Condo conversions return to Council

Condo conversions were a big controversy a few years ago, but since then, have pretty much faded off the radar of everyone but professional affordable housing activists and developers. Now the issue is back, sort of.

Councilmembers Pat Kernighan and Rebecca Kaplan have introduced a proposal to make some changes to Oakland’s condo conversion rules (PDF), which will be considered at today’s Community and Economic Development Committee meeting (PDF).

Basically, sometimes apartment building owners decide they don’t want to own an apartment anymore and would like to turn their building into condominiums and sell the units off individually. In Oakland, however, this is not the easiest thing to do for most buildings. A 1981 law, designed to ensure a robust supply of rental housing, prohibits the conversion of an apartment building greater than four units into condominiums unless you have something called “conversion rights.”

In practice, conversion rights are a little silly. Basically, when someone builds a new apartment building, each unit gives them one conversion right. Then if someone else wants to convert their apartment building into condos, they go and buy the conversion rights needed to do so. So if I have a 20 unit apartment building I want to turn into condos, I have to go find someone who built at least 20 rental units and buy the conversion rights from him. In certain parts of the City, you can only buy conversion rights from buildings that are in the same area. The idea is, again, to guarantee that we preserve an adequate supply of rental housing, and to protect tenants from displacement if their apartments are converted.

The proposal (PDF) introduced by Councilmembers Kernighan and Kaplan would create a “Pilot Program” that allows up to 300 units in “higher rent” apartment buildings (buildings where the average rent for new tenants in the past two years has been over $2100 a month) to be converted over a period of two years without purchasing conversion rights. Instead, the building owner would pay the City a $15,000 per-unit fee for the conversions. Then after two years, it would be over.

Existing tenants in the buildings that want to convert would all have to be offered a rent controlled lifetime lease and units where tenants choose to take the lifetime lease could not be sold. If tenants choose to move instead of taking the lifetime lease, they wouldn’t get any money to help pay re-location costs. If tenants want to buy their apartment as a condo, they would get a 10% discount.

The fees paid to the City for the conversion rights would go to rehab of existing affordable housing. Additionally, the proposal would create more money for the City by creating a bunch of new condos, which will each be paying property taxes, transfer tax when they are sold, and parcel taxes.

There are two other features of the proposal, which I won’t get into that much right now. One would make it easier to convert some Tenant-in-Common properties to condos, and the other would clarify existing law to make it clear that if you build a new rental apartment building and then decide you want to convert it to condos, you’re allowed to use your own conversion rights to do so.

Anyway, Councilmembers Jane Brunner, Nancy Nadel, and Jean Quan do not like the proposal, and have introduced one of their own. Unlike Councilmembers Kernighan and Kaplan, they do not offer any explanation their rationale or analysis of the impacts of their proposed legislation. Instead, they submitted a simple chart outlining the highlights of some plan they want staff to turn into legislation. You can read the whole thing here (PDF). The key points are:

  • Expand existing condo conversion ordinance so that it applies to buildings of 4 units or less, which it currently does not
  • Cap conversions at 150 units per year and 150 units per Council district over 5 years
  • 6 months notification, 15% discount, lifetime leases and first right of refusal for purchase for existing tenants in buildings to be converted
  • The same inclusionary zoning proposal that keeps coming up before the Council and failing

The plan proposed by Councilmembers Brunner, Nadel, and Quan is not really worth commenting on now. I have written extensively in the past about inclusionary zoning, which is a tired, counterproductive, and failed concept (and appears to now be illegal for rental housing, although rental IZ is not part of their current proposal), and also totally irrelevant to the condo conversion issue currently on the table.

As for the limited conversion proposal from Councilmembers Kernighan and Kaplan, I find little to complain about. A supplemental report from CEDA staff (PDF) raises some legitimate questions about the proposed definition of “higher rent buildings” and potential obstacles to assessing the proposed impact fee, and those issues certainly deserve further discussion at Committee.

The report further criticizes the proposal for acting in isolation, instead of being part of a “comprehensive housing strategy,” which I think is just ridiculous. No, this isn’t a comprehensive housing strategy, it’s limited legislation intended to address limited issues, which is just fine. Not every single thing the City does has to be part of some overarching, long-term plan to address some giant issue. When you insist on doing things that way, nothing ever gets done.

Sure, I think it might be a little silly to go to all this trouble basically so one luxury apartment building can be converted into condos, but that’s really the fault of the people trying to tack all these other issues onto something limited and very specific. Like six people forwarded me this “action alert” from EBHO yesterday that hysterically claims:

The Oakland People’s Housing Coalition (OPHC) opposes Councilmember Kernighan’s condo conversion proposal as a bad deal for the city and a bad deal for tenants and affordable housing. Their proposal, if adopted, would create no new housing and would threaten displacement for low-income seniors and people with disabilities.

It doesn’t explain how, of course. The purpose of the condo conversion ordinance is to protect the supply of rental housing that is within the means of most people, and whether you agree with that goal or not, it’s hard to see how the poor renter in Oakland are going to be harmed by having ultra-expensive apartment buildings on the Lake become ultra-expensive condo buildings on the Lake. The protections for building’s existing tenants seem sufficient to me, although some form of relocation assistance would be nice and I don’t think too burdensome for the building owner.

The deplorable condition of much of Oakland’s affordable rental housing is as serious an issue as the supply, and to the extent that this proposal can supply some funds for rehabilitation, I think it’s a good thing. Additionally, the City’s revenue problems are not going away anytime in the near future, and this also provides a way to bring in more money for the City (PDF) (I think the estimates in that document are probably a little inflated, but the point remains that it’s a significant amount of money).

The Community and Economic Development Committee meets at 2 PM this afternoon. If you can’t make it down to City Hall, you can always catch it on KTOP, Comcast cable Channel 10 and available streaming online. I will be tweeting the meeting, so for real-time updates, you can always check out twitter.com/vsmoothe or follow the #oakmtg hashtag to get updates from others as well. (If anyone else tweets it, that is. Sometimes I’m the only one.)

72 thoughts on “Condo conversions return to Council

  1. Naomi Schiff

    As a renter I was condo’d out of a building before the conversion legislation. Then I moved into an area that was being thrown into complete chaos by conversions, followed by interesting times as the new condo owners sued the converters who in some cases did a pretty sloppy job on the buildings. Now we are in a situation where a lot of the unsold conversions are turning into marked-up rentals and the condo associations much affected by the non-owner-occupied units.

    I think the whole condo ownership structure is overrated, especially in this economy, and can’t imagine why we would encourage it unless we are trying to benefit a few owners who are dying to sell.

    This does indeed look like a way to water down our conversion ordinance, with little in exchange for it. I am very skeptical of the motivations, and question why Kernighan and Kaplan are bringing it forward. What problem are they trying to solve?

  2. Max Allstadt

    I think the problem it attempts to solve is pretty simple: Builders and developers are taking a serious beating in this economy. Allowing them to make some money in the luxury end of the market, without displacing any poor people… that seems like a win-win situation to me.

    I also don’t understand why Brunner, Nadel and Quan are trying to push IZ again. Why lose on purpose? Brooks, Reid, IDLF, Kernighan and Kaplan are five votes. This is already over.

    The only explanation for the opposition to this and the countermotion is that it’s all about attention. Because the ordinance contains the word “Condo”, it makes it possible for the pro IZ lobby to piggyback on it and get attention. Similarly, the content of the ordinance can easily be twisted in campaign rhetoric to make those who oppose it appear to be champions of the little guy.

    It’s silly, and I hope the press sees through it. This is a minor adjustment. And it’s not little-guy vs. big guy. It’s upper-middle class renters potentially being mildly inconvenienced by lower-upper class building owners. Not a big deal in a town with some much bigger problems.

  3. len raphael

    the proposal essentially takes the money that was going to private developers of new rental property and gives it to the city.

    it gets the city deeper building and managing low income residential real estate.

    i’ll read the details later, but it also makes little condo converters pay the same 15k per unit (bedroom?) that bigger converters now have to pay.

    eg if i ever decide to convert my duplex into a condo, I not only have to pay the standard condo application fees to the city of approx 7k, legal fees of 7k , surveyor fees of 6k, but also another 30k. That’s 50k for two units that might sell for a total of 600k after Oakland transfer taxes and closing costs. Explain to me how the Ks’ proposal is going to do much more than increase fee revenue to the city and give OHA more money to expand low income housing.

    appears to be a variation of the parking meter method of raising revenue applied to real estate but using the excuse that the cc is somehow protecting and enhancing the supply of affordable rental housing.

    there were potential futer benefits to residents from the parking meter increases. more than i can say for oakland govt stated purpose to steer the real estate market.

  4. V Smoothe Post author

    Len, you seem to misunderstand the proposal from Councilmembers Kernighan and Kaplan. It does not in any way impact the City’s relationship with “building and managing low income residential real estate,” nor does it have anything to do with any duplexes. Sorry if that wasn’t clear, but I just re-read the post and can’t really see how you got either of those ideas out of it.

  5. Ralph

    Overall, I think what PK and RK are proposing is good. The conversion has very limited impact on those at the low end of the economic scale. It increases tax revenue without raising the rates on current residents. It indirectly reduces the burden on TIC owners – conversion to condo should make them eligible for lower loan rates and increase disposal income.

    I believe some of the units in residential JLS converted without much problem. Because of the limited impact, I would expect this to fly as smoothly.

    I would disagree that condo ownership is overrated. It looks bad now because of declining prices, but when prices are rising condo ownership can be affordable for 1st time entrants especially in the bay area where SFH aren’t exactly priced at the national average.

    Naomi, I assume you mean unsold condos are turned into “marked-up rentals” (not sure what that means) but how are the condo associations hurt?

  6. len raphael

    guilty of not reading primary doc before shooting of mouth. didn’t have time to read pdf and go to hearing, so decided to print out the pdf and go to meeting.

    is there FREE parking for attendees?

    -l

  7. Ralph

    Did JB just slap RK? Patrick, I am having baked goods; specifically, in honor of Sesame Street, I am having cookie!!!

    I wish someone will kill IZ. Condo conversion does not need to include IZ. IZ should be taken to the woodshed and beaten to death.

  8. Naomi Schiff

    Outnumbered owner-occupants, or those who are few in number, have little control over what happens to the building, nor over how assessments for repairs and improvements are determined. If the owners of the rented-out units are unwilling, say, to pay for repairs, because they don’t want to spend the money, you can end up with a situation similar to the one in the condo behind my house, where they had a huge battle in order to fix the roof when it leaked. When most of the condos in a new building are held by the original developer as rentals, the single-unit-owners are disenfranchised in the association. Their interests may not align with those of the bigger owner. So say the original developer decides to paint the place purple or something. How would the outnumbered condo assoc members prevail?

    The whole point of our condo conversion ordinance is to allow condo conversion AND provide rentals. Condo conversion can be a powerful tool for displacement, and not only of poor people, but of plenty of middle class folks.

  9. len raphael

    Naomi, the situation you describe where condo owners disagree on repairs/improvements is one of the main disadvantages of condo ownership (or partnerships and marriages for that matter). especially true for small condo’s.

    But that’s part of why condo’s are cheaper/sq foot than single family residences.

    -l

  10. len raphael

    yes i misinterpreted the proposal by K & K: it wouldn’t apply to my duplex situation because i’m not in the primary or secondary “impact areas” which currently require conversion rights. to be more accurate my situation if in the impact areas would have been affected, because originally there were a total of 5 units which would have come under the conversion rules there and as proposed).

    so my emotional reaction was misplaced. the really scary proposal to me and i think for the city’s future, is the reason K&K were body slammed: Brunner, Nadel, Qwan, and Dellums in cooperation with the very intelligent and articulate low income housing activists, are gearing up for what they call a “comprehensive” housing policy for Oakland.

    That group sees “pilot projects” like this as chipping away at the leverage they have to get inclusionary zoning. The housing gang kept repeating a wierd mantra about “fair and balanced” comprehensive housing policy, like a bizzaro “progressive” Fox News broadcast. Reading V’s pdf it appears they would do their best to control condo conversions every where in the city and collect all of the profit on the deals for the city.

    As JB put it, they’re willing to loosen up slightly on condo conversions in return for inclusionary zoning on home ownership. JB referred to the Palmer case, as frustrating her goal of inclusionary zoning for rentals. (any info on that?)

    Amazing that Kerrigan and Kaplan failed to see the little firestorm they walked into with the appearance that they were repaying favor to Greg M. the attorney for
    1200 Lakeshore. (curious did both K’s get the support of pac’s he’s a member of? whatever, Pat K’s point was valid if politically lame, that protections under her law would be greater than the tennants of many of the potential condo’s currently have now.)

    DLF bless him, pointed out that if you make Oakland responsible for providing affordable housing for all the poor people here, Oakland will be carrying the load for a wide geographical area.

    Our city council members are gearing up to permanently make the Oakland flatlands a warehouse for poor people.

    -len raphael
    temescal

  11. V Smoothe Post author

    Len, I still don’t understand what you’re talking about with this duplex thing. The proposal would have only applied to buildings over 100 units.

  12. len raphael

    The tennants in common provision of the proposal was very odd. I’d be amazed if there was more than 1 TIC in the entire impact geographical area. Apparently someone in that TIC pleaded their case w K or K.

    As far as I’ve heard, Oakland ain’t SF. People won’t buy flats in old houses as TIC’s.

  13. Ralph

    In theory, if the developer is renting unsold units then it is possible to have unaligned interest. But the developer should keep the rental mgmt separate from the Board group, which still has a duty to the HOA. Because of their duty, the developer (via its Bd representatives) is not in a position to do anything with a material adverse impact.

  14. len raphael

    Max, what makes you say RK opposes inclusionary zoning?

    if a fan of IZ like JB says IZ for rental units is stopped for now because of the Palmer case (http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=8488ee3d-20fe-4480-a489-197053f1a060) apparently late October 2009 where the CA supreme court refused to review lower court ruling that local govt IZ for newly constructed rentals is trumped by the state Costa Hawkins statute on rent control.

    Unless/until the state legislature changes Costa Hawkins, (aint gonna happen as long as the real estate industry is hurting) that leaves B, N, Q and possibly PK and RK pushing for the much IZ for owner occupied condos. Must be very frustrating for affordable housing true believers.

    None of that will stop cc people from looking at doubling condo fees or some such as another way to raise revenue for low income housing subsidies. As JB put it a 15k conversion fee “is way too low”. Why doesn’t the cc just triple the transfer tax and be done with wasting their time fighting condo conversions.

  15. Born in Oakland

    Councilmembers do something they are elected for, to try to enhance revenue in a modest way. Now question their motives, pro-development, hidden agenda…and in come affordable advocates, what about low income and seniors, blah, blah…sand in the gears…nothing gets done…no one is happy..City remains dysfunctional while overeducated and underachieved bloggers dream of Oakland becoming a better Berkeley.

  16. Livegreen

    What does NYC do? They have a lot of the same issues with condo conversions, rent control aptmts, tenants rights, etc.

    Naomi, Im curious about your response to Ralph’s solution for the problems you described?

  17. greg mcconnell

    Sadly, Oakland misses another opportunity. Kernighan and Kaplan tried to do something good for the city, tenants and the owners of luxury buildings.

    Their proposal would have raised $4.5 million for affordable housing (300 units times $15,000). payable when the city approved the map. It would have given sitting tenants more protections than they have under existing law as every tenant would have been offered a lifetime lease, with a commitment that their unit would not be sold so no one could evict them for owner occupancy or raise their rent. During the lifetime lease the unit would have continued under rent control. Finally, it would have allowed owners of buildings that rent for 40% more than the average rent in the city to convert their building and sell units as they became vacant.

    It would have allowed TICs that are mostly owner occupied (2/3rds) to get out from onerous high interest loans and get financing that is readily available to condo owners but not TIC owners. And, it would have clarified how owners who create new units can use their conversion rights.

    In a survey done by Kernighan and Nadel, only 15% of the tenants at 1200 Lakeshore opposed the luxury plan if it allowed lifetime leases. 85% did not care or actually supported the plan

    Now the benefits to the city are gone. The lifetime leases are gone. And this carefully scripted compromise is off the table.

    As far as the specious argument that K and K where under the influence of special interests and seeking something for themselves, I represented the owners of the building and I can tell you that they sought nothing and got nothing, other than abuse from people who are trying to pursue an agenda that has nothing at all to do with the merits of the condo issue. They think that they can leverage IZ out of a condo compromise. I wonder what color they will call the next Blue Ribbon Commission.

    Thank you Pat and Rebecca for the try. Too bad for Oakland.

  18. Ralph

    Yes, PK and RK tried to do a very good thing. I have a problem when affordable housing people try to prevent a bldg with avg rents above $2100 from converting to condos. Exactly who is the low income person being hurt in this instance?

  19. Naomi Schiff

    Greg McConnell is a fine and upstanding person but just to make it clear: he is a lobbyist and has a distinct point of view which is that of building owners and related trade groups.

    I am wondering whether the condo ownership model is the only viable way forward, or whether we might see some alterations in the way housing finance and marketing are structured. It doesn’t seem to have worked out uniformly well, and there does seem to be a significant need for decent well maintained rental housing, and housing for families (a feature particularly week in the condo area).

    Conversion causes significant dislocation and the same unit seems to get a lot more expensive once sold, what with the monthly assoc. fees and all. So without leaping into the fray on gentrification, which I would like to avoid, I am interested in how we maintain our diverse city, continue to build new construction residential housing of whatever kind, and still serve needs such as schools, roads, and parks. One possibility is to look closely at impact fees.

  20. greg mcconnell

    Thank you Naomi for the complimentary remarks. Too often people villainize people with whom they disagree. I am happy to see that you are not such a person. I will be sharing my thoughts on the issues you raise in your post in the near term.

    For today, let’s honor our veterans who risk their lives to make sure we continue to have our rights to debate and to agree and disagree from time to time.

  21. livegreen

    Naomi, Believe it or not I haven’t totally ruled our IZ (although the way it’s been tried in Oakland in the past might have been nuts). But I don’t understand why Liberals have their own version of “You’re either for us or you’re against us”.

    I think you have some legitimate concerns about Condo Conversions. Ralph tried to address those. Could you at least answer his recommended solution to the legitimate concerns you have?

    Re. the condo-fees, that’s a question for the market to bare and judge. I agree fees can be steep, sometimes as high or higher than the interest on the mortgage. But individuals should be capably of making that judgement themselves ESPECIALLY at both the bottom of the market and since the Obama Admin. AND the markets have been eliminating the 0 interest loans (different topic but diminishes “irrational exuberance” of the RE bubble going forwards).

    Condo fees MUST exist because there are fees in common. To balance those fees and the concerns you expressed earlier solutions can be written into the proposed legislation. But that is quite different than saying Condo Fees are bad, therefore Condos are bad, therefore we’re not going to do anything…

    PS. Do you know anything that works “uniformly well”? I’ve never heard of such a thing in my life. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  22. Chris Kidd

    Naomi,

    All the things you’re talking about creating (equitable housing, opportunity for families, limiting displacement, re-imagining the structure of modern housing financing) are really noble and lofty goals to go after.

    At the same time, how does K and K’s proposal going down in flames further those goals? I suppose my point is that I’d rather see more proactive attempts made towards these issues. What we’ve seen time and again in Oakland over the past few years are furthering goals through opposition (‘I want to eventually see this, so I’m against that’) or through making goals contingent upon others (‘If you want to do this, you have to attach this other thing to it that can’t stand on its own legs’). We should be approaching these goals on their own and in a more straightforward manner. They deserve nothing less.

    What’s more, housing is not a zero-sum game in Oakland. Just look at ABAG’s population growth projections for our city. All those people have to live *somewhere*.

  23. len raphael

    Several parts of K&K’s proposal were bad precedents for future condo policy. discriminating based on perceived measure of income/wealth of tennants (K&K used average rent per unit not per bedroom, not per sqft), fixed conversion fee instead of a percentage of ultimate sale price, no or low relocation reimbursement, and the fee going into a low income housing fund, and the 10% discount.

    the conversion fee should just go to the departing tennants as a relocation fee.

    instead of a 10% discount (not sure how and when that’s calculated), just a right of first refusal to existing tennants.

    yes, more study of impact fees needed to cover stuff besides sewer hookups

  24. Max Allstadt

    Len,

    The reason I think Kaplan opposes IZ is because she explicitly said during her campaign that IZ has proven ineffective in other cities. She basically said that the intent of IZ (an equitable housing market, achieved through some sort of legislative means) was sound, but that IZ itself didn’t accomplish the goal.

    If I remember correctly her stance was that there are better ways to create homebuying opportunities for the middle class, including the first time buyers program and downpayment assistance programs, which she routinely plugs, both in public appearances, and on the dias.

    ___________________

    As far as Kernighan’s inability to get a second to move her proposal to a vote at the committee, some of that has to do with infighting on the Council. The alliance that used to be a pretty surefire bet, PK, IDLF and LR, is not what it used to be at all. I’m sure that the rest of the CED committee had genuine opposition to the plan, but the haste with which it was dismissed was equal parts politics and principle.

  25. Ralph

    I like lobbyist.

    Naomi, I still don’t understand your contempt for condos. Not everyone wants a single family home. There are more and more older people moving into condos particular in urban areas because they enjoy the vibrancy of city life. It is a documented trend and a point JQ referenced at Tuesday’s mtg when addressing Senior mobility/disability needs. Furthermore, condos also make it possible for 2 and even 3 generations to live near each other and still maintain indepence. For example, I know one people who lives in one unit with her children while her mother lives on another floor.

    This leads me to families, you would be surprised at the number of couples with children living in condos. Developers are also bldg TH style condos for families.

    Overall, PK & RK plan had a good plan. I don’t think it is unreasonable to allow a separate process for condo conversion on the high end because the actual number of low income people should be minimal. Call me crazy but a person earning $40,000 a yr, let alone $20,800 a year, should not be paying $2100/mo in rent.

    I might argue for some additional resident protections where the owner of the bldg may have an unfair advantage (add’l knowledge) such as bldg safety and retrofitting. This should be part of the disclosures, but who would buy if you know you are going to be hit with a special assessment that is going to run into the $1000s. A number of people are concerned that the owner would force tenants out by limiting repairs. Establish a baseline and metrics, if the owner fails to meet his obligation attach penalties arbitration or something.

    I am not sure about using a % of selling price to use as the conversion fee. Each buyer, is going to negotiate their own deal introducing a lot of uncertainty into the process. I’d rather a flat fee per unit converted.

    It made absolutely no sense to introduce IZ into this proposal. It was an attempt by the IZ proponents to hijack a good proposal.

  26. Naomi Schiff

    I don’t have contempt for condos. As they say, some of my best friends live in condos! It’s the whole approach to converting rentals into condos that I questioned, and the propensity of conversion to destabilize neighborhoods and jack up rents by adding intermediaries in the form of non-resident condo owners.

    As to the fee structures, governance, and so on, I am no expert and can’t say I have the solution; I’m just aware of some of the difficulties that have ensued. Certainly some condo agreements are a lot better than others. There have been a lot of lawsuits.

    I know that there are indeed many families in condos. Including my back neighbors. However, almost none of the new-construction condos are designed toward family living. I have often advocated for recognizing that families do occur even if the people who create them are childless upon purchase. I was laughed at when I asked for analysis of school capacity when the condo boom was on in the CBD. My interlocutors claimed there wouldn’t be any children. (Showing basic ignorance of the facts of life!) I think it is not too idealistic to try to plan for and work toward a full spectrum of residents, including families, wide ranges of incomes and occupations, and ages.

  27. Ralph

    Naomi, you did have some concerns about non-resident owners. As to apt to condo conversion in Oakland, I have no idea how prevalent it is. I have only been in Oakland 3 ys. But to put in perspective I have never lived in SF but I am well aware of TIC conversions. I believe it has happened in the residential areas of JL.

    I don’t know how rents get jacked up as there is a market clearing price. I haven’t toured all condos but the ones I have seen a number that were designed for families including complexes on San Pablo, in Uptown, and Old Oakland. I think if you were to take a walk around you would be pleasantly surprised.

  28. livegreen

    Naomi, Thank you for the detail. It makes it easier to address, learn, etc. than just a blanket anti-condo stance. Re. governance, rules can be written in to deal with some basic concerns you’ve mentioned, as long as they’re limited to legitimate concerns. I think yours are…

    When I lived in NYC the non-resident condo owners were pretty well controlled by the condo associations. The buildings which prohibited non-resident condo owners were higher priced and harder to get into. The buildings which were the opposite were more affordable for obvious reasons. People took that into account when buying, and I believe the former was more common than the latter (though during the boom that might have changed). I don’t know if this was the market or if regulations supported it, or both. I do know it was one of the basics people would consider when buying.

    If it isn’t here then could it be because condos aren’t prevalent and/or because of ignorance of buyers?

    Finally, in NYC there’s a large variety of condos, many family-friendly. If that’s not the case here then you’re right, there certainly should be! Should we chalk that up to the ignorance of the developers?

    V and Ralph, do you know if non-family condos are still typical these days, or even if not, is it changing? (It certainly should be based on how JQ is reading the trends. Is she in danger of becoming pro-development? Or just a realist? :)

    Of course I guess V might say that this is only a test case, so whether this test was or wasn’t isn’t relevant. But I’m still curious about the market…

  29. James E Vann

    Many have commented on the Kernighan-Kaplan condominium proposal that was defeated yesterday at the Community & Economic Development Committee. While respondents have suggested some credible ideas addressing housing issues over the long term, numerous reasons exist to justify defeat of this extremely flawed proposal that should never have been submitted. As a member of Oakland Tenants Union, my organization among others vigorously opposed this “special interest” legislation on a multitude of grounds.

    Yes, the 28-year old condominium ordinance could stand to be updated for better applicability with current market conditions, and my organizations’ support such revision. The intent of the 1981 Condominium Ordinance, however, is as appropriate today as when adopted — preservation of Oakland’s fragile rental housing stock as a valuable resource (sorely needed by Oakland’s predominant working class population). The present Ordinance applies to the total housing inventory, without reference to rent amount. The ordinance values rent diversity without offering either low or high rentals to be sacrificed for economic gain. Conversely, there are absolutely no restrictions of any type on building, or even subsidizing costs, to produce and make available new condominiums affordable to a variety of age and income categories. OTU supports such subsidies, and strongly believes that the inventory of existing rental housing should not be used as the stockpile for conversions destined to be the home of a higher income purchaser. Every existing rental that is converted is one less rental unit available — and is one more renter household evicted from their home.

    Needed update of the present Ordinance, however, is not satisfied by a swiftly-drawn 2-year “pilot project” with the specific objective of providing special benefits not available to any other owner.

    The proposed “1200 Lakeshore Ordinance” was bad policy from the start. It is fundamentally wrong to fashion a city law specifically to enrich one particular building and one particular building owner. Moreover, the proposed ordinance itself was seriously flawed. Based simply on line-by-line review, my organizations cited 46 problems, contradictions, un-clarified terms, equity issues, and conflicts with state and local law that would expose the city to liability and litigation years into the future.

    As Kernighan initially stated, the impetus for the “1200 Lakeshore Ordinance” was (a) to bring immediate upfront fee payments into the city to reduce the budget gap; and (2) that no low-income people would be affected because any tenant who so desired would be given a “lifetime lease.” Both proposed justifications turned out to be false. Even so, the sponsors insisted on moving the flawed measure forward.

    As illustration of the proposal’s deficiencies, I cite three points: Beside the unprecedented act of proposing policy in Councilmember Nadel’s District 3 — not Kernighan’s District 2 — as well as the immorality of creating city law for one single building or particular owner:

    (1) Since the proposal calls for payments to the City on approval of the final parcel map, the City might never realize any money if the owners never move to initiate the conversion process;

    (2) Despite the legal problems of the so-called lifetime lease, the proposal, in any case, cannot provide protection to tenants in event the present owners sell the building to new owners prior to converting, in which event all prior agreements disappear; and

    (3) The present owners might have no intent to ever convert, because (a) due to the present market overbuilt with condos; and (b) The present owners have twice attempted to sell the building in the 10 years they have owed it. By having the “right to convert” codified by the city, and in their pocket with no expiration date, the owners initial purchase of $10.5 Million would jump to a value of $50 to $60 Million overnight, and therefore a further impetus to sell with no need or intent to take on the risks and costs of actual conversion in the current market. The city would have no share of this windfall that would have been created.

    In the present instance of the flawed “1200 Lakeshore Ordinance,” the CEDA Committee acted properly. Now that this special interest legislation is off the table, it is hoped that all interests will work toward a comprehensive new condominium policy that is timely, efficient, workable, equitable, and fair.

  30. len raphael

    Max, my take on using city funded buyer assistance to significantly lower the price of housing ownership for certain groups of people is that it’s doomed to be finger in the dike, token stuff, no matter how it’s done. At best a relatively few people get a sweet deal.

    IZ and first time home owener’s assistance is an attempt by cities to support “diversity” but it’s window dressing because to make a real difference would take a fanttastically expensive income/wealth distribution expenditure which even the fed’s couldn’t afford.

    if it weren’t for that recent state court case, the full attention of affordable housing advocates and a majority of our cc would be on IZ for new rental housing, or zoning variances for non profits that secured financing for very high percentage of affordable rental units over for profit developers that only do say 15% of the units as affordable rental.

    the whole idea that the city has any mandate to decide how to slice up the economic pie by protecting or subsidizing one group of residents tennants but not another goup because they pay higher average rents or their gross incomes are much income is bad policy. income and wealth distribution policy should be left to fed and state lawmakers. city’s in california are forbidden to impose income taxes, graduated or not, and income based discrimination that is not federal or state mandated is a back door way of assessing an income tax.

    -len raphael
    temescal

  31. len raphael

    James, how many units of rental housing have been converted to condos and sold as individual condos since the condo law was instituted and what percentage of total number of rental units?

    considering the costs of meeting building code requirements for conversions, and the lack of condo buyer demand for converted 1960′s tickytacs in east oakland, the relatively few apartment buildings in north Oakland, what’s the worst case impact on rental housing stock in Oakland? Lakeshore yes. Adam’s point yes. What maybe 1% of total rental housing stock would be converted to condos if there were absolutely no condo conversion rules.

    Nope, i see the condo conversion battle as a red herring in the much higher stake fight over IZ for rental housing and changes to rent control here. In turn that ties into fundamental values and visions for a better Oakland for everyone rich or poor, and in between.

    -len

  32. livegreen

    I don’t understand how Condos can be totally forbidden. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s one thing to limit the #”s. It’s another thing to put reasonable rules to deal with some of the consumer protections, or zoning requiring new condos to have a mix of sizes, as has been mentioned. But it’s another thing to forbid conversions all together.

    NYC has been dealing with this successfully. Just put in some rules to deal with both sides of the issue. And both sides stop grandstanding for theoretical nirvanas that will never come to pass.

    Except I guess we have one right now for one side, so Oakland will always be attractive to rentals. For home or condo ownership, the upwardly mobile ready to make an investment at the bottom of the market will…move out of Oakland.

    Now that’s progress.

  33. James Robinson

    I have a stupid question. Why isn’t there greater effort to bring more middle and upper-middle class people to Oakland? After all, aren’t they the ones who pay the bulk of taxes? It seems to me that there is an inordinate amount of effort to protect the poor with not much to increase the tax base. Am I incorrect about this?

  34. Ralph

    You are not incorrect. You put too many bleeding heart liberals together you end up with group think. Don’t get me wrong you could end up with group think if you throw a bunch of conservatives together. BHL ideas wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t always about redistributing wealth. There is nothing wrong with wealth creation. Oakland would be better off if there were more diversity of thought.

  35. James Robinson

    Oakland would better off if we balanced out our well-intentioned but overwrought catering to the underclass with more efforts to bring in the middle and upper classes. At least we could try to encourage an influx of “creative class,” as Richard Florida would say. Under a normal economy and a normal real estate market, a sane city would be trying to add homebuyers, not only for the transfer taxes but for the stability . Also, if anyone has read Richard Florida’s books, brining in certain folks can lead to job creation which could eventually help all classes in our town.

    But that’s just me. Maybe I have a bad habit of reading too much. Or maybe I’m just not liberal enough. . .

  36. Born in Oakland

    Thank you James R for adding some clarity to to the debate. As a long time flatlander, I have always support diversity, ie, economic diversity. What little we have in some of our neighborhoods keeps Oakland from going under. I mean, wow, some of our precincts only have a 12 to 18 percent voter turnout during elections. We have poor schools, crime and grime. language barriors, etc. If in this mix we had more people with some wealth and civic commitment, maybe we could make a difference for those who are marginalized and under represented. Certainly would be more effective than non-profit, wet behind the ear sociology grads from Cal and Holy Names operating out of the downtown trough of Fed, State and Municipal funding for services and advocacy. And I am not a proponent of class warfare as some of these folks are. And I am not talking about James Vann. He is the real deal and someone who can be reasoned with and understands Oakland’s plight. I wish there were more like him.

  37. Max Allstadt

    James,

    If Oakland wants to add luxury homes and higher end tax payers, one small step towards this could be accomplished during the zoning update. A very simple thing could be done: eliminate the R-1 zone. R-1 is “mansion zoning” mainly in the eastern hills. It allows only one unit per acre. Up it to 3 units per acre, and we set the stage for a luxury home building spree. The ability to add two houses to a property as-of-right, in a very wealthy area would do two things:

    Push down the value of the mansions that are already there, but who cares? The occupants are paying prop13 deflated taxes already and they’re rich, so screw’em.

    It would create dozens of new units that would still be on 1/3 acre plots, and would be sources of both transfer and newly assessed ad-valorem taxes.

    In order to attract the very rich, all we have to do is screw over the very very rich. I think everybody can feel good about that!

  38. len raphael

    Ralph and BIO, thanks for broadening (diiversifying?) the most overused word in oaklandese.

    diversity in thought to include non government solutions to public problems. economic/geographic diversity to change oakland from a town with a few upscale areas and huge areas warehousing poor people at subsistance levels.

    it isn’t as if critics of oakland’s self styled progressives want rent control repealed or repeal of all controls on condo conversions etc. It seems that many progressives realized they can’t make the massive changes at a federal and state level they want to see, so they’ll try to do at the municipal level. That results in a city which can neither provide the services that all residents need to thrive, and fails to lift the living standards and improve the life changes of poor people.

    -len

  39. Ralph

    No one wants to screw the rich. You can attract a sizable middle-class by increasing the density and vibrancy along Broadway and in Uptown. And if I had the money I would be inclined to tear down whole blocks on Franklin and Webster to create add’l housing. Just as long as it doesn’t look like Adams Point we should be good to go. And who knows it may just get us that long sought after change.

  40. Naomi Schiff

    Interesting to consider whether jobs come first or housing comes first. I think the perception that we are too considerate of lower-income people is misplaced. A lot of people started out with decent jobs but the stagnation in wages and the decline in industrial economies has made them downwardly mobile. Real incomes in this country have dropped for most classes of people. This fury at “other” people is not going to help us find solutions.

    Max: You might want to suggest that subdivision idea, if you drop in to the zoning update meeting tonight at Fruitvale Senior Center, or visit one of the Residential TAG committee meetings. There are some issues about density in the hills regarding fire safety, speed of access/egress and road width, and building on slopes. Plenty of folks would worry about increasing density in the area, but there are probably places where this could work. It is probably worthwhile to look at a zoning map while discussing this; there are some posted at the zoning update page on the city website.

    You do know about the state law allowing second units, right? Not subdivisions, usually rentals or granny units, but state law requires cities to allow seondary units and encourages them to pass regulations regarding them. Oakland has an ordinance. 17.102.360 is the code section.

  41. Ralph

    It really isn’t an either or. You need to do both. Oakland benefits from being close to SF, which is rich in jobs and costly to live. Many people I meet work in SF but live in Oakland not only because it is affordable, but because of its diversity although probably not in the sense that I see it used here. You create a vibrant DTO you can attract a number of people.

    We would also like to have some professional worker bees in Oakland so you can’t stop trying to bring new business to the DTO either. Oakland can have its cake and eat it too. It just needs a mayor and council to act.

    Wasn’t there a discussion about density, access, fire and slides in hills somewhere?

  42. Naomi Schiff

    Yes, Ralph, there already was one, a special meeting about the residential zoning update. But there’s a public meeting tonight on those issues, mostly informational as in planning dept. holding forth. However, there is an opportunity to look at zoning maps, ask questions of the staff, and pick up information. There will be time to discuss so one could bring it up. City notice:

    Date: Thursday, November 12, 2009
    Time: 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
    Where: Fruitvale-San Antonio Senior Center
    Located in the Fruitvale Transit Village
    3301 E. 12th Street, Suite 201 (Meeting room is on the 2nd floor.)
     Oakland, CA 94601
    Steps away from the Fruitvale BART station.
     Free parking is available at BART after 3:00 p.m.
    Help us get our community involved!

  43. len raphael

    Ralph, SF has severe financial problems even with it’s very high property tax base, high tourist sales tax revenue, and high business taxes. So Oakland doesn’t have a prayer matching the quality of social services and programing provided by SF if Oakland continues on the path of a bedroom community for SF funding those services from local retail sales base, anemic business tax revenues, and intrinsically lower real estate tax base. arguably it does’nt have the tax base to fund core services either.

  44. Ralph

    Len, my point is despite the downturn certain business want to be in SF. People who work at these businesses tend to be professional. Some of them may even want to live in an urban setting but not SF. Oakland is a viable alternative but they won’t come if you don’t have a place for them. Plenty of units in JL are occupied by people who once lived in SF.

    Other units are occupied by people in the outer burbs who wanted to cut down their commute. Oakland has something that people want, we just need to build it.

  45. Born in Oakland

    I don’t know if we are too considerate of low income people, but I do know ,as Leo Bazzile stated, when running for mayor years ago, that over a quarter of the people living in Oakland are on some sort of assistance (welfare, ssi, social security, etc). He stated that if we continued this trend, Oakland and
    Alameda Co will go broke. Well, that was 10 or 15 years ago. Hello, it doen’t matter whether you believe we are doing too much or to little too assist people. We need to stop grinding in our comfortable and pious liberalism and get down to some practical solutions. Attracting business, the middle and employed class, developing our waterfront, planting more trees everywhere, hammering slum lords, dumping criminal behavior, dumping our mayor (whoops, I think I went too far, I better quit.)

  46. 1200 Lakeshore Resident

    Just to correct a few of Mr. McConnell’s comments.

    CM Kernighan’s survey of the building got 57 responses. The tenants did their own survey and got 123 responses. (76% OF TENANTS RESPONDED TO THE TENANT DRIVEN SURVEY) The tenant survey showed:

    11% favor conversion
    48% oppose conversion (CM Kernighan’s survey showed 68% opposed)
    the balance had no opinion, or wanted more information.

    No one could demonstrate that the lifetime leases are anything more than a shallow promise, given State Laws which would appear to make them invalid.

    Is it possible that the $15K for each unit to the city was a better deal than what condo rights are selling for in the open market in Oakland?

    Why modify a city ordinance for the benefit of a maximum of 3 buildings and a minimum of 1 and not tackle all the related outdated provisions of the ordinance including relocation and moving assistance? Oh, I left out the whole bizzarre process of selling condo rights and then only having to hold a building off the condo market for 7 years?

    Why even think of doing this ordinance now, when there are brand new buildings, built to current code, already approved as condominiums that are having to rent, because the market is so overbuilt with condo’s right now?

  47. len raphael

    R, checked with my +80 year old resident of oakland friend and she agreed w you, that she was referring to the GM plant site where Eastmont Mall now staggers.

    btw, for all you simcity comes to upper broadway auto row fans, obitituary in today’s nyt for the New London, Conn. urban renewal project that led to a Supreme Court upholding eminent domain. Big public bucks spent for the compensation and the anchor tennant, a big drug company, moved out of town when the local tax incentives stopped.

    -len raphael
    temescal

  48. James Robinson

    I like what everyone is saying, especially Ralph and “Born in Oakland.” This is very educational for me.

    It just seems to me that a town that is by the [poor] people, of the [poor] people, and for the [poor] people will continue to struggle. For example, I chose to live in East Oakland near 98th and MacArthur. There is no decent supermarket around here, at least not within the Oakland city limits. If there were more bonafide middle-class people here, there would at least be an incentive for businesses to bring some retail here once the economy has recovered. And at least there would be additional people with the education and wherewithal to stand up politically.

    Here’s what I envision for Oakland. I agree with Ralph that there are many people living in JLS, Uptown, and Downtown who work in SF and want to live in an urban environment close to work but can’t afford SF (or just hate the weather there). I think it is inevitable that part of Oakland will essentially become an urban suburb of SF. I believe that was the true goal of Mayor Brown’s 10,000 plan. I think that is a good thing, because those people bring disposable income, culture, and a willingness to spend that money on “alternative” retail and services. In other words, they are willing to spend their money at a locally-owned restaurant or store as opposed to simply the big chains. That’s a good thing.

    Meanwhile, I think Oakland should have a second 10,000 plan. This plan should focus on slightly larger housing in East Oakland. Where the original plan consisted of a flood of condo apartments in the western part of the city, part 2 should have condo and fee simple townhouses (yes, a condo can be a townhouse). These larger homes could be marketed to people who have (or want to start) families, or those who simply want more space. This is what’s known as infill development and can be quite environmentally friendly. I live in an example of this kind of development. Covington Manor, where I live, was a new development of townhouses built on land once occupied by an old decrepit motel on MacArthur Boulevard. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we were able to replace more of those old motels with new housing? And if we let the market dictate the prices, those units would naturally become affordable because of their location far from the “cool stuff.”

    I have never seen a city redevelop itself by focusing only on the poor. There has an effort to bring in the middle class (and even upper class) as well. I know that the question of what comes first, residents or jobs, is reminiscent of the chicken or the egg. However, I have an easy answer: focus on residents first, if you must. Why? Because right now, the best thing Oakland has going for it is its geographical location. It is close enough to SF to essentially be an urban suburb of SF. It is adjacent to Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (both of which are getting substantial stimulus package money from the Obama administration for research). If Oakland could become an environmentally-friendly bedroom community to Berkeley, SF, and Emeryville, it could give us an influx of young (young at heart) people who could make a difference in Oakland.

  49. len raphael

    LG, not clear whether West Oakland primary schools attendence drop is due to truancy, dropping population of kids, or parents using defacto school voucher program to get into transition and hills schools.

    any info on how hard it is to do that? I saw a posting last summer from one temescal parent who said it was impossible to get into Peralta from out of district unless a sibling attended. i would guess even more so for most hills schools except Kaiser, but don’t know.

    -len raphael
    temescal

  50. livegreen

    Path of least resistance. The top ones like Hillcrest and maybe Peralta or Chabot forget it. The rest try and see what happens. Put the highest on the list and then back-ups on the slopes. Appeal whichever is one-up from the best one that accepted your kid.

    Note the slope schools are getting harder too as more neighborhood kids go there. Unlike the top, there’s still places, but a lot less than before. But that also means other slope schools are getting better as kids are forced to stay in their neighborhoods, or the higher-motivated flatland families are forced to go to the next best school. I would sight Bella Vista and Carl Monk as examples of the latter, schools we used to hear nothing about that you now see are improving their API scores or running into more families going there.

    The benefits of the OFCY programs is for either single parents or two parents working it keeps the kids safe, they get enrichment and the parents keep a job. Eliminate that and a lot of FRL kids and families are going to have troubles, either with work, or with the kids on the street. And kids on the street isn’t good for them, their families, the schools, or us.

  51. livegreen

    i agree with James, this is a good and healthy discussion. I also like BIO & Ralph’s pro-Oakland points. I agree with some of Len’s devils advocate in that these are things Oakland needs to overcome, but I think BIO & Ralph make good points about what Oakland should and could use to take advantage of.

    I also agree with Naomi’s concerns of keeping the history of the poor in Oakland, decline of the working class (add in the crack epidemic on a similar timeline, decline in public education, and other factors, largely beyond peoples control). The challenge with this is we can’t overcome the past just by crying “discrimination!” and saying no to this, no to that, and protecting the poor above all else.

    Instead Oakland needs a comprehensive, holistic policy which does something to address a portion of all of these factors. Reduce crime, bring in more businesses (downtown offices AND mixed-use light industrial / whatever tech AND retail AND restaurants) to help blue collar AND white collar. (If there’s a way to feed off of Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley Lab as you mention, James, I’d like to know how to make that happen).

    As part of the residential development I really think if the political will was there to do it (and not always the naysaying for-us, against-us crowds) we’d be able to balance everybody’s concerns.

    I love Max’s idea to increase RE in the hills, we should be able to do Co-Ops that protect tenant rights (Gee if NYC can do it, we should be able to), we should be able to promote infill like James suggests (when the market resumes and IF Oakland gets safer), esp. on the edge of upcoming areas & along the freeway for work, where crummy motels are (but NOT in the light-industrial mixed-use which will further diminish blue collar jobs and lead to even more crime).

    We can have tenants rights but they must be balanced with a logical way to convert SOME apartments into condos, with SOME reasonable tenants rights.
    In the meantime James infill idea and the infill projects already underway can continue as the RE market, schools, and economy improve.

    Finally, James on 98th, and all you UP, DT resident-bloggers, don’t forget the foothills are creeping down the hills to meet you all along 580 and beyond (beyond being esp. around Lake Merritt). There are decent, improving neighborhoods along that Latitude, from Adams Point, to the Lake, to China Hill, expanding more recently into Bella Vista (not yet to Highland), and Maxwell Park.

    There are other Hills that stick up here and there, like Millsmont, which have smaller middle to working class communities. It is important for the City, if they have time beyond the big projects (which they might not) to do strategic infill and public safety in areas like these. That combined with the more major progress downtown will keep DT, UT AND the Hills expanding and make Oakland combined a more desirable destination.

    In the meantime Oakland is so big geographically that, esp. if we can combine it with blue collar jobs to lift some people up, there will be plenty of room for middle class, working class, and poor communities (safe & not safe, depending on what one’s advocating for, not just understanding).

    The key with this dream or vision is: Is the market improving enough, and are the newest developments in DT & UT settled and filled up enough, to move on to all these other things soon? Or will it take years?

    Your insights about the current market please (esp. in DT & UT)…

  52. len raphael

    i understand JR’s point that it’s easier to attract residents than businesses but i’d say that other than the hope that the new residents were going to become politically active (don’t bet on that), this place can’t afford to provide basic services to new residents until the new residents displace poor high need residents.

    alternatively look at the unthinkable and plan for an eventual muni bankruptcy if it will enable us to greatly lower our fixed costs for wages and benefits. especially if we can break contracts with fire and police, as well as the lower paid non security employees, greatly reduce benefits, we have a good shot at being able to afford to hire more cops, fix the roads etc. yes it would increase our borrowing costs, but after a few years of lower costs we’d look much stronger than many other cities in the usa.

    probably wouldn’t reduce our obligations to contribute to Calpers for those 200k/year pensions for retired cops, firefighters, and administrators.
    and we’dstill left with abysmal school financial situation.

    but we’d have a good shot at digging ourselves out of the financial black pit we face now where the budget gets eaten alive by grossly inflated personel costs and what’s left goes to dubious social programming.

    -len raphael
    temescal

  53. len raphael

    why should a residential tennant have any right to prevent the property owner from subdividing the rental building into condos and selling them. one of the main advantages of being a tennant is that you’re not tied to making payments and repairs if you decide to leave. so why should a tennant also get the right to force the landlord to continue renting the unit. yes after many years of paying rent for a place you enjoy its very painful to have to move to an inferior or more expensive place. but you didnt’ have the risks and hassle all those years of owning and maintaining a rental building.

    i understand the social value of rent control and some controls on condo conversion to serve as brakes on the social disrpuption and misery when rents or housing prices rise sharply. but when controls become outright barriers the intent of these laws has been changed.

  54. James Robinson

    I hope that some of the new residents will add to the tax coffers by supporting local Oakland retail and restaurants, thereby increasing sales tax revenue and also helping to support jobs for lower-skilled workers.

    Also, I would hope that after the real estate market crash is over, we see new homebuyers who can contribute to Oakland through transfer taxes, parcel taxes, and other homeowner taxes.

    Does that mean some poor people might be displaced? Unfortunately, yes. However, I’ve always wondered why Oakland should be the designated dumping ground for the Bay Area’s downtrodden. Perhaps displacement will result in other Bay Area municipalities taking on some of the burden, while Oakland gets some much needed revenues.

  55. Ralph

    len, your concern about an active and engaged population is a valid concern. The one thing I see and hear from people I meet and know, they love Oakland, they see the potential but they are not all engaged in making ABO. heck, even the current residents don’t seem to be terribly engaged closing park & rec versus giving ducats to those meddling kids comes to mind.

    To put some numbers on the dumping ground, pct Alameda county residents living in poverty 11%, pct of Oakland residents living in poverty 20%. Oakland residents comprise 50% of ALCO residents living in poverty.

  56. David

    Hey James, what’s wrong with the Food Maxx on the SL border, just swing down to E. 14th and turn left? Not close enough? I think their produce & meat is better & cheaper than Safeway’s.

    the area between 98th and San Leandro, from E.14th to 580 is rapidly improving. It’s becoming more diverse (it’s not 100% monochromatic anymore), and crime, as long as you’re off Mac, E. 14th and Bancroft is not bad. heck, I think there’s less crime than Fruitvale.

  57. James Robinson

    Hey David, great recommendation! I live a little closer to the Safeway on Bancroft in San Leandro than the Food Maxx, but I will check it out one day.

  58. David

    That Safeway is pretty bad. Food Maxx is better in my opinion, especially for generic stuff (the brand name cereal and such is actually cheaper at Safeway)…but I’ll reiterate my point on the produce & meat. Ice cream is cheaper at Safeway too. Safeway for boxed branded stuff, Food Maxx for generic stuff & produce.\

    PS. Why’d you go up to 98th and Mac? Just wanted the new house smell? Dutton Manor (behind Food Max, 104th-SL & E. 14 to Bancroft) has some great 1920′s & 30′s houses..

  59. James Robinson

    Yeah, I wanted something new, although my first choice was Durant Square right there at the Food Maxx. What’s Dutton Manor like?

  60. David

    James,

    Dutton Manor is right behind (East) of Durant Square. It’s a nice little ‘hood with older–1920′s to 1930′s, with a few 1940′s houses thrown in closer to Bancroft. I don’t know all the stats on home ownership in the area etc but it seems like a lot of people own and take care of their houses, it’s convenient (SL is just a couple blocks away, E.14th is near, the 106th ave 580 exit is near, as is 98th ave for airport, 880 connections), and it’s relatively affordable–a 1200-1500 sq ft house that’s livable, but could use some updating will probably run $160-$220K, depending on condition. Cheaper than renting if you have the cash for a down payment, although if you want modern appliances & cabinets etc, you’ll have to have the cash for that too. Again, crime isn’t bad as long as you’re off the main drags of Bancroft, etc. Compared to, say, the Fruitvale which costs twice as much and has worse crime in parts, it’s a relative bargain. Or heck, the Laurel, which costs more than twice as much and still has its crime issues…

  61. James Robinson

    This is good information. Unfortunately, I bought a townhouse in Covington Manor, so I’m kinda married to it for the foreseeable future.

  62. David

    Nothing unfortunate about it James. If you have the scratch, though, since you’re close by the neighborhood, I think it has good investment potential. Of course I’m biased, but still it has all the elements for gentrification–close to higher-priced area (San Leandro), nice housing stock, convenient to all parts of Bay Area and mass transit to SF and the OAK airport, local shopping (a little sparse on this front, but at least there’s groceries etc), crime subsiding (if we can get rid of the hyphy trains on MacArthur and 100th)…if only the school could improve a bit, but it’s so cheap, private schools are affordable with the money saved from the mortgage.

  63. Livegreen

    David, Which elementary & middle schools serve the area?

    I drove around there a year or so ago and couldn’t tell the difference bet Oakland and San Leandro. Very diverse, multi-racial area and stable middle and working class families…

  64. David

    You can tell where the border is, the lots in SL are usually 5000+ sq ft, but the Oakland side rarely has lots>4000 sq ft. And the SL police have little tolerance for squealing your tires etc on their side of the border.

    As for schools, there’s Reach, Elmhurst and Castlemont, if I remember and something else for elementary above MacArthur. All terrible (Reach=10-20% “proficient” on any subject). But, like Maxwell Park used to be, the area is cheap enough to send kids to Catholic schools, i.e., that $200K (or less-!) house payment is around <$1200/month, plus $1000/month for 2 kids in catholic school<house payment (and taxes!) on 400K loan payment.

    Just enjoyed another Food Maxx trip last night. $32 for enough food to feed the family for a week.