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Small Businesses Protest AC Transit International Blvd. Project

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Small business owners on International Boulevard held a rally this week calling on AC Transit and city officials to mitigate the negative impacts of the new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, which utilize dedicated bus lines in the middle of the boulevard, eliminating traffic lanes and reducing street parking.

“We ‘re not trying to stop the BRT, but we want to make sure that BRT doesn’t stop us, ” said Andy Nelson, of East Bay Asian Youth Center, speaking at the rally.

“The BRT should be for everybody. We are not all new and shiny, but we are definitely East Oakland,” said Nelson. He pointed that there are 900 businesses with 2,500 employees located on International Boulevard, including markets, appliance and furniture stores and auto and truck repair shops.

The rally was held Tuesday at the intersection of 20th Avenue and International Boulevard.

The merchants are proposing solutionsaim to help them mitigate disruption to regular business operations during, and after construction. They are also asking for relocation assistance in case some businesses become unviable in this new street configuration.

AC Transit and city officials, which have been meeting with merchant groups, say they are implementing mitigation plans. The community-based mitigation proposals were developed by the Eastlake Merchants Association, San Antonio Business Association and other small business owners, assisted by the East Bay Asian Youth Center.

The BRT project will cost about $200 million. The merchant’s mitigation proposals would cost about $6 million.

BRT is planned to run 9.7 miles from Downtown Oakland to Downtown San Leandro. A little over 500 parking spaces will be lost, and almost all left turns will be prohibited. On the 7.2 mile stretch between 14th Avenue and 107th Avenue, vehicular traffic on International Boulevard will be reduced from four lanes to two lanes.

AC Transit and the City of Oakland this week announced that their staffs have developed a Business Sustainability Program for the (BRT) Project. Under their proposal, AC Transit will underwrite regular construction impact mitigation activities as well as a Business Sustainability Program.

 

Oakland and AC Transit are saying they will spend about $23 million for parking and business impact mitigation measures and design features to minimize the impact of the project and enhance the corridor for the local community.

 

They say they will spend $10 million of curb-to-curb repaving, lighting, pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements and will meet with community stakeholders all along the BRT corridor.

The merchants want the project to make up for parking losses, increase public safety services for pedestrians where parking is lost, provide loading zones to offset the loss of a traffic lane and offer financial assistance for businesses that lose revenue.

“I have had my business for over 40 years, I rely on customers being able to load in windows and shower-glass by the curb, my shop is in the middle of the block, and have no back alley,” said Manuel Romero, owner of a glass shop in the light-industrial San Antonio neighborhood said.

“Can AC Transit explain to me how BRT riders will be able to shop windows, furniture, and appliances from me, and from my merchant neighbors? With BRT I may have to close my business,” he said.

According to Nelsen of the East Bay Asian Youth Center, the merchants are meeting with officials and making progress.

“We’re heading in the right direction. But we’re not there yet,” he said. “We still have to close the gap.”

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Activism

Why Sarah Syed Is My Choice for AC Transit Board of Directors, Ward 3.

As the AC Transit board president, a challenge I am confronted with is that traditional transit planning practice has ignored the pervasive issues of segregation, displacement, and exclusion from opportunity. Although the impacts of redlining can be felt in almost every aspect of life: from access to high quality education, to job opportunities and even healthy food options, our region doesn’t invest in transit service to repair past harms.  

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Elsa Ortiz is the AC Transit board president and the retiring Ward 3 director, which includes Oakland, San Leandro, and Alameda.
Elsa Ortiz is the AC Transit board president and the retiring Ward 3 director, which includes Oakland, San Leandro, and Alameda.

By Elsa Ortiz, President of AC Transit Board

The challenge of inequitable transportation access is felt by tens of thousands of residents in inner East Oakland and communities of color across the Bay Area.

These challenges are compounded by the legacy of redlining, which systematically denied Black and Brown residents access to homeownership and lending programs. Ultimately, the American dream of homeownership, investment in communities and building generational wealth was blocked.

As the AC Transit board president, a challenge I am confronted with is that traditional transit planning practice has ignored the pervasive issues of segregation, displacement, and exclusion from opportunity. Although the impacts of redlining can be felt in almost every aspect of life: from access to high quality education, to job opportunities and even healthy food options, our region doesn’t invest in transit service to repair past harms.

Last week, aboard an AC Transit bus, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg toured Oakland as part of his new effort to repair the damage done by large federal transportation projects, like freeways, which divided neighborhoods where people of color were the majority of the population.

Residents of underserved communities are the experts in understanding what they need. Unfortunately, the number of local political leaders who are ready to invest in transportation equity are few and far in between. Therefore, we have important ballot choices on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Sarah Syed, a candidate for AC Transit Board Ward 3, is the leader our region needs to turbocharge equitable cities. As a mixed-race woman, Sarah understands that access to transit is a question of equity. Through her work with the Bay Area Rapid Transit, the Valley Transportation Authority, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as a transportation planner and engineer of 20 years, Syed worked to help underserved communities.

In Los Angeles, where 88% of riders are people of color, Sarah took on a heavily bureaucratic system and planned enhancements to the routes disadvantaged riders were already using, including improving service frequency to every 10 minutes on two lines, new bus shelters at nearly 400 locations, and improvements along six different streets to extend the sidewalk and improve street safety and accessibility to bring better bus service.

Through her work with UC-Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute, Syed is helping community-based organizations and local government agencies in eight communities across the state of California so that local equity leadership can drive the agenda of transportation planning to meet the priority concerns of underserved residents

As your next AC Transit Director for Ward 3, Syed will champion policy-based interventions to close equity gaps, equitable hiring and personnel practices.

She will work to build broad, ethnically inclusive coalitions to stand up for bus transit and communicate its value in ways that inspire members of the public and potential political allies.

When we improve bus service, we make our cities better places to live and help address some of America’s deepest problems.

Please join me, State Senator Nancy Skinner, Supervisor Nate Miley, the Alameda County Democratic Party, the three Mayors in Ward 3, and three BART Directors in supporting Sarah Syed for AC Transit Ward 3.

Elsa Ortiz is the AC Transit board president and the retiring Ward 3 director, which includes Oakland, San Leandro, and Alameda.

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Activism

We Will Not Incarcerate Our Way Out of This

Housing is a human right. We can use public resources to ensure everyone has a safe place to live and effective mental health and substance use treatment. Instead, we’ve gutted our social programs to the point where they don’t function and assume this lack of functionality means there’s no solution.

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As we’ve overfunded police and underfunded housing, treatment, and other essential services, we’ve seen more policing but less safety.
Last week, California Highway Patrol (CHP) and CalTrans violently evicted the Wood Street community, the largest encampment in the Bay Area.

People Are Liberating Public Spaces to Fight the Criminalization of Poverty

By Cat Brooks

How many times have you walked by an unhoused neighbor and told yourself it’s their fault, that they made the wrong life choices?

But the truth is that our unhoused crisis is the result of decades-long policies that criminalize poverty, addiction and mental health disabilities and treat human beings like garbage to be swept away with Friday’s trash while ignoring root causes.

Every city in the U.S. responds to visible poverty with fences, fines, cops, courts, and cages. These shortsighted responses make great photo ops, and let politicians pontificate, but all only accomplish terrorizing the most vulnerable, who move into new neighborhoods and reestablish their right to exist.

No matter how many arrests or evictions, the people will continue to be, and as part of that being — reclaim public spaces.

When San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen called for the erection of fences around the 24th Street Bart Plaza, the community struck back and retook the plaza. @MissionDeFence_SF posted a statement in solidarity with other current public land struggles, including: People’s Park in Berkeley, Parker Elementary in Oakland, Echo Park in Los Angeles and Mystic Garden in Daly City.

These struggles are proof positive that the power lies with the people who will rise up, resist and reclaim the people’s space.

Last week, California Highway Patrol (CHP) and CalTrans violently evicted the Wood Street community, the largest encampment in the Bay Area. CHP (the 4th most murderous law enforcement agency in California) descended on the camp for phase one of an armed eviction that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Wood Street’s estimated 200-300 residents are being offered little relocation support or resources. Only a fraction has been given shelters or RV spots. Two were arrested for non-violent civil disobedience amidst an outpouring of community support.

Most of the Wood Street folks are Black, several are elders, many extremely vulnerable, and almost all are victims of gentrification and criminalization.

I was there to bear witness as the state demolished a tiny home, towed RVs, and destroyed lives. No effort was made to move their homes and belongings. Mayor Libby Schaaf doesn’t believe the city has any obligation to do so.

In an open letter to Schaaf, Governor Gavin Newsom, and others, residents offered concrete solutions and laid out their needs. They’ve been asking for sanitation services and fire safety for years. They’ve been ignored.

In their letter, they wrote, “The Wood Street community stands strong in our determination to keep our community together. We plan to continue organizing and fighting for long-term and permanent housing solutions.”

For now, they’ll be forced to move into residential areas where NIMBYS will call cops to protect their fragile senses from the brutality of visible poverty. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

This story is playing out across California.  Instead of meeting people’s basic needs, the state legislature does things like “CARE Courts” — to force unhoused people into court-ordered treatment that will cost millions and target Black and brown folks. The bill is Governor Newsom’s brainchild and a continuation of criminalizing the unhoused under the guise of “care” which he’s done since his days as mayor of San Francisco.

Housing is a human right. We can use public resources to ensure everyone has a safe place to live and effective mental health and substance use treatment. Instead, we’ve gutted our social programs to the point where they don’t function and assume this lack of functionality means there’s no solution.

Poverty is a political choice. Oakland’s unhoused population increased 24% since 2019 (thank you Libby), yet the Town spends 10 times as much on police as it does on housing.

As we’ve overfunded police and underfunded housing, treatment, and other essential services, we’ve seen more policing but less safety. We are less safe when we build walls to keep unhoused neighbors out of public spaces. We are less safe when we respond to mental health crises with a badge and gun.

We are less safe when the treatment plan for substance use problems is a cage.

If seeing unhoused people makes us uncomfortable, then we should invest in housing for all. If public drug use offends us, then we should invest in safe injection facilities (a proven public health intervention that Newsom just vetoed).

If watching someone experience a mental health crisis is distressing, then we should invest in community-driven approaches to support individuals in crisis.

Until we do these things, no matter how much our elected officials try to sanitize the crises we face, the people will keep knocking down fences to liberate public spaces.

Cat Brooks is co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, executive director of the Justice Teams Network and host of Law & Disorder on KPFA, a new show that exposes the cracks in our system and agitates for resistance.

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Bay Area

COMMENATY: Integrity Matters. Honesty Matters at Oakland City Hall

This election is for the heart and soul of Oakland. Do we want to continue electing political insiders who are beholden to special interests, or are we going to empower the people and our shared values to create an Oakland for everyone?

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Treva Reid speaking at the Jewish Community Center Oakland Mayoral Candidate Forum on September 15. Photo courtesy of Treva Reid for Oakland Mayor campaign. 
Treva Reid speaking at the Jewish Community Center Oakland Mayoral Candidate Forum on September 15. Photo courtesy of Treva Reid for Oakland Mayor campaign. 

By Treva Reid

In my short tenure as a councilmember, I can tell you that integrity and honesty are missing at City Hall. As your next mayor, I will restore these basic yet powerful and core principles in the way our city is governed.

This election is for the heart and soul of Oakland. Do we want to continue electing political insiders who are beholden to special interests, or are we going to empower the people and our shared values to create an Oakland for everyone?

I am not a career politician, unlike some of my opponents. I say what I mean and vote for what I believe actual Oaklanders desire in our community. I have spent my first term in office listening to the residents of Oakland, bringing your ideas and values to City Hall, and I am committed to elevating this work as mayor.

As a councilmember, I have always been transparent with my constituents about the way I’ve voted — we may not agree on every issue, but you will know where I stand and why — without wavering. I have a proven track record of voting with the people and my conscience with wise, sound decisions. I am not a flip-flopper.

Last year, I was one of only two councilmembers who voted against the budget that did not deliver enough for Oaklanders on our public safety priorities. That budget stripped away and froze millions from the Police Department such as the Traffic Squad and Citywide 9-1-1 Surge Officers. They voted against a cost-neutral proposed budget amendment that I introduced to advance police academies to fill vacant officer positions, increase presence and reduce OPD response time to critical emergencies. It was not the people’s budget.

Unfortunately, the unprecedented rise in crime raged on unchecked, due to a host of factors, and with fewer resources to meet the increased emergency response or crisis response needed to support our city. The data, public safety updates, and our lived experience were clear. Soon thereafter, the Council adopted our proposal for additional police academies. Leaders must be held accountable to voters for their decisions that delay our critical response on issues that impact our communities.  It’s a disservice to the people.

I believe integrity and honesty are not things you learn–you either have them and practice them–or not.

We have less than 50 days before we elect our new mayor. Keep asking hard questions at candidate forums, look at our voting records, and hold us accountable for our actions. As mayor, I commit that I will govern with integrity and honesty, and that my decisions will be in the best interest of the City of Oakland. I will hold myself and my administration to the highest standards because Oakland deserves nothing less. I hope you will join me and restore integrity and honesty to City Hall. We deserve better.

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