Last week Causa Justa::Just Cause (CJJC) released a report titled Development Without Displacement: Resisting Gentrification in the Bay Area. The 112-page document, prepared in collaboration with the Alameda County Public Health Department, goes beyond describing the public health implications of gentrification to proposing steps that cities like Oakland can take to stop displacement of historic residents.

Six key principles create a framework for the report’s policy recommendations:

  1. Baseline protections for vulnerable residents
  2. Production and preservation of affordable housing
  3. Stabilization of existing communities
  4. Non-market based approaches to housing and community development
  5. Displacement prevention as a regional priority
  6. Planning as a participatory process

“Because gentrification is an issue that crosses various different kinds of aspects, you actually do need a variety of policy strategies,” said Maria Zamudio, San Francisco Housing Rights Organizer with CJJC.  “There is no silver bullet to take on the housing crisis.”

Gentrification Map created by  Alameda County Public Health Department

Gentrification Map created by Alameda County Public Health Department

The report classifies neighborhoods by their place on a spectrum of gentrification. “Gentrification in different neighborhoods is in different stages, so the need for policy interventions is different,” she said.

The report lays out proposed policies, including just cause eviction ordinances, proactive code enforcement to make sure current affordable housing stock is maintained, inclusive zoning that mandates affordable housing be part of development projects, and community trainings to encourage resident participation in planning processes. A proposed community health impact analysis of new projects would be designed to help cities like Oakland welcome much-needed development while mitigating displacement.

Protesting urban renewal in San Francisco's Fillmore District.  Photo courtesy of Causa Justa

Protesting urban renewal in San Francisco’s Fillmore District. Photo courtesy of Causa Justa

“Right of first refusal” and “reparation and return” policies would allow residents displaced by habitability issues or urban renewal the opportunity to return to their former homes. A “No Net Loss” policy would “require all affordable units lost through renovation, conversion, or demolition be replaced within the same neighborhood if possible and within the same city at a minimum.” Public data on civic investment and demographic changes by neighborhood would highlight areas of  neglect and displacement where resources are most needed.

The report advocates against the market-driven planning process that is the norm in cities throughout the Bay Area. Instead, it suggests, cities should invest in affordable housing through Community Land Trusts and Limited Equity Housing Co-Ops and levy taxes aimed at making real estate speculation less attractive to investors.

zlqif57zdV_o-14iZUza4wMc081LuFM56QOlcrabHORjPhiTYlvBkAFZd3qd2pQb2w=s190“Policy fights need to be organizing opportunities,” said Zamudio, highlighting another recommendation:  to bring affected communities into the process of preventing their own displacement. “Our policies are never going to be visionary enough to take on the problem,” she said, without input from “the most impacted residents of neighborhoods” experiencing gentrification.

Some of the proposals in the report are already being implemented in other cities. San Francisco is listed as a model for a number of the proposals. Yet displacement is, if anything, a bigger problem in that city than in Oakland. “We’re seeing a compounding of impacts,” said Zamudio. “Planning by the city has been in line with changes that the speculative market wants.” She noted that demographic shifts, as working class residents are pushed out, compound the problem by raising the median income and, with it, the threshold for affordable housing. “The income of the city is unbalanced,” she said, which leads to increasing challenges in finding housing affordable to working class residents.

Public development expenditures in Oakland.  Chart by Causa Justa

Public development expenditures in Oakland. Chart by Causa Justa

Robbie Clark, Regional Housing Rights Campaign Lead Organizer with CJJC, sums up the recommendations as “Community health upheld over profit.”

“Money shouldn’t dictate how much power people have in land use developments,” Zamudio said, adding that community investment should also have value.

Clark sees several opportunities to put these policy recommendations into practice in Oakland, starting with keeping the pressure on the city council to make sure the proposed rent control changes which strengthen tenant protections, is approved when it comes before the council on April 22 and May 6.

In May, CJJC will begin a campaign to put an ordinance on the November ballot that will go after some of the strategies landlords use to get around just cause eviction laws: allowing units to become uninhabitable and harassing tenants. “This is a problem that the city knows about,” Clark said, noting that landlords may threaten to call the police or ICE if tenants complain about unhealthy living conditions. “We believe some protections need to be put in place to punish landlords that do this.”

The ballot measure would institute fines for failure to maintain habitable rental units and for threatening or harassing tenants. Pointing out that 90 percent of Oakland’s housing stock was built prior to 1978, Clark said the aim of the proposed law is “making sure that people can stay in the places where they live now.”

Art by Design Action Collective

Art by Design Action Collective

“There has been a significant shift in who owns properties, especially in heavily gentrified areas,” Clark noted. The rise in investor ownership of previously owner-occupied properties has lead to more rentals in Oakland that aren’t covered by the tenant protection laws. “This would be a significant piece of legislation to protect all tenants and not just tenants covered under the rent stabilization law,” he said.

“As we legislate against a problem, we’re never going to legislate a complete solution,” Zamudio said. “Policy interventions will always have loopholes and the market with continue to shift to find ways to make a profit.” This is why, she added, organizing and strong community involvement are crucial.

Get a copy of the full report here.

About The Author

Laura McCamy, is a freelance writer, editor and researcher, and a contributing production editor at Oakland Local. Her work also appears in Momentum Magazine and the Intuit Small Business Blog. Follow Laura on twitter @lmcwords

49 Responses

  1. rayon

    The Black middle class has been abandoning Oakland for 25 years. They want things that all families want – decent housing, better schools, and a safe and healthy place for their families.

    Now we are looking at people moving in who are generally employed. Their presence creates employment and other economic opportunity for the residents who stay. They contribute to the tax base, thus improving the schools and city services, including police services. They improve existing properties. They generally do not contribute to street crime.

    Yes, some people will be displaced. But how about having a bit of concern about the people who stay? Don’t they deserve a better city?

    The bad news is the plan to squander a bunch of tax dollars. The good news is that you can’t stop the change that is coming.

  2. OaklandNative

    I disagree that the black middle class have been abandoning Oakland (for example, many moved to the hills).

    However, there are many “decent” (to use your word) African Americans who remained for whatever reason. There are also many “decent” African Americans being displaced.

    However, do you believe that this gentrified Oakland is really showing concern for the “decent” African Americans who remain? Are most of the African Americans talking about displacement “Indecent”?

    It seems we talk about the crime more now since Oakland has “gentrified.”

  3. OaklandNative


    Before others get off track on my last comment, my point is that most African Americans who remain in Oakland are decent. Yet, we get little attention. Our concerns are “assumed.” For example, it is “assumed” that they benefit from gentrification. However, as some of the past articles have shown, many do not agree. As one man said, there is a difference between gentrification and development. He is anti-gentrification, but pro-development.

  4. rayon

    Look up the census data. Oakland’s African American population has declined by 1/4 over the past quarter century. I’m saying the people who have been leaving are primarily the middle class. People move to places like Richmond, Concord, Brentwood, Tracy, Stockton, etc.

  5. OaklandNative

    Many African Americans have relocated to those cities. But you wrote they had “abandoned” Oakland. Many were priced out.

    But my point was that most of the African Americans who remained are hard-working, law-abiding and (to use your word) decent. These are the African Americans in those recent anti-gentrification articles.

  6. rayon

    Certainly the cost of home ownership has an effect.

    But also consider middle class families with kids. They want better schools. They want to protect their kids from the violence, burglaries, car thefts, and robberies.

  7. OaklandNative

    But of those who left for better schools, less crime etc., how many would have stayed if they could have found improved conditions here? This goes back to the discussion of gentrification v. development. The man in that article wanted to improve the conditions here. He did not feel gentrification did that.

  8. OaklandNative

    You and I agree on the major part of the discussion–that many African Americans here want change.

    What we see differently is the role of gentrification. You and I agree that our schools need radical changes. Our economic system needs radical changes as well.

    Gentrification wants to be “cool” with upscale bars and expensive restaurants. It fights for dog parks to replace children play areas. I read very little about improving the schools for African American children. Instead,

  9. J-D

    With all the changes happening in Oakland, Deep East Oakland along the San Leandro border remains untouched- housing can still be purchased for pennies (100-200k) compared to the rest of oakland. Perhaps, just as California is entertaining dividing into separate states, deep east should become its own second class city. Opps…the redevelopment of Foothill square is supposed to be its savior. What a joke. Gentification will never reach this part of the city. Those that are seeking cheap and affordable…it’s open frontier.

  10. Wildeherz

    This article and the study it cites itself are shallow and one-sided. There are victims of the gentrification process and then there are those lifted out of crime-infested, moribund communities. Who wouldn’t like to live in an Oakland with more cafes, shops, and businesses supporting local jobs? Oakland is a very large city, and there’s room for some of the run-down, ramshackle neighborhoods to revive with an influx of money.

    I’d prefer to see a serious look at gentrification and the various benefits and disadvantages it brings. An article with a “Stop Gentrification Now?!” photo on page one is hardly that kind of journalism.

    I’ve lived in Oakland for 25 years and for 10 in one of the neighborhoods starting to gentrify. Frankly, I’m happy to see the improvements.

  11. OaklandNative

    You missed the point of Foothill Square. It was not to gentrify East Oakland and make it more appealing to outsiders. It was to serve the existing community.

    Obviously, you don’t like the existing community. I doubt the community really cares whether you like them or not. I wish our city leaders would stop trying to “sell” Oakland to people like you. You guys get delusions of grandeur.

  12. JR

    Growing up here, my friends and I were perplexed that Oakland was always left behind when it came to nice neighborhoods, restaurants, bars, parks, etc. Now that is finally starting to happen, groups like CJJC, with media help from Oakland Local, are trying to stop the positive happenings going on in Oakland’s neighborhoods. These are neighborhoods that were violent, that are starting to turn into livable places with the beautiful housing stock of craftmans and Victorians being brought back to life, business moving in and a general cleanup of major parts of the city that even 5 years ago you would not think of living in.
    I would think that if I were a long term resident of these areas that I would welcome the positive change. My home would be worth more, and if I rented the strong rent control in this city would allow me to take advantage of a below market rate rent.
    I take out of the study by CJJC just about as much as I would a study about the environment by an oil company. CJJC are poverty pimps trying to justify their existence. Whether they know it or actually believe in what they are doing, their actions do not help the people that they are trying to help.

  13. J-D

    Foothill Square was redeveloped to serve the existing community? Are you talking about the same community that did not utilize Albertsons that was there for years? Or are you speaking of the community that requires bullet-proof glass to be installed at subway? Or are you talking about the community that dumps an enormous volume if litter on the ground daily and paint graffiti on businesses in the area? Or the community that requires a security guard to be stationed at the shopping center to protect the patrons? Or are you speaking of the demographic that underutilizes Durrant Square establishments just down the road? Eventually it’ll all just degrade and be another crappy part of the city with blight. Missed the boat? Umm…if you want change then you need to attract the Trader Joes, Whole Foods, restaurant and coffee going demographic. Those people will demand services, better schools, better police protection, better amenities and the such because they actual pay for things and are not just there for handouts. And yes…the long term residents of the area will benefit by increased housing values and better amenities. Regardless of ones racial, social, ethic background- EVERYONE benefits /enjoys clean and safe as opposed to blighted.

  14. OaklandNative

    JR and J-D,
    We not saying not to improve our neighborhoods. We’re saying we want improvements and we want to decide the improvement. We live here and the improvements should benefit us–not simply attract others. We, not others, should decide what improvements we want.

  15. Tim

    “We live here and the improvements should benefit us–not simply attract others. We, not others, should decide what improvements we want.”

    A great strategy for ensuring nothing gets done. Nobody owes you development to your exact standards to benefit you and only you. Status quo forever!

  16. seamus

    At least downtown isn’t a ghost town like it used to be. The lake is safe during the day now, mostly. There’s cafes and shops popping up in West Oakland & Temescal.

    I think some affordable housing should be fostered, like the current project at the bottom of the lake, but there shouldn’t be so much affordable housing, people close businesses & flee nearby neighborhoods for safety reasons. That is also a form of displacement, by the way.

  17. John

    We might as well build a moat around the communities that “need” to be preserved….

    Joking aside, how’s this going to work exactly? Let’s say a neighborhood has been run-down for years, crime-ridden, bad schools, etc.., how do you get to change said neighborhood by playing according to the old rules? You could forgive the “newcomers” for thinking that since the “status quo” has turned out not so well, perhaps something different should be tried.

    I would strongly agree that the current “stakeholders” have a say in these matters, but I strongly disagree that they have veto power in these matters because “they were here first”

  18. Tim

    “Nothing gets done? Says who?”

    External private investment whose form is completely dictated by current residents is not an option.

  19. J-D

    If you discount stores, more beauty supply, and fast food places keep maintaining the status quo in deep east oakland. Fast forward any duration you want and it’ll be the same crime ridden, poor school performing, marginalized housing market, etc. However, those areas which have already, and those that will progress, will entertain change on multiple levels. The marginal redevelopment in the area is not uplifting it to any new levels. Why is it that the housing market in every other part of Oakland is going crazy, prices soaring to pre-crash levels, while deep east oakland remains stagnant with prices barely reach above pre-crash levels. Because any logical person realizes that nothing is going on, it’s not safe and the amenities suck. I’m not saying that we should cater to the lowest denominator or highest is numerator, but something in between. Unfortunately, some people are only concerned with keeping rents/house values marginalized and sevices catered only to those at the lower spectrum. Good luck with that- even downtown detriot is thriving while the rest of the city continues to crumple because people are resistant to change.

  20. OaklandNative

    I know many African American homeowners in East and West Oakland who take pride in their homes. They talk about doing work all the time. They might not have the money, but they do the work themselves.

    Many of the blighted buildings belong to landlords or property owners who do not live in the area.

    I know people who rent who complain because their landlords don’t keep up the properties. Sometimes, they do work on it themselves. Sometimes, they don’t have money to do the work.

    I know there is a difference in the way most of the homes in Piedmont look compared to the homes in parts of East Oakland. But I think you have to take into account the differences in wealth. You cannot assume the people in East Oakland care less about their homes or don’t know what they want if they had the resources. You cannot assume they don’t know any better.

  21. OaklandNative

    Also, keep in mind that most criminals cannot afford to live in Piedmont, so they live in poorer neighborhoods. That does not mean everyone in the poorer neighborhood is a criminal. It means that criminals are more likely to move next door to them.

    Also, certain types of businesses take less capital to start than others. So poorer neighborhood will more likely have such businesses.

  22. OaklandNative

    By the way, visit Piedmonth High School or Middle School. Compare those schools to East and West Oakland schools in terms of privilege. Then try talking about “merit” and “equal opportuntiy” with a straight face.

  23. J-D

    How much do it cost to pick up your own trash? Last I checked – nothing. I knew someone would make it all about race. Since that’s what’s apparently important- seems like a lot of catering to a subset in the population that is no longer the majority.

  24. Eric K Arnold

    J-D wrote:

    ” I knew someone would make it all about race. Since that’s what’s apparently important- seems like a lot of catering to a subset in the population that is no longer the majority.”


    interesting comment, since according to the 2010 census, Oakland is 64% non-white. also, since when is gentrification NOT about race as well as economics and the politics of development? did you honestly think you could discuss gentrification without discussing race?

    that said, i havent seen one comment on here acknowledging that other races besides African Americans and whites live in Oakland. Latinos, Asians–they are impacted by gentrification as well. so the comment about “catering to a subset” misses the mark entirely. especially since most of the pro-gentrification arguments seem to be about catering to a subset of the population called Caucasians, without explicitly admitting that.

    Earlier, a good point was raised about the black middle class leaving Oakland. Obviously, that doesnt account for all of the drop from 47% A/A majority in 1990 to the current 27%.

    So i think the question becomes, how do we develop the city, improve quality of life, and maintain diversity? Such questions should not be left up to developers and real estate agents. You wouldnt trust a banker to create policy around income equality, would you? Or OPD to be the sole determiner of police accountability?

    I dont think anyone–not CJJC, nor the anti-gentrification posters–are saying, “hey, let’s maintain the culture of poverty because it’s what we know and love.”

    But one need only go to Walnut Creek and its 94% white population to see the link between income and lack of diversity. Do we want that to be Oakland in 10 years? Diversity is usually cited as among the top 5 or top 3 reasons people move here. If new residents are helping to eradicate that by their very presence, that becomes a terrible irony.

    At the root of all of this is job creation and earning potential, which is linked to education–as well as environment. If you look at new mixed-use housing developments in west Oakland, the affordable housing is always situated closer to the freeways. With housing prices rising daily, the lack of home ownership for non-whites becomes not just a concern, but an epidemic.

    How do we solve this?

    I dont expect most posters here to have the answers–most are too opinionated or unwilling to do any real research to be able to frame their arguments within an accurate context, much less make on-point policy statements.

    But clearly the need exists for sensible policy which supports quality of life increases but not mass displacement which changes Oakland’s demographics to the point where it could be Orinda. Without quality public education, workforce development, and investment in the inner-city, that’s exactly what we’re looking at.

    So it’s not “all about race,” it’s also about class.

  25. John

    I hear, from various sources around the web, that zoning has a lot to do with increased housing costs. Once such article is below:

    Apparently this rent affordability thingy is not exclusively a Bay Area affair:

    I also hear that stringent zoning requirements and limits make luxury condos more profitable to build than affordable housing:

    That makes me wonder whether anger against gentrifiers – often people displaced from other cities or neighborhoods – might be misdirected. Also makes me wonder if having suburban density within urban boundaries, at a time when urban cores are becoming more and more popular, makes sense anymore. But, shhhh, this topic might not sit well with the Not-In-My-Back-Yard crowd so we’re likely to hear from them..

  26. rayon

    Just build a lot of housing. Quit throwing down barriers.

    City government isn’t there to solve all the problems. If you don’t build a lot of housing, yes, you will see massive displacement.

  27. JR

    “We not saying not to improve our neighborhoods. We’re saying we want improvements and we want to decide the improvement. We live here and the improvements should benefit us–not simply attract others. We, not others, should decide what improvements we want.”

    What you are saying is that you want so many arguing voices involved in the process that nothing will get done, pretty much status quo. I have no problem with the current projects under construction or the WOSP that was a topic last week. These developments are great improvements over what is already there. All the residential projects have to have an affordable housing aspect included as well. There are around 600 affordable housing units being built right now with the MacAurther Bart Transit village, Brooklyn Basin and the project on Grand Ave (who is going to pay for all the increased services that these people historically have used?). I would like to see the city take advantage of its low rents and lure new tax paying (not non profit) business and more market rate housing for all the people who want to move to Oakland, so as not to displace current residents.

  28. rayon

    While you guys are bickering about what you want and don’t want…. While you guys are demanding this and that … You are slowing down new construction.

    It is the lack of available housing that drives displacement.

    Your demands make you part of the problem.

  29. OaklandNative

    Eric is right. Gentrification is really about race.

    I’ve heard all the comments on here before. If a white person gets comfortable with me or is drunk, race is mentioned freely (“Why don’t black people just . . . .”). If we’re in a public place, I hear the same words, except race is left out (“Why can’t poor people just . . .”). Then, if I fill in the blank and bring race back in the discussion, the white person plays victim and says something like “Oh boy. Here we go with the race thing again.”

    It’s like asking why I only see crowds of whites leaving Fox Theater?

    So based on the comments on here, how can Oakland be an example of “diversity”?

  30. Seamus

    Oakland is diverse, but the groups tend not to hang out with each other. That’s why I like Lucky’s on e 18th near the lake. It’s like the UN.

    I’ll bite. Why do you see only white people leaving the FOX theater?

  31. rayon

    Oakland’s affordable housing policies have created much of the problems we see today. By demanding discounted rents from apartment developers, Oakland made sure that very little would be built. Oakland made most new apartment buildings unfeasible, and the developers didn’t bother to build them.

    So now we have a shortage of housing – including a shortage of affordable housing. And that is the cause of displacement.

    Imagine how much of the problem would be solved if we had encouraged housing development instead of stopping it. Oakland tried to get something for nothing. It doesn’t work that way.

  32. Jonatton Yeah?

    Meanwhile somebody was shot to death in West Oakland at 9:00 AM this morning because gentrification is the big problem in Oakland.

  33. OaklandNative


    I don’t think we should do what San Francisco did. They tore down the low-income housing claiming they would renovate them. Instead, they built “mixed-income” housing. The people who lived in the low-income housing had to leave San Francisco and couldn’t afford to come back to the newly-built “affordable housing.” Does Oakland have a similar plan?


    Since I’m not involved with the promoter, I can only tell you my personal experience with Fox.

    Over the years, they’ve only had a couple of acts there that interested me or anybody I know. I rarely hear African Americans talk about going there. However, I see crowds of mainly white people there so obviously the performances there appeal to a mainly white crowd. It really stands out in a city with Oakland’s demographics. And one has to really try to hard to pretend not to see the racial contrast.

  34. rayon


    My son is moving here in two months. Oakland prevented development of new housing. So I guess he’ll have to take over some existing place.

  35. OaklandNative

    My point is that San Francisco never should have torn down the low-income housing. They did not replace them with other low-income housing.

  36. rayon


    My son will want the names of the landlords for those people you are trying to protect.

    And there are another 20,000 coming just like him.

  37. James Miller


    You need to hang around some better white people. We dont always say dumb shit like that (sober or drunk).

  38. John

    Hahaha… I just read the link posted by Wildeherz which linked to another one:

    It’s hilarious, apparently Mountain Viewers are up in arms against “gentrification” as well and fear the techies just as much as San Franciscans and Oaklanders. So, maybe, gentrification is not about race after all (not sure about MV demographics, though). Some of the comments are enlightening:

    “Google has been a good neighbor, but they have to remember that, regardless of how large they grow, this is still a town of the people of Mountain View, not of the company. WE still live here too (some, like me, our entire lives), and don’t wish to be crowded out by high-tech workers bought in from overseas. Let them commute here. That’s what we have buses, light rail and Cal-Train for.”

    “Great news. I would have dreaded the flux of techies acting as tourists in our city. Not to mention that Google employees are trained in the art of jaywalking.”

  39. OaklandNative

    I shows me that people in Oakland are as proud of their home as the people in Mountain View.

  40. John

    Nothing wrong with being proud of one’s home, but the average rent in Mountain View is now $2,700/month, and I’m sure a lot of long-term Oakland residents might not be too enthused about that prospect (although we’re quickly getting there).

    Point is, if thousands of techies, millennials or empty nesters have chosen to leave the suburbs for the city, nimbysm or rent-control will do little to stop them – and prices will increase for everyone as a result.

  41. Jame

    Re: Fox Theater
    I have been once, Mary J. Blige was playing. For obvious reasons, the crowd was pretty different than the crowd for Fleet Foxes. As it stands at the moment, the Paramount and the Fox get wildly different acts.

  42. Maximillien

    How much do you want to bet that all the folks decrying displacement also fought against any new housing projects their neighborhoods? The economy waits for no-one, and if an area’s housing stock isn’t allowed to grow commensurate with a growing local economy, folks will inevitably get displaced in boom times. It happens again and again, and yet nobody seems to learn the lesson, and folks go right back to their knee-jerk NIMBY ways once the pressure is off.

    Choose your stance: anti-development or anti-displacement. You can’t have it both ways.

  43. rayon

    Maximillien – Well said!

    All the rules about construction and renter protection eventually come back to bite you. The effect has been to severely limit the incentives for developers to build apartments. They don’t want to bother with us.

    Then, if someone wants to build something, Oakland insists on “affordable housing,” and wants to protect every last renter at the site from displacement. The consequence is that only a few are protected, and eventually many are displaced.

    If you want to substantially prevent displacement, build the housing. That way, new residents do not automatically displace the old residents.

    Get government out of the business of micro-managing real estate. As Spock says, “…. the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

    The mayor’s plan for 10,00 housing units is doomed simply by the requirement that 25% of the units be “affordable housing.” All I can think is that the plan is merely election year rhetoric thrown to the masses.

  44. OaklandNative

    What has also happened is that the economy shifts. Right now, the economy is booming. We are building houses as if the economy will always boom. This is not reality.

    At some point, when you build a lot of housing, you eventually get to the point where there is no more shortage (possibly even overbuild) and the rent and housing prices go down. Again, the values of their homes drop.

    When the economy shifts, many of the people who raised the rents will have to move away or get cheaper housing. In addition, because you have less demand, the cost will drop.

    So all the people being displaced may be able to come back and fill up those new housing after all. Then the gentrifiers will complain about the poor people filling up their communities.

    Kind of ironic, isn’t it?

  45. OaklandNative

    The bottomline is that all the people being pushed out may be able to come back to new homes!


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