Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday’s Briefing: OUSD Overspent by Millions on Admin and Consultants; Half of Bay Area Renters Are ‘Economically Burdened’

Plus, Oakland schools conduct widespread testing for lead.

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Nov 10, 2017 at 10:09 AM

Antwan Wilson.
  • Antwan Wilson.

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Nov. 10, 2017:

1. Oakland Unified overspent its budget by tens of millions of dollars on administrators and consultants in the past few years, and the district is now on the brink of insolvency, reports Jill Tucker of the San Francisco Chronicle$. The district spent $22.3 million on administrators and supervisors last year, but the school board only authorized $10.4 million. And in 2014, the district spent $22.6 million on consultants, when the board only approved $7.1 million. Much of the massive overspending was done by former Superintendent Antwan Wilson before he left earlier this year for Washington, D.C. The school board must slash $15.1 million from this year’s budget to avoid state receivership.

2. Nearly half of Bay Area renters are considered “economically burdened,” because they must spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, reports Louis Hanson of the Bay Area News Group$, citing a new report by Apartment List. About one in four renters in the region are severely cost burdened because they spend more than half of their earnings on housing as rent prices continue to soar.

3. East Bay MUD is testing for lead in water at all Oakland schools following the revelation that ten Oakland campuses have water with unsafe levels of the toxic metal, reports Jenna Lyons of the San Francisco Chronicle. The ten schools with unsafe levels of lead are “Glenview Elementary, Burckhalter Elementary, Joaquin Miller Elementary, Brookfield Elementary, American Indian Charter High (Lakeview Elementary campus), Fruitvale Elementary, Thornhill Elementary, McClymonds High School, Encompass Academy, and East Oakland Pride Elementary School.”

4. Wet weather could cause toxic runoff in the fire zones that burned during the North Bay fires last month, reports Kurtis Alexander of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Water officials fear that heavy metals and other pollutants, as well as large doses of dirt, could muck up water supplies for both humans and wildlife. Soil erosion also could undermine roads and bridges, and mudslides could break loose on fire-ravaged slopes.”

5. PG&E is claiming that the most destructive of the wildfires – the Tubbs fire, which killed 22 people and destroyed thousands of structures, mostly in Santa Rosa – was likely caused by downed electrical equipment that the utility did not own nor manage, the San Francisco Chronicle$ reports. However, state fire officials say they have yet to determine the cause of the Tubbs fire or the other ones in the wine country this fall.

6. The Bay Area’s Vietnamese and Cambodian communities are deeply concerned about a recent crackdown on immigration by the Trump administration, reports Tatiana Sanchez of the Bay Area News Group$. ICE officials arrested more than 200 Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrants in October in the Bay Area and around the nation.

7. The Bay Area’s Dungeness crab season is scheduled to start on time next week despite earlier concerns about toxins in the shellfish, reports Tara Duggan of the San Francisco Chronicle$. Recent testing has not detected unsafe levels of domoic acid, which is caused by algae blooms, according to state officials.

8. And billionaire progressive Tom Steyer announced that he will spend another $10 million on his nationwide campaign to impeach President Trump, the LA Times$ reports. That brings Steyer’s total spending to $20 million on the effort.

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Citing Possible School Closures and Fiscal Problems, Oakland School Board Denies New Charter School Petition

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 11:28 AM

The school board must cut millions more from the district budget this year.
  • The school board must cut millions more from the district budget this year.

The Oakland Unified School District's board decided to deny an application for a new charter school at their meeting last night.

Most board members said the decision was based on the timing of the application: OUSD is currently facing millions in budget cuts and the looming possibility that one or more district-run schools might have to be closed because of structural fiscal problems.

Education for Change, a private nonprofit that already runs six charter schools in Oakland, was asking for permission to open a new high school in the Fruitvale. Named "Latitude 37.8," the school would open in 2018 with 50 students, and eventually grow enrollment to 360 pupils.

The idea for the new charter school came out of the XQ Super School Project, an initiative established by billionaire Lauren Powell Jobs with a $50 million grant.

But OUSD's directors said that they are worried that launching a new charter school would be a bad move because of the district's financial turmoil and efforts to plan for the long-term.

"We operate too many schools," said school board member Jody London, North Oakland. "My conscience does not allow me to support any new charters in the City of Oakland."

London also cited the inability of most charter schools to serve special needs students like the disabled as a reason for her no vote.

Board member Roseann Torres, Fruitvale, was more blunt about her opposition: "Go Somewhere else at this point,” she told the charter school's backers. "Bring them somewhere else while we get our financial house in order. We have too many schools."

Board member James Harris, East Oakland, expressed support for the school's design and programs, but also said the timing was bad.

"We should finish the blueprint process before we introduce any new schools to our portfolio," said Harris, referring to the district's Blueprint for Quality Schools initiative.

The district's blueprint could result in closing some schools and reconfiguring other parts of the district's complicated and costly administration and academic programs. Advisors for the blueprint include both charter school advocates and charter critics.

Some claim that charter schools are causing financial problems for the district because there is a link between the creation of new charters and large numbers of students leaving the district's public schools, which results in declining enrollments and losses of millions in state funding.

"Opening charter schools doesn't help us," said Gema Quetzal at last night's meeting. Quetzal is an 11th grader who recently became a student director on OUSD's board. "It takes away our money, our students."

Just before the vote on the charter school's petition, OUSD staff presented an enrollment impact analysis showing that there would be a "low" and "low to moderate" impact on OUSD's Fremont High School and Oakland High School as some students who would normally enroll there next year instead go to the new Latitude 37.8 charter school as well as another existing charter school that is rapidly growing.

Furthermore, a recently completed "post mortem" analysis of OUSD's dire budget situation shows that declining enrollments due partly to "growth of charter schools" is one cause of the district's fiscal problems.

But supporters of the Latitude 37.8 school said last night's decision won't prevent them from opening the school.

"Charter law sets a criteria which says a school shall be approved," said Dirk Tillotson, a board member of Education for Change. Tillotson was referring to state rules that bar local school boards from taking into consideration their own budgetary problems when deciding whether or not to open new charters.

Silke Bradford, OUSD's director of charter schools, told the board that Education for Change's petition to create the Latitude 37.8 school meets all the requirements under state law, and that it's possible the county's board of education will grant the application to create the school in Oakland if OUSD doesn't.

"As your staff says, it will be approved at the county if not here. Just denying a charter will not serve any of the district's goals," said Tillotson.

But student director Quetzal said that in addition to her fellow board member's concerns about the district budget, future plans, and concerns about the charter school's inability to serve certain populations of students, she would vote against the proposal out of philosophical opposition to charters.

"I'm for public schools and not privatization," said Quetzal. "Let them go to the county. Let's show them what we stand for."

Jumoke Hinton-Hodge, West Oakland-Downtown, was the only board member to vote "yes" for the new charter school. She said there is a need to create more quality schools in Oakland, and charters accomplish that goal.

"Everyone else is likely gonna vote 'no,' so my 'yes' vote is not going to count for a lot," she said.

But even Hinton-Hodge indicated there were shortcomings to the Latitude 37.8 plan. When asked if there would be any Black men working as teachers at the school its administrators said 'no.'

"I'm most disappointed there's no African-American male teachers," said Hinton-Hodge.

"I will walk with ya'll to the county," she added about seeking the county board of education's approval to override OUSD, "but we need to do this black male piece."

Thursday’s Briefing: Oakland Closes Rent Control Loophole; Alameda Council Greenlights Medical Pot

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 10:23 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Nov. 9, 2017:

Dan Kalb.
  • Dan Kalb.
1. The Oakland City Council voted to temporarily close a loophole in city law that allowed landlords to exempt housing from rent control if they “substantially rehabilitate” it, reports Ali Tadayon of the East Bay Times$. The council voted to approve legislation authored by Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Rebecca Kaplan that establishes a six-month moratorium on rent control exemptions. Tenants’ activists said landlords have been abusing the law, which was originally designed as an incentive to make uninhabitable housing habitable.

2. The Alameda City Council voted to establish the first medical cannabis dispensaries on the Island in 2018, although selling marijuana for adult recreational use pot will remain illegal, reports Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times$. Even though state voters approved the legal sale of marijuana in 2016, cities are allowed to ban it for recreational use. The council also voted to allow one cannabis growing operation on the Island.

3. Berkeley could reap up to $1 million a year from taxes collected on Airbnb rentals in the city, reports Anjali Shrivastava of the Daily Cal. Under the city’s agreement with Airbnb, the company will collect a 12 percent tax from its clients — the same rate paid by hotels and motels.

4. The Oakland school board voted to slash $15.1 million from this year’s budget in order to close a large deficit and avoid state receivership, reports Ali Tadayon of the East Bay Times$. The board, however, has yet to specifically identify which cuts it will make. The board also plans to slash $11.2 million from next year’s proposed budget.

5. Two University of California officials who were at the heart of a controversy over the alleged tampering of a state audit have resigned, reports Nanette Asimov of the San Francisco Chronicle$. The officials — Seth Grossman, chief of staff to UC President Janet Napolitano, and Bernie Jones, his deputy — are suspected of altering answers to a confidential auditors’ survey of the UC campuses.

6. And there are at least $2.4 million dead trees in Yosemite National Park, reports Amy Graff of SFGate. The state’s five-year drought greatly weakened the trees and made them vulnerable to beetle infestations.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wednesday’s Briefing: Democrats Score Big Victories; Majority of Oaklanders Like Laney Ballpark Site

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 10:11 AM


Stories you shouldn’t miss for Nov. 8, 2017:

1. In a repudiation of President Trump, Democrats scored big victories on Tuesday, winning the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races easily and unseating numerous Republicans, The New York Times$ reports. Democrats also “swept two other statewide offices in Virginia, made gains in the Virginia State Legislature, and won a contested mayoral race in New Hampshire.” In addition, Democratic candidates won a series of firsts, including the first openly transgender state lawmaker winning election in Virginia, defeating an anti-LGBTQ Republican.

2. A large majority of Oaklanders — 62 percent — support the A’s’ plan to build a privately financed ballpark next to Laney College and Lake Merritt, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, citing a new poll commissioned by the Oakland Chamber of Commerce. Only 31 percent oppose the team’s proposal, with 7 percent having no opinion.

3. BART’s new train cars failed another test recently, raising concerns about more delays for the agency’s planned launch of the first its new fleet of trains, reports Erin Baldassari of the East Bay Times$. State regulators said the 10-car test fleet “failed to recognize all the cars in the line-up, instead recognizing only three of the cars on the train. At the same time, the train operator was unable to open the doors at platform stops.” The new train cars have been riddled with glitches.

4. ICYMI: The Oakland City Council voted 5-3 last night to approve a massive for-sale housing project — 918 homes — at the former Oak Knoll naval site in the Oakland hills. Affordable housing activists opposed the plan by developer SunCal because it included no below-market-rate units, while construction unions objected to the plan because it included no project-labor agreement.

5. Developer City Ventures sold out its 171-unit townhome project in West Oakland and is planning three other for-sale housing projects in the city, reports Roland Li of the San Francisco Business Times$. City Ventures is building 47 townhomes adjacent to the Station House site at 14th and Wood streets that just sold out; 126 townhomes at 2210 Filbert St. and 2310 Myrtle St., also in West Oakland; and is proposing 50 townhomes for 3927 Wattling St. in the Fruitvale district.

6. And Sierra Nevada ski resorts are open for business early this year thanks to the recent snow storms, reports Melody Gutierrez of the San Francisco Chronicle.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

Oakland Council Approves Giant Oak Knoll Project, But Without Affordable Housing or a Project Labor Agreement for Most Construction Workers

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 9:02 AM

The former Oak Knoll naval hospital is currently an empty 183 acres of forests and meadows in the hills.
  • The former Oak Knoll naval hospital is currently an empty 183 acres of forests and meadows in the hills.

Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid has been trying to seal the deal at Oak Knoll since 1992, when he was just a staffer working for then Mayor Elihu Harris. Last night, his quest was finally fulfilled.

Oak Knoll is a sprawling 183 acres of woodlands climbing from the 580 freeway up to a ridge overlooking the bay. From 1942 to 1996, it was the location of a naval hospital. But after the military left, the scenic real estate sat empty for decades. It's the largest undeveloped slice of land anywhere in Oakland.

Since 2005, developer SunCal has been trying to make its vision of Oak Knoll a reality, but the 2008 recession put everything on hold. Then in 2014, SunCal revived the project, proposing this time to build 918 homes with retail, parks, and other facilities.

Councilmember Reid has staked much of his political capital on the project's success.

But the current development plan isn't without detractors.

"You should be ashamed to give away such a large part of the city," said James Vann of the Oakland Tenants Union, "for an elitist development with not one unit of affordable housing." Vann and many others wanted the council to require some inclusion of affordable housing on the site.

Building trades workers want the city to require SunCal to sign a project labor agreement with their unions to guarantee jobs on the project will pay living wages.

Many neighbors who live around the project site have put pressure on SunCal and the city to prevent affordable housing from being included. As a result, all 918 units will sell at market rate, starting around $700,000 for townhouses and climbing to $1.2 million for large single family homes.

And only one union, the Laborers International Union of North America Local 304, was able to strike a deal with SunCal. Its members packed the council chambers and urged a yes vote, hoping to fill hundreds of jobs building infrastructure and housing for SunCal's subcontractors.

Most other unions urged the council to give them more time to negotiate with SunCal. "All the other building trades are opposed," said Luis Lopez, an electrician represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Jeff Dixon, another tradesman, told the council it would be a "dangerous precedent" to approve Oak Knoll. He called it an "exclusive community for the very wealthy, built by the lowest paid workers."

Supporters of the project countered that its raw economic impact will outweigh the low wages, non-union labor, and absence of affordable housing.

Sarah Chavez, a director of the Oakland Builder's Alliance, pointed to an economic impact study showing the development will generate $8.1 million in annual property taxes and $28 million in yearly sales taxes from new residents who shop within Oakland.

And as builders pull permits to construct the 918 homes — the homes will be built in phases over multiple years — Oak Knoll will also eventually generate about $20 million in affordable housing impact fees, according to the planning commission.

But several councilmembers asked that the vote be delayed or that the approval be amended to add new requirements.

Councilmember Abel Guillen attempted to amend the project's approval with a requirement that the developer fund and build a new fire station. Guillen said he is concerned Oak Knoll's thousands of new residents will put an unsustainable burden on the fire department, especially because the project will put almost one thousand homes in the hills where the fire hazard is high. They'll be served by two of the city's busiest fire stations.

Reid angrily responded to Guillen's proposed amendments to the deal by calling Guillen "disingenuous." Reid claimed that Guillen had earlier promised him support for the project. "I will never take you at your word again," he complained before he rejected Guillen's amendments.

Councilmember Dan Kalb said he was concerned about the lack of affordable housing, the absence of a project labor agreement, and that he shared Guillen's concerns about increased fire danger.

Reid shot back that Kalb didn't attend any community meetings about the project and then accused Kalb of political grandstanding.

"I understand you are running for assembly," he said about Kalb's campaign for the Assembly District 15 seat, "you're playing everybody."

"Sometimes you have to stop being disingenuous," Reid said.

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan was able to point out that some affordable housing at Oak Knoll is still possible, however, because SunCal recently decided not to purchase a 5.5-acre city-owned property within the development known as the Barcelona parcel.

"We are open to on-site affordable," Joe Aguirre, a spokesman for SunCal wrote the Express about the possibility of affordable housing.

Kaplan asked for several minor changes to the resolution to preserve the city's ability to build affordable housing there.

When the vote came, it was 5-3, with Guillen, Kalb, and Noel Gallo in the minority.

After the vote, Reid triumphantly threw up his hands.

Clarification: this story's headline was updated to note that SunCal has a labor agreement with one union, but a project labor agreement covering upwards of 20 other construction trades unions was not part of the development deal approved by the council last night.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Tuesday’s Briefing: Air Force Failed to Block Shooter From Buying Guns; Almena Says Ghost Ship Owner Shares Blame

Plus, UC Berkeley to bailout massive stadium debt.

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Nov 7, 2017 at 10:08 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Nov. 7, 2017:

1. The Air Force admitted that it failed to block Texas mass killer Devin P. Kelley from buying the weapons he used to murder 26 people at a church on Sunday, The New York Times$ reports. Under federal law, the Air Force could’ve prevented Kelley from purchasing guns legally because he was court-martialed for domestic violence after he cracked the skull of his young stepson in 2012. The Air Force, however, failed to enter Kelley’s name in a federal database. Witnesses to the mass killing said Kelley systematically shot young children to death at the church at close range, the AP reports.

Derick Almena.
  • Derick Almena.
2. Ghost Ship master tenant Derick Almena said in a jailhouse interview with KTVU that the owners of the Oakland warehouse, the Ng family, share the blame for the massive blaze that killed 36 people last December. Almena said he jury-rigged electricity to the warehouse after a transformer blew and the Ngs refused to pay for repairs. Prosecutors have not charged the Ngs with any crimes; Almena faces 36 counts of manslaughter.

3. UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ said the cash-strapped university will help pay the huge stadium debt on Memorial Stadium, reports Nanette Asimov of the San Francisco Chronicle. Christ has yet to identify exactly how the financially troubled university will help pay for the debt but indicated that the funds may have to come out of academic programs. The total debt on the stadium, which was recently refurbished, is nearly $500 million.

4. ICYMI: Brian Hofer, chair of the Oakland Privacy Commission, along with seven other city residents, filed an official complaint against Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, alleging that she repeatedly made false statements about a federal immigration raid in August in which she authorized Oakland police to assist ICE agents. Kirkpatrick has said that OPD was helping in a criminal human trafficking investigation, but ICE has filed no criminal charges in the case.

5. And Bay Area transportation officials may restrict more carpool lanes in the region to vehicles with three or more people because HOV lanes are overcrowded, reports Michael Cabanatuan of the San Francisco Chronicle. The three-person mandate may apply to Interstate 880 in the East Bay, Highway 237 in the South Bay, and Highway 101 on the Peninsula.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Complaint Filed Against Oakland Police Chief for False Statements

The complaint alleges that Anne Kirkpatrick made at least three false claims about an August immigration raid.

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Nov 6, 2017 at 4:17 PM

Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.
  • Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.

Eight Oakland residents, including Brian Hofer, chair of the city's privacy advisory commission, filed a complaint against Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick on Monday for allegedly making false statements.

The complaint, lodged with the Citizens Police Review Board, alleges that Kirkpatrick made at least three false statements about an Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation that involved the search of a West Oakland residence on Aug. 16.

At least two Oakland police officers assisted ICE during the raid by blocking off the street to through traffic.

Kirkpatrick defended her decision to help ICE because the agency told her, she has said on several previous occasions, that they were carrying out a criminal search and arrest warrant related to a human trafficking case.

A man named Santos de Leon was arrested by ICE agents during the operation, but federal records show he has not been charged with any crime.

However, on Sept. 6, Kirkpatrick told the public that he had been charged with a crime.

Kirkpatrick also stated there was no deportation matter in the case. But records obtained by the city's Privacy Advisory Commission revealed that de Leon is now facing a civil deportation case.

Immigration court filings prepared by U.S. Department of Homeland Security attorneys furthermore show that there isn't evidence that de Leon was involved in any crime.

Under Oakland's sanctuary policy, the police are not supposed to assist ICE in enforcing civil immigration laws.

It's not clear whether ICE officials misled Kirkpatrick or if she lied about the circumstances involving de Leon's arrest.

The complaint against Kirkpatrick also alleges that she made false statements about the timing related to OPD's termination of an agreement with ICE. In July, the Oakland City Council voted unanimously to terminate an agreement that allowed OPD officers to work in task forces with ICE.

Kirkpatrick and the department claimed the agreement with ICE was ended before the Aug. 16 ICE raid.

But city records show that Kirkpatrick and ICE officials didn't actually terminate the agreement until Sept. 25.

Kirkpatrick didn't respond to a request for comment, and an email to her was returned with the message that she will be out of the office until Nov. 13.

Hofer and the other city residents filed the complaint against Kirkpatrick with the CPRB because the city's new citizens' police review commission is not up and running yet. The new commission has the power to fire the police chief, while the CPRB can only recommend discipline to the city administrator.

A separate hearing about OPD's assistance to ICE during the ICE raid is scheduled for Nov. 14 before the council's Public Safety committee.

ICE Special Agent in Charge for San Francisco Ryan Spradlin has come to the chief's defense. In a statement issued last month, Spradlin said, "Chief Kirkpatrick has been truthful in her statements about the nature of the ongoing Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) investigation and OPD’s involvement."

Spradlin declined to provide further information about the case, and several attempts by the Express to obtain a copy of the warrant that was served have been denied by ICE.

Town Business: Housing, Homelessness, and Tenant Protections Dominate Oakland Council's Agenda

The council will consider six housing-related proposals.

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Nov 6, 2017 at 10:23 AM

  • Photo By Hayden Britton

This week, the Oakland City Council will consider six separate proposals to build new housing, including affordable housing, assist renters facing displacement, and to provide shelter and resources for the homeless.

Homeless shelter and services: After approving the concept of creating "safe havens" where homeless residents can camp and securely store their belongings, this week, the city council is set to allocate half a million dollars to hire two nonprofits to help set up and run these locations.

Bay Area Community Services would be paid $200,000 to run a navigation center that would help homeless people seek transitional housing. And Operation Dignity would be paid $300,000 to provide "community building, volunteer coordination, and safety to clients at the Safe Haven Outdoor Navigation Center."

It still isn't yet clear where the city will set up one or more of these sanctioned homeless camps, although a list of possible sites was picked in previous weeks by city staff.

Also, groups like The Village are seeking permission to set up sanctioned camps of their own.

Regardless of where and when these sanctioned camps open, there's still a growing need for winter shelter beds. The rains and cold have arrived. The city council is also considering spending $385,000 on shelter beds this season to help people get out of the elements.

But the funds will only pay for 135 bed spaces, 100 of which are located at St. Vincent De Paul, 675 23rd St.

Another 25 beds will be available exclusively for seniors at St. Mary's Center, 925 Brockhurst St.

Ten more beds will be available in East Oakland at 7515 International Blvd. through the East Oakland Community Project.

It's a small, insufficient amount of shelter space, really.

Oakland's homeless population is above 2,700 persons. At least 1,900 are unsheltered on any given night.

Many of our homeless neighbors have mental health problems. Hundreds are struggling with drug and alcohol addition. There are hundreds of youths (under the age of 24) on the streets. Dozens of Oakland's homeless have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Hundreds more are victims of domestic violence.

Last year, according to city records, 145 out of 272 people who used the city's shelters were able to transition out of homelessness by accessing transitional housing services and other resources available through the shelters, according to a city review.

Stronger tenant protections and assistance: Landlords can currently exempt their apartment buildings from rent control if they apply for a certificate showing they've "substantially rehabilitated" the property. The intent of the rule was to encourage property owners to fix up uninhabitable structures and bring them back onto the housing market.

Oakland is one of only two cities in California with rent control that allows landlords to exempt their buildings permanently under this rule.

But some landlords have used the rule to take rent control away from apartment buildings that were continuously occupied, and where the investments appear to have been nothing more than routine maintenance and capital improvements over the years that should have been carried out anyway.

Tenant activists are pushing to have the rule deleted from the city's rent adjustment ordinance. On Tuesday, the council will vote on a proposal to implement a 180-day moratorium that would stop landlords from filing new petitions to exempt housing from rent control. In the meantime, the council would consider a permanent fix to what tenants are calling a "loophole."

Oakland Councilmember Dan Kalb's office wrote in a staff report that there's recently been a surge in petitions filed by landlords seeking exemption. Kalb and Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, a co-sponsor of the measure, both say a moratorium is urgently needed.

Leah Simon Weisberg, an tenants' attorney with Centro Legal de la Raza, said there are currently 71 apartments that could be withdrawn from the city's rent controlled affordable housing stick, according to petitions filed with the rent board that she's reviewed.

Landlord oppose changing the rule and say it will result in a lack of investment in Oakland's housing stock.

Oak Knoll is the city's second largest development project in terms of housing units.
  • Oak Knoll is the city's second largest development project in terms of housing units.
Oak Knoll: The council is also scheduled to consider the Oak Knoll project on Tuesday night, a giant development that calls for building 918 homes on the 183-acre former Naval hospital site in the hills above the 580 freeway.

But labor unions are pushing for the council to vote no and stop the project. The unions are concerned that there isn't an agreement yet to hire union workers to build the housing and that there isn't an affordable housing component and other community benefits spelled out in the development agreement with SunCal, the company that is behind the project.

Monday’s Briefing: Gunman Murders Children and Families in Texas Church; GOP Plan Could Imperil Raiders’ Vegas Deal

Plus, Oakland city union wants 11-percent raise over two years.

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Nov 6, 2017 at 9:58 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Nov. 6, 2017:

1. A gunman armed with a semiautomatic rifle murdered children and families — a total of 26 people — during church services in a small Texas town on Sunday. The victims’ ages in the Sutherland Springs’ massacre ranged from 5 to 72, and the dead included relatives spanning three generations of one family. Authorities say the killer, Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, had been a in domestic dispute with his in-laws and that his mother-in-law attended the church where he opened fire.

2. The Republican tax plan in Congress could imperil the Raiders’ plans to move to Las Vegas because it would end the tax exemption on bonds used to build stadiums for sports teams, the Associated Press reports (via the East Bay Times$). Nevada officials plan to use $750 million in public bonds to help finance the stadium, but if the GOP tax plan passes, it could significantly increase the costs of the bonds because they would be taxable.

3. SEIU Local 1021, which held a strike during Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s state of the city speech last week, is seeking a 11-percent raise over two years from the city of Oakland, the San Francisco Chronicle$ reports. The city has offered 4 percent over two years, plus a 2 percent signing bonus.

4. Climate change activists endorsed state Sen. Kevin de León in his campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, noting that Feinstein has never made global warming a top issue, reports Chris Megerian of the LA Times$. Endorsements like the one from Climate Hawks Vote likely will help de León solidify his progressive credentials against the moderate Feinstein.

5. And members of the “Here There” homeless encampment on the Oakland-Berkeley border moved to the lawn of old City Hall in Berkeley on Saturday, one day before BART planned to evict the camp, reports Natalie Orenstein of Berkeleyside.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Entire Oakland City Council Declined to Cross Union Picket Line for Mayor Schaaf's State of the City Speech

But some complained about the union's protest outside an Islamic place of worship.

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 10:43 AM

Oakland Mayor Libber Schaaf said the city doesn't "step over the homeless, we step toward the homeless."
  • Oakland Mayor Libber Schaaf said the city doesn't "step over the homeless, we step toward the homeless."

All eight city council members avoided Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf's state of city speech last night because of a strike called by the city's largest public-employee union. Several councilmembers even joined city workers in protesting the mayor.

The unions that represent most of the city's workforce are currently in contract talks, but negotiations have not been going well.

On Thursday, SEIU Local 1021 staged a half-day strike to protest what workers say are unacceptable proposals from Schaaf's administration. The unions say they're being offered pay and benefits packages that amount to cuts due to high rates of inflation and rapidly rising housing prices.

Outside the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California on Thursday evening — the venue chosen by Schaaf for her speech to illustrate Oakland's pride in diversity — hundreds of workers formed a picket line and called on people not to attend the speech.

"Scabs!" they yelled at city department heads walking past them. They booed Schaaf's supporters who crossed the picket line while cheering others who decided not to enter because of the labor discord.

Oakland's new Fire Chief Darren White was heavily booed as he walked through the picket line into the venue.  Firefighters union President Dan Robertson tweeted that it was "disappointing" to see the department's leader not stand in solidarity with the rank and file. The firefighters' union is also locked in contract talks with the city.

The only major city employee union without a presence at the protest was the Oakland Police Officers Association. Several police officers worked as security for the event, politely opening and closing the iron gate at the center's entrance

Councilmember Noel Gallo, Fruitvale, joined the protesting workers outside, as did Councilmember Desley Brooks, East Oakland.

East Bay Times reporter David DeBolt is booed as he walks past the picket line to report on the mayor's speech.
  • East Bay Times reporter David DeBolt is booed as he walks past the picket line to report on the mayor's speech.
Councilmember Dan Kalb, North Oakland, also did not attend the mayor's speech out of solidarity with the workers.

"Throughout my life, I've had an ethic not to cross picket lines," Rebecca Kaplan told the Express.

"As the son of union workers, I understand first-hand the importance of expressing solidarity with workers," wrote Councilmember Abel Guillen in a Facebook post. "I won't be attending tonight's event and will not cross the picket line."

Oakland City Administrator Sabrina Landreth, who is in charge of the bargaining negotiations with the city's public-employee unions, has offered SEIU 1021 members a 4 percent raise over two years, plus a 2 percent one-time signing bonus, according to city spokesperson Karen Boyd. The city pegged the costs of the SEIU raise at $36 million.

However, it will be up to councilmembers to approve any deal reached between the city and the unions. And the councilmembers' decision to not cross the SEIU picket line last night, and for some of them to join the protest, could embolden the union to stick to its demand for a better deal than what the city is offering. The city budget that the council approved earlier this year, however, did not include substantial raises for the city employees.

The unions last night also were criticized for staging a boisterous protest outside the Islamic cultural center.

Several people told the Express that they were worried about the protest because some worshipers didn't understand why the union members were picketing the center and asking people not to enter. Because of this week's events in New York City involving a young man who told police he was inspired by the ISIS to kill eight people in a random attack, some worried the union protest might be misconstrued as a protest against Muslims.

Schaaf even sent an email out earlier in the day that upset union members because it stated that "Despite the protest outside, the doors to the Islamic Cultural Center will remain open, and all Oaklanders are invited tonight to show the world our city stands for unity and compassion."

Several hundred union members blocked the street and picketed the mayor's speech at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California.
  • Several hundred union members blocked the street and picketed the mayor's speech at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California.
And Payman Amiri, the chairman of the Islamic center, told the Express he had concerns about the protest.

"We fully understand the workers right to get the best deal," he said. "We want them to get the best deal, but shaming community members who come to a place of worship was a little overboard."

But Cherly Sudduth said that it was only a misunderstanding and that the union members actually went to extra lengths to facilitate a safe and un-harassed path into the center for Muslims who were there to worship or for some other purpose besides the mayor's speech.

"I told them I did need to get inside," said Sudduth, who is Muslim and also a candidate for the state Assembly District 15 seat. "They stepped forward and allowed me to walk in behind them."

Sudduth said she came for prayer but also attended the mayor's speech. "They were totally respectful," said Sudduth about the union protest.

As to the substance of Schaaf's speech, the mayor addressed many of the city's challenges, from affordable housing and homelessness to public safety and racial disparities at the hands of the police.

She praised Oakland voters for passing Measure JJ last November, a package of renter protections that was heavily supported by SEIU Local 1021.

She also praised the creation of the new police commission.

And she called for more affordable and market-rate housing to address the region's housing shortage.

She also challenged Oakland's homeowners to create more housing for long-term residents. "Give up that Airbnb," she said. "Fix up that back unit."

As to the unions protesting her administration's offers at the bargaining table, she said: "Tonight we saw a great expression of Oakland values. When they speak truth to power, when they protest, I deeply respect that and want to give every city worker a round of applause."

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