The Oakland We Knew and the Mayor’s Race

 

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Libby Schaaf’s Record

It’s hard to know how seriously Oakland folks will take this contest at a time when we are glued to twitter trying to understand the circus in Washington, but local politics are also a reflection of broader issues coming home to roost.

Libby Schaaf was a local apparatchik for a number of party politicians before she was elected to a single term on the council. She then ran what a pundit described as a “stealth campaign” for mayor. While everyone was busy blaming Jean Quan for all our ills and taking pot shots at Rebecca Kaplan, Libby Schaaf was tooling around town making goo goo eyes at reporters about her Oaklandish cred. [That was some ish alright.] After she released her secret weapon, an endorsement by Governor Jerry Brown, she turned out to be the top vote getter in that Ranked Choice Voting surprise.

Now almost 4 years later, we areexperiencing a human disaster like none we’ve seen in our 152 history. Thousands of Oaklanders are living in squalor on the streets and whole neighborhoods have been destabilized by gentrification. Of course, Ms. Schaaf cannot be blamed for the sudden rise in homelessness but the level of indifference she’s shown to these conditions, has been, until very recently, stunning.  920x1240

https://draketalkoakland.com/2017/07/10/oakland-city-council-must-heed-the-homeless-advocacy-working-group/

To add incompetence to neglect this administration managed to misplace $2.2 million  desperately needed  anti-displacement funds granted by the state. Eventually, they found them but still had trouble distributing them in a timely manner. Meanwhile tent cities continued to proliferate.  http://www.oaklandpost.org/2018/05/31/oakland-allocated-2-2-million-prevent-evictions-mayors-staff-failed-spend-money/  https://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2018/05/22/oakland-failed-to-spend-22-million-on-anti-displacement-and-homeless-assistance

Yes, she’s raised private funds for tough sheds, probably an improvement on tents, and that’s nice. But when activists of the Homeless Advocacy Working Group, HAWG, offered a list of solutions, I wouldn’t say they were shown the door but just left to sit in the waiting room.  Meanwhile, the mayor created another highly paid position in her office to deal with the problems hiring Darin Ranelletti, Policy Director for Housing Security, phew, I feel better already.

https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2018/03/15/oakland-creates-new-policy-director-position-to-deal-with-housing-crisis/

She spent her first day as mayor hanging out with police officers, because she felt their morale needed boosting and then was blindsided when it came out that they had been engaging in a sex trafficking operation. When it was also discovered that the department had been involved in cover-up after shameless cover-up, her administration did issue a loud slap on the wrist. Her next response to this crisis in confidence was to attempt to limit the independence of the proposed charter amendment that set up a Police Commission.

It turns out that her negotiation style is classic my-way-or-the-highway. When she demanded the power to appoint almost half of the commissioners, no compromise was brooked . I have to add that neither she nor her city administrator nor the city attorney have stopped trying to put obstacles in the path of a truly independent police commission even after the voters overwhelmingly supported it.

There have been a number of disasters and scandals during this administration’s first three years but little has stuck to Schaaf given the mostly positive press she garners locally and nationally–the Ghostship Fire, the cover-up of the new police chief’s images (7)complicity in an ICE raid in West Oakland, at least 4 police shootings in one summer, not to mention the accelerated exodus of native Oaklanders, especially Black Oaklanders from the Town. Additionally, this mayor has managed to look like a hero against the Jeff Sessions anti-immigrant onslaught while doing nothing to ensure our city’s sanctuary policy is upheld. She even told a group of immigrants fighting to maintain their Temporary Protected Status in the US who have started a nationwide bus tour to call attention to their plight that she was too busy to meet with them.  https://consortiumnews.com/2018/08/15/journey-for-justice-caravan-launches-cross-country-trek/

My Ranked Recommendations- 1) Cat Brooks, 2) Pamela Price, 3) Saied Karamooz.

Many people know Cat Brooks as a firebrand speaking at the city council and leading a march to the police department but she has a warm side that shows itself to friends and family and that includes all of the marginalized folks who are being ignored or actively pushed out of Oakland. She is an artist/performer besides being an activist on almost every issue and she has amassed a volunteer army who share her inclusive vision of Oakland. Her campaign is a positive force in Oakland politics. crowd+shothttps://www.catbrooksforoakland.com/  “That’s what this campaign is about. It’s about putting the people into the halls of power and collectively creating a new way of governance that is people driven and people-centered.”

Pamela Price, as many of you know, ran a tough campaign for district attorney. She did well in Oakland, although this race is a completely different one. I championed her  against Nancy O’Malley and think it’s a good thing that she has jumped into this race too. “We must fight injustice and income inequality in Oakland. We must house the homeless and ensure that we protect and enhance the safety and quality of life in our  Pamela_attorney-e1485730265186neighborhoods. We must reach deep inside ourselves and unite behind bold solutions while moving everyone in this City forward. We must “lift as we climb.”

https://www.pamelaprice4mayor.com/meetpamela

Saied Karamooz is a businessman who became active in Oakland politics a few years ago. At the time he seemed to me to be someone who took potshots at what others were doing but I see him differently now. He helped us get the Police Commission, Measure LL, on the ballot, helped pass it and has worked doggedly with the Coalition for Police Accountability [which cannot endorse in any campaign] to fight to maintain its independence. He is a member of  the otherwise ineffective Green Party but has worked with the Oakland Justice Coalition as well as other local advocates.  “I have been active in various progressive causes, such as Police Accountability, Fight for 15, Stop Urban Shield, Renter Protection, Public Bank, and No Coal in Oakland.” Saied-Headshot-e1517086595811

https://everyonesmayor.org/bio/

 

RCV–the Anti-gentrification Tool:

If the campaigns above work together in the Ranked Choice Voting system, there’s a chance we can beat the incumbent (that means ranking everyone but the incumbent in almost any order.) Why is that so important? No, I don’t think that Libby Schaaf is a terrible mayor. No, the potholes are not her fault or even the fault of her predecessor–but if you’re concerned about them–please don’t vote to repeal the gas tax since it’s our best chance to fund road repair and replacement.

Oakland is teetering on a precipice. It may even be too late to pull it back and while I don’t think Ms. Schaaf has done it on purpose, we could easily go the way of San Francisco. That city where I once lived, is no longer home to artists, working families or indeed families in general. In fact SF is a city with the fewest children of any metropolitan area in the US. It’s Black population which once mirrored that of the country and was significant in its cultural life-is now half of that and rapidly shrinking. San Francisco’s rep as a cauldron for activism, creativity and movements for progressive change exists only in nostalgia for the old city that once welcomed everyone in.

We all see where Oakland is going and we’re happy about new businesses opening up, an uptick in nightlife we haven’t seen since WWII, with cranes towering over the downtown and uptown. But it shouldn’t be necessary to harass and evict the people who have lived, worked and raised their families in this city and did so without grocery stores, restaurants or the availability of the capital to fund them.

Admittedly it’s a difficult task to find ways to provide it in a time of deregulation and soaring greed when the federal government long ago ceased funding any significant levels of housing affordable to the middle class much less the poor. It takes an administration that allocates available tax dollars wisely, monitors the funds carefully and actively seeks out creative urban planning ideas.

Contrast this with a city government in which neighborhood groups like the Chinatown Coalition must raise thousands of dollars to appeal planning decisions that give developers valuable height, density, and parking variances in exchange for next to no community benefits. The Chinatown Coalition fought for affordable housing within these giant projects in addition to space for small local businesses and indigenous art communities. But the Planning Department under this administration has still not recognized or utilized community benefits mandates in their process.

https://draketalkoakland.com/2016/12/14/help-wanted-an-oakland-planning-director-for-equitable-development/

With the leadership of this mayor and the current council members in Districts 2, 4, and 3, developers are actively discouraged from listening to community needs, the planning department ignores community demands and the budget is earmarked to fund everything but housing, services for the homeless, clean-up crews, recreation centers, and libraries especially in our economically struggling districts. They have been left to fend for themselves while public land is sold away to charter school corporations and elite programs.   http://www.oaklandpost.org/2018/07/13/council-delays-decision-selling-public-land-build-charter-school/

Oakland scored 33.5% on a study called the Equity Indicator Report. For all this mayor’s focus on police, Oakland’s poorer communities rate the lowest in the city for public safety according to this report.  https://www.kqed.org/news/11680162/new-report-shows-oakland-scores-low-for-racial-equity

The question now is what is your vision of Oakland? Is it the watered down Jerry Brown version where tech bros rule downtown, the uptown all the way to Temescal-whatever that means-“Construction cranes dot the downtown skyline, and scaffolding-shrouded towers march down Broadway into Temescal”-not to mention the Lake, Fruitvale and beyond?  [https://extras.mercurynews.com/oaklandboom/ ]

Should Fruitvale and West Oakland be rebuilt as bedroom communities for one demographic, whose folks will definitely buy artisanal coffee and drink green smoothies a la Blindspotting, but where will the rest of us go who struggled through the days images (1)where the easternmost coffee shop was the Coffee Mill on Grand Avenue, crime was high and storefront churches kept kids fed in the summertime. Should we have to leave because the goodies of the “sharing culture” don’t accrue to us? Should our kids have to move to Sacramento, Oregon, or, I dunno, Ohio because we just don’t fit the new vision? This is our chance, maybe our last one, to select a more inclusive mayor, one who knows and even cares where Willie Wilkins Park in East Oakland is and how it serves our families. We can do this.   http://oaklandschaafted.com/#how%20long

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Guest Column: James Vann on City Funding for Landlord Evictions

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This guest blog by noted Tenants’ Rights activist, James Vann, is in reference to a proposed program loosely defined in Council Member Lynette McElhaney’s press release, the body of which is posted below the column. I have edited his piece for brevity and clarity.

Here’s some background on the origin of this funding [estimated at $300k] which will provide loans to landlords who evict long-term tenants. These are tenants who now have the right to relocation fees due to the hardship of displacement. I’ll leave it up to the reader as to what extent this funding redefines spin, irony and general what-the-heckism?!

http://www.oaklandpost.org/2018/05/31/oakland-allocated-2-2-million-prevent-evictions-mayors-staff-failed-spend-money/

City Council Member McElhaney Advances a Landlord-Written Tenant-Eviction Plan Funded by State Anti-displacement Grants

At the end of a 4-1/2 hour Community and Economic Development Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon, Council Member McElhaney rushed a plan to provide “no-interest” city loans (and/or grants) to small property owners by an exhausted 3-person committee.  The objectionable plan would enable and assist owners of duplexes and triplexes to evict longtime tenants from their homes of up to 20 or 30 years.  The hastily developed proposal — for which McElhaney somehow recruited Council Member Rebecca Kaplan as a co-sponsor — was framed by landlord advisers to McElhaney –with no opportunity for tenant advocates to review or comment on the proposal prior to its introduction at the Community and Economic Development Committee at its Tuesday meeting.
Oakland has a “Just Cause” ordinance that prohibits the eviction of tenants without cause except in the case of owner move-ins to include family members who displace existing tenants in duplexes and tri-plexes up to five units. In response to that loophole, the City also recently adopted an ordinance that requires these owners to pay significant relocation fees to tenants who may be evicted, due to no fault of their own. These evictions also result in removing these units from the Just Cause prohibition against no-fault eviction.  While the right of such owners and certain relatives to occupy their property is acknowledged, tenants, who have done nothing wrong but are inconvenienced and evicted by their owners and must search for a replacement home, must still be compensated by the occupying owners.
What CM McElhaney has proposed is actually “an incentive” for small property owners to get long-standing tenants out of their homes, and, in the process, have the city pay for the eviction.  Meanwhile, there is no monitoring by the city, so many of these evicting owners will only pretend to occupy, but may never actually live in the unit.  The owner is then able to re-rent the unit at exorbitant prices — a deception that the city will likely never discover.  Many of these no-interest “so-called loans” will actually become grants of public money because the owners will plead low-income, refuse to pay, resell their property, or even put their homes into reverse mortgages.  These evicting owners will not be required to make a down payment nor matching payments, they simply apply to the city and the full cost of the tenants’ eviction and relocation cost is paid for them — making the city the “Evictor-In-Chief.”
This flawed, ill-thought-out ordinance was advanced to City Council by the unanimous vote of Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Anne Campbell-Washington who joined with Lynette McElhaney.  As so often happens in committees and even at city council, despite the fact that obvious weaknesses in the proposed legislation were pointed out in detail,  not one of the council members bothered to even ask any questions.
James E Vann, Co-Founder
Oakland Tenants Union 
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Press Release: “Committee Strengthens Anti-Displacement Efforts”

“McElhaney and Kaplan Advance Amendment to Help Low-Income Owners Support Tenant Relocation

On Tuesday, June 26, 2018, Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Committee unanimously  approved the establishment of a city loan program to help distressed low-income homeowners advance required tenant relocation funds. Under the amendment advanced by Councilmembers Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Rebecca Kaplan, the City will make available no interest loans to fund required tenant relocation payments for cash-strapped  homeowners seeking to return to their homes. To qualify, owners must meet a strict set of criteria including:

  • Own 5 or fewer units
  • Be low-income or have less than 6 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

“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 Councilmember McElhaney. “This is about addressing all sides of the 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.

The Ordinance will be heard by the full City Council at its next meeting on July 10. ”

The Death of SB 827 (increased density around transit) applaud or mourn?

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A Sacramento reporter called me the other day to ask me how I thought the Bay area was feeling about SB 827, the Wiener-Skinner bill that would wrest some level of local control from communities that use zoning and other more imaginative strategies to prevent dense development, that is, high-rise and even low-rise housing in transit zones. download (3)

But before the article even came out, my prediction that the bill would die, came suddenly true. And it died an ignominious death-it didn’t even get out of its first committee hearing at the capital-but this is not before it had animated heated discussions in every hamlet and city disguised as a suburb across the expanse of the golden state.

Those who feared SB 827 may not want to dance on its grave just yet as the original author, Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco claims he’s not giving up. “I will continue to work with anyone who shares the critical goals of creating more housing for people in California, and I look forward to working in the coming months to develop a strong proposal for next year.”  http://sd11.senate.ca.gov/news/20180417-senator-wiener%E2%80%99s-bill-allow-more-housing-near-public-transportation-stalls-senate

Wiener also said (in the above statement) that he was “heartened by the conversation it has started, both with those who support the bill and with critics of the bill.” And there I agree with him. We need to have this conversation and we need to have it among friends since we all live in a state that has almost no really affordable housing AND no  comprehensive transit systems that compare with those in cities like New York, Boston, DC, Chicago, Philly, you know, real cities.  NoLita

I grew up on the outskirts of a small town near a big East Coast city that was rapidly transforming into a suburb-this was the 50’s and early 60’s-so I regularly find Californians’ ideas on a number of things to be odd and somewhat removed from reality (my definition of that, of course.) For instance, you will often hear Californians say, we can’t have a festival, a picnic or whatever in March or April, because it might rain! But it rains whenever it feels like it in most of the country and people still plan festivals, barbecues, etc despite the likelihood of actual weather, you know, more than foggy-in-the-morning-clearing-with-sun-in-the-afternoon.

images (1) And so it is with our understanding of transit. Californians think that driving to a parking lot and getting on a sort of subway that takes us to one or two parts of town is transit. No wonder our cars clog the streets of our  downtowns. In fact, how many real downtowns where jobs, entertainment and retail all coexist within walkable blocks can you find in the entire state, one, two, maybe three?

Political Perception makes Ornery Bedfellows

The Wellstone Democratic Club tried to debate the bill at a recent meeting and lots of folks I have never seen before showed up. Some said they were there to support affordable housing and anti-gentrification measures, still others feared their quaint neighborhoods would be transformed into concrete canyons.

Rarely does the Right join with the Left or if you don’t like those characterizations, the wealthy homeowners join with the anti-gentrification folks something which by definition happens outside of their high-priced enclaves, like they did in opposing SB 827. It would have been amusing if not so worrisome, because in this case, there interests do not overlap.

So at the Wellstone meeting most spoke about the problems with the bill, all the things it left out (I for instance felt sad that I didn’t get promised a pony-something I’ve always wanted) all the things it might change inalterably and all the folks who might be driven out by luxury, that is, market rate housing.

I know that the authors  went to great lengths to tweak it, alter it and promise more goodies if only you clapped your hands 3 times. The bill’s bland scale was a mind boggling readjustment or an overreach, depending on your point of view, of our state’s zoning rules and even the vision we have of the California dream….

Burned_out_home_in_Silicon_Valley_sellin_0_5315974_ver1.0_640_360

Burned out 1000 sq ft house selling for $800k in San Jose

But one younger person, not a white-haired liberal like the rest of us, wanted to know why we opposed folks his age being able to live somewhere much less own a home. Good question and it encapsulated the growing generation gap between those of us who’ve obtained a corner of the American/California dream and those who are lugging along student debt while hoping that at some point in their lives, they won’t have to scan craigslist for Housing-Share any longer.

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Private room in Berkeley, $1175

But according to Katy Murphy’s story in the Mercury News, ” Anya Lawlor of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, argued that it was too simplistic of a solution, ignoring decades of research and advocacy on the preservation of affordable housing and development near transportation hubs….that legislation of this scope can take years to become law.”  https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/04/18/why-did-californias-major-housing-bill-fail-so-quickly/

Maybe that’s why, skimming my local pages on Nextdoor, many of my neighbors reacted to this proposal as they would a terrorist threat. Yes there were some who suggested we were in a housing crisis but they were quickly driven away by the fear mongering. In fact when I suggested on social media that the bill could be amended to consider these concerns and to add affordability requirements, some of my closest allies questioned my judgement and maybe my morals too.

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Apartment building next to single family home near Piedmont Ave

While the bill was in hospice, Senator Wiener tried intubation by adding an inclusionary zoning clause (requiring affordable housing be included which matters a lot in Oakland since that policy is NOT in place here) and lowering the height demands of the bill, but it barely took another breath before it keeled over from the weight of confusion, consternation and out-right hate from all of its anxious would-be relations. The will has yet to be read on this blockbuster (get it?) bill before we are all fighting over the remains or rather attempting to put a stake through its heart.

Issues raised, my take-

1) Subsidized housing

Housing is not or should not be a privilege though it obviously is here in Oakland where tent cities expand daily. Housing should be seen as a necessity, a public utility and subsidized to the tune of whatever is necessary to house our workforce, our families, our future and that includes the poor to the middle class like they do in many other countries where owning a home is not perceived as synonymous with being grown or successful and lifelong renting is a comfortable solution not a prediction of PTSD. 20180422_200927

Some of the affordable housing folks object to this bill because market rate developers could not be pressured into offering community benefits like subsidized units and local retail on the ground floor. That’s likely true but it’s a hell of way to get affordable housing built and not a sustainable approach over the long term. We also want prevailing (union) wages, of course, cause we don’t want out-of-town workers sleeping in their cars much less homegrown workers who have to live in tents while constructing luxury housing for newcomers.

Sounds like we all still want a pony —but but–we live in a wealthy state and if we can’t afford to subsidize housing for our folks, we shouldn’t expect to have a growing economy. Fix Prop 13, pass oil depletion allowances, tax professional services, but get something built since the Feds apparently won’t anytime soon.

2) Comprehensive mass transit

But that’s not all, who are we kidding with transportation hubs, we live in a state that has little to no dependable public transit capable of serving the majority of our everyday needs. And no, RM3 will not fix that. It won’t shorten the headways between BART trains or provide many more AC Transit buses on busy routes, much less expand those routes. Folks love to fuss about Uber, etc (me included) but it’s there because we simply cannot get around on our local transit and we can’t all ride bikes, not that there’s anything wrong with bikes-yeah, more bikes, more scoooters, whatever, please.

I can walk out of my house in the morning on time but that doesn’t mean the bus will arrive and mine is not the only street where this happens. You can’t reconstruct California around transit hubs if they aren’t there. We need transit choices like you find in other, less expensive, less wealthy cities. I’d even give up my pony for that! So Scott and Nancy and Governor Whoever, can you get on that too??

3) Dense cities & active downtowns

So here’s the last point I want to make which, damn, may be the most important one. Look around you please Californians. This whole state is one giant suburb. Is that what you really want? Do you want to be wedded to your cars and crabgrass, especially knowing that your children will be moving away or living their lives like Russians in old movies, multiple families to an apartment? 20180423_205440

I have the benefit of having some young people in my life, but not so young that they shouldn’t be able to have an apartment or house or condo without checking the housing wanted, apartment-to-share listings, who allow me to see things in a different way. Also I like to travel and I appreciate cities. Some of them are full of low-rise apartments like Paris whose average buildings are 5 or 6 stories high although that’s about to change. https://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/newly-freed-from-height-limits-paris-skyline-ready-to-rise.html

20180423_205722Some cities like New York and Chicago and now Atlanta have apartment and condo buildings with many more stories but, of course, some of their chicest, most expensive neighborhoods are similar to Paris. Even the Piedmont Avenue area is more like Paris and less like Rockridge, Crocker Highlands, or North Berkeley. I’m not even bringing Piedmont of Orinda into this discussion. They’re different animals.

But areas like Rockridge and North Berekeley near BART were once surrounded by working class cottages whose owners are now house-millionaires while their offspring move away or yeah, wait for them to die before they can hope to live in their pristine California craftsman cottages (with additions, of course, for those 6 burner stoves, ginormous fridges and farmhouse sinks, but don’t get me started.)

20180422_200843 City living can be convenient and attractive, public transit doesn’t have to try so hard to reach it, eating out, which is now a national pastime for the young, is closer and a bit cheaper. Yes, I am betting that young families wouldn’t mind living in a fourplex with a shared backyard or nearby park if it meant not moving to Sacramento or Omaha.

For those families living in old lead-filled homes or crowded into small apartments, many might prefer newer family sized buildings that could be built with subsidies, rather than subsidizing their children’s learning problems later on. Pay now, pay later but pay anyway.

What is so wrong with building up a bit and not insisting that the California dream is a picket fence with grass we can’t afford to water (and why should we? It’s not sustainable.) Rockridge wouldn’t have to be a canyon but a well-designed low-rise urban landscape with occasional high-rises in their midst. Crocker Highlands could easily sustain duplexes and triplexes along Lakeshore and even higher. The problem on my narrow little street isn’t too many dwellings but too many cars. Only reliable transit can fix that. I can imagine a triplex on our little lots with an occasional empty lot transformed into a mini park.

20180422_201215 Most of us when we travel prefer these kinds of cities where gleaming downtowns alternate with five to eight story side streets and cafes and street vendors encourage us to entertain and shop in public, where civic life is not limited to fighting on twitter but watching people’s children frolic while sipping a glass of locally made wine. These activities do not have to be limited to the gentrification class if we subsidize housing, transit, and promote local business. And if we do not, it won’t be long before our booming economy (not to mention confounding climate change, already here) will sputter and die.

Let’s rethink California! Si se puede….

 

 

 

The Upside Down, Welcome to Oakland

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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:

https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/why-oakland-should-cut-off-ice/Content?oid=11028169

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)

Oakland Goes Through the Looking Glass Again-the Oak Knoll Decision

“’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves   Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,  And the mome raths outgrabe.”

Vintage Alice In Wonderland Clip Art 29

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party reconvened at the Oakland City Council last Tuesday, the 7th, where the non binary Queen of Hearts magically made a huge swath of our city [187 acres] disappear, the Oak Knoll project, an exclusive community near Toler Heights in the East Oakland hills. [“the Oakland City Council on Tuesday evening ended the long wait over the site’s fate by voting to approve the construction of 918 townhomes and houses at the former military hospital above Interstate 580. The project will represent one of the largest developments in the city recent years, in terms of acreage.” http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/11/08/after-long-wait-massive-oak-knoll-housing-project-approved/ ]

Oak Knoll which started out as the “original community benefits” project as designated by the federal government-a mix of housing, expanded retail, and open space available to all-has been redesigned into Neverland, a dystopian version of Glocca Morra—from the musical Finian’s Rainbow, a place where time stands still and folks do things the old fashioned way and where, of course, there are no tent cities, troubled youth or parks in which  families of many colors picnic together. [“You’ll never grow old and you’ll never grow poor if you look to the rainbow beyond the next moor.”]

The project was signed, sealed and delivered to Suncal, a giant developer who had already left a bad taste in another local community’s mouth but has a clear view of the pot of gold in the Oakland hills.

Back in 1992 when I was a staffer to an Oakland Council Member and Larry Reid was chief of staff to Elihu Harris, the Navy which owned the land and used it for a military hospital and officers’ club, decided to unload it. The city of Oakland got first dibs but almost blew it, in fact did just that for a number of years, because the federal government had stipulated conditions for its conveyance to local jurisdictions that included a variety of community uses that would benefit not just those who lived in the surrounding area but some less fortunate neighbors in other parts of our city.

But the folks who live in those lovely, isolated hills were not about to let the hoi polloi, the more proletarian segments of our community, know what a good thing they had. And so began the fight to prevent every possible usage that would benefit anyone beyond their imaginary gates.

They fought against allowing any level of subsidized housing including at the top level of affordability so that a family with an income of $120k will not be qualified for one of the 918 homes being built there. They killed a day center serving traumatized foster kids and expanded retail and a park that bordered 580. However, the new homeowners can count on holding their meetings in part of the old officers’ club, we’re happy to note.

And they won-through lawsuits, a cowardly city council [“Why, they’re only a pack of cards, after all. I needn’t be afraid of them!”, said Alice] the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the resurgence of predatory capital. They persisted in pursuit of the narrowest definition of community.

On Tuesday night amid a packed agenda, city council chambers, and competitive signs– different segments of the labor movement were successfully pitted against one another–while the Mad Hatter bounced from council seat to council seat, they won. There will be no labor agreement for the building trades, prompting one East Oakland resident to note that this will be an exclusive project built for the wealthy by workers making $16 an hour.

The Chesire Cat from District 3 smiled and explained away everyone’s pain while voting  to turn over the keys of the kingdom to the white knights of Glocca Mora. CMs Guillen and Gallo tried to postpone the giving of the gifts til a later tea party, but the Queen, once again portrayed ably by Larry Reid, shouted “Off with their heads” at less senior colleagues Guillen and Gallo. Dan Kalb declared the whole project “not ready for prime time,” a phrase that leaves anyone under 50 scratching their heads and nearly drove the Queen to apoplexy as he tried to come up with ever more ridiculous insults.

Finally the Queen, I mean the Council President, realized he had won by garnering the alice_tenn_croquetqueen_100votes of the two most progressive CMs, leaving the rest of us scratching our heads….who declared the scheme agreeable to all after promising to disappear along with all the gifts stacked around the council’s table. Most of the partiers made sure to pay homage to the Council Queen and his years long struggle to protect the denizens of the original Glocca Morra from….the rest of us.

There were some heroes who organized and fought the good fight and may find relief elsewhere should anyone decide to take it to the courts. Just a few of them, with my apologies to the scores of able speakers, Karolyn Wong of the East Oakland Collective, Angie Tam of the Congress of Neighborhoods, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers http://www.ibew595.org/  and other reps of the Building Trades Council, and of course, James Vann, the conscience of our community.

I’ll leave you with some choice tweets and a few old newspaper column inches (remember them?) on the sordid history of this huge parcel of once public land. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the chance to find this special place but I’ve been assured that the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, the Knaves, and of course, the Queen of Hearts will perform in this space again soon. [With many thanks to Lewis Carroll and Broadway, ever relevant.]

Keep your eyes open for this project, no promises made though-

1book36

http://www.oakknollcommunity.com/news/oak-knoll-to-include-low-income-homes/

http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2005/07/11/military-sets-ex-base-land-up-for-sale/

http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2008/02/08/seneca-center-can-stay-at-present-site/

http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/05/20/developer-ready-to-move-oak-knoll-clubhouse/