the oppor­tunity to affect change, and all council members will have an opportunity to chair a commit­tee.,” she said. “I look forward to working together in coalition with community to advance Oakland’s vital needs.”

Her priorities include reor­ganizing council meetings so community members do not have to wait until past mid­night talk about major issues, strengthening the city’s com­mitment to providing afford­able housing and to responding more effectively to homeless­ness and displacement of resi­dents, as well as providing ac­cess to job training and taking aggressive steps to reduce il­legal dumping.

In her remarks after she was sworn-in, Councilmember Bas said laid out an agenda focused on “equity, inclusion and community participa­tion.”

“More and more (working and middle class families) are feeling left out, feeling the impact of gentrification, rac­ism and income inequality,” she said. “Decisions (will) not made for you but with you. These are all problems that we can solve together.”

“We want developers and corporation that are part of our city but not to tear our city apart,” said Bas, emphasizing that the Black community is “disproportionately impacted by homelessness, joblessness and over-policing.”

Sheng Thao, a daughter of Hmong refugees, said, thanked Councilmember Ka­plan for hiring her as an intern as later as a staff member and her family and the community for backing her.

“I want to be a voice for those who don’t have a voice, because I understand what that looks like,” she said. “I under­stand what it looks like to have to work multiple different jobs just to make rent.”

Acknowledging the efforts of outgoing District 6 Council­member Desley Brooks, Tay­lor said:

“I look forward to serving and delivering greater eco­nomic opportunity, especially for those who have been left out, underserved and under­represented in our communi­ty. We are fully committed to stopping the pushing out and pricing out of the residents of our city.”

Mayor Schaaf, celebrating her 20 years in city govern­ment, said her priorities re­main the same.

She said, “We are ready to bring even more dramat­ic changes in the next four years,” including “an even greater reduction” in homi­cides and violence, support for her favored nonprofit – Oak­land Promise, road repair “in the neighborhoods,” as well as building more units of housing and increasing ways to make “headway on homelessness.”

The council elected District 7 Councilmember Larry Reid to serve as vice mayor and Dis­trict 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb as mayor pro tem. Reid (a reappointment) and Taylor were picked to represent the city on the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority board of commissioners.

Published January 10, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Displaced Residents Seek Compensation After City Evicts Them, Tows Their RVs

Dayton Andrews, Kelly Thompson and Gary Rosenquist speak about the mass towing at a press conference for the United Front Against Displacement outside the County of Alameda Administrative Building at noon on Dec. 20.

By Zack Haber

At 8 a.m., Oct. 23, Auto Plus Towing & Auto Body and the Oakland Police De­partment collaborated to tow over 15 vehicles near 20th and Willow streets in West Oakland.

The vehicles were mostly homes to long-term Oakland residents who could no lon­ger afford to pay rent.

Emma Chum, an immi­grant from Guatemala who has lived in Oakland for 16 years, says that as police of­ficers towed her RV, “They were laughing like it was funny.”

Chum’s RV had a kitch­en, bed, solar power and a closet. She now lives in a tent and has trouble sleep­ing. Though she works six days a week at a beauty sup­ply store, she hasn’t found a room in Oakland she can af­ford to rent.

Chum’s missing papers relating to citizenship and employment have served as an additional roadblock to her securing indoor housing. Since these papers were in her vehicle when it got towed, she lost them.

Kelly Thompson and Gary Rosenquist, two Vietnam veterans who have lived in Oakland for decades, insist that the Police Department worked strategically to seize their vehicles and intimidate them. Both claim that after police towed their vehicles, officers tracked them down later in the day and told them to “get out of Oakland.”

Though police had given residents at 20th and Willow streets a three-day eviction notice, Rosenquist claims that in the past police would allow vehicular residents time to move during the day of an eviction. This time, there was no leniency. If a vehicle couldn’t be moved immediately, it was towed.

“It was heart-wrenching. They were acting like we were second-class people,” said Rosenquist.

Thompson thinks he was targeted. “They know my truck and what I’ve done in the past so they snagged mine first,” he said. Though his truck ran, it was past registration and he arrived a few minutes too late to move it. It was towed.

In the past, Thompson had used his truck to tow displaced people’s ve­hicles to new locations so that they could avoid hav­ing them seized by towing companies. He had planned to help people on the morn­ing of Oct. 23, but with his truck gone, his neighbors who couldn’t immediately start their vehicles were left helpless.

Thompson and Rosen­quist feel the City of Oakland has treated them unjustly and have connected with hous­ing activists like Dayton Andrews to form the United Front Against Displacement (UFAD).

UFAD meets at Raimondi Park every Friday at 4:30 p.m. and works to stop evic­tions, house all Bay Area res­idents, and hold city agen­cies financially accountable to the people they displace.

In the days immediately following Oct. 23, Thomp­son, Rosenquist, Andrews and other UFAD members attempted to talk with the city government about the mass towing and were di­rected to Michael Hunt, an aide to Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Hunt told them the police shouldn’t have towed their vehicles and that the city would help to retrieve them.

But the former 20th and Willow streets residents claim the city hasn’t helped as police have informed them that their vehicles would not be returned.

Hunt hasn’t responded to an Oakland Post email ask­ing him to comment.

The former residents agree with Andrews, who says “the City of Oakland owes people compensation for their lost property, their lost vehicles and ultimately should be held accountable for not pro­ducing spaces in Oakland for people to live in.”

Published January 2, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Opinion: City Agency Set to Seize Black Veteran’s Home

Leonard Powell is facing “an unconscionable and unwarranted debt”

Leonard Powell (right) with relative.

By Steve Martinot

The City of Berkeley is campaigning right now to drive Leonard Powell, a 76-year-old Black veteran, and his family out of their home at 1911 Harmon St. in south Berkeley.

This family has lived there for 44 years and owned the house free and clear. By a legal process called receivership, the city has succeeded in placing Mr. Powell in a financial position beyond his means, in order for him to lose the house to foreclosure or sale.

Receivership means that the house, after it is found to be in violation of the city’s housing code, is placed under the control of a “receiver,” who then he takes over the job of repairing the house.

Where initial estimates of repair expenses were around $200,000, the receiver has racked up expenses of $700,000, a debt which ultimately falls on Mr. Powell’s shoulders.

Right now, the case is in Superior Court, and the judge has demanded that Mr. Powell come up with the full amount right away. Clearly, he is acting to protect the interest of the receiver, who is white.

This writer would ask that the legal system be as diligent in protecting the interests of the Black family, who are now faced with an unconscionable and unwarranted debt.

This kind of thing has happened to other families. It has also been accomplished through Probate Court, as well as through receivership. But Mr. Powell’s case is instructive.

It occurred through three stages. And it is important to note that at no time did Mr. Powell object to doing the repairs on his house. He simply asked the city for assistance and negotiation, which the city subtly declined.

First, there was a police raid on the house, ostensibly to arrest a person who didn’t live there. The entire raid was fake, reporting fabricated evidence, and no charges were ever filed. But it gave city officials a chance to inspect the house without prior notice.

The city knew Mr. Powell’s financial situation, and that he had family members in the house in ill health who depended on the house.

Second, though inspection found some 23 code violations, all were of housing maintenance. Mr. Powell was given deadlines, negotiation on those deadlines were refused, and missed deadlines allowed the city to label the house a public “nuisance.”

The label made the city’s desire for receivership much stronger (though without evidence of any specific danger to the neighborhood). Without material foundation, this essentially admitted that for the white power structure, black people are just a nuisance.

Third, there is the receivership process. Mr. Powell opposed the house being placed under receivership in court declarations, but his objections were ignored.

The city’s petition was granted, and a white man appointed as receiver to repair the violations. The receiver then violated his mandate by having his contractor reconstruct the house rather than simply repair the code violations.

This is what tripled his expenses, and tripled the debt placed on Mr. Powell. The receiver admitted, in a later report to the court, that in shifting the work on the house from repairs to reconstruction, he was following city directions in doing so.

The receiver must have sensed a vulnerability, because he has asked the judge to get full payment from Mr. Powell immediately, and the judge has done so.

 

Leonard Powell’s case is scheduled to be heard Monday, Dec. 17, 10:30 a.m., at Alameda County Superior Court, Second Floor, Room 511, 24405 Amador St., Hayward. For more information or to support Mr. Powell, contact Friends of Adeline at (510) 338-7843 or friendsofadeline@gmail.com

Published December 12, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

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Oakland Pays Tribute to Outgoing Councilmember Desley Brooks

“Desley was the lightning rod who took all the bad energy (and stood) up for us in this city,” said Carroll Fife.

Community activist Carroll Fife spoke Tuesday evening, Dec. 11, at the City Council meeting, backed by Oaklanders who joined her in paying tribute to outgoing Councilmember Desley Brooks. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ken Epstein

Oaklanders crowded into City Council chambers this week – the last meeting of the year – -to pay tribute to outgoing Councilmember Desley Brooks, who represented District 6 in East Oakland for 16 years.

Brooks, who was excused due to illness in her family, did not attend the meeting.

Almost 40 people signed up to speak about the issues Councilmember Brooks championed – including homelessness and construction jobs for Black and Latino workers – and praise her for courageous stands on behalf of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

Two drummers beat a solemn, celebratory rhythm, and the crowded chambers reverberated with clapping, cheering and chants of “Desley! Desley! Desley!”

Those who appreciated the work of Councilmember Brooks, especially her outspoken demands for equity for Black Oaklanders, crowded around the podium as Oakland activist Carroll Fife spoke of the “scars and battle wounds that Brooks took for standing up for us in this city.”

“Desley was the lightning rod that took all of the bad energy from the press, from you all (on the council), from the gentrifying agents of the city. She took it, and she wore it. She is African. That is what we do…

“Desley was unapologetically Black. (She) unapologetically stood with the people who are most in need.”

Over her years in office, Brooks helped create the landmark Race and Equity Department, fought for Black neighborhoods stigmatized by the War on Drugs to have equitable opportunities to engage in the legalized cannabis industry and stood up to the police chief and mayor when they violated Oakland’s Sanctuary City ordinance.

Earning the anger of state construction trade unions, she recently had been questioning the proposal for a Project Labor Agreement that would give all the construction jobs on city projects to segregated unions that have few Black members.

Though members of the council praise ‘bad sistas,’ said Fife, “We have to talk about the difference and the disparity. She cannot be bad on that seat (on the council), but Libby gets to be ‘Oakland Tough’ (referring to one of the Mayor Schaaf’s recent campaign slogans).”

“You did not lose your seat Desley Brooks – it was stolen from you by the mayor, by independent expenditures, by the half a million dollars (they raised) to put out of office so you couldn’t represent us,” Fife continued.

“We see, and we are united.  We are coming together. This is bigger than Desley, but Desley was our drum.”

Published December 13, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Report: How to House Oakland’s Unhoused Within Six Months

City workers and police officers evict homeless residents Thursday afternoon, Dec. 6, from Housing and Dignity Village, an encampment of 13 women and children on city-owned land at Edes and South Elmhurst avenues in East Oakland. Photo by Amir Saadiq.

The following is the third part of a series profiling the new report from the Dellums Institute/Just Cities for the Housing and Dignity Project led by The Village and East Oakland Collective, Housing Oakland’s Unhoused, focuses on what we’ve all been waiting for—solutions to Oakland’s new homelessness crisis. 

The Housing Oakland’s Unhoused Report very powerfully establishes that the traditional approach to homelessness does not address today’s realities where the majority of the homeless only need housing, rather than intensive services, and the costs and time needed to build multi-family housing is insufficient.

Instead, the report offers innovative solutions that would result in providing safe, dignified, and affordable housing to over 2,000 people within 6 months, IF the political will in City Hall and the County exists.

Perhaps the innovativeness of the solutions comes from the fact that the Dellums Institute and the Goldman School for Public Policy partnered with unhoused people and activists from The Village and the East Oakland Collective.

This authentic participatory research model relied directly on the voices, experiences, and brilliant ideas from the people most impacted by the housing crisis.  Different from most government community “input” sessions, the research findings and final recommendations were then vetted and approved by the same unhoused people and activists.

The report’s Short Term Solutions are implementable within 6 to 12 months.  They include low cost and immediate housing building models such as tiny, mobile, or container homes which cost between $7,500 to $35,000 to build, including infrastructure costs.

The report states that it would cost around $23 million to immediately build 1,600 new housing units that could provide dignified housing for 2,000 people.

The report identifies specific resources that are currently available to implement this critical plan, including available public land parcels and new monies for homeless housing from the City, County, and State.

See page 6 of the Housing Oakland’s Unhoused Report for more details, http://dellumsinstitute.org/community-justice-data/

Not stopping at short-term solutions, the Housing Oakland’s Unhoused Report also lays out Long Term Solutions to build 2,000 units of permanent housing for extremely low income to no income residents.

These longer term solutions include the traditional multi-family housing model that would cost a public subsidy of about $150,000 per unit.

In addition, the report recommends utilizing alternative housing models that are cheaper and faster to build such as container, modular, and prefab homes, which would range from $13,500 to $125,000 of public subsidy per unit.

The report also identifies new funds for implementing these long-term solutions such as the new County Measure A1 funds and the City’s new ballot measures increasing the real estate transfer tax on properties selling for over $2 million championed by Councilmember Dan Kalb and also the new vacant lots tax championed by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.

Ultimately, the Dellums Institute’s Housing the Unhoused Report for the Housing and Dignity Project represents a call to action for all of us who care about Oakland.

No longer can we turn away from the growing homeless crisis, throwing up our hands and saying that there’s nothing we can do.  There’s plenty of strategic solutions available.  All it takes is political and moral leadership.

Let’s exercise our rights in a democratic society and call our elected officials to implement the Housing and Dignity Project’s solutions designed by unhoused people.

See the full Report on the Dellums Institute’s website at  http://dellumsinstitute.org/community-justice-data/

Published December 6, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oakland Race & Equity Dept. Report Calls for End to Systemic Racial Disparities

Affordable housing protest at Oakland City Hall

City Councilmembers  this week took the “first step” to implement the “2018 Oakland Equity Indicators Report,” a recent study that provides data on racial disparities experienced by African Americans and Latinos in nearly all areas of life in Oakland, including housing, health, public safety and education.

Darlene Flynn

The report, a joint project of the Resilient Oakland Office and the city’s Department of Race and Equity, was released in July. The plan now calls for the council and city departments to begin to examine policies and programs “through intentional focus on race and ethnic disparities and their root causes,” said Darlene Flynn, director of the Department of Race & Equity, speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s Life Enrichment Committee.

The report was funded by a $140,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation,

The ultimate goal is “fairness,” which means that “identity—such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation or expression—has no detrimental effect on the distribution of resources, opportunities and outcomes for our city’s residents,” according to the report to the council submitted by Flynn.

The report will be updated each year, “measuring how much we have changed (in terms of) what our outcomes are,” because “if we keep doing things the same way we are doing them, we will keep getting the same outcomes,” Flynn said.

The report looked at Oaklanders’ quality of life based on 72 indicators in six areas: economy, education, public health, housing, public safety and neighborhood and civic life.

On a scale of 1 to 100, the report gave the city an overall average score of 33.5. The number 1 represents the highest possible inequity, while 100 represents the highest possible equity.

“This is not good news. It should also not be surprising news for people who are paying to attention to how people’s lives are going in (Oakland),” Flynn said.

“This (report) shows that race does matter. Every area that we looked showed some level of disparity by race and usually quite a bit of disparity,” she said.
One indicator, “Oakland Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity,” shows that 26.1 percent of African Americans live at or below the poverty line, while only 8.4 percent of whites are classified as poor.

In other words, “African Americans are three times more likely to live in poverty than whites,” she said.

In addition, one of five Latinos, 21.9 percent, live in poverty. Overall, the poverty rate in Oakland is 17 percent.

This pattern can be seen in nearly all of the 72 indicators: African Americans are the most “negatively impacted,” followed by Latinos, she said.

On 12 indicators, the city received a 1.0, the lowest possible score:

  • Education – student suspensions
  • Education – teaching staff representative of the student body
  • Public Health – child asthma emergency department visits
  • Public Health – substance abuse emergency department visits
  • Housing – homelessness
  • Public safety – adult felony arrests
  • Public safety – jail incarceration
  • Public safety – prison incarceration,
  • Public safety – use of force
  • Public safety – homicides
  • Public safety – juvenile felony arrests
  • Neighborhood and Civil Life – pedestrian safety

The five highest scoring indicators:

  • Equal Access Accommodations (language access) – 100
  • Adopt-a-Drain – 80
  • Homeownership with mortgage – 78
  • Life expectancy – 77
  • Labor force participation – 72
  • Participation in workforce development – 72

A high score does not necessarily mean that an outcome is good, but that is it more equal across different groups of residents.

Flynn, who has headed the Department of Race and Equity since it was formed two years ago through the efforts of Councilmember Desley Brooks, was cautiously optimistic about what the work around the new equity report can achieve.

“This is just the first step, not the end of the story,” said Flynn, pointing out that government played a role in creating the systemic inequities that exist, and it can play a role in reversing them. “I have some level of optimism that with public will, with leadership support, with changes in strategy, we can make a difference,” she said. “By leading with race, we can make a difference.”

To read the report, go to www.ca.gov/projects/oakland-equity-indicators

Published November 15, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

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

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

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

By Ken Epstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published November 3, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

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

Real number of homeless in Oakland is over 9,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published November 2, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

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

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

Ken Epstein

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

Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr.

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

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

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

Rev. Dr. Harold Mayberry

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

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

“So, I shall not be moved.”

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

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

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

Dan Siegel

brunt of the War on Drugs.

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

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

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

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

Walter Riley

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published October 28, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: “Oakland’s Democracy Is Strengthened by the Re-Election of Councilmember Desley Brooks,” Says Sandré Swanson

Desley Brooks and Sandré Swanson

I was born in the City of Oakland and have devoted my life to public service. I proudly represented the city of Oakland as our California State Assemblymember, Deputy Mayor of Oakland, the Chief of staff for Congresswoman Barbara Lee and a senior advisor to former Congressman Ron Dellums.

The Citizens of Oakland elect their Councilmembers by districts to ensure that their vote determines who will speak for and represent our community. I endorse and support Councilmember Desley Brooks because she has been a clear and effective voice for her district and the underrepresented in our city.

In my career, I have had the honor of meeting many dedicated public servants, and I have seen the challenge and negative effect of big money campaigns to oppose those dedicated public servants.

The people of Oakland’s District 6 should send a clear and strong message that Oakland’s democracy is strengthened by the re-election of Councilmember Desley Brooks, an independent and uncompromising voice for her district.

For the past 16 years, Councilmember Desley Brooks has had a successful record for Oakland. Desley Brooks’ mission to bring representation for historically underrepresented groups and Oakland’s diverse communities into City Hall is her record of service:

  • As rents have skyrocketed, she has passed renter’s protection ordinances and advocated for affordable housing for all.
  • As police accountability and violence has challenged safety in our community, she pushed for an independent police review commission.
  • She stood up for immigrant rights and strengthened Oakland’s Sanctuary City ordinance and opposed illegal ICE raids.
  • To fight joblessness and homelessness, she has set up job training programs that build bridges into the middle class for Oakland’s residents.
  • To make sure Oakland is a fair, equitable place for all, she led the fight to establish the Department of Race and Equity, ensuring that City policies don’t discriminate against minorities and women.

Desley Brooks has worked tirelessly for the communities she represents, and that’s why she has earned the support of her constituents, City workers, firefighters, religious leaders, and others.

It’s why she has earned my support, and it’s why she deserves yours.

Published October 27, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post