The Oakland City Council is set to approve an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement for a largely market rate housing project proposed by developer UrbanCore and East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation on the hotly contested city-owned East 12th St. parcel.
The Council listened to three possible proposals at an hours-long public hearing on Feb. 29 in which almost all of the 150 public speakers and community organizations present expressed support for the E12th Coalition’s 100 percent affordable housing proposal.
However, three days later, the council decided in closed session to back UrbanCore’s proposal. The vote on the agreement will take place during the Tuesday, March 15 council meeting.
According to a press release by the city, UrbanCore was selected because its proposal “maximizes housing on the site” and provides 30 percent belowmarket rate units, a majority of which would serve families that earn over $55,000 a year.
The city’s press release also states that the proposal “minimizes the amount of city subsidy required to produce the affordable units” and provides a $4 million payment to the city.
UrbanCore proposes to build 252 market rate units in a 26-story high-rise tower overlooking Lake Merritt and 108 below-market rate units in a separate 8-story mid-rise building that would face East Oakland.
The council’s closed session decision puts it in conflict with widespread sentiment, which holds that the use of scarce public land to build luxury housing will accelerate displacement in a city going through an affordable housing crisis.
“The market will take care of market rate housing,” said Krishna Desai of the E12th Coalition during last week’s public hearing. “They don’t need Oakland’s help. The poor and working class need your help.”
Desai, along with James Vann of the Oakland Tenants Union, said that 73 percent of development projects – or between 15,000 and 20,000 housing units – in the city’s pipeline for the next five years are for market rate developments.
The E12th Coalition’s “People’s Proposal,” which calls for 100 percent affordable housing on the public site, was the most widely supported by the residents who packed the public hearing.
A majority of their below-market rate units would be affordable for families earning between $28,000 and $46,000 annually.
According to a press release by the E12th Coalition, their proposal “has 25 percent more affordable housing than the other proposals, has the highest affordable housing occupancy density, and can house the most working families.”
The E12th Coalition’s proposal features 133 affordable housing units in a 7-story mid-rise.
Satellite Affordable Housing Associates, the affordable housing developer that is working with E12th Coalition on the proposal, would provide a $1 million payment to the city and would require a significantly higher subsidy to produce the affordable housing units than the other two proposals.
Organizations that have endorsed the “People’s Proposal” include SEIU Local 1021, Asians 4 Black Lives, Oakland Education Association, Causa Justa: Just Cause, Oakland Rising, Urban Habitat, Critical Resistance and Public Advocates.
“The City Council has a choice between prioritizing more affordable housing for working families or luxury housing that will accelerate displacement,” said Dunya Alwan, a member of the E12th Coalition.
“Majority market-rate housing is a fundamentally inequitable approach to development on public land that disproportionately benefits developers and high-income individuals,” said Alwan.
Affordable housing advocates are also once again questioning the legality of the City Council’s decision, citing California’s Surplus Lands Act, which requires the prioritization of affordable housing developments on public land.
Last year when the City Council was set to adopt UrbanCore’s earlier proposal for 100 percent market rate housing on the East 12th St. parcel, a leaked legal memo to the City Council from the City Attorney revealed to the public that council members were knowingly violating the Surplus Lands Act, but wanted to go ahead with the agreement anyway.