This week, I was alarmed to learn about new COVID data from Roots Community Health Center that shows COVID cases are surging and many infections are from parties and social gatherings. This is a sobering reminder to continue to shelter in place and follow guidelines to protect everyone’s health. And, as rent becomes due on the 1st soon, I’m glad to share that my eviction moratorium extension passed unanimously. Oakland has the strongest eviction moratorium in the state, and it will last through the end of the Local Emergency. The City will also provide millions in rent and mortgage relief with federal CARES Act funds.
In this newsletter, you’ll find important policy updates and neighborhood news:
- COVID cases surge, many linked to parties/gatherings
- Eviction moratorium extended until end of Local Emergency
- Preview of Tuesday’s Council meeting
- News on homelessness, the Ghost Ship tragedy and more
New Data on COVID Spread
Last Friday, I joined City and County public health experts and leaders at a press conference to raise awareness about the rise of COVID within our Black and Brown communities and to urge our community to follow health guidelines to keep our loved ones safe: wear a face covering, stay 6 feet apart, wash hands frequently, and avoid social gatherings and travel. See news coverage here.
Dr. Noha Aboelata of Roots Community Health Center shared sobering data showing that COVID cases are sharply increasing in Oakland, particularly in East Oakland. In July, the number of cases connected to people attending social gatherings and parties rose to almost 40% of total positive cases -- nearly double the share of cases contracted from the workplace. In addition, COVID cases in Alameda County now exceed 10,000.
City leaders expressed particular concern about large gatherings at the Lake. While we all need to get fresh air and recreate, we encourage residents to use our parks and public spaces responsibly during the pandemic. To avoid overcrowding, we urge residents to #GiveTheLakeABreak -- use less crowded parts of the Lake, take advantage of parks throughout Oakland and Slow Streets. The City continues to address traffic and parking congestion at the Lake, including weekend street and parking closures. Learn more here.
Thank you to the leaders who came together to raise awareness in our community: Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Nicolas J. Moss, Alameda Health System CEO Delvecchio Finley, Roots Community Health Center CEO Dr. Noha Aboelata, OPRYD Director Nicolas Williams, Councilmember Loren Taylor and local musician Kev Choice.
We hear your concerns about the health risks of crowds at the Lake. We know that we need to do much more to reach people who are not wearing masks or distancing, and my office will ramp up efforts with community leaders to do this urgent outreach. We know that vending is attracting more people to the Lake than the limited space can safely handle, and the City is continuing its education work with vendors as well as planning to issue fines. Recognizing that many local vendors are struggling to make ends meet, my office is exploring a pilot program to allow vending in a more physically dispersed, safe manner throughout and around the Lake area. Please keep your suggestions coming; we are working to implement them with the City Administration, including designating specific places for vending, better signage and markers (such as circles) for physical distancing.
“With new revelations of drastic increase in numbers of COVID-19 cases, especially in communities in East Oakland, heavily populated by African American and Latinx people, I am seeing that a shift in my actions and action of my community is needed. Although we may be taking precautions, many others aren't. We can all do better with a little effort. Without a shift in our actions, as a community, we will continue to see a rise in numbers, and it will continue to affect our way of life and efforts to get back to normal. I'm not saying we all need to lock ourselves in our homes, I'm just encouraging that our outside activities have to be more responsible and considerate of all community. We also soon could see city government officials enforcing social distancing mandates which no one wants to see on either side.
'Give The Lake some space'. Meaning, utilize more of the beautiful space the lake has to offer, including the many parks in the area off of Lakeshore, Astro Park, Snow Park, inside the lake, and off Grand avenue. We can spread out, still be outside, and be more safe, And wear face coverings! I don't know a health care expert in the country who hasn't said that that this simple action would dramatically decrease the numbers. I encouraged people to stay healthy, stay creative in ways to explore outside spaces, and stay educated on how the virus is spreading."
Council Meeting Recap
Eviction Moratorium Extended & Tenant Protections Approved
During this pandemic, my office has been leading on pressing issues like keeping people in their homes to shelter in place and prevent homelessness. Last Tuesday, City Council unanimously voted to extend the eviction moratorium I authored with Councilmember Dan Kalb and City Attorney Barbara Parker, and to strengthen tenant protections. Oakland now has the state’s strongest eviction moratorium, which now extends until the Local Emergency is declared over. Tenants cannot be evicted if they live in a unit covered by Oakland’s Just Cause Ordinance. Your rent also cannot be increased beyond 2.7%, the CPI / Consumer Price Index, and you cannot be charged late fees during this time. For details, see this FAQ.
With COVID-19, it’s estimated that 20 - 28 million people across the country will face eviction between now and September. This moratorium will provide needed stability and relief, though temporary. The City will also provide $5M in rent and mortgage relief with the CARES Act, and we’ll share details soon. See coverage from KTVU.
Council also passed expanded tenant protections that protect vulnerable tenants, improve enforcement, clarify roommate additions, and limit late fees. Thank you to the many people who spoke out to express support for these important tenant protections and to the #ProtectOaklandRenters coalition of advocates and organizers who helped make this possible.
YOUR FEEDBACK NEEDED // COVID-19 RENTAL SURVEY: The City's Rent Adjustment Program & Housing and Community Development Department is interested in learning how the residential rent increase / eviction moratorium has affected you as a tenant or property owner during COVID-19. Take the survey at bit.ly/oakrapsurvey. It's also available in Chinese, Spanish & Vietnamese.
Reimagining Public Safety Task Force, Oakland’s 2030 Equitable Climate Action Plan, CARES Act Funding & Museum of Jazz and Art
Reimagining Public Safety Task Force (Item 11). Throughout the past two months of protests and calls to reimagine public safety, I have listened to the community to help advance our collective goals of ensuring all of us are safe. As a former organizer, I know that the heart of this movement is about freedom from violence and systemic change that invests in true wellness and stability: health services, stable homes, and good jobs to start. My budget amendments sought to shift resources from policing to community needs and begin setting up alternative responses to address mental health, homelessess, human trafficking and neighborhood safety. Though my proposals did not pass, together we built momentum to continue this work.
On Tuesday, Council will have an opportunity to vote on a resolution to create a Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety. This resolution builds off the framework in my June 22, 2020 budget memo, where I outlined the key elements of a plan for making a commitment to a 50% OPD budget reduction in the City’s next two-year budget. Our current FY 2020-21 spending on OPD is 44% of our general purpose fund. This is a significantly higher share than other cities of comparable population size: Atlanta is spending 30% of its FY 20-21 general fund, Baltimore 26%, Detroit 30%, and Nashville 21%.
I’m introducing the task force resolution with Councilmember Loren Taylor. The goal of this task force is to make budget recommendations to Council that advance safety and equity by reducing OPD’s allocation by 50% so that we can invest in city services and programs that create wellness and security, like housing, jobs, youth services and more. We are committed to an open and transparent process with robust and meaningful community engagement, centering impacted communities who have experienced violence. Together with community leaders, grassroots organizations, youth, and families we will deepen our investment in compassionate, trauma-informed responses that can make us safer, healthier and more equitable as a city and which transition away from armed law enforcement when not required.
Other important items on the Council agenda include:
- Item 3.2 - Museum of Jazz and Art: The Museum of Jazz & Art (MOja) is a proposed 70,000 square feet Museum, on a City of Oakland Opportunity Site for Adaptive Reuse, with 3-levels of galleries, a restaurant, café, auditorium, music studio and a History-Hope-Heritage educational center overlooking Lake Merritt at the old Fire Alarm Building. MOja plans to preserve the site’s history in addition to preserving world jazz history as a cultural hub. Council will hold a hearing to consider an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement with MOja for 18 months, with a 6 month extension, as the next step in realizing this important project of cultural preservation.
- Item 10 - Oakland’s 2030 Equitable Climate Action Plan / ECAP: The ECAP is intended to respond to the climate change crisis with a strategy built on justice, equal opportunity and environmental protection, and to help transition our city to a low carbon future that creates green jobs, improves health, mobilizes our resources, and addresses the inequalities that climate change has only worsened. Read and comment on the final copy here. Thank you to the incredible team spanning City staff, grassroots organizations, and Oakland community members, and the insights from thousands of Oaklanders that have helped shape the ECAP, including our District 2 reps - Navina Khanna, Ryder Diaz, Phoenix Armenta, and Troya Wright!
- Item 14 - CARES Act Funding: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by Congress and provides funding to state and local municipalities. The State is providing $36,994,706 to the City of Oakland. This resolution will allow Oakland to spend these funds on a timely and flexible basis to meet State and Federal requirements. Funds will go towards housing and homelessness prevention, direct support for essential workers, small businesses and other critical programs.
City & District 2 News
Updates on Homelessness, Ghost Ship and More
Ghost Ship Tragedy: In the wake of the tragic Ghost Ship fire, the City is working to revamp its permitting processes and address unpermitted events and venues. Learn more here.
Building a Community Action Plan for the Athol Tennis Courts: Homelessness is a challenging and growing issue in our city, and a top priority for my office. I am committed to identifying and transitioning unsheltered residents to dignified, permanent housing and working with diverse stakeholders to think creatively about solving the homelessness crisis in District 2 and our City.
The Athol Tennis Courts are in the heart of District 2 and were once utilized by many residents from across Oakland to play tennis and recreate with one another. We’ve heard from many residents about their desire to see the Athol Tennis Courts by Lake Merritt renovated and to have regular programming reinstated. Importantly, we must first support a transition plan for the unsheltered residents currently living on the courts -- a plan that upgrades their living conditions during the COVID pandemic to protect the health and welfare of all residents. See KTVU’s recent coverage of the Athol Courts here.
Housing and Homelessness News from Oaklandside:
- The Warriors House, in context: You’ve probably heard of the “Warriors House” in West Oakland, a blue-and-gold pad on 35th Street decked out in Dubs banners. You may have also heard that its owner, Lloyd Canamore, is at risk of losing the home, which his family has owned for 50 years. Housing reporter Natalie Orenstein took a big step back to examine how decades of predatory lending have left many other low-income and Black Oaklanders on the brink, too.
- RV + vacant lot = housing: There are thousands of vacant lots in Oakland and hundreds of people living in RVs, which is currently illegal in most parts of the city. Now, a new city pilot program will allow RV dwellers to apply for a permit to live on those vacant properties for a year, legally.
State Funding for Homelessness: Building on the success of Project Roomkey, Governor Gavin Newsom announced an additional $600 million in funding for Roomkey, the next phase in the state’s response to protecting California residents experiencing homelessness and who are at risk of contracting COVID-19.