Source: Race, Poverty & the Environment By: Sam Tepperman-Gelfant and David Zisser Date: December 17,…
For more than a decade, Public Advocates has worked in partnership with community groups in Oakland to win investment and development that meets the needs of the city’s low income residents and workers. The goal is to create more homes that families can afford; better jobs for local residents; protections for tenants facing rising rents; and more frequent and affordable bus service that gets people where they need to go.
Recently, Oakland is experiencing a wave of development and city planning aimed at drawing high-tech businesses and high-earning residents. At the same time, regional and state policies are further encouraging development in Oakland’s many transit-connected neighborhoods. We must remain vigilant and active if we want to preserve Oakland as a vibrant, multi-ethnic community open to people from all rungs of the economic ladder.
Public Advocates is playing a key role in two coalitions working to make sure local residents benefit from development in Oakland – the Oakland Community Investment Alliance (OCIA), as well as a broad coalition formed around advocating for an equitable “Coliseum City” to benefit low-income East Oakland residents.
Oakland Community Investment Alliance (OCIA)
Oakland residents are living at ground zero for big changes in land use, housing development, transportation, and jobs. These changes will determine the city’s health, prosperity, and livability for decades to come. For too long, disadvantaged communities in Oakland have experienced public and private disinvestment. This landscape is changing as local government works to “revitalize” certain neighborhoods, and private actors take notice of the valuable assets inherent in Oakland’s transit network, diverse population, and prime location.
OCIA Members: Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), Public Advocates and TransForm
OCIA is guided by principles and values that prioritize people rather than development:
- Capturing land value for the public good,
- Preventing displacement,
- Increasing access to resources,
- Addressing community needs, and
- Building and honoring community power.
OCIA is currently fighting for approval of an impact fee that would require developer contributions to fund affordable housing, transit improvements, and capital improvements, and is in the process of developing other citywide policy campaigns.
To focus its infrastructure investments and align with regional and state laws and funding sources, the City has designated “Priority Development Areas” or PDAs (MacArthur Transit Village, West Oakland, Downtown and Jack London Square, Fruitvale and Dimond Districts, Coliseum BART, and Eastmont Town Center). In these PDAs and a few other areas, the City has invested significant resources in specific plans, rezoning and plans for capital projects such as Bus Rapid Transit. Because of this activity and a hot market regionally, these areas are rapidly becoming hubs of private real estate and economic development.
The question is whether the people living in these PDAs – who are disproportionately people of color and lower-income – will benefit from this increased public and private investment, or if they will face further displacement and marginalization. Rising housing costs, evictions and condo conversions have pushed low-income residents out of PDAs , forcing them to commute longer distances to work, and lose valuable neighborhood connections.
OCIA is engaging residents to promote development that puts people and shared prosperity first. OCIA’s aim is to shift the culture and practice of development by promoting policies that will create clear, predictable opportunities for creating affordable homes, quality jobs, excellent transit options and improved community health.
In an effort to keep the city’s three professional sports teams, the City of Oakland is planning to redevelop the arenas and surrounding sea of parking lots around the Oakland Coliseum into a “Coliseum City.” Development under the plan would bring more than 20,000 jobs and nearly 6,000 homes in East Oakland.
Nearby residents with deep roots in their communities are organizing to ensure that this new development provides community benefits to meet their needs, not just the needs of the sports teams, and protects residents from the negative effects of gentrification, so that local people can remain and thrive in Oakland.
The vast majority of East Oakland residents rent rather than own their homes, and a huge number are “rent-burdened,” or spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, conditions common to low-income people of color. As a result, they are particularly vulnerable to displacement.
The fact that Coliseum City will be built largely on publicly owned land presents a unique opportunity for city officials and leaders to bring in development that will serve East Oakland residents after years of neglect.
To ensure that Coliseum City puts the people of East Oakland first, Public Advocates has joined together with 11 other community and labor organizations representing thousands of East Oakland residents, workers, seniors, and youth.
Coalition formed around Coliseum City: Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda County, Causa Justa: Just Cause, Communities for a Better Environment, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy, Oakland Community Organizations, SEIU USWW, UNITE HERE Local 2850, and Urban Peace Movement.
Together, the coalition is advocating for Coliseum City to address the following priorities:
- Affordable and family housing,
- Anti-displacement protections,
- Affordable and accessible transit,
- Environmental and community health, and
- Quality jobs
While we haven’t won yet, we’ve made substantial progress toward these goals.