Housing Protesters Shut Down Oakland Business Summit

Protesters at Oakland Chamber of Commerce business summit Friday morning. (Ethan Buckner via Twitter)

A group of about 60 protesters demanding solutions to Oakland’s housing affordability crisis shut down an annual Chamber of Commerce business summit early Friday.

The protesters, drawn from several community groups and banded together as the Oakland Alliance, disrupted the beginning of the meeting in the Kaiser Center’s second-floor conference room.

The opening of the summit was broken up by chants of “Housing is a right! Housing is a right!” and “Once I pay my rent, all my pay is spent!”

One of the protest organizers, Carol Fife, told KQED’s Tara Siler that the action was meant in part to put city leaders on notice they need to take gentrification and displacement as seriously as trying to attract new business to Oakland.

Darwin BondGraham on Twitter

Oakland Chamber of Commerce real estate breakfast was supposed to feature @LibbySchaaf pic.twitter.com/xoNLcYLKt8

Fife noted that Mayor Libby Schaaf, who was scheduled to attend Friday’s summit, has been promoting the message that “Oakland is open for business.”

“We wanted to say Oakland will be open for business when Oakland is open for everyone,” Fife said.

In a statement, Schaaf’s office said the mayor offered to meet with the protesters so the business summit could continue. The group declined the offer, the statement said, at which point Schaaf left.

Barbara Leslie, the Oakland Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said in a statement later that the protest had disrupted a meeting focused on helping city residents:

Today the Oakland Chamber of Commerce had no choice but to cancel its long-planned annual Economic Summit after it was disrupted by an action of activists protesting an unrelated topic. Local business, nonprofit and community leaders were eager to hear from speakers like Denis Ring, Founder of OCHO Chocolate who is committed to sustainable business manufacturing and creating jobs for West Oaklanders. Representatives from Goodwill Industries were also present and eager to engage in a dialogue about growing jobs in Oakland. Attendees were unable to hear about the work that the Chamber and business community are doing to ensure that our residents are prepared for college and careers right here. While the protestors chose to deny participants the opportunity to learn about some of the great work being done, The Chamber and its partners in the public and private sector will continue their efforts to build a thriving Oakland.

One specific target of the protesters’ anger was the City Council’s tentative approval earlier this week of a 360-unit housing development on a city-owned parcel on East 12th Street.

Devika Ghai on Twitter

Hell no public land is NOT for sale to pvt luxury tower developers in Oakland! #E12St #HousingEmergencyNow pic.twitter.com/stW63wHZxX

That development would contain 108 “affordable” units — priced for those earning between 30 percent and 120 percent of the area’s median income — with the remainder of the project being comprised of market-rate units.

Community activists have criticized the approved development as a luxury project that will accelerate displacement in the city. They have campaigned for a smaller-scale project that would contain all affordable units.

In its statement, Mayor Schaaf’s office pointed to a series of steps the city has taken, including relaxing requirements for approving in-law units, to ease the housing crisis.

The statement also pointed to a plan Schaaf announced earlier this month to build 17,000 new housing units, including 5,600 affordable homes. The plan would preserve another 17,000 existing affordable units.

The plan relies in part on city and county bond issues and in part on new housing impact fees for developers. Some influential voices in the city — the East Bay Express, for instance — have applauded the proposal but urged the mayor and City Council to move faster to address affordability .

As city officials weigh Schaaf’s plan, community groups have swung into action with a proposed ballot initiative that would cap rent increases and toughen the city’s just-cause eviction ordinance.

Housing Protesters Shut Down Oakland Business Summit 18 March,2016Dan Brekke

  • MTClies

    All cities are going to see more of these protests as the average citizen is now catching on to the sinister Plan Bay Area and its “Priority Development Areas”. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) has dangled federal dollars in front of desperate City Mayors. The catch? You can only have this money if you build what we want, where we want, when we want….etc. It’s all a HUGE set-up!!! We are being lied to and the corporations are all setting up shop here in the bay area to turn the human need of housing into the next way that Wall Street and Investment bankers will screw all of us. Please everyone that rents beware…we are all being turned into peasants and as we all know too well, displacement is now a way of life. Corporations and City Mayors in the Bay Area are out to screw us all!!!!

  • Peaceful Oakland Citizen

    Yes, and what is even more frightening is the fact that the MTC and denizens of Wall Street are being controlled by shape-shifting reptilian aliens from another star system. Thank goodness the conference was shut down. More replicants would have come out of the building. This is a vast conspiracy being uncovered.

    Alternatively, maybe this was just a conference that was designed to facilitate further improvement of the economic health of Oakland. Perhaps constructive contribution would produce improved results.

    • Peace begins with housing

      You mock real pain from real people that are being displaced by the hundreds in the name of economic growth.

      • Peaceful Oakland Citizen

        Actually, I was mocking the conspiracy theorist remarks. Such nonsensical paranoia about secret societies of evil corporate leaders. Gibberish.

        Regarding the pain – yes, I am sure there is pain. But, telling the mayor to stuff it when she offers to have a mature discussion is non-productive if not counter productive.


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area’s transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED’s comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

Email Dan at: dbrekke@kqed.org

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