by Lynda Carson
Oakland – Funktown, which is near Lake Merritt, is rapidly being gentrified. No longer can you hear the sound of immigrants calling out, “Tamales for sale,” along Eighth Avenue and East 19th Street. Gone is the sound of tinkling bells on ice cream push carts. The corner fruit stands once overflowing with oranges and watermelons near East 14th and Eighth Avenue have all but disappeared in the last year or two.
You can still find “Funktown” scribbled on sidewalks here and there when the concrete was fresh. But economic cleansing has taken its toll on the hood. It’s just not the same any more.
As the renters of Oakland are being terrorized by skyrocketing rents and greedy landlords evicting them by the thousands, city officials have mostly turned a blind eye to the economic cleansing taking place on their watch.
During October, Oakland became outraged when Oakland Planning and Building Department Director Rachel Flynn declared to a large audience, “Oakland does not have a housing crisis.” The housing crisis is real, and the economic cleansing taking place as a result is terrorizing renters throughout the city.
Urban Dictionary defines economic cleansing very clearly: “The methods used by government or those in power to make those pesky poorer people get up and move from the geographic place they live. It could be higher property assessments, highways through poor neighborhoods, higher costs for food, shelter and even water. If poor people can’t live in a certain area, then economic cleansing has occurred. It is often subtle and no one ever admits to doing it. It is the final market solution to poverty in any growth oriented, prosperous community.”
Economic cleansing has taken its toll on the hood. It’s just not the same any more.
Renters throughout the city don’t doubt they have been targeted for displacement by unending rent increases, a lack of tenant protections, profiteers, evictions and politicians ignoring their cries for real protection from the economic cleansing taking place.
Rents in Oakland have almost doubled since 2011
A recent survey reveals that the fair market rents in Oakland have almost doubled since 2011. Oakland tops the list of the top 10 cities throughout the nation with the greatest recent rent increases, according to Smartasset.com, surpassing San Francisco, New York City, San Jose, Houston, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Denver, Colorado Springs and Chicago.
Without any real rent control in town, renters must take their chances with a landlord-friendly rent stabilization program. This is because the politicians in Oakland sold them out years ago, and it is not too likely that the landlord-friendly politicians are going to push for real rent control any time soon.
Through the years, Oakland leaders have failed to adequately protect renters all across the city. Meanwhile, city officials have spent a fortune on one gentrification scheme after another, to make it as easy as possible for the bankers, developers, the real estate industry and greedy landlords to exploit Oaklanders to the max.
Through the years, Oakland leaders have failed to adequately protect renters all across the city.
As an example, it is very clear that the West Oakland Specific Plan (WOSP) was not designed to protect poor people from being displaced from their homes by greedy landlords. The wealthy developers have been enticed by city officials to gentrify the area with expensive housing that most locals cannot afford.
Indeed, city officials and staff have even refused to adopt any “affordable housing requirements” for any of the “specific plans” that are in place to gentrify various areas of Oakland as rapidly as possible. They claimed it would disincentivize developers from investing in those neighborhoods and would create lopsided development throughout the city.
Indeed, city officials and staff have even refused to adopt any “affordable housing requirements” for any of the “specific plans” that are in place to gentrify various areas of Oakland as rapidly as possible.
Additionally, it would be very difficult to imagine that all the time, energy and money being spent on the “Downtown Specific Plan” to lure people from Grand Avenue to Jack London Square is for the purpose of bringing more poor people downtown to spend their hard earned money.
Allegedly, the downtown process is part of a larger vision which builds from similar efforts in West Oakland, the Lake Merritt station area and the Broadway-Valdez district.
There is no doubt about it. Oakland officials have been fueling the economic cleansing taking place in the city, as renters are being terrorized by skyrocketing rents and greedy landlords evicting them by the thousands.
Lynda Carson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.