Abel’s eNews: Updates about addressing homelessness, safety improvements on Foothill Blvd., senior housing development

Community Day of Action Revitalizes San Antonio Park - 
Last Saturday, our community “day of action” brought together neighbors, City staff and my friends in Oakland’s building trades to complete a big list of much-needed improvements to revitalize San Antonio Park. In just a few hours, the team rewired the lights on the basketball courts, installed a new water-hydration station, installed a brand-new slide, painted the swings and play structures, refreshed the track around the soccer field, patched concrete steps, added new concrete blocks to the retaining wall, replaced broken tables, gave benches, tables and fences a fresh coat of paint, installed new nets for the soccer goals, added mulch around tree basins, removed weeds on the tennis courts, picked up trash, raked leaves, and removed graffiti.

Read more in our special eNews edition


Councilmember Guillén moves into tiny home, underscores local students’ homelessness crisis
I spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights living in one of two new tiny homes in advance of homeless Laney College students moving in there as early as next weekend. As you may recall, I previously secured an $80,000 City grant to fund “Pocket Houses” – Laney College’s tiny-home program, an innovative City-college partnership that seeks to promote a new form of housing for homeless people.

We know that the regional homelessness crisis has escalated in the past couple of years. One of the overlooked segments of the growing homeless population in the East Bay is young community-college students: 14% (1 in 7) of Laney students are homeless.

This project helps raise public awareness (SF Chronicle, KRON-4, NBC, CBS), and marks a practical, though small, step to address the problem.


The two tiny homes (a “small” and “medium” prototype) were built by Laney carpentry students and have found a home in the parking lot of West Side Missionary Baptist Church, thanks to the generosity of Reverend Ken Chambers and others who have helped make it a reality.  

These tiny homes offer dignified housing for students who currently do not have a home. At the tiny-home site, students will also receive individualized wrap-around support services as they move toward finding more permanent housing – and pursue their studies.

Homelessness Update | A Safe Place for RVs
NEW FUNDING ALLOCATION: There are also a number of homeless residents who are living in the recreational vehicles. City staff presented a “Safe Parking Program” for RVs at the Council’s Life Enrichment Committee meeting on Tuesday. If the full Council approves this recommended $300,000 set-aside, grants for sanitation services will be provided to organizations that wish to use their parking lots for a safe-parking program. 

The grants could be used to pay for such expenses as porta-potties and hand-washing stations, site security, black-water pumping services for RVs, and/or additional liability-insurance costs. This program could be expanded if the City’s application for state funding is approved.

Thursday, September 13 | Community Meeting on Homelessness around Lake Merritt
6:00-7:30 pm | Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, 1330 Lakeshore Ave.
Please 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 “community cabins” (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

The Community Cabins are a temporary, community-based response to homelessness in Oakland. The cabin sites, with small (8’ x15’) structures, typically serve up to 40 people at any one time. The cabins will help improve the health and safety of unsheltered residents; connect mainstream services such as MediCal, food stamps, GA and SSI; and assist them moving into temporary or permanent housing.

The new cabins (navigation center) will include:

  • Hard roofs with basic sanitary services such as porta-potties, hand-washing stations and garbage service, privacy (two people per unit), site security and limited storage for personal possessions.
  • Limited food service (breakfast and dinner) and access to mobile shower facilities are also provided.
  • A variety of social services, such as housing navigation and connections to health, mental health and addiction-recovery service, are offered to residents. (pets allowed)

Learn more about the homeless crisis in Oakland, details about the City’s responses, and how you can help.

KwikWay Site to Get Affordable Housing for Seniors
I’m pleased to announce that the old KwikWay site will be moving forward with a plan to build 50 more units of affordable housing for seniors in District 2, with a finance agreement with Bank of America now in place and EAH Housing (a nonprofit housing developer) in the process of acquiring the site. This milestone marks the end of a 14-year battle to stop major-chain food franchises at the site and make better use of this key piece of property on the street that links Lakeshore to Grand Ave.

Over the course of the past couple years, I’ve worked with the property owners and neighborhood stakeholders to realize a vision that is feasible for the site and beneficial to the entire community. Neighborhood advocacy has made the difference in what I believe will reactivate the streetscape and be a great addition to the community.

EAH Housing will be reaching out to the Grand Lake community in the coming months about more specific development and design aspects of the project. I will keep you posted.


Foothill Blvd. Gets a Safety Makeover
The City of Oakland will be repaving Foothill Boulevard between 15th Ave. and 23rd Ave. – encompassing San Antonio Park and Garfield Elementary School – this fall or spring 2019.

Over the last five years, there have been many close calls and 76 crashes on this part of Foothill in the San Antonio neighborhood. The road has more capacity than it needs for the number of cars that drive on it – which gives use the redesign flexibility to create a more “complete street” that is safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and motorists.

With that in mind, the street improvements (see diagram below: before on top, after on bottom) will include buffered bikeways and fewer car-travel lanes to make it easier for people to cross the street, help reduce speeding, and help prevent traffic crashes. The new street design will also be more consistent, better matching Foothill Blvd. east and west of the project span.

Pedestrian head start: The signal timing at 22nd Ave. will be changed to give people crossing the street a “leading pedestrian interval” (a few seconds’ extra head start to cross the intersection before cars get a green light); and new left-turn vehicle lanes will also be added there.

Upgraded and new crosswalks: All crosswalks will be upgraded to “high visibility.” New crosswalks will be added at 17th Ave. and Munson Way to increase access to safe crossings.

Curb ramps and sidewalks: In addition to repaving the street, City crews will also be upgrading curb ramps to ADA-accessibility standards and fixing damaged sidewalks.

I will keep you posted about the construction schedule when work is closer to starting, weather depending. For more info about project details: Sarah Fine, OakDOT, sfine@oaklandca.gov


Saturday, September 15 | Creek to Bay Day
Join friends and neighbors at one of Oakland’s 53 Creek to Bay Day projects to improve wildlife habitat, remove litter, and help filter pollutants before they reach the Bay. Last year, volunteers removed more than 40,000 gallons (equal to 1,342 30-gallon trash bags) of trash and 48,390 gallons of invasive plants from Oakland’s creeks, parks, shoreline and streets. For more info and an interactive map and table of project descriptions, locations and times.

Tuesday, September 18 | Creating Age-Friendly Oakland
10:00 am-12:00 pm | Hong Lok Senior Center, 261 11th St. (offered in Cantonese)
Join the Mayor’s Commission on Aging for a series of community presentations and listening sessions on Oakland’s changing demographics and how we can work together to make Oakland a more age‐friendly city, a livable community for all ages. Presentations will include topics on housing, health and wellness, parks and outdoor spaces, transportation access, employment and volunteering opportunities, and more.

Tuesday, September 18 | Cleveland Heights Neighborhood Meeting
6:00-7:30 pm | St. Vartan Armenian Church, 650 Spruce St.
Please join Councilmember Guillén and Cleveland Heights’ neighborhood services coordinator and community resource officer for a discussion and updates about public safety and traffic issues in the neighborhood. For more info: Pamela Erickson, 510-238-7023,

Call for High-School Mentors
Tuesdays, 12:30-1:30 pm | Oakland High School
Oakland High School is seeking mentors for its Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program to support students with “middle”-GPA (2.0-3.5) who want to be the first in their family to go to college. (One AVID student is headed to UC Berkeley this year).  

What’s involved: Mentors are needed each Tuesday when school is in session, during AVID’s Tutorial period (12:30-1:30 pm). That’s when students work through difficult concepts with a small, trusted group of their peers. You don’t have to be a subject-matter expert or prepare any sort of lesson. The primary role is to help the student stay focused and on task and work with their fellow peers when they have questions. Erin Conlisk, AVID’s project coordinator, will provide overview/training before the first period with the students. To volunteer: erin.conlisk@gmail.com, 858-776-2939


Shakespeare in Oakland
Runs thru October 7 | Brooklyn Preserve, 1433 12th Ave.
This fall, Shakespeare’s greatest (tragic, young) love story comes to Oakland. Performing at the historic Brooklyn Preserve, this electrifying take on “Romeo and Juliet” reimagines the tale of star-crossed lovers in a modern context. Led by Mills alumna Rebecca S’manga Frank and an all-female creative team, the production features six dynamic actors playing multiple roles. Tickets: $10-$20, plus four “Pay-What-You-Can” performances. For tickets and more info


Below-Market-Rate Homeownership in Oakland | Apply by September 14
Hello Housing will be managing the sale of 24 new affordable homeownership opportunities in Oakland. These homes are located throughout Oakland, and sales prices are set to be affordable to moderate-income households (see income limits, households of 3+ persons). Each house will have recorded resale restrictions to ensure that these homes remain affordable for future generations. The application deadline to be entered into the lottery to purchase one of the homes is Friday, September 14, 5:00 pm. To learn more and apply

Opportunity Zone Designation Creates New Investment Pathway
New federal Opportunity Zone designations allow investors to reduce or eliminate capital-gains taxes on investments located within approved low-income areas. This tax incentive helps revitalize communities and create jobs in areas that investors might not otherwise may consider. Oakland has 30 approved census tracts, and the City is preparing a list of eligible projects in these areas for Opportunity Fund investments. For more info or to comment on guidelines If you’re interested in creating an Opportunity Fund or nominating a project for investment in Oakland: Marisa Raya, mraya@oaklandca.gov

Development Review Packet | Updates and online access speed up process, help City better track data
The City of Oakland’s Planning and Building Department has updated its Basic Application for Development Review packet. The land and building development process often begins with filling out this form. The packet revisions and updates are aimed at making the review process more efficient and support the City’s efforts to improve data tracking.  

The updated packet includes an expanded Public Art for Private Development Requirements section and a new Recycling Space Requirements section to confirm compliance with City requirements. A new Project and Lot Information section requires applicants to list the number and type of proposed dwelling units, including the level of affordability, while the Density Bonus section outlines potential incentives for developers who include affordable dwelling units in their projects. For more details and online forms