by Bambi Francisco Roizen

On May 6-7, Vator will bring its popular Splash tech startup event and competition to Oakland, after four years of holding it successfully in San Francisco. The question I’m asked is: Why move to Oakland from San Francisco?

Firstly, I live in the East Bay. Secondly, I like the Oakland A’s and the movie, Fruitvale Station. For years, Oakland residents encouraged me to move Splash to their town. Having lived in San Francisco, it seemed the fastest way to lose attendees. My perception was that it was far and unsafe.

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Over time, my perception began to change. I found myself attached to Oakland’s scrappy baseball team – the A’s – and what they came to represent: a resourceful team facing outsized challenges. The movie Fruitvale Station brought home another Oakland asset – its residents – facing overwhelming odds amid a world forging ahead with prosperity. The movie is, as I wrote at the time in the fall 2013, “a candid look at the murky reality and morality of life in an environment with few opportunities.” My takeaway: To reduce the probability of Fruitvale Station incidents, Oakland desperately needed economic development. Oakland, a place with a diverse, passionate community, deserved the prosperity that was accruing to its wealthier Bay Area neighbors.

Read more at Live Work Oakland, the new business/tech innovation site from Oakland Local.

 

10 Responses

  1. Stewart Jollymore

    I am not a techy but I am an Oakland native. And I had a couple things I wanted to at least get the chance to bring to your attention.

    I basically just wanted to give you my perspective on whats happened and what is happening in my home town. Over the past seven or eight years there has been an influx of more and more wealthy people moving to Oakland. Here I dont not mean wealthy as in Bill Gates rich. What I mean is people who move into neighborhoods in which they are in the top income bracket in that neighborhood. This has been happening all over the Town with exception of a large swath of East Oakland (its too rough out there still) and the extensive housing projects that are scattered around the Town. This is you basic “gentrification”. As rents and prices in SF continue to rise more and more wealthier and wealthier people are coming over here.

    Now It is totally a fair question to ask. “Is this good for Oakland?” Well there are, I believe, two correct answers for that. The first is Yes. This is good for Oakland. But I here I mean Oakland the city. As more and more wealthy people move to previously poor neighborhoods the property values begin to increase. And as this happens tax revenue for the city grows; with much of this increase in taxes going to local public schools (of which I attended k-12 and which are on the bottom of the list of schools in the state which then puts them in the running for worst in the country). Also as more and more wealthy people move in they bring with them a culture of voting. Lack of voting has killed Oakland for years and years. Also new businesses tend to want to open up shop in more affluent areas so this also helps Oakland the city.

    Now, here is the other correct answer. No. None of the trends in Oakland are good for it. But here I mean Oakland, the real Oakland. The Oakland represented by people, by human beings with lives and hopes and dreams and roots. All this pushes us native Oaklanders out. Many of us have no where else to go. Over the 20 years there has been a slow, very slow, trickle of poor residents moving to places like Antioch, Concord, Tracy etc. This slow trickle has become a gushing flow. Oakland has finite residency. So as Wealthy some in there much be people leaving. Who are these people and do they want to leave? I will leave that question to be answered by your own investigation.

    So all in all I here propose that the over all answer to “is this good for Oakland?” is NO. And here is why. Oakland has a culture. Its culture is the #1 reason people love it so much. As people come for economic reasons and begin to enjoy the culture Oakland has to offer they are in fact single handedly destroying that culture. If 400,000 people come to enjoy our culture it mean it will have vanished and been replaced by a culture that is new and different.

    The above is the argument that I have been standing behind for the last six years. But what I have come to accept is that the Oakland I knew and loved and grew up in is gone. But that is also pretty much true for every person. Its a fact of life that things change. The question I will leave you with is this. Is this the change that is best for the people involved? Is there a different way things could change that would help the future generations of the disenfranchised? If so what is your part in it.

    You said you live in the East Bay. So hold you meeting in the city you live in. I am sure its less exciting but that basically means that is has none of the negative things that Oakland has which make people drawn to it. I am sorry, but your tech conference will not help give opportunities to any real Oaklanders. Sure maybe some of us can help with the catering or the clean up and continue to be treated like second class citizens. Why not get the poorest of the poor public schools involved in your project. Why dont you get these techies to start a scholarship fund to help poor Oakland native’s to get tehir foot in the door of the tech world. I promise you there is too much wasted talent in Oakland (wasted in the fact that most of us never get the opportunity to show other or even ourselves what our greatest potential really is) and if you wish you could be on the forefront of capturing this talent and showing people that Oakland is not a place to move but a place to come and learn to see the true triumph of the human spirit.

    I wish you well in your endeavors and hope that at least this will sit quietly in the back of your mind when ever you hear about bringing opportunities to Oakland.

    p.s. Its great to see women out there doing big things. Even if I disagree with how your doing things I am glad I get to live in a world that, while far from perfect, has seen positive change in the realm of freedom and fairness for all people. Take care.

    Reply
  2. OaklandNative

    I agree with everything Jollymore wrote. I want to add that we have to find a way to bridge the racial divide. A lot of African American youth don’t think this applies to them.

    Reply
  3. DontAssume

    Why are the commenters making assumptions? Actually, there are several non-profits that benefit poor african americans and latinos. For example, there is Build.org (a bay area college prep non-profit that has gone national) which counts numerous techies and venture capitalists as board members and actively seeks donations from the techie community. Oakland’s Hidden Genius non-profit receives donations from the techie community. The NewMe accelerator (a start-up accelerator for POC tech founders) is backed by techies. Etc. Etc. Could they be doing more? Yes?

    But you are making the assumption they are doing nothing. This attitude that they doing something terrible by having a little conference in Jack London is so terribly counter productive. Its good for Oakland. One event won’t magically changes decades of problems, but bringing a bunch of tech leaders to our city will raise awareness and open people’s eyes. Many in the tech industry know nothing about Oakland other than that the way the media portrays the city (violence, etc.) and that Oaklanders hate all techies with a passion. That is not really a way to get people to open up their pocketbooks is it?

    You sound like you want a lottery ticket. Some sort of magical hand-out. Instead it takes hard work and time to accomplish what you want. It also takes work and time to forge the right beneficial relationship where the tech communities takes responsibility for those less fortunate and helps open up doors.

    I’m a POC (shocker!! I’m sure you were already mentally labeling me a racist. I’m not white and I’m not Asian) and I work in the tech community. I came from a very poor background and was able to go to college on a scholarship provided to me by a tech company. I then went to grad school on scholarship by a different tech company. So I have lived in both worlds (inner city minority + techie).

    Its basic human psychology. People need to meet in the middle. Pouring the hate on techies won’t force them to do what you want. They just feel un-welcomed and invest their efforts elsewhere. Despite what I read in the press, I personally know many many efforts by techies and tech companies to give back to their community. I believe they should be doing way more to enhance education and opportunity for Oaklanders, but its hard to embrace someone who is pointing a knife at you (by this I mean the intense hatred of techies by people in Oakland).

    Reply
  4. OaklandNative

    DontAssume,

    What assumptions? We’re stating what we’ve seen in Oakland.

    In fact, you’ve articulated the racial divide that I said needed to be bridged.

    Reply
  5. R2D2II

    I’m with Jollymore generally. But I can’t see anything wrong with having a techie convention here. Especially since techies are by definition trend-o-matic and so are parts of Oaktown and thus we’ll be something of a draw over too-congested and -expensive S.F. That’s just the nature of the trend and the trendy.

    The bottom line problem Jollymore points to is the ongoing neglect of Oakland’s poorer and crime-ridden neighborhoods. I live on the edge of one in a less-violent part of East Oakland. Yes my neighbors and I bear much of the brunt. We need to watch our backs always.

    Big corporate developments, techie conferences and the like won’t do anything at all for Oakland’s most long-suffering, despite the claims of our so-called Mayor and City Council whose attention-spans seldom alight where abundant attention is badly needed.

    Oakland’s real problems can be dealt with but Oakland’s political culture simply is elsewhere: promoting the part of Oakland which is doing well-enough because that’s where the money is. Solving our problems means taking political risks and doing some real hard work. Our electeds are just not the right people for the job.

    Reply
  6. OaklandNative

    I’m going to answer my own question. Educators and others working with young people, hopefully you will identify some African American students who you think will benefit from this conference.

    Reply
  7. James Miller

    Um, Oakland does not have a single, unified culture that is “the reason” people move here. That is one, of many, false narratives opponents of any kind of change carry around with them. All you have to do is walk around 5 different neighborhoods here in town and you will notice that right off

    The dude wants to bring a conference to Oakland. People stay in hotels and eat in restaurants, spending money in Our Fair City. That is good.

    And dont worry: not everyone at the conference, or even most people, are going to want to move here. Some Oaklanders are incredibly proud of what we have here, verging on arrogant, and somehow imagine that nobody could resist coming here. Well, the population has been static for nearly 30 years, so dont worry.

    Reply
  8. OaklandNative

    Correction. Some people move here because Oakland does not have one culture. Many African Americans moved here because of the large African American population.

    Reply
  9. A

    What major CA city (e.g. > 100,000) has just one culture?

    As for African Americans, statistics show the population decreasing so are you sure it’s because of the large African American population alone that makes African Americans want to live in Oakland? Where is your proof other than anecdote evidence?

    Reply
  10. OaklandNative

    A,
    If you noticed, I wrote “many African Americans.” James Miller wrote the more generalized statement.

    So to answer your question, anecdotal evidence, based on many conversations over the years, public events, writings, etc., I make the statement that many African Americans come for that reason. Those people constitute the “many.”

    The declining African American population is a concern for many African Americans. I’ve heard discussions, etc. I was just discussing this with one of my neighbors a few minutes ago.

    Reply

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