Developers don’t stand a chance in Chinatown

Our members are confronting the housing crisis in Oakland, and we’re holding developers accountable! Read about our victory:

After 6 months of community engagement, a community appeal, and countless hours of negotiations, the W12 Community Benefits Coalition has worked with SF developer, The Martin Group, to win over $4 million in community benefits and an agreement to build 60 new affordable homes at the intersection of 12th Street and Harrison in Chinatown, in order to provide protections against displacement in a time of increasing gentrification in Oakland. The Coalition represents over 15 organizations and hundreds of residents, and while we recognize this outcome as a victory, we as Chinatown stakeholders are pushing to secure more protections in many other proposed developments in the neighborhood to prevent displacement.

Chinatown has a history of over 140 years of building a vibrant cultural hub for all in Oakland to come together in community. We have faced many cycles of exclusion and displacement before, and we are facing these risks again with approved market rate housing developments and 10 new projects approved and in the pipeline within the area. Our community members have been facing real threats of rising rents and illegal harassment. New landlords are replacing buildings that had long been affordable housing, and Section 8 tenants are at risk of losing their benefits because they can’t find landlords who will renew their leases, and many landlords won’t even consider these tenants.

When we share these displacement stories of working, low-income families, and seniors, we’re also talking about workers, small businesses, artists and cultural workers at risk of losing community. We are talking about our cultures and histories disappearing, as we have seen in other gentrified cities across the U.S.

In these development fights, we have continued to seek adequate time, space and regard for community input and participation. We urge developers to respect our neighborhood and earnestly collaborate with the community’s vision, feedback and concerns. Developers should transform our comments into concrete action that shapes a fuller, more inclusive and equitable project. This cannot happen at a single “community meeting.” We need development and more affordable housing now, and we must only approve projects with deep community engagement and at a pace that avoids further threat to our working class and long-term Oakland residents. The rush to build housing should not at the same time destroy what we love about Oakland.

Looking ahead, we do not want to be forced into fighting every development that threatens the livelihood of our Chinatown community. We will continue to work with city leaders to help us pass strong and fair city-wide policies that ensure community advocacy at every level of planning. Such policies could include diversifying the planning commission to represent different geographic communities and build capacity for community advocates that help to bridge the divide between policymakers and communities. We also urge city leaders to ensure that the distribution of funds generated prioritize and recognize our most vulnerable cultural and historic communities throughout the city, including Chinatown. We urge city leaders to continue working with the community to ensure affordable housing, retail, local jobs, publicly accessible open space, and true investments into neighborhood vitality so that all of Oakland can thrive.