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

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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. 

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February, 7, 1:00-4:00 pm  | Lunar New Year at Madison Park
Also make sure you stop by and celebrate Lunar New Year at First Wednesdays at Madison Park. Performances, booths, fun times! Hosted by Friends of Madison Park! #Oakland

MLK Day of Service around the District: Also check out the variety of activities at Lake Merritt, including the Weed Warriors (hillside near the sound, with 75 Williams Sonoma volunteers), the Channel Habitat Restoration at Laney (Oakland Museum volunteers), the Gardens at Lake Merritt (led by Tora Rocha), Lake Merritt Institute clean-up and Veterans Memorial Building projects. Thanks to John Kirkmore for the photo record of all these great volunteers.

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Tiny Homes and the Faith Community:  A Small Step toward More Housing
I attended the Interfaith Council of Alameda County’s meeting on homelessness earlier this month, where I asked the regional faith community to follow the lead of West Side Baptist Church and Rev. Ken Chambers who is letting us put a tiny home built by Laney College students on his church’s parking lot. His congregation is also offering a "Safe Park" site for residents who are sleeping in their cars at night.  

With City funding I secured last year, Laney students spent a couple semesters designing and building a prototype “Pocket Home” that will give shelter to housing-insecure students, and also provide real-world skills that students need for good-paying construction jobs. Read more about the project – and results – in Oakland Magazine.

When we started, it was my goal to create a design and fabrication model that could be replicated relatively inexpensively.  I hope that we can now “scale” this model with philanthropic and private support to provide tiny homes for a larger number of our homeless neighbors. And locate them on church parking lots, backyards and vacant lots across the city.

This effort won’t solve the housing crisis by itself, but it’s important to implement as many strategies as possible, both for the immediate need and for a sustainable, longer-term solution. In the longer-term, there are many affordable-housing projects in the pipeline, but we also need to provide temporary housing solutions to those in need today. Everybody in Oakland has a role to play in solving this crisis, and the faith community is an instrumental partner to bring dignity and housing to our most vulnerable residents. I will be meeting with County Officials to enlist their support to help us address this regional housing crisis.

Taking Action to Protect Children from Sex Trafficking
We had nearly 100 neighbors attend our special meeting with the Chief Kirkpatrick, Mayor Schaaf and our neighborhood leaders earlier this month. Everybody is committed to action against the “johns” who come into Oakland from all over the Bay Area – 70% of johns who were arrested in Oakland do not live in Oakland.

Last year, we pushed for a bill that allows OPD the ability to tow cars of johns coming into to Oakland. We need to address the demand side of this equation and stop further criminalizing women who are trapped in this cycle. 

One of my first activities as your Councilmember was to stand with neighbors in a “Take Back the Night” picket to drive away johns on International Blvd., and I’ve been working for the past three years to stop the sexual exploitation and trafficking our children and provide them safe places to get away from their abusers.

Understanding that our housing insecure and homeless children are at highest risk, I fought for $200,000 in the City budget to help provide transitional housing and shelter grants to organizations combating the sexual exploitation of children in Oakland.

I will continue to advocate for the end of sex trafficking in Oakland, and this year, will be introducing legislation to establish trafficking-free zones similar to “drug-free school zones” to deter this activity. Among other initiatives to combat trafficking, we are also working to implement Assembly Bill 1206 to enable the City to seize and impound (for up to 30 days) the cars of johns used in the commission or attempted commission of the crimes of pimping, pandering and soliciting, or agreeing to engage in, or engaging in, any act of prostitution. (AB 1206 also applies to illegal dumping.)

Data-Collection Reforms | Protecting DACA students
I asked City staff for a report on the ACLU’s model policies several months ago. In this examination, we discovered that there is no legal basis for the California Department of Justice to require birthplace information – which can be used to identify undocumented immigrants – that is collected by the Alameda County Sheriff. As a result, I have asked the City to add this to our lobbying efforts in Sacramento to make sure state data collection aligns with our sanctuary policies.


Community Meetings on Improving Pedestrian, Bicycle and School Safety in the Park Blvd. Corridor
Join us for two community forums to talk about the Park Blvd. corridor (Lake Merritt to Hwy 13). We will summarize community comments from and since the November 2016 meetings; and present technical analysis and draft designs to improve pedestrian, bicycle and school safety. Please come and share your ideas about the draft designs, conceptual alternatives and next steps for the two corridor segments.

Wednesday, January 24 | Middle and Upper Park Blvd. (I-580 to Hwy 13)
6:30-8:00 pm | Park Blvd. Presbyterian Church Gym, 4101 Park Blvd.

The City’s transportation department will also introduce upcoming funded safety improvements and schedule a community field walk.

Wednesday, January 31 | Lower Park Blvd. (Lake Merritt to I-580)
6:30-8:00 pm | Cleveland Elementary School, 745 Cleveland St.

If you can’t attend the meetings, please email me your comments: aguillen@oaklandnet.com

Monday, January 29 | Commission on Persons with Disabilities
5:30 pm | City Hall, Hearing Room 4 (second floor)

The Mayor’s Commission on Persons with Disabilities represents and addresses the concerns of the disability community. Please join us for next week’s meeting. For more info

Saturday, February 10 | Community Office Hours at the Market
10:00 am-12:00 pm | Grand Lake Farmers’ Market Plaza
Councilmember Guillén holds monthly “office hours” out in the community along with “Walk and Talks” throughout the year. We’ve been in Cleveland Heights, Grand Lake, Chinatown and Crocker Highlands the past few months, and will be in the Grand Lake neighborhood this month. Stop by to say hello and share your thoughts about the neighborhood. Bring the kids! “Walk-ins” are welcome, but you can reserve a time slot to avoid waiting: 510-238-7002


Downtown Specific Plan: Help Design the Vision for Your Neighborhood’s Future
Central Core: Saturday, February 10 | 10:00 am-1:00 pm | Oakstop, 1721 Broadway Suite 201
Uptown and KONO: Saturday, February 10 | 3:00-6:00 pm | Oakstop, 1721 Broadway Suite 201
Old Oakland: Sunday, February 11 | 2:00-5:00 pm | Oakstop, 1721 Broadway Suite 201
Chinatown: Tuesday, February 13 | 5:30-8:00 pm | OACC, 388 9th St. Suite 290

RSVP here For more info

In February, the City will hold the next round of community meetings for the Downtown Oakland Specific Plan. These sessions will put the pencil in your hands as you show the design team where the problem areas and opportunity sites are in your neighborhood. Following a hands-on discussion, these meetings will focus on the issues and potential strategies that are specific to each of these four downtown neighborhoods.

The meetings will build on the input from the previous set of community forums that helped understand how social equity interacts with all the other issues the specific plan will address, including development, infrastructure and housing.

Lakeshore Meeting Recap and To-Do List
We had about 50 people show up for our meeting last week to talk about parking and other issues on the Lakeshore Cul-de-sac. Thank you all for joining us. 

As a recap, some of the topics discussed include servicing the tent encampments under the foot bridge, cleaning the east side and closing the west side to allow pedestrian access. I’m also requesting that Operation Dignity continue to work with some of the homeless closer to the cul-de-sac to provide services and resources. Our Keep Oakland Clean & Beautiful Team (Public Works) will work with Parks & Rec to assist with litter pick up.

It also seems like 75% of the residents were in favor of creating a Residential Parking Permit for the area, and my office will be working with neighbors to start the petition process.

Neighbors also requested mid-block sidewalk safety improvements and the addition of a dead-end sign at the cul-de-sac entrance along with adding speed bumps and fixing the bike signal at 1st and Lakeshore. The City will be establishing parallel parking near the bridge to increase bike visibility where spaces are not striped.

If you would like to help organize regular neighborhood clean-up, the City can provide the tools. I encourage neighbors to pitch in to help. For more info: Keta Price, mprice@oaklandnet.com 


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1100 Broadway Breaks Ground – New Businesses, Downtown Vitality
Earlier this month, the new office tower at 1100 Broadway broke ground – a project that honors Oakland's past with the revitalization of the historic Key System Building (built in 1911 and shuttered after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake) and adds a new mixed-use office tower on a long-blighted lot. This vacant corner lot, in the heart of Oakland’s downtown, has been fenced off for nearly 30 years.

I was really happy that the developer, Ellis Partners (with International Real Estate), agreed to my request that they activate this site before they were ready for construction to begin – with music, food trucks and entertainment – and our downtown workers and residents – to this corner that has long remained dormant.   

I see The Key at 12th not as a building occupying a space, but as a place that will bring the business community and our residents together. The new employees in this much-needed office tower will fan out at lunchtime and in the evenings to support surrounding small businesses, restaurants and cafes throughout downtown and Chinatown. 

The project will create 500 good-paying, union jobs on-site during construction and provide office space for approximately 1,700 new workers once it opens for business. Filling out the mosaic of our downtown, the new building will also help stimulate the downtown and our local economy. Construction is slated to be completed by December 2019.


New Mosaics at Chinatown Plaza
Check out the new mosaics at the Pacific Renaissance Plaza in Chinatown. Artist Juan Lopez created mosaic designs displaying the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals on a short wall near the fountain. You can help support the addition of more art with donations to complete the fountain top and mosaic planters. For more info or to donate: Sara Wynne, Project Coordinator, srwynne@comcast.net


Saturday, February 3 | Lunar New Year Festival
10:00 am-5:00 pm | Oakland Asian Cultural Center, 388 9th St., Suite 290
Performances include lion dance, China’s Spirit Music Ensemble, Kids’ Go Mandarin Music and Movement, Tai Chi, Emeryville Taiko Drumming. Activities include red-envelope and peace-lantern making stations, make your own shadow puppet, and literary readings for adults and children. Free admission.

Honoring City Workers | Parks & Rec’s Lois Gomes Retires
It was my pleasure to present a ceremonial resolution honoring Lois Gomes for her 30 years of service to the City of Oakland at last week’s Council meeting. Lois has served the people and neighborhoods of Oakland with a deep commitment to equity and fairness in her many roles at the Parks and Recreation Department – from Recreation Program Director, Program Director at Franklin Recreation Center, and Director of the Manzanita and FM Smith Recreation Centers. Lois, thank you for making Oakland a better place to live, work – and PLAY.


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Field Trip Friday | Street Sweeping around the Lake

As part of my in-the-field visits with City Public Works and Transportation staff, I was out last week with Transportation Director Ryan Russo, Cherice Moss, one of our friendly parking-enforcement technicians, and street sweepers in my district to learn about our various departments’ responsibilities and daily practices.

We have had many cars parked during street-cleaning hours so that stretches of Madison Street and Lakeside Drive were still dirty. I asked her why she issued a citation for a commercial vehicle in a yellow zone, and how to do your part to keep Oakland clean – wherever you live! Here’s what she said.

As an aside, there were no citations issued that day on Lakeshore Ave. cul-de-sac, and the street-sweeper broom was able to thoroughly clean the streets.