Latest Draft of the Open Letter to Oakland Elected Officials Concerning the Housing Crisis

A Message to Oakland’s Elected Officials

You Have Passed the “Housing Roadmap” – Now What?

We applaud the City Council’s passage of the “Housing Equity Roadmap” on September 30, and urge you to quickly implement its strategies and more, in response to the housing crisis that is displacing many long-time Oaklanders right now. We appreciate that Mayor Schaaf has formed a Housing Cabinet, and after some advocacy, included one tenants rights advocate from Causa Justa Just Cause.  But the Cabinet includes an over-representation of for-profit developers, as we know that many for-profit developers have made large financial contributions to your political campaigns, and we know that these for-profit developers have attempted to control Oakland’s city government and elected officials for many decades through political contributions to increase their millions in profits. Oakland is made up of over sixty percent renters, and in order for the Housing Cabinet to come to solutions that will benefit all of Oakland, we challenge you to create a Cabinet that is representative of the population of this diverse city.  It should consist of members who are proportional to the population of Oakland, that is, over 60% renters and a majority of people of color.  At least one seat should be reserved for a representative from the Oakland Tenants Union. We call on all of you to act now to implement the Housing Equity Roadmap strategies into the 2015-2016 Midcycle Budget Process and the 2017-2019 Budget, and to work together creatively to fund strategic priorities that will prevent immediate displacement of long-time residents. In particular, we call on you to:
  1. Declare Housing State of Emergency and Immediate Moratorium on Approval of New Projects To meet the crisis that is upon us and to stabilize the housing market in this moment, we call on city government to declare a Housing State of Emergency and a moratorium on approval of new projects until significant developer impact fees are implemented, along with a timeline to implement the Housing Equity Roadmap, including an inclusionary zoning ordinance.
  2.  Developer Impact FeesComplete the study which will allow the City to impose impact fees on developers that will go toward affordable and low income housing (and other impacts, like better roads). Impose the highest amount suggested by the study and dedicate the majority of it to affordable housing. Do not approve new projects until the impact fees are in place.
  3. Inclusionary Zoning We call on our elected officials to demand that Governor Jerry Brown sign an amendment to Costa Hawkins to allow for inclusionary zoning in all California cities, and to pass immediate substantial Developer Impact fees that can produce the equivalent of at least 30% affordable housing in new developments. To ensure that the cultural and economic diversity we all love about Oakland can stay here, we advocate that at least 15% of new units are accessible to 40% and below Area Median Income (AMI), and that at least 15% of new units are accessible to 40%-80% AMI.
  4. Use 50% of Boomerang Funds for Affordable HousingThe City should increase the percent of proceeds received from former redevelopment funds from 25% to 50% to increase the number of affordable units that can be built.
  5. Mandate At Least 50% New Development Around Transit Be AffordableAs studies have shown, low-income residents use public transit more and market-rate developments around transit increase car usage. Therefore, at least 50% of new development around BART and AC Transit hubs should be held for affordable housing at 80% AMI or below. Oakland’s Fruitvale Village is a national model for equitable transit-oriented development without displacement, and Oakland should continue leading this important work.
  6. Public Land for Public GoodAllocate un-used lands and properties currently supported by public tax dollars to affordable housing or mixed-usage for public good. This includes working with the Oakland Housing Authority to ensure that the 2530 9th Avenue property currently for sale and all properties purchased with public tax dollars remain affordable housing units.
  7. Fund the Down Payment Assistance and First Time Homebuyer ProgramsEnsure that down payment assistance programs targeted to long-time Oakland residents to be able to purchase their homes are funded at levels that actually enable low-income and middle-income residents to buy homes in the Oakland market.
  8. Protect Tenants RightsWe call on city government to implement a comprehensive rent control ordinance. Oakland’s Rent Adjustment law was written by landlords to preference landlords in the majority of cases. We call for a revisiting of the Rent Adjustment process to ensure that tenants rights are protected, including more than two seats of the Rent Board held for tenants (as homeowners often side with landlords) and the burden of proof put on the landlord rather than the tenant.We also call for the implementation of the Tenant Protection Ordinance to be funded through public attorney assistance for tenants, because the majority of tenants cannot afford lawyers to file cases in Superior Court. All landlords should be required to provide a copy of Tenant Rights laws with all tenants, or be charged fines that go to funding the Tenant Protection Ordinance.
  9. Pass an Anti-Speculation TaxTo prevent further displacement of residents resulting from the flipping of houses and properties for profit, the City should implement a higher tax on for-profit corporations that buy foreclosed properties or buyout current residents to make a profit. This should include any companies using services like AirBnB to take large numbers of rental units permanently off the market.
  10. Revise Accessory Dwelling Unit PolicyCities across the nation are revising policies to allow for more smart density as the country re-urbanizes. The City Council should pass an ordinance that allows homeowners to add accessory units on their open land, including allowing tiny homes and easing parking restrictions with the understanding that more and more residents are biking and taking public transit.
We ask you now to take these bold steps, and to not be timid, in this critical small window of time that we have right now to save Oakland’s diversity. We call on our elected officials to stop giving developers whatever they want because they tell you that no one will develop in Oakland if you place restrictions on them. Oakland is at the hub of a very profitable economy, and people will continue to build here. It is your responsibility to the residents to ensure that Oakland is built and developed as an inclusive and equitable city. November, 2015

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