I hope you and your loved ones are safe as we battle both wildfires and COVID. Let’s be sure to appreciate our firefighters, first responders and health professionals during these challenging times, as well as our educators and childcare workers who teach and care for our children.
City Council’s legislative session starts on Tuesday. In this newsletter, you’ll find information on:
- Oakland Pride
- Wednesday, 9/16 Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission meeting on Lake Merritt
September City Council meetings
- Tuesday, 9/15 City Council meeting including reports on emergency response and public safety
- Monday, 9/21 Life Enrichment Committee meeting on homeless encampment management policy
- Tuesday, 9/22 Community Economic Development Committee meeting on affordable housing impact fees
- Tuesday, 9/29 Joint meeting of City Council and Public Safety Commissions including the new Reimagining Public Safety Task Force
Happy Oakland Pride!
Oakland Pride 2020 was themed "Liberation through community" inspired by Audre Lorde. Happy 3 year anniversary to the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center who serve our LGBTQ community with social, educational, and holistic health-related programs, services and activities. Shout out to the East Bay Queer Arts Center for sharing creative opportunities for health equity through culturally competent, financially accessible, interdisciplinary art innovation and through marginalized LGBTQIA rights advocacy; and promoting the well-being of the QTPOC artist community. Both organizations are located in District 2's Grand Lake neighborhood.
WEDNESDAY: Parks & Recreation Meeting
On Sustainable, Healthy Use of Lake Merritt
This Wednesday, September 16th, an Ad Hoc Committee of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission (PRAC) will share recommendations for sustainable use of Lake Merritt, following last month’s meeting that included hearing a report and feedback on Lake activities.
I thank PRAC Commissioners for their leadership, and for preparing a report that offers thoughtful guiding principles for community action and positive solutions. They seek to balance two perspectives:
- What is going on around the Lake is not sustainable and must change ASAP.
- People need healthy outdoor places to gather and engage in commercial activity, especially during these unprecedented times.
PRAC urges the City to immediately move vending to non-park sites such as City streets and lots, and they recommend a framework for a vending pilot, including: hours, locations, permits/rules, promotion, community benefits, and investment/costs. These recommendations are not final, and require City staff to draft a vending pilot program with additional input from community members and vendors to then bring back to PRAC and implement with partners.
As we all know, Lake Merritt is our jewel, a 150 year old wildlife sanctuary, a diverse neighborhood and a joyful gathering spot for countless Oaklanders and visitors. My goals as your Councilmember are to protect public health during COVID, to ensure our parks are inclusive public spaces, and to work with all of you to increase everyone’s safety and sense of belonging. Oaklandside and other news outlets have reported on both the challenges and opportunities at the Lake. See:
- Street vending at Lake Merritt: race, space and COVID-19
- ‘I’m fighting to be able to live in my own home’: Lakeshore residents share serious concerns
Here is a summary of short and longer-term work at the Lake that my office is leading together with the City Administration, multiple city departments, PRAC and community members. Our goals are public health and safety, as well as equity and inclusion at our parks.
- Ongoing COVID operations -- PARKING/TRAFFIC: Street closures of Lakeshore southbound and El Embarcadero, and parking enforcement to help minimize overcrowding and illegal parking. TRASH: We’ve expanded collection during the summer, added cardboard containers and will add new large capacity trash compactors next month. SANITATION: We’re maintaining porta-potties and hand washing stations along Lakeshore; by the end of the year, we plan to renovate the Astro Park bathroom with funds I secured in our city budget together with community leaders. EDUCATION/ENFORCEMENT: Municipal Code Officers educate vendors about complying with required licenses and fees and have been issuing citations for unpermitted vending. Police officers educate the public about compliance with parking, noise and other issues. Read more in this PRAC report, starting on page 7.
- Park Ambassadors/Community Ambassadors -- Last year, I called for the creation of Park Ambassadors to help provide information and education to park users. During COVID, these teams were created and have been providing park users with masks, PPE, and engagement on safety and health. Longer-term, we can build off and expand this model. We are also developing a Community Ambassador program to help engage with folks at the Lake. We have received interest from neighbors, volunteers with the Cleveland Heights Neighborhood Council and other community groups and hope to pilot a program that includes community building and conflict resolution.
- “Reimagined” Park Rangers to support responsible and equitable park usage -- Despite the city’s efforts to enforce illegal parking and unpermitted vending through education and citations, we know that more needs to be done to address serious neighborhood issues including: Essential healthcare workers who can’t sleep due to late night noise. Seniors who don’t feel safe walking the Lake during COVID due to overcrowding. Families who walk out their doors to find urination, defecation, and litter/trash on the streets, sidewalks, and pathways around our Lake. I am committed to advocating for Park Rangers, exploring a new model for what safety at the Lake and other parks could look like in our changing and growing city, through the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force, which I co-chair. Park Rangers would be dedicated to building relationships at city parks and working with neighbors and community members to address issues, with training that includes conflict mediation and restorative justice.
- Longer-term programming at major parks -- The Lake is home to so many wonderful activities, from dancing, to music, vending, picnics, 5ks and BBQs. There is so much opportunity in creating safe and permitted options for residents to enjoy our city’s most visited public park and to improve and program other major parks across the city. I’m advocating for regular programming at our major parks across the city to provide safe, outdoor activities for our community members at Lake Merritt and other major parks.
- Longer-term outdoor markets across the city -- Since last year, my office has been advocating for a vending pilot project to move and better regulate the vending currently taking place in the park on Lakeshore. I support the PRAC Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendation to move current vending from the park to a City street or lot, such as El Embarcadero, Lakeview Library Lot or Kaiser Convention Center Lot, as well as to create a pilot program with vendors that supports our Black and Brown entrepreneurs during today’s economic recession. Models for community-based markets already exist. I recently joined the launch of the Akoma Market in East Oakland, organized by the Black Cultural Zone. This weekly outdoor market of local Black and Brown vendors, art and music is vibrant, organized and COVID-safe with temperature checks, free testing, mask requirements, physical distancing and sanitation. It’s one of several models to build off across the city.
PREVIEW: Upcoming City Council Meetings
[Tuesday, September 15: City Council Meeting]
Reports on Emergency Response and Public Safety
Our Fall legislative session begins this coming Tuesday September 15 at 1:30pm. Note that we have reinstituted 10-day noticing so our agendas will be publicly posted 10 days in advance. We are also reinstituting our weekly Rules & Legislation Committee on Thursdays at 11am so that scheduling agenda items will be done publicly.
Some important items on the agenda include:
1. Item 2.11: COVID 19 Emergency Response -- Over the weekend, Oakland opened four respite centers due to unhealthy air from the wildfires. I know we must do more to protect vulnerable and unhoused residents from unhealthy air and excessive heat, not just for a few hours a day, but long-term. Read more in Street Spirit about the respite centers and groups like Masks2all and MaskOakland who distribute thousands of N95 masks to those in need.
City Council will discuss important emergency response issues including our current policy (below) and emergency facilities, such as the Arena and Convention Center, which staff are looking at.
Current Policy: "Clear Air Respite Centers will be activated when air quality reaches or exceeds the 250 AQI Range as determined by AirNow.gov. Cooling Centers will be activated when the temperature is forecasted by the National Weather Service to reach or exceed 95 degrees Fahrenheit for three consecutive days, or a single day of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. These triggers are still under evaluation."
Please share your feedback. For additional emergency resources, see my August newsletter.
2. Item 2.15: Update on Planning for MACRO — Mobile Assistance Crisis Responders of Oakland (MACRO) is a pilot program to provide non-law-enforcement response to non-violent/non-felony crises. The Department of Violence Prevention will provide an update on planning efforts.
3. Item 4: Oakland’s 911 Grand Jury Report and Recommendations — In June, the Alameda County Grand Jury issued a report titled “Oakland 911 Communications Center - A Center in Crisis.” It was initiated because 911 calls in Oakland are not being answered to State standards. The report makes several findings and recommendations, and OPD provides its response.
4. Item 7: Transfer and Management of Brooklyn Basin Project Parks and Open Space — City Council will consider accepting jurisdictional control from the Port of Oakland of parks and open space located in District 2’s Brooklyn Basin. I worked with Sogorea Te' Land Trust to name one of the parks Sii Tka Park: Ohlone for “into the water” and pronounced Seed-Kah.
[Monday, September 21: Life Enrichment Committee Meeting]
Homeless Encampment Management Policy
On September 21 at 1:30pm, the LEC Committee will consider adoption of the City Administration’s proposed Homeless Encampment Management Policy.
“The purpose of this policy is to manage the adverse impacts of homeless encampments by balancing the interests of all residents (i.e. unhoused, housed, business community), focusing encampment actions on mitigating negative outcomes as they pertain to public safety, public health, and equity outcomes. This policy aims to:
- Designate high- and low-sensitivity areas, where unmanaged encampments are presumed to cause unreasonably high levels of health and safety impacts due to the nature of the location;
- Determine findings that will prompt EMT intervention;
- Outline actions or behaviors at encampments that may elicit a law-enforcement response, irrespective of EMT intervention;
- Provide guidance on addressing unreasonable health and safety risks, promoting voluntary compliance, and strategies to address non-compliance.”
We look forward to your feedback as the Committee considers this policy.
[Tuesday, September 22: Community Economic Development Committee Meeting]
Affordable Housing Impact Fees
On September 22 at 1:30pm, the CED Committee will receive a report on Impact Fees that were established to support the creation of affordable housing, including the findings of an external audit. We look forward to your feedback as the Committee reviews this information.
[Tuesday, September 29: Joint Meeting of City Council & Public Safety Commissions]
To Include New Reimagining Public Safety Task Force
Save the date for the evening of September 29 for the annual joint meeting of the Oakland City Council and our public safety commissions — Community Policing Advisory Board, Police Commission and Safety & Services Oversight Committee.
This will also be the official launch of the new Reimagining Public Safety Task Force, which I co-chair with CM Loren Taylor.
Through the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force, the Oakland City Council is answering the call from residents and community leaders who have stated unequivocally that the time has come for change. Oakland’s current policing system has been plagued by challenges for decades.
The Reimagining Public Safety Task Force will engage in an open, transparent, and thorough process—co-led with the community—to create a shared vision for rapidly reimagining and reconstructing the public safety system in Oakland. Its goal is to develop recommendations to increase community safety through alternative responses to policing and investments that address the root causes of violence, with a goal of a 50 percent reduction in the general fund budget allocation to the Oakland Police Department. The Task Force members will be announced this coming week.