In this chapter, we review the causes of gentrification and discuss significant intervening variables that may contribute to gentrification in the West Oakland context. Gentrification, for the purposes of this paper is the process by which poor and working- class residents, usually communities of color are displaced from neighborhoods by rising costs and other forces directly related to an influx of new, wealthier, and often white residents. This displacement is usually accompanies by: an almost complete shift in the cultural identity of a neighborhood and its residents.
From doing a survey of the literature, we have determined that gentrification in the Bay Area is largely caused by an inadequate supply of housing to accommodate the number of people drawn to the region by the Bay Area economy along with other policies and practices which have weakened West Oakland through disinvestment.
There are two categories of intervening variables that effect how the external causes of gentrification play out in West Oakland. The intervening variables can be divided up into two sets of actors. The first family of intervening variables is the public institutions in the City of Oakland. This includes the Mayor, the Planning Department, the Redevelopment office, and other public sector entities. The second family of intervening variables is the community. When referring to "the community", we mean civic society in West Oakland including cultural, faith, political, and social institutions as well as unaffiliated residents who reside in West Oakland. How the City and community respond to external gentrification forces results in how those forces effect West Oakland.
In Section I, we describe the external forces that drive gentrification. In Section II, we explore the role the City of Oakland plays in the context of these external forces and discuss its probable effects, specifically focusing on how actions of the City of Oakland effect displacement. In Section III, we explore the role of the community in responding to gentrification forces.
The gentrification pressures on a community such as West Oakland do not come from within. Gentrification is by nature the effect of a wider set of circumstances on a community vulnerable to outside pressures. This section will attempt to catalogue some of the most apparent and immediate external forces - such as regional housing shortages, broad economic trends, and public policies - which cause wealthier, often white newcomers to find the predominantly African-American community of West Oakland an attractive place to live.
Global ForcesThe broad changes in the world economy since World War II have meant the loss of manufacturing and industrial jobs in America which were the traditional livelihood for many West Oaklanders. These jobs have been replaced by low-wage service jobs, often located in new suburban developments, and not as easily accessed by West Oaklanders. The change to a service-based economy in the United States has taken out some of the main financial supports from West Oakland and has thereby left the community more vulnerable to the forces of gentrification. (1)
Predominant Land Use PatternsAlso since about the time of the World War II Era, there have been major changes in prevailing development patterns and corresponding government policies that have combined to favor newer, mostly low-density suburban development. Since that time, there have been corresponding investments in the infrastructure needed for a transportation system based on the individually owned automobile. While federal, state and local governments have all dedicated a considerable portion of American tax dollars to highways and roads, they have not expanded or maintained the nation's public transit system.
The above factors initiated disinvestment in older urban areas and a shift of public resources to newly developed areas. Also, the strong dependence on the automobile and the absence of sufficient public transit alternatives have prevented many low- income families who cannot afford to own a vehicle from accessing jobs and even commercial centers in the suburbs. Dominant land use patterns have weakened communities like West Oakland through lack of investment (in schools, transit, economic development, etc.), and have left residents with fewer options for accessible employment. Cheap real estate and lack of economic control by residents help set the stage for gentrification. (2)
Federal PoliciesA certain amount of affordable housing could be lost In West Oakland when homeowners have the opportunity to opt out of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 8 housing program. About 20% of the total of California's 111,000 Section 8 housing units could be lost due to owners opting out of this program. (3)
State PoliciesBesides state investments and policies that have contributed to the predominant land use patterns of the latter portion of the twentieth century, the State of California has at least one peculiarities which exacerbates the gentrification pressures on a community like West Oakland.
In particular, the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 affected local governments in three main ways, effectively deincentivizing the production of housing. Proposition 13 limited property tax increases, required a two thirds voting majority for the approval of special taxes, and allowed the State Legislature to collect and allocate property taxes to local governments. Other Propositions (4,62,and 218) imposed limits on taxation and spending by both local governments and the state. The state experienced a severe budget crunch in the early 1990's and used it's power to allocate property taxes to shore up the state budget, shifting approximately $3.6 billion annually away from local governments. (4)
Local governments are understandably starved for revenue, especially discretionary income because property taxes come to them from the state with mandates for how the money must be spent. Because of the other constraints on their ability to raise taxes, the only way for local governments to capture more revenue is by trying to increase the sales taxes collected in their jurisdiction through increased retail sales. Not only do local governments receive little if any fiscal benefit from zoning for housing instead of other uses such as commercial use, it often costs more for local governments to provide public services (like schools, roads, water and sewer service) to new developments than the increase in revenue that more housing brings. (5)
The resulting situation is what many refer to as the "fiscalization of land use" or land use decisions which are not based on local needs, but on budgetary considerations alone. Local governments have little incentive to encourage housing within their jurisdictions. What they are indirectly encouraged to support because of their dependence on sales taxes is sprawling retail development which brings low-wage jobs and increased dependence on the automobile, and is often bitterly fought for with public subsidies for developers. Giveaways to developers further strain local governments, take money away from public services, and foster an atmosphere of competition instead of cooperation between cities of the same region.(6)
The disincentives for local governments to zone for housing and the general reluctance to approve multi-family affordable housing units add to the pressure of gentrification in some very important, yet behind the scenes ways. There is little reason for local governments to encourage the building of housing that is affordable for low-income people or would-be gentrifiers. Commercial and sometimes industrial centers grow, creating jobs, but exporting their housing needs to other areas. The places that absorb the influx of people brought to a region by jobs are either vacant, underdeveloped land or communities like West Oakland that have good, relatively affordable housing stock and are within commuting distance of economically booming areas. (7)
Another factor which contributes to the lack of sufficient affordable housing and thereby gentrification, is the lack of a guaranteed state revenue source for affordable housing. (8)
Regional DynamicsAs all who live in the Bay Area are painfully aware, finding housing within one's budget is one of the toughest challenges to meet. According to the Association of Bay Area Governments as referenced by the California Futures Network:
· Between the end of 1995 and late 1997, rents rose an average of 33.3 percent in San Francisco, 29.1 percent in Santa Clara County, 24.6 percent in San Mateo County, and 16.9 percent in Marin County. (9)
Although there are many factors working together to put pressure on West Oakland to gentrify, probably the greatest single cause is the problem of supply and demand. There is simply not enough housing and certainly not enough affordable housing to meet the Bay Area population's needs. Probably the most significant factor contributing to regional population growth and the jobs/housing imbalance is job growth in Silicon Valley. According to the Housing Solutions Report sponsored by two Bay Area organizations,
· While 2 jobs were created for every new home in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, approximately 3 jobs have been created for every new home in the region during the 1990s. (10)
· The job-rich sub-region of Northwest Santa Clara County produced 2 jobs for every new home built in the 1980's, but approximately 9 jobs for every new home built in the 1990's. Southern San Mateo County produced 0.7 jobs for every new home in the 1980's, but an estimated 7 new jobs for every new home built in the 1990's. (11)
The shortage of housing and the lack of affordable housing in Silicon Valley causes moderate-income people to look to other Bay Area cities for housing. San Francisco, Oakland, and other East Bay cities then have to accommodate these homebuyers while the lowest income residents are displaced and forced into the least desirable, least expensive housing options with poor access to jobs and commercial centers.
As stated in There Goes the Neighborhood, Urban Habitat Program's report on Gentrification, "The biggest single problem is a mismatch of supply and demand. Working to assure an adequate supply of affordable housing at the regional level seems to be at least as important as focusing effort on resisting development at the neighborhood scale." (12)
Another regional factor related to the production of affordable housing (or lack thereof) is non-enforcement of what are commonly referred to as the state's Fair Share Housing Law. (13) According to this regulation (Government Code Section 65584), regional Councils of Government are required to determine what the fair amount of affordable housing is that each jurisdiction should provide. (14) Unfortunately, there are no penalties for cities that do not fulfill their affordable housing obligations.
Smart GrowthThere is a new movement for land use reform which hopes to solve or at least ameliorate the inter-related problems caused by the dominant land use patterns of the last half-century like traffic congestion and lack of mobility, deteriorating urban centers, the spread of sprawl, the loss of open space, the location mismatch between jobs and housing, and the lack of sufficient affordable housing. It is called "smart growth" or sometimes sustainable development. Smart growth calls for directing development into existing urban centers and could help reinvigorate communities like West Oakland which have suffered from disinvestment.
As Carl Anthony states in There Goes the Neighborhood, "Those who support Smart Growth promote investment in existing urban communities and older suburban neighborhoods. If this investment is designed to enhance the quality of life for existing residents through a community- driven process, then Smart Growth will be a positive opportunity for low income communities and communities of color. Not only can Smart Growth be an opportunity to stop gentrification, but it can be the basis for developing an agenda for community stability." (15) However, without corresponding efforts to provide affordable housing and ensure that the benefits of urban reinvestment flow to existing residents, smart growth could further exacerbate the problem of displacement.
Recommendations1) Although external factors may be the main cause of gentrification, local threats are more immediate and easier to influence. Be wary of spending too much time and energy on tackling external forces before local mechanisms for preventing gentrification have been put in place.
2) Educate community members about the broader forces that contribute to the threat of displacement in West Oakland.
3) Form alliances with or monitor the activities of existing coalitions and organizations already tackling the problems listed above including:
· Other Bay Area community groups fighting gentrification
· Urban Habitat Program
· Association of Bay Area Governments
· Bay Area Alliance for Sustainable Development
· California Futures Network
Local PoliciesWe argue that existing local policies and the practices of community development in West Oakland are accelerating the vulnerability of West Oakland towards gentrification and displacement caused by the non-local factors such as regional dynamics.
Policy formulation process is critical to the understanding how local agenda has been shaped by various power structure and interests. A number of local policies reflect various strategies the City uses to achieve the goal. Local factors include the agendas of administrative units that vary from entity to entity. Some policies of the City emphasize direct service provision while others focus on the regulatory and enabling role of the city and leave the actual implementation into the hands of private developer.
In this report we view the 10K Initiative as the principle driving force behind the current City administration drives for revitalization. We view Housing and Land Use Policies as the direct policy from the City that effects West Oakland gentrification and displacement. Moreover, Waterfront Development and Army Base Development are other policies that the City plays important, but not fully control, role in affecting West Oakland due to the proximity of port and army base to the community. Last, there are city wide policies which despite the fact that they are not targeting West Oakland in particular, still play an indirect role to the gentrification and displacement trend of the city. For example: the crime prevention campaign, school board, and cultural events that promote diversity in the city. These policies may be of important in promoting the image of the city to attract more direct investment and new people into the city.
Local policies also vary in terms of timing. Some policies are in the implementation stage while others are in the formulation stage. Housing and land use policies and many other city-wide policies are in the implementation stage, while Waterfront and Army Base Development are in the formulation stage.
We believe that by addressing and correcting this local policy factor, it is expected that gentrification and displacement in West Oakland will be slowed down and brought into the control of community.
The 10K InitiativeThe 10K Initiative was proposed in the Fall of 1999 by Mayor Jerry Brown as a four year goal of attracting 10,000 new residents to Downtown Oakland to revitalize its physical, economic, and cultural environment. According to City estimates, to reach a goal of 10,000 new residents approximately 6,000 new units are needed. However, the City looked at this initiative not only as a housing initiative, but the way to create an environment that is conducive to residential development by transforming the downtown into a more livable space that incorporates streetscapes, parks, commercial, retail and other amenities.
To implement this vision, the City is encouraging developers to propose plans to build up underutilized downtown sites as high density condominium or rental housing with ground floor commercial uses and public and/or private parking facilities. Recently, the City via the Redevelopment Agency, has put four significant development sites (Preservation Park III, the Fire Alarm Building near Lake Merritt, the Housewives Market Block in Old Oakland, and the Chinatown Hotel II) up for bid. The City will processed proposals and made recommendations to the Agency. The City selected developers who demonstrates the appropriate qualifications and commitment for producing a successful project. After the Redevelopment Agency Board has approved selection of a Developer for a given project, the Developer will enter into an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement with the Agency, under which the Developer will be required to make a good faith cash deposit and commence good faith negotiation for a Disposition and development Agreement (DDA). During DDA negotiation, the Developer will also be required to initiate project and environmental impact analysis.
Currently, the Mayor has won the majority approval from the council to approve the proposal by the developers that would add 610 units of mostly market-rate housing to Oakland's downtown skyline, including a 22-story tower near Lake Merritt and a 234- unit complex in Old Oakland.
Since the 10K initiative involved more than housing policy, several city- wide policies by the city may be considered as complementary parts of the initiative. This includes the crime prevention and community police campaign, the restructuring of school board, and many cultural affair promoting the diversity and cultural pride of Oakland; such as sponsoring the Chinatown festival, a gay pride event celebrating the 30th anniversary of Stonewall, Oakland Scenic Tour, and the Oakland Blues Heritage Festival.
In the next section, Waterfront Development and Army Base Development projects were selected to discuss in detail as potentially supplementary local policies that specifically have a spatial effect towards the vulnerability of West Oakland's gentrification and displacement due to the proximity of the project to the community.
Waterfront DevelopmentApart from situating in West Oakland and being responsible for seaport and airport facility of Oakland, the Port also owns and manages its own real estate such as the Jack London Square which is very famous as an entertainment area of Oakland.
Currently the Port has begun looking for a developer who will construct a series of new buildings on the underdeveloped land within the area. The Port's vision for an expanded Jack London Square includes a towering, luxury hotel on the estuary, an entertainment and retail complex at the foot of Broadway, and a rubber-wheeled trolley to shuttle visitors between the waterfront and downtown.
Currently Waterfront Development Project, which is still in the visionary level, is facing two major challenge. Firstly, there has been the Estuary Policy Plan which is a participatory document that lays out the groundwork for transforming the industrial waterfront into a people- friendly place. The Jack London Neighborhood Association is charging that the Port is violating the spirit and intent of the Estuary Policy Plan which was drawn up by a coalition of local activists, environmentalists, city and port planners and developers. Also Neighbors complain that the proposed building by the Port are too large and too densely packed together, blocking sight lines and limiting people's access to the water front.
Secondly, there is a tension and uneasiness in the relationship between the City and the Port in which the City would like to gain influence over the Port and its real estate projects. This is because administratively, the Port of Oakland operates under the Port of Oakland Commission. According to the City Charter, the commission consists of seven Port Commissioners who must be residents of the city can be removed from office only with the concurrence of six of the nine members of the city council, who must ratify their initial appointment by the mayor. In this regards, the Port operates almost independently from the City.
Currently, over the tension between the Port and the City the Port finally proposed the new proposal to change jurisdictional boundary temporarily. The proposal would require all new projects in the Jack London District to be approved by the City's Planning Commission, with appeals going to the City Council. The Port will retain ownership of the land, and will essentially proceed like any other develop the City deals with.
Army Base DevelopmentOakland Army Base was officially closed on September 1999, as one among the last four military installations to be shuttered in Alameda County due to the nation's post Cold War military downsizing. The base was designated for closure in 1995 by the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The decision was contested by Army Officials, who said the base was the only Army-owned West Coast property and was in a strategic location.
Since then the city has been working to come up with a reuse plan and the Army gradually has moved the base's functions. A reuse plan, approved by local officials, calls for the Port of Oakland to expand on behalf the 422 acre base, in the area west of Maritime Street in West Oakland. City officials are currently negotiating with Opus West, a developer that hopes to build a light industrial and business "eco-park" at the base.
Main Finding: Reflecting on the 10k initiative, the Waterfront Development, and the Army Base Development:
"Market-rate units are needed to bolster the tax base ... If you can figure out a way to create a social utopia, I will consider it. But absent that, we've got to go with the flow, and the flow should be (to get) capital to pay for all these other things like school". (Jerry Brown, Mayor of the City of Oakland City, 30 November 1999 quoted in Oakland Tribune 2 December 1999)
In most of the City-level policies discussed above, we found that despite the community involvement from West Oakland residents in the policy formulation process, it seems that the community's concern over improvement of existing resident has not been placed as the first priority in the city agenda which is currently dominated by 2 main issues: 1) the development driven agenda of attracting new resident under market based development and 2) the reducing role of city government as the direct service provider into the "enabler". In general the local policies just discussed does not address the issue of displacement of the poor residents while accelerating displacement by focusing on developments that cater to and attract "new" people to make Oakland their home.
According to the approval of the 610 market rate housing unit as part of the 10K plan, it is now estimated that only 4.6 million dollars from sales of the four sites will be allocated to affordable housing project.
The role of the City of Oakland under the current Brown administration is very interesting. In an attempt to reduce the direct service provision, the city under the strong mayor system is aggressively trying to influence over many semi-autonomous city administration agencies, such as the school board and the port commission to make sure all policies must be conformed to the city agenda, which basically aim at attracting the new residents as a spill over effect from the rest of the booming Bay area.
As a result, both development driven agenda from the city
and the attempt
of the city to influence many semi-autonomous agencies via
of the commissions by the mayor do not guarantee that the less
resident in the city, particularly the West Oakland resident,
will be heard
in the formation of the city agenda.
City Specific Policies that Impact DisplacementThe dominant economic development strategies in Oakland have emphasized attracting investment over preventing displacement. Oakland's poor self image has left it acting as though it has little clout with developers and other potential investors, leading the city to focusing on luring business in rather than making many demands. Additionally, Oakland's poorest residents have not had the political power to create and enforce policy that protects their needs.
This section is divided into three sections: 1. Protection for Renters; 2. Opportunities for home ownership; 3. Zoning
Several city ordinances and efforts impact how easily residents are displaced. Since 79.5% of West Oakland's residents are renters (in the West Oakland Community Development District), that population is particularly vulnerable. Additionally, those who do own homes in West Oakland face the challenge of affording upkeep, especially making needed structural improvements after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.1. Protection for Renters
Two interrelated ordinances impact tenants: rent control and eviction law. The current rent control ordinance (Ordinance #11758) allows for 3% increase per year during a given tenancy. However, buildings are registered as official rentals only by the landlord or tenant's initiative (as opposed to the city). Therefore, if a landlord fails to register his building, the tenants are not protected unless they initiate the registration process. Landlords can also petition to raise the rent more, and the Residential Rent Arbitration Board (RRAB) is heavily weighted to home owners (1 landlord, 1 tenant, and 4 who are neither which means they are private home owners) and almost always approves increases.
The key weaknesses of the ordinance are how it overlaps with eviction law. Tenants can be given a 30 day eviction notice for no cause. As long as an eviction is not retaliatory or discriminatory, it is legal. Once the tenant is out, the landlord can raise the rent by at least 6% (if the building is not registered they can raise it much higher). Evictions for nonpayment of rent are viewed as voluntary vacancies and so landlords can raise the rent any amount.
According to Sentinel Fair Housing, there has been a 300% increase in 3 day and 30 day notices during the last 15 months in Oakland.
· Rent control ordinance needs to be strengthened, requiring landlords to register and shifting the balance of power on the RRAB.Recommendations:
· Eviction law needs to be improved urgently, adding a just cause clause, and combining rent control with eviction so that land lords cannot raise the rent after an eviction.
The Oakland Homebuyers Assistance Alliance has recently formed, and is a public-private initiative designed to expand home ownership opportunities for all Oakland residents but especially for low and moderate income families.2. Opportunities for Home Ownership:
With a partnership that includes Bank of America, CEDA, LISC, Fannie Mae, and others, OHAA's stated goals are to increase home ownership in Oakland by 5%, originate more than 10,000 new home mortgages, and spend over $1 billion provided by Bank of America.
While the goal of reaching low and moderate income people with special first time home buyers programs in laudable, and this will be an important tool for some Oaklanders, many of West Oakland's current residents will not be able to afford these loans. According to EBALDC, home ownership programs can only work for people who earn at least 50% of the area's median income. Since West Oakland's median income of 23, 148 is less than 60% of the Bay Area's median income, about half of West Oakland's residents do not earn enough to qualify.
One of the goals of the program is to use "new and creative mortgage programs designed to support the city's targeted neighborhood revitalization plans". From conversations with CEDA and others, it appears that these plans would influence how loans were made both for new homes and maintenance and repair.
Key points in the program are about what kinds of preferences will be given to current residents (so far this does not seem to be incorporated into the goals), and what income levels and credit status will be required (apparently this is not yet determined).
With loans for maintenance and rehabilitation notoriously difficult to obtain, and too low (maximum 10,000) when one is able, this is a critical problem for low income home owners. Between 1995 and 1998, there were approximately 499 foreclosures in West Oakland. With the pressure to sell to speculators (bill boards with toll free numbers exclaiming "We buy houses fast!" and difficulty in obtaining home loans, selling quickly becomes tempting.
· Incorporate preferences to current residents into the OHAA's programsRecommendations:
· Track loans to ensure that low income people are being reached/given priority
· Increase access to loans for rehabilitation
· Begin a campaign to discourage home owners from selling to speculators
A. Live-work: Originally conceived as affordable housing and work space for artists, usually built by the artists in old warehouses or other industrial space, live-work spaces are now booming business for developers and contractors who use the special zoning possibilities of live-work to build residential units, most of which are not used for work or affordable. The current the city-wide policy on live-work space (Oakland City Council Resolution #68516) was passed in 1991, and is merely encourage, not at all regulatory, about this type of development.3. Zoning, permitting, and incentives:
B Mitigation fees and requirements: Developers are not currently required to pay into any special funds in exchange for the opportunity to do business in Oakland (as they are in San Francisco and other cities). Housing developers are also not required to build a certain percentage low income housing within each of their projects over a certain size (as they are in San Francisco).
C. Incentives for the development of non-profit housing: It is difficult for the many local Housing Development Corporations to collaborate with the city to receive the necessary financing and partnership to build projects. While EBALDC, Acorn, Bridge, and Jubilee West are all involved in West Oakland, most or all are extremely interested in building more projects and have access to ample outside funding. Difficulties in working with the City of Oakland prevent them from being able to build all the affordable housing for which there is a need, and for which funding does exist.
· Update ordinance to regulate new live-work as residential.Recommendations:
· Work with city to require developers to build 25% low income housing in all new buildings over 10 units.
· Pressure the City to
and support to build and maintain nonprofit affordable housing.
Clearly, residents of West Oakland are not responsible for the external forces that lead to speculation and possibly gentrification. However, we believe their ability to respond to these forces does have an impact on how these forces will effect West Oakland. All else equal, a strong unified community has more power than a weak fragmented community. With unity comes more of an ability to influence local political power structures, more of an ability to leverage resources such as foundation dollars, and more of an ability to accomplish its own projects.
West Oakland suffers from many social problems ranging from blight, poor schools, drugs, alcohol, unemployment, and underemployment to environmental racism. These are clearly historically rooted complex problems. There is a plurality of crisis in W. Oakland and from this, a plurality of competing agendas.
West Oakland might be better understood as a collection of competing communities rather than one unified community. Though many people in West Oakland clearly identify themselves geographically to West Oakland or sub-neighborhoods of West Oakland, in recent history, there has not been a West Oakland community that shares a common focused vision.
A lack of economic, symbolic, and political power in a neighborhood makes the struggle between groups that are seeking the little power that is available on the neighborhood level that much more charged. Too often in West Oakland, groups working for the benefit of the community become competitors instead of allies. Obstacles to community groups working together include: the tendency for groups to focus on working towards their narrow self-interest, competing egos between key leaders of different groups, a lack of an overall unifying focused vision that all groups share, and a history of a lack of unity between community groups.
Given the history of unresolved tensions between competing groups in West Oakland in general, given that West Oakland has been a historical victim of planning, and given the coordinator from the San Francisco Foundation is not an outsider; it was important for the Hewlett Initiative to establish legitimacy. It is clear that the Hewlett Initiative has spent its first year establishing its legitimacy and promoting community building. Without trust and a unified vision, a set of understood procedures was established. This provided provide agreed upon fair rules for competing interests. This was important in providing a legitimate means of negotiating conflicting concerns.
After $5,000,000 was put onto the table, community groups came to make sure that they were represented in order to be able to guide resources to their groups. What brought groups in West Oakland together in the Hewlett Initiative was not a unified focused vision; many groups came in order to acquire funds. Other groups started their participation in the initiative because competing groups participated.
Though a consensus model was sought by the Hewlett Initiative's leadership, the community building process was dominated by local political competition. The competition between groups was clear in the forming of the working groups, especially when working group Chairs with voting privileges were elected. In the initiative's "democratic" and "community building" process, competing groups strategically placed themselves within working groups in order to gain influence over the process through gaining voting members to the Hewlett Initiative's board. The election of representatives for the Community Building process involved community groups using organizing techniques in order to compete to represent their interests. The disruptions, the networking, and the open political organizing are indicators that show that groups were competing for power (most notably West Side Economic Development Center, CWOR, the ACORN housing association, and ACORN).
If the Hewlett initiative's community building effort continues to be based on community groups competing in their narrow self- interest, then they will most likely promote addressing a laundry list of very valid social issues and basically distribute the Hewlett Initiative monies to different groups without putting enough resources into one area to make a difference
As a result of the Hewlett Initiative's efforts, some groups are able to sit at the table and not only tolerate each other, but see each other as assets to the West Oakland community. More needs to be done and no doubt is being done in this area.
One issue that all groups concerned about the current residents of West Oakland have in common is dealing with gentrification forces. Elected leadership of the Initiative is at a key time in history where they have the opportunity to seriously think about how they want West Oakland to be. If they come to the conclusion that revitalization with minimal displacement of current residents is the best way to deal with current gentrification pressures then with this unifying vision in hand, they can focus on strategically addressing the issue.
The Hewlett Initiative is tackling on of the most important challenges to the community of West Oakland. Establishing a unified coalition that is healthily able to deal with internal conflicts creates an entity that is capable of garnering more political power, foundation dollars, and business support. Such an entity, if it had a unifying goal such as promoting revitalization without displacement, would be more able to shape how external gentrification pressures effects residents of West Oakland. The community of West Oakland would have more political influence. Such an entity could focus how it used its resources to address gentrification (see Chapter 3 - Best Practices).
Currently, we are in a very hot housing market and there is a lot of serious speculation going on in West Oakland. It could be possible that there is a gentrification scare like in 1985 when the housing market was extremely hot. If West Oakland is not gentrifying or if it is in the very early stages of gentrification then the community building process has something to offer. It has the potential to strengthen and supports a group or coalition that is capable of strategic action(16). Residents can then have civic community that has more power that they can participate in to advocate and act in their community interest. Community building on a broad neighborhood level is definitely a challenge with competing groups. There definitely are challenges to be overcome in moving beyond money being the primary basis for community groups collaborating. In order to overcome these obstacles it will be necessary to promote relationship building between important stakeholders, promoting financial incentives for collaboration(17), and developing a common focused vision (possibly revitalization without displacement).
If, however, the gentrification process is quickly happening in W. Oakland, then two things need to happen. First, it is essential that the community building process does not take a long time. Community groups need to come together fast. Secondly, it is important for the community to specifically target preventing displacement instead of focusing on revitalization. If the community building takes too long and if the community does not focus on addressing the issue of displacement and focuses on neighborhood improvement then it will in effect help pave the way for gentrification. By promoting revitalization in the midst of regional gentrification pressures without taking on the task of battling displacement is in essence being an active player promoting gentrification.
Participants in the Hewlett Initiative should seriously consider making the mission of the Hewlett Initiative to be to promote revitalization of West Oakland without displacement of current residents. If that were the mission, in a context where revitalization is going to happen and the overarching concern is over displacement, it would be wise to make the major criteria for funding projects be tied to addressing displacement. This could mean that projects would more likely address the problem of land control over quality of life issues.