Don't forget to vote for local measures -- better streets, parks and libraries, more housing

Infrastructure Improvements and Affordable Housing on the November Ballot 

While the presidential race may not represent the best in American civic discourse, Oaklanders have several great opportunities on the November ballot to invest in our community’s future and “go high” in making our community a better place to live, work and raise a family – for everybody.

Vote-by-mail ballots have started to arrive. The ballot is especially long this year, but I strongly urge you to vote the entire ballot. Local measures will have a great impact on the quality of life in Oakland and our ability to solve local problems.

During my time on the Council, the two biggest challenges facing Oakland have been the housing crisis and the need to improve our streets and public services. As is often the case, the biggest hurdle to solving these problems is money. You can help us overcome that obstacle by voting YES on Measures KK and A1.

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YES on Oakland Measure KK

Measure KK is needed to repair Oakland’s streets, upgrade our public facilities, and fund essential strategies to create and preserve affordable housing. The new funding, totaling $600 million, will be used for three different purposes:

  1. Streets: $350 million for street projects, including paving and reconstruction, bike-and-pedestrian improvements (bikeways, sidewalks, paths, stairs, streetscapes and curb ramps), and traffic-calming improvements. 

    Nearly 40% of Oakland streets are in poor condition, according to the Infrastructure Report Card.

  2. Public Facilities: $150 million for facility projects, including parks, recreation and senior facilities ($35 million), libraries ($15 million), fire ($40 million), a new crime lab and public-safety facility ($40 million), and water, energy and seismic improvements consistent with the City’s Energy and Climate Action Plan ($20 million). 

    The Lincoln Park Recreation Center in District 2 is the top-ranked OPR facility on the bond’s facility-projects list.

  3. Affordable Housing: $100 million for affordable housing and anti-displacement projects, including the acquisition, rehabilitation and new construction of affordable housing. 

    Because of the scope and urgency of Oakland’s housing crisis, I pushed to double the portion for affordable housing from the originally proposed $50 million.

Many of the City’s buildings and facilities were built in the early 1900’s, and many have already surpassed an ordinary building’s lifespan. Our libraries need improvements, our parks need renovations, and our public safety facilities need to be rebuilt. These types of capital investments, however, are not covered in the City’s budget.

The housing component of Measure KK will help protect long-term residents so they can stay in Oakland in safe, high-quality and affordable housing. We need a substantial and sustained funding source if we are to address the housing crisis that threatens Oakland’s economy and the quality of our neighborhoods. This bond will help achieve Oakland these goals.

These housing funds are essential to help protect vulnerable residents, especially low-income families, seniors, veterans and people with disabilities, from displacement, provide affordable housing opportunities to preserve the quality of life for all residents, and ensure Oakland’s long-term economic vitality. It will also be used to acquire and rehabilitate housing and ensure permanent affordability through shared-equity models such as deed restrictions and community land trusts.

Measure KK funds can also encompass efforts to rehabilitate and improve vacant and blighted properties – some 20,000 such properties in Oakland – to address health and safety concerns, correct code violations, and return uninhabitable properties to the city’s housing stock as long-term affordable housing.

Social equity: The bond language requires consideration be given to how funded projects address social and geographic equity. Measure KK funds will provide greater benefit to underserved populations and in parts of the city with the greatest need.

The City’s overall unfunded capital need is estimated at more than $2.5 billion, with a current street-paving backlog of $443 million.

The tax rate for the first bonds to be issued in 2017 is an estimated $25.30 per $100,000 of assessed home value. The cost for the average homeowner (assessed value of $434,208) would be about $113 a year. To put this in context, potholes cost Oaklanders about $1,044 a year in accelerated vehicle depreciation, repair costs, increased fuel consumption and tire wear due to driving on rough roads.

Voting YES on Measure KK will help our community invest in improving Oakland’s infrastructure, prevent the displacement of residents due to rising housing costs, and increase the supply of affordable housing. Measure KK will fund much-needed street and sidewalk repairs, bike paths, public-safety facilities, parks and libraries, which benefit everybody. It's a smart investment and one we must make for Oakland's future.

> Read more about Measure KK: www2.oaklandnet.com/ibond2016 

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YES on County Measure A1 – Funding for affordable housing and homelessness programs

I also urge you to vote YES on A1, the county bond measure to fund affordable housing throughout Alameda County. Measure A1 will generate up to $580 million in bonds – with $90 million for Oakland – to acquire, build and rehab affordable housing and prevent displacement of vulnerable residents, including low- and middle-income households, veterans, seniors and people with disabilities, as well as provide supportive housing for homeless people countywide.

The housing affordability problem is felt all along the income spectrum. In many neighborhoods, the majority of both renters and homeowners couldn’t afford a median-priced home in their current neighborhood if they had to move.

The numbers are likely to get worse as upward pressures on rents intensify, in part because cities in Alameda County have not built enough new, affordable apartments in recent years to meet the region’s housing needs.

From 2007-14, Alameda County produced fewer than 18,000 units, less than 40% of the new housing required to meet our regional housing needs. Add to that the construction needed in the next half-dozen years to keep up with economic growth and demographic shifts.

Funding strategies like inclusionary zoning and impact fees are good, but comparatively reactive measures that depend on market-rate construction. A regional bond is a proactive step that doesn’t rely on market trends. Our regional housing bond can help close the gap between supply and demand by:

  • Funding construction and rehabilitation of affordable apartments in transit corridors.

  • Providing permanent supportive housing to veterans.

  • Easing the teacher shortage by expanding down-payment assistance to middle-income families, including teachers and first responders.

  • Acquiring, preserving and developing affordable housing throughout Alameda County.

> Read more about Measure A1: acgov.org/board/housingbond.htm

P.S. As described in earlier newsletters, I'm also supporting improved tenant protections and urge a Yes vote on Measure JJ.