Public Land for Public Good
E12th Oakland: The People’s Proposal
Compare the People’s Proposal with UrbanCore’s bid for a luxury tower + segregated cube of affordable units. It reflects a very real trend increasingly polarizing Bay Area residents into hyper-wealthy professional echelons on the one hand, and service, retail, and low-wage workers on the other.
Chapter 1: The Fight
In the midst of a horrendous rent spike in Oakland, California, one precious piece of public land called the East 12th Parcel seemed doomed.
The City Council, forging an illegal deal, had promised E12th to a developer eager to build high-rise luxury condos at market rate: $3,200 per month.
This of course would be out of reach for most Black and Brown Oakland families, presently being swept inland (or out of Oakland altogether) by the Bay Area tech wave of gentrification. Condos in the neighborhood would also likely usher in more policing and surveillance: protecting the fancy new tower from anyone too dark-skinned, too poor, or otherwise suspicious.
E12th was just another casualty of class war, sucked up by the City’s trickle-down approach to a massive housing crisis. Defeat seemed imminent.
Then the unthinkable happened.
Led by Black liberation, Asian solidarity, and Queer & Trans People Of Color nonviolent direct action groups, the East 12th Coalition intervened to stop the City of Oakland from selling off this public land.
How did we do it?
5 Key Strengths of the E12th Intervention
Tackling a gentrification giant this huge required a serious diversity of tactics. 5 of the most important ways we were able to block the sale:
1. Pressuring Politicians — From meetings to petitions and phone blasts, EastLake neighbors kept the pressure on elected officials.
2. Rowdy Interruptions — Black, POC, Queer&Trans POC, and white ally groups, versed in direct action for racial justice, contributed blockade techniques at key moments.
3. The Condo Deal Was Illegal — According to California’s Surplus Lands Act, when selling off public land the city is supposed to offer it first for affordable housing.
4. Media Exposure — Journalists played an enormous role in exposing the nefarious nature of the deal: from an astroturf deceit misleading Asian seniors, to the City Council’s choice to ignore legal counsel from their own City Attorney.
5. Community Engagement — Knocking on doors, flyering at the grocery store, collaborating with Vietnamese progressive student organizers to reach out to Vietnamese community in the E12th neighborhood: unlike City Council members, we truly cared what the community had to say.
As the scandal continued to explode in East Bay and San Francisco press, the City was finally forced to reopen a bidding process for the E12th parcel.
The E12th Coalition had achieved a miracle: blocking a done deal of gentrification that would have tarnished the Oakland landscape forever.
But did we have the stamina and know-how to offer an alternative vision?
Chapter 2: Community Design
The 1% (and their bought-out politicians) believe in a trickle-down housing approach: cater to the elite, and they’ll throw the rest of us a few community crumbs.
Not only do we reject this framework, we can — AND DID — do something better.
The E12th Wish List forum brought together over 200 Oakland community members to work with real architects and designers (majority people-of-color) to develop a People’s vision for E12th.
Learn about the process — and outcome.
Chapter 3: Join the Fight
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