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The Media Conspiracy Against Oakland: Four Articles

I am going to respond to four recently published articles in Bay Area media. They each have their own problems, but share one thing in common: a reckless disregard for facts or cogent analysis in favor of pushing an ideological anti-growth agenda.

Yesterday, Oakland Tribune columnist Brenda Payton brings us yet another half-baked conspiracy theory. Remember her article that the council’s racism, not a one-million-dollar renovation contribution, was the deciding factor in awarding a lease to a San Francisco restaurant over Everett & Jones? Now she invents unnamed “financial analysts” who don’t think that an indebted school district with surplus property should sell, and weaves a grand tale to excuse our incompetent school board. She conveniently forgets that their disastrous budgeting and overly generous employee contracts plunged the system into deficit, asking “why can’t construction bonds be used to cover the deficit?” It is irritating to continually remind people that capital bond funds and operating expenses are not the same. Also, think of the implication: to preserve local control (by an “elected” school board, with noncompetitive races, that wants to spend money it didn’t have) we should give up all of our future building funds! That would be a disaster for our facilities, which are in desperate need of updating. Clearly, $100m for the school district is better than lakeside land.

Speaking of updated facilities, the latest anti-growth barb thrown by those seeking to keep Oakland downtrodden is a panic over the lack of schools downtown (and is brought up by those who rue losing the recent Oak-to-Ninth vote). Everyone conveniently forgets that there are about a dozen new charter schools downtown, and that most condo owners don’t have children. All this panic is unncessary, for if there are new students for the regular public schools (which is purely theoretical at this point), the OUSD can simply rent or buy one of the many vacant historic office buildings the clutter the downtown area.

But, of course, every reuse of an empty building draws criticism from the anti-everything squad. The San Francisco Bay Guardian, which attempts to be hip despite its terribly old-fashioned, leftist take on politics, ran an article on the burgeoning arts scene north of downtown Oakland. True to fashion, they were more concerned with the “gentrification” impact of our artists rather than the artistic merit of the events or their role in forming a cohesive community. Completely ignoring a gallery owner’s assertion that very few people live in the area (which is true), the Guardian’s (clearly SF-based) reporter harps about displacement, based on an assumption of “gentrification’s” inevitability.

In a strange effort to stop the looming “gentrification” of North Oakland (the wealthiest part of the city), Councilmember Jane Brunner brings us a radical, Berkeley-style proposal to ban all demolition of buildings on Telegraph Avenue above 40th, for six months. Cecily Burt’s article about it claims that “neighbors” are fighting “big-time development,” without quoting a single resident (besides Brunner) who finds the proposal necessary. Furthermore, someone should tell Cecily that fity-unit buildings are hardly big-time, especially by Oakland standards (and when they’re all being done by one small, locally-based firm). The biggest problem with this ordinance is that, since North Oakland and Telegraph Avenue are not expecially historic areas, and do not face above-average development pressure (just look at districts 2, 3 and 5 to see where the action is), her demolition moratorium implies that the entire city’s planning process and historic preservation ordinance are far too lenient. It is a short step from putting a moratorium on all developments on Upper Telegraph to a total moratorium throughout the city. A total ban on construction in Oakland, though, is the end goal of the anti-growth activists who twist and manipulate the media into supporting their narrow, harmful agenda.

Posted in california, news, oakland.

3 Responses

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  1. jesse says

    I totally agree about Temescal. I was really suprised by the tone of Burt’s article (“poor neighborhood v. Big Developers”), in contrast with the quotes from the developers themselves. I’ve never thought of it in terms of media conspiracy, but perhaps it’s function of who is doing the local reporting, i.e. small town papers with entrenched ideologies, since serious journalism long ago abandoned the local scene. And don’t even get me started on local tv news.

  2. Oakland Native says

    I think that it’s not so much the newspapers’ ideology as the reporters’. Locally, there is an unfortunate conflation of helping the poor with hurting the middle class. The anti-growth squad has made most Bay Area residents immediately associated development with “gentrification” and high-end condos, when in fact there is no empirical evidence of their “poor pushed out” argument. Despite this, there are two newspapers (The Guardian and the Berkeley Daily Planet) that make trumpeting this false ideology their mission. The fact that Temescal, dominated by fairly wealthy homeowners, needs “protection” from young first-time homebuyers is just laughable.

    While Ms. Burt’s tone was shockingly slanted (such as the completely unfounded assertions she made, which I reference above), remember that the City Council almost approved this ban with no debate! Even our allegedly pro-developer council can be swayed by anti-growth BS when nobody takes the time to think about it.

  3. jesse says

    yes, but journalists report to editors, right? And editors to chairmans, boards, stockholders, etc. Again, if it was -say- the LA Times doing the reporting instead of small-time Berkeley Daily, it would have a very tone. And that’s not just because it’s a “conservative” paper. It’s as much a function of other factors like size, staff, “professionalism” (i.e. review) as political ideology.

    In other words, it’s the journalists, yes. But it’s also systemic.