Abel’s eNews: San Antonio Park Day of Action, Section 8 rental incentives, Ceasefire success, HAWK beacons

Incentives to Keep and Maintain Section 8 Affordable Housing - 
We all see the cranes going up, so we know there is construction of new housing underway (6,652 units being built right now). Yet, it’s a little harder to see the smaller things we’re doing on the ground level to protect existing residents from displacement.

Six months after launching the innovative “Owners Benefit Program,” the first of its kind in the country, City officials have reported nearly doubling the number of Oakland’s Section 8 households over the same time last year. Since the program began in January, 682 new households have leased apartments through the Section 8 program in Oakland.

The program includes a new set of incentives to attract private property owners to the Section 8 program, Oakland’s largest affordable-housing program, including a $500 signing bonus, up to $2,500 in interest-free loans for property repairs and upgrades, and up to two months paid rent to maintain the unit for Section 8 housing (instead of putting it on the open market).

To date, 75 new property owners have signed up, with 64 receiving the two months-paid rent to keep their units on the Section 8 market. More than 500 units have received a free inspection to bring them up to Section 8 code. At the time of the announcement, there was only one unit of Section 8 housing available to a long waiting list of families in Oakland. Today, there are 100 available units.

I want to encourage property owners interested in the Section 8 program to call: Oakland Housing Authority, Leased Housing Department Owner Services Division, 510-587-2118.


New Pedestrian Safety Signals Installed Near Schools, High-Traffic Areas
To improve pedestrian safety, especially for children, the City of Oakland is installing innovative street-crossing enhancements near schools and other areas with greater numbers of people walking. The new type of traffic signal – called HAWK (High-intensity Activated crossWalK) beacons – strikes a balance on streets where a traditional four-way traffic signal might not be appropriate, but where pedestrians need traffic signals to help them cross safely. The beacons are most often used at crossings where vehicle and pedestrian traffic is low except at certain times of day – for example, when students are walking to school.

These signals have been recently installed, and are either already operating or soon-to-be-activated, in several locations in Oakland. The projects are largely funded by state Active Transportation Program funds for local Safe Routes to School projects.

In certain locations, the signals will also be accompanied by additional street-safety design improvements that include corner bulbouts, improved or new sidewalks and curb ramps, pedestrian traffic signals, advanced flashing beacons, speed-feedback signs, crosswalk signing and striping, speed bumps, traffic-signal upgrades and median refuge islands.

Oakland’s Ceasefire Credited for Drop in Gun Violence and Citywide Crime
A new research study shows that Operation Ceasefire, Oakland’s primary initiative to reduce group-related gun violence, is a key driver behind the city’s dramatic decline in shootings and homicides since it was launched five years ago.

Since Oakland city officials, police and community members launched the collaborative strategy, fatal and non-fatal shootings have decreased in Oakland by more than half (52%) since a peak in 2011.

Researchers credited Ceasefire with helping to reduce Oakland’s gun homicides across the city by 32% over the past half-decade. The study also found that group and gang-involved shootings decreased by 43% over the study period.

The Ceasefire strategy is about changing behavior, not arresting our way out of the problem. The program focuses on individuals known to be at the highest risk of committing or becoming a victim of violent crime. Those individuals are provided a range of support and opportunities – including life coach-mentors, social services, support groups, job opportunities and sometimes cash – to help them reduce their risk of being involved in violence and being incarcerated.

Less than 1% of Oakland’s population was associated with two-thirds of the city’s gun violence, the study reported. Ceasefire focuses on intervening with the high-risk individuals who make up that one percent.

The study also showed no evidence that the gun violence had moved to surrounding neighborhoods or that demographic shifts in the city played a decisive role in Oakland’s crime drop.

The success of Oakland’s Ceasefire program has caught the attention of cities across the nation, said Professor Anthony Braga, Director of Northeastern University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, who led the evaluation. “The city of Oakland deserves credit for the investments they’ve made to do this important work and to sustain it. They’ve put the structures in place to ensure its success, and a lot of other cities are now visiting Oakland to learn how to do it.”

City, Civil-Rights Coalition Secure $1 Million Settlement in Chinatown Tenant-Rights Case
A coalition of civil-rights organizations and attorneys, including Oakland’s City Attorney, has secured a $1 million settlement in a tenant protection lawsuit against the owners of a Chinatown residential building. The lawsuit asked the court to order that the owners of 524 8th St. maintain tenants’ Single Room Occupancy units in a habitable, safe condition and prohibit them from discarding tenants’ property and gutting their kitchens and bathrooms.

The owners intentionally made living conditions unbearable for their elderly and Chinese-speaking tenants in an attempt to force them to vacate their units so they could charge dramatically higher rents to new tenants after the building was renovated. The court approved a permanent injunction requiring the owners to maintain an adequate number of working bathrooms at the property, adhere to a set policy for personal property in common areas, and notify the City of any future rent-adjustment petitions and eviction actions.

The settlement will be distributed to the 14 plaintiff tenants represented by Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus and Sundeen Salinas, and cover City costs and attorneys’ fees.



Saturday, September 8 | San Antonio Park Day of Action
8:00 am-12:00 pm | meet at San Antonio Park tennis courts, 1701 E. 19th St.
One of my goals as a Councilmember has been to improve every neighborhood in District 2. We’ve made other improvements at Astro Park and Lincoln Rec Center, and I’m glad to announce that I have secured funding and a partnership to make much-needed improvements to the historic San Antonio Park.

Four years ago, I heard we needed a new bathroom, new lights and fix our park. I’m proud that we are taking steps next month to make real changes.

Please join me and neighbors, along with the Alameda County Building Trades Council and Oakland Public Works, to help make repairs and clean up our park. On our list of projects: pick up trash, rake leaves, painting and sanding, install lighting, bench and garbage cans, fix play equipment, repair track around soccer field, add mulch to tree basins, patch concrete, and install new water fountains.

Morning coffee, pastries and snacks will be provided. Join us at noon for a short program. For more info: Victor Flores, vflores@oaklandca.gov, 510-238-7021 Sign up to volunteer (or contact Victor)

Thursday, September 13 | Community Meeting on Homelessness around Lake Merritt
6:00-7:30 pm | Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, 1330 Lakeshore Ave.
Councilmembers Guillén and Gibson McElhaney invite you to join a community conversation with staff from the City Administrator’s office to learn more about efforts to address homelessness around Lake Merritt and get your feedback on a proposed plan for a “community cabin village” (navigation center) that the City is considering for the parking lot at the Henry J. Kaiser Auditorium. For more info: Pamela Erickson, perickson@oaklandca.gov, 510-238-7023

Bike and Pedestrian Commission Seeks Members | Apply by August 31
The City of Oakland is accepting applications to fill three seats on the Oakland Bicyclist and Pedestrian Advisory Commission for three-year terms starting in January 2019. Commissioner duties are described on the commission’s website. Candidates must live in Oakland and have a demonstrated history of professional and/or community involvement with bicyclist and/or pedestrian issues. In selecting commissioners, the mayor will strive for equity and geographic representation of Oakland’s neighborhoods. Download the form if you’re interested in applying.

Tuesday, September 25, is National Voter Registration Day
The election in November is crucial to our future, so make sure you are registered to make your voice heard. Register to vote

If you’re already registered, consider signing up to vote by mail. That way you don’t have to worry about something coming up to keep you from the polls – you can vote ahead of time, from home. Vote-by-mail info Sign up to vote-by-mail


Saturday, September 1 | FESTAC Cultural Arts Festival
12:00-10:00 pm | Old Oakland, 9th St. and Washington St. Corridor
The Oakland Cannery Collective is hosting a free, all-ages one-day music, art and culture festival on Labor Day Weekend in support of community arts. The festival will celebrate our regional diversity and pride through live performances, artisan “studios on the streets,” makers’ fair style and swap meet, chefs and Bay Area artists showcasing their talents.

All furniture from Berkeley’s Urban Ore will be for sale and contribute to the festival’s fundraising effort. 

For more info and to buy tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/festac-cultural-arts-festival-tickets-47484328906

Sunday, September 23 | Peace Lantern Ceremony
4:30-7:30 pm | Lake Merritt Amphitheater, Lake Merritt Blvd. between 1st and 2nd Ave.
Join the Oakland Asian Cultural Center and partners in celebrating International Day of Peace. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The ceremony features lantern-making, a moment of silence and meditation for peace, non-partisan voter registration, a pedal-powered sound system, and cultural presentations by Tacuma King and Sun Drummers of United Africa Ensemble, Emeryville Taiko, Intertribal Friendship House All Nations Drum and Youth Dancers.

Sign up to volunteer (with planning and day-of-event staffing) or tabling as a community organization. RSVP on Facebook event page to get event updates and additional lantern-making sessions.

This project is supported by the Asian Pacific Fund, the San Francisco Foundation, the City of Oakland and the City of Oakland Cultural Funding Program.

Lincoln Square Park Summer Nights
5:00-8:00 pm | First Fridays: Sep. 7, Oct. 5
Lincoln Square Park, Oakland Chinatown
Free fun and food for all ages. Enjoy outdoor activities, music and dancing, sports and exercise, cultural performances, games and great food. For more info: https://www.friendsoflincolnsquarepark.org/

What’s Great about Oakland? Take the Visitors Survey
Visit Oakland, the City’s destination marketing partner, wants to hear from you. Please take a few minutes to complete the short Oaklander Resident and Business Owner survey. Your feedback will help Visit Oakland showcase our favorite city and invite visitors to come experience our great community. In 2016, 3.7 million visitors traveled to Oakland and spent $627 million. Tourism supports more than 7,000 jobs in Oakland. Take the survey


After-School Programs | Pick Something for Your Family
School is back in session! With the new academic year kicking off, Oakland Parks, Recreation and Youth Development is offering after-school programs at recreation centers across the city. Find the right program for your family.

Helping the Homeless
Homelessness is a growing epidemic across our region and our nation. The City of Oakland has pulled together information about our community’s package of available resources and actions we’re taking to help address the problem for our most vulnerable residents. The new website also provides actionable resources and information about how residents, businesses, and community organizations can support the City and our partners in this complex work. Read more (please share this link with your neighbors)