Oakland Crime Stats, November 2009

2009 is quickly coming to a close, and if things keep going the way they have been, it looks like we’re going to end the year with a substantially lower number of reported crimes than last year.

When compared to the same date in 2008, reported crimes have been down pretty much all year, and that trend continues here, with overall reports down a little under 13%. It’s not the 26% drop we were looking at in February, but it is significant.

It’s not all good news, though. Take a look at the second row. Aggravated assaults are now up from last year. As happy as I am that fewer cars are being stolen, I also find it extremely disheartening to just watch Oakland’s violence problem get worse and worse and worse every damn year. The new Police Chief at least seems to feel some sense of urgency about this problem, so hopefully we will see a reversal of that trend in 2010. For now, it’s just depressing.

Anyway, as always, the numbers come from the Oakland Police Department’s daily crime reports. The numbers above reflect data as of November 12th:

114 thoughts on “Oakland Crime Stats, November 2009

  1. TheBoss

    I really wish they would separate these statistics so that you could see how many of the violent crimes were against “civilians” and how many were against known gang members, etc. The truth is that the former number is the one people should be most concerned about. Obviously there’s an interplay between them, but it’s hard to get too upset about a set of criminals beating each other up, as long as the rest of us aren’t there to be collateral damage.

  2. T

    Unfortunately, these statistics are doctored to the point of being virtually worthless. The only non-doctored statistics are homicides, due to the fact that homicide statistics are easily verifiable. But everything else is under-reported. How do I know? Well, for starters, anecdotally. I was the victim of a Part I crime this year (twice, actually). The OPD officers I interacted with shortly thereafter showed professionalism. The police report I picked up thirty days later was thorough and mostly complete. But my crime statistic didn’t show up on Oakland Crimespotting or OPD’s CrimeView Community Incident Map service. The data used for these services is the same data used for the monthly and annual reporting. Somewhere from the police report being filed to the data being reported my crime statistic was lost. I actually refuse to attribute this to incompetence. The OPD is not incompetent. I find it far more likely that my statistic, and others like it, are discouraged from ending up in the final tally. What’s the result? Statistics that are not a true reflection of reality. So sorry, V, because we’re not looking at a 13% drop. In all likelihood, we’re not looking at a drop at all. And what’s worse? The fact that even with these doctored stats, the monthly still tallies an increase in aggravated assaults!

  3. T

    And . . .

    (taken from Ron Oz’s essay, Putting the Last Four Years Behind Us)

    “California’s three largest cities, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose, experience an average 46% of their overall Part 1 crimes as larcenies [45%, 46%, 47%). The 64 cities in California over 100,000 population experience an average 52% of their overall crimes as larcenies. If we take the ten most violent cities in California, then we find that 42% of their overall crime rate are larcenies. This was indeed true for the 38 years at OPD before Chief Tucker, when the average Larcenies reported each year was 46% and the range never went below 40%. . . .

    In the five years this decade, immediately before Chief Tucker, Larcenies averaged 45% of total Part 1 crimes. While Violent Crimes increased each year under Tucker, Larcenies dropped inexplicably like a rock. Unbelievably, in 2008, Chief Tucker’s OPD reported that Larcenies fell miraculously to only 21.6% of total rimes. . . .

    In 2008, OPD reported only 6,134 Larcenies, whereas in 1970 we took 20,222 such reports. Does that mean the crime rate today is down -70% because OPD is taking 70% fewer Larceny reports? . . . Face it, if Part 1 Larcenies are so critically under-reported, then the rest of the Part 1 numbers are also seriously corrupted.”

  4. Patrick

    I would imagine that larceny is underreported, particularly in Oakland where citizens know there will never be any follow-up, because most of them don’t involve the violation of personal space as in robbery or burglary. I’ve had several things taken from my porch and backyard – but why bother reporting the loss of a flower pot? I put up an iron gate instead.

  5. T

    Patrick, those same forces (lack of follow up) will be present in any large city. And yet, in all of California’s other large cities, we see larcenies account for 40% to 50% of all reported crimes. And more to the point, we see that before Chief Tucker, the OPD’s own crime statistics showed larcenies at 40% to 50% of crimes reported in Oakland. No, what’s going on here is more than citizens “opting out” from reporting. What’s going on here, and what happened to me, is citizens making reports to OPD, but those reports being omitted in the publicized tallies.

  6. Robert

    T: nice story but quite misleading because the raw data has problems. Between 2003 and 2005 larcenies did drop about 4000 per year, but there was a matching increase in auto theft of 4000 per year. The only conclusion is that for some reason Oakland has decided that some crimes previously reported at larceny are now being reported as auto thefts. (Data is from the FBI UCR for the various years.) I don’t know where Ron Oz got his numbers, but the number of larcenies reported to the FBI was 8915, not 6134 you cite. It might seem like an easy thing to categorize crime correctly, but Oakland has misreported other numbers to the Feds, so I find this not all that surprising.

    The fact that Ron Oz misrepresents/misinterprets this makes me skeptical of his other thoughts and analyzes.

  7. jackie

    Jesus Christ, is Oakland really averaging nearly one rape per day this year? How many of those cases are solved, with the rapists prosecuted?

    Where can I find those statistics?

  8. T


    I don’t know how to get the FBI statistics you’re looking at, but I think this discussion illuminates nicely the malleability of the stats.

    For example, you cite 8,915 as the number for larcenies in 2008. That’s not the OPD’s number, at least not the one reflected in the graph in V Smoothe’s post above. Look at it. In the graph above, OPD claims that as of November 12, 2008, there had been 5,437 larcenies in Oakland. Ron Oz claims OPD reported a final “tally” of 6,134 — which would generally comport with the graph above. I could believe based on those numbers that Oakland added around 700 larcenies in the last month and a half of 2008. But if we believe OPD’s claim in V Smoothe’s graph above, I would find it hard to believe that Oakland added 3,478 larcenies in the last month and a half of 2008 (your number for end of 2008, 8,915, minus OPD’s number for Nov. 12, 2008, 5,437, equals 3,478).

    Now, on the other hand, I find some other statistics elsewhere. For example, look at http://www.swivel.com/graphs/spreadsheet/28945620. This set of statistics shows a total of 8,929 larcenies for 2007 (the last year with data available on this website). That’s closer to your claim of 8,915 for 2008. And indeed, looking at the Swivel.com data, I do see a decrease in larcenies between 2003-2006, and a corresponding increase in auto thefts for 2003-2006. So you may be on to something there.

    Do I still think OPD is underreporting crimes? Yes. But perhaps, just perhaps, they are fudging the truth to the Feds less than to us, the general public.

  9. T

    Or maybe there’s something less nefarious going on. Maybe OPD declines to count certain larcenies as Part I crimes, but the FBI wants the numbers for all larcenies. I don’t know.

  10. Robert

    T: here is the link to the FBI crime reports http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm

    It looks like V is bucketing the burglary and larceny differently than the FBI database. You would have to ask V why that is – I vaguely recall some discussion in the past. 2008 YTD total non-violent crime is about what you expect from the FBI data, but V’s burglary already exceeds the FBI for all of 2008, and larceny is way under the FBI data. And nothing available would explain why Oakland apparently decided to move some crime from larceny to auto theft. So it doesn’t look like under-reporting in the Oakland numbers, but just putting things in different categories. Total violent crime from V’s 2008 numbers is also about what you expect from the FBI data for 2008.

    I think the important point from this is that you have to know the source for the raw data, and you can’t compared numbers from different sources.

  11. Robert

    jackie, it has unfortunately, been like that for years. See above for the link to the FBI data. The data V reports is from somewhere on the Oakland web site.

  12. Ralph

    Robert, you somewhat allude to this but V is not bucketing the data differently. Sometime ago when someone was pitching a fit about this data, I noticed that there is a difference between the way OPD and FBI classify certain crimes. V re-reports that which has been recorded.

  13. Robert

    Ralph, although I said V, I don’t know if it is V or the OPD bucketing it differently. Sorry for any confusion.

  14. Livegreen

    You’d think Municipalities and the FBI could use the same stats. Maybe after they fix healthcare they can get Law Enforcement on the same page. I recall Vivek’s and many other discussions on the same topic.

    OPD could post a * by any notation or variance from whatever the generally accepted Law Enforcement practices are for stats, with an explanation at the bottom.

    Besides saving us time, this would also help clean up OPDs image of being untransparent. It’s almost like they’re trying to make things difficult for citizens to understand. I’ve heard their budget is a mess too, and as we’ve heard from Marleen they don’t report things very clearly there either.

    Maybe a couple more questions for the Chief, V?

    PS. Any critique of OPD stats and budget is seperate from all the other issues, or the quality and overall strong efforts of the individual officers.

  15. CitizenX

    Lies, damn lies and statistics. The numbers don’t matter. Doesn’t matter what change is statistically significant. Reporting errors, data input errors, differences in interpretations/assumptions — who cares? What matters is:

    DO YOU FEEL SAFE walking around your neighborhood, going out to dinner, going to a show? Do you worry about family, friends, pets, your car, your house/apartment?

    These are the questions people ask when deciding whether to move to Oakland or stay in Oakland. Just as consumer confidence determines the fate of the economy, (let’s call it) citizen comfort determines the fate of a city. This town has one big Citizen Comfort Crisis going on and the elected “leadership” does nothing to address the problem.

  16. Andrew Watkins

    I’m safe in West Oakland. I feel comfortable walking around my neighborhood.

    We have a crime problem. I believe the stats. But we also have a fear problem. The first step to beating it is to never ever ever watch broadcast TV news again.

  17. Ralph

    I am sure most are aware, but it may be worth adding here:

    These numbers do not match the official monthly crime totals reported to the FBI through the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program. The purpose of this report is to show totals based on the crimes reported the night before. By contrast, the UCR numbers are tallied at the end of each month so they can reflect late reporting and the reclassification or unfounding of crimes. The only certified crime numbers are those contained in the UCR.

  18. James Robinson


    Whether a person feels safe is a question of perception, and perception is rarely reality.

    For example, in the book “Freakonomics,” the authors discuss how parents are increasingly afraid of their children being accidentally killed by a gun in the house. However, the reality is that swimming pools at home are more fatal to kids than guns in the home. It is just that parents perceive the guns at home as being a bigger danger.

    If you want some people to feel more “safe,” don’t do anything about crime per se. Just clean up the graffiti, hide the “dangerous looking” young black and brown men (meaning young men not wearing business attire), and soon you will see little old ladies walking their dogs at night.

    People who let perception be their reality are easily manipulated.

  19. TheBoss


    Why do you confine your comment to “black and brown” young men? I personally get worried any time I’m in a place on a weekday in the middle of the day and see a bunch of young men not in business attire cruising around. The color doesn’t matter. Young men without jobs who aren’t in school are often troublemakers. I just don’t think race is relevant at all.

  20. Born in Oakland

    Gottcha!! I also like where Pat Kenighan pointed out budget consequences for next year, unless resolved, are “horrific.” And as she is first and foremost a policy wonk, as opposed to a grinding ideologue, I think we is headed for bankruptcy. Could we sell the naming rights for the Ron Dellums Federal Building, the Elihu Harris State Building, the Lionel Wilson Airport Terminal? Just asking.

  21. Ralph

    TheBoss, I hope you are not serious about young men not wearing business suits. I think think this city is kidding itself it does not think that the black/brown issue is not a barrier to new retail (and I am not talking about the ghetto fab stores which seems to come and got in DTO). As a friend described it to me, you can look into the eyes of some black and browns and see that they are vacant. These individuals have lost all hope for a better tomorrow and see nothing wrong with a violent today.

  22. David

    Well, the fact of the matter is that those black and brown faces commit crime at multiples of yellow and white faces. Perhaps a little bit of the perception relates to reality.

  23. Livegreen

    Fear is both perceived and real. There are many stimuli. Neither just feeling safe or just feeling fear is the answer. Instead knowing that crime is a problem, that in some areas it is more omnipresent than in others, and that it needs solutions (both inside Law Enforcement but also out) that are actionable on.

    It feels at times it’d be better to remain blissfully ignorant with not a care in the world. On the one hand that would give temporary piece of mind, on the other it would not lead to change.

    Yes, the elected “leadership” needs to do a better job and concentrate on crime and some of it’s causes. But citizens also need to participate and volunteer in contributing to solutions. Media needs to publicize them. Government does not do everything in our country and waiting for them to be the change that you want is it’s own form of utopian, socialist manifesto. That does not mean Govt doesn’t play a part, it does. It just means it doesn’t play the only part.

    In the meantime we have a major problem: Oakland is stuck. Both because of the economy and because of crime. The discussion here is typical of politics at City Hall. Everybody is fighting over the problems and the solutions. Oakland needs to first form a concensus around it’s objectives and then implement a plan to accomplish them.

    If and while we cannot do that, these chaotic discussions will continue both hear and at City Hall…

    PS. There is one areas Oakland is, quietly, improving…

  24. Chris Kidd

    Well, that was a quick trip down the morality slide into outright racism…

    Crime is a symptom of institutional and generational poverty, not race. Come on fellas, let’s keep this above-board.

  25. David

    Yes, yes, it’s always racist to point out facts.

    If crime is ’caused’ by poverty, why do blacks at all income levels commit crimes at higher rates than others?

    Simple facts. Uncomfortable maybe, but truth.

    Are you similarly troubled by, say, an observation that there has been no European or Asian-descended Olympic gold medalist in the 100 meter dash since 1980?

  26. Ralph

    Why is it when someone points out facts, someone on the left cries racism? When black and brown children are committing crime at alarming rates, it is time to admit that there is a problem which needs to be addressed. It is not however racist to point out that black and brown children are committing crime at alarming rates.

    I do however take exception to blacks at all income levels committing crime at higher rates. I would like ot see evidence of that. It is no secret that black crime is higher than their gen pop number would suggest but to say that blacks across all income levels commit more crime than others is on the slippery slope…

  27. Steve Lowe

    Vacant eyes that see no tomorrow and therefore see nothing wrong with a violent today – if I’m paraphrasing correctly – is descriptive not only of many young Oaklanders but, in some ways, the minds of many Americans of all ages whose belief in the demagoguery spewed out by hate radio and other crypto-fascist venues is all too obviously based more on fear than commonsense. So when real solutions are offered, the fearmongers (who seem to take more comfort in the status quo than any constructive change that might somehow lead to an erosion of their perceived position of privilege, no matter how tenuous) love to jump on it with a vengeance.

    For instance, Nancy hopes to make Oakland into America’s Restorative Justice Model City, something that will require considerable support from all levels of Oakland’s usually too-fractious community. The fact remains that RJ works at reducing crime, recidivism, dropouts, etc., all the things that can lead to higher levels of criminality here – or anywhere. The results are pretty dramatic, and, unless you love paying taxes for still more prisons than we’ve already got, can accrue substantially to the bottom line of our local economy, to say nothing of illuminating a hell of a lot more of those vacant eyes than our current none-too-perfect system manages to do. Who wouldn’t want that for their city, their schools, their kids?

    But wait a minute! Nancy is often imperfect and didn’t vote the way she should’ve last time, or Ron didn’t pay his taxes, or Pat voted for the AC; therefore anything that these guys come up with just plain flat out won’t work. That’s the kind of grudge-gnarled thinking that seems to pervade almost every dialogue I hear going on in this town, and maybe it’s time to start putting disparagement aside as a way of getting something positive going and, instead, start putting forth the effort to ensure RJ and other truly worthwhile ideas out there actually have a chance of coming to fruition.

    I was watching Willie Nelson the other night on Austin City Limits, and thought here’s a guy who had worse tax problems than Ron ever did, and yet here he is still slugging away for Farm Aid and other political agendas (tell me you’d never stop by the takeout window at Willie’s Weed Shoppe if that ever became a national franchise…), and not a single person in the entire world ever demanded, suggested or even murmured that he ought to step down or away from any of the great stuff he’s done all his life. So what’s the problem with Ron in that same playbook? One’s white and the other is black? One sings what you want to hear and the other doesn’t? It’s way past time to check in on some of our close held preconceptions and get down to where we can start supporting the best of what our less-than-perfect electeds actually have at the ready to make happen – but for all the snarky waves of opposition out there.

  28. Ralph

    Steve, I don’t agree with the vacants beyond the disengaged youth. And at least here you will find some people who disagree with our elected officials on some points but are willing to give them props when they do right. As to Willie and Ron, it has nothing to do with race. Ron is an elected official in a position of trust. I hold him to a different standard. I think Cunningham and Jefferson are equally evil. I am bothered that the CBC found a need to defend Jefferson. Sometimes, you got to cut a man loose. And quite honestly Ron has done nothing good. If he were any sort of a man, he would fall on his sword and admit that his tenure as mayor has been a failure, apologize to the residents and repay the citizens.

  29. TheBoss

    The issue with the racial rhetoric above is not that it is false. It’s that it doesn’t accomplish anything to point it out.

    Let’s suppose that it’s true that black people have higher crime rates all across the income spectrum than whites (I haven’t verified this, but let’s just assume it).

    So? What then? Should we kill all the black people? Make them register as “potential offenders”? Collect them into forced-labor camps?

    Of course not. The problem with making race your dividing line is that it’s not actionable. Worse yet, repeatedly point out stuff like this causes people to adopt a mindset where they’re more likely to prejudge a black man even if he is wearing a business suit and sitting on Bart next to you.

  30. TheBoss

    Steve -

    If Willie Nelson tried to run for political office, he’d have all sorts of problems because of his tax situation. That’s your difference right there.

  31. James Robinson

    More random thoughts, so have salt grains ready:

    1. From Freakonomics — “It is true that, on average, crime involvement in the U.S. is higher among blacks than whites. Importantly, however, once you control for income, the likelihood of growing up in a female-headed household, having a teenage mother, and how urban the environment is, the importance of race disappears for all crimes except homicide. (As we’ve written, the homicide gap is partly explained by crack markets.) In other words for most crimes, a white person and a black person who grow up next door to each other with similar incomes and the same family structure would be predicted to have the same crime involvement.”

    2. Violent crime in Oakland is lower than it was in the 1990s. And I think it is pretty hard to under-report little things like murder.

    3. Going back to statement #1, it seems like the way to further reduce crime in Oakland is to reduce the number of female-headed households and teen mothers in Oakland, along with making the environment less urban. I don’t think you can change the urban culture or “street mentality.” Therefore, you need to counter balance it by bringing economic and educational diversity to Oakland. In other words, bring in more people from higher socio-economic groups into Oakland regardless of their ethnicity. In my opinion, one effective way of achieving that goal is by letting developers actually DEVELOP. More market rate housing for rental and purchase should be built, especially in East Oakland. Perhaps some of these foreclosures should be bought, razed to the ground, and replaced with more contemporary housing.

    4. Jobs of the near future will require more PHDs that GEDs, so it is highly unlikely that the stereotypical Oaklander can fill those jobs. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so and here’s why. Why are there so many blue-collar blacks in Oakland? Because of industrial jobs that opened up during World War II and immediately after. In other words, black folks migrated from places like Mississippi to the opportunities. Well, those opportunities are leaving California, so it is time for some of the descendants of those intrepid folks to leave Oakland. In fact, there is already a nation-wide “reverse migration” of blacks from urban centers back to the South. So stop trying to provide jobs out of thin air and let new jobs develop for new people. The is no rational reason why Oakland can’t be a center of green technology, if the local government and other well-meaning people will just get out of the way.

  32. Steve Lowe

    Well, I think Ron has done lots of good stuff, but I guess you’d have to be peering through the same glasses I’m wearing to see some of the subtler shades of policy and what they mean now to those who are most affected and what they’ll mean later on for everyone. I was on the Port Task Force and particularly proud of Ron’s action in following our official recommendation to appoint someone from the fenceline community to serve on the Port Board, as Port policy with regard to the community and clean air had been severely lagging up to that point. The result has not been obvious to everyone, but regional attention is now being concentrated on the huge amount of diesel pollution that all of Oakland has to eat everyday, West Oakland in particular, where asthma rates are nine times as high as the rest of California.

    That’s just one change of several that folks who live further away from the Port don’t think about much, even though it’s in your coffee right now, and even creepier than that, helping to increase our carbon footprint here in the Bay Area to the point where we’re one of worst in the nation. If bringing regular people onto the Board is finally going to bring some sort of parity to our community (other faraway places like Mill Valley are pretty much free from the messy business of shipping, even though there’s plenty of export / import businesses all over Marin, yes?), how is that anyone can say Ron has done nothing?

    If he’s brought more federal dough to Oakland in the form of stimulus and other programs, what does that say when stacked up against the eight years of his predecessor who, by every tally, didn’t bring in even a tenth of the dollars that Dellums has. In this economic downturn, that’s pretty substantial, I think. And if we had to vote based on that accomplishment alone, where do you think your chad might hang? Still, there are those who want him out so that they can get their own agenda going, and it’s problematic for lots of folks around town to think that certain old razorbacks might be right back at their favorite trough – with the rest of us never likely to share in Oakland’s recovery when only certain boats rise and the rest lie stuck in the mud.

    So, will he pay off his tax obligation? Yes. And will he continue to have Obama, Biden, et al., listen to Oakland for as long as he’s Mayor? Yes. And will there be a huge amount of people who won’t understand that aspect of his service to Oakland (especially with Chip chipping away over at the Chron)? Yes. And will his legacy be a better Oakland than he found it, with a better Police Chief and a better City Administrator? Damn straight. Go back to the days when Jacques Barzaghi was running rampant, and tell me that the cast and crew we were dealing with than was the best team that could gave been fielded.

  33. James Robinson

    Has Dellum brought in stimulus money? I’d like to see evidence of that. And even if he did, it is NOT the job of the mayor to lobby the Federal government for money. That’s why we have a representative in Congress. The mayor of Oakland should be spending his time in Oakland actually coming to work and running Oakland.

  34. len raphael

    i second JR’s point about our mayor. We don’t need a mayor who raises one shot funds from the feds.

    We need a strong mayor who leads the city in finding consensus on what to cut and what to fund. A mayor who earns the residents’ trust that the city won’t squander money from a new parcel tax.

    The cc is too fragmented to do that. If the Mayor can’t perform that function, he will just be remembered as the mayor when oakland went bankrupt.

  35. Born in Oakland

    The down side of diesel pollution reduction is many truckers can no longer ply their trade at the port; they can no longer afford the added burden of paying 10,000 bucks to upgrade their machines and no money is in sight to help them remedy the problem. 800 qualified for assistance and then the money ran out. This while their annual fuel costs have jumped from 20 to 40 thousand dollars per annum. Once again, Ron comes up with a nice idea but no backup plan to support the economic consequences as he did with base closures in Alameda and Oakland. I am not proud, but embarrassed by him, though I voted and worked for him in every campaign since the Berkeley City Council election he won in the 60′s. I did not support him for Mayor, however, so my conscience is clear. So long old Ron, it’s been good to know you. No more pie in the sky, no more unfunded mandates.

  36. Ralph

    Ron should be devoting his time and effort to the things that make a difference in the everyday lives of the people of Oakland. A mayor should be creating an environment where businesses can flourish and citizens feel safe. The people want roads and sidewalks. The mayor of any city should be present when violence, especially senseless violence, erupts. The mayor can not sit in his taxpayer paid mansion in the hill and ignore the masses. The mayor can directly impact the lives of citiizens yet our mayor opts to be removed from the actual business of running the city. If you rely on the mayor to bring federal dollars to the city then you have a problem as those dollars will be subject to the whims of the people allocating ducats. Federal dollars, if not the worst yardstick, is darn close to the worst yardstick by which to measure the success of a mayor.

    As far as I am concerned, NN has done more and continues to do more to bring attn to and to make changes arising from Port issues. RD is an empty suit collecting a check because his former wife is taking his federal pension. He has brought nothing but shame to his family name and should fall on his sword to save face. The last thing any city needs is a 1960s era liberal who still believes that the governement should help those who should be helping themselves. At some point people need to be held accountable. RD and his type would have you believe that the govt is suppose to help those who won’t help themselves. He is wrong.

  37. Born in Oakland

    I see where Ron is being victimized by bad press again, this time he failed to disclose “outside economic interests” where he visited South Africa to be fetted by that govenment at their expense. While I would prefer he visit East Oakland more often and deal with the deadly issues there, I am glad he gets out of Dodge once in a while. Wish someone would pay me to get out of the flats more often.

  38. Ralph

    If on RD would get out of Dodge permanently. He has worn out his welcome. He needs to make like Marvin K Mooney.

  39. James Robinson

    Basically, Ron Dellums is Marion Barry minus the crack. Mr. Dellums has a similar constituency — people (who tend to lean to the left) who remember what he did in the 1960s and 1970s but don’t really think about what he is doing right now. His constituents treat Dellums the way Generation X treats Michael Jackson — we remember “Thriller” but conveniently ignore his weaker more recent work and his questionable personal life.

    Anyway, Oakland needs for Dellums and his supporters to ride off into the sunset. Maybe they can retreat to Berkeley where they can reminisce about the Summer of Love ad nauseam. Now is a time for pragmatism, not dogma (I know I’ve said this before). Here are some of my issues with our Mayor.

    Hard decisions must be made, and Dellums has proven incapable of making them.

    He had to be practically forced to do something about Deborah Edgerly.

    His new City Administrator lacks administrative experience.

    Here we are in a city budget crisis, and Dellums has not, to my knowledge, reduces his staff or his office’s expenses.

    His new chief of staff has negligible government experience.

    He refuses to be truly tough on crime (maybe because his son is a convicted criminal).

    So why is he the mayor?

  40. James Robinson

    Gentrification helped save the major East Coast cities. And gentrification doesn’t have to be racial. It could just be new members of the same ethnic group.

  41. Mike d'Ocla

    Gentrification=Institutionalized Racism

    Want something to read about this topic? Rebecca Solnit’s Hollow City. About gentrification in the touristville town across the Bay.

  42. Ralph

    Why is it there are no shortage of people ready to cry racism? Can someone (Mike) explain to me like I am a 5 year old how and why gentrification equals institutionalized racism?

  43. Robert

    Ralph, it’s simple. Gentrification takes housing that only the poor want to live in and turns it into housing that middle class folks find desirable, so the poor get priced out of their old digs. Since a disproportionate percentage of the poor are black, it is obviously racism.

  44. Ralph

    So, the anti-gentrification types think it is fine for this disproportionate number of poor black people to live in housing that is not fit for a street dog? Something in Denmark don’t smell right.

    I have another question but I will save it for a later date.

  45. James Robinson

    Here’s some more information about “Hollow City.” Notice the plurality of one-star reviews:


    Now, regarding what Robert just wrote, what if the “middle class folks” are the same ethnicity as the poor? Is that still racism? Look at Harlem and parts of Atlanta where you essentially have black people replacing other black people. I see that as progress.

    Poor homeowners in a gentrifying neighborhood benefit because their property values increase. Also, gentrifying neighborhoods tend to become cleaner and safer. Also, students might benefit from improving schools (or at least going to a school in improving surroundings) thanks to gentrification. Also, the environment benefits when neighborhoods closer to job centers gentrify. That reduces our reliance on fossil fuels and decreases emissions. Plus, people who gentrify tend to spend money on cleaners, restaurants, etc. that provide jobs for the lesser-skilled. Therefore, I think the only people who don’t benefit from gentrification are those who paid relatively low rent and suffer rent increases because of gentrification.

  46. Born in Oakland

    Gentrificaiton is something that has happened in Berkeley and especially San Francisco. I have not seen much of it it in the Oakland flats, unless you consider Southeast Asian immigrants the “shock troops of gentrification” as one old timer put it twenty years ago. Now there is a can of worms for debate.

  47. James Robinson

    Neighborhoods change, that’s just life. From what I understand, West Oakland was once predominately Chinese and now it isn’t. Harlem was once a Jewish neighborhood, now it isn’t. Watts used to be mostly black, now it isn’t.

  48. Born in Oakland

    And the Castro used to be Irish, 5 or 6 per family and Catholic. Go figure who got gentrified. Older people die and sometimes better off younger people move in. What has race got to do with that? Since we have outlawed discrimination in housing, the workplace, government, schools, etc., I think people are less reluctant to move into what was once a segregated neighborhood. The perception might be everyone is more “equal” now, it’s okay to live where ever one wants.

  49. James Robinson

    I’m sure there is still some housing discrimination, but it is far less than, say the 1970s when a friend of my dad had to sue and entire subdivision in order his black family to move in.

    Born in Oakland made a good point about older people dying off and younger people moving in. I would rather have white yuppies replace older black people when they pass away then have crack dealers take their place, or grandchildren who inherit a house and then let it decay. And again, it isn’t just a black thing. Annandale, Va had become run down as older white people passed away and their children opted to not live in the old neighborhood. Then Korean Americans gentrified Annandale and turned it around. Is that a bad thing?

  50. Livegreen

    In any case we’re not going to have gentrification in Oakland until it’s safer. Gentrification happens as an area becomes safe and hip. Oakland’s barely begun to do either. We’re in one giant Catch-22!

  51. James Robinson

    Actually, a place needs to be hip first, not necessarily save. The meatpacking district and Chelsea in Manhattan were still dangerous when people started gentrifying it. I remember that 14th and U Streets in DC still had whores walking around in the early 1990s when that gentrification process began. Bring in the right people and they will reduce the crime.

    And Oakland’s gentrification process HAS begun. It is just such a gradual process that long-time residents aren’t noticing. Look at West Oakland, JLS, Uptown, Fruitvale and you’ll see it. Hell, I’m even starting to see it in Covington Manor, and that place is only 2 years old!

  52. Ralph

    It is not a Catch-22. A hip hood, as well as an up and coming hood, wil attract residents. The right residents will fight tooth and nail to reduce crime.In addition to U St in DC, parts of Chinatown and areas near G-town law did not lack for professional women but look at that area now. You bring in some vested owners you will see a reduction in crime. One thing that the city can do to reduce crime is populate areas that are currently unoccupied.

  53. Livegreen

    James, The areas you describe were much smaller than Oakland, and were already surrounded by very safe not just middle but wealthy areas (I’ve never heard of the Castro as having gone through gentrification, as opposed to the Upper Wedtside, Soho, the East Village and the Lower Eastside, in that order, before jumping the East River).

    Yes for JLS and Uptown, but these are much smaller areas than what advocates of Gentrification are talking about for Oakland. At the pace it’s happening now we’ll still be talking about it in 20 years.

    Gentrification in NYC was only spead up when BrAtton and Maple made things safer. The same will have to happen here, unless you can explain to me why it will happen differently and faster in Oakland.

  54. James Robinson

    I don’t think you have to gentrify the entire city of Oakland. I don’t know of any cities that are gentrified all over. However, I do feel that most of Oakland west of Lake Merritt will be gentrified. I also believe that certain parts of Oakland near the San Leandro border will become solidly working class, but stable. Any improvements are good!

  55. Ralph

    LG, the Castro is going through gentrification. It was a story that got a lot of press a few years back. I seem to recall stories of it becoming less gay, more a 1M/1W and 2.5 children ‘hood. Old guard is worried that it will neither be the same nor even affordable for the new gay guard.

  56. Livegreen

    That’s the case anywhere in Manhattan, for anybody…
    Better just to move to Brooklyn. Now that’s gentrification for you.

  57. VivekB

    Robert, I respectfully disagree. Just because a disproportionate # of people who are displaced are black doesn’t mean it’s racism. That insinuates intent to discriminate against color.

    The displacement of gentrification is based on economic position. Full stop. Doesn’t matter if the displaced are white/black/yellow/brown. It’s not racism.

    I’m not saying there is no racism, i’m indian and keenly aware of it from all sides, just that it’s not a magic bullet/card to pull out at every opportunity. Playing that card too often only serves to undermine the cases when it is legitimately true.

  58. David

    That’s hilarious. “Just because a disproportionate # of people who are displaced are black doesn’t mean it’s racism.”

    Let’s try a thought experiment for the lefties on the board…let’s take that sentence and say: “Just because a disproportionate # of people who are in prison are black doesn’t mean it’s racism”

    I agree with you on gentrification. It’s just highly amusing that the same people who would say that about gentrification in the Bay Area would call me a racist for pointing out the fact that black people (and Hispanics, for what it’s worth) disproportionately inhabit the prison system.


  59. Max Allstadt

    It’s not just economic position Vivek.

    There’s a complicated equation to who gets displaced.

    The poor get displaced more.
    Poor people with no family safety net get displaced to a greater degree.
    Poor people who have lived in multigenerational poverty get displaced to an even greater degree.

    Multigenerational poverty in America, particularly in the black community, was created by outright racism. It was called redlining. Up until as late as the seventies, home mortgage lenders identified certain area codes as black and conspired to keep them segregated. They conspired to keep white area codes all white too.

    By preventing social mobility, the real estate industry leaders of the last generation exacerbated multigenerational poverty in the non-white community. The damage hasn’t been fixed yet.

    The black and latino and asian fathers and mothers of the 1950s and 60s were in many ways screwed out of the opportunity to create ancestral wealth for their heirs to use. The way middle class American families generate ancestral wealth is almost exclusively through real estate equity.

    So yeah. It’s totally about race. The fact that my father and my fathers father and my fathers fathers father were able to own and bequeath homes of greater value has given me an advantage in life. Which, in turn, makes me less likely to be displaced from the poor neighborhood that I live in, should gentrification ever come here.

    As far as the argument that white people actually cause gentrification, I reject that. Poor white folks can certainly be stuck in multi-generational poverty. And even those white folks who are poor but have family support are not going to cause gentrification inherently.

    Where the race factor comes in is that by virtue of historical advantages created by overtly racist policies of the past, white folks tend to be more effective at resisting displacement. It isn’t fair and it’s a racial disparity. Calling it racism outright is too much though.

    I have no idea how the hell to solve this. It’s an ongoing process that happens all over the country, and I really don’t think anybody’s really been able to fix it.

    Can anybody tell me an example of an urban neighborhood that’s become safer while remaining multi-ethnic and multi-income? I’d love to have one to cite when this topic comes up.

  60. len raphael

    am sure there are lots of examples of multi ethnic, but none that are multi income. Shaker Heights OH always used to be mentioned as the multi ethnic utopia, but my impression is that has started to crumble at the edges as Ohio’s economy tanked.

    Have to think more about redlining as the main vehicle preventing multi generational wealth accumulation. The increase in real estate values over last thirty years of desirable areas on the coasts were highly unusual.

    i would guess that multi generational transfer of culture wealth is much bigger factor in improving the standard of living of subsequent generations here.

  61. Robert

    Vivek, I thought I had simplified the argument enough that the absurdity and my sarcasm would be obvious, but maybe not. Only you and Max bit at the lure at all.

    Max, gentrification is pushing out poor people because they are poor, not because they are minority. Even if you accept that a disproportionate percentage of blacks are poor because of past racism, that does not make current gentrification about race. It’s about class and money. And like it or not Max, you are part of that first wave of gentrifiers starting to make West Oakland a better place to live, not just a cheap place to live.

  62. ralph

    robert, it was very subtle.

    and it is all about class. some poor people are going to be displaced. it is neither wrong nor right. it is and liberals need to accept that fact.

  63. VivekB

    Robert: eh, oh. Clearly I should not have given up caffeine, its slowing down the brain cells. Sorry about that.

    I agree with your comment out it being an economic dimension. Whatever it may have been is irrelevant, what it is now is purely economic.

    I think it was Ralph (but maybe robert, an R name though) who used a line here months ago that I still plagiarize: Like it or not, there is equal access to succeed in school. That does not mean equal outcomes, what you put into life is what you’ll get out of life. And, sometimes folks start at different positions.

    I’m a case study on equal access, but different starting positions. I’m indian, was born in India, my folks only had indian friends growing up. The whole american school system thing was much different than my folks had ever experienced. My folks were clearly lower middle class, but harassed me if I ever brought home anything less than an A. As a result, I worked my butt off in high school. Due to the grades, I went to the college of my choosing, even though I had $35K in student loans in 1990 because my parents couldn’t afford it. When I first started working, I had to unlearn many of the lessons my dad taught me about succeeding in business as he was right if I lived in India, but I didn’t. And now, I own a house in Rockridge, and have done reasonably well in my career. I had to work my a$$ off, putting in more hours than most people I know, but I succeeded because of equal access to opportunities, not because of equal outcomes.

    Am I pushing out poor people who’ve lived in the area for decades? Maybe. But hell, me (and many of my friends) have managed to claw our way from lower middle class to upper middle class in less than 1 generation. We worked many hours/week in high school, many more hours/week in college, and I probably averaged 50-55 hours/week from age 21->35. It’s ramped down somewhat since then, but not terribly.

    To say something is institutionalized and the cards are stacked against is an affront to me personally, and anybody else who’s worked their way out of it. We are no more human than those who are “stuck at being poor”, had nothing else given to us, so why did we succeed and they not?

    Seems to me that the ultra-left wing liberals are being racist by assuming poor black people are dumber than me & my childhood indian friends. I don’t know a single one of us who was anything higher than lower middle class in our teens, and now in our 40s every one of us is upper middle class.

  64. Ralph

    As ugly as redlining was and continues to be, denying new generations the opportunity of wealth creation through real estate accumulation is not the proper means to address that issue.

    The problem I tend to have with anti-gentrifiers is they seem to think that it universally harms blacks and helps whites. Back in the day, people were bothered by gentrification because the economic oppty that resulted tended to go to white individuals who benefitted from years of accumulated wealth. Gentrification as we knew it displaced POC and denied them a seat at the table. Thanks to years of progress, all many of poor people may be displaced and all ethnicities are participating in neighborhood gentrification. For those who are able to stay they benefit from the rising tide lifts all boats theory.

    What bothered

  65. len raphael

    There were quite a few areas of Oakland where gentrification improved the economic well being of middle aged and older african americans. gentrifiers were able to get loans and pay hundreds of thou to older long time home owners who then retired to cheaper areas of the country and pocketed the difference.

    the problem is that the kids and grandkids of the retired black homeowners too often couldn’t afford to even rent in the gentrifying areas, let alone sustain mortgages.

    that had nothing to do with red lining.

    then many of the kids and grandkids who kid make it to middle class or above got the hell out of oakland before the older generation did.

  66. livegreen

    I agree that Gentrification is economic.

    At the same time, Max is right that it’s BUILT in part ON the history of past racism. Family money today depends in part ON history. Can you deny that blacks were slaves and that had a lingering economic affect? Can you deny that Red Lining had an affect on home buying and on whites moving out of areas that blacks moved into, a racist cause for decreased property values, and the migration of whites from Oakland to other parts of the EB?

    Of course it also depends on education, hard work, and other factors. There are plenty of hard working African Americans who’ve worked their way up, just like there are whites and immigrants. But there’s a greater number of poor African Americans because of this history (just like there are more poor in the home countries of immigrants).

    As such, Gentrification economically overlaps (or is superimposed on) race in many places like Oakland (though not everywhere). & of course it happens to poor who aren’t AM also. Part of the question is how long do we keep talking about or trying to address historical racism, have we done enough, and what if anything do we try to do in areas like schools, housing, etc.

    These are difficult questions, and each of us is going to have individual answers.

    Personally I don’t think we’ve done enough (hell, MLK & Civil Rights Bill was only 40 yrs ago), and I think we SHOULD do more. But we can’t just take the money from the Middle Class and give it to the Poor, which is what Oakland liberals likes to do.

    That doesn’t help the Middle Class OR the Poor…all that does is make more Poor, or make the Middle Class want to get out of dodge. Now how does that help anybody? It just takes the tax base away.

    The question, as Max asks, is what can we do?…

  67. livegreen

    Max’s friend in Gammon’s article got one loan from WOPAC for $50k, and got rejected for much less than that for his Garden Project. So why would he be pissed? Which brings me to a couple questions about Redevelopment Funds:

    –Don’t the grantees get their financials and credit history reviewed?
    –Does the City Attorney put a lien on them?
    –Is there any follow-up or Audit to make sure the funds are spent as intended?
    (It reminds me of Bey just stealing the money. If 2 people are doing this, there must be others).
    –It’s too bad that right now at the bottom of the market, the timing can’t be used to get lower middle class and working class into home buying programs. Of course the City has no money for this, but could Redevelopment Funds be used for it?

    Finally, to build on my last post and this last point here, Oakland needs the economic Gentrification of the Middle Class to help the City and ALL it’s Residents. IF it can be done with some limited, financially affordable way to help the working poor (like my last point) I’m all for it.

    Either way Gentrification and it’s economic benefits for everyone should proceed. To do so we’ll still need to address safety, education and jobs if people are going to move here, and stay here, in bigger #’s…

  68. Ralph

    Does anyone have information on rising wealth in African-Americans pre- and post-crack? From what I have observed, prior to the outbreak of crack, multiple Af-Am families successfully made the leap to middle class. Is multi-generational poverty even relevant? Seems like poverty today has a different genesis.

  69. James Robinson

    I guess I’m racist for being black and buying a new townhouse in a traditionally black neighborhood where a decrepit model once stood. And i’m really racist for wanting more home buyers (or at least renters who can spend more money) and fewer thugs and miscreants in my neighborhood. And I’m racist (and an a**hole) for being tired of hearing about how we can’t buy homes now because we were discriminated against decades ago although East Oakland had many homes that black people bought decades ago and their mortgages are now paid off.

    Here are my suggestions:
    1. Continue to have first-time buyer programs, but make homeowner education a requirement.
    2. The “best and brightest” of the black community should invest in Oakland instead of hot footing it to Atlanta, DC, or New York with the rest of the bourgeois tribe.
    3. Speed up the process of condemning ragged, dilapidated properties.
    4. I understand there is an element of mistrust between some black folks and the police. But we need to ask ourselves who is more dangerous, the dirty cops or the dope boys, gang bangers, an miscellaneous thugs.
    5. Reduce funding for NGO/non-profit organizations, period.

  70. Born in Oakland

    Thanks James for speaking your mind and laying some pipe to the orthodox, “progressive” catechism of this wonderful and crazy town. Most of the hard working and church going neighbors in the flats where I live were among the first minority families to be able to buy after the Rumford Fair Housing Initiative passed in the ’60s. They are not much interested in racial politics, although they can remember the times in their youth when things were really oppressive. They raised their families here, a few of their kids got into trouble but most are making it. Anyway, they are “totally” down with James’ 5 point template. What is so political about that?

  71. David

    Yes James. And I’m racist for agreeing with you. At least my white half is. My black half tells me I’m not a genuine black man.

    It’s complete and utter BS. that black people are disproportionately in poverty today because of redlining 40 years ago. This is utterly false for several reasons.

    1) as pointed out above, black folks have owned and enjoyed their own housing in historically black areas for decades….(Chicago’s South Side, and I don’t mean Hyde Park, Barack), Atlanta, DC, and yes, Oakland. These areas are not automatically renter-dominated ghettoes…there are tough ‘hoods in some parts, sure, but there’s also very middle/upper middle class areas too that are majority black (Kenwood in Chicago, etc)

    2) R.E. most assuredly is NOT the avenue white folks have accreted wealth. They have done so through generally higher incomes (which have come from generally higher education levels). R.E. does not always go up, even in the long-term, in fact, long-term it barely beats inflation, unless you live in Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis or a myriad other towns where housing has declined relative to inflation for decades.

    3) R.E. is not a guarantee of long-term riches, again, how many life-long renters do pretty well for themselves in Manhattan, SF, etc.

    4) as pointed out above, the keys to avoiding poverty in America are pretty simple: Finish school, stay out of jail, get married (not before, say, 25ish), DON’T have kids UNTIL you’re married. Follow those simple principles and you’re more likely than not to have a reasonably comfortable life…maybe not all roses and new cars with 24″ rims and designer clothes, but you’ll have clothes, a house, and a car.

  72. James Robinson

    David, I agree with you wholeheartedly. As Ralph is quick to mention, a home should NOT necessarily be considered and investment. I have a mortgage for 3 reasons: 1) because I have to live somewhere, so I might as well buy the damn place, 2) tax benefits, 3) a 30-year fixed mortgage is something of a hedge against inflation, particularly inflation in rent, 4) if I’m going to pay taxes, the money might as well go to the municipalities that pay for schools, cops, and firefighters instead of Washington, DC.

    Based on that, it would be nice if more people of color would (or could) buy homes. That way, they might actually benefit from gentrification instead of railing against it.

  73. David

    It’s not ‘wrong’ to have a mortgage, and I agree that a certain percentage (maybe 60?65%) of local homeowners really help to stabilize an area.

    Like with any asset, what price you buy it matters. Cisco at $60/share in 2000 made no sense, unless it was to grow >50%/year for a decade…lo and behold, a decade later and it’s hovering around $25/share. As we saw in 2005, it would have made utterly no sense to buy the house in the hills I was renting for what it eventually sold for ($707K), unless I assumed that the price would go up by double-digits FOREVER (if I could have afforded it of course, which I couldn’t have). I could have put my down payment money and savings from renting into just about any other investment vehicle and beat the returns from a reasonable R.E. appreciation scenario.

    Now however, when faced with renting for $1500-$1800 and buying the same house and having a total PITI payment of …$1500-$1800…well, it makes sense to buy–reasonable return, inflation hedge, etc.

    The tax benefits go away pretty soon, btw, especially when the Dems raise taxes in 2011–deductions go away for “high income” folks, but the definition of “high income” is NOT adjusted for inflation, so your bracket will likely creep into that over time. Just like in Cali, where “high income” is anything >$47K.

  74. David

    FYI. Dutton Manor demographics from 2000 (we’ll see how they change in a year with the new census):
    White: 17% Black: 54% Hispanic: 35% (could be of any race)
    Married couple family: 43%
    Owner-occupied housing: 68%
    Public assistance income: 4.7%
    Median family income (2000): $46K
    20% of families in 2000 made >$75K/year.

    Honestly, not a R.E. salesman in the area, but I like the numbers.

  75. James Robinson

    If the democrats eliminate tax breaks for “regular” homeowners, they will lose Congress and the White House. Trust me on that.

  76. len raphael

    now that you mention 24 inch rims, Oakland’s latest car style, which are so favored by dealers and pimps, that’s probably a violation of federal anti smog rules to increase tire size. yeah, desperate times call for desperate measures.

  77. Ralph

    not really a fan of the sunset provisions of the bush tax cuts. the dems should move now to make those tax cuts permanent.

    i think i like 85% ownership but i have my reasons.

  78. livegreen

    David & James, Bottom of the market (a little above now). Exactly why I said this is the time to try to promote home-ownership to credit-worthy middle class, lower middle class, and working class families with stable jobs (where they can afford, not way above their means like before the bubble).

    If Redevelopment Funds are being thrown away on foundations for social clubs, why can’t they be used to provide home-ownership for “QUALIFIED” families? Then the benefits of Gentrification will be even more broadly shared…

  79. Ralph

    don’t think using redevelopment fund to provide homeownership to the few is a good use of taxpayer dollars.

    what i find annoying and extremely insulting is the unwritten assumption that people of color are unable to participate in the homebuying process because they don’t have the economic resources. why do people think that the benefits of gentrification are not broadly shared now?

  80. livegreen

    Ralph, My criteria weren’t racial, they were economic. Redevelopment Funds are for fixing up and improving areas. Why wouldn’t home ownership qualify for this? Especially since the City’s going to keep spending money on Inner City Farms and Foundations for Social Clubs. So what’s wrong with Home Ownership?

    David mentioned home ownership helps stabilize communities. I agree with that.
    You don’t?

  81. Ralph

    Like I stated before, I am all for homeownership. I think 85% is preferred. Like my mama always said when the pawn shops and apartments start to move in, it is time to get out.

    If you are advocating using Redevelopment Funds for the buying and rehabilitating blighted property – cool. But if you are advocated low interest loans which is how I interpreted your stmt, I would say there are agencies that do this.

    I’m just not a fan of the liberals who think that gentrification is bad. My bad for unintentionally giving the appearance that you are in this category. I’m still a little annoyed by the gentrification is about race.

  82. livegreen

    Again, I think Gentrification is economic, it sometimes only overlaps with race because of history. Yes, there’s plenty of Gentrification where other ethnicities are displaced. Polish Whites in Wiliamsburg, Latinos, Poles and Jews in the Lowisida etc., etc. I think you all have made a good point about that.

    I agree Redevelopment Funds used for helping QUALIFYING lower middle class and working class residents would be at Market Rate. Redevelopment districts like WOPAC could work with Community Banks (there are 2 major, stable ones in Oakland) to administer the loans…

    And wouldn’t this be better than being used for highly questionable projects which go bust anyway?

    PS. What’s it called when the wealthy and middle class move out, poverty’s built up, then they move back in? Don’t know if that’s true Gentrification or not…

  83. Patrick

    What about all of the people of color who sell their homes at a profit during “gentrification”? Are they racists too? Or are they just greedy profit-mongers? I guess amongst a certain subset, they’re both. And amongst another subset they’re neither.

    This conversation is going to become even more interesting in 20 years when the majority of US citizens are not white. I hope to be here for that conversation.

  84. Livegreen

    Max, Have u ever seen Redevelopment funds used for rebabbing forclosed or blighted properies? Community Bank of the Bay & 1California Bank both are in the positive and have money to loan. The latter partnered with the Port of Oakland to extend loans to truckers to get cleaner burning vehicles.

    I think I read Chicago is doing something like this. No better time than the bottom of the market to help build the middle class…

  85. Andrew Watkins

    I’m not the expert on that issue, but it absolutely happens. I hear Community Bank of the Bay has a bunch of good programs.

  86. len raphael

    threshold problem with home owner buying programs is the very limited number of people who can helped when municipal program has to come up with 10 or 15k per home. don’t know if they actually occurred in the boom years, but the alternative then could have had the government guaranteeing the entire loan instead of coming up with downpmt cash.

    all this avoids the question as to whether its a good idea to lend people money that the private sector won’t. you have to make an argument that tying up 10 to 15k for years of the city’s bond borrowing capacity, has a multiplier, stabilizing effect in a “bad neighborhood”. the assistance rarely goes to gentrifiers who are more likely to raise property values. after all, the programs aren’t intended to raise values, but to prevent them from dropping, crime increasing etc. so the money creates these small islands of working lower middle income residents surrounded by poorer people.

  87. David

    Not to be too much of the Advocatus Diaboli here, but I’m skeptical the “homeowners’ assistance”-type programs that aid people in order that they buy homes are all that great.

    One reason that neighborhoods with higher home ownership might be more stable is that generally homeowners (at least until these programs existed) followed a pattern of finishing school, renting for a few years, saving money, getting married and then buying their house and starting a family. ALL of those steps require discipline, budgeting and at least enough people skills/social behavior to find a spouse and keep a job.

    Giving people down payment money short circuits that process, and as a result the higher percentage of homeowners might not stabilize a neighborhood (and as we’ve seen, if they’re more likely to get foreclosed on etc–that doesn’t help).

    just sayin.

  88. Ralph

    David, the h.o. loan assistance are not lending willy nilly. All participants are required to attended some responsible borrowing class, must have specific debt/income levels, and have some skin in the game.

    i don’t know if they are any more or less likely to be foreclosed. as the current market has demonstrated foreclosures, like bullets, don’t come with specific names.

  89. len raphael

    leave housing subsidies to the feds. if they screw up, they can raise taxes or borrow more money to cover the mistakes. cities and states have much more expensive more limited borrowing, spending, and taxing capacity of which every bit is needed for non housing functions.

  90. Ralph

    Cities, not the fed, have a direct interest in having a stable city. Studies indicate that homeowners are more likely to take care of the property and be a stabilizing force in the ‘hood. I am sure this is part of the reason why cities across the nation from east coast to west coast from Canada to Mexico.

  91. Livegreen

    Ditto to what Ralph says. + it’s the bottom of the market so no more bubble to burst. Re the Feds: the Stimulus package HAS subsidies they are GIVING cities for H.O. assistance and loans (not JUST that, but it’s a part). Here’s an example from Chicago where they’re cooperating with Community Banks:


    Did Oakland get funds for this or not? Or did the City decide to spend it only on public housing instead of H.O.? City Councilpeople?

  92. Patrick

    We’re nowhere near the “bottom of the market”. When the average income in 94601 is $32000, and the average home is 7x that, were still in bubble world. When my house is assessed for about 100K, that’s when we’re out of the bubble. Previously, California was priced at a premium due to desirability. That’s gone. Long gone. Climate alone is simply not enough.

  93. James Robinson

    I don’t think we can determine the “bottom of the market” based on one zip code. Besides, in a densely-populated urban neighborhood, zip codes can be misleading. I recommend looking at data at the census tract level, if possible.

    That being said, it could take years for us to climb out of the real estate mess, if we based future estimates on today’s data. However, the Bay Area has a knack of innovation, which could have some surprising effects.

  94. James Robinson

    Yes, Silicon Valley alone has had boom and bust cycles since the 1960s. Perhaps they will have another one. Also, stimulus package money is going into UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley labs. Maybe those seeds will bear fruit someday.

  95. David

    While I’m always one to accept that “this time really could be different”…the median income over the past 30 years in the East Bay area (Oakland/Fremont MSA) has averaged 6 times the median home price, or 18.5 times median rent.

    I don’t know about ’601, but if the median household income in certain census tracts I’ve mentioned is 5ish times the median home price, and that’s using 2000 census incomes, I’m comfortable calling the bottom for the low end. Again, the middle third has a bit more to drop and the upper third, especially in “striver” neighborhoods (Montclair, Redwood Heights), will drop more.

  96. len raphael

    David, whatya figure is going on in higher end berkeley sfr’s to keep them inflated? can it all be trust fund hippies? or more precisely transfer of modest wealth from dead parents to middle aged kids who will pay a premium to live in berkeley?

  97. James Robinson

    Maybe it is simple supply and demand in Berkeley. About half the homes in Berkeley were built before WWII and it is very difficult to build more. Meanwhile, Cal keeps expanding, and so does Berkeley’s population. That probably puts upward pressure on home prices.

  98. Ralph

    Oakland Redevelopment Agency provides resources to rehabilitate owner occupied property. Agency programs include both grants and loans; I am not sure if all programs are offered in all redevelopment areas. It appears that each area has some specific issues and money is alloted based on those targeted issues. Some programs may have income restrictions. When grant is subject to an income restriction, I believe the Agency makes grants. This may or may not be in the form of matching funds.

    In other news, has anyone heard from the county on reassessments or are we all twisting in the wind?

  99. David

    Actually, Berkeley’s population hasn’t really budged for decades (it was 103,000 in 1980 and is 101K or so now). (as another aside, but the government spending sure has grown)

    I don’t know, Berkeley’s a weird market and always has been. I do think there’s a big element of hippies passing along their properties to children, limiting “free” supply and rent control screws up the price/rent calculation. Since I’ve never seriously considered living in Berkeley, I’m not as familiar with the market.

    I got reassessed already for a drop of 5% since purchase.

  100. Ralph

    David, do you recall how long after submitting your request that someone responded? I’m really in no mood to send them extra money and wait for a refund.

  101. len raphael

    Ralph, depending on time of year, it can take between 4 mos and a year. basically you gotta pay at old value until they lower it. don’t know if they send you a check or apply to next payment, but assume they send you a check. don’t know re. interest.

  102. Ralph

    len, thanks. those nimrods did a qtr of my bldg and have been ignoring the rest of us. i think i saw something about an option for refund or apply to pymt. like my uncle sam always said never trust the gubment with your money

  103. John

    As the purchaser of a $600K Maxwell Park home, the status of East Oakland looks a lot more like rapid and unchecked degentrification to me.

    As soon as my foreclosure is final, I’ll be running as far and as fast as I can. See you Oakland, it was fun while it lasted.

  104. len raphael

    John, i assume you tried to negotiate a loan modification?

    a line of well dressed people stretched around oakland tech the other weekend for a loan mod session.


  105. David

    Sorry to hear that John.

    It’s different with the bubble collapse. People buying in my ‘hood have money left over to fix up houses, so it’s improving despite/because of the price declines. Of course that’s only beneficial to new buyers, not to those who bought in 2005 or whenever.

  106. Patrick

    Reassessments are fine, but they are of little use when the City of Oakland just jacks up the property tax rate in response. As long as 60% of our population can vote on bond measures that only financially affect the remaining 40%, it is only going to get worse. Our only hope is that enough of those 60% are dumb enough to vote “no”, not realizing they wouldn’t have to pay anyway. Which is highly possible. Now is a great time to be a renter – especially in Oakland.

    Anyone care to hazard a guess as to what the ad valorem rate will be next year? I’m thinking somewhere between 1.52 and 1.54.

  107. VivekB

    For those who want an exhaustive look at the detailed movements by OPD beat, I just did the monthly analyisis of crime stats through October. You can find the link in the Crime&Safety forum on my site(http://rockridgeresidents.org/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=4), in the Monthly Crime Stats notification thread.

    In addition to the regular beats/geographies (Rockridge – 12Y/13X), other Area 1 beats (4X, 7X, 9X, 10X, 11X, 12X), Fruitvale beats (18Y, 20X, 21X, 21Y), I added two Oakland Hills beats (25X, 25Y).

    In looking at micromovements, there was a big uptick in violent crime in 12Y/13X during October, plus we can see why the recent OPD alerts about auto crime were issued. And, if you look at the #s it’s very clear that crime is moving into Rockridge and 9X from other Area 1 beats. 12X (Temescal) is loving life, though.

  108. len raphael

    Vivek, do your stats back up the impression i’m getting that violent street crime in Temescal and North Oakland below Telegraph in the 50′s is flaring up?

    This stuff will put a serious crimp in Temescal’s gourmet ghetto growth if it continues.

    Seems like the predictions about high unemployment = higher crime might be a lagging indicator.

    -len raphael