Bruce Nye: How can we fix Measure Y?

Bruce Nye is Board Chair of Make Oakland Better Now! Except where otherwise indicated, however, the opinions in this post are his, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the organization.

The Make Oakland Better Now! Measure Y Fix Proposal:

Last month, Make Oakland Better Now! proposed the following voter initiative to amend Measure Y (PDF):

  • Reduce the threshold number of officers from 739 to either 700 or 690;
  • Require Oakland to actually hire (not just appropriate for) either 690 or 680 of those officers before collecting the taxes;
  • Allow the Chief some flexibility in assigning duties to neighborhood beat officers;
  • Allow Measure Y funds to be used to civilianize some Police Department functions, freeing up ten to fifteen officers to fight crime; and
  • Make a designated portion of Measure Y funds available to allow performance and financial audits of the police department.

Our full proposal is here.

The Measure Y Fix Proposal on Thursday’s City Council Agenda:

On Thursday, July 22, the City Council will consider a proposed “Measure Y Fix (PDF)” for the November ballot. It’s anybody’s guess what the Council will adopt. But the initiative on the City’s web site (PDF) has these key elements:

  • Completely eliminates the threshold number of officers required as a prerequisite to the City collecting the Measure Y taxes (the proposal states this is a suspension until July 1, 2015, but Measure Y expires December 31, 2014);
  • Allows Measure Y tax proceeds to be used to recruit and train either neighborhood beat officers (sometimes referred to as “problem solving officers,” although Measure Y does not use that language) or officers hired to replace neighborhood beat officers;
  • Broadens the scope of permissible violence prevention programs;
  • Gives the City more discretion in its use of the $4 million in Measure Y proceeds allocated to fire fighting services; and
  • Makes clear that the City is not required to provide any of the Measure Y services when it doesn’t collect the Measure Y taxes.

The proposed modifications to the Measure Y provisions concerning recruitment and training, violence prevention programs and fire service funding are all pretty clearly responses to Marlene Sacks’ two Measure y related lawsuits against the City.

Administration’s Recommendation That The Threshold Be Eliminated:

he administration has apparently considered reducing the threshold, rather than eliminating it, but recommends against doing so (PDF) for the following reasons:

Some community members have suggested that rather than suspending the 739 officer requirement in Measure Y, that the “fix” should substitute a lesser number (e.g., 700 or 675). It is important to note that the resolution no. 82849 C.M.S. approved by Council on June 24 required the lay-off of 80 police officers. It also required that an additional 122 officers be laid off should none of the revenue measures be approved by the voters in November. As such, the non-Measure Y staffing level would be 601. Absent the passage of revenue measures, no number larger than 601 would allow for the implementation of the “fix” measure and even that number might be high if the budget situation were to worsen between now and November. Therefore it is recommended that simply suspending the 739 language is the appropriate action.

Why The Make Oakland Better Now! Proposal Should Be Presented To The Voters:

The MOBN! proposal involves significant risks. It won’t work if the OPOA does not eventually come to the table and contribute its share. It won’t work if the City does not spend the next one to two years engaging in real, meaningful, major budget reform to address its five year, $400 million to almost $600 million structural deficit.

But the risks of the “no threshold” proposal are even greater. In an environment where the Alameda County Grand Jury has twice told us our city needs a 50% increase in sworn police officers (see page 62), and the Chief of Police is trying to build a strategy to fight gangs, guns and drugs (PDF), annual reductions in police staffing are simply unacceptable, and the voters should not do anything to make it easier for the City to make such reductions. Crime reduction is the key to Oakland’s economic revival and increased city revenues. The “no threshold “ proposal sends a message that no crime reduction is coming any time soon.

Specifically, here’s what the Make Oakland Better Now! proposal would accomplish:

  • While there will be some reduction in the number of officers, the MOBN! proposal gives the voters what they thought they were getting in 2004 when they voted for Measure Y: an assurance that the City must actually hire some specific number of officers in order to collect the Measure Y taxes.
  • The MOBN! proposal might smooth negotiations with the OPOA , at least somewhat. While there is no way the City can meet OPOA’s demand for a no-layoff guarantee, the MOBN! proposal comes pretty close, since it tells the OPOA that any layoffs beyond the revised threshold will cost the City $20 million.
  • The “no threshold” proposal anticipates laying off another 27 officers in January even if the Measure Y fix passes. The MOBN! proposal does not save as much in fiscal year 2011-12 as laying off 107 officers, but then, it doesn’t result in the loss of 107 officers, either. If the appropriation threshold is reduced to 690, the actual loss of officers from FY 2009-10 levels is 23 and the budget savings is about $7.8 million. Combine that with the pension concession the City has been trying to get from the OPOA, and you’ve got combined deficit reduction measures of close to $16 million. If the threshold needs to be set lower, figure another $1.9 million in savings for every threshold reduction of ten officers.
  • The Make Oakland Better Now! proposal to fund civilianization would put between ten and fifteen additional officers on the street by moving them out of positions that can be filled by civilians at somewhere between 60 and 70% of the cost. We already know that ten of these positions can be filled for $1.27 million (PDF), as compared to $1.9 million for ten officers. If five more positions could be identified for civilianization and filled for, say $85,000 each, the overall savings would be 40% and 15 more officers could be on the street;
  • The Make Oakland Better Now! proposal to allocate Measure Y funds for performance and financial audits of the police department will surely yield a net financial gain. Make Oakland Better Now! aggressively supports the department and its Chief. But is there anyone who doubts there is at least 1% waste in the department that could be identified and eliminated? One percent of the department’s budget is $2 million, ten times the amount we have allocated for auditing.

As discussed above, both the “no threshold” proposal and the Make Oakland Better Now! proposal involve risk. I can understand why the City Council might worry that a reduced threshold proposal might not give the City enough flexibility if budget reform doesn’t happen. But the fact is, the City has to achieve meaningful budget reform, and it has to address all expenses, and revenues, or our problems with police staffing will be only a very small part of the city’s overall crisis. So we might as well roll up our sleeves and start addressing the budget. We must continue to get the involvement and participation of every stakeholder in the city, including the OPOA. And while we do that, we need to do whatever we can to keep our citizens safe.

41 thoughts on “Bruce Nye: How can we fix Measure Y?

  1. CitizenX

    Lose the “violence prevention” component, until such time that is can be conclusively shown that these programs actually give a benefit equal to their cost. This will not make the non-profit poverty pimps happy, but if they can’t continue to pull down six-figure salaries from Kids First, they are simply doing it wrong.

  2. Mary Hollis

    Further tinkering with Prop Y complicates something that most people can’t understand anyway.

    My solution would be a repeal of Prop Y and a repayment to taxpayers of all monies (as per Marleen’s lawsuit).

    Then let’s vote on a new Prop which is the $360 already mooted, plus an amount equal to the Prop Y amounts, with the proceeds being used ONLY to actually hire or re-hire cops. No games.

    If it fails, lay off as many cops as it takes to balance the budget.

    Up or down, at least it’s clean. All this complexity and confusion around minimum staffing levels is just way too confusing for most folks.

  3. Livegreen

    I don’t understand why the Administration & City Council aren’t looking at doing to other departments what they’re doing to OPD, & to Officer Salary & Compensation. This MUST be done to get to meaningful structural reform.

    I get that OPD is a majority of the GPF. But that doesn’t mean other department compensations (less than $100,000) don’t get touched at all.

  4. Ralph

    On the proposal to actually hire instead of appropriate for, there is absolutely no reason why the city should do agree to do this and no reason why we as taxpayers should vote for it.

    First, neither the city nor OPD can not make any guarantee as to the number of quality candidates that will be available for hire. They have every reason to make this number low. If the number is too high, you risk hiring less than qualified candidates to meet the requirements to collect the tax.

    Second, what are the conditions under which the tax is collected? Must the force be at 601 for 365 days, can they average 601 for the year, can they collect the tax if the city only meets the staffing requirements for one day? The administrative costs of this proposal just don’t make it reasonable.

    I understand that people hate the language of MY but forcing the city into some arbitrary minimum staffing before collecting the tax is not the answer.

  5. Christopher

    Who in their right mind would want to join OPD today? Layoff risk is high. Crime is high. With low headcount, overtime is likely. Pay may be high now, but not for long.

    Minimum staffing requirements will make OPD desperate to hire more officers, which would likely lead to the inflated pay packages that created this mess.

  6. Dax

    Christopher, you can’t have it both ways.

    “which would likely lead to the inflated pay packages that created this mess.”

    If “inflated pay packages” created this mess, how is holding pay down anything other than appropriate?

    Allowing the packages to “un-inflate” as it were.

  7. Ralph

    Christopher,
    There is a contract in place for PD pay. Can’t offer anymore than what is in the contract.

  8. Marleenlee

    I can’t support this proposal because it requires taxpayers to pay $20 million for a REDUCED police force. Most people supported MeasureY because they were promised incresed staffing. The better fix is to cut all the violence prevention money and redirect that money to police. The police should, in return, contribute to their pensions.

  9. We Fight Blight

    Livegreen

    I asked both Jane Brunner and Dan Lindheim the very question you have raised regarding non-police employees. Why go after just the police for concessions? Their answer was that the police are a larger part of the discretionary budget and that if they get the police to make concessions it would be easier to get the non-police employees to make concessions. It is a concerted strategy of City Council and the City Administrator’s Office. But it makes little sense when our budget is so out of whack and we will be facing this same problem next year. We need to reign in salaries and pensions of all City employees. Also it seems to give higher priority to retaining non-police employees at bloated salaries. For example, Brooke Levin, the Assistant Public Works Director, makes $165,757 per year. And people think police salaries are bloated. I would rather pay bloated salaries for police that ensure public safety than bloated salaries for city administrators. Frankly I think the City Council, the City Administrator and Chief Batts are in the cahoots to pass the revenue measures. City Council lays off 80 police and says they have no other option (right), the Police Chief makes it well-known that police services to the public will suffer, every murder or major crime now gets more press than usual. All of this is a recipe to scare the public into approving the revenue measures. The City Council could have retained a good portion of the 80 police if it secured wage reductions via mandatory furloughs of non-police employees but they didn’t even try. Remember that mayoral hopeful Jean Quan made it a point to say she would not support any additional cuts to parks, libraries, senior centers and has not seriously discussed additonal salary concessions from non-police employees. Going after the police is a political ploy. The City Council knows that people are more willing to dig into their pockets for police, particularly if they live in a war zone, rather to maintain Brook Levin’s bloated $165,757 per year salary.

  10. oakie

    This city is the poster child for bad governance. Until the city can demonstrate fiduciary responsibility and competence with the budget they have, no additional tax money. Period.

    So let’s see the mayor’s budget cut, cut, cut. Let’s see the city council’s budget cut, cut, cut.

    If you don’t think there is a ton of waste that could be cut (and hasn’t), then you’re not paying attention.

  11. Barry K

    I do not support this proposal either.
    Gee, looks like the Fire Departments $100,000 contribution to support MY may not pay off after all.
    By cutting the $4M earmarked for the fire department, does that mean we’ll see another parcel tax for that?

    Why haven’t there been any layoffs to the Council or Mayoral staffs? Not the 10% paycuts, or car allowance reductions, but, real staff cuts.

  12. Anita

    One of CM Quan’s staff positions (her anaylist for the finance committee) was eliminated, but she was given a higher paying job in the Finance Department.

    If the City would eliminate redevelopment areas and let this money go back to the general fund, there would not be a budget problem.

    Most of the property tax reductions are in redevelopmnent funds. The assessed value would have to go below what it was when the property was placed in a redevelopment area to reduce the general fund revenues.

    Some parts of Oakland have been in redevelopment areas for over 40 years. If they haven’t been redeveloped in 40 years, they never will.

    Lets eliminate all redevelopment areas, pay off all outstanding bonds and projects and place all property tax revenues back in the general fund.

    This will also stop the state raids of Oakland’s redevelopment funds and help the other government entitys in Oakland as their property tax revenues will also go up.

    The only drawback is that Kids First funding would go up with the any increase in the general fund.

    We also need to eliminate Kids First. If the public wants to donate to these or other non-profit organizations, that should be their choice, not mandated through their taxes.

  13. Anita

    Did anyone else who watched the council meeting listen to Brunner and Lindheim talking about the MY fix?? Brunner basically said we cant look like we are lying to the public, but we are, and Lindheim said we will comply with the letter of the law.

    Sound familiar, the letter of the law that only required the city to appropriate for 739 officers, and there was no requirement to actually hire them!!

    Another bait and switch scheme.

  14. Naomi Schiff

    Anita, respectfully, take a look again at redevelopment and property tax. I don’t have the numbers handy, but I think a main beneficiary of eliminating redevel. areas would be the County of Alameda (not that they don’t need the money too). The city has transferred as many positions as it could, legally, to be paid for by redevelopment, which is easier to do when half the city is a redevelopment area. I’m not sure that general fund would have all that much gain by eliminating redevel., although some would say there are other reasons to do so. A great allure for city governments is that redevelopment law allows the city to capture property tax increment funds the county would otherwise receive. It’s based, as you probably know, on the increase in assessment over the base year amounts.

  15. livegreen

    I agree with Naomi. However one wonders what good it is to be a redevelopment area of the neighborhood never improves? Would it be worse, or the same?

    Does anybody have any links to how Redevelopment Funds are spent overall?

  16. Naomi Schiff

    http://www2.oaklandnet.com/Government/o/CityAdministration/d/BudgetOffice/o/BudgetDocuments/index.htm

    They have apparently not adopted the current ORA proposed budget yet. Not sure about that.

    I was on a community development advisory board for some years, quite a long time ago. If you think the city budgeting is bad now, you should have seen it then! We were constantly trying to figure out what had happened to the money. Knowing how much money the redevelopment agency has is complicated (for me, anyway). It’s not just tax increment money, but bond issuance powers, and also other federal funds. Recently the state of Calif. has taken a lot of redevelopment money away from the cities. I don’t really understand how that works, but they did it. Oakland lost $41 million in this year’s operation.

  17. len raphael

    Anita, need you to expand your explanation. As i understand the theory of RDA’s, it is as Namoi put it: if you disband or contract the RDA territory, the tax revenue over a base year amount gets treated the same as any other real estate tax revenue: most of it goes to the state ostensibly for education and a small percentage goes to the general fund.

    So how do the numbers work in our favor to gain a small percentage of a big number but have the RDA lose 100% of a big amount? The one thing the cc is good at, is playing cost shell games with RDA money.

  18. livegreen

    However when there IS money (when it’s not stolen by the State, or used as a slush for General Fund money), what does it get spent on? I mean, if Oakland RDA’s get the tax increment, and then bond on top of it, WTF does the money get spent on?

    Low Income Housing, redeveloping Industrial Lands, but is that all? (Strategic Planning, but I thought that’s under CEDA. & whatever money Oakland spends on Strategic Planning we aren’t getting our money’s worth).

  19. Naomi Schiff

    You might take a look at the CED webpage under oaklandnet.com. I posted a link above, to the various city budgets. There are good aspects and bad aspects to the redevelopment empire. CEDA (now known as CED because they like to change names from time to time) is redevelopment in action. Strategic planning is meant to provide economic development planning as well as contemplate land use. Housing is another component. But they also do other things–something called neighborhood commercial revitalization, also a good bit of land acquisition and resale (like the Uptown project, for example). Redevelopment has recently purchased land near Fruitvale BART and near Broadway/Valdez areas, presumably in order to assemble large parcels and turn them over to big developers to do something wonderful one of these years. One of the problems I see with redevelopment is that the agency in its desire to do something large and with lots of impact, has repeatedly overreached such that some projects have taken way too long and provided far too much public subsidy.

  20. Anita

    You are right that if a redevelopment area is abolished, the tax increment money would go back to the 1% property tax and be distributed accordingly. Yes, in Alameda County, about 40% of the 1% would go to the state for schools. The remaining 60% is distributed to all of the local entities in the county.

    As Naomi stated the state is already taking a large chunk of our redevelopment funds. If a redevelopment area were eliminated, the City would get less than they get in redevelopment funds, but it would all be for general use.

    What is better for Oakland right now? To have some funds to provide basic government functions, and balance the budget, or to have more a little more money to make loans to private people, like the Merritt Bakery, that will never be repaid, to plant palm trees for thousands of dollars each, or to install decorative street lights on Fruitvale.

    The City is continually bending the the redevelopment law to find ways to spend the money for things other than redevelopment (e.g. paying employees, buying city buildings, etc.)

    Our redevelopment areas have also been depriving other government agencies form funding that they desperately need to provide their services for us.

    How long should an area be under “redevelopment” before it is redeveloped? Why would Oak Knoll be a redevelopment project? It has never been developed, and the developer will be required to provide all the infrastructure, parks, schools, etc. as part of the planning process. What will there be to “redevelop”? Does the city plans to take this tax increment money, and there will be a lot of it, and use it in other parts of the city.

    We have redevelopment areas that are not hooked together geographically and have nothing in common. Was this so the city can get the tax increment funds from the rapidly appreciating areas, that need little redevelopment, and use them for projects in other parts of the city??

    There needs to be some method to evaluate the “redevelopment” efforts in each redevelopment area, and if improvement is not seen in a reasonable period of time, the RDA should be eliminated. Or maybe the RDA can buy more city buildings from the city to balance the general fund each year.

  21. livegreen

    Or maybe they can buy the same buildings multiple times. Given how HJK stays in the news, I wonder if this thought hasn’t crossed the brilliant minds at City Hall…

  22. Naomi Schiff

    Anita, many of your points are well-taken. I’m not sure that restructuring redevelopment at this moment would help the city’s budget, but as a whole topic, it is interesting to think about whether we have a net gain from it or not, and in which realms it has been useful. There certainly are some areas that might have developed much faster and more robustly without redevelopment’s “assistance” and there are problems with the very long term bond financing that can be involved. On the other hand it has been a major source of rehab funds for small businesses, some of them more wisely run than the bakery, and has generated some good senior and low-income housing in recent years (once they got away from the public housing project model). I find myself sitting on the fence, but dubious about a number of the current efforts, and still grumpy about the Central-East Oakland redevelopment designation–much too vast, and too closely tied to the oak-to-ninth development, designed for the condo boom, and which is not likely to begin construction any time soon.

  23. Anita

    Agreed, there have been some good redevelopment projects, but some of the things the City has done in the name of redevelopment have not increased the viability of the area.

    Look at the money we spent on the auto row area. Besides having dealers move out of the area, I do not see any return on our investment. Or digging up the sidewalks on Fruitvale to put in decorative street lights. Wouldn’t if have made more sense to at the same time the sidewalks were going to be torn up to underground the utilities at the same time. But if redevelopment paid for part of the undergrounding, the businesses and residents on the street maght have paid less for the undergrounding (saving our taxpayers money would be bad.)

    I don’t have a problem with loaning money to a viable business, but we have a tendency of forgiving a lot of debts or the business goes out of business and walks away with our money. Look at the former owner of The Merritt and Granny Goose as an example of bad loans. I hope the current owner of the Merritt is able to repay the most recent loan and the other loans the city has given him, but even the City Auditor said it will be unlikely that he will.

    As for senior and low income housing, a lot of funding has been obtained from the federal government for this and has been conditions of new developers and the base reuse plans.

    With some thoughtful leadership, redevelopment could be good for Oakland. But like CD block grants, the funds are currently used for some pet projects that the benefit is questionable.

    The business districts in Dimond, Glenview, Oakmore and Montclair could benefit from redevelopment. Maybe since real estate values are down, we should turn these into redevelopment areas and use those tax increment funds to redevelop these areas.

    On the other hand, AC Transit, EBMUD and EBRPD could benefit from increased tax revenue and provide better services for Oakland residents.

  24. Anita

    Agreed, there have been some good redevelopment projects, but some of the things the City has done in the name of redevelopment have not increased the viability of the area.

    Look at the money we spent on the auto row area. Besides having dealers move out of the area, I do not see any return on our investment. Or digging up the sidewalks on Fruitvale to put in decorative street lights. Wouldn’t if have made more sense to at the same time the sidewalks were going to be torn up to underground the utilities also. But if redevelopment paid for part of the undergrounding, the businesses and residents on the street might have paid less for the undergrounding (saving our taxpayers money would be bad.)

    I don’t have a problem with loaning money to a viable business, but we have a tendency of forgiving a lot of debts or the business goes out of business and walks away with our money. Look at the former owner of The Merritt and Granny Goose as an example of bad loans. I hope the current owner of the Merritt is able to repay the most recent loan and the other loans the city has given him, but even the City Auditor said it will be unlikely that he will.

    As for senior and low income housing, a lot of funding has been obtained from the federal government for this and has been conditions of new developers and the base reuse plans.

    With some thoughtful leadership, redevelopment could be good for Oakland. But like CD block grants, the funds are currently used for some pet projects that the benefit is questionable.

    The business districts in Dimond, Glenview, Oakmore and Montclair could benefit from redevelopment. Maybe since real estate values are down, we should turn these into redevelopment areas and use those tax increment funds to redevelop these areas.

    On the other hand, AC Transit, EBMUD, EBRPD and other entities could benefit from increased tax revenue and provide better services for Oakland residents.

  25. Ralph

    Auto row is a work in progress. Three years ago, it was no less than a 10 year project. At this point, I would say you are looking at close to 13 years at a minimum but the potential to transform is there.

  26. len raphael

    Anita, no question that RDA is a huge black box which like the Port (but maybe not OHA) seem to be like a bunch of enrons’ partnerships, with little scrutiny of the money moving around.

    I’ve heard different takes on use of RDA’s. Ultimately i think the main problem is the misuse and mismanagement of our RDA’s by our elected officials. Fix the latter and the former problem fades.

  27. livegreen

    Glenview, Oakmore & Montclair? They’re doing fine on their own. I agree with you on Dimond. Even better, at the bottom of Park Blvd. why not the Parkway Theatre? Don’t they fit into a RZone? I mean, they had a viable offer from a boutique movie chain to open there, and the sticky point was the fix-up. But neither they nor the owners could agree on who would fix it up.

    Why couldn’t the City put something together for the Parkway?

    This is but one example of small, viable projects. I agree with Naomi that only doing large projects takes way too long.

  28. Naomi Schiff

    There is state law about redevelopment. A redevelopment area must meet the state requirements, which generally say that it is intended for “blighted” areas and is intended to help areas where there is economic hardship.
    HUD monies and other federal community and economic development money, including block grants, also carry specific requirements. Montclair and Oakmore, etc. would be unlikely to qualify. Anita, I agree with some of your points but in Oakland we haven’t got a consistent general policy of requiring developers to include affordable housing. In redevelopment areas,some affordable percentage (I think 15%) is required. The block grant amounts disbursed by the district advisory boards, CDAC and council are comparatively small. The lion’s share is distributed by the council on the advice of the staff. I could chatter on about redevelopment, but remember this thread was about Meas. Y.

  29. Ralph

    So since this thread was about MY and went off on a tangent on lost redevelopment dollars – simply put it makes no sense for any redevelopment agency to do small scale projects. The private sector can probably handle buying one lot and completing a project but do you end up with best and highest use. It makes more sense for the RDA to deal with the many property owners, assemble the many odd sized lots and sell to a developer.

  30. Daniel Schulman

    Naomi, the state rules dictate that 20% of redevelopment money goes to affordable housing. Oakland voluntarily contributes an extra 5% for a total of 25%. Many affordable housing advocates have been pushing to make this number 30% or even 35%.

  31. livegreen

    Obviously the private sector can’t handle the smaller projects themselves, or there would be more projects & the OBA would be a larger organization. Also with high crime reputation of Oakland, just like for jobs & employers, there is less Middle Class development here.

    All 3 of these impact each other.

  32. Naomi Schiff

    Having lived through 30 years of the uptown redevelopment, I’m pretty dubious about it. It displaced 30 or 40 small businesses over a couple of decades. Many of the landowners were unwilling to sign long leases because they were waiting to sell to ORA, or for eminent domain to make them rich. You can’t run a small business on a short lease. (My own business would never accept less than five years.) So the area emptied and emptied and emptied, and suffered from successive waves of ideas grand and varied. In the end with a 60-something-million dollar subsidy, they have built what you see (reduced from its maximum grandiosity of a 16- or 18-block proposal!), three blocks of market rate rentals, don’t know current occupancy rate, and the affordable housing behind the Fox. I am grateful that the city councilmembers who advocated for a lot of condos in the project did not win the day, because that would have been a great disaster. But in the meantime, what could have happened if the city had but some energy into promoting the small businesses that were already there, providing some more modest-scale planning for say one whole city block at a time? Might we have been seeing more activity there for the last couple of decades? Maybe so. The counter-example to livegreen’s post is all the more vibrant shopping areas in Oakland, most of which consist of smaller-scale development. Can any of you remember when College Ave. was relatively dowdy?

  33. Ralph

    Walkaway Ralph — just walkaway.

    LG,
    Speaking only about auto row, this area has a number of small odd size lots with many owners. To obtain the large scale retail that is needed to increase retail presence someone needs to acquire that land. If it were a few large properties with one or two owners maybe the private sector could handle it. It is more efficient for the RDA to acquire and bundle.
    ——-
    I have no idea of the lots on College Ave. before their current configuration. But it is also substantially different area than than Auto Row.
    —–
    Longterm the bay area has a housing need. I don’t know when the first proposals for condo development went before the city but if it were in a normal market, the city should have gone forward with it.

    I believe that most of the recent Uptown housing is fully occupied.

  34. livegreen

    Ralph, I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. All I’m mentioning is there are strategically placed ways that RDA could also help with smaller projects.

    I don’t know if RDA funds have helped the Dimond district, but what’s been going on there is gradual but steady. Anchored by Farmer Joe’s many other merchants have been going in there and improving the area.

    Lower Park Blvd. is improving but more gradually. Fixing up the Parkway would have really had an important impact on stepping that up a notch.

    These are but two examples of smaller projects that could help improve local merchant areas and the communities around them.

  35. Brad

    Ralph, you’re wrong on so many points. If Oakland really had a housing problem, would every other tract in the flats have an unpermitted structure in the back yard? We don’t need density in this city; we don’t need condos. We need vibrant retail corridors filled with tiny bike rental shops and frozen yogurt delicatessens. Look at the successful retail corridors we already have, take the Fruitvale retail corridor as an example. It didn’t need an area plan anchored by a large, planned development in order become a safe and bustling district!

  36. Naomi Schiff

    There has been some Redevelopment investment in the Dimond, I believe, including facade-improvement grants. Also in the Fruitvale, where there is ongoing investment, but some of it has worked a lot better than other of it. The Main Street program operating there seemed pretty good. Fruitvale Village has struggled (to me it seems oriented in the wrong direction). Now there is a new purchase by Redevel. with a plan to turn over a large area near BART parking lot to private development. (I don’t have an opinion on this one, haven’t looked at it closely yet.) Some of our strongest areas have built on historic small lot sizes and non-chain businesses.

  37. Ralph

    Brad, you are wrong on so many points. First, I believe I mentioned that longer term the bay area has a need for housing but your selective reading missed this point. Second, Oakland lacks large retail shopping. Have you ever stopped to calculate the sales tax lost because Oakland lacks shopping. Have you ever noticed how many people shop in Union Square and come back to Oakland with their goods. Have you ever considered what services could be provided if we collected sales tax from retail sales leakage. We could probably afford to pay for a full police staff. As it is SF benefits from our sales dollars.

    I am not saying your bike rental and yogurt shop are bad ideas but you need to mix the big with the small and there you have the facts of life. It is not this or that. It is this and that.

  38. livegreen

    I agree with Ralph. We need both. For me that means RDA should do more small & medium projects like Naomi & Brad mention. But not at the expensive of GOOD large projects.

    It is this AND that.

  39. Naomi Schiff

    And there is no reason why we can’t, except that often the urgent wish of redevelopment staff and city council is to get a whole lot done fast. This has the occasionally unfortunate result of working on megaschemes for long periods, sometimes with little result or extremely delayed result. Examples include city center (20 years, we were promised department stores. . .) uptown (at least 30 years, we were promised department stores), army base, and coliseum redevel. area, among others.

  40. Brad

    Ralph, I was agreeing with you. (So for example, I said Oakland doesn’t have a housing shortage, but then I pointed out all the illegal housing we have, such housing being, of course, the result of a shortage.) Next time I will make my sarcasm more obvious.

  41. Robert Wiles

    Oakland has housing needs in several pricing levels. What prevents it is a lack of defined envelope and NIMBY groups. It doesn’t help that most developers aren’t willing to try to engage the competing groups to find a balance.

    I live in a house I couldn’t afford with a 6 figure income if I had to buy it. It just happens to be the house I grew up in.

    It’s not just ‘density’ (yeh, the “d word”) but the ecology of an area. Rockridge is presently zoned for a pretty sub-urban feel. It’s not built that way. As much as I despise Jerry Brown, his 10k downtown had some points. The thing is that we have a bunch of cities with different philosophies packed around each other and no serious coordination.

    Maybe I’m delusional, but some corridors seem able to handle greater density and appear to have the demand. It might change the character, but that happens anyway. Lower Rockridge was a blue collar area. Not so much now, right?

    Parts of Broadway, Claremont, Telegraph, 51st, 40th, MacArthur, etc, could probably be developed to support more housing at various price points.

    With those, there should be options for neighborhood serving businesses and connections to areas with large retail. Is it chicken/egg, perhaps…
    ———————
    As to the budget, Measure Y is dead. The real fix is to repeal it. Redevelopment’s problems are symptomatic of the political dysfunction here in general.

    Until the electorate is willing to accept TANSTAAFL, we’ll keep getting people like JQ, DP, JB, IDLF and their ilk who talk a good line, but don’t deliver.