Gentrification is Sweeping through Oakland
Brushing aside All but the Rich
A Public Letter to Condominium
Home Owners and Renters
Residing at 426 27th Street, Oakland
Quite a few great thinkers of our day believe that the global economy and the U.S. economy with it are headed for a steep and terrible economic crash in the near future. At that time, your condo will likely take a hit and suffer a severe decline in economic value — so severe as to hit bottom, never to rise again. Today you are riding high on a real estate bubble, high on a giant wave of development and gentrification sweeping through Oakland. Developers are gentrifying Oakland at lightning speed to take advantage of the real estate bubble in a hurry. They are always in a hurry to make their money because time does not stand still. The bubble will burst, sooner rather than later. Mark my words.
Humanist Hall is your neighbor next door at 390 27th Street. It‘s a unique church and venue for the under-served communities of Oakland: the oppressed minority, ethnic, progressive activist, worker, poor communities. We watched your condominium being built by Mexicans paid $15/hour back in 2002 or so. We knew the developers. They had never consulted us about whether we would appreciate a condominium being built next door. 27th Street was NOT a residential street. They bragged at how cheap the Mexican labor was and they bragged that the condo homeowners would never have to set foot in Oakland since they could park in their secure, gated garage underneath the condominium and in no time at all they could be at the entrance to the conglomerate of freeways less than a quarter mile away and have easy access to, my goodness, the world! The developers offered us $millions for our property and said they would (love to) level our building and the oak trees too and put up another condominium here to match the one they were already building. They showed us their blue print for 3 condominiums on this side of the street. They said they’d be willing to build us a new church in the Alameda Naval Air Station toxic waste dump by fixing up an auditorium there. But we told them we liked it here on 27th Street.
And we got to know some of the condo buyers as well and knew, from conversations with them, that the developers had lied to them, telling them that our church next door was as quiet as a library and in continual prayers. They never mentioned that our church was also an active venue for the under-served communities of Oakland.
Since 2003, while riding high in their condos, members of your Homeowners Association in their greater wisdom have taken up the gentrification project of the City of Oakland. They have called the City countless times — expecting them to shut down our venue, Humanist Hall, on the basis of noise, litter, blight, delayed maintenance, hours of operation, children playing outside in our back yard, patrons standing on the front porch, patrons walking in the parking lot, patrons getting in their cars on the street, patrons walking down the sidewalk in groups, and many other offenses. The City, anxious to please condo homeowners, has responded by declaring Humanist Hall a nuisance property.
The Nuisance Enforcement Unit, occupying the 11th Floor of City Hall, has the power to declare properties a nuisance and assess fines and fees and charges and require all sorts of unaffordable hurdles for nuisance property owners to go through. Their goal is to seize the nuisance properties and turn them over to developers. This is the second time in 15 years of operation in the new millennium that Humanist Hall has been declared a nuisance. And both times, lo and behold, the nuisance designation corresponds exactly with a peak in real estate values. The first time was the bubble of 2005 and now there‘s a second bubble in 2015 and it too will end badly for all concerned. Mark my words.
This is no coincidence. The City, in its rush to gentrify Oakland, paves the way for developers by enabling them to grab this property (among many others) and build yet more office buildings or condominiums on them. The City uses your homeowner complaints against Humanist Hall as their main excuse to declare our Hall a nuisance property and to advance their ambition to shut it down for the sake of the gentrification that will supposedly bring Big Bucks into the City coffers and salaries of City employees. One homeowner complaining to the City will do for this purpose, though 20,000 people/year who use our Hall and would have to go without.
There is a danger that goes unrecognized — to your practice of calling the City in order to harass Humanist Hall. The City is also riding high on the Real Estate bubble at present. They have money coming in from developers and real estate deals. But Humanist Hall is extremely popular in this neighborhood and throughout Oakland. And neighbors perceive that you, the condo homeowners, are trying to destroy the viability of our venue. Our hall serves the poor and minorities and others who normally don‘t have access to reception halls. These people feel that you are consistently angering and frustrating the groups that need and use our Hall. And they know that there is a long history of conflict between the OPD and the ethnic groups here groups which have been in this area for a long time, going back to the 1800s!
When the value falls out of the real estate market, your complaint calls to the City and the OPD will go unheeded. Perhaps your calls for personal and property protection will also go unheeded. At that time, you will be well advised to make friends with the people in this neighborhood. Try to help them out when you can. There are great people all over this neighborhood and throughout Oakland and you may need their help too. Respect the social norms of the neighborhood that you have moved into. The people here come from all over the global South. Many of them are boisterous and celebratory people. They do not normally fall silent at 10:00 pm on a Saturday night. Some of them are Mexicans. They built your condominium. Yet the City does not want them to celebrate their culture in this neighborhood. Why not let them enjoy their culture without your harassment and disruption. Let them enjoy their weddings and baptisms; let them take a break from their hard lives. Their ceremonies and celebrations are very important to them, more so than buying new cars. Choose love and community over hatred and isolation. It is well to prepare for the future by loving your neighbors!
Sincere as Ever,
Please sign our petition against gentrification!
To learn about Tuesday and Wednesday Programs
held at Humanist Hall