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Re: “Plans for a 'New' Oakland Are Taking Shape, but Existing Residents Are Demanding More Equitable Development

There is no history in Oakland, or in America for that matter, that views existing diverse urban neighborhoods as having intrinsic value. Instead, they have always been seen as economic opportunities for the development community whose baseline approach was to destroy those neighborhoods and totally displace existing residents who, because of race and lower economic status, don't deserve a place at the table in the planning process. In the late 50's, Black residents of the Filmore District of SF had to sue the City in order to be included in the committee required to formulate the new plan under the Model Cities program. In Oakland, since the 60's, for the most part, the top levels of the Planning Department have been occupied by UC Berkeley planning school graduates whose inflated views of their own intelligence defined the City by floor area ratios and height requirements. Moreover, having no exposure, interest or connection to the broader Oakland flatland communities, concentrated the planning focus on downtown, Montclair, Rockridge and Jack London neighborhoods. Not surprisingly, almost all of the Planning Commissioners during those years also resided in those areas and many, if not most, were professionals at some level in land development. The blatant disregard at the top levels for the value of diverse neighborhoods and their populations has never been better illustrated than former Planning Director Rachael Flynn's statement that there was no housing crisis in Oakland. More concerning is that there was no response at all from the Mayor or City Council for that obvious disconnection with reality. In the recent E12 st housing debacle, it was only when the Eastlake neighborhood became involved that the community benefits conversations with the developer began to develop. There has to be sensitivity to these cultural diversity issues by City leadership in order for any plan to reflect those values in the process and the ultimate result. Currently, I see the Mayor and City Council members continuing to make backroom deals with developers and doing their best to bypass the neighbors.That is not a good sign for the immediate future.

Posted by Gary Patton on 06/23/2017 at 6:34 AM

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