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OPINION – Black Communities Hit by Housing Affordability, COVID Economy Should Vote ‘Yes’ on Prop. 21

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Cynthia Davis is chair of the Board of Directors of AIDS Healthcare Foundation and one of the five citizen proponents of Prop. 21.

It’s no secret there is a housing affordability crisis in California. And a homelessness crisis of epic proportion. Both deeply and disproportionately affect Black communities across the state.

Black people are not only being pushed out of our major cities into the suburbs and exurbs of California but often entirely out of the state to places with more affordable housing. Many were pushed out by gentrification and escalating costs, be it a mortgage, rent, or other unaffordable living costs. 

As California’s population grew from 29 million to 39 million over the past 30 years, the Black population in California dwindled to just 5.8% of the general population.  

Of those African Americans who remain in the Golden State, two-thirds (65.6%) are now renters. At the same time, homeownership rates for Black Americans nationwide have been falling.

What can the African American community do to combat California’s runaway rents and rising housing costs?

Learn about and vote ‘Yes!’ on Prop. 21, the Rental Affordability Act, this election.

Prop. 21 will limit unfair rent increases and preserve affordable housing, especially in historically Black and minority communities that are particularly vulnerable to displacement due to high rents and stagnant wages. 

The law returns the decision-making process on whether to allow or enact rent control measures to local jurisdictions, communities, and local elected officials.  It will not mandate or require rent control anywhere in California. The measure simply allows local communities to decide what’s best for them.

Currently, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, a one-size, fits-all state law restricts rent control throughout California, while freezing rent control laws that had already been enacted by the time the law passed.

Prop. 21 modernizes rent control by allowing local governments to limit rent increases on buildings older than 15 years, protecting millions of renters while incentivizing new housing construction.

Prop. 21 is endorsed by California Congresswomen Karen BassMaxine Waters, and Barbara Leethe California Democratic Partyactor/activist Danny Glover, Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action NetworkLos Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson, SEIU CaliforniaACLU of Southern California, the Los Angeles Urban League, the Brotherhood Crusade and Reed for Hope Foundation. 

The Los Angeles Times endorsed Prop. 21 and the Sierra Club and a dozen or so unions and labor organizations are also backing Prop. 21 including SEIU California, California Federation of Teachers, AFSCME California PEOPLE, United Auto Workers (UAW) Region 8, UAW Local 2865 and many others that have thrown their full support behind Prop 21.

Also endorsing: the California Nurses Association (CNA), representing over 100,000 nurses who have been on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, bearing witness firsthand to the tremendous medical, humanitarian and economic damage the virus has caused—much of it to Black and brown families.

For Black people in California, these facts remain unchanged: systemic racism and displacement has caused a disproportionate number of Black people to become homeless.

In L.A. County, where 8% of the overall population is Black, Black people represent 34% of those experiencing homelessness. And eviction rates in Black communities are far higher than in white communities. In L.A. County, 30% of all renters facing eviction are African American. 

California remains the epicenter of homelessness in America, with fully 27% of the country’s homeless living in The Golden State. California has the highest poverty rate as measured by the cost of living, and many renters pay half their income or more in monthly rent. 

This means that as a very first step, we need to work now to protect the growing number of African American renters from facing evictions, displacement, and homelessness.

Prop. 21 can be that step.

Prop. 21 gives cities and counties the power to implement and expand rent control policies that limit how much rents can increase each year. It would allow local communities to:

  • Expand rent control to more buildings while exempting newly constructed buildings.
  • Exempt single-family homeowners who own up to two homes.
  • Allow limits on rent increases when a new renter moves in.

 Prop. 21 is one way to help to preserve the social and economic fabric of our state. 

Vote ‘Yes’ on Prop. 21 this election and help keep families — particularly Black families — in their homes. 

Cynthia Davis is chair of the Board of Directors of AIDS Healthcare Foundation and one of the five citizen proponents of Prop. 21.

 

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Business

A’s Owner John Fisher Port Proposal No Good for Oakland

Billionaire John Fisher, owner of the A’s, has things to do before he can take over Oakland’s public port property to build malls and housing for the rich. 

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Howard Terminal on Port of Oakland Map

OPINION

Billionaire John Fisher, owner of the A’s, has things to do before he can take over Oakland’s public port property to build malls and housing for the rich. 

It is such a bad idea and the costs to the public are so ridiculous that logically it shouldn’t happen.  But this right-wing, Trump-supporting Republican has a boatload of money and a few corporation-oriented politicians to help him push it through.  

So, Oaklanders need to be active, or he might get it. Here are two of the things we need to act on: 

  1. Fisher won’t spend his own money.  So, he wants Alameda County to give up spending on things like the COVID-19 pandemic, so we residents can pay for his project with taxpayer money.  The vote on this will come up to the Board of Supervisors on October 26.  If you’d prefer that the County fund health care, housing and other resident necessities, ask them to vote “No.” Call your supervisor at 510-208-4949 and/or attend the meeting.
  2. The Oakland City Council will make the ultimate decision about Fisher’s project and there are a zillion reasons they should say “No.”  Among them: a) Fisher’s project requires that thousands of people run across the tracks of a busy railroad, which killed a number of people even before there were big crowds needing to get to their condos or a stadium.   b) And  Fisher’s project would wreck Oakland’s Port.  The “Seaport Compatibility Measures” necessary to keep the Port alive would cost hundreds of millions of dollars which would not be needed if it were not for Fisher’s project.  So, Fisher, not taxpayers, should pay for them. c)  And then there are all the other ways it will hurt the waterfront, the environment, and Port workers.

You can get contact information to reach your Council member here – https://www.oaklandca.gov/officials

Personally, any public official who votes for Fisher’s project will never get my vote again.   Call me hard-headed, but the harm to  Oakland as a working-class, multi-racial city, the harm to the ILWU (the union of Port workers, perhaps the most progressive union in America)  and the opposition of the people of East Oakland are enough to make my hard head think that’s what solidarity requires.

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Business

Development Group Proposes Black Panther Film Studios at Coliseum

Elaine Brown, former Black Panther Party leader and CEO of Oakland & the World Enterprises (OAW), has teamed up with master developer McCormack Baron Salazar (MBS), to create The Coliseum Dream development project.

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Elaine Brown via Twitter

Elaine Brown, former Black Panther Party leader and CEO of Oakland & the World Enterprises (OAW), has teamed up with master developer McCormack Baron Salazar (MBS), to create The Coliseum Dream development project.

Highlights of the Dream project are: readiness to purchase the city’s 50% interest; positive discussions with the Oakland A’s; installation of Black Panther Studios as development anchor, which will be the first Black-owned film studio on the West Coast; ability to finance the entire development, estimated at $5 billion; building of hundreds of affordable housing units; development of a luxury hotel and department store; creating and supporting youth tech, arts and business training centers; construction of a supermarket in a food desert; making Oakland a tourist destination.

Vince Bennett, president and CEO of MBS, a multi-billion-dollar housing developer based in St. Louis, said: “MBS is ready to immediately enter into a purchase and sale agreement with the City of Oakland and become the master developer of the entire site.”

The Coliseum Dream Development Group (CDDG) recognizes the impossibility of developing the Coliseum site solely by purchasing the city’s 50% interest. Partnership with the other 50% interest owner, the Oakland A’s, is necessary.  

Brown says she has discussed the site with Dave Kaval, A’s president, over the last few years, and said, “Dave has stated he loves the idea of Black Panther Studios as the anchor of CDDG’s development vision.”

The problem CDDG faces is not readiness on its part but the City Council’s unwillingness to entertain proposals other than those two they hand-picked in a recent closed session.

In a closed session scheduled for Thursday, October 7, the Council considered the merits of its two preferred proposals, based on reports from the City Administrator.  This closed session meeting arose from a vote of the Council’s Rules Committee on Thursday, September 30.  

In lieu of allowing Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan’s request to push through a resolution at the Council’s October 19 meeting to enter into an agreement with the group she is promoting, the Council decided to consider the two proposals.  

It’s unclear what happens next.

Brown said, “There is no process regarding the sale of the city’s interest in the Coliseum, certainly not one that is transparent.”

In a statement to the Oakland Post, Brown submitted the following questions and answers:

Q:  Everybody talks about jobs and housing.  Will your group be able to deliver on the promise in your Coliseum Dream proposal to create jobs and build affordable housing for the community?

A (Elaine Brown): “Oakland & the World Enterprises (OAW), of which I am CEO, is presently co-developing a $72 Million, 79-unit, 100% affordable housing project in West Oakland with master housing developer McCormack Baron Salazar (MBS), headed by CEO and President Vince Bennett. 

“This reflects my ongoing commitment to the ideal of the Black Panther Party, of which I was a leading member, of Black self-determination.  The track record of MBS for building affordable housing is without parallel.  Not only has MBS built thousands of affordable housing units throughout the U.S., as well as, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, MBS is currently building a $1 billion development in Dayton, Ohio, the Dayton Arcade, which includes hundreds of affordable housing units and is bringing residents, jobs, and visitors back to downtown Dayton.  

“Our Coliseum Dream anchor project, Black Panther Studios, alone, will create thousands of new, high-tech jobs, and we will build an affiliated tech training center to create a new generation of Black, tech-savvy “digital carpenters” to make films and enter the tech economy at a high end.

Q:  Even if you are willing and able to purchase the City’s 50% interest in the Coliseum site, how can you develop the site without either purchasing the A’s 50% or partnering with the A’s?

A, (Elaine Brown): “Our team is prepared to purchase the City’s 50% interest outright, today.  We have not discussed purchasing the A’s 50% interest with the A’s, but, if that were an option, we would take it.  We have been in discussions with Dave Kaval, A’s president, over the last two years about our Coliseum Dream, and Dave has unequivocally stated that if we were to acquire the City’s 50%, he would work with us.  And, we have told Dave, we are willing to partner with the A’s.”

The Dream Proposal is available here: https://bit.ly/thecoliseumdream

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Featured

Kaiser Permanente, Habitat for Humanity, Oakland Community Land Trust Create More Affordable Housing Options

Families will soon move into two newly rehabilitated single-family homes on Manila Avenue near the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center

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Oct 18, 2019 Oakland / CA / USA - Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in East San Francisco Bay Area; Kaiser Permanente is an American integrated managed care consortium, based in Oakland

Two newly renovated homes on Manila Avenue in Oakland will provide families with more affordable housing options and help transform the surrounding neighborhood near the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center, the health organization announced on October 1.

Kiet Dang and his family will be moving into one of the two homes later this year. The family of three is now living with seven other people in a single-family home with one bathroom. The family sleeps in one bedroom, takes turns in the kitchen, and has little privacy. They are looking forward to finally having a home to call their own and a separate bedroom for their 12-year-old son to study and draw.
“This is very exciting for us,” Dang said. “With this house, our family can have more time together. That’s very important to me.”

In 2005, Kaiser Permanente purchased four single-family homes on Manila Avenue while constructing the Oakland Medical Offices on Broadway. The homes were later donated to Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley and Oakland Community Land Trust as part of Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to provide more stable, affordable housing in the communities it serves. Since 2019, Kaiser Permanente Northern California has invested $41 million to build and preserve affordable housing for low-income residents.

“Kaiser Permanente recognizes that it’s impossible to maintain good health without a safe and stable place to live,” said Carrie Owen Plietz, FACHE, president of Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s region. “We are excited to be a part of this effort, and to help residents find permanent housing where they can raise their families. We know the places where we live, learn, work and play have the greatest influence on our physical, mental and social well-being.”

Kaiser Permanente partnered with Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley and Oakland Community Land Trust because of their commitment to establishing permanent affordable housing for communities that have been disproportionately excluded from home ownership as a result of income, unfair lending practices, and housing discrimination. The two non-profit organizations have been making significant improvements to two of the four homes for several months. Volunteers have worked to renovate the homes while maintaining the quality and character of the neighborhood. Those who purchase the Habitat homes must also put in hundreds of hours of sweat equity work into the construction and rehabilitation.

“It’s incredible to see, firsthand, the stability achieved, and opportunities gained by families who are able to own their own homes,” said Janice Jensen, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley. “Homeownership has been this family’s dream for many years. We’re so grateful for this generous donation from Kaiser Permanente, and to be a part of this family’s dream.”

The homes are sold through stable, affordable mortgages to families typically priced out of the market. Families earning low and moderate incomes are eligible to purchase the homes. Renovations on the remaining two homes will begin in the coming months, with families moving in early next year.

“We are excited to be nearing the completion of the rehabilitation of the first of our two homes,” said Steve King, executive director of the Oakland Community Land Trust. “This partnership has enabled us to provide deeply affordable ownership for low-income families in a high opportunity neighborhood – something that is increasingly difficult to do as home prices in Oakland continue to exceed what is affordable for most households.”

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