March 23, 2016

By David Zisser

I am proud of the work that Public Advocates does throughout the Bay Area and California. But as an Oakland resident who loves my city, I’m especially proud of, and grateful for, the work we do alongside dozens of our grassroots partners and low-income residents to create more opportunity for the people who live and work here. Fighting with them to keep Oakland diverse, prevent displacement of vulnerable residents and ensure that new development and investments bring tangible benefits to low income communities of color keeps us at PA connected to what matters most.

I’d like  to share some updates on just what we are up to in Oakland – and some of our exciting victories.

Oakland is home to a diverse mix of people, cultures, and experiences that make it special. But because others recognize its unique qualities, and because of its proximity to San Francisco, Oakland’s low-income people of color are especially vulnerable to displacement caused by gentrification and a lack of affordable housing.

More than two-thirds of Oakland’s Latino and African-American households are renters (compared to just under 50 percent of white households). Moreover, 72 percent of Oakland’s renters are “rent burdened” – paying more than 30 percent of their income towards rent. And the results are clear: since 2000, more than a quarter of the city’s African American population has left for more affordable places to live.

That’s why Public Advocates works closely with residents, community organizers, and advocates on a number of important campaigns. And we are winning.

  • East 12th Street Campaign:For almost a year, Public Advocates has worked with the resident-led East 12th Coalition to ensure that a city-owned site near Lake Merritt is used for affordable housing, as required by the state Surplus Land Act. My colleague Sam and I describe the campaign in an article in Street Spirit, Oakland’s homeless newspaper. The East 12th Coalition and Satellite Affordable Housing Associates submitted a proposal for 133 affordable units, competing with two other proposals, both of which also include affordable housing. After a public presentation of all three proposals on February 29th, the City Council decided in a closed session on March 3rd to enter an exclusive negotiating agreement with UrbanCore (the developer originally slated to develop a luxury tower on the site) and East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, whose proposal includes 90 low-income units, 18-moderate income units, and 252 market-rate units. While the battle is not yet over, it is already clear that the East 12th Coalition, with support from Public Advocates, sent a strong message that public land must be used for the public good. No wonder that the East 12th Coalition will be an awardee at Public Advocates’ annual event, Voices of Conscience Celebration.
  • Coliseum City Community Visioning:The Oakland United coalition, which includes Public Advocates and several grassroots organizations, has moved into a new phase of its campaign for a seat at the table and a community benefits agreement on the redevelopment of the Coliseum area. Former master developer Floyd Kephart, the Raiders, and the City have their own ideas about what this part of East Oakland should look like. But on March 5th, nearly 200 East Oakland residents turned out to the Union Baptist Church to discuss their vision. The priorities that residents identified will be captured in a report and shared with the City.
Photo credit: East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO)
  • Affordable Housing Impact Fee:As part of the Oakland Community Investment Alliance(OCIA) led by East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), Public Advocates continues to push for a strong housing impact fee on new market-rate development to help fund affordable housing. Specifically, OCIA is calling for $24,000 per market-rate unit. After a year of work on a “nexus study” and feasibility assessment, a long awaited proposal for impact fees finally got its first hearing at City Council’s Community & Economic Development (CED) Committee meeting on February 9th. But on March 22nd, the CED Committee voted to recommend an impact fee that falls short on a number of counts: it redirects some of the funds away from low- and very low-income housing to moderate-income housing, it incentivizes on- or off-site units for moderate-income households as an alternative to the fee, and it includes a reduced fee for large swaths of the city that are poised for major new development, including the Coliseum City area, potentially steering development to communities that are particularly vulnerable to displacement. I submitted a letter to the City and gave public comments at the meeting expressing concern that these proposals undermine the City’s obligation to “affirmatively further fair housing” under the Fair Housing Act by depriving the lowest-income residents, who are disproportionately people of color, of critical affordable housing resources. The full City Council will vote on the Impact Fee Ordinance on April 5th at 6:30 PM.
  • Housing for People with Disabilities:On February 16th, in response to advocacy by Public Advocates, the Oakland City Council removed existing barriers to the building of transitional and supportive housing for people with disabilities from the Oakland Planning Code. Previously, the construction of transitional and supportive housing had been subject to conditional use permits in areas where residential development is permitted by right. In addition, under the previous provisions, transitional and supportive housing could not be located closer than 300 feet from any other such housing. The changes – which remove discrimination against some of Oakland’s most vulnerable residents – go into effect this month. Learn more here.
  • Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing:Jurisdictions that receive funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must “affirmatively further fair housing” (AFFH) – they must take proactive steps to create more housing choice for people of color and people with disabilities and to decrease segregation. A key component of this responsibility is to produce an Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (AI). (With HUD’s passage of a new rule on AFFH, the document is now called an Assessment of Fair Housing, or AFH.) When the City of Oakland released a draft AI in September, Public Advocates submitted comments. And in October, the City released a new AI, addressing every one of our recommendations, including identifying displacement as an impediment to fair housing. This table summarizes PA’s recommendations and the relevant changes in the AI.


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