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Two Days After Passing Moratorium, Council Stalls Rent Protection Vote

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Many of the speakers who lined up to speak at the Oakland City Council Tuesday night reminded the audience and council that passing a temporary moratorium on rent increases and evictions would only be a first step. 

 

The City Council now has 90 days to come up with comprehensive legislation that will mitigate Oakland’s housing crisis and severely lessen the level of displacement that is pulling communities apart.

 

 

“The goal on everybody’s mind should be to get a handle on the city’s runaway evictions and displacement,” said James Vann of the Post Salon Community Assembly.

 

 

A necessary next step for the city is to set up a “feedback mechanism for how the community can participate in this process,” said Vann.

 

 

“While city staff is hammering out policies during the moratorium, there should be a stakeholder committee working with the city,” he said.

 

 

Council Votes Down Key Rent Protection Vote

 

 

One of the key measures being proposed is the Protect Oakland Tenants Initiative, which would limit rent increases to five percent per year and strengthen the existing Rent Board by adding more tenant representatives.

 

 

Increasing tenant representation on the Rent Board would more fairly reflect Oakland’s population, which is made up of 59 percent renters and 41 percent homeowners.

 

 

Speakers on Tuesday evening asked council members to put the measure on their April 19 meeting agenda in order to to directly place the tenant initiative on the November ballot – bypassing the need to collect signatures.

 

 

But at Thursday’s Rules and Legislation Committee meeting, council members voted instead to schedule the rent initiative for the Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee on May 24, which will decide whether it will go to the full council for a vote.

 

 

As a result of this change, the rent protection law is unlikely to come to the full council before June, which is the deadline for turning in signatures to go on the ballot.

 

 

For housing rights activists, rescheduling the decision goes against the urgency that was intended when the housing state of emergency was passed.

 

 

“It’s a disappointment. They have been presented with a strong measure from the grassroots, and the council is taking the long way around to listen to it,” said Camilo Zamora of Causa Justa: Just Cause, which sits on the Committee to Protect Oakland Renters.

 

 

“Council trusted Oakland residents to elect them but don’t trust (residents) when they present a measure (to the council),” said Zamora.

 

 

According to Vann, a tenants’ rights advocate, the city’s current landlord-written rent law is in large part responsible for the local housing and displacement crisis.

 

 

Funding to Enforce Existing Rent Protection Law

 

 

Meanwhile, some council members are pushing the city administration to release funding, which the council approved last year for the enforcement of the city’s Just Cause for Eviction law.

 

 

Without the funds, most tenants do not know their rights to protection against landlord abuse, illegal rent increases or unjust evictions.

 

 

“We need to be taking serious action to protect Oakland tenants, and if we do not educate the public about the laws and enforce them, many will continue to suffer needlessly,” said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who has been pushing for the City Administration to release the funds.

 

 

“Going to the legal system is not enough for tenants because it’s not set up to protect renters, especially (speakers) of other languages,” said Zamora. “Having a funded department within the city to be responsible for supporting its residents is extremely necessary.”

 

 

Voter Registration Drive

 

 

Looking to the November elections, Post publisher Paul Cobb is calling on churches, neighborhood organizations and individuals to participate in a city and countywide voter registration drive to register 10,000 people to vote over the next 90 days.

 

 

Cobb was appointed chair of the John George Democratic Club’s Voter Registration Committee and will be meeting with non-profit organizations and churches to help register tenants throughout the city.

 

 

“We need to have enough eligible voters on the ground to put sanctions to threaten the eviction of the city council members who do not pass legislation to protect Oakland’s tenants,” said Cobb.

 

 

“There is also a housing bond measure that people are trying to get on the November ballot for Alameda County that would create a source of funds that could remedy evictions and would be used as construction money for affordable housing,” he said.

 

 

The Post and the John George Democratic Club will be hosting an organizing event in the coming weeks for those interested in participating in the upcoming voter registration drive. For more information, contact the Post at (510) 287-8200.

 

 

Tackling State Costa-Hawkins Act

 

 

On the state level, one of the largest obstacles to tenant protections is California’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which exempts properties built after 1983 from local rent caps or Just Cause eviction protections.

 

 

In Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilmembers Kaplan and Dan Kalb agreed that the state law should be changed.

 

 

“We have to close the loopholes in tenant protection laws which exempt newer buildings, and thus deprive thousands of tenants from protections,” said Kaplan. “One of the actions we must continue to work on is to end the state exemption for newer buildings from rent protections.”

 

 

“Closing the loophole for ‘just cause for eviction’ requires a vote on a ballot measure by the people of Oakland, and we should work to put this on the ballot during the next election cycle,” said Kaplan.

 

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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