News & Opinion » Letters & Guest Essays

Letters for the Week of June 3, 2015

Readers sound off on the housing crisis, gentrification, and the California drought.


"Urban Exploring," Summer Guide 5/20

There's a Better Route

Good review of some local bike rides! I would, however, quibble with your suggestion to cross the estuary on the Park Street Bridge. That requires either using the narrow pedestrian walkway where you're required to walk your bike, or navigating the unpleasant steel grid bridge deck. A better option is to cross via the Fruitvale Bridge, then follow the 7th Street bike route that takes you under 29th Avenue and onto Embarcadero.

Rick Rickard, Oakland

"A Moveable Boost," Summer Guide 5/20

Steep Tea Co Rocks

Love this! Tea on wheels. Best tea ever. My faves so far are Mrs. Rooiboson and Jade Fade. Can't wait to see you in the neighborhood!

Paulina Graziose, Tahoe City

"Copper Spoon to Replace Art's Crab Shack," 5/20

Quelling Gentrifiers' Guilt?

Sounds like a great new spot! However, describing it as "a local watering hole where all of Oakland can meet" (subtext: "the people that used to go to Art's will totally be comfortable at this new place") seems to be an awfully optimistic outlook, particularly to anyone who has watched Oakland's waning old-guard establishments and their replacements over the last few years. The cynic in me also reads "at least a portion of their menu will be affordable" and envisions bar nuts, and maybe one or two of the appetizers.

We'll see if these egalitarian claims pan out, or are mere lip service to quell some of that tangy Gentrifiers' Guilt.

Max Chanowitz, Oakland

Another Pricey Spot

This will add to the number of restaurants where I can't afford to eat in my own neighborhood. All these new places are expensive. At one of them, I had to spend $3.50 for coffee that is usually $2 at Starbucks. I may go once, but never often.

I'm also concerned as the two venues most frequented by Blacks are now closed.

Don Macleay, Oakland

Not Every Change Is Gentrification

Art's went out of business, and the owners sold. Why is it that when an old bar/restaurant closes, it suddenly is gentrified when something else takes its place?

People have different tastes now. The old stuff isn't what we want. Besides, Art's did not want to be in business any longer. So something else opens. That is the nature of restaurants. I can't remember the last time I went to Art's and it was great. You spend like $40 bucks and the crab was not very good. I, for one, welcome the change.

Alexeis Filipello, Oakland

"Jacking Up Rents in Oakland," 5/20

Good Riddance, Oakland

Sadly, I don't see Oakland offering much protection at all to its renters.

I rented a single family home in the Temescal for nearly nineteen years, and the landlord, without any advance notice whatsoever, informed me by email on March 7 that he was coming over with his realtor on March 9 to sell the house, effective immediately. There were two showings and escrow closed May 7.

I'm over sixty, work part-time and have a small pension from my late husband. I was paying $1,550 a month rent, plus all utilities. There had never been any problem whatsoever in all those years in regards to rent, maintenance, etc.

I was then subjected to daily pressure from his realtor who wanted to "help me" find a place. It was a nightmare trying to find a place with two cats after nearly nineteen years, and I would rather stick needles in my eyes than go through that again. I'm moving to Contra Costa County now and good riddance. It should be illegal for owners of property with long-term tenants to give them less than 48 hours notice that they're going to put the house on the market.

Jeanette Sarmiento, Oakland

Oakland's Condo Conversion Law Is Wretched

The plight of tenants in the article exposes many faults in Oakland's wretched Condominium Conversion Ordinance, which goes against the city's goal that condo conversions shall not reduce the city's rental housing stock. The ordinance also prompts abuse of Oakland tenants and routinely causes unmitigated reductions in the city's fragile inventory of affordable rental housing.

In the instance at one North Oakland building, the owner obtained approval to convert a six-unit building with only a Planning Department application. In the process, the owner bypassed all mandatory requirements for conversion, with no monitoring of procedures or necessary process milestones specified in the Condominium Conversion Ordinance, Section 16.36 of Oakland's Planning Code.

The ordinance requires that no conversion can occur in buildings of five units or more unless the converter presents proof that at least an equal number of new rental units have simultaneously been added to the city's rental inventory. In this case, the owner submitted a building with five internal units (three individual apartments and two fully equipped studios with an intervening door), plus a converted rented garage, and represented to the Planning Department that the building contained only four units. No record search or site visit was made to confirm the critical unit count, since even one extra unit triggers a significantly more complex set of requirements.

Moreover, the ordinance requires the converter to serve various specified written notices to all tenants, and to file copies of each notice with city planning as proof of service to the tenants. Sixty days prior to filing an application for conversion, the owner must serve on all tenants a "Notice of Intent to Convert." Upon service of the notice, there can be no increase in rent for at least the next twelve months. Tenants must also receive the converter's "Tenant Assistance Plan," which spells out the rights and benefits of tenants during the process of conversion, including the right to purchase a converted unit at discount. Tenants must be notified of all hearings and have opportunity to appear and give testimony relating to the conversion. Tenants must also be informed of final conversion approval and the start of owner's sales program. Tenants in this building did not receive any of the required notices, and if notices were filed with city planning under pretext that service to tenants had been performed, a serious incidence of fraud was perpetrated.