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. - Abel Continue reading

Abel’s news: an update on the fight against coal in Oakland

A Special Update on the Fight against Coal in Oakland By now, you have probably heard about last week’s federal court ruling that struck down the City of Oakland’s ban on coal shipments at a cargo terminal proposed for part of the former Oakland Army Base. I am extremely disappointed that the court ruled in favor of hazardous coal trains and against Oakland residents’ long-term health and well-being. This ruling, if allowed to stand, will substantially affect the safety of vulnerable Oakland residents for years to come, including chronic disease, exacerbated illnesses and the potential disaster of a coal fire, as well as environmental and environmental-justice consequences for our region. Continue reading

Abel’s eNews: Catching illegal dumping, safer streets in the district, upcoming safety meetings, new smoke alarms and another tiny home

   Illegal Dumping “Detectives”Last week, Mayor Schaaf and I announced that the City will be hiring three new litter enforcement officers – whom the media have tagged “trash detectives” – to combat illegal dumping on Oakland streets. These trash detectives will be working to identify the perpetrators of illegal dumping. These new positions are staffed by civilian employees who normally wear a uniform and a badge, like parking technicians and do not carry a weapon. They will be responsible for explaining and enforcing sections of state and local codes relating to litter, recycling and nuisance control. If you can help with any information about anybody who is illegally dumping their trash, call 311. The City has also installed four cameras in dumping “hot spots” to help catch those who pull up and dump in the act. We also added a new piece of equipment to help fight illegal dumping – the Lightning Loader – last week, the result of the budget proposal I advocated for in the mid-cycle budget. A significant portion of the dumping incidents is also generated by local residents and out-of-town contractors dumping their haul on Oakland streets. To address the residential source, the City added bulky item curbside pickup service to multi-family buildings (4+ units) in 2015. A big focus of our education campaign will be raising awareness to increase its use. This service is already included in billpayers’ rates, and we want to help all residents take full advantage of it. As Chair of the Council’s finance committee, I will push forward the funding for this strategy to deter dumping and for more City resources before the budget mid-cycle adjustments, including funds for an additional illegal dumping crew, as requested by my constituents. Illegal dumping is obviously a problem about trash, but it’s a catalyst for neighborhood blight, and it’s a real danger to public health and safety. I’m especially concerned about the threat to our young children who are trying to walk safely to school every day. Over the past five years, the number of work orders that Oakland Public Works has issued to pick up piles of dumping has more than doubled. In 2017, our crews responded to 33,000 incidents to pick up dumping. We’re on a similar pace this year. Our crews pick up 95% of calls about dumping within one to two days. You can help our Public Works crews by using 311 to report illegal dumping as soon as you see it in your neighborhood. Continue reading

Abel’s eNews: Use 311, new homeless funds and tenant protections, more street repairs, Earth Day

About four years ago, I noticed an uptick in homelessness in and around Oakland. Today, I know that every person in Oakland has experienced the impact of homelessness on our town in some way. The most recent point-in-time count showed that Oakland has 1,902 homeless residents living outside and that we’re talking about our neighbors – 86% of the total homeless population in Oakland had prior residences in Alameda County. Anecdotally, judging from the proliferation of tents in our streets, parks, the lake and the public right of way, it seems like that number has risen even more in the past few months. Last week, I was in Sacramento to lobby for more state resources to help solve this problem that affects both homeless individuals and our neighborhoods. Homelessness is one part of the larger housing affordability crisis in Oakland, the region and California. Nationwide, 22 states also saw an increase in homelessness last year – we’re facing a national crisis, not just a local problem. Despite Oakland’s rebounding economy, the simple truth is that our city and our region is simply not producing enough housing units fast enough to keep pace with regional population growth and income disparities. The City of Oakland’s current policy is to generally not move people from where they have set up tents unless the City can offer an alternative site for people to go. Simply pushing homeless camps from one neighborhood to the next won’t solve the problem. That’s why I am happy to report that the Council took action last week to acquire an SRO hotel on West Grand Ave. to convert to apartments that will serve upward of 70 homeless people. Thanks to the advocacy of many of my constituents, Alameda County will also be providing Oakland with $633,000 in additional funds to combat this crisis. The Council has also moved to extend the winter shelter efforts operated by St. Vincent de Paul through the summer. While these are important steps in the right direction, it’s not enough. I’ve joined with Councilmembers Kaplan and Kalb to sponsor a vacant-parcel tax to provide the resources needed to provide more supportive housing and encourage the construction and preservation of more affordable housing in Oakland, while also combating neighborhood blight on vacant properties around town. We’re also working to encourage the installation of tiny homes on lots owned by local faith-based organizations and other non-profits, and to provide safe parking facilities for unsheltered residents. I hope to have more news about these initiatives this summer. Please know that I hear you and I am working to make sure that we implement the full package of immediate, long-term and comprehensive solutions that help get people into safe, affordable housing and shelter. This is an enormous challenge we are facing together: Your continued support and collaboration will be crucial as we scale up the steps we know work and we move toward getting more affordable housing into the pipeline. Abel Continue reading

Subject line: Abel’s eNews: Join in spring clean-up days, new homeless center, new traffic lights, state honors for Oakland school

   City Moves to Acquire New Homeless Center for Shelter and ServicesEarlier this week, the Community Economic Development Committee voted to move forward on acquiring a single-room occupancy hotel on West Grand Ave., which will expand the number of City-owned shelter beds for homeless residents. The building (641 W. Grand near I-980) will provide a second navigation center – like the existing Henry Robinson Multi-Service Center – that provides housing and support services for recently homeless people. More than one-half of the people housed at the Robinson center last year have been successfully transitioned into permanent housing. The building has 70 units with shared bathrooms and a single kitchen on each floor. The City had previously sued the former West Grand Hotel’s owners for numerous fire and building code violations and uninhabitable living conditions. The building was purchased for $7 million using Measure KK funds, the 2016 bond measure for affordable housing. Continue reading

Abel’s eNews: Reducing waste and dumping, standing up for immigrants, updates on housing, Park Blvd. and ballpark

Reducing Waste and Dumping: Restrictions on Single-Use Straws IntroducedAs a part of my larger efforts to reduce waste and illegal dumping, I introduced plans earlier this month for a local ordinance that will prohibit the use of single-use plastic straws in Oakland’s dine-in restaurants, bars, cafés and other food facilities, except upon customer request, as part of our health and sanitation standards, while still ensuring that those who need straws can access them. As a part of Oakland’s Zero Waste Strategic Plan, the City has existing food-service ware guidelines that apply to straws. To make further progress on our waste-reduction goals and shift our culture away single-use products, my ordinance will focus on “by request only” use and better enforcement of existing legislation. The measure will also ask the staff to come back to the Council with recommendations for measures to more effectively enforce existing food packaging and utensils. We expect to bring the ordinance to the City Council for a vote in time for Earth Day. YOU CAN HELP: We will need supporters – residents, businesses and community organizations – to come to the Council’s April 10 committee meeting (at 1:30 pm) and then the full Council meeting on April 17 to show a groundswell for this action. Please email us if you’re interested in showing your support: Sarah Ting, sting@oaklandnet.com Plastic straws pose a long-term threat to marine life, waterways and natural habitats, including Lake Merritt – and eventually local residents by way of food consumption and collateral environmental effects. There are easy, convenient and economical ways around this environmental-health problem, like “straw on request only” rules – and Oakland should be a leader in this effort. This legislation was inspired by a conversation I had with Ms. Chang’s fourth-graders at Cleveland Elementary School. After reading to students about civil rights for “African American Literature Read-In,” the kids started asking me questions about Lake Merritt and how we can do a better job to keep it clean. It’s a sensible policy that will be good for the community, good for the environment and good for business. The measure already has the support of many in the Oakland restaurant community, including Luka’s Taproom & Lounge and Shakewell on Lakeshore Ave. as well as Tacos Sinaloa and Tacos Mi Rancho, which operate popular food trucks in Oakland. The measure has also earned the support of Sierra Club and Save the Bay, leading advocates for plastic bag and straw ban legislation in California. Several California cities have adopted a variety of plastic-straw regulations, including Alameda, Davis and Manhattan Beach, as has Santa Cruz County. Americans discard approximately 500 million plastic straws every day, according to the National Park Service. The California Coastal Commission has reported picking up more than 835,000 discarded plastic straws between 1988 and 2014. Most straws are made from polypropylene, a petroleum-based plastic. Plastic straws, introduced in the 1960’s, can take 200 years to decompose. While certain plastics can be recycled, the vast majority of single-use straws are often discarded as solid waste and sent to landfills; and cannot be recycled due to their lack of resin code and small size, which can damage sorting machinery. Read the East Bay Times story Continue reading

Abel’s eNews: Affordable, transit-oriented housing breaks ground, BRT updates, walk-and-talk with Latino businesses

   More Affordable Housing and Community Space Breaks Ground Earlier this month, the Unity Council and EBALDC broke ground on 279 units of mixed-income housing at the Fruitvale BART Transit Village (E. 12th St. at 36th Ave.) – Casa Arabella – that will serve veterans, families and residents who earn 60% of the average median income (considered “very low income” households). The project, named in honor of longtime community leader Arabella Martinez (right photo), will also include 10,000 square feet of ground-floor space for an urgent care facility for La Clínica de La Raza and other non-profits. Congrats to Arabella and Unity Council CEO Chris Iglesias (left photo) on this important milestone. Looking at the bigger picture, Mayor Schaaf reported last month that we anticipate completing roughly 3,600 units of new housing in Oakland in 2018. That’s triple the amount we’ve ever built in a single year. Oakland also has roughly 15,000 units in the pipeline, which will help alleviate housing demands and ease rental prices. Continue reading

Abel’s eNews: More protections for renters, rehabbing affordable housing downtown, update on street improvements and sidewalk repairs

Government tends to move slowly, especially at the federal and state level. As your Councilmember, I also get frustrated sometimes by the pace of change at the local level. Fortunately, community leadership and public engagement here in our city and in our neighborhoods can get things done. The first two months of 2018 have seen several signs of such progress in Oakland. I’m happy to report that a number of neighborhood improvements that neighbors and merchants have been advocating for over the last year-and-a-half are finally coming to fruition. From fixing broken sidewalks to installing a new water fountain in the park, these small improvements can have a big impact. Better sidewalks, for example, mean greater mobility for our senior citizens, those with mobility problems and young parents with strollers. At the same time, we’re pushing for solutions to citywide issues, like funding for healthy, equitable communities that foster more affordable housing and transportation access for everybody. Together, I know we can continue to tackle the problems, big and small, to make Oakland a better place to live work and play. Thank you for your continued advocacy and partnership. Abel Continue reading

Abel’s eNews: Repaving and street-safety improvements in District 2, equity designs for Downtown Plan, new funds for Asian Cultural Center

     Celebrating Lunar New Year at Chinatown Streetfest San Lee Fai Lok – Gung Hay Fat Choi! Happy Lunar New Year! I was honored to help kick off Chinatown Streetfest at its opening ceremony this past weekend. I hope you will come by this week to shop, show Chinatown small businesses some love, and celebrate the Year of the Dog!  Continue reading

Abel’s eNews: A home for tiny homes, fighting sex trafficking, 1100 Broadway breaks ground, community meetings

     Trees for Madison Square Park The right kind of shade… As part of the citywide Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, I joined more than 60 volunteers to plant 21 trees and remove graffiti at Madison Square Park. Thank you to our partners – Ministerio Internacional Maranatha, Asian Health Services, OCA-East Bay, Asian Youth Services Committee, Asian Prisoner Support Committee and Trees for Oakland – for making a big difference in improving our parks and our environment – and strengthening our community spirit in the process.  Continue reading