Monthly Archives: August 2007

For-sale affordable housing: who does it benefit?

People are constantly advising me to buy a home. They tell me that as a renter, I am simply throwing my money away every month. When I point out that between condo fees and property taxes, even a modest condo in Oakland that I owned outright with no mortgage payment would cost me more per month than I currently pay in rent, they say I am missing the point. The main reason to buy a home, I am repeatedly told by well meaning relatives and wealthy friends, is to build equity.

Okay. If they say so. I’m personally not entirely convinced of all the wonderful benefits of home ownership that seem to be widely accepted conventional wisdom in this country, but that’s really an issue for another day. Continue reading

Required reading

Between my work commitments and a visit from a family member, I have absolutely no time to blog right now. I will return on Monday. In my absence, I would like to recommend two wonderful posts on local blogs recently.

Dogtown Commons has an excellent post condemning pro-parking activists, and Living in the O has an equally excellent post about zoning on Telegraph Avenue. Everyone should read both of them. (Seriously, please, click through. I know none of you did so when I told you to read the McKinsey Report. But these are much shorter.)

BTW, I am changing the name of this blog. I love “Great Expectations,” which I named after one of my favorite books. No, not the fiction (haven’t ever actually read that one). The name was inspired by an excellent book about Oakland that very much informs my political opinions. Still, people seem to find the differing URL and name confusing (what was I supposed to do? greatexpectations.com was taken!), so this blog is now just “A Better Oakland.” Enjoy the simplicity.

Port of Oakland loses its crown and Oaklanders lose jobs

I love telling people that Oakland sports the country’s fourth busiest port. Too bad I can’t anymore. The Port of Savannah (which ranked ninth in the country only 2 years ago) stole our crown last year. And this isn’t likely to be the end. It is a distinct possibility that our ranking will slip further in the next few years. Ports we compete with directly, like Seattle and Tacoma, grew an average of 7.0% and 8.5% annually between 2000 and 2005, while we boasted a paltry 5.1%1.

The problem is rail. Continue reading

Dellums doesn’t seem to want to communicate with anybody

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums has been taking a lot of flack lately for his hostility to the press. Of course, none of this is really news. Deckin repeatedly covered the problem during last year’s Mayoral campaign, and the East Bay Express ran an article about Dellums’s long-running problems with the media shortly after his election.

An East Bay Express blog post shortly after Dellums’s inauguration in January prompted Novometro co-founder Alex Gronke to opine that whether Dellums was friendly to reporters or not didn’t really matter: Continue reading

Emerald Views “land swap” ideas reveal skewed priorities

A couple weeks after the initial Emerald Views public meeting, the Grand Lake Guardian has some coverage of the event. Unsurprisingly, critics of the project (well, two of them anyway), are once again talking about a land swap.

For now, the discussion is generally pointless, since David O’Keeffe has stated repeatedly that he is open to the idea of discussing a land swap. It’s up to Nancy Nadel to put up or shut up. It has been nearly a year since she originally floated the idea, and in that time, she hasn’t found anything to offer. Naomi Schiff’s suggestions for land to swap are so absurd as to not really merit response, but since Ron Dellums’s public safety agenda is still not posted, I may as well address the issue again. Continue reading

Time to move on from inclusionary zoning

Zennie Abraham thinks blogging about crime is depressing. He’s right. You know what else is depressing? Blogging about affordable housing.

The Blue Ribbon Commission met on Tuesday for the final time, and after more pointless discussion, decided…nothing. The Commissioners were unable to reach a consensus on anything and will be issuing no recommendations to the City Council.

This is a phenomenally depressing outcome from a commission that was charged with creating “a comprehensive housing strategy to ensure that housing, be it rental or ownership, is affordable to all income levels within the city.” Also, this is what happens when you become so focused on ideology that you forget what you’re supposed to be doing in the first place. All the BRC did, all the Council does, and all the housing activists do is sit around yelling about IZ endlessly. At this point, it should be abundantly clear that this Council is not going reach a consensus on IZ. They do not have the five votes needed for it to pass. Continue reading

Some sunnier news

I feel like this blog has been kind of depressing lately, and I don’t really like that. So I’d like to highlight some at least somewhat cheerier news.

Here’s one about a program some community members are working on to reduce crime:

The program targets people between the ages of 18 and 35 and focuses on prevention, intervention and enforcement. Program officials will try to place people in jobs and then monitor their success.

“Street outreach workers have the ability to deliver on commitments to provide employment for people caught up in cycles of violence and homicide,” said Ron Snyder, Oakland Community Organization’s executive director.

The Oakland Community Organization started working on the program in October. Then community members met in February, April and May to discuss the program, Snyder said. In June, the mayor’s office and other potential project partners examined the idea, Snyder said.

It is not known how much the program will cost, where the money will come from or when it will become a reality, but given a recent spike in violence, the pressure is on.

Continue reading

More lies about inclusionary zoning from the Trib

A few days ago, I was complaining to a friend, as I often do, about how worthless I find most local news. Regular readers will already be familiar with my feelings on this. He defended the reporters, saying that the job is hard, and that to report on policy with any depth or nuance required more research than most reporters have time for. I wholeheartedly disagree. There is simply no excuse for reporting on important topics like housing policy and getting your facts completely wrong.

Take this article in today’s Trib, for example:

Inclusionary zoning ordinances, as they are called, are designed mainly to ensure people can have home ownership opportunities in the communities in which they work, rather than forcing people to live far distances from the workplace.

No, they aren’t. Continue reading