The Upside Down, Welcome to Oakland


If you haven’t heard of the series, Stranger Things, you’re missing out but you can attend Oakland City Council meetings, no subscription required, and find yourself in another dimension – The Upside Down- in which one thing may mean its opposite but not always…..there often is no logical explanation for how our city plays fast and loose with their stated goals and even their lawful resolutions. But don’t worry, unlike the evil critters in Stranger Things, they don’t mean anything by it.

Item 7.13 Oak Knoll final Vote

On the agenda tonight are some interesting discussions/votes. The City Council will finally dispense with the Oak Knoll property, a large parcel of formerly publicly owned land that the city managed to lose long ago. They had one final chance to make it work for more than the 2% of Oaklanders (that’s a generous estimate) who got their way. But no, with a vote of 5 to 3-Kalb, Guillen, and Gallo voting no- they are sending it to the cheerful world of wealthy Nimbiism. Never forget-not one unit of affordable housing will be built in this project.

Item 17–Stop ICE Complicity

Please sign up to speak or just listen to the mind boggling excuses our Chief of Police, Anne Kirkpatrick, has given that allowed OPD to assist ICE and Homeland Security Investigations while they arrested a Guatemalan refugee last August. He awaits deportation hearings now as a result of this activity.

Here’s an op-ed Seven Days” Robert Gammon in the East Bay Express:

In the agenda packet for tonight, you can view this report from the city administrator which contains a copy of one of the council’s resolutions against assisting ICE in civil investigations or apprehensions. Civil in this case means, immigration laws rather than criminal, which means the person or persons may be engaged in criminal activities that have nothing to do with immigration violations-got it?

“Further Resolved: That, in accordance with state and federal laws, City employees
including members of the Oakland Police Department shall not enforce federal civil
immigration laws and shall not use city monies, resources, or personnel to investigate, question, detect or apprehend persons whose only violation is or may be a civil violation of immigration law; and be it
Further Resolved: That, in accordance with state and federal laws, the Oakland Police
Department will continue to cooperate with federal immigration agencies in matters involving criminal activity and the protection of public safety:”   

Also from the city administrator’s report:
OPD has fully complied with all City of Oakland resolutions concerning the status of Oakland as a sanctuary city in immigration actions. Two of the three relevant resolutions prohibit city departments and employees from assisting or cooperating with ICE (formerly INS, Immigration and Naturalization Service) in relation to civil provisions of immigration law. The two more recent relevant resolutions both specifically state that OPD “will continue to cooperate with federal immigration agencies in matters involving criminal activity and the protection of public safety.”

Since the city can aid in the investigation of criminal activity, did ICE and/or HSI lie to the police chief  and if so, why would she not admit she had made a mistake in believing them or had not read the charge or did she go ahead anyway because…well.. the language of sanctuary is riddled with loopholes and she used one. However, the majority of Oaklanders have been pretty clear that they don’t want to be complicit in criminalizing refugees or terrorizing our hard working immigrant communities.

This is What OPD is offering as a Fix:

In order to provide greater transparency in operations with ICE, OPD will modify its
immigration policy to include the following language:
As a follow up to all cooperation OPD provides to ICE in criminal investigations,
the Department will publish an after-action report on its website within 15 days of
the operation. The public report will include:
• The date, time, and unit-block location of the operation
• The number and cost of OPD personnel involved”

It’s pretty easy to pass ordinances that say we won’t hire firms who help build the border wall but, it turns out to be much harder to really provide sanctuary to our otherwise law-abiding immigrant community. That doesn’t mean that socially conscious Oaklanders won’t continue to push the envelope and demand accountability on this and other forms of tangible resistance to our rogue government in Washingtion DC.

Come out tonight and again on December 5th to the Public Safety Committee Meeting if you want to continue closing those loopholes or, as they say in Stranger Things, closing the gate to the Upside Downimages (9)

Help Wanted: An Oakland Planning Director for Equitable Development

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“We write to reflect the concerns of those who have historically been marginalized and bear the burden of unjust planning decisions that have destroyed vibrant local economies and neighborhoods of working class communities of color for over a century in our town.”

Guest blog by Lailan Huen-edits from the original are mine-for brevity only.

Dear Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Administrator Sabrina Landreth, Assistant City Administrator Claudia Cappio, and Hawkins Company:

We represent eight community-based groups impacted by the Planning Department’s decisions and policies in Oakland, and we demand inclusion of community stakeholders in the hiring of the new Director of Planning and Building.

Specifically, we write to reflect the concerns of those who have historically been marginalized and bear the burden of unjust planning decisions that have destroyed vibrant local economies and neighborhoods of working class communities of color for over a century in our town.

It is these Oakland neighborhoods that are now being most impacted by new development, and the current planning processes are insufficient for protecting these neighborhoods at risk of displacement.  Additionally, we see that the lack of safe and affordable spaces for our arts and low-income communities, as exemplified by the GhostShip warehouse fire, is of life and death.

As residents and stakeholders who have been advocating for equity for decades, we have seen the disproportionate power held by developers looking to make more profit without much regard for the residents of Oakland in the political process.

We understand that many developers have been consulted in this process, but only a small handful of community-based stakeholders have been invited to participate.  The City of Oakland must include the voices of those who are most impacted and at risk to achieve its equity goals.

Therefore, we have gathered requests for candidate criteria and stipulated the process below:

  • A planner with a track record in community engagement and participatory processes for neighborhood planning that provides meaningful time for feedback beyond minimal-17 day-notices.
  • Prioritizes equity and understands how institutional racism and environmental injustice have caused harm to working class communities of color in Oakland, including tools to mitigate past harms and create targeted opportunities in these neighborhoods.
  • Has a balanced approach to considering residents and neighborhoods in decisions-in addition to developers.
  • Has a proven track record with preservation of vulnerable historic, cultural and arts districts in phases of gentrification and new development.
  • Recognizes that city staffers with traditional planning backgrounds are less likely to understand the impact of institutional racism, and will hire more representative staff.
  • Comprehends the challenges facing the arts community currently being displaced, and brings experience to support and create safe affordable spaces for Oakland’s vital creative culture.
  • Knowledge of finance in regards to affordable housing programs and a willingness to look at innovative and non-traditional approaches to fund it.
  • Commits to planning tools such as specific plans, zoning changes, density bonuses, and incentives to leverage developer contributions for community benefits to include affordable housing, community retail space, local hire, and public open space.
  •  And to using public land for affordable housing and community benefits and openness to working with Community Land Trusts to secure permanent affordable spaces.
  • Willingness to implement innovative models such as Planning Leader Institutes, Neighborhood Planning Liaisons, Registered Community Organizations, and an Equitable Development Scorecard to assess how projects will meet the city’s equity goals.

Building an Equitable Process

  • At least 3-4 community seats on a candidate review and interview committee, including from these areas of expertise: 1) affordable housing, 2) historic preservation, 3) environmental justice, and 4) arts and cultural district anti-displacement.
  • Inclusion of sample work, design guidelines, as part of the application review process.
  • An opportunity for the public to be invited to hear from potential candidates.
  • Consider recruiting applicants from cities with equitable processes such as: Seattle, Portland, Twin Cities, Philadelphia or a planning applicant familiar to Oakland and has the requisite experience to advance equity as stated above.

Oakland is at a crossroads. Our community desperately needs a Planning and Building Department that is at the forefront of innovative, equitable, sustainable and participatory policies, such as the above listed cities already have.

We are tired of being left out of the process, disregarded when we do participate, and given lip-service without follow-through.  We want real accountability from the next leader who will make bold decisions to protect what we love about Oakland: our cultural and economic diversity, our thriving creative arts life as a key to our local economy, and a democratic process that includes the voices of residents.

We support positive community development and truly smart growth for transit-oriented development which can provide needed housing that is equitable and involves long-time residents. In order to develop a planning regimen which can expedite the process, all stakeholders-including residents and workers- must be included in a meaningful way with public standards for equitable development.

Please share with us the timeline, process, and opportunities for input, and kindly provide a response to our requests within two weeks.  2016-03-25 22.08.15 (640x360)

Thank You,

Block by Block Organizing Network

Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition (OCNC)

Oakland Chinatown Lodge of the Four Family Associations

Black Arts Movement Business District (BAMBD)

Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)

The Dellums Institute for Social Justice

East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC)

People of Color Sustainable Housing Network

The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club