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Subsidized housing for felons?

News Roundup

Lynda Carson wrote a characteristically insane piece about the Oakland Housing Authority lawsuit, in which she compares the city to Soviet East Germany and calls our do-gooder Neighborhood Crime Prevention Councils “snitches.”

The Montclarion reran a severely slanted Trib article about the alleged skyscraper controversy. It quotes only opponents of high-rises, including those who fought the Essex tower. Worse, Ms. Chang compared the sole proposed high-rise building to a project in Emeryville that is not the same height and has a radically different context. She does not interview the developer or architect of the skyscraper, or note that it is a mere fifteen feet higher than a nearby lakeside office building.

J. Douglas Allen-Taylor responds to the Express’ editorial bemoaning the missed opportunity of the HQ sale. He asserts that Oakland is known throughout “developer circles” as Moneytown, and notes that the Express is “corporate.” Mr. Allen-Taylor does not reply to NovoMetro’s editorial favoring the land sale, and claims that Oakland could regain self-governance without paying back the loan, citing the example of the WCCUSD (nee Richmond). Richmond’s state takeover, however, happened by court order not legislative act, and was the first school bankruptcy since Prop 13. Also, Richmond’s bankruptcy primarily resulted from the failure of a tax measure, not long-term structural problems like Oakland’s declining enrollment and academic failures (I attended both districts’ schools). Finally, Mr. Allen-Taylor, adopting the paranoid and polemical tone of the Berkeley Semiweekly Planet, concludes with a broad condemnation of No Child Left Behind (which was authored by Senator Ted Kennedy as well as Bush) and the OUSD administration’s “experimental” technocracy. Like the majority of the impotent and self-defeating school board, J. Douglas Allen-Taylor is vehemently opposed to education innovation.

Mr. Allen-Taylor reported on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission meeting where Joyce Roy (late of the local Sierra Club) and group of elderly and disabled passengers criticized AC Transit’s Van Hool buses. While I’m sympathetic to riders being involved in decision-making, as a frequent bus rider, I am very skeptical of their claims that the Belgian buses are “death traps.” It also sounds like the group was rude, and a healthy dose of xenophobia was injected by Supervisor Haggerty’s irrelevant exhortation to “Buy America(n).” However, merely bringing public attention to the important but below-the-radar AC Transit District is good, and inspired an optimistic pro-bus essay in the Planet.

The majority of Dellums’ affordable housing task force predictably called for socialist “reform” of the housing market, including strengthened rent control, increased regulatory obstacles to condo conversions, and price caps on a portion of new housing construction. The last suggestion contradicts their urging for the city to focus scarce housing dollars on the poorest Oaklanders, as newly-built for-sale units, even with subsidies, are affordable only to those of a moderate (ie, a bit below the regional median) income. The activists who wrote the majority report called private investment “speculative” and favored meaningless “people-oriented” development (are first-time market-rate homebuyers not people?). They also repeated the tired idea that dilapadated, vacant factories are the best use of waterfront land. According to the Trib, mandatory affordable units were unanimously approved, with no detail or specific percentage (a one-percent fee would be reasonable), but the threat of a ballot measure. The Chronicle indicates that the IZ vote was not unanimously supported.

Fortunately, the Blue-Ribbon Commission will meet more than the six times the task force met, is a reasonable size, and made up of community leaders and a range of professionals. As public speakers have pointed out at both meetings, it does not include representatives of the Oakland Tenants’ Union, Just Cause, or labor groups like EBASE, all of whom advocate deep government intervention in the housing market. This is a stunning display of the activists’ inability to work with even sympathetic members of the City Council. The Commission’s chair, however, was on the Dellums task force. With inclusionary zoning under attack from the left and the right (and the lack of five Council votes), the BRC’s vice-chair said that the commissioners may choose to take price caps off the table. That move would allow the Commission to explore innovative ways to improve the city’s fairly successful housing programs, perhaps by increasing the portion of the redevelopment tax increment that subsidizes housing.

Mayor Dellums has obviously had very bad press this week, with the media jumping all over (and exaggerating) Dellums’ willingness to employ ex-cons as city workers (most of whom need to have college degrees). At several of the mayoral debates, Dellums said that he thinks city employees should get housing set-asides (which is illegal but nonetheless included in the IZ legislation proposed last year). Put those together, and what do you get? Mayor Dellums calls for housing set-asides for convicted felons!

Posted in dellums, housing, news, oakland.