Opinion: Hold Mayor Schaaf Accountable for Housing, Police Reform Failures


By Eric Arnold

The Mercury News (August 12, 2018) reports that as a candidate Libby Schaaf promised that 28 percent of the housing built in Oakland would be affordable.

The article also notes only 6 percent of housing currently in the pipeline is considered  “affordable.”

Most of that 6 percent “affordable” housing was generated by community-benefit agreements, and not solely by impact fees—which do not guarantee onsite affordable units in new developments .

How is that acceptable, if displacement and affordability are the top two issues in Oakland today?

If Lailan Huen, Ayodele Nzinga, Carla Service, Alvina Wong  and I had not personally negotiated those community benefit agreements, the affordable housing in the pipeline might be closer to 1 percent-2 percent.

The residents of Oakland are owed an explanation of why this 28 percent target was not even in the ballpark.

That is either incompetence or benign neglect or both. If private developers can hit 20 percent affordable housing targets, and BART can hit 30 percent, what is the reasonable explanation for Oakland’s poor performance in this area?

Remember, the 28 percent target was Mayor Schaaf’s own projection.

Meanwhile, development was accelerated at market-rate, resulting in a 76 percent increase in rents both commercial and residential and only a single-digit wage increase. I am using City numbers here, so there is no way any elected official can say they were unaware.

There are many things the mayor could have done but didn’t. She could have appointed Planning Commission members with deeper ties to the flatlands residents instead of contractors and developers more familiar with Piedmont than the Lower Bottomz.

She could have not given carte blanche to the Big Five developers.  She could have incentivized affordable housing units with a stronger impact fee law.

She could have bought instead of sold public land and turned those into affordable buildings. She could have prevented the loss of 50 percent of Single-room Occupancy (SRO) stock in downtown.

Oakland has known it would have to do this since 2012 when redevelopment was eliminated, and the writing was on the wall prior to Mayor Schaaf’s election.

She made affordable housing and not displacing current residents a talking point but did not manage to come up with anything concrete as far as policy initiatives, which is what the situation required.

This is one reason Oakland got an equity score of 33 out of 100 in a recent equity study.

Is anyone crunching the numbers and looking at Schaaf’s actual track record? Mayor Schaaf is also weak on police misconduct cases. During the OPD sex scandal, she was more concerned about PR than holding criminal officers accountable. She was ok with a cover-up as long as she had plausible deniability. She did not call on District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to prosecute those cops who had illegal relations with a minor. She was silent.

In 2017, OPD misconduct racked up another $12 million in legal payouts on top of the $1 million paid out to the victim in the case, Celeste Guap.

Meanwhile, OUSD is cutting sports programs and the homeless crisis has proliferasted on her watch.

Schaaf could not even keep coal out of the Port terminal.

Where, in what world, is this acceptable?

So, the question becomes, should we give an ineffective mayor who merely continued the agenda set by Jerry Brown for gentrification—and displacement—the benefit of the doubt when she has yet to craft effective policies?

Eric Arnold is an Oakland journalist, researcher, archivisit, cultural historian and multimedia producer.

Or do we hold her accountable for promises she made which she has not delivered on? How is she not responsible for the current homeless crisis and disproportionate displacement of African Americans?




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