By Khevin LaGrone

Earlier this month, the media focused on another 10K program to lure new residents to Oakland. Why didn’t the announcement focus on current Oakland citizens? Later, as if an afterthought or response to political criticism, the media mentioned that a small percentage of the new units would be “affordable.”  Affordable to whom? This politically correct term is evasive. If someone rents a unit, it is “affordable” to him no matter how high the rent. Yet, we are to assume that Oakland natives are part of the planning.

highland hospital 2The 10K program is supposed to be part of making Oakland “better.” But better for whom? Making Oakland better means improving the opportunties of the many bright and creative African-American students who have been made to feel like they are Oakland’s problem–like blight to be removed. The academic achievers have been forgotten and overlooked. These students know that they have been stigmatized as ambitionless, baby criminals who don’t care about their education. They are aware that their schools are underprivileged and they don’t have many of the resources and opportunities of outside schools. They are sensitive to the obstacles to their successes.

If we want to make Oakland better, we can start by investing in what we already have and giving those students more attention. We can focus on improving the economic opporutnities of those students–so they will be able to compete to maintain their communities. As I’ve written earlier, schools can teach economic literacy. Promoting etiquette could help reduce retaliatory violence. Since Oakland is reaching out to new businesses, part of the pay back to the city could be internships for these students.  This would help level the playing field with the newer, more privileged residents.

City officials seem to abandon these students and focus on Oakland’s “image.”  In effect, they privilege the new residents over the natives.  The officials tell us this new image is supposed to attract new businesses, new residents and make us proud to say we live in Oakland. Yet these new businesses bring in workers from outside who compete with housing. Then they call it a New Oakland–even rename old neighborhoods–to erase us and our past.

Simple acts like bringing dogs into restaurants and grocery stores, send the message that the new residents are above Oakland’s laws. If the new residents don’t have to respect the laws, why should the students? Since the city is handing out privileges, these students should get some as well.

Leadership Academy of Castemont High School, East OaklandOakland’s African-American students should feel they are a part of, not to be displaced from, this new gentrified Oakland. By marginalizing/displacing rather than benefiting these students, the New Oakland failed them. Oakland should not measure the success of the New Oakland by its attractiveness to the already privileged. Oakland may be a more attractive place to people priced out of San Francisco. It may not be a better place for families being priced out.

We can measure the success of Oakland’s gentrification by the success of the students. Those kids don’t measure their success by how much a house in their neighborhood sold for. Most of those kids do not use overpriced coffee shops and upscale grocery stores.

We should ask these Oakland kids and their parents how we can make Oakland better for them. Oakland’s crime is a symptom of economic inequities. Preparing Oakland’s bright and creative African American students for their futures will make Oakland better for them. It will do more for them than just focusing on crime.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. 
For guidelines, see For more information on posting to Community Voices, see The word on Oakland Local’s Community Voices posts.

13 Responses

  1. R2D2II

    One thing I take from this POV is something like “Oakland for Oaklanders” which makes a lot of sense. Much more sense than Oakland for newcomers, Oakland for new businesses from some far-away place, Oakland for those fleeing from expensive San Francisco, Oakland for those who read the New York Times and so on.

    All those alternatives are fine, in their place. The problem is when we ignore, as we have for so long, our local problems and their solutions, and instead focus on all those other things. Like the folks in City Hall do.

    Maybe it’s just easier for City Hall folks to focus on the other stuff. Maybe they just don’t know much about the city they live in.

  2. ontheotherhand

    Building housing doesn’t magically make new residents appear. The people that would fill these new units would likely move to Oakland anyway, but if new housing isn’t built they will be more likely to compete with local residents for the existing housing stock. By building new units you remove some of the pressure on the existing housing and make it more likely that existing residents are not priced out.

    Everything this opinion piece says about the importance of supporting Oakland’s youth is dead on. The problem with this point of view is that Oakland doesn’t have the financial resources to do give Oakland’s youth what they deserve. More residents and more property taxes would give the city more resources to serve children better.

    But the whole discussion is meaningless because there is no 10k-Two plan. Jean Quan just made it up for the State of the City address the same way she made up a 100-blocks strategy that never existed and was based on a false premise anyway (the false premise being the amount of crimes committed in 100 blocks of the city). Quan’s staff just counted up the number of proposed units in Oakland and called it a 10K-Two plan. Most of those development projects will happen or not happen regardless of Jean Quan’s public statements.

  3. Jonatton Yeah?

    So you want social programs while you bemoan the people who will pay for them. How convenient of you. And Oakland isn’t yours. It never was and it never will be; no matter how many times you repeat it. Oakland belongs to anyone who chooses to and is able to live in it. Whether they love it or leave it is frankly none of your business. If you lot spent as much time on yourselves and your communities as you do worrying about what other people are doing maybe, just maybe, your elected officials would actually give a shit. It’s pretty rich to blather on about “privilege” while assuming you’re entitled to something just because your “native” self lived in a city for a few years longer than the evil, social-program-paying newcomers. Actually, it’s not rich; it’s just daft. It’s equally as daft to assume the “privilege” of others while basically saying African-American youth are more important and deserve more educational opportunities simply by the virtue of their skin pigment. All youth deserve a good education. All. By singling out one group over another you are perpetuating the same problems you’re complaining about. But I guess it’s just easier to moan about gentrification and the ever-evil other.

  4. Mojojo81

    More of the same whiney noise from Oakland Local.

    Asking new residents to fix this cesspool while at the same time trying to saddle new residents with fake guilt.

    Author of this piece, go F yourself in the face.

  5. penny

    wow. such constructive dialog in the comments! assumptions and insults and complaints about topics not even covered in the article! is there any place residents (that’s not a code word. I mean the people who live in this city) can have meaningful discussions about change that isn’t laced with nastiest and willful ignorance?

  6. Erica

    You are right that the city needs to be investing more in its young people, but with what money? Encouraging new housing construction is one of the best possible ways to come up with funds. Last year the state cut off the redevelopment money that has historically funded subsidized housing developments. Every city is looking for a replacement source of funding and taxing new market-rate development is one of the few strong potentials.

    The reason housing prices are going up so fast in Oakland is simple supply and demand: lots of demand for centrally located housing near transit hubs and not a lot of supply. Building more housing will lower the market rate, help keep prices more affordable for everyone and prevent people from being displaced (someone moving into new build is by definition not displacing anyone). At the same time it will generate revenue that can be used for much-needed youth and other programs.

    Unless you put up a security fence around the city, people are going to keep moving here. The only question is whether they’ll keep bidding up the prices on existing houses, or whether we take the pressure off prices by building more.

  7. CaliLibby

    I will never understand why it’s acceptable to ONLY single out African Americans in Oakland as the youth group that needs the focus. Have you not noticed there are other minority groups that struggle? Have you looked at the south lake neighborhoods, at the food banks, at the free clinics? There are latino and south east asian families and they have language barriers to add to the struggle. But you never hear anything about these folks on OL.

    Beyond that, please, please, please do not keep standing in the way of developing housing, even if it lacks enough affordable -to low and no income people- housing to satisfy. Because your or your neighbor’s house will be the affordable home that that evil newcomer will move into. I watched this happen in the city. Every development project was either stopped are slowed to the point where the expense would lower the number of units the developer was required to offer at reduced rates to practically nothing. All under the auspice of trying to stop the tide. It could not have backfired more. The definition of insanity is to try the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Limiting new housing and expecting that to somehow preserve the housing that’s already here for the people all ready here is insane.

  8. BayMetro

    It’s a shame that instead of a constructive dialogue, most of the people in the comments section here choose to criticize Oakland Local for putting out stories that reflect what’s REALLY going on in everyday conversations throughout the City of Oakland. Gentrification IS something that many Oaklanders talk about on a regular basis, and is something that is prominent enough to be discussed in all spaces, online or not. To the people here making this a ‘newcomer vs. native’ thing, get over yourself. And to you folks who don’t like the fact that not every new story about Oakland will be about a new restaurant or bar opening, you need to get over yourselves too.

    This is about the fact that lower income people in Oakland, who most often do not have the means to compete with the new Silicon Valley employee who wants to live next door, have a voice and should be heard, even if these newcomers don’t want to hear about how their presence may be effecting these lower-income residents. I don’t think most people in Oakland mind that a newcomer wants to live in our city; it’s actually kind of flattering given the historic media bashing the city has received on a local and national level. What we don’t like is when these newcomers come without any regard or respect for the existing communities and cultures that make Oakland, Oakland.

    A huge thing people fail to mention in this ongoing discussion about gentrification are the historic implications associated with this trend. Oakland became majority minority because of White Flight in the 1950s and 60s and became one of the few places in the Bay Area that families of color could call home due to the racial covenants and redlining that kept White suburbs White. After decades of (People of Color/low-income folks) being systematically restricted to owning or renting property in places like Oakland, it becomes an issue of entitlement and privilege when the grandchildren of those White families from the 50s and 60s who fled Oakland come back implying lower-income people/People of Color now have to leave. It makes these families feel that they can continuously be pushed around based on where privileged people want to live. It makes them feel voiceless and powerless when their city government pushes another “10K Plan” that by its very nature is designed for people who physically and economically do not look like them.

    So sure, “Oakland belongs to anyone”, as someone in the comments section said. But if we truly believe this city is for anybody, then we should not be resisting articles like these that highlight the fact that the phrase “Oakland belongs to anyone” seems to increasingly translate to “Oakland belongs to anyone who’s privileged enough to live here.”

  9. lamepostH8TER

    So it’s about race now? Funny thing is that you lost all credibility when you went in that direction… You know why? No! You have no clue because you embody the intellect of a goat so let me break it down for you… Of the 38,761 students currently enrolled in OUSD only 31.5% of them are African Americans!

    so while you’re beating your chest siting malice intent with the goal to engage ongoing racial discord based on your own jaded views of the world, it may behoove you to know what you’re talking about first!


    check the data for yourself!

  10. Matt in Uptown

    I only keep reading this blog hoping it grows more representative of Oakland. So far it has not.

    I’m a person from nowhere… went to seven schools, even two high schools. I can’t claim a place as mine. I moved to Oakland in 2008 thinking it was right for me -an inclusive diverse, artistic place in a remarkable setting with a rich history. According to the truly diverse and interesting people I actually interact with in my community -I do belong. I despise how this blog claims to be open minded, liberal, and about inclusiveness when it clearly is about isolationism, protectionism, shaming, and derisiveness. Many of these posts should be relegated to the writers’ therapy sessions -they do not enlighten, but are more like Fox News storied meant to reinforce the message receivers present point of view.

  11. Kathy Ferreira

    Does anyone remember which mayoral candidate running against Jerry Brown (and the original 10K plan) printed up those “Oaklanders First” t-shirts? I vaguely remember you could get them at the Walgreens on High Street…

    Anyway, my point. I’ll accept that history often repeats itself. But why does history have to repeat itself so soon?

    Also, has Oakland Local considered requiring commentators use their real names and identities? It might help keep these discussions more constructive.

  12. Marai Mesedes

    It is because of the lack of insight these articles provide to the public that this conversation is happening all over again today. Sure it is good for readership engagement to continuously harp on the drama of class warfare, but the high road in journalism is to inform with context that results in appreciable change, not simply dish out the red herrings that populist antagonizers of each generation offer up to the masses..

  13. TommieJ

    No.. what the writing is stating is that African-American (and other poor populations) youth get disproportional less educational investment than they deserve. People aren’t asking for more, they are asking for the same. Their parents pay the same taxes everyone else does. Furthermore, statements like yours continue to perpetuate the very myths this piece writes about. The automatic assumption that black youth are academically less deserving. As the article states there are quite a few high-achieving black students in the school system. They get little attention and hardly any assistance that would encourage them. Despite this fact their number continues to rise and is consistently (and purposely) ignored by media.


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