Oakland's Planning Director says "there is no housing crisis in Oakland." Really?
At an October 7 event, Oakland Planning & Building Department Director, Rachel Flynn, said flatly "there is no housing crisis in Oakland." With rents skyrocketing and longtime residents being evicted and displaced every day, it is shocking that Flynn, who was appointed by former Mayor Jean Quan and kept in place by Mayor Libby Schaaf, could not only make such a preposterous statement, but then go on to suggest the Oakland renters deal with the crisis by simply getting a roommate, which she said was "no big deal."
This is not the first time Flynn has made such statements publicly. At another forum hosted by SPUR in May Flynn also repeatedly suggested that Oaklanders deal with rising rents by looking for opportunities for "natural affordability," like getting roommates, renting older or substandard apartments, or staying in small apartments even as families grow. She also said she was exasperated by the frequent complaints of gentrification and displacement she hears from Oakland residents and advocates.
On October 23 Flynn, who has not retracted, clarified, or apologized for her statements, was surrounded by housing rights activists at a public workshop on the City's Downtown Specific Plan.
Meanwhile, Oakland still does not charge any affordable housing impact fees or require on-site affordable housing development from private developers, as neighboring cities like San Francisco, Berkeley, and Emeryville have done for years. The City has hired a consultant to study such an impact fee, but the "nexus study" has dragged on for over a year and there is no clear date for its release. Apparently Flynn, who is in charge of the study and would be responsible for implementing any impact fees, has not made completing this work a priority, which is exactly what you'd expect from someone who doesn't believe there's any problem. As Oakland renters know, there is a dire affordability crisis in our city, and if Rachel Flynn isn't interested in addressing it, perhaps Mayor Schaaf should find a Planning Director who is.
Oakland's Top Housing Official: There Is No Affordable Housing Crisis (East Bay Express)
Community Turns up the Heat to Defend Residents and Businesses (Post News)
Opinion: Oakland City Council Should Prioritize Affordable Housing Impact Fees (Post News)
Hundreds of Oaklanders gathered for a community forum on displacement, renters' rights, and the housing crisis on Saturday.
Residents from around Oakland and the East Bay came together at the West Oakland Youth Center on October 17 to share their struggles to stay in homes and communities, learn about housing rights, and speak out for a grass roots response to the City's growing displacement crisis.
The Speak Out to Stay Put Anti-Displacement Forum attracted some 400 people for a day of housing rights workshops, a resource fair with other 30 social justice and housing support organizations, and the opportunity to come together around organized actions in response to the soaring rents, no fault evictions, and harassement faced by more and more Oaklanders every day.
Host organizations included a broad and diverse coalition of groups dedicated to defending Oakland residents' rights to stay put and keep their communities whole in the face of mounting pressure. Causa Justa Just Cause, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Oakland Tenants Union, and Oakland Alliance were just a few of the organizations who joined forces.
Discussions centered around policies and actions aimed at keeping Oaklanders in place and empowered in their communities, including the adoption of a "real" rent control law, a $15 minimum wage, stronger protections against condo conversions and Ellis Act evictions, and pushing back against rampant criminalization and police brutality.
The event came as stronger tenant protections are being proposed in cities across the Bay Area and California, including campaigns for new rent control laws and expanded protections in Oakland, Richmond, Alameda, and elsewhere.
The New Rent Control Wars (BeyondChron)
A Promising Movement to Push for Rent Control is Taking Root (Alternet)
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf nominated Kevin Skipper to represent tenants on the Oakland Rent Board last week. Only problem? He's not a tenant. In fact, he's a real estate broker who works with notorious pro-eviction law firm Bornstein and Bornstein to aide property investment speculators in kicking renters out of their homes.
Though all three alternate positions are currently open on the Oakland Rent Board, including the tenant representative seat, Skipper was the Mayor's very first nominee to fill an alternate seat since taking office.
Facing a record backlog of appeals from tenants seeking relief from excessive rent increases, the Rent Board has not met in over six weeks, with the last three scheduled meetings cancelled due to a lack of quorum for the seven-member board. Even Schaaf's spokeswoman Erika Derryck recognized the "the pressing need to fill the tenant seat vacancy which has been preventing the board from reaching a quorum."
Yet since Schaaf has taken office, at least a half-dozen scheduled meetings have failed to take place due to poor attendance from members. The Mayor has taken no action to fill vacant seats that are critical to Oakland tenants' right to petition against landlord abuse, in spite of promising to do so back in May. Until her nomination of the unqualified eviction expert, that is.
After it came to light that Skipper was not actually a tenant (thanks to reporting by the East Bay Express), the Mayor retracted the nomination days later, citing the need to "not be rushed." Apparently, the Mayor is too busy to find quality candidates to serve on a body at the front lines of the displacement crisis in Oakland.
more: Mayor Schaaf Withdraws Nomination of Eviction Specialist Associate to Oakland Rent Control Board (East Bay Express)