Oakland skyline

Oakland has gotten a lot of buzz in the national press lately. The New York Times dubbed the city “Brooklyn by the Bay” and listed it as a top global destination. While many Oakland residents are thrilled with the new bars, restaurants and excitement about the city, many worry about the soaring housing and rental prices, gentrification and the displacement of long-term residents. As part of our Boomtown series, Forum looks at whether the Bay Area’s economic surge will translate into more jobs and revenue for a city that has long struggled with poverty, crime and budget shortfalls.

Libby Schaaf, mayor of Oakland
Dawn Phillips, program director of Causa Justa
Greg McConnell, president and CEO of the Jobs and Housing Coalition
Kate O'Hara, executive director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy

  • Jon Sarriugarte

    Housing vs Jobs/Arts. Does Oakland cave into housing pressures and developers and let industrially zoned land be built into live-work condos. Can Oakland Stop developers from land banking industrially zone properties waiting for the political opportunity to turn it into residential products.

  • Michelle

    I worked in Oakland 15 years ago and now go to grad school in Oakland. The turn-around has been incredible. It is now one of my favorite places in the Bay – the people are diverse (age, ethnicity, orientation/identity, etc.) and friendly. Oakland feels much safer, though I still didn’t buy a house in Oakland because of safety concerns.

    Housing prices are increasing at an incredible rate, which I don’t necessarily see as a bad thing. Speaking realistically, places like East Oakland don’t make sense given it’s location on the inner rung of the Bay Area. From a geographic perspective, I would much rather live in East Oakland than in remote San Ramon.

    There is a long history of structural racism from slavery to red lining that created East Oakland, but the outcome now is that children grow up in a violent, unsafe environment that is worse than places I’ve visited in the developing world. I don’t see a realistic way of turning it around other than through gentrification and displacement. There’s just been too many generations of abject poverty, lack of education and an entrenched culture of violence that menaces and destroys the lives of the residents. Without a realistic plan for improving East Oakland I don’t see it’s continued existence as being a benefit for anyone.

    • The diversity that you ‘love’ is being destroyed by the skyrocketing rents. Many long time residents, families, artists, musicians, and others who have been a part of Oakland for decades are being pushed out at an alarming rate.

      And where do you think it ‘makes sense’ for those displaced residents to live? Many of these are families who can’t just pick up and move (but will likely be forced to do so by landlords and/or management companies who want to double or triple the rent)

      Are you proposing that it would be better if we displaced all of the existing Oakland residents, so people like you would feel ‘safe’ enough to purchase property here? much like what has happened to SF?)

      • dissentist

        “It’s not fair! They’re pushing all the decent folks out! We need action or Oakland will surely be destroyed!” -said the middle class folks who lived in Oakland in the 1930’s while they were being pushed out by the plummeting property values and crime coming in with the massive influx of the poor of the time.

        All I see is history repeating itself for probably the 4th time, last time it was the middle class, before that it was the Spaniards, before that it was the Ohlone Indians. Who really “owns” Oakland then? Shall we give it back to the indians who were here “first” ? If not, why is your bitching about people being forced out any different?

        More importantly, what’s the solution? You can’t just magically make thousands of affordable housing units appear out of thin air, that takes billions of dollars and years of development. If only the previous people in Oakland hadn’t resisted affordable housing so much over the last 3 decades, pretty ironic that the ones being pushed out now were the ones fighting the proposed high density affordable housing projects 20 years ago that would be saving their ass right now..

  • Sam Badger

    The problem is that the interests of the poor Oaklanders are being ignored, including by Libby Schaaf. She says it’s great how people have discovered Oakland, but the fact is that people are being displaced, and she insults the activists who have protested against both the process of gentrification and police brutality. Perhaps she feels uncomfortable with the kinds of activism that radical socialists and anarchists pursue, but the fact is that they are Oakland residents with real economic and social needs which are being ignored. We forget that the original Boston Tea Party destroyed property to make their unheard voices heard – ironically, the radical protesters she decries are closer to that tradition than those who wave the flag.

    • Not just the poor. The lower-middle and middle-middle class can barely afford to stay in the Bay Area. We can’t follow SF’s example and only build ‘market rate apartments’ for a highly inflated market. We need to build for people of all economic levels, and provide incentives to do so (and penalties for not).

  • Ben Rawner

    What is the mayor doing about the lack of bicycle friendly streets? Slapping bike logos on streets without actually repaving and redesigning them is not very functional. For instance Shafter in the Rockridge area is considered a bike friendly street, however the gravel like pavement and potholes make it treacherous to ride on. How about a bike only street? How about forcing BART to have a standing room only BART train? A growing population means even more traffic in an already traffic heavy city, more bikes are the solution.

    • jamiebronson

      No money. Have you not noticed the general shitty state of roads including huge numbers of pot holes? Or even followed the budget short fall for the city?

    • Tandem Bear

      I think if you were a member of Bike East Bay, you’d know what she and others are doing about bicycling in Oakland. New protected bike lane going in on Broadway soon. Much has been happening to improve bicycling in Oakland. I couldn’t be much happier.

    • jamiebronson

      Are you familiar with the budget shortfall of the city? Are you not aware of the poor condition of the roads in Oakland? Those two things will give you an answer.

    • trite

      And how about working with cyclists and telling them not to endanger pedestrians by riding on sidewalks. Pedestrians must be protected too.

      • C Guevara

        Thank you. I was almost hit by a guy texting while he ran a red light on Grand.

    • mjonath

      FYI, thanks to the passage of Measure BB, Shafter is now on the list of streets to be repaved next: http://www2.oaklandnet.com/Government/o/PWA/o/EC/s/STS/OAK049968

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Why is Oakland’s rent control so primitive and behind San Francisco and Berkeley’s ordinances? I laughed nervously when the male guest said the economy has recovered! No, it has not and government figures are gamed to eliminate from counting, the longer term unemployed.

    People being evicted is not progress. The Warriors leaving is not progress. This San Franciscan would be happy if Oakland could lure the techies over across the bay. What is Oakland’s high school dropout rate? Once kids drop out, they’re economic future is destroyed.

    • So true Fay! What’s happening to our Oakland, and where will we all go now that we can no longer afford to live here? And will we even want to, now that our city is becomming another unrecognizable zone of the fortunate priveledged?

  • C Guevara

    I am black female in my 50’s. Cannot get a high paying job in the bay area because of who I am and because I am not younger. With the temp job, I cannot afford to even rent a room in Oakland. I currently sleep on the floor at friends house. I moved to Oakland in 1997. I feel my time here in Oakland is coming to a end. Looking to move not only out of the city but out of the state. I did not vote for the Mayor because of her connection to the past tenured Oakland politicians and I do not trust understand her positions. Gentrification has been a long time coming…it started with Jerry Brown 10,000 people in downtown campaign. I miss seeing black people in Oakland.

    • Allure Nobell

      I sympathize with you. A few years ago I thought I would be homeless due to losing my job in the economic downturn. People were starting to offer me their couches and spare bedrooms. I was 57 at the time and never got another full time job so I am involuntarily retired. I lived in Oakland half my life. Recently, fortunately, I was able to buy a house, but nowhere near Oakland, I couldn’t afford it. I’ve been with Oakland through the bad times and now that it is getting “better”, feel like I have been exiled. I live not far away but miss my old neighborhood where I raised my child and had a career. I hope things get better for you soon.

      • dissentist

        You were with Oakland during the “bad” times and now you feel exiled.. How did you feel before Oakland was “bad” like back in the 1930’s when it was almost entirely middle class white population? Did you feel bad for the white people that were forced out when the place became run down? No? Is it because they had other options? Why are those options better than what the poor in Oakland currently have? They’re the exact same option- move somewhere cheaper.

        What do we do about this problem? Do we put up roadblocks and only let the poor into the city? Do we have the government front the money to build thousands of affordable housing units? Private developers aren’t doing it for many reasons, maybe we should look into NIMBYism and the fact that the literal reason these poor people are being forced out is precisely because back when it was “their” city they protested the building of high density residential because it would bring more crime and hurt their property values back then?

        Ain’t nobody in the right, and all I see is a bunch of pointless bitching and no solutions, what’s the point of that?

    • dissentist

      What is your degree in? You say you can’t find a high paying job, what are your qualifications? I see people getting jobs all the time that are older black folks, the key being that most of them have some sort of professional degree.

      Oh and if you miss seeing black people in Oakland you should try leaving the house once in a while, I see them constantly downtown, and the only way NOT to see them in any part of east or west Oakland is to not have your eyes open to begin with.

  • AngelaC

    Here’s a creative idea to create jobs, economic independence and access to basic necessities like grocery stores within walking distance in a community: a city program that supports people run small grocery stores and other small businesses on every corner right in the communities that need them.

  • Douglas L. Saunders

    What was the name of the woman who talked about ‘development without displacement’? Was that Dawn Philips?

  • k9kilowatt

    Dawn Phillips needs to respect the interviewer/moderator. I too host live radio and applaud M.K. for handling that mic hog!

    • Whamadoodle

      Yeah, man–I mean, it’s not that I’m objecting to what she was saying, but she’s, like, yelling over him when he tries to stop her from speaking without end. She mellowed on it the second time, but that was kind of obnoxious. It’s not as if he hadn’t let her say enough, compared to anyone else.

  • Davidcol

    Why is Dawn Phillips, given so much time (particularly given questionable past)….. Kudos to MK for making sure others get heard. Also kudos to Greg McConnell for holding people who want certain things in Oakland accountable. Let’s keep Oakland moving forward…… Attracting financiers with vision is key

    • Kudos to Tenants rights organizations for providing assistance to Oakland residents who have nowhere else to turn.

  • trite

    The default position for putting money into the coffers of the city is
    the parcel tax. This is not a feasible solution, particularly when
    people who will not be impacted by the proposed increase will be voting
    on the issue. How about instituting a city tax based on income which would be less contentious and more equitable.?

  • EdwardV

    By displacement, do you mean lower crime, more money for public services, and higher quality of living?

  • Whoa Mule

    The wealth of a nation is created in the cities. There is a cost to occupying urban land in an area with universities, technology companies and entrepreneurs. What is occurring in Oakland is part of a macro-economic trend. It’s too big for politicians and activists to get in front of. The gentrification happens because hope and economic growth are happening.

    The taco trucks have stickers that say ‘people love us on Yelp’. They get it, why don’t you Causa?

    You need to either create, construct, service, invest or leave.

    No, you don’t have any choice in the matter.

  • I do not blame Dawn Phillips one bit for being bold. The voices of poor people are shut out and shut down at every turn. Any time she has a microphone in front of her she needs to use up as much time as she can speaking to their issues. That is her ministry and she is doing it well.

    At my local public radio station KPCC, Larry Mantle, the host of Airtalk, the Forum-like show for KPCC, had to shut down a priest who was one of the guests on a show about homelessness. But I will never forget the graceful way he did it (now Larry is an admitted Catholic so maybe that had something to do with it). He said “Father so-and-so, I understand that you got into this work in order to speak for the homeless and their issue and I get that you are doing that to the fullest of your ability, that is your job. But I must give the other panelists a chance too.”

    I do not blame Michael Krasny for shutting down Dawn Philips but the manner in which he did it was just plain rude. “I’m not getting through to you”. Wow, I mean wow.

  • P-K4

    Big issue is lack of cranes in that aerial view.

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