April 5th, Oakland’s Housing Emergency Declared

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Lots is happening in the fight against displacement in Oakland. Let’s get to it:

First Friday-Come out to this week’s First Friday and join Oakland Against Displacement and Oakland Awake. Rooted Oakland: Holding onto Home meet-up starts at 8pm, Grand and Broadway, “A festive, mobile happening with art, giant projections, drumming and more!” Mobilize while having some fun and meeting your neighbors who are working to stop the wholesale displacement of Black and Brown families, artists, small business people and all who have made Oakland the creative, diverse place it is.

4c707ae2776cb3113781c55aaa8d7476 Tuesday, April 5th at City Council-The City Council has agendized our demand to declare a State of Housing Emergency and consider a moratorium on rent increases above the CPI in our existing law AND a temporary stay on no cause evictions while they work on ways to stanch the wholesale removal of people from their homes, neighborhoods and businesses.

The Block By block Organizing Network along with the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club had called for a rally but given the early start of the meeting, we are asking people2016-03-01 23.49.29 just to show up and get seated-no rally. We will be providing some small sustenance to folks as they arrive and invite others to help us. We need to honor and nurture community members who regularly come to meetings where they rarely feel heard.

What Libby Schaaf says– According to her recent newsletter, “The impacts of displacement have already been real and devastating. Understandably, they’ve led many to call for sweeping measures. But as attractive as ideas like blanket moratoriums on rent increases and evictions may sound to many – two ideas that are being discussed and may be presented at the April 5th City Council meeting – such sweeping controls are legally dubious under present law.”

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We are asking for temporary relief since the solutions we’ve been seeking had not been contemplated until very recently. We’ll be watching to see which council members use these excuses not to take emergency measures. If there were a devastating fire or earthquake, would they not act? For some life long Oaklanders, it is no less an emergency.

Renters’ Protection Ordinance-Last week the Citywide Displacement Network came to the Rules Committee to demand the City Council agendize this ballot initiative. It puts the onus on landlords to show why rents should be increased above the CPI instead of expecting the tenants, most of whom don’t know of the law’s existence much less how to use it, to file a timely objection to the increase and gives tenants a fighting chance to protect themselves against illegal increases and evictions. It should also come to back to the council this month.

The City Council could place this initiative directly on the ballot or consider its provisions and pass it as a city ordinance without waiting for the November election. In fact, the measure came out of the Renters’ Working Group in the Mayor’s Housing Cabinet where it was ignored or downplayed.

Appeal of the Bay Development Project at Alice and 14th Street- Last winter the city approved a project on the corner where the beautiful mural depicting Oakland’s history of art and its unique culture of resistance was recently completed. The city planning department requested no concessions from the developer toward replacing the mural or providing any level of affordable housing. It also provides no parking for programs at the Malonga Casquelord Center which may doom the center.

A group called Keep Oakland Creative appealed that planning decision and their appeal will also be heard later this month. The group says that the appeal is about the broader issues of an unresponsive planning department as much as this particular building application. So stayed tuned, you will hear more from these folks about the need for community benefits and engagement as part of our planning process.

City Reduces Affordable Housing for Low-Income Residents– For more information on these city decisions, check the Oakland Post News Group: http://postnewsgroup.com/blog/2016/03/25/city-guts-affordable-housing-funds-low-income-oaklanders/.

Don’t forget-First Friday, then Tuesday, then check your local listings on the city clerk’s agenda for more: http://www2.oaklandnet.com/Government/o/CityClerk/s/AgendaManagement/index.htm

It’s Time for Americans to Choose

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I recently watched Michael Moore’s new movie which reminded me of the  idealism that Americans were renowned for in the past. It also reminded me that the US, my country once gave the world great ideas, ideas and ideals it has failed to live up to. After viewing hours of non-stop Trump hate-is that a hashtag yet-#Trumphate on TV, it was a revelation.

Trump Rallies & Protests-At the same time, the internet has been atwitter over who is responsible for the “violence” at recent Trump rallies. I put the term in quotes because, while the anger has been palpable at those rallies-the one in Chicago was not a riot-sure some people yelled at and shoved each other, but so far serious injuries have been avoided.

Trump is the Inciter!-And yet Hillary supporters have been accusing Bernie supporters of inciting the “violence.” In other words going to the rallies and shouting down Trump is considered violence or incitement. I would hope we all know who the real enemy is. Trump himself, as Rachel Maddow documented, probably planned this collision of forces to stir up fear and chaos which, in classic strongman fashion, he can use to his benefit. Whether or not you think it’s wise to take the bait, it is not the protestors’ fault that some fist fights and pushing ensued. Trump and the Republican Party caused it.

“You always had the power”-Here’s the thing, the final quote in Michael Moore’s movie, Where to Invade Next, came from one of my favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz, when Glynda the Good tells Dorothy, who wishes to go home, “You always had the power.” Well, for all our talk of lesser of evils, and here I’m talking to Democrats or anyone mildly liberal, progressive or radical, please LISTEN (yeah, I am shouting now,)listen to the discussion that’s actually happening not the accusations, insults or ancient history on the Democratic side.

Progressive Change is Possible-The Democrats this time around are talking about how to get our young folk out of debt, how to stop building prisons and build justice instead, how much to raise the minimum wage right now, how to make it possible for immigrants to gain their citizenship rights and women to keep the right to control their destinies. They’re working in fits and starts on plans to give us more higher ed at less cost, more healthcare for all. These are no small things

I know, I know, Bernie is being castigated for talking like we could have free healthcare for all (like most of the civilized world and that includes Central American and Asian countries, not just Europe.) And Hillary has a terrible history of supporting the crime bill and calling our young people predators, but Bernie also voted for that bill, a law which has destroyed generations of families.

Yeah and some Dems think that anyone who supported a freely elected socialist like Daniel Ortega is anathema while others remember-recent history-the coup in Honduras engineered by the Obama-Clinton administration. But, listen to them, the conversation has moved. No, we won’t soon have seven week vacations and five month paid parental leaves like Italy and France, more’s the pity. But-

The Republican Apocalyptic Vision-The Republicans are offering a completely different vision, they’re offering a world with no social safety net-the end of Medicare and Social Security, the end of any kind of universal healthcare, no minimum wages at all, prisons for all and no right to free public  education. Oh and yeah, the removal of 12 or so million of our folks to violence-torn countries.

No one wants Austerity-One thing that Trump has shown though is that even Republicans, caught up as they are in tribal hatreds and scapegoating, are rejecting tax breaks for the rich and austerity for their families. No one wants a vision of a country laid waste by decrepit infrastructure and crumbling town halls anymore, no one.

Heed the Call-The Democrats and all who ever sympathized with them would do well to heed those demands and win, win big, win the Senate and some state houses. But that can only work if we stop scapegoating each other-Bernie and Hillary and supporters. Stop treating your candidate like he or she is a religious icon. They both have feet of clay. They’re both human. But both are saying or beginning to say the things we all need to hear.

Choose Any Democratic Candidate-For those who cannot forgive Hillary her history of triangulating, her eyes on the polls, and stupidest of all, her husband’s mistakes, listen, she’s hearing where the country is now and mirroring our needs. For those who can’t forgive Bernie for challenging her or for understanding that Fidel was the right leader at the right time in that place-remember without Bernie, the only populist in the race, might appear to be Donald Trump. Bernie has saved the Democratic Party leaders from themselves.

Yeah, we have a real clear choice, clearer than the choice we had even eight years ago. At this point it doesn’t matter to me, yeah I’ll say it, it doesn’t matter who gets the nomination. Stop the sniping, quit yer bitchin. We don’t only need to stop Trump, and the other creeps running under the GOP banner, we need to come together as a country and reclaim our real heritage-that of idealism and Hope Over Fear.

State of Emergency- The Wellstone Club & BBBON Join Oakland Alliance & the John George Club

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Oakland, Ca: The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club and the Block by Block Organizing Network are joining the Oakland Alliance and the John George Club to demand that the City of Oakland declare a Housing State of Emergency and pass a moratorium on evictions and rent increases until solutions are found to the ongoing displacement of wholesale sectors of our community. We will present our proposed legislation to the Rules and Legislation Committee of the City Council on Thursday, March 3rd at 10:45am.
Last fall we asked the Mayor in her State of the City address to take immediate action and make this declaration among other actions such as implementing the Housing Equity Roadmap, http://www.marinij.com/article/ZZ/20151109/NEWS/151105309.
Now we are asking the City Council to move ahead as the City of Alameda and other cities have done to protect its seniors, artists, and struggling working families who represent the backbone of our community and who live with the threat of imminent eviction and ever increasing rents disrupting their day-to-day lives and economic security.
The Block by Block Organizing Network designed a platform with these solutions in mind and submitted these well thought out suggestions to our city leaders which can be found at https://draketalkoakland.com/2015/12/01/time-for-a-declaration-of-housing-state-of-emergency/ or on our website at http://bbbon.net/2015/10/draft-demands-to-combat-the-affordable-housing-crisis-in-oakland/ but as yet, we have had no response.
Please join us, the John George Club and the Oakland Alliance tomorrow for this important action. This is emergency legislation and should be heard by the full City Council immediately.

Contact: Pamela Drake, Wellstone Club Local Politics Coordinator and BBBON Political Action Chair pamelaadrake@gmail.com, 510-593-3721 or Sharon Rose, BBBON Co-Chair 510-915-6894.

The People’s Proposal Vs Urban Core but did it have to be that way?

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If you attended the Oakland City Council hearing on Monday evening, held to showcase the 3 housing proposals for the E 12th Street parcel, you would have thought it was greedy developers versus poor residents, but like anything in Oakland, it’s not that simple.

I’ve been following Oakland politics since the mid 80’s sometimes closely, sometimes peripherally, but in all those years, I have never seen Mike Pyatok or The East Bay Local Asian Development Corporation, known to all as EBALDC (eebaldtsee), decried as greedy corporate types.

The activists from the East Lake neighborhood, some of whom are long time, generational residents, but also including those who reached the shores of Lake Merritt more recently-drawn here by our reputation for creativity, diversity of not only ethnicy but ideas, and our storied culture of resistance-arrived in time to fall in love with the Town but then found that love to be unrequited-at least by our leaders.

They presented what seemed to be opposing proposals along with one from the Bridge Housing Corporation, which also has a good rep in the community, but apparently no dog in this race. In a nutshell, the folks from #SaveE12th or the People’s Proposal working with Satellite Housing proffered a small project of 132 units in a 7 story building and Urban Core working with EBALDC proposed two towers, one with 26 floors of mostly market rate units or possibly some in the upper limits of “affordability” with a smaller tower. This project would offer 108 units for lower income renters like those who are rapidly being displaced by the current volatile housing market.

I just have to say that “market rate” is a strange term, one that implies the folks who already live here aren’t part of the market but are just people in the way-whereas the new-money-people-no perjorative names here-will come whatever the price, just cause we’re such a great place to live (ironic, tell that to the city council and mayor who want to reduce the costs known as impact fees to developers cause maybe no one really wants to come?)

Anyways, there is a total of 24 units difference between these warring proposals. But there are two other very important differences to contend with beyond the number of affordable apartments. 1)the Urban Core/EBALDC folks have financed the deal mostly by building all those unaffordable units (laughingly called market rate) and they can recompense (like that fancy term?) the city to the tune of $4.7 million, a mere $400k less than their original proposal, cash the city could probably use. So here the People’s Proposal which I’ll call the #PP, no, maybe stick with #Save, which is offering to build a low rise complex with purportedly all the city’s current affordable housing funds, leaving nothing left for other projects, hmm, concerning maybe?

Here’s the other big difference, 2) when all those unaffordable units are built, towering over most of the neighborhood, except the existing 26 floors at 1200 Lakeshore, which admittedly looks pretty bizarre so close to the edge of the Lake, ok,ok, no more tangents. The other yuuge difference to the neighborhood is the way the Urban Core project will impact the current residents’ homes when spanking new, very expensive, luxury-type apartments are thrown into an area that previously nutured a  mix of people, cultures, and lifestyles. That mix will vanish like El Nino in February. God only knows where everyone will go, God or whoever’s in charge at the tent city now residing under the bridge by the new LM boulevard.

So what to do, who to choose? If I were on the CC, I’d be tempted to  give the #Save group all the housing funds and at least get something built to offer the neighborhood right now. But, of course, that won’t happen. What I’m really wondering is-why the brilliant, politically-oriented minds contained in the mayor’s or city council’s collective brain, couldn’t have gotten some of these guys together and said, “Is there a way to build a range of affordable units with some at “market rate,” some at middle management rates, some at upwardly-mobile-we-hope rates, and almost as many at lower-income, social-security-only rates as the #Save folks have proposed without using all the city’s housing fund??

In this way the parcel could be developed more densely than most of the neighborhood because up is the appropriate direction for cities to be going, but NOT so out of whack with the surrounding community that that existing culture is destroyed forever.

So, now I’m wondering why didn’t they do that? Why didn’t Mayor Schaaf, no. 1 city cheerleader, apply some of her secret sauce to this mix and bake an Oakland flavored cookie out of it, or a papusa, something?? Now we will probably get a much better project from Urban Core than we had initially-although I have it on good authority that they had early on offered to put significant affordable units in the project, then backed off-because that’s what it always looked like we’d get. In the end we’ve achieved lots of bad feelings, ill will, and distrust in government process for something we could have had last year with albeit, some leadership.

On the other hand we now have an informed, activated citizenry working together-young and old, a grand Oakland mix of cultures who have learned to be skeptical and organized and tenacious. So watch out, more to come very soon from all the corners of our city, our beloved Town, bit by bit we are organizing. We’re going to take on the bureaucracy and the political class and we’re going to energize our collective creativity.We might even serve as a model to our “leadership.”

We’re coming from old political clubs, neighbohood-organized associations, and new alliances. We demanded a Declaration for a Housing Emergency last fall (check this blog) and it’s way past time for that to have happened. Those being ousted now come from all sectors-the poor, oldtimey residents, teachers and students, artists and middle management professionals-our representatives have shown that they are better at pitting us against one another than bringing us together so-looks like we’ll have to do it ourselves. Stay tuned.