We’ll be taking a hiatus from the blog for the next several days as we prepare for the launch of our new site. We’ll be back with a new look, and many more stories about this great city from a new crew of writers, bloggers, and reporters on November 15. Drop us an email if you think there is something we should be covering, or you want to come to the launch party. firstname.lastname@example.org
Archive for October, 2006
Posted by novometro on October 26, 2006
Posted by novometro on October 18, 2006
This from Mayor Brown’s press office regarding Tuesday night’s City Council deadlock on inclusionary zoning: “The Mayor will make a careful study of the situation and talk with staff. He’ll weigh the options carefully before taking action.”
Posted by novometro on October 17, 2006
This is a tough one. Oakland City Council takes up an inclusionary zoning ordinance Tuesday evening that would require 15 percent of new rental units in the city be affordable to a family of four earning around $50,000. Affordable units for sale would have to be within the budget of a family of four with an annual income of $83,000. Thus, a maximum rent for a four-room apartment would be $1,458. A spacious, new condo could be had for $250,000. Developers could also opt to put money in an affordable housing trust fund. The fee for a project with 100 market-rate, two-bedroom units would be $5.3 million.
That works out to a “tax” of $53,000 on each unit. The question is this: Will that mandatory extra cost stifle development in Oakland? Oakland Native thinks so. And a paper published by the Reason Foundation in 2004, a Libertarian think tank in Los Angeles, argues that inclusionary zoning fails to create affordable housing while it simultaneously prohibits the creation of market rate housing. The study ends this way: “Inclusionary zoning should only be enacted if the goal is to make housing more expensive and decrease the quantity of new housing.”
But a 2002 study prepared for the Los Angeles Housing Department concluded that inclusionary zoning policies throughout the state have not hindered housing production, but have actually resulted in more housing in places like Sacramento and San Diego. The study found that “housing starts most closely track the unemployment rate.”
Part of the problem in evaluating the pros and cons of inclusionary zoning lies in the wildly different numbers the researchers use to support their competing arguments. For example, the authors of the Reason study claim that inclusionary zoning policies in the Bay Area have produced only 7,000 units over 30 years. According to another team of analysts in Washington D.C., that figure is off by about 93,000.
Crafted by City Councilwomen Jane Brunner and Jean Quan, the proposed ordinance would make an exemption for projects within 1,000 feet of a BART station.
Erecting a speed bump to development in Oakland makes me nervous. So does the prospect of Oakland no longer being an affordable home for the kinds of immigrants that make a city a hotbed of entrepreneurialism and creativity. Jane Brunner told the San Francisco Chronicle it would have been better to introduce inclusionary zoning in the midst of the housing boom. She’s right. It seems dangerous to do this now with DataQuick reporting Monday the first downward tick in housing prices in four years.
Posted by novometro on October 16, 2006
A report released last month from the Alameda County Public Health Department finds that the homicide rate for black men in Oakland is 102.1 per 100,000 residents. For the city as a whole, the murder rate is 25 per 100,000. Statewide it is 6.7 per 100,000. For every 100,000 white people in Oakland, five are murdered each year.
The report is full of grim statistics that still shock despite the fact that, as the authors write in their introduction, “disparities by race, age, gender, and neighborhoods have been well documented.”
Posted by novometro on October 12, 2006
One Friday afternoon, I joined Patricia Kernighan for some door-to-door campaigning in the lower San Antonio. It was late afternoon, and dead quiet. The neighborhood kids were inside playing video games, or watching television. The parents were still at work. Ms. Kernighan and her team of about six middle-aged Vietnamese volunteers accounted for just about all of the action on the hilly streets tucked behind Highland Hospital.
The leader of the volunteers was Trung Nguyen, a former lieutenant in the South Vietnamese Navy who first came to Oakland in 1969 to train at the Navy Supply Base. He returned to Oakland for good in 1981. But not before spending a few years in a Vietnamese prison. Mr. Nguyen pointed to another volunteer and said that the man had been a captain in the South Vietnamese Navy. The man smiled. Mr. Nguyen said that Oakland’s Vietnamese love Ms. Kernighan. If that’s true, it might be because Ms. Kernighan was once the chief of staff to Danny Wan, who represented the district until he resigned in 2005. Mr Wan was known as a politician who built bridges to Oakland’s Vietnamese community.
In her tight race against Aimee Allison to keep her City Council seat representing Oakland’s District 2, Ms. Kernighan is wise not to take the support of any group for granted. Ms. Allison, a smooth-talking political newcomer with a Green Party membership and a Stanford B.A. has been winning over supporters since the runoff race began in June. Ms. Allison, 37, depicts Ms. Kernighan, 57, as a pillar of the establishment.
With a troop of former officers in South Vietnamese Navy acting as her street team this particular Friday, Ms. Kernighan doesn’t even try to shake the image as an establishment candidate — although she protested the Vietnam War when she was a student at the University of Washington, and she opposes the war in Iraq. Only in Oakland could she be considered a conservative. She says she agrees with much of what her opponent says about the state of crime, affordable housing, and job opportunities in Oakland. But she says the political and fiscal realities inside City Hall quickly take their toll on high ideals.
Ms. Kernighan won the council seat after Mr. Wan resigned. She didn’t have much of a political career before that. She was active in her children’s school, Crocker Highlands. She did “volunteer stuff.” She ran unsuccessfully for the school board in 1990 against Jean Quan, who now serves on City Council. “We were just a couple of unknown housewives,” she says. She has a law degree from Hastings, but she hasn’t practiced law in years.
A politcal ally of City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, Ms. Kernighan did not endorse Mayor-elect Ron Dellums, who beat Mr. De La Fuente in June. I asked her what she thought of the new mayor.
Kernighan: I think it’s going to be interesting. I’m pretty excited to have someone who is going to be more present and engaged.
NovoMetro: What do you think is the cause of Oakland’s crime spike this year?
Kernighan: I don’t think anyone really has the answer to that. It’s kids hitting a certain age. There’s also a new drug. I don’t know the street name, but it makes the (users) crazy.
NovoMetro: What about negotiations with the police officer’s union that would change the hours police officers work?
Kernighan: I think the council is going to be tough on (the police union). Somehow the message needs to get to get to (the union) that people are not supportive of what they are asking for.
Walking down East 27th Street towards 14th Avenue, Ms. Kernighan points to a pothole and says Oakland’s roads are a disaster. (This was before a study was released, which found that they are indeed among the worst in the state.) “The streets are always what we don’t do,” she says.
Posted by novometro on October 11, 2006
The Oakland teachers’ union will hold a rally Wednesday at 4 p.m. in front of OUSD HQ to protest “consolidation and layoffs in the district’s early childhood program,” the “complete negligence of the special education program,” OUSD hiring decisions that the Oakland Educators Association claims are tantamount to union busting.
The press conference/rally is the OEA’s response to a recent report, which credited the school district with small but steady progress while under state control.
Posted by novometro on October 11, 2006
Posted by novometro on October 10, 2006
I accidently stumbled into this rally for Phil Angelides Monday afternoon. The Oakland Tribune called it a “throng.” That might be overstating the case. Sandre Swanson’s description of the lunchtime crowd as “street heat,” is certainly an example of political license. I walked away thinking that the Democrats will never make the mistake of running a non-celebrity for governor again.
Posted by novometro on October 9, 2006
As the Oakland Athletics take on the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series that begins Tuesday, we can count on at least one offering from the sports commentariat that compares and contrasts the two cities. We already know the adjectives to expect: Gritty, working-class, overshadowed, etc. Race will be an unvoiced subtext. But apart from a black population above the national average, Oakland and Detroit have little in common. Detroit is at the epicenter of the American automobile industry’s slow-motion implosion and has lost 51,000 residents between 2000 and 2005. No one argues that. Oakland’s population is a matter of debate.
Fortunately, we have an alternative to the social commentary coming from the press box at the Coliseum this week. The American Studies Association hosts its annual conference in Oakland, October 12-15. With the title of “The United States from Inside and Out: Transnational American Studies,” race will not be under the surface.
On Saturday, just when the A’s will be (God willing) preparing to sweep the Tigers in Detroit in game four, the ASA will host a panel called “Visualizing Oakland and Bay Area Communities: Art, History, and New Immigration.” Here is the description from the ASA: The current demographics of the city of Oakland illuminate the wide range and complex racial and ethnic diversity of the United States in the new millennium. According to the U.S. Census 2000, whites comprise approximately 31% of Oakland’s population, African Americans 35%, Asians 15%, Latinos 21%, and Pacific Islanders 0.5%. This panel will provide an important visual corrective to the traditionally binary black and white ways race has been imagined in Oakland through an exhibit-format panel that brings together visual work on Chinese, Iranian, Latino, African, and Tongan American communities that have not shared a common space. In contrast to the traditional one-at-a-time group-by-group exhibit approach, this panel will provide a space for exploring the relation of these communities to one another.
Here’s another interesting panel to check out on Thursday. It looks at labor in the East Bay.
Posted by novometro on October 5, 2006
GigaOm’s Katie Fehrenbacher writes about Earthlink angling to make Oakland Coliseum a wireless hotspot. Earthlink wants Oakland to know it has the chops to provide wireless Internet across the city, and unwiring McAfee would be a demo. The coliseum plan comes as city officials are reviewing consultant candidates who will assess what it will take to build a municipal wireless network in Oakland.