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 Introduced
As 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

Update on Athletics’ Ballpark Plans
The Oakland Athletics sent a letter to the Mayor and City Council earlier this week that proposes to “assume control and purchase the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum complex in exchange for paying all remaining debt service on the more than $135 million of debt ultimately owed by the City and County against the Coliseum complex.” The $135-million figure represents the remaining payments for renovations made to the Coliseum (at the time of the Raiders’ return from Los Angeles) and Oracle Arena. Read the team’s March 25 letter

After hearing from District 2 residents and nearby merchants when the A’s proposed moving to the Peralta site last September, I sent a letter (Sep. 13) to the team to lay out the community’s major concerns about developing that location. I’m again asking District 2 residents and businesses to share their opinions about this issue as the City evaluates this latest proposal. Please email me: aguillen@oaklandnet.com

Standing Up for Immigrants
Last week, the City Council passed my resolution demanding that our federal and state governments extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for certain immigrants from various countries. The resolution asks for extensions of no less than 18 months for all countries of origin. California has the highest number of TPS families, and many have deep ties to Oakland. Thank you to all the speakers who came to City Hall to share their testimony.

Ending TPS would lead to a $45 billion loss to the national GDP and $6.9 billion in lost Social Security & Medicare contributions over the next 10 years. As with other immigration issues, this makes Trump’s position fiscally irresponsible.

Park Blvd. Update
City staff received a great deal of community feedback about the recent planning efforts that the City has conducted along the Park Boulevard Corridor. These valuable comments have been added to the record, and will be available to the City Staff as future improvements are evaluated along the Park Blvd. corridor. After reviewing these community communications, the City’s transportation department felt it needed to clarify several objectives about the Park Blvd. Pedestrian, Bicycle and School Safety Study. Read the staff’s update memo

More Housing and Support Services for the Homeless
As we look for a combination of shelter and support services for our homeless neighbors, including campers around Lake Merritt, the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (601 Webster St.) now has 30 beds available for homeless men aged 21-62 who are looking for help with drug and alcohol dependencies. The free program requires a minimum stay of six months, and admission is voluntary. All prescribed or over-the-counter medications must be approved prior to admittance into the program. The center will also provide clothing and shoes to clients. For more info about program details and eligibility: matthew.welch@usw.salvationaarmy.org, 510-451-4514 x112

BART Seeks Housing Development at Lake Merritt Station
BART has released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the transit-oriented development of property at the Lake Merritt BART station. This opportunity site is located within the area covered by the City’s Lake Merritt Station Area Plan, which envisions a culturally vibrant, mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhood around a rejuvenated BART station. Submittals are due April 16. Read the RFQ For more info: Yvette McCoy, ymccoy@bart.gov


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Saturday, March 31 | Latino Community Walk-and-Talk on César Chávez Day
10:00 am-12:00 pm | meet at Jalisco Mexican Food, 1721 International Blvd.
Interested in supporting and learning more about Latino-owned businesses and community organizations in the neighborhood? This month, on César Chávez Day, I am excited to co-host a walk-and-talk with the Oakland Latino Chamber of Commerce to visit and celebrate several of our Latino-owned and operated business and community non-profits in the San Antonio neighborhood. Our walk will start at Jalisco Mexican Food (yes, the carnitas place) and we will conclude the tour with a celebratory lunch at Tacos Sinaloa. If you’re planning to attend, RSVP: 510-238-7002 or sting@oaklandnet.com, so we can have an accurate head count. I hope you will join us!

Saturday, April 7 | Arts-and-Culture Plan Meeting
3:00-5:00 pm | Dimond Branch Library, 3565 Fruitvale Ave.

The City of Oakland has released a draft of “Belonging in Oakland: A Cultural Development Plan.” This community meeting will be held to discuss the draft plan. If you can’t attend, I encourage you to provide feedback by April 13. Download the draft 

The arts-and-culture plan looks at how to make progress as an equitable and creative city, and will serve as a blueprint of goals and strategies to strengthen Oakland as a dynamic hub for cultural practices that benefit residents, businesses and visitors.

Launched in April 2017, the citywide public engagement included a series of 14 meetings, a survey of residents and the creation of a Cultural Asset map. The final draft will be considered by the City Council later this year. If you can’t attend, email comments to culturalplan@oaklandnet.com

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Meals on Wheels for Oakland Seniors
I had the opportunity to participate in Meals on Wheels visits last week at the Rose of Sharon Senior Apartments on Lakeshore Ave. Healthy food and great chats with some of the seniors, including Ms. Annie Kelly, a wheelchair-user and Meals on Wheels recipient since 2014 and part of a Southern family from Louisiana who moved here during the Great Migration, and Ralph Jordan, an Airborne-Division Vietnam veteran and retired trucker originally from Alabama. We talked about football, his military service and how he jumped out of planes more than 50 times during the war. He uses his walker to get to Lucky's to buy groceries but relies on his weekly visit from Ruby, his Meals On Wheels volunteer for a warm meal and fellowship.

Nationwide, more than 10 million seniors experience food insecurity, representing 15.8% of adults aged 60 years and older. Meals on Wheels serves more than 700 seniors a day in Oakland. Donate today to Meals on Wheels to provide nutritious meals to homebound seniors in Oakland and Alameda County.

You can also donate to the Alameda County Community Food Bank to help feed needy seniors, families and children year-round. If you donate to the food bank by March 31, all gifts are being matched (up to a total of $40,000).

Shape the Future of Bay-Bridge Bus Travel
AC Transit is seeking community feedback on its “Transbay Tomorrow” proposal, which will recommend several changes to Bay Bridge service in anticipation of its move into the new Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco and the start‐up of double-decker bus operations. For public meeting details and other ways to share your comments


Saturday, March 31 | Spring Plant Exchange
12:00-4:00 pm | 4500 Lincoln Ave.
Join fellow gardeners, landscapers, urban farmers, educators and enthusiasts for the Plant Exchange’s free, one-day event to exchange plants, equipment, tools and information about ways to make our urban environment healthier, more sustainable and more beautiful. The event also features gardening demos, food trucks, a live band and a silent auction. For more info Email connect@theplantexchange.com to volunteer.


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Healthy Futures, Tree Planting at Roosevelt School
Nearly two-dozen students from Roosevelt Middle School students revitalized their school garden yesterday by planting more than a dozen fruit trees – orange, lemon, peach, pomegranate, fig and olive – plus an herb garden with Growing Together. The students were joined by Councilmember Guillén, several teachers, the school district’s garden-education specialist, Growing Together staff and La Clinica community-health educators. Thanks also to California ReLeaf, which funded the project.

Get Free Help with Your Tax Return, Get a Tax-Credit Check
The Alameda County-Oakland Community Action Partnership has opened the City’s Earned Income Tax Credit Virtual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site inside its Business Assistance Center. The center (270 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza) will be open on Tuesdays, 10:00 am-4:00 pm, through April 17.

Low-wage earners whose household income was $54,000 or less in 2017 can get their taxes prepared by volunteer tax preparers for FREE. The refundable Earned Income Tax Credit is available to low-income individuals and families. Depending on family size and income, you may qualify to receive a tax-credit check of up to $5,000.

Taxpayers can drop off their documents and pick up their completed taxes in just a few days. To see if you qualify and to make an appointment: 510-238-2362 For more info


May 5-13 | Free Fire Alarms for Chinatown Residents
The American Red Cross, the Tzu Chi Foundation and Councilmember Guillén have organized “Chinatown Fire Prevention Home Visit Week” (May 5-13) to reach out to seniors and low-income families in Chinatown to help prepare their homes by offering free 10-year smoke detectors. Teams of highly trained volunteers will come to the home and install/test the smoke alarms, make a fire escape plan with residents, and discuss fire-safety techniques and emergency plans.

Multi-language volunteers will schedule a 15-minute home visit to check the exiting fire alarm or install free battery-free, 10-year smoke alarms. To register for the visits: English-speaking families: Eric Kawakami, Tzu Chi, 510-900-9470 or Kerrin Welsh, Red Cross, 510-595-4573; Chinese/Vietnamese-speaking families: Helen Chang, Tzu Chi, 510-295-7631