Precarious housing in Oakland: Renting SRO hotel rooms to techies means more people camping on the street
by Anti Eviction Mapping Project
Single Room Occupancy hotels, traditionally available to those on fixed or very low incomes, are being marketed to new arrivals and tech industry workers, exacerbating the housing crisis and exploding the homeless population in Oakland.
Hundreds of rooms have been lost in the last year at the Sutter, Travelers and other single room occupancy (SRO) hotels. The extractive model of financial speculation has reached into every form of housing in the San Francisco Bay Area, and homelessness has risen exponentially. Real estate speculators such as Danny Haber, James Kilpatrick and Los Angeles based Hawkins Capital have gained control of the buildings and are currently converting their use in spite of a temporary moratorium.
Understanding that the health of the community is at stake when housing for the most precarious and vulnerable is lost, the map explores in detail the people and forces behind the loss of shelter for some of the most precariously housed people in Oakland.
The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project’s new web-based story map (https://arcg.is/SerbH) uses the City of Oakland SRO reports of 1985, 2004 and 2015 as a starting point to locate and explore the residency hotels that survived the first wave of “blight removal” redevelopment in the 1960s and 1970s. A tour through the remaining hotels shows a story of recent displacement and evictions, as well as some positive outcomes of conversions into non-profit affordable housing.
In exploring properties that were once SROs, examples such as the Wagner Hotel, which was converted to apartments years ago, show that public policies in Oakland are continuing to impact the existing community’s ability to maintain housing. In this case, the building was granted a rent control exemption for substantial rehabilitation in 2016, a full circle from affordable housing to speculative space, with the Oakland Rent Board’s help.
The substantial rehab rent control exemption “loophole” is currently being considered by the Oakland City Council, with a temporary moratorium enacted in November 2017.
Although the City of Oakland has legislated a temporary moratorium on the conversion of SRO hotels, the law seems to be ignored, unenforced and/or ineffective. The Sutter Hotel, for example, is advertising nightly rooms for tourists. The Travelers was emptied of long term tenants and is marketed under a “tech dorm” model.
In addition to featuring hotels from The Claridge to The California, we also include a new map of homeless encampments, detailing their rise in Oakland since 2009.
This new map comes out of a new year-long project that the AEMP has embarked upon in partnership with the California Reinvestment Coalition to better understand the financing behind Oakland’s current eviction crisis. This research comes out of last year’s partnership with Tenants Together and numerous other community groups to understand current displacement in Oakland. An online interactive version of our findings is here: https://arcg.is/1GvW95. Interactive versions of these graphics are here: https://arcg.is/SerbH.
Contact the Anti Eviction Mapping Project at firstname.lastname@example.org.