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.



Tenant-Relocation and Move-Out Ordinances Add to Tenant Protections
Last month, the City Council gave final approval to an ordinance that requires relocation payments to tenants who live in units that are rent-controlled or covered by Oakland’s just-cause eviction ordinance, and creates a schedule of payments that will increase annually based on the Consumer Price Index. The measure also applies to cases where a landlord is evicting a renter to convert their apartment to a condominium.

The ordinance requires landlords to pay up to $9,875 to renters evicted from apartments with three or more bedrooms, $8,000 for two-bedroom units and $6,500 for studios or one-bedroom units. Households with low-income, elderly or disabled people or those with minor children would receive an additional payment of $2,500 per unit.

The relocation payment would help cover a tenant’s moving expenses, the cost of putting belongings in storage, and/or a security deposit on a new place to live.

Landlords may make the relocation payments in phases: the first third upon eviction, another third after a year and the last third after two years.

No payment is required in the case that there is an agreement before the renter moves in that the landlord would be moving back into the unit at a specific time.

I have also introduced legislation to bring clarity and due process to tenant move-out agreements that are offered by landlords. My office has received numerous complaints about buyout offers being made and rescinded and unfair negotiation practices. We hope to help even the playing field to ensure a fair and transparent process.

Update on Empyrean and Harrison Hotel Renovations
Two former SRO buildings in the downtown are slated for rehabilitation by Resources for Community Development (RCD), a local nonprofit affordable-housing developer. The Empyrean Hotel is a blighted building at 13th and Webster Sts., while the Harrison Hotel (Harrison and 14th Sts.) is in need of more moderate improvements.

After the Empyrean Hotel went into bankruptcy and court receivership, I advocated for its transition to full affordable housing and attended bankruptcy court to support the affordable housing.

RCD is applying for historic tax credits to help finance the rehabilitation and seismic retrofits. The City has awarded $4 million in Measure KK funds, which will help fund the Empyrean’s renovation.

Leveraging City dollars, $16.8 million in additional funding for the long-term affordable housing was also secured last fall from the state’s cap-and-trade revenues directed to local housing and transportation projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The projects will also provide residents of these buildings and the downtown with new bike lanes, a bike-share station and the purchase of a new hybrid bus in partnership with AC Transit.

RCD is expected to apply for building permits in April, and the renovation work should begin in October. They will be hosting a community meeting in the summer or early fall to discuss minor construction impacts to the neighborhood.

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14th Ave. Streetscape Improvements
I recently had a chance to do a walk-through with neighbors to note our progress on the 14th Ave. Streetscape Improvements project, which includes new sidewalks, crosswalks, striping, street lamps, trees and landscaping. The next steps will be to ensure ongoing maintenance and care before the next phase of the project. If you see any problems with graffiti, illegal dumping or other concerns, please report it right away to Public Works: seeclickfix.com/Oakland or 510-615-5566

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New Sidewalks on Lakeshore and McKinley Avenues
We have new sidewalks on Lakeshore Ave., between Lake Park Ave. and Mandana Blvd.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve witnessed a few senior citizens and young people alike tripping on broken sidewalks along the commercial corridor of Lakeshore Ave. The need for sidewalk repairs has been a major concern I’ve heard from our merchants and residents. To remedy the problem, I convened a community meeting last year with Lakeshore merchants and the Public Works director to address the situation.

Walkability is important for the success of our small businesses, a good sign of a healthy neighborhood, and an important streetscape feature for our seniors and residents with mobility problems.

Working together with business owners and the Lakeshore Business Improvement District, I’m happy to report that we have new sidewalks and repairs coming to both sides of the Avenue! Pardon the construction and temporary obstructions. The repair work should be completed by early March, weather permitting.

Pedestrians will also notice the new “countdown” signal change for Lakeshore Ave. near Peet’s and Arizmendi, which will help with crossing the street more safely.

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Last month, street crews also installed new sidewalks on McKinley Ave. at Spruce St. in front of St. Vartan Armenian Apostolic Church. We need more repairs like this around town, and Public Works is in the process of hiring more staff to implement Measure KK projects to repair our streets and sidewalks.

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Repaving for Chatham Road
More progress on area street repairs: Chatham Road, from Beaumont Ave. to Park Blvd., was repaved last month, covering more than 14,300 square feet of new roadway ($287,000). On the City’s “worst streets” list, there were 11,745 views on the City’s SeeClickFix app requesting fixes for potholes and rough rides on Chatham Rd. last year. It’s now as smooth as an Olympic ski slope. (Yes, I’m working on getting more streets like Chatham repaved in District 2 neighborhoods.)


New Water-Bottle Filling Station for Lake Park Visitors
I’m excited to announce that our new water-bottle filling station has been installed. Located near the Lakeview Library near Astro Tot Lot, the new ADA-accessible station adds another amenity to the other park improvements we’ve made there over the past year!

Thank you to all our Astro Tot Lot supporters and surrounding neighbors for your support in helping us get this done. Not only are water-bottle filling stations better for the environment, I hope they will promote better hydration and a healthier lifestyle for everybody. Small changes can make a big impact.

I’ve been pushing for water-bottle stations for a long time, and I hope this one will spark the installation of water stations at other locations around town. We’ll keep you posted on our efforts.

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New Litter Pickup Crew for Lake Merritt Parking Area

Lake Merritt has now surpassed Oracle Arena on Trip Advisor’s top places to visit in Oakland. With all the visitors and increased usage, I’ve been working with neighbors and Public Works to identify a new solution for picking up increased litter at the Lake Merritt parking area around the Lakeshore Ave. cul-de-sac.

Our pilot trash-pickup project – part of the Excess Litter Fee (ELF) program – added the Lakeshore area last week. Every Monday morning (following weekend visitors to the Lake), the ELF crew will collect litter along the cul-de-sac parking area and track the amount of trash picked up every week to help assess the best high-litter locations for deploying the ELF crew in the future.

At a recent meeting with neighbors, we also discussed a citizen-led process to create a Residential Parking Permit area in the cul-de-sac for residents along with time-limited parking for visitors. For more info: Marquita Price, mprice@oaklandnet.com Read more

City Funding: Money for Services, Debt Collection
This week, the Council’s Finance and Management Committee received a staff report about the amount of money that the City is owed but hasn't collected. I asked for this accounts-receivable “aging report” nearly a year ago, to have before we began making budget decisions about what programs and services to fund. This may sound a bit wonkish, but it’s important.

The report found that the City is owed more than $5 million in collectibles going back to 2014 – including more than $3 million due to Public Works. With so many public services and infrastructure repairs to fund with limited resources, it’s imperative that we collect all the money owed the City to help provide those services. We can do a lot with an “extra” $5 million. I hope that this report will help the Council with the management oversight and better budget planning Oakland deserves.


Talking about the Town at Grand Lake Farmers’ Market
Thank you to everybody who came out to talk at the Grand Lake Farmers’ Market during my office hours last month. In addition to office hours, my team took a farmers’ market tour with the Oakland Food Policy Council to learn more about the market programs and vendors. If you weren’t able to get out to these office hours and want to meet about your issues, look for details about my next community office hours in our next e-newsletter.

Conversations on Youth-Services Funding
The City of Oakland Human Services Department will be hosting a series of community conversations with youth, parents, service providers and residents about how to best serve Oakland’s young people through funding from the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth. Food and childcare will be provided. RSVP For more info: mwetzel@oaklandnet.com or www.ofcy.org

Thursday, March 1, 5:00-7:00 pm | Youth Impact Hub | Youth Leadership, Empowerment and Employment
Saturday, March 10, 11:00 am-1:00 pm | Tassafaronga Recreation Center | Economic Equity
Tuesday, March 13, 4:00-6:00 pm | César E. Chávez Branch Library | Early Childhood, Parent Support and Student Success



Reading with the Kids | Black History Month
I joined the kids at Cleveland Elementary for “African American Read In,” and had a great time with Ms. Chan’s 5th graders. Thanks to Principal Peter Van Tassel (aka Mr. V.T.) and the Oakland Education Fund, Hong Thach and the Cleveland Cubs for organizing the event.


LGBTQ Leadership for Black History Month
As part of our celebration of Black History Month at last week’s Council meeting, I had the honor to recognize the leadership of Jeff Myers and Joe Hawkins, who helped create Oakland’s first LGBTQ community center – which opened in District 2 (3207 Lakeshore Ave.) last fall. Since opening, 2,000 people have come through their doors, and the center has recruited more than 600 volunteers. To make a donation Thank you, Joe and Jeff, for your leadership!

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Pancakes and Love
I got to kick off the community love for Oakland at the 8th Annual Valentine’s Day Pancake Breakfast at the Buddha. It was a fun way for neighbors to build community spirit and has become a great tradition. Thanks to all the organizers and to District 2 neighbor Christine Molcillo of Black Lotus Clothing for the fantastic cartoon-like backdrop.


AAA Highlights Lake Merritt Neighborhood
Get ready for more visitors…or plan your next staycation: AAA showcased Lake Merritt in the “5 things we love” column in the Spring edition of its Via magazine. “Set aside in 1870 as a bird sanctuary, the lake is now a haven for city dwellers, a place to connect with nature without leaving urban comforts behind.” The magazine suggests a walk into the “secret world” of the Bonsai Garden and a ride out on the water for a panoramic lake view and an ideal vantage point for the Necklace of Lights. AAA’s other recommendations include Grand Lake Kitchen for brunch, a tour of the Camron-Stanford House and the “golden age aura” of the Grand Lake Theatre. Read the full story


New Location for Special Activities Permits and Nuisance Complaints
The City’s Special Activities Permits Division and Nuisance Abatement services are now located on the first floor of City Hall (near the 14th St. entrance). Special Activities permits cover such activities as park and music/dance special events, bingo and cabarets, cannabis permits, and film projects. The Nuisance Abatement Program addresses public nuisance activities such as excessive noise, criminal activity and loitering.

To reach these services: 311 or 510-615-5566; callcenter@oaklandnet.com; Report a Problem, or the SeeClickFix app You can also download “OAK311” from your App Store.