The Alta Waverly Oakland Apartment Complex Center at 23rd and Valdez and in at what is still weirdly named “Broadway Auto Row” (even though Oakland gave up on car dealers as economic development, long ago), is damned huge. No other way to say it.
Alta Waverly is 183-units (looks like more than that) spread over three large city blocks in an area of Oakland once talked about for a baseball stadium for the Oakland A’s, and where you would meet your wife-to-be (or vice versa) when it was dominated by J.J. Restaurant, the 24-hour eatery, during the 70s and 80s.
Overall, what was there was a reflection of the sad fact of institutional investor racism. If you don’t know what that is, it’s where in America white folks with money didn’t want to spend that money in neighborhoods or cities deemed “black” because they didn’t like dark skinned folks. If that’s too raw for you, then you need a massive dose of sad history,both to understand where we are today, and where we need to be before we can say “it’s all good”, as my friend James Meredith used to say way too much back in the day.
This problem exited until Jerry Brown was elected Mayor of Oakland in 1998. After that, thee were scores of whites from San Francisco who would venture over to Oakland as if making some trip to another World. I’m just telling it like it was, and to a lesser extent, is. Jerry Brown made Oakland OK for outsider white people with money to visit and live in.
Prior to Brown, we had problems drawing commerce. I vividly recall helping my friend Phil Tagami, who was trying to attract the United Colors of Benetton, in 1997. After Phil seemed like he was making headway with the retailer, they sent a “thanks but no thanks” letter pointing to “Oakland’s demographics” as the reason. Basically, the United Colors of Benetton didn’t want to be around colored people at the time.
Anyway, Jerry Brown as the celebrity Mayor of Oakland helped spark the demographic change we have seen in our town just by being here – and has caused the dramatic decline in the black population of Oakland (the other contributor was the destruction of Oakland’s once-great affordable housing fund).
But I digress.
What you have to understand is Alta Waverly Oakland Apartment Complex Center represents what is really a new town, right smack in the middle of Oakland. It will potentially add 400 to 1,000 people to Oakland’s population, and be a massive shot in the economic arm of an area that’s needed it for a long time. The problem is that, without redevelopment law, Oakland can’t take full advantage of Alta Waverly Oakland Apartment Complex Center.
With Redevelopment Law – which California had until California Governor (and my former boss) Jerry Brown ripped it out of the law books with the help of the California Supreme Court – Oakland could gather property tax revenue in the area, use it to finance the construction or creation of affordable units, and keep the population of Oakland diverse, racially and economically.
Before Redevelopment Law was killed, Oakland had a giant affordable housing budget – it was $111 million in 2011. Now, it’s gone.
Without Redevelopment Law, we get the problem we have today in Oakland: more homeless people and evil and greedy landlords who seek only to take advantage of dwellers. Otherwise, they too would call for the restoration of Redevelopment Law. Indeed, you can get after the entire Oakland City Council for doing nothing about bringing Redevelopment Law back.
Well, there’s a bill you need to get behind: AB 3037 by Assemblyman David Chiu out of San Francisco. Help him get that passed, so all of Oakland can enjoy Alta Waverly, and be proud of it, not some of Oakland.
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media