Abel's eNews: New Astro tot lot now a reality, City actions in wake of warehouse fire, SRO moratorium

As we close out the year, I'd like to thank you for your abiding friendship and your dedicated service to Oakland. Whether it’s serving as a mentor in our public schools, as a neighborhood council leader, or if you joined us the past year at one of our many neighborhood walks or volunteer activities to build new parks and clean up our streets, I deeply appreciate the opportunity to work with you to help make Oakland a better and more vibrant city for all our neighbors and small business.

On behalf of Team Abel – Richard, Jessica, Michael and Sarah – we wish you a peaceful holiday season.




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Astro Tot-Lot Makeover: Community Vision for New Playground Now a Reality
Several years ago, a small group of committed Oaklanders came together to figure out how we could renovate our beloved Astro Tot Lot. Now with $100,000 raised and 200 people doing the building, we have a new playground for thousands of children and their parents. We held several community workshops to get design ideas from people of all ages. Then the big day – “Build Day” – arrived on December 6.

Thanks to our partners, KaBOOM, the Oakland Parks and Recreation Foundation and PG&E, City staff and the many generous individual supporters and local business contributors who helped make our community vision a reality. A special thanks to Mike Ghilmetti and Signature Properties for their leadership gift to help us reach our fundraising goal.

Many thanks to all of the volunteers who came out for the build! Special thanks to the members of the Oakland Fire Department for grilling up some delicious food. It was so encouraging to see so many Oakland residents come together to give their time and effort for the good of our community. Check out more photos from Build Day.

The new equipment is up, and over the next couple of months, a new play surface, a water-bottle filling station, and ADA-accessible walkways and parking will be installed – ready for springtime fun. For more info: rraya@oaklandnet.com

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SAVE THE DATE: Wednesday, January 11 
Community Meeting about Improving San Antonio Park
6:00-8:00 p.m. | San Antonio Recreation Center, 1701 E. 19th St.
Join Councilmember Guillén, City staff and neighbors to share your ideas about improving San Antonio Park. Earlier this year, Councilmember Guillén and the City of Oakland designated San Antonio Park as one of Oakland’s Park Project Prioritization sites for FY 2015‐17. As part of this process, City staff are developing conceptual master plans to seek potential funding for improvement projects for these parks. An initial needs assessment and site investigation of San Antonio Park have been conducted. Now we need your feedback to inform plans. For more info: WooJae Kim, wkim@oaklandnet.com


Chinatown Police Substation Re-Opens December 15
Thanks to John Loh and Loh Realty & Investments who donated the space, the new OPD Chinatown substation opens its door on the second floor of Pacific Renaissance Plaza (388 9th St., Suite 223) this month. The Plaza is also home to a branch of the Oakland Public Library, the Oakland Asian Cultural Center and the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. Councilmember Guillén is securing two designated police-vehicle parking spots around the plaza, which will increase police presence on the street and help Chinatown seniors feel safer walking in the neighborhood. For more info about the Chinatown substation: Jessica Chen, Councilmember Guillén’s Chinatown Liaison, clcchen@oaklandnet.com; OPD Sgt. Wilson Lau, wlau@oaklandnet.com

Stadium Land-Infrastructure Agreement
Earlier this week, the City Council approved the framework for a deal to develop the public land around the Coliseum as part of a plan to build a new stadium. Based on the details currently in front of us, I was not able to endorse this decision. I want the Oakland Raiders to stay in Oakland. However, that cannot be at the expense of taxpayers. While there are many elements of this framework that minimize the financial risk for the City and taxpayers, we are still being asked to invest $350 million in public assets toward this private development project ($200 million in infrastructure and 100 acres of land valued at $150 million). Moreover, this new $350 million doesn’t include the $100 million that we still owe on the last stadium deal – the bad deal we struck with the Raiders in 1995 to get them to come back from LA.

The proposed development also does not provide for significant affordable housing, which is just one of the big issues facing Oakland. And if we have City dollars available for infrastructure, there are many other streets and neighborhoods in town that need these improvements before this project area.

Read my full meeting remarks.


Council Passes Moratorium to Preserve SROs
Residential hotels (also called Single Room Occupancy hotels, or SROs) provide an important source of affordable housing in Oakland. Like many big cities, Oakland has experienced a dramatic loss of SRO units in recent years. This form of affordable housing is an essential safety net at the bottom end of our housing supply, a refuge from displacement or homelessness. These units provide a place for many vulnerable elderly, physically disabled and low-income renters, and the near-homeless, to live at a price far below the average apartment in Oakland. For many Oaklanders, it represents the option of last resort.

With the high demand for housing in the Bay Area, these units are at imminent risk of being lost to conversion to other types of more expensive housing. We need to protect this type of housing – and we need a moratorium to give us a chance to preserve these remaining units. Introduced by Councilmember Guillén, this moratorium would prohibit the conversion, demolition, reconfiguration or rehabilitation of these units for 45 days, giving the City Council enough time to receive and consider a staff report about preserving Oakland’s supply of SRO units.

Council Details Affordable-Housing Uses for Measure KK Funds
At this week’s meeting, the City Council passed a companion ordinance for Measure KK, which details how the bond measure’s affordable-housing funds will be spent. To help protect vulnerable renters from being displaced from their homes, the new funds will be used to buy and rehab rental housing. There is an option for building new housing too, although Alameda County Measure A1 was also approved to bring an estimated $89 million to Oakland for that purpose.

Measure KK funds may be used for purchasing and rehabilitating properties currently affordable to lower-income households. Homeowner assistance is also available for lower-income senior and disabled homeowners living in hazardous conditions. Measure KK funds may be used on new construction only as a match for A1 funds (during the first three years of the program).


Local Emergency Declared in Wake of Warehouse Fire
Last week, the City Council ratified a proclamation of a State of Local Emergency, which is an important step in securing resources to aid recovery for Oakland and our community. Under the California Disaster Assistance Act, the City of Oakland may be eligible for reimbursement of up to 75% of qualifying response-and-recovery expenses related to the 31st Ave. warehouse fire. Generally, these costs include labor, equipment, materials and other expenses related to extinguishing the fire and recovering victims from the building.

The Oakland Fire Department will develop an initial damage estimate to provide to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services for possible disaster-assistance funds. The City’s Economic and Workforce Development Department has already begun distributing the Estimated Disaster Economic Injury Worksheet for Businesses. Once a minimum of five businesses have completed the worksheets, the City can submit the package to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services for review and submission to the U.S. Small Business Administration, which will then consider them for Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

Fire-Safety Task Force to Be Convened
Mayor Schaaf and City Administrator Landreth have secured the assistance of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to focus on enhancing building and event safety and improving complaint systems. NFPA, which works extensively on fire safety through codes, inspection and enforcement, will help the City pull together a fire-safety task force of national experts and local officials. The City’s task force will also be working with technical assistance from the U.S. Fire Administration.

The City of Oakland is also developing ways to clarify the responsibility of its employees to properly report any observations of dangerous living conditions or illegal events, along with a clear process for doing so.

Engaging the Arts Community
The Mayor is reconvening and expanding Oakland’s Artist Housing and Workspace Task Force, established last year as part of the Oakland Housing Cabinet to engage the arts community on creating safe, permanently affordable homes and workspaces for Oakland artists.

With a $1.7 million grant from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the nonprofit Community Arts Stabilization Trust, Oakland will also begin a two-year pilot program by the Trust and the Northern California Community Loan Fund to help artists keep their existing venues, or move into permanent, affordable space. Funds will also be used to purchase real estate and lease it at below market rates to Oakland artists.

911 Emergencies: Put these Numbers in Your Phone
Dialing 911 works efficiently for landlines. For quicker responses using your mobile phone, dial direct. Add the Oakland Fire Department dispatch – 510-444-1616– into your mobile  phone for emergencies. Add 510-777-3211 into your phone for Oakland Police Department emergencies. 911 calls from cell phones get routed to California Highway Patrol in Vallejo, and then transferred to Oakland dispatch. The City of Oakland is working on fixing this and adding a text feature, but until then please use these numbers.


Wednesday, December 21 | Food Vending Regulations
6:00 pm | Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 1
The Planning Commission meeting on food-vending regulations has been moved to December 21, when it will consider a proposal to establish a new citywide food-vending permit program, which would expand, with certain restrictions, individual food vending on private property and from public streets and sidewalks in selected commercial and industrial areas, including at least one on-street parking space on Grand Ave. “Group site” or “food pod” vending would also be permitted. The proposed changes will be heard by the City Council in early 2017. Map and regulations Please attend the meeting and/or email your comments: dreiff@oaklandnet.com


Saturday, January 7 | Chinatown Lunar New Year Cleanup
10:00 am-12:00 pm | convene at Pacific Renaissance Plaza fountain, 388 9th St.
Join Councilmember Guillén and volunteers to give Chinatown a little TLC to start the new year. Breakfast will be provided at 9:30 am. Please wear sturdy shoes, bring a water bottle and garden gloves, and a raincoat if needed. Youth volunteers under 18 years old will need to provide a waiver signed by parent/guardian. Sign up For more info: Jessica Chen, clchen@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7002

Monday, January 23 | Training for Community Development Grant Boardmembers
6:00-8:00 pm | Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 1
The U.S. Department of Housing and Community Development has extended the Request for Funding Proposals deadline for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for FY 2017-19, and added another mandatory training meeting for prospective District 2 project applicants. The training is a chance for Council District Boardmembers to review rules and procedures, 2017-19 allocation, schedule and scoring criteria for formulation of funding recommendations, and the development of grant agreements with non-profits and memoranda of understanding with relevant City departments. For more info: Debra Chester, dchester@oaklandnet.com

District priorities will be identified through the Participatory Budgeting process and will be distributed at the February 27 meeting (10:00 am-12:00 pm). Only proposals addressing district priorities will be accepted or considered for CDBG funding. The deadline to submit District 2 proposals is March 13 (by 2:00 pm). For more CDBG info

Want to serve on the board? The Alameda County-Oakland Community Action Partnership Board is seeking interested low-income residents who live within the Council District 2 CDBG service area to serve on the board. Boardmembers hold 3-year terms and help plan and oversee programs for low-income communities. The board meets on the second Monday of each month at 5:30 pm at Oakland City Hall. For more details and to apply



Compactor Truck for More Illegal-Dumping Removal
Last week, the City Council’s Public Works Committee approved a service contract for FY 2016-18 with New Way, Inc., to lease a refuse compactor truck for “Keep Oakland Clean and Beautiful” to help remove material illegally dumped on Oakland streets.

Oakland Receives Grant for Special Traffic Enforcement 
The Oakland Police Department has been awarded a $753,350 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety for a year-long program of special enforcement activity and public-awareness efforts aimed at preventing traffic-related deaths and injuries. Enforcement activities to be funded by the grant will include deploying two fulltime, dedicated DUI enforcement officers, adding distracted-driving enforcement and DUI checkpoints, and expanding speed, red-light and stop-sign enforcement.

OPR Offers Youth Camps over Winter Break
During the weeks of December 19 and December 26, Oakland Parks & Recreation will host day camps for local youth. Participating recreation sites include Allendale, Arroyo Viejo, Bushrod, Carmen Flores, deFremery, Dimond, Franklin, Redwood Heights and Studio One Art Center. For camp details: https://www.facebook.com/oakparkrec/www.oaklandnet.com/parks or call your local recreation center.


At the Library: New York Times Is Free
Want to read the New York Times for free? Visit the Oakland Library, which now has an institutional subscription for its patrons – giving you unlimited access to all articles from any library location, including the library’s wifi network. (Sorry, there’s no access to free crossword puzzles.) Remote access is limited to the first 10,000 accesses. To activate your subscription, sign up for a free account and get an access code that is valid for 72 hours.

Job Notice: Neighborhood Services Coordinator 
The City of Oakland is recruiting for a Neighborhood Services Coordinator with language certification in Cantonese/Mandarin. The deadline to apply is January 6. For more info on the position and application: http://agency.governmentjobs.com/oaklandca/default.cfm