I remember watching an African-American man at a City Council meeting complaining about how he had to leave Oakland because he couldn’t afford the rent. He was a working man from Oakland. I’ve heard stories like his for years.

On March 6, 2014, Jean Quan announced a new program to build 10K housing specifically to lure NEW people. Rather than build more housing for the people already leaving here, the housing was to be built for NEW people. In other words, people who haven’t decided to move here. The fact that she specifically targeted them for NEW people and not affordable housing for people already here shows a problem with Oakland: natives and long-time residents are written off. It’s disrespectful. In effect, she took sides on the gentrification clash. While change happens naturally, she gave political and economic weight to the “opponents.”

While the announcement was a stinging slap in the face to those complaining of being displaced, in an SFGate article, City officials tried to downplay how marketing to NEW residents might fuel the gentrification controversy. While it’s true that many people leaving San Francisco will take that housing, do we need our own mayor to specifically marginalize us by specifically targeting to NEW residents? Will we become officially second-class citizens in our own homes? Incidently, San Francisco is supposedly building programs to keep its middle-class.

Many of these people only moved to Oakland because they couldn’t afford to live in San Francisco. They will try to make Oakland another San Francisco–whether old-timers want it or not.

The current gentrification of Oakland has not been easy, but it was mainly insulated to downtown. It has been filled with cultural clashes. But will the clashes intensify as new people are lured throughout the city? Jerry Brown’s 10K program, as well as the Oakland Renaissance, did not take Oakland off of the most dangerous cities lists. Obviously, the “bad people” are not the ones being displaced by gentrification.

Does Jean Quan assume these new residents will support her? Perhaps she forgot the Occupy Oakland controversy. She went to greet them and they booed her offstage. They were taking over Oakland and she would not be their mayor. In fact, Michael Moore seemed to be more in the running. And as he heard gunshots, he called it Oakland-style. Will the NEW people respect our laws?  After all,if they don’t respect our laws, why should we?

Maybe Quan doesn’t want or need our support. She’s already thrown us under the bus. She’s looking past us.

And what long time residents will rally for an improved Oakland when our city officials have announced that we are not their targeted class? If new development is not for us, but will possibly displace us or overshadow us, why should we support it? Why make Oakland more attractive to new businesses when they hire people from outside who compete with us for housing?

But it can’t be a savvy political move. After all, this program targets people who don’t live here, while overlooking those voters who already do. We don’t need officials to sell us off as a wasteland. We don’t need to make Oakland more attractive to others. If they don’t like it, they shouldn’t come. We need offcials who proudly live within our limited budgets and tell the world, “This is our home and we love it here. If you don’t like it, you can leave.”

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.
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16 Responses

  1. R2D2II

    Although the writer expresses a great deal of political naivete, she does point to a critical political problem in Oakland–the conscious neglect of Oakland’s most disadvantaged citizens. Quan knows almost nothing about the realities of deep East Oakland or other parts of this city in similar difficulty.

    The writer might want to look further into how the struggling parts of Oakland might best be helped, to include encouragement of small businesses appropriate to neighborhoods without basic services like grocery stores, interventions to support disadvantaged and dysfunctional families so that their children can function in school, real community policing so that residents know their police personally as individuals and vice-versa and infrastructure investment such as providing really useful bicycle lanes along busy car-dominated sections of International Blvd. where many poor residents walk and ride bicycles because they cannot afford cars.

  2. James Miller

    While I do agree that the City has done little, woefully little, to actually improve the life prospects of Oakland’s poorest, this isnt really what the author is decrying here. Although Oakland is disproportionately low income, it is a major error to equate current residents with poor residents.

    This piece isnt really about the poor, it’s about old versus new. There is a point of view that preserving Oakland’s population, without adding any new residents, will lead to prosperity and violence reduction. This point of view is also suspicious of private investment generally, unless it is “mom and pop small local businesses.” The idea, in this world view, is that the government will supplement incomes, either directly or indirectly, through public spending or funding social programs.

    While I believe a strong public sector, and public spending, are the only real just way out of the economic doldrums we find ourselves in, such a considerable infusion of public dollars to Oakland is, to put it mildly, extremely unlikely. While there are clear problems with capitalism, in the short term, economic growth is better for low income households than none.

    And that is what this article is calling for: no growth. Oakland has had a stagnant population for decades and it has not resulted in a City government better attuned to the populace nor any significant change in the rates of poverty or prevalence of low income households.

    Calling for no population growth is bad economics, and bad economics is not good for Oakland. In fact, if people are going to come here, which the author seems to feel is extremely likely, NOT building housing to accommodate them puts more pressure on local residents, not less. There is nothing, nothing, you can do to prevent people from moving here.

    This author appears to be one of the few people Ive met in my 16 years here in Oakland that seems to like the city completely as it is. They should realize that not everyone is happy with high rates of poverty, vacant storefronts and unsafe streets.

    A recent poll showed that over half of Oakland residents feel the city is on the wrong track–and, trust me, it wasnt because the city is trying to lure in another ten thousand people (which would be, just to bring in the math, a 2.5% increase in the city’s population).

    Please dont give this type of thinking too much credance. Pulling up the drawbridge to preserve this “paradise” we live in is not a mainstream view here in Oakland by any stretch of the imagination.

  3. Matt in Uptown

    Kheven LaGrone, how many low income units are in Oakland? How many have been built in the last ten years? How many market rate units have been built in the last ten years. I’m betting you’re going to be very surprised by those numbers. Also, who pays to subsidize the construction and perpetual management of low income housing -the people in all market rate housing!!! You can’t have one without the other… well you can and then you have the current state of the City of Oakland’s finances.

  4. rayon

    New people are coming. All that needs deciding is whether to increase the number of housing units to accommodate the growth, or whether you want them to live in your place.

  5. Mojojo81

    Oakland Local seems to publish mostly rant based whiney b*tchy complainers. Wahhhh I want to live here for free and have others pay my taxes… wahhhh you are new and therefore different…. wahhhh wahhh wahh We prefer an abandoned downtown and vacant lands along the water front than outsidelanders who point out the fact that our city IS f’ed up and needs to change a few things to make it less of a third world Wahhh wahh. The sad thing is that I have always been hard left leaning and idiots like this are really starting to push me closer to the right.

  6. Colin

    The housing is NEW, but pretty much anyone can move into it. Since most of us who’ve lived here for a while already have places to live, building housing only for people who live in the city would be a fool’s errand, no?

    Seems like this author just wants to complain about “outsiders” coming in and changing everything. Far be it from me to defend Quan’s dubious just-like-Jerry campaign ploy, but the problem isn’t that “outsiders” might consider moving to Oakland.

  7. Dragons81

    Dislike the article 1000%.

    The old home directly across from me sold two years ago for 169,000. The new owner tore it down and rebuilt two units. One just sold for 720,000. The fact of the matter is that there is MAJOR demand for housing both from within Oakland and the entire Bay Area. We can either build more housing which will change the character of some underused industrial waterfront, OR we can do nothing and have the cost of existing housing explode…. the second option is like jet fuel to gentrification. This author might have a hidden agenda… perhaps she is a real estate agent who WANTS the area to get super expensive Noe Valley style haha.

  8. Leslie Nope

    Either build new housing, or the prices will shoot WAAAAAY up for existing units. Its a fact. There is no debate. Gentrification = change = constant = get over yourself = Love the change or leave it!!!

  9. Glinda

    I do read Oakland Local regularly and am always interested to hear the latest rant about what’s wrong with Oakland.

    As a long time middle class home owner in Oakland I am keenly aware of the miles I travel to be able to shop for myself and my family. What I continue to struggle with is the tug-of-war with what is being called gentrification and how it appears to be targeted at some but not all and to the benefit of whom?

    Broadway, while not a blight anymore, is still majority empty store fronts save for the expensive coffee shops and lovely but pricey boutiques and restaurants. Do we not call foul on them because they are owned by hipsters who blend into the scenery on their bikes while quietly changing the landscape to a more upscale Oakland? Have you purchased a pound of Blue Bottle coffee, bought a donut hole for $1, or had a casual dinner for two for upwards of $60?

    I appreciate and admire the independent shop owners making their own way – often referred to as the American way – I’m not mad at them because of their prices or the fact that their shops are beautifully designed and decorated. Is an independent shop owner more acceptable because it is only one shop?

    Is the conflict with gentrification a cry to keep Oakland marching in place? Seems we’ve been working with that for years, at least the 28 years I’ve lived here, and it hasn’t garnered us much as a city.

    Perhaps the energy, creativity, and tenacity of one could inspire many. Or we could just keep doing what we have been doing and see how that goes for another decade or two.
    Brings an old saying to mind, Repeating the same behavior gets you the same results.

  10. Edna

    The announcement of this project INCLUDES affordable housing units. A lot of them. LaGrone should have actually read through it before going on this rant. Also, more housing stock generally means more places for people to live. These new people you are so against are coming here anyway.

  11. Mike

    the writer is seemingly missing the point that the more units that are made available the more affordable rents will be for everyone.

    If there is a shortage of units prices will go up even more
    , supply and demand..

  12. thorn

    this article is weird. i own a house, i love it but i recognize it needs improvements here and there–moreover i also know that a house can be a shell that you keep your stuff and can get stagnant and stuffy–but what makes it a home is when i invite people over to it, making it a vibrant place filled with fun. yeah–this analogy is corny as shit… so let’s drop it…

    look, people are moving to the bay area, because our economy is booming overall–and this article is right, we should be doing things to insure the ‘least among us’ don’t get pushed out and don’t get left behind, but what is the solution? by not building new housing for these recent transplants mean there are less options all around and the overall cost of rents goes up. the complaint for years has been oakland has a serious lack of capital infusion and needs things like more commercial shops, more grocery stores etc but when it comes, people push back in an almost knee jerk fashion. i live in west oakland, it needs an infusion of cash–i don’t want it to be the mission part two, but i also don’t want it to be the west oakland where people get gunned down in the street and its a pain in the ass to get food after 6pm or meet up with for friends/neighbors for a beer afterwork… there has to be a balance…

    i’ll admit, i moved to oakland 10 yrs ago b/c i couldn’t afford an apartment in SF. its funny to think about now that the jr 1 bd that was going for $900 back then, which was totally out of my budget at the time was recently listed for $2200–around the same as the current mortgage the home my lady friend and i share. i love this city, its why i wanted to buy a home here. i love my neighborhood, its why i go to neighborhood meetings, its why i say hello people as they walk by, why i report every dumped couch/mattress/etc i see, its why i know all my neighbors by name and interact with them on the regular.

    love it or leave it? nah, fuck that… that’s some weird ass conservative bullshit–what about love it and make it better–for everyone.

  13. Oaklander

    As an Oakland resident for over 20 years and city employee, I think we need balance as far as housing and shops go. I can’t really afford the market rents right now if I would ever lose my current rental place, and I also don’t frequent these up and coming restaurants, coffee houses, and small business shops much, because I don’t like to buy overpriced things. I too shop out of the area at discount places a couple of times a month for most of my items because they’re aren’t really any discount stores nearby other than Target or IKEA, & I don’t really care much for either. Also, I tried to buy a house in Oakland for 3 years and use their first time home buyer program, (because my income is lower) but, the cash buyers came in(mostly outsider investment corporations) & pretty much bought every house I tried to purchase, so I didn’t end up with anything. Now the prices have gone up in those 3 years and they are too high for me & I can’t get enough financing to buy anything now.It doesn’t matter anyway, unless you have CASH to purchase with. If I ever lose my rental here, I’ll probably move out of the area also, but that’s just how it is. I don’t expect anyone to grant me a middle to low income apt, but it would be nice to have more options. I’m not low income by choice. I have a disability & can’t work full time, so my income is greatly compromised.
    As far as new housing goes, it’s important to build new housing as population grows, some of it should be market value & some should be for middle & low income. I think they should build it in all areas of Oakland, not just downtown. West Oakland should be first. Since it is so close to downtown & BART, they could build lots of new housing there and people could walk or bike to downtown. They have way too much public housing in West Oakland now. They never should have built so much in one area. They should mix up the housing more with rich, middle & poor in the same neighborhoods. Get rid of liquor stores (urban blight) or having them close by 6pm might help with loitering & build some more grocery stores which are badly needed. Improve the safety over there, too.
    If new people move in with money to spend, let them spend it. It’s good for the economy. You have no control over it anyway. Most people are probably going to move out of SF in the coming years. They’re priced out of there. I work somewhere in Oakland, where everyday, I meet someone that has just moved over here from SF. Most are in their 20’s. I have friends from SF that use to tell me (years ago) that they would never live in Oakland. Now they live here. Funny how things change when they lost their rent controlled housing over there.

  14. nfroio1168

    Oakland is going to change; it just is what it is, the areas economic trend lines care not for individuals or gentrification or old vs. new. The Bay Area; of which Oakland is, as San Francisco also is, just a zip code to financial realities.

    Will economic growth in one area have ripple effects on another? Yes
    Is there anything that a city mayor can do to change this? No
    Will new people move into places that others have lived? Yes
    Does this only happen in Oakland? No

    The whole gentrification / old Oakland vs. new Oakland / displacement topic is doing nothing to help any one and only fuels more and more tension in an already tense environment.

    It is sad that some people cannot keep up with inflation; however, this is not the fault of people simply trying to eek out an existence who may move to a new city as it is affordable in an artificially over-inflated region.

    Will new people bring new ideas? Yes
    Is this a bad thing? It shouldn’t be

    I lived in San Francisco for years and I can tell you I left not because of financial reasons; but because the City sucks and has lost its soul. I moved to Vallejo as it was where I could afford to buy a house to ensure that my 3 German Shepherd Dogs had the home I promised them for their entire lives. When I divorced; I moved to Oakland; why? Mainly, the weather, the price of rentals, and the vibrancy the City exudes which is palpable and something that is real.

    Oakland doesn’t give a damn about your story, your finances, your friends, or what you do for a living, Oakland wants real folks who aren’t into the fake ass BS that SF became. The NEW people may change their surroundings; however, they won’t change the town.

    Yes, some people have been, and more people will be, displaced from where they lived for years. Yes, that sucks; but no, it is not a gentrification problem. Rent increases at a fixed % in Oakland, planning can and will keep you in your place. Bitching that gentrification cost you to lose it all, is a cop out. You lost your job? Welcome to the club; so did I, I now work and grind my ass to make my rent doing what ever it take; yard work, you bet, helping someone move, I’m down, fix your computer, okay I got that, what ever it takes, grind – THAT IS OAKLAND. Lying down and letting the ‘Man’ or ‘Gentrification’ or ‘insert what buzz word you want’ take you out is your bad – stop blaming NEW or CHANGE and lace your boots up and get yours.


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