Abel’s eNews: A busy year, great projects and holiday wishes

This year is almost over, and beginning in January, you will have a new Councilmember for District 2.

My team and I are saddened that we will not be able to continue our current work on your behalf, but we are grateful for the opportunity to have helped make substantial, forward-looking improvements for Oakland and have laid the groundwork for many other important projects that will come to fruition in the coming year.

Just a few highlights of what we accomplished:


  • More than 2,000 new housing units, including agreements with major developers in District 2 to secure more housing while also ensuring significant community benefits for existing neighborhood residents and community-service organizations. Created a roadmap to continue comprehensive strategies to build and preserve more affordable housing and strengthen tenant protections, and crafted a new public lands policy to direct City-owned property for that goal.


  • Expanded temporary housing, emergency shelter and support services for many of our homeless residents, including innovative approaches like cabin villages and tiny homes, and secured substantial City budget and bond funds to continue to help our most vulnerable residents get off the street and onto a path toward healthy, permanent housing.


  • Revitalized our neighborhood parks, including a new playground at Astro Tot Lot, refurbished the outdoor courts, gym and Junk Boat at Lincoln Square Park, lighting, bathroom, soccer field/track and equipment renovations at San Antonio Park and tree planting at Madison and San Antonio parks – all with community vision and support.


  • Implemented street improvements that filled potholes and repaved some of our worst roads (4,000,000 pounds of asphalt!) as part of a five-year, citywide paving plan, added bike lanes on major corridors, installed traffic-calming measures, and made crosswalks and sidewalks safer for pedestrians. Measure KK, which I co-authored, will provide more than $300 million to complete future street and infrastructure work in the coming years.


  • Organized our annual Thanksgiving Dinner Basket events, which helped provide nutritious meals for more than 2,000 needy families. Thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers and sponsors! This is one of my favorite projects my office sponsored.
  • Conducted one of the nation’s first participatory budgeting processes to let district residents determine the project priorities for our Community Development Block Grant funds.

  • Organized numerous neighborhood cleanups to get rid of trash and graffiti, funded community-designed murals, and added Public Works and litter-enforcement crews to combat illegal dumping and care for our street trees.
  • Led the fight against sex trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Oakland. Just this week, I secured another $500,000 to provide housing for exploited youth.
  • Strengthened our police and fire departments, supported a new citizen’s police oversight commission, and restored the police substation in Chinatown.
  • Implemented a citywide ban on single-use plastic straws that has spread to New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and now the State of California.

  • Advocated for social justice: voted to create new City departments for equity and violence prevention, authored the ban on City contracts to companies involved in helping Trump build his border wall, drafted the City’s resolution in support of passage of the DREAM Act, and pushed for the new hotline for reporting local hate crimes.

It has been an honor to represent you on the City Council for the past four years. I am proud that I voted with my heart and my conscience, and hardly ever missed a meeting or a tough vote. I thank you for your support, well wishes and spirited engagement in the civic life of our great city. Having the chance to talk with so many people around town – and many so many new friends – is truly the best part of the job.

I also want to take this public opportunity to thank all of the dedicated staff in my office who have worked with me for the benefit of our community. They’ve worked hard – and many long hours – to serve District 2 residents, handling a great many challenges large and small with professionalism, passion, respect and good humor. I deeply appreciate their efforts, as have so many of the residents and merchants they’ve assisted over the past four years. They deserve much of the credit for our successes and the progress we’ve made together in shaping a brighter future for Oakland.

As my time on the Oakland City Council comes to an end next month, please keep in touch – email me at reachabelguillen@gmail.com.

Happy holidays and best wishes,

Federal Court Upholds City’s Efforts to Address Homeless Encampments
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Haywood Gilliam, Jr., lifted a temporary restraining order and denied an injunction intended to stop the City of Oakland from closing a homeless encampment on public property in East Oakland on Constitutional grounds. The City has available shelter beds for the 13 individuals, including families, currently on the property and will offer available beds to them during the closure.

The Court found that, “The decisions made by the City in its efforts to address the homelessness crisis are the type that lie at the very core of a government’s policymaking discretion, and there is no easy solution to this extraordinarily complex challenge…The City’s submissions make clear that it has devoted and continues to devote substantial public resources to addressing this crisis.”

Last month, the City Council approved an $8.6 million emergency funding package for homeless services and unveiled “The Holland,” a new rapid re-housing facility to provide up to 180 formerly unsheltered residents with shelter and support services on their path to self-sufficiency. The funding will allow the City to:

  • Open three new community cabin sites, providing emergency shelter and services for up to 320 people per year.
  • Open four managed sites for up to 150 RVs (about 300 people) with secure parking, sanitary facilities and garbage services.
  • Increase the number of year-round shelter beds from 350 to 450, and operate the shelter at St. Vincent de Paul year-round.

Once all the sites are up and running, the City will have provided beds, shelter, and social services to an estimated 1,000 unsheltered residents within one year – roughly half of the population living outdoors in Oakland.

Pedestrian and Bike Safety Improvements on Foothill Blvd.
The City Council approved a street redesign on Foothill Blvd. to improve crosswalks and add bicycle lanes (and restripe car lanes) from 1st Ave. to 23rd Ave. and on E. 15th St. from 1st Ave. to 14th Ave. This segment of Foothill Blvd. is also prioritized for repaving through the five-year paving plan – resurfacing will occur next summer.

Other design elements will include painted bulbouts (for shorter pedestrian crossings), high-visibility crosswalks at all intersections, upgraded curb ramps, and possibly four-way stop signs at appropriate intersections. New crosswalks will be added at 17th Ave. and Munson Way. The signal timing at 22nd Ave. will also be changed to give people crossing a “leading pedestrian interval” – a head start before cars start moving.

The “complete street” design will reduce the number of car lanes, which will help reduce speeding, improve pedestrian safety, provide continuous bike lanes, and make Foothill Blvd. safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike. The bike routes will connect residents to Lake Merritt, BART and downtown, and provide an alternative to International Blvd.

Foothill Blvd. between 14th and 23rd avenues is a high-injury corridor, among the few streets in Oakland where the majority of severe and fatal injury crashes occur (36% of pedestrian injuries occur on 2% of Oakland streets). A major cause of car crashes there is speeding. There are numerous schools, parks, businesses, residences and churches located along this segment of Foothill.

Community Benefits from E 12th St. Development
Earlier this week, the City Council approved a $300,000 package for the E 12th St. parcel’s community benefits, which can be allocated at the time of the land transfer/first installment land payment, including $50,000 for tenant-legal rights and education to help minimize the displacement of current tenants living within a three-mile radius of the project site; $30,000 for a study to create an Eastlake Business Improvement District or Community Benefits District; $150,000 for the paving and repurposing of San Antonio Park’s dilapidated tennis courts (or construction of a recreational facility on existing City-owned property in District 2); $50,000 for Eastlake graffiti abatement and neighborhood beautification; and $20,000 to buy and maintain trees planted east of Lake Merritt.

In addition to these neighborhood benefits, the Lake House development will include 361 apartments, 108 of which will be affordable units. This project also earned an $18 million grant from the state Sustainable Communities Grant Program for providing mixed-income housing near transit.



Thanksgiving Basket Giveaway
As part of our fourth annual Thanksgiving Basket Giveaway and Community Fair, we were joined by more than 120 volunteers to provide hearty holiday meals for 500 underserved Oakland families for Thanksgiving!

Although the local economy has largely recovered for many of us, all-too-many parents and their children are still struggling to get by – often burdened by unemployment or stuck in low-paying jobs, facing skyrocketing housing costs, health problems or disabilities and other stressful difficulties – including hunger. Locally, one of every five families faces food insecurity during the year.


On Saturday, November 17, more than 100 volunteers helped us set up the event site, assemble the giveaway bags, welcome and escort recipients, and identify needy families and community-service organizations.


Family Bridges and Harbor House Ministries served as sponsors for our Basket Giveaway, while La Escuelita Elementary School graciously provided the main venue for our distribution efforts. This year, we were also able to provide dozens of dinner bags to St. Anthony’s Church, which feeds the hungry throughout the year, along with another baskets to Harbor House Ministries, Family Bridges and the Intertribal Friendship House.

We are blessed to live in a place with a strong sense of community, where people help each other and work hard every day to make the lives of all our neighbors a little better. Thanks to all of the Oakland individuals, businesses and organizations who donated and volunteered to make the event special and gratifying.

Free Tickets for Oakland Symphony
The Oakland Symphony’s Hall Pass offers free access to the full concert experience for eligible community members facing financial challenges. Hall Pass holders can receive up to four free tickets to 2018-19 performances. Eligible residents include those who are receiving financial assistance from the State of California, as well as active, Guard and reserve military households. For more info To apply before Jan. 4: Jessica Chen, clchen@oaklandca.gov


Minimum Wage Goes Up in January
Effective Tuesday, January 1, Oakland’s minimum wage increases to $13.80 per hour. Measure FF, passed in November 2014, provides annual increases to Oakland’s minimum wage based on the Consumer Price Index.

Tuesday, December 11, 8:00-10:00 am | City Hall, Council Chamber: The City will host a free informational workshop for businesses on Oakland’s minimum wage and other state employment laws (English with simultaneous Cantonese and Spanish interpretation) Sign up For more resourcesor call the Business Assistance Center, 510-238-7398