Abel’s eNews: Temporary housing for the homeless, safer streets around Lake Merritt BART, BRT construction, Park Blvd. safety walk

Update on the Fight against Coal in Oakland -
In the wake of last week’s court ruling on the City’s coal-shipment ban, I’ve asked the Council to work with the City Attorney to better understand our legal options, including rewriting our ordinance, appealing the judge’s decision, and looking at other remedies that the Council can take to protect the health and safety of our residents. Read more

Jobs Are Up, Unemployment Down – but Lack of Housing Is Our Region’s Economic Achilles’ Heel -
Four years ago, when I joined the Oakland City Council, the overall unemployment rate in Oakland was 7.9%. Today, that number is down to 3%. However, for African Americans, it’s 10% and 7% for Latinos, according to the American Community Survey. There’s more we have to do to keeping pushing forward – especially for our black and brown workers.

I recently attended a Retail Forum hosted by the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. One of the big obstacles to future job growth is the lack of housing that is affordable for all income levels. Employers and retailers won’t be able to fill jobs or continue to grow their businesses if we don’t have affordable places for people to live. A strong economy needs a solid jobs-housing balance.

That’s why we need large companies to work with local governments and housing developers to help us reach our community’s and our region’s goals of building more housing for middle-income families, which includes many of our teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters.

The lack of a sufficient supply of a mix of housing types and price tags contributes to gentrification pressures that force people to move out of their homes – and in some cases to end up on the streets. These consequences affect our economic sustainability and the social fabric of our community – even for our neighbors who are doing relatively well.

Building the amount of housing that Oakland needs takes time, even when developers, City officials and residents are working together. The impacts, however, are being felt now, and we need to take immediate steps to protect current residents from displacement today – and provide safe, healthy shelter and support services for our homeless neighbors – while we build more housing for the long term. Otherwise, we risk losing the people who serve our community every day in so many ways.

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- Abel

Second Shelter Village Opens
The new Community Cabins at 27th and Northgate is the second temporary shelter site that the City of Oakland has opened in the past six months as part of an ongoing pilot project. Located adjacent to one of Oakland’s largest homeless encampments, the Tuff Shed site is on Caltrans property, and leased to the City for one year with an option for a second year.

Like the first site at 6th St. and Castro St., which houses 40 residents in 20 structures, the new shelter site will allow residents to receive basic services as they work with on-site case managers to transition into temporary and permanent housing facilities. So far, the first site has moved eight of its 51 participants into housing since it opened six months ago; and 15 of them have found jobs.

Both sites afford a consistency not found in the encampments: a hard roof to sleep under every night; a community network of friends and consistent resources; and a supportive staff of case managers to connect residents to vital needs such as acquiring California ID, securing benefits, seeking employment, and ultimately getting housed.

The new site has an improved cabin layout, an extra window, added insulation, more storage space for personal items, a more secure door with a deadbolt, and low-voltage electricity to each cabin for lamps and phone charging. A curtain can be erected inside the 120-square-foot shed to give each of the two inhabitants privacy.

There are smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, toilets, wash stations, an area for visitors, ramps for people with disabilities, old shipping containers for property storage, and lounging chairs and a big canopy for a gathering place. The site will also have security and a social worker.

Service providers, including Operation Dignity, Bay Area Community Services and Lava Mae (a mobile-shower provider), will provide ongoing support at the site. Thanks to all the charitable partners and private funders who have contributed monetary and in-kind support to stand up the second site.

Street-Safety Improvements around Lake Merritt BART
The City will be installing pedestrian, transit, bicycle and loading improvements on streets around the Lake Merritt BART station this month to ensure that safety is prioritized on your streets around Lake Merritt BART. Crews have already started working, and the improvements will include:

  • Painted sidewalk extensions to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians, slow down vehicles making turns, and increase yielding to people walking.
  • Intersection improvements to improve safety and increase yielding to bicyclists.
  • High-visibility “zebra”-style crosswalks that make walking safer.
  • New traffic signals to reduce red light running and provide pedestrian countdowns.
  • Longer bus-stop zones to better serve transit riders of all abilities.
  • Wider, larger loading zones to ensure loading vehicles don’t block bus stops and bike lanes.

These improvements will be installed at five intersections near the BART station, including Madison at 7th, 8th and 9th Sts.; 8th and Jackson St.; and 8th and Oak St. These intersections fall within the city’s high-injury corridors, where a large percentage of Oakland’s severe and fatal pedestrian crashes are concentrated, and have been prioritized for safety investments to help prevent future traffic crashes and support healthy, sustainable modes of transportation.

BRT Construction Coming Soon to District 2
AC Transit has begun construction on the new 9.5-mile BRT corridor. In District 2, work along International Blvd. and E. 12th St. between 14th Ave. and 2nd Ave. is slated to begin this fall. The project’s electrical contractor is currently conducting “test potholing,” which is expected to take four to six weeks. The project will also include the relocation of water mains on 11th St. and 12th St., with the schedule dependent upon EBMUD review. Field conditions and weather may affect schedules and construction-zone locations.

AC Transit will send out construction notification letters in English, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Spanish to all property owners and tenants at least two weeks prior to the start of major construction. They will follow up with direct door-to-door outreach with informational doorhangers 72 hours before actual work begins. 

Regular construction updates are available on @rideactbrt and the BRT Weekly Construction Updates. You can follow BRT progress on social media: www.facebook.com/rideactbrt, www.twitter.com/rideactBRT, www.instagram.com/rideact_BRT

Business Assistance during BRT Construction
AC Transit and the City of Oakland have allocated $4.5 million to assist affected small businesses along the BRT route with technical assistance and support to improve their chances of weathering the construction phase and succeeding in the new environment. As part of the efforts to minimize construction impacts, AnewAmerica has gone door-to-door in the San Antonio and Eastlake neighborhoods over the past two months to let businesses on International Blvd. and East 12th St. know about assistance services that are available to help them offset BRT impacts and operate more profitably. This free technical support includes business planning, marketing, social-media use, visual merchandising and legal services.

Limited financial support is also available through the Business Assistance Fund to help merchants modify their business model (that reflects the BRT construction) and acquire new equipment. To qualify for these funds, the process includes an impact assessment process and a feasibility plan for the use of these funds. For more info: Xavier Sibaja, Manager Specialist, 213-926-5134 or xsibaja@anewamerica.org

In Eastlake, BRT construction has started its utilities location and will continue through early June. For more info on specific construction locations: Jorge Velasco, AC-Transit Community Construction Relations Manager, 510-926-1136 or brtjveleasco@actransit.org.

Welcome Our New District Staff | Victor Flores
We are excited to welcome Victor Flores to our District 2 office team. An Oakland native, Victor currently lives in the Fruitvale neighborhood where he grew up. He recently worked as a UPS Operations Supervisor in Oakland and just completed a legal internship at Catholic Charities of the East Bay.

Currently working on his political science degree at Laney College, Victor joined the campus’ LatinX Cultural Center to encourage local high-school students to continue their education and enroll at Laney College. He is also participating in efforts by the Latino Task Force. 

As a Constituent Liaison, Victor will be working with residents and merchants in the Eastlake, San Antonio, Bella Vista, Arbor Villa and Brooklyn Estates neighborhoods. You can reach him at vflores@oaklandca.gov or 510-238-7021. 

GET INVOLVED

Thursday, May 24 | Upper Park Blvd. Walk on Street Improvements
2:00 pm | meet at corner of Park Blvd. and Hampel St., near Park Blvd. Presbyterian Church
City staff and the consultant team held a community meeting on January 24 to provide an update on the planning efforts for the Park Blvd. corridor, including improved safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and students on their way to school. The initial portion of this field walk will provide a review of the information presented at that meeting. RSVP: Garrett@DiabloEngineeringGroup.com

After the overview, smaller groups will take walks on different segments of Upper Park Blvd. to focus on potential intersection improvements, some of which have identified funding available and some of which do not.

The Park Blvd. study is expected to be finalized later this summer, and will help establish the scope of improvements that can be considered for future funding opportunities. We will keep you posted – please stay involved in this important neighborhood issue.

Wednesday, May 30 | Justice Jam on Homelessness
6:30-8:00 pm, doors open at 6:00 pm | Lakeshore Ave. Baptist Church, 3534 Lakeshore Ave.
Hosted by Lakeshore Ave. Baptist Church, this forum will explore the realities of homelessness in our community. Learn more about the organizations who are responding to the crisis. Light refreshments will be served before the meeting. For more info: Allison Tanner, allison@laboakland.org

Support Our Garfield Elementary Students
A group of Oakland parents and neighbors have launched a campaign to raise $30,000 to benefit students at Garfield Elementary School in the San Antonio neighborhood. Working with the Oakland Public Education Fund, all of the campaign’s administrative costs are being covered by their fundraising team. Check out the video to learn more about the Garfield school community, the challenges they face – made especially more difficult with OUSD budget cuts – and how your support will help these kids. Donations are tax-deductible and can be made here.

(Fund)Raise the Roof | Intertribal Friendship House
The Intertribal Friendship House has launched a fundraising campaign to make urgent repairs to their roof. Established in 1955 as one of the first urban Indigenous community centers in the nation, the Intertribal Friendship House was originally founded to serve the needs of people relocated from reservations to the Bay Area. Today, it provides a range of social programs and sustains cultural connections through dances, drumming, beading classes, traditional ceremonies and other cultural events. Read more about the fundraising campaign and to donate.

CELEBRATE OAKLAND

Oakland Celebrates API Heritage Month
I again had the privilege of introducing this year’s Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month resolution during last week’s Council’s meeting. This year, District 2 honored Rabbi Jacqueline (Jackie) Mates-Muchin. Born in 1974 to a Chinese-American mother and an Austrian Jewish father, she became the first Chinese-American rabbi in the world upon her ordination in 2002 by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City. 

In 2005, Rabbi Jackie became Associate Rabbi for Temple Sinai in Oakland, and its first female Senior Rabbi a decade later.

Rabbi Jackie has also served as a leader in the broader Oakland community through her service as the president of the East Bay Council of Rabbis, her volunteer work as chaplain for the Oakland Fire Department, and her role on the boards of Jewish Family and Children’s Services and Shalom Bayit (a domestic-abuse help center). She has forged friendships with leaders from churches and mosques in Oakland and the greater Bay Area and spoken publicly on topics related to diversity, inclusivity and the changing face of Judaism in the 21st century.

Lincoln Square Park Summer Nights
5:00-8:00 pm | First Fridays: June 1, July 6, Aug. 3, Sep. 7, Oct. 5
Lincoln Square Park, Oakland Chinatown
Free fun and food for all ages. Enjoy outdoor activities, music and dancing, sports and exercise, cultural performances, games and great food. For more info

SERVICES IN THE CITY

Oakland Fire Department Preparing Plan to Reduce Wildfire Risk
Public hearing: Wednesday, May 23 | 6:00-8:00 pm | Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 3
In an ongoing effort to reduce the threat and devastating effects of wildfires in the Oakland hills, the Oakland Fire Department has released a Draft Vegetation Management Plan (VMP) for public review and comment. Please submit comments by June 11: VMPcomments@oaklandvegmanagement.org

The plan creates a framework for managing fuel loads and vegetation on City-owned properties and along roadways in Oakland’s Very High Wildfire Hazard Severity Zone. Fire-prevention programs and services currently include vegetation inspections, periodic vegetation pruning and thinning, free chipping and debris removal, goat grazing, roving fire patrols, and public education and outreach. The plan covers more than 1,900 acres and 300 miles of roadway in need of wildfire management.