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Letters for Week of May 13, 2015

Readers sound off on gentrification, race, and local music.


"We Refuse to Remain Silent," Opinion, 4/29

No New Housing Makes Gentrification Worse

We are aligned in our desire to see the flow of displacement stemmed. Our biggest asset as a community is our economic and cultural diversity. Housing becoming unaffordable directly threatens that asset. None of us wants to see Oakland become the next yuppie playground. But policy positions that oppose the development of market-rate housing directly drive rent increases and displacement. Halting development worsens our situation, it does not ameliorate it.

The California Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) has confirmed that the skyrocketing cost of living, not just in the Bay Area, but also in all of Coastal California, is directly correlated to failure to develop new housing. This is because of a simple truth: The demand to live in an area is equivalent to the aesthetic attractiveness of that area, the quality of the weather, but first and foremost, the job growth.

The Bay Area has seen runaway job growth in the past fifteen years, and, in comparison, virtually no housing development. As such, the LAO has estimated that, to keep cost of living stable, Alameda County should have built about four times as many housing units as it has.

In an ideal world, all of these units would be affordable. But in the real world, there is no funding source for this development to be affordable. Likewise, in the real world, the difference in impact between an affordable unit and a market-rate (so-called "luxury") unit is negligible. Any unit, of any kind, is one employed person who is no longer competing for a place to live. Competition drives up rent.

Any market-rate development will be "luxury housing." This is a symptom of the hole we have dug ourselves into. If we'd continued to build over the past several decades, this would not be the case. But building a unit here or there, seeing a yuppie move in, and then saying, "That's enough, we have to stop," would be like opening a pressure valve, exclaiming there's too much pressure, and then shutting it again. It's going to blow.

Either rents go up in Oakland or the skyline does. Either the people change or the buildings do. If we wish to take any reasonable action to stop the tide of gentrification and displacement, we need to stop burying our head in the sand about the forces that drive displacement. If you are opposed to market-rate housing development in all forms, even when it's transit-oriented development that tastefully meets the character of the surrounding neighborhood, you have no one to blame for displacement but yourself.

Anthony Albert, Oakland

It's About Race and Privilege

There is no leadership in the City of Oakland ready to have an honest dialogue with the citizens about affordable housing. They are not willing to have the conversation because that conversation always comes down to race and privilege. It's the race of those with little or no economic or political power versus the privilege of those with access to manipulate the system and maximize their profits. Oakland is not alone.

Despite a 25-year-old specific plan (North Area) promoting dense multiple family housing along East 14th Street in San Leandro, the only development in the ground is senior housing. Why? It is because the citizens and the city council believe that if they build new multiple-family housing there, the "people" from Oakland will move in. The political climate must not have changed much because the only multiple-family housing being built today at San Leandro BART (Davis Street) is for seniors.

When the City of El Cerrito looked to redevelop the El Cerrito Plaza site in the Nineties, they had a menu of land uses to consider. However, what was politically expedient was to build a generic retail shopping center and no housing. Why? Because the citizens did not want folks from Richmond taking over the site and any housing at the BART station would surely have to be affordable.

You can go through many cities in this region and see the same dance. Thank God for folks like George Lucas in Marin County who has enough of his own money to deliver his affluent neighbors the gift of affordable housing and some regular people living in their neighborhood.

Gary Patton, Hayward

Gentrification Will Happen Anyway

If you believe that demand is inexhaustible and that new supply has no effect, then it doesn't matter if this tower is built or not — the forces driving gentrification are equally satisfied through buying and renovating existing structures.

Ian Rees, Oakland

"A New Home for Taste of Africa," What the Fork, 4/29

It's Worth the Trip

This is the best food in Oakland! I used to go to the Ashby flea market every weekend just for a plate of this deliciousness! We should all pay a visit Malong Pendar's restaurant! <3 <3 <3 <3 <3!

Jenifer Ackerman, Oakland

"Try On," Music, 4/22

Truly Touching

It was great seeing Bill Collins play those songs at the memorial.

Erin Harper, El Sobrante

"Takeout Minus the Waste," Sustainable Living, 4/15

Here's a Better Idea

How about just bring your own Tupperware and get a discount?

Paul Lee, Oakland

"Note to Readers," Letters, 4/15

What About White?

A large Half-Kudo to the Express for your decision to capitalize Black folks. I have been capitalizing both Black and White for decades, hoping someone would notice, but no one ever has. Neither term is a color term. People of African descent show various grades of brown to black skin, depending on the environment in Africa from which their ancestors came, and also due to what some used to call "nighttime integration" in this country. White people, so-called, are never white, but grade from pale pinkish (of northern origins) to light to dark brown, going south to stronger sunlight. Add mixtures and stir. There is no reason to deny Whites this correction, whether they are too ignorant to request it (except for me) or not. Since when did ignorance serve as a basis for decision-making? That's a joke, of course. Black and White Together.


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