Oakland mayor wants promised state housing funds freed

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and other community leaders Thursday called on the state to provide $45 million to build 465 affordable housing units at a 3,100-unit waterfront development now under construction.

Speaking at a news conference at the Brooklyn Basin project, which previously was called the Oak to Ninth development, Schaaf said:

“We cannot build a more equitable city without addressing both jobs and housing.”

Schaaf said the city and the Brooklyn Basin Community Benefits Coalition are seeking the state’s compliance with a cooperation agreement reached between the city and the coalition in 2006 requiring construction of the affordable apartments.

Schaaf said the complicating factor is that the money was to come from the state’s redevelopment program but Gov. Jerry Brown, who was Oakland’s mayor when the agreement was reached 10 years ago, ended the redevelopment program in a cost-cutting move in 2011.

But Schaaf said the state is still required to make good on the legally-binding obligations of former redevelopment agencies and she believes the affordable housing funds qualify as such an obligation.

The mayor said the city’s request is “kind of new territory” because the state has honored its commitment to make bond payments for various projects but isn’t typically asked to fund community benefit agreements such as affordable housing. But Schaaf said she believes community benefits “are just as important as bond issues.”

Referring to both the agreement and the project, Schaaf said:

“We are confident that the Governor will remember being a part of this.”

California Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said the 2006 agreement called for redevelopment funds to help pay for the land for the project, not for the development itself.

He said the state honored that commitment last year by releasing $22 million to help buy land for the project.

But Palmer said the state will still give “thought and careful consideration” to the city’s request for $45 million for affordable housing.

The city made its request last week and the state Department of Finance has 100 days to respond to it.

Schaaf said she would Sacramento in the next few days to seek support for the city’s request.

The Brooklyn Basin project includes 3,100 housing units, of which 15 percent, or 465 units, are to be affordable homes.

Schaaf said the new affordable homes will be geared toward workforce housing, serving families and seniors making up to 60 percent of the median income in the area, which is $55,740 a year for a family of four.

Construction on the affordable units is estimated to start in the spring of 2018 with the first group of units to be available for lease in the fall of 2019.

Schaaf said the affordable units are important because Oakland’s median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is now $2,210 per month, which she said is the fourth highest in the country.

The Brooklyn Basin Community Benefits Coalition includes the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the East Bay Asian Youth Center, Oakland Community Organizations and the Urban Strategies Council.

Evangelina Lara of the East Bay Asian Youth Center said:

“We have worked for more than a decade to make sure this project includes housing for all of Oakland. The city made a commitment in 2006 and now it’s the governor’s job to make good on it.”

Schaff sad it has “taken four mayors” for the project to be designed, approved and built.

 

The project was initiated when Brown was mayor and work on it has continued through the administrations of Ron Dellums, Jean Quan and Schaaf.