Date: May 12, 2015

A lot has happened since we last reported on the campaign for a Coliseum City that creates lasting benefits for low-income residents of East Oakland. A dozen groups have come together around a shared platform, and we’ve started to win, as featured in a recent East Bay Express article.

The Coalition and Our Goals

Since October, we have developed a broad and powerful coalition of 12 community and labor organizations that is pushing for a plan that includes East Oakland residents and addresses their needs. With six base-building organizations and three unions, the coalition represents thousands of residents, workers, youth and seniors.

The coalition has a clear platform: use Coliseum City’s substantial amount of public land for the public good.

A key vehicle for achieving this goal: a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) between the developer and the community that puts East Oakland residents first by ensuring that Coliseum City includes affordable housing, anti-displacement protections, quality jobs, environmental justice, accessible and affordable transit and meaningful community engagement.

Our Wins So Far

On March 31st, the City Council adopted the Specific Plan, which includes a number of key policies that advance equity and reflect the coalition’s priorities:

Just a week earlier, the Board of Supervisors and the City Council’s Community Economic Development Committee approved an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with the developer. Because of the coalition’s hard work, the ENA included a list of community benefits that the developer must negotiate with the City and County (see table below) and a requirement that the developer draft a “community benefits plan” by June 21st.

These successes were the result of a lot of hard work. Beginning in October, the City released drafts of the Specific Plan, the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), and the Planning Code amendments. Public Advocates and our partners submitted detailed comments on all of these, met with City Council members and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, and attended several public hearings, where our partners turned out dozens of residents and workers.

It’s About People

Coliseum City sits squarely in East Oakland. East Oakland resident leaders have spoken eloquently at various public hearings about the generations of neglect that their communities have faced and about their fears that they will be priced out as the City finally invests in their neighborhoods.

The numbers fully support these residents’ concerns. Compared to Oakland residents citywide, East Oakland residents have lower incomes and larger households and are more likely to be renters, to be rent-burdened (paying more than 30% of their income towards rent), and to be people of color (see table below).

In other words, East Oakland residents need and deserve affordable housing and other resources, and they are especially vulnerable to displacement as property values and rents increase.

In addition, almost half of the new jobs at Coliseum City will pay below $20 per hour, and Oakland’s own Housing Element indicates that in order to accommodate the housing need, 47% of new units should be affordable to low- and moderate-income residents. Nevertheless, Coliseum City’s affordable housing target is still just 15%, and its average household size will be just over half of East Oakland’s. In short, the Coliseum City plan does not include enough affordable housing or enough family-sized units to serve East Oakland residents.

More To Do

Despite the coalition’s important achievements, they are just the beginning and there is plenty more to win. The community must be at the negotiating table, and meaningful community benefits must be contained in an enforceable agreement between the community and the developer, not merely contained in a plan. Public Advocates and the coalition, including residents, workers, youth and seniors, will continue to push for a Coliseum City that puts people first.

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