Oakland From A Distance – Remember the Oakland Moms 4 Housing versus Wedgewood issue, where a group led by Dominique Walker elected to take over, or as Eddie Murphy so time-perfectly put it “squatting” on Saturday Night Live, in an West Oakland home at 2928 Magnolia that she did not own and with her five-year-old daughter and one-year-old son?
Well, this blogger called for the City of Oakland to step in and take action. As of now, three Oakland Councilmembers – Oakland City Councilmember and President Rebecca Kaplan (At Large), Dan Kalb (District One), and Nikki Fortunato Bas (District Two) – have announced that they plan to step in and block Wedgewood from moving forward with eviction proceedings.
And in this update, the court hearing that was set for the Wednesday right after Christmas was continued to Monday of next week. Why? Because the for Moms 4 Housing lawyer told the judge that they simply were not prepared, according to sources. The lawyer managed to get her clients Misty Cross and Dominique Walker of Moms 4 Housing extra time in the home they occupied. Overall, that’s good news for them.
Why? The good news is that Moms4Housing wants to buy the house!
This is what Oakland Councilmember Bas wrote on her newsletter: “This Christmas Eve morning, I stood with Moms4Housing together with my Council colleagues from the offices of Rebecca Kaplan and Dan Kalb. We are urging Wedgewood Properties to halt the eviction and to negotiate with Moms4Housing who have offered to purchase the home. Please support the Moms today and check updates here.”
That’s awesome news, but it also raises a ton of questions.
There are over 4,000 people estimated to be living in Oakland unsheltered. Oakland has more homeless people per capita than San Francisco and Berkeley. So far, the Oakland City Council’s collective approach to solving this problem has not been systemic, but piecemeal, adding “tuff sheds” here, and beds over there, all the while doing nothing to stop the continued formation of an engine that makes more and more expensive, market rate homes.
So, in helping Moms 4 Housing, the Oakland City Council continues this show-for-media approach, and does nothing to solve the real problem, or for that matter, face the real truth.
The Oakland City Council Is To Blame For The Moms 4 Housing Situation
In looking at how the housing problem in Oakland and California has been addressed, I’m firmly convinced that our intelligence quotient has taken a collective nose-dive. The Oakland City Council has encouraged the development of more market rate housing and fewer low-skilled, high paying jobs, thus exacerbating the housing problem. They seem to act with the idea that “trickle-down” economics will, at some point, bring affordable housing to the people. Well, economists call that form of thinking “the long run” – and, as Milton Keynes said, “In the long run, we’re all dead.”
What the Oakland City Council has consistently failed to do is alter and use California law to bring back the use of tax increment financing to build truly affordable housing. Legislation is on the books allowing them to do this in the form of Senate Bill 628 Beale, which has been around since 2015. It came into existence because then California Governor Jerry Brown admitted he was wrong in working to do away with the original California Redevelopment Law system: a complex series of legal codes that had its own “zip code area” in the law books: Sections 33000 to 33999 of the California Heath and Safety Code. (The reason I know that is because, as an intern to the Oakland Redevelopment Agency, from 1987 to 1988, and then an urban economic consultant, I made it my mission to know the code by memory. I even found a loophole that would have gained Oakland $4 billion in redevelopment revenue in 1996. Knowing the code was the key to understanding how to form and fund economic development programs using the Oakland Redevelopment Agency.)
Anyway, Jerry’s actions made Sections 33000 to 33999 of the California Heath and Safety Code dormant – laying in wait for someone in the California Legislature to come along and revive them. You would think someone would do that. You would think the people who represent us and spend more time calling themselves names like “progressive” would actually do something progressive, and not actually act in a way that’s conservative and regressive.
So, because of that dynamic, vast intellectual acres of land that were devoted to creating housing and job opportunities for those least fortunate, were erased – and all the while, the progressives were afraid of blasting the person they pointed to as “progressive”, even as he went and became conservative: Governor Jerry Brown.
California Governor Jerry Brown, A Progressive, Created The California Housing Problem When He Killed Redevelopment
So, with no California Redevelopment Law, gone was the famous 20 percent set-aside for affordable housing that gave Oakland as much as $110 million for such developments in its last year of existence, 2011, and over $300 million between 2008 and 2011. And doing away with California Redevelopment Law made it harder to balance the City’s budget. Moreover, doing away with California Redevelopment Law took away Oakland’s ability to form what would have been a huge-ass redevelopment budget due to tech-fueled growth in assessed values of land – one so large that the needs of those who needed extremely affordable housing would have been met.
So, the fact is, the Oakland City Council, including the current Councilmembers, have caused this problem as much as Governor Brown. It’s nice that they stepped in to help Moms 4 Housing, but, like all of the other efforts to, ah, “help the homeless”, its a cosmetic band-aide that the elected officials hope works well enough such that you don’t blame them for the overall problem. Meanwhile, the Oakland City Council, and this includes Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, continues to fret and worry about how to deal with what it sees as an intractable problem.
The problem can be solved with a giant redirection of property tax revenue to build truly affordable housing, now. The City’s answer here is based on the legislation for the Oakland A’s Ballpark. The Howard Terminal Infrastructure Development Zone Program will allow the creation of a tax increment financing district that can raise over $1.4 billion in redevelopment revenue for the A’s ballpark, or any affordable housing project in Oakland. Or, did you read California Senate Bill 293? Probably not. Even then, you probably don’t know how to do the calculations to determine the revenue throw-off. Well, I do. It’s huge folks – and well north of the conservative basis I used to arrive at $1.4 billion. So much so, you should be shamed for not knowing what’s being planned right under your nose.
Instead, you’re force-fed politically-motivated pablum about how bad things are and it’s the fault of the Republicans or the tech community or… – there’s always a nice, bite-sized word that reflects this disease of reductionist thinking. The kind of thinking that says “Oh, that Zennie’s just backing Wedgewood, when in point of fact, even though I’m against the players in this entire system, Wedgewood approached me to explain their view, Moms 4 Housing did not.
Why am I against the players in the system? Because the system itself must be destroyed, they’re part of it, and the only way to do that is to bring back the use of tax increment financing in Oakland, and on a giant scale.
The City of Oakland, and that means the Oakland City Council, must stop using the homeless and the needy as pawns in a game of “I can save you, but you have to be in trouble and with a ton of media to make me look good.” This game has gone on for too long, or since four years after Governor Brown got rid of California Redevelopment Law. We need to bring it back, and even then, don’t wait for it: California Governor Gavin Newsom approved Senate Bill 293 – all it takes is for the Oakland City Council to stop screwing around and waiting for the Oakland A’s plans, and use it. The mathematics of the housing market need to be changed – that’s the best way to do it.
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