By Kate O'Hara, EBASE Community Benefits Program Director
In many metro regions across the country, communities have been struck by the enormous amount of urban infill, large-scale condo projects, and commercial development that is pricing working families out and perpetuating working poverty through low-road employment opportunities. Have you ever questioned whether you’d have the privilege of buying a home in regions like this or wondered how much workers get paid in newly constructed retail stores?
You’re not the only one! All of these projects are hard to ignore, and development issues are on the minds of many. In Oakland, California it’s such a hot topic that over 400 people – including union members, community residents, environmentalists, service providers, and students - gathered on Saturday, November 17th for Building Oakland for Everyone: A Summit on Jobs, Housing, and Justice. The gym at St. Anthony’s Elementary School in the San Antonio district could barely hold this energetic crowd voicing their visions for Oakland’s growth.
The Summit was co-sponsored by the Oakland NetWork for Responsible Development (ONWRD) and the Oakland People’s Housing Coalition (OPHC). ONWRD is a broad coalition of thirteen labor, community, housing, and environmental organizations working to harness the power of economic development to create real benefits for working communities. OPHC is a coalition of community, housing, interfaith, tenant, and labor organizations calling for a comprehensive affordable housing agenda in Oakland. The Summit was informed by Putting Oakland to Work, a new report released the day before by the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy and ONWRD.
The day got started with the premiere of a short film entitled, “Oakland Speaks,” which highlighted five Oaklanders’ struggles with low wage jobs and unemployment, overpriced housing, and unsafe and unhealthy conditions in their neighborhoods. This new film will soon be available online for viewing. Stay tuned for the wide public release!
ONWRD and OPHC leaders then made brief presentations on concrete steps the City can take to begin addressing development issues. Their recommendations include:
- Put 10,000 high need Oakland residents to work in living wage jobs by prioritizing industry sectors that provide job entry and job ladders, as well as providing good pay to support families.
- Expect more from new development, including expanding existing local hire, labor standards, and the evaluation of potential project impacts.
- Create housing that Oakland’s families can afford by increasing the amount of and funding for affordable rental and ownership housing and strengthening tenant protections.
- Build safe, healthy communities by separating homes and industries, promoting sustainable construction practices, enforcing worker health and safety laws, and attracting green businesses that provide healthy, good-paying jobs.
Elected officials and honored guests then responded to these recommendations and shared their own visions. Guests included Assemblywoman Loni Hancock; Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson; Alameda County Board of Education Trustee Gay Cobb, Oakland City Councilmembers Jane Brunner, Pat Kernighan, and Nancy Nadel; Oakland School Board Members Kerry Hammil and Greg Hodge, and Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby. Josie Camacho of Mayor Ron Dellums' office, Richard Cowan, Chief of Staff for Oakland City Councilmember Jean Quan, new Port of Oakland Commissioners Victor Uno and Margaret Gordon, and Merlin Edwards of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce also participated in the event.
Over lunch, participants discussed their experiences and hopes for Oakland in small breakout groups held in English, Spanish, and Cantonese. Together, Summit participants set forth a new vision, one in which the city harnesses new economic development to create good paying jobs for residents, affordable homes, and safe, healthy communities. In the coming weeks, ONWRD will release a Summary of Proceedings documenting the ideas and solutions Oaklanders shared. Stay tuned to receive a copy!
As a first step towards making this vision a reality, hundreds of people then signed post cards calling on City Councilmembers to adopt a development strategy putting the needs of Oaklanders first. Participants also received colorful green signs proudly stating "Build Oakland for Everyone" in three languages. As the summit adjourned, every person in the room held their sign high, affirming their commitment to push for development meeting the needs of their community.
Moving forward, EBASE and ONWRD will be continuing to collect postcards calling on City Councilmembers to build Oakland for everyone. We will also be encouraging people to hang Build Oakland for Everyone signs in their home and business windows. If you would like to help collect postcards in your neighborhood or would like your own window sign, please contact Shabneez Manji at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will also be giving presentations about the research in Putting Oakland to Work and Oaklanders’ vision for a just and inclusive economy.
Many thanks to the Co-Sponsors and Endorsers of the People’s Summit:
Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Oakland ACORN, the Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, Communities for a Better Environment, the East Bay Community Law Center, EBASE, East Bay Housing Organizations, the Ella Baker Center, Just Cause Oakland, Public Advocates, Urban Habitat, the Urban Strategies Council, the Workforce Development Collaborative, Oakland Tenants Union, Oakland Community Organizations, Alameda County Green Party, American Federation of State County Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 192, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), California Nurses Association (CNA), Carpenters Local Union (UBC) 713, Centro Legal de la Raza, East Bay Young Democrats, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 70, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Northern California District Council, Lucha Unida del Jornalero, Union of Needletrades Industrial Textile Employees Hotel Employees Restaurant Employees (UNITE HERE) Local 2850, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 5, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1877, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 24/7, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) United Healthcare Worker (UHW) West, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) United Long Term Care Workers (ULTCW) Union Local 6434.
The “Building Oakland for Everyone” Summit was funded in part by the generous support of the French American Charitable Trust (FACT) and the Akonadi Foundation.