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Councilmember McElhaney’s Proposal Would  Help “Cash-Strapped” Landlords Evict Tenants

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Proposal offers a city-subsidized “incentive” for small landlords  to displace tenants, says housing rights activist James Vann
The Oakland City Council is scheduled Tuesday to decide on a resolution proposed by Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney that would establish a city loan program to help “distressed low-income homeowners” evict their tenants when the landlord or relative wants to occupy the property.

Under this proposal, co-sponsored by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, the city would set aside $300,000 “to make available no-interest loans” to “cash-strapped” landlords to help them pay city-required relocation payments to tenants they are evicting.

The $300,000 fund would be created by re-allocating part of the $2.2 million the City Council set aside last year to provide legal representation for tenants facing eviction.

“This is common sense anti-displacement legislation that helps preserve the social and economic diversity of home ownership in our city, especially of African American and other low-income legacy owners,” said McElhaney. “This is about addressing all sides of the displacement issue and not creating pressure on legacy owners to sell the homes they want to return to.”

This past January, the City Council amended the Uniform Residential Tenant Ordinance requiring that tenants who are evicted for an owner or relative move-in receive relocation payments. Payments range from $6,500 for a studio or one-bedroom unit to $9,875 for a three or more bedrooms.

“These payments may pose a hardship for low-income and low-asset owners, especially those who need to recover possession of their homes to support themselves or relatives,” according to Councilmember McElhaney’s press statement.

To qualify for the interest-free loans, owners must meet a set of criteria:

  • Own five or fewer units
  • Be low-income or have less than six months of financial reserves
  • Be denied a cash-out refinance loan on their property, and,
  • Certify that the relative moving in is also low or moderate income and does not own any other real estate

Sharply criticizing McElhaney’s proposal, James Vann, co-founder of the Oakland Tenants Union, said that the resolution was “framed by landlord advisers to (Councilmember) McElhaney, (providing) no opportunity for tenant advocates to review or comment on the proposal” before it was introduced.

The proposal “actually (creates) an incentive for small property owners to get longstanding tenants out of their homes, and in the process, have the city pay for the eviction,” said Vann.

“Meanwhile, there is no monitoring by city. So, many of these (landlords) will only pretend to enter but may never actually occupy the freed-up unit. The owner is then able to re-rent the unit at exorbitant prices,” he said.

Business

S.F. Mayor London Breed Announces $4.5 Million in Grants to Over 560 Small Businesses

Small Business Relief Grants will award businesses with grants between $5,000 and $25,000 to help alleviate the impact of Stay-at-Home orders due to COVID-19

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Open sign for a business photo courtesy of Tim Mossholder via Unsplash

On July 23, Mayor London N. Breed and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development announced over $4.5 million in financial relief for more than 560 small businesses in the latest round of small business grants. The Small Business Relief Grants are expected to award over 700 businesses once the application review is complete. Funds can be used for rent relief, payroll, equipment, utilities and bills, and any other expenses needed to stay open, operate their business, and continue to serve the community.

“From the beginning of this pandemic, when we had to lock down the City to keep our residents safe, we knew that it was going to have a major impact on our small businesses and their employees,” said Mayor Breed. “That’s why we’ve been doing everything we can as a city, from waiving millions in fees to passing important legislation like Prop H and Shared Spaces. Our small businesses are going to lead our economic recovery, and these grants are going to help make that happen.”

The goal of the San Francisco Small Business Relief Fund is to provide immediate relief to help stabilize small business operations by offering grants of $5,000, $10,000, or $25,000. The fund targets anchor small businesses that contribute to the culture and vibrancy of neighborhood commercial corridors such as the Bayview, Central Market/Tenderloin, Chinatown, Excelsior, Lower Fillmore, Mission or in cultural districts including Japantown, Calle 24, SoMa Pilipinas, Transgender, Leather & LGBTQ, Castro LGBTQ, American Indian, and African American Arts and Cultural.

It also supports small businesses operated by people of color, women, long-standing businesses and storefronts, those most impacted by Stay-at-Home orders, and those excluded from or otherwise unable to access state and federal programs.

Over 50% of the grant recipients so far are women-owned, and nearly 80% are minority-owned small businesses that operate on thin margins. The program received a total of 843 applications and expects to award a total of over 700 businesses once the review process is complete.

“Delivering relief to our small businesses offers a lifeline essential to San Francisco’s recovery and infuses funding right into the hearts of our neighborhoods, said Assessor-Recorder Joaquín Torres. “After so much sacrifice to help protect public health, these grants are helping our small businesses bring jobs back into the community, vitality to our neighborhoods and with it the hope that better days are ahead. With this needed support, small businesses can drive the recovery we all want to see and make our city shine.”

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of San Francisco neighborhoods and employ hundreds of thousands of workers. For immigrants, women, people of color and working-class San Franciscans, running a small business is often an alternative to minimum wage jobs and can be a unique path to building wealth for their families and their communities. These grants will help small businesses get back on their feet and keep our neighborhood commercial corridors active and vibrant,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen.

Breed led a supplemental appropriation that included this grant program, and a zero-interest loan program to provide small businesses with working capital to help offset losses resulting from the pandemic. In July, the San Francisco Small Business Recovery Loan Fund was launched with the California Rebuilding Fund, which leverages investments to maximize the available loans for small businesses.

Working with State-backed lending partners and local community-based partners, the City has now leveraged additional funding to offer small businesses zero-interest loans ranging up to $100,000. Small businesses can apply online at www.CALoanFund.org.

The program is being administered through the California Rebuilding Fund in partnership with KIVA and local Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), including Main Street Launch, Mission Economic Development Agency, CDC Small Business Finance, Pacific Community Ventures, and the National Asian American Coalition.

“These funds will help me hire three more employees and extend my hours. During the pandemic I had to cut my hours because I didn’t have employees and business was so slow,” said Lamea Abuelrous, owner of Temo’s Café. “Now I have more foot traffic and my customers are asking me to stay open later. I have a lot of support from the community, I will also be remodeling my shop, painting, buying new tables and chairs.”

“The Small Business Relief Fund has been a lifeline for many of our small businesses—providing urgent capital to keep them open and operating while also keeping workers on payroll,” said Kate Sofis, director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “Our small businesses are not out of the woods, the need for additional financial relief extends beyond this pandemic. Through the leadership of Mayor Breed and the Board of the Supervisors, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development will continue to program additional investments and make available more grant dollars with our community partners for our small business community in the months ahead.”

“The SF Relief Grant highlights the Mayor’s ability to listen and respond to what small businesses on the ground were in desperate need of,” said William Ortiz-Cartagena, San Francisco Small Business Commissioner. “The application process was simple therefore making the process equitable! This grant will allow our businesses in the most disadvantaged communities, that were hardest hit by the pandemic, live to fight another day. Gracias.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, San Francisco has provided immediate and ongoing support for small businesses, including making available more than $52.8 million in grants and loans to support more than 3,000 small businesses, in addition to tens of millions of dollars in fee and tax deferrals, and assistance applying for state and federal funding. This includes legislation introduced and signed by Mayor Breed to waive $5 million in fees and taxes for entertainment and nightlife venues and small restaurants.

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Bay Area

Council President Pro Tem Sheng Thao Champions Public Safety Investments for Oakland

“My top priority is public safety, which means addressing violent crime, street safety, poverty, and homelessness. These budget amendments invest in our community and increase our Police Department’s ability to prevent and respond to violent crimes,” said Councilmember Sheng Thao, “These amendments will also protect our business corridors so Oaklanders can feel safe while they shop, and in turn, invest in our Oakland businesses.”

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San Francisco Bay Area Skyline; Photo Courtesy of Ronan Furuta via Unsplash

Oakland City Councilmember Sheng Thao, working with fellow councilmembers, community leaders, and city staff, won public safety investments for Oakland on July 26, including investments that align with the city’s reimagining public safety goals. The City Council unanimously approved her budget amendments, which included investments in:

  • Traffic Calming and Sideshow Prevention
  • Faster 911 Response
  • Restoring Foot Patrol officers in business corridors during the holiday season
  • Business District Ambassadors
  • Adding Public Restrooms near homeless encampments
  • Investments to job training and resources

“My top priority is public safety, which means addressing violent crime, street safety, poverty, and homelessness. These budget amendments invest in our community and increase our Police Department’s ability to prevent and respond to violent crimes,” said Councilmember Sheng Thao, “These amendments will also protect our business corridors so Oaklanders can feel safe while they shop, and in turn, invest in our Oakland businesses.”

Oakland Police Chief LeRonne L. Armstrong thanked Oakland City Councilmember Sheng Thao and other council members for their vote and support with additional funding. “These funds will provide walking officers in our business districts across the city during this holiday season,” he said. “The funds allow us to restore much needed public safety services, walking officers, while our community and visitors shop across our city. The COVID-19  pandemic has touched many of our vulnerable communities and businesses; we must not let crime be the driver of this holiday season, we will have walking officers to ensure community safety. “
Councilmember Thao’s amendments included direct investments in West, Central, and East Oakland, including West Oakland community centers, Central Oakland traffic safety, and Oakland 911 response.

“These amendments also help address decades of divestment from our BIPOC communities in East Oakland. By bringing investments into street safety, beautification, and city services. It is important that we stay committed to equity for East Oakland. Our office made a point to work with Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, Councilmembers Treva Reid and Loren Taylor to bring these amendments forward and I thank them for their strong partnership in this work.”

These amendments were approved unanimously by the Oakland City Council as the final step in the fiscal year ‘21-‘23 two-year budget process. You can find a copy of the final amendments here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/12LWbi8ty3SnNKX33pfUahz6n6agWXym-/view?usp=drivesdk

This report is courtesy of Oakland City Council Aide Brandon Harami.

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Business

City of Oakland’s Historic Sports Doubleheader: Black Group to Buy Coliseum Complex While Also Urging the A’s to Negotiate to Bring Community Benefits to City Through Howard Terminal

Hours of engaging discourse, bolstered by a throng of community supporters who packed the virtual council meeting with back-to-back appeals, got their wish in a 6-0-2 vote, on Monday, July 20. 

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Oakland Coliseum and Arena/Wikimedia Commons

The African American Sports & Entertainment Group (AASEG, www.aasegoakland.com), received a resounding vote from Oakland City Council members to pursue terms of ownership of the fabled, multiplex sporting venue, the Coliseum Complex.

Hours of engaging discourse, bolstered by a throng of community supporters who packed the virtual council meeting with back-to-back appeals, got their wish in a 6-0-2 vote, on Monday, July 20.  Oakland City Councilmembers approved the resolution brought forward by Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan to begin negotiations with the AASEG to acquire the City’s 50% interest of the Coliseum Complex.

The Oakland A’s bought Alameda County’s half of the Coliseum for $85 million in 2020.

This critical vote came just three days after the Alameda County Joint Powers Authority unanimously approved a resolution to begin negotiating with the AASEG to bring a WNBA team to Oakland.  With these successive actions, the AASEG can formalize negotiations with City staff toward a Purchase and Sell Agreement for the Coliseum Complex.

“This is very important,” said 96-year-old Gladys Green, chair of the Elmhurst Board in Oakland’s 7th District, where the Coliseum sits. “These Black men and women are coming back into this community at a time when we’ve lost so much. It is critical that you move forward with the AASEG proposal.”

Desmond Gumbs is the athletic director of Oakland’s century-old Lincoln University. “This is a strong group,” he said. “We are really excited about their community engagement. Let’s do this. It’s great for our community.”

Councilmembers complimented the AASEG’s impactful community outreach, citing receipt of scores of support letters, in addition to the group’s top priority to maintain a “community first” development approach.

“The historic footprint of this effort is unprecedented,” said AASEG founder Ray Bobbitt.  “It would be the largest award of public land to an African American group in the City’s 169-year history.”

The AASEG proposal includes commitments to revitalize the local community through affordable housing, job creation, public services, hospitality, life sciences, education, retail, public space, sports and entertainment activities.  Voices from the community expressed their hope for much needed infrastructure and quality of life improvements within the East Oakland community.

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