In Oakland, community comes together on topics of development and displacement

Joël Ramos Headshot

Things are changing in the City of Oakland. Along streets newly striped with green bike lanes and under the watch of a homegrown Mayor, neighborhoods are seeing a flurry of plans that have been adopted to meet the demand of the growing number of people and companies who call “the Town” their home.

While this development may benefit parts of Oakland’s community and builds civic pride, it has also driven up the cost of living. Artisanal donuts are in, while Sears and other signs of Oakland’s blue-collar history are fading fast.

As a result, Oakland is facing a severe problem of displacing people and families who have been long-time residents, but now can’t afford to keep up.

That’s why TransForm and our ally organizations are working to address the issue of displacement and to ensure that all communities (particularly low-income communities and communities of color) benefit from the city’s new development, investment, and revitalization.

Together with EBHO (East Bay Housing Organizations), ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment), Public Advocates, and EBASE (East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy), we have come together as the Oakland Community Investment Alliance (OCIA) with the goal of engaging Oakland residents in creating a more prosperous, resilient, and healthy city especially in areas targeted for intense development.

Displacement is a tricky problem. Oakland already has rent control (though we would love to see it strengthened), and it’s difficult (if not impossible) to regulate the market for existing housing to keep home prices stable. Building more affordable housing is one solution, but it’s not easy. On average, affordable housing developers must cobble together anywhere from six to twelve different funding sources for a typical project.

One of OCIA’s key campaigns is to rally around the City of Oakland’s initial efforts to study a policy to require developers who build in Oakland to pay a “Development Impact Fee.” The money would be used to help existing communities benefit from the changes coming to their neighborhoods. These funds could be used to increase transportation choices that give people healthier options to get around, help build more homes that are affordable to working families, and make other investments to ensure the people who live in Oakland now can benefit from new development and afford to stay.

TransForm sees our role in the push for a robust, effective Development Impact Fee as an important follow-up from our work to support the adoption of new Transit-Oriented Development Plans in Oakland (such as the Lake Merritt Station Area Plan). These plans have created the potential for immense wealth through re-zoning for more height and density around transit-rich neighborhoods – essentially adding new capacity for development – resulting in an increase in real estate value simply by virtue of changes to City code. We believe that these zoning changes should benefit all local residents, and Development Impact Fees would help ensure that improvements enabled by Transit-Oriented Development Plans help renters and small business owners, not just landlords and homeowners.

The City of Oakland is currently in the process of determining how much of a fee they can legally expect of developers, and how much would be economically feasible. The Oakland Community Investment Alliance is developing a campaign to move the City to adopt a robust and effective Development Impact Fee and educate Oaklanders about this approach. When the time comes to make a final decision, we want to be sure that people from all of Oakland’s diverse communities are able to influence the City’s strategy to prevent displacement.

If you would like to learn more about Oakland’s Development Impact Fee proposal is shaping up, and be invited to policy forums, community meetings, or other efforts to help in this endeavor, sign up for updates here. You can also contact me anytime with your questions or ideas.


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