LAKE MERRITT: Safety, Health & Inclusive Shared Space

As we near the end of five months sheltering in place, I truly hope you and your loved ones are healthy.

Thanks to your participation and power by the thousands, City Council recently committed to create a Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety. The goal of the task force is to make recommendations to City Council that will reinvest in community programs and services that address the root causes of violence and increase community safety, developing alternative responses by divesting 50% of traditional policing resources in the next FY 2021-23 budget cycle -- see more below.

In this newsletter, you’ll find information on these topics:

  • Updates on creating a healthy, safe, and inclusive environment at Lake Merritt
  • Shifting half of policing resources to community needs & how to get involved
  • Updates including OUSD First Day of School, Housing Resources, AC Transit BRT, Chinatown StreetFest, Black Arts / Black August, COVID businesses resources

 

Lake Merritt Updates
Supporting Health, Safety, Inclusion & Shared Space

 

With Lake Merritt sitting right between East Oakland and the West / North, it’s a natural public gathering spot because of its location and beauty. However, for this same reason, it can also produce tension as different groups get together and cross paths. During this health pandemic, it’s especially important that we do everything possible to keep our community members safe in areas that have seen overcrowding. 

The issues are complex and we must meet the needs of many groups, including families and elders living at the Lake, entrepreneurs / vendors -- primarily people of color -- seeking economic stability in uncertain and financially trying times, and all Oaklanders who must be kept safe and healthy. 

 

As COVID-19 cases have spiked alarmingly (especially among our Black and Brown communities in East Oakland); as neighbors face the long-term quality of life challenges living next to growing activities at Lake Merritt; as those who’ve lost employment or don’t feel safe working indoors become self-made entrepreneurs seeking economic stability through vending at the Lake; as the desire to reconnect with friends and loved ones in-person grows among many Oaklanders; and as the racialized history of public space in our city remains important as ever, I recognize the complexity of both the challenges and opportunities at Lake Merritt. 

For these reasons, my office has and will continue listening to all our constituents, seeking solutions that increase everyone’s sense of belonging, safety, and most importantly, health during COVID-19. We have been taking these steps to support neighbors, park users AND vendors:

 

  • Working with the City Administration and conducting our own education efforts to encourage the public to decrease crowding by utilizing other parks citywide, spaces around the Lake and “slow streets”.
  • Engaging neighbors since last year through meetings and ongoing communication, including Lakeshore Neighbors and the Cleveland Heights Neighborhood Council, which identify concerns as well as solutions.
  • Initiating a more coordinated City approach to the Lake, by working with the City Administrator since last year to coordinate the work of multiple departments including: Parks & Rec, Public Works, Transportation, Police, Fire and other departments. There is now a multi-departmental Lake Working Group, with whom I share your concerns and ideas each week as they make specific plans to address COVID and other issues.  
  • Engaging vendors on Lakeshore Avenue about their needs, economic challenges during COVID, and possible solutions that support public health including spreading farther out from each other, moving and dispersing to alternative spots such as El Embarcadero and the Lakeview Library parking lot. 
  • Bringing together multiple interests to explore a pilot program to better legalize and formalize healthy, safe vending. 
  • Advocating for resources to increase port-a-potties and trash collection at the Lake.

 

See this Oaklandside article on our efforts at the Lake & learn more about neighbors’ and vendors’ concerns and solutions.

I also have been engaging Oakland’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission (PRAC) members about a more inclusive and safe Lake environment, and more activities in City parks that meet the many needs and interests of our residents. I encourage you to attend the commission’s next public meeting, where they will discuss and hear public comments on vending and other issues around the Lake on Wednesday, August 12, 4:30 - 6:30pm. See meeting details here. 

Community Victory -- Thank You
Shifting 50% of Police Budget to Refund Community

 

At the July 28th Council meeting, we unanimously approved the creation of a Reimagining Public Safety Task Force to redirect half ($150M) of OPD’s $300M allocation in the next budget cycle to efforts that address the root causes of violence and crime -- to high quality jobs, housing, mental and physical health services, and youth programs.

We currently spend 44% of the city’s general purpose fund on policing. This is a significantly higher share than cities of comparable population: Atlanta is spending 30% of its FY 20-21 general fund, Detroit 30%, Baltimore 26%, and Nashville 21%.

I’ll co-chair this task force with CM Loren Taylor and commit to partnering with community -- centering those impacted by police and other forms of violence -- to begin shifting from an institutional frame of enforcement and punishment to creating relationships of care, trust, prevention, and wellness. We will deepen our investment in compassionate, trauma-informed responses that make us safer, healthier and more equitable as a city and which do not require armed law enforcement when alternatives are possible.

This progress is only possible because of the labor of Oakland’s grassroots organizers and your participation. For many years, these organizations have led people-powered efforts to transform and heal our communities and stand up for Black Lives. Big love to Anti Police-Terror ProjectBlack Organizing ProjectACCE ActionElla Baker Center for Human RightsCommunities United for Restorative Youth JusticeOakland RisingCommunity READY CorpsAsian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)Causa Justa Just CauseEast Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, Urban Peace Movement, so many more. We praise and thank you!

Next Steps: Are you interested in participating or supporting the Task Force?

 

Fill out this interest + application form by Friday, August 14th regarding serving on the Reimagining Public Safety 17-member task force or on one of the supporting advisory groups. The time commitment for task force members is expected to be 10-12 hours per week and for advisory board members 10-12 hours per month. Send other questions or comments to reimaginesafety@oaklandca.gov.

The task force will advise Council in creating a comprehensive set of recommendations to shift resources from traditional policing to city departments such as: Housing & Community Development; Human Services; Economic & Workforce Development; Parks, Recreation & Youth Development; Violence Prevention, and Race & Equity.

Thank you for demanding systemic change and evolving the status quo.

 

In case you missed it, co-founder of Anti Police-Terror Project Cat Brooks, Executive Director of Black Organizing Project Jackie Byers and I came together to write this opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle about the passion and power of the people demanding liberation and achieving this step forward. It was also republished in the East Bay Express.

Oakland is rich in community leaders who’ve built and led movements throughout our history. You, Oaklanders, are showing how to secure and expand space at the table and in decisions, even when it seems we were never meant to be invited. As we move forward together — even with many challenges ahead — I hope we can be reassured by another Oakland leader, Assata Shakur: “We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

City & Neighborhood News
School / Housing / Arts / COVID-19 Services

 

OUSD Back to School Resources: Monday, August 10 is the first day of school! For info & updates about returning to school, visit OUSD Family Central. This resource includes registration information, a technology survey, and more. For an update on contract negotiations between OUSD and the Oakland Educators Association, read this Oaklandside recap.

Housing Resources: The City Council allocated $5M in CARES Act Funds for rent and mortgage relief. Contact the organizations below for assistance. 

  • Keep Oakland Housed supports Oakland residents who have a household income at or below 50% of the Area Median Income and are experiencing a housing crisis. Contact Keep Oakland Housed partners for help including financial assistance, case management and legal services. 
  • Alameda County Housing Secure prevents displacement in Alameda County by providing free legal services and emergency financial assistance to low-income tenants and homeowners. These services enable county residents who are vulnerable to displacement to stabilize their housing.
  • I am supporting Assembly Bill 1436 (Chiu) as a comprehensive solution to a potential wave of statewide evictions due to COVID-19. AB 1436 provides a path for renters and landlords to address unpaid rent while keeping tenants housed. The bill recognizes the scale and economic impact of the COVID-19 emergency by removing the threat of eviction for renters affected by the crisis while preserving the ability of landlords to recover unpaid rent and seek mortgage forbearance. Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

 

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 I authored has affected you as a tenant or property owner during COVID-19. Take the survey in Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese or English here. The eviction moratorium, first passed in March, was extended to last until the Local Emergency is declared over.

Chinatown StreetFest Fridays: Every Friday in August from 4-8 pm on 9th St between Franklin and Webster, we encourage you to check out physically distanced Chinatown StreetFest Fridays. I had a lovely outdoor dinner with my family for the kick-off. There is outdoor, distanced, sanitized dining set up by Chinatown restaurants, entertainment, and special offers at these weekly events. Please support our local Chinatown which has taken a hard hit during COVID. Thanks to Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce for organizing & leading.

Black Arts Movement Business District #BlackAugust Celebration: Check out BAMBDFEST 2020 for a celebration of Black arts, culture, and economics here in Oakland created and curated under the direction of Dr. Ayodele Nzinga. The festival consists of virtual performances by theater artists, musicians, poets, youth groups and town legends. It will feature an eclectic mix of free and paid virtual events that include theater, literary events, gallery installations, vendors, arts & crafts, panels, interviews and content that showcases the best of Oakland's vibrant artistry.

Shoutout to Laney Eagles, Coach Beam & Oakland: Like some of you I bet, we've been binging Last Chance U featuring the incredible Laney Eagles’ journey with Coach John Beam through last year's season on Netflix. The show explores how our Laney student-athletes are persisting and overcoming challenges in their lives and communities, finding joy, brotherhood, and becoming powerful young men in a world that does not always see or understand their stories. I'm inspired and proud to represent District 2 -- home to Laney -- and Oakland.

AC Transit 24/7 Bus Service Launch: AC Transit’s new bus rapid transit service starts non-stop service this Sunday, August 9th that will run 24/7 between Oakland and San Leandro along International Boulevard and E. 14th Street, arriving every 10 minutes during peak times. Tempo will run on bus-only lanes to increase speed and reduce traffic delays. ​It also includes new lighting, high-visibility crosswalks, and easy boarding for riders with mobility devices, bikes, strollers, and carts, as well as seniors and people with disabilities. Learn more here in English, Spanish, Chinese or Vietnamese.  

City Streamlines Permitting for Use of Outdoor Retail, Dining: Since its launch, about 180 businesses have applied for the Flex Streets’ streamlined permitting process. Its goal is to spur equitable economic recovery by making it easier for retailers, restaurants and other allowed businesses to use larger portions of the sidewalk, parking lanes and streets by streamlining permitting requirements. Fees are being waived. Learn more and apply here.

Re-opening Resources: Visit the City’s Planning Resources for Business Re-Opening website for the latest information on resources to support re-opening, including County screening guidance for employers in multiple languages, information on cleaning/disinfecting, a printable face covering sign for businesses in eight languages and the newly created ReOpening Guide signs by the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Oaklandish and the Economic Recovery Advisory Council, 11” x 17” signs for download in four languages. To help the City gauge COVID-19 impacts to your business and what resources would help, please take our brief Business Re-opening and Recovery Survey. NOTE: While the Governor announced plans for opening of outdoor salons last week, the current Alameda County Health Order does not allow salons, barbershops and personal services (nails, tattoos and massage) to operate. Local orders prevail in areas where they are more restrictive than the State order. See the Health Order’s Appendix C for permitted businesses and activities.

 

#LoveLife  


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  • Ellen Konnert
    Nikki, thank you for your thoughtful news letter. I am almost 76yo and live by the Lake. I used to love to take walks in and around the Lake. No more. Nobody wears a mask. Venders are Covid unsafe and people living in cars around the Lake use the park and the Lake as a toilet. What are your plans to alleviate these problems.
    Ellen Konnert, RN