Category: Housing/Foreclosures

Mayor Schaaf’s Proposals for Building Affordable Housing on Public Land Challenged

“The mayor and the people who work for her have been trying to kill the public land policy all along,” said Councilmember Kaplan.

By Ken Epstein

Community activists and others are raising concerns about whether the latest affordable housing proposals backed by Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration would event make even a dent in the wave of gentrification and displacement that is remaking the city right in front of their eyes.

Margaretta Lin

Looking at the basic numbers, one of the most contentious issues in the city staff’s proposal is how many affordable units can be built on available public land.  The administration’s report claims that there are only 20 parcels available for housing development and that six of those need to be sold to market rate developers in order to subsidize affordable housing on the remaining 14 parcels, promising only 746 units in the price range that many Oaklanders could afford.

That number of potential units seems like a pittance to affordable housing advocates who point to the magnitude of the crisis – the unending surge of homelessness and the huge numbers of seniors, young workers, teachers and city workers who are being forced out of the city.

The Schaaf administration proposal acknowledges the city owns over 1,000 parcels of land but says only 20 of them are suitable for residential housing.

Rebecca Kaplan

Of those 20 buildable parcels, totaling 24 acres, 14 would be utilized for affordable housing. Of the remaining six parcels, one would be sold for market-rate housing, totaling 492 units, and five be sold for market-rate commercial development, according to staff.

However, there are reports that show there is significantly more public land available, and many more units could be built on those properties, according to Margaretta Lin of the Dellums Institute for Social justice.

A former Deputy City Administrator, Lin led the work on the city’s Housing Equity Roadmap plan in 2014 that was adopted by the City Council in Fall 2015.

Lin says two reports show there are “50 publicly owned vacant or underutilized parcels that the City’s Housing Element identified as suitable for housing development, which could produce over 7,300 new housing units.”

The city owned 36 of these parcels, which are capable of producing over 3,600 housing units per the City’s Housing Element, and other public agencies own the other 14, she said. However, the City sold one of those parcels, capable of producing 25 units, in January 2018 to what appears to be a market rate developer. (The reports are available at www.dellumsinstitute.org/community-justice-data/)

“We commissioned the two public land reports from UC Berkeley Public Policy and City Planning in 2015 because none of the City departments had a full list of City owned land.  With the departure of Claudia Cappio who was briefed on this information, the City administration may be lacking complete information,” she said.

 Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said city staff makes two separate mistakes in estimating of how many affordable units can be built.

“They are under-counting the number of suitable parcels that the city owns, and their estimate is way lower than the number of units that could be built on them, said Kaplan.

Another major contentious issue is how to pay for construction of the affordable housing. City staff wants to sell public land to market-rate developers to pay for affordable housing development.

The “staff strategy assumes” utilizing market-rate development on the six parcels in order to generate revenue to pay for “100 percent affordable housing for the other 14 sites,” said Mark Sawicki, director of Economic and Workforce Development Department, speaking on behalf of the Schaaf administration at last week’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee meeting.

The number of affordable units is constrained by the availability of funding, according to Sawicki’s report. Building 100 percent affordable units on the 20 parcels would increase the total number of possible units on the 20 parcels to 1,080, but it would take 10 to14 years to raise the $112 million needed to cover construction costs.

Staff’s proposal, on the other hand, would only cost the city $6 million (plus the sale of six parcels of land), which could be raised in three to four years, he said.

The question of funding, says Lin, depends on how the city  defines the problem and the solutions.

“If the public policy problem is defined as a State of Emergency especially for people who are the working poor and/or newly homeless, then we would utilize every resource available, especially public lands,” she said.

“The city’s public land policy proposal is based on a traditional housing development model where it costs $500,000 to $650,000 to build one housing unit, and the City needs to provide $150,000 to $165,000 public subsidy.  Instead, if the City utilized innovative housing development and financing models being deployed by other communities, such as new and attractive mobile homes that cost $35,000 a unit, then the (costs) and the public policy proposal would be completely different, said Lin.

Councilmember Kaplan, a longtime supporter of utilizing public property for affordable housing, says the staff “strategy” proposal does not consider other sources of funding: the city’s Measure KK, Alameda County’s A1 housing bond where Oakland is anticipated to receive over $200 million for affordable housing, impact fees, new State housing funds, and foundation grants.

“If they need to sell parcels, why not sell some of those that can’t be used for housing?” Kaplan asked.

Another issue that deeply concerns affordable housing advocates is whether the staff’s strategy would have teeth or would result in something the administration could modify or ignore as wished.

After meetings between staff and housing advocates on developing an affordable housing policy dragged on for almost two years, city staff announced a few months ago that they were no longer interested in passing a policy, instead proposing a “strategy” on how to utilize the 20 parcels of land.

“The mayor and the people who work for her have been trying to kill the policy all along,” said Councilmember Kaplan. “Even if we adopt a strategy, we need a policy,” she said.

The desperate need is for the City Council to adopt a binding public lands policy, said Lin.

According to Lin,  as of December 2017, “there were 20,000 market-rate housing units under construction or in the pipeline, compared with less than 1,500 affordable units.”

“We’re in Oakland’s worst housing crisis in its entire history,” she said. “And affordable housing developers are having a hard time competing with market rate developers for access to land.  An equity based public land policy would solve this access to land problem.  Market-rate housing developers don’t need public resources. They’re doing fine.”

Published August 1, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Councilmember McElhaney’s Proposal Would Help “Cash-Strapped” Landlords Evict Tenants

Proposal offers a city-subsidized “incentive” for small landlords  to displace tenants, says housing rights activist James Vann

By Post Staff

The Oakland City Council is scheduled Tuesday to decide on a resolution proposed by Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney that would establish a city loan program to help “distressed low-income homeowners” evict their tenants when the landlord or relative wants to occupy the property.

Lynette McElhaney

Under this proposal, co-sponsored by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, the city would set aside $300,000 “to make available no-interest loans” to “cash-strapped” landlords to help them pay city-required relocation payments to tenants they are evicting.

The $300,000 fund would be created by re-allocating part of the $2.2 million the City Council set aside last year to provide legal representation for tenants facing eviction.

“This is common sense anti-displacement legislation that helps preserve the social and economic diversity of home ownership in our city, especially of African American and other low-income legacy owners,” said McElhaney. “This is about addressing all sides of the

James Vann

displacement issue and not creating pressure on legacy owners to sell the homes they want to return to.”

This past January, the City Council amended the Uniform Residential Tenant Ordinance requiring that tenants who are evicted for an owner or relative move-in receive relocation payments. Payments range from $6,500 for a studio or one-bedroom unit to $9,875 for a three or more bedrooms.

“These payments may pose a hardship for low-income and low-asset owners, especially those who need to recover possession of their homes to support themselves or relatives,” according to Councilmember McElhaney’s press statement.

To qualify for the interest-free loans, owners must meet a set of criteria:

  • Own five or fewer units
  • Be low-income or have less than six months of financial reserves
  • Be denied a cash-out refinance loan on their property, and,
  • Certify that the relative moving in is also low or moderate income and does not own any other real estate

Sharply criticizing McElhaney’s proposal, James Vann, co-founder of the Oakland Tenants Union, said that the resolution was “framed by landlord advisers to (Councilmember) McElhaney, (providing) no opportunity for tenant advocates to review or comment on the proposal” before it was introduced.

The proposal “actually (creates) an incentive for small property owners to get longstanding tenants out of their homes, and in the process, have the city pay for the eviction,” said Vann.

“Meanwhile, there is no monitoring by city. So, many of these (landlords) will only pretend to enter but may never actually occupy the freed-up unit. The owner is then able to re-rent the unit at exorbitant prices,” he said.

 

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

 

Cat Brooks Looks to Community Power to Fuel Her Campaign for Mayor

 

Oakland mayoral candidate Cat Brooks addresses the crowd at the Lake Merritt amphitheater on Saturday, June 16, welcoming the community to a “people’s assembly” on housing. Photo by Sarah Carpenter.

By Sarah Carpenter

Mayoral candidate Cat Brooks is not following the standard campaign path that the public has come to expect locally and nationally – where those who are running for office adopt positions based on opinion pools and “expert” advice of hired campaign staff.

True to her history of grassroots organizing in Oakland, she is building her platform by relying on “people’s assemblies” to help produce solutions to the pressing problems facing Oaklanders.

She hosted a people’s assembly on “Housing the Unhoused & Tenant Protections,” one of the city’s hottest issues, Saturday morning, June 16, at the Lake Merritt amphitheater.
“This isn’t the Cat Brooks campaign, this is the people’s campaign,” said Brooks.

Local activists and residents spoke about the goals they are working toward and what they want Oakland’s next mayor to accomplish to meet the needs of the unhoused.

Multiple speakers supported the Affordable Housing Act, which will appear on the ballot in November. The act repeals the controversial 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act that places statewide restrictions on rent control for buildings built or heavily remodeled after 1995 (with some exemptions).

 

Steven DiCaprio, CEO and founder of Land Action, spoke about a need for the decriminalization of homelessness and the end of collective punishment (when one person in an encampment commits a crime, and the entire encampment is evicted as a result).

DiCaprio suggested that the City ask its police to stop enforcing trespassing laws (specifically penal code 602) on properties that have been left vacant for years.

Another speaker, Jamie, suggested an anti-speculation tax for those who don’t live in Oakland, but profit from its real estate and the displacement of Oaklanders.

“Our government has been working for the people who own the property, and I would like to see our city council and our mayor work for the residents—the people who live here, the people who inhabit space, the people who are part of the community,” she said.

These ideas and more were written down on a jumbo notepad by a campaign volunteer.
Other ideas included a cap on the rental services fee, more taxpayer money spent on housing the unhoused, workforce housing, and emergency housing for seniors, people with disabilities, and people with children.

Those who missed the assembly may still contribute to the conversation on housing or any other past assemblies by visiting www.catbrooksforoakland.com. Live streams of past assemblies are also available.

Published June 22, 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

Moratorium on Public Land Sales Goes to CED Committee

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

By Post staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published June 11, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

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

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

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

Rob Bonta

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landlords celebrated their victory against renter protections in an email.

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

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

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

Published June 11, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

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

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

By Ken Epstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Noel Gallo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted June 3, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

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

Cat Brooks

By Ken Epstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published May 12, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post