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IZ gives, gets City Council lectures

At the Development Committee meeting last week, Jane Brunner took the presentation of a report from the Inclusionary Housing Blue-Ribbon Commission (which included a recommendation that they work through September) as an opportunity to lecture the BRC on their supposedly lackadaisical attitude. I was one of few speakers that day, and I criticized the BRC’s report for spending too much time on non-existent development bonuses and no time on market-driven approaches like Section 8 and incentives for low-end rental construction. Honestly, I was somewhat unhappy to strongly criticize the group of (mostly) well-meaning citizens who have given up enormous amounts of time (for not even a per-diem!) to dance around debating housing policy.

And there’s the rub. The deeply-divided fifteen-member commission can’t do anything, because there are no compromises to make. IZ simply will not work in Oakland, and nobody (but the largest developers who do set-asides anyway) is willing to compromise on that. Unfortunately, Just Cause’s decision to join the Oakland People’s Housing Coalition (the IZ group who failed to collect enough signatures for a measure in 2006) means fewer advocates for Section 8. Jane Brunner tired of this dynamic as well, and harshly lectured the BRC on her idea of their responsibilities (she of course voted against creating the BRC) and their own failings. Next to her, I sounded like the BRC’s apologist!

Councilmember Brunner pointed out that the IZ advocates on the BRC cannot wait for Mayor Dellums to break a stalemate in their favor, since “we won’t vote four-four, someone will abstain, and there won’t be a tie.” It’s true – the four anti-IZ councilmembers can prevent the policy. She said there are three issues to address: “IZ, condo conversion, and redevelopment.” Brunner acknowledged her open mind on condo conversions, “as long as all the conversions aren’t in district 1.” Of course, as she should but apparently doesn’t know, under current policy conversions are centered in her district.*

Three-term councilmember Brunner, who succeeded County Schools Superintendent Sheila Jordan, said that if the BRC doesn’t come up with a compromise on IZ, “we’ll do it.” I doubt the four anti-IZ councilmembers will compromise, since IZ, as the Brunner-commissioned study explained, would halt development in the redevelopment areas of the city. Realizing that facts and time are against them, IZ activists staged a rally at yesterday’s Open Forum.

Citing their misplaced statistics (‘poor people in the DTO can’t afford a high-end lakeside condo!’**) and incorrect assumptions about IZ (‘IZ isn’t a condo lottery for people making $85k/yr, it’s for poor people who grew up in West Oakland!’**), the IZ regulars made an uninspired but well-attended little statement. Even Nancy Nadel looked bored. As housing economics and city policies turn against them, it’s up to the Oakland People’s Housing Coalition to make rhetoric trump reality.

* Condo conversions tend to happen in nice neighborhoods. But under current law, the greater lakeside area (ie, much of downtown and Adam’s Point, and part of Brooklyn and Eastlake) is off-limits to conversions, and buildings over four units must purchase conversion rights from apartment developers (who are few and far between, sadly). Guess what part of Oakland isn’t near the lake, but is nice, and has lots of fourplexes?

** Okay, they didn’t actually say these things. But they may as well have. “It’s not about facts, it’s about faces!”

Posted in citycouncil, dellums, housing, iz, oakland.

5 Responses

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  1. scottpark07 says

    Ah, but the BRC did come up with a unanimous IZ recommendation at Thursday’s retreat.

  2. concerned oaklander says

    When is Oakland going to wake up and elect leaders who knows how to run a city rather than being all talk? Dellum’s big ideas were good for being one of hundreds of congress reps, but now he is the executive of a troubled city. How does picking up the garbage, cleaning up the streets, fixing the potholes, fixing the schools, reducing crime, keeping people safe fit into his “model city”? Or, in a model city, do these problems just levitate and disappear on their own? Get REAL and get it done! At lease Jerry Brown had one or two things he got done.

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