Press "Enter" to skip to content

Oakland Rules and Legislation discuss gentrification in committee meeting

On Nov. 2, the city of Oakland’s Rules and Legislation Committee was urged by concerned residents and a council member to take action against the housing crisis in the city.

Upon the request of Adam Benson, the financial manager of the city of Oakland, the Rules and Legislation Committee consolidated two items put forth by the Housing and Community Development Department. 

According to the committee meeting’s agenda, the first item requested the authorization to add additional positions to the rent adjustment program, which handles disagreements between tenants and property owners regarding issues such as rent increase and eviction. The second item proposed an amendment to Resolution No. 86179 C.M.S., which would create new positions for the two grant-funded seismic retrofit FEMA programs in Oakland for a duration of three years. 

The first of these items had the most uproarious oppositional responses during the open forum from the Oaklanders in attendance. This item, which pertains to a rent adjustment program, was revisited by council member Desley Brooks of District Six later in the meeting. 

“We are in a housing crisis, and more and more people are being pushed out of their homes,” Brooks said. “I have, in my district, tenants who were given a $1,300 a month rent increase by a property owner who bought most of his properties in foreclosure. That is unconscionable.” 

Brooks is requesting that on Dec. 5, her fellow council members approve her amendment to part of the Oakland Municipal Code. Her provisions will require landlords to extend relocation to tenants who are forced to move due to a 10 percent or more increase in their rent. These tenants are in units that are exempt from the rent arbitration ordinance or just cause eviction protections, and they are evicted following the increase in their rent, or for no cause, according to a document read by LaTonda Simmons, the city clerk. 

“We are in a crisis. I think we need to move with urgency,” Brooks said after the city attorney indicated that this meeting item should be postponed to a date beyond Dec. 5. “There are people being displaced all over the place.”

The item was also a contentious topic during the open forum portion of the meeting.

“I told this council last February when you were jockeying around over addressing a moratorium on rent stabilization, but you didn’t want to do anything about it,” Gene Hazzard said, a frequent City Council meeting attendee. “The coalition of tenants’ rights folks – you want to push them to the side to prevent them from bringing forward a substantive ordinance that could address this, and now the city attorney claims they’ve got to review it. That’s crazy. This is an urgent matter.”

Another frequent meeting attendee, Assata Olugbala, cited a report by Richmond Confidential, which reiterated the increased out-migration of African-Americans in Oakland and Richmond.  

“Oakland lost almost 50,000 African-American residents between 1980 and 2010, a 19 percent decline,” she read. “A study in 2015 by PolicyLink has identified that the growth of Oakland with Latinos has been a 13 percent increase since 2010, 7.8 percent increase of whites, and a 7.8 percent increase of Asians.”

As she continued, she expressed her disappointment in the idea that members of all of these ethnicities, with the exception of African-Americans, have had the opportunity to grow in areas, such as education, housing and healthcare, despite none of these ethnicities being more valuable than another.

Approaching the microphone once more, towards the end of the meeting, Hazzard gave a passionate plea for the council members to hear their concerns and consider this matter with more criticality. 

“You fail to look at the economics of Black folks in this town,” Hazzard said. “You fail to look at the exodus of Black folks in this town. Some by choice, others by force. You need to wake up, city council members, and stop thinking that this crisis does not exist.”