A statement from the Oak to 9th Community Benefits Coalition
We are the Oak to 9th Community Benefits Coalition and we want to share some good news with you. We represent thousands of working families, the majority of whom live within a mile or two of the Oak to 9th, in some of Oakland’s poorest neighborhoods. We are the waitresses, janitors, security guards and parents who keep Oakland running. Through our member organizations—the East Bay Asian Youth Center, the Oakland Community Organizations, and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network—we have worked together for
three years to make sure that the Oak to 9th development truly benefits working Oaklanders. We are very proud to say that our hard work has paid off. We negotiated a truly historic jobs and housing package at Oak to 9th. And we demonstrated—to our elected officials, to the developer and to other residents—that we can and should create development in Oakland that provides opportunities for Oakland’s low-income communities of color.
Here’s what we accomplished. We negotiated 465 units of housing for very low- and extremely-low income families and seniors. This is more than twice the amount of very and extremely-low income housing than is required by Redevelopment Law. The majority of these 465 units will be 2 bedrooms or more. No other private project in Oakland includes such a high percentage of units for very-low and extremely low-income families.
We are also proud to have negotiated 300 entry-level construction career-path placements for Oakland residents, with real penalties for non-compliance. Additionally, $1.65 million will be dedicated to training programs to support immigrants and those formerly incarcerated to get a start in the building trades. No other project in Oakland has accomplished this many long-term placements for people entering construction and the building trades.
And we are especially proud that we fought for and won the right of working-class community residents to “speak for themselves”. Many wrote off our efforts as “impossible”. The developer had too much political clout, it was said. Nobody cared about affordable housing. Other issues were more important, we were told. But our members did not have the luxury of giving up. People like Evangelina Lara, who lives in a studio apartment with her family of six, or Quan Tat who worked in construction in his home country of Vietnam, but has been unable to find more than day laborer work here in the U.S. decided to try to change things. They told us that they wanted their families and their community to be able to stay in Oakland, not be pushed out by rising rents and bad paying jobs.
So they joined with other residents like Gabriel de Leon of St. Anthony’s Church and Wei Ying Leung of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. Community residents like them were the center of this campaign—organizing scores of community sessions, thousands of door-to-door conversations and house meetings. Together they organized an 800-person town hall forum, took community delegations to City council offices, and brought hundreds of residents to City Hall. Because of their organizing efforts, the Coalition was able to sit down with the developer and come to an agreement.
We are also are proud to have helped bring about a major shift in how development happens in Oakland. Other developers in Oakland are beginning to see that it is in their interests to engage community residents in real, substantive dialogue around issues that matter to working Oaklanders. As a result of this and other community benefits campaigns, Oakland’s elected officials are seriously grappling with policies like Inclusionary Zoning that can make sure that developers pay their fair share in Oakland.
This Campaign is only the beginning. As Evangelina Lara said, “I fought for housing at Oak to 9th not for me, but for my kids and my community.” So a very real accomplishment for us was the relationships that were built. We wish to thank the labor unions, faith leaders, environmental organizations and elected officials who stood with us. Our accomplishments are yours as well. And we recognize the good-faith efforts of Signature Properties and look forward to implementing our agreements in partnership with them.
Some want to backtrack on Oak to 9th and overturn City Council’s approval. The community members that waged this 3-year campaign do not have the luxury of waiting. Let’s make these 465 units and 300 jobs a reality. Let’s celebrate our accomplishments and hard work. And let’s keep working for housing, living-wage jobs and other opportunities for Oakland’s low-income communities of color.
On behalf of the Oak to 9th Community Benefits Coalition,
Chanda May, East Bay Asian Youth Center
Leonor Godinez, Oakland Community Organizations at St. Anthony’s Church
Francis Chang, Power in Asians Organizing/Asian Pacific Environmental Network
For more information, please call 510 463 2882 or 510 834 8920 x310