There is no broke landowner in Oakland sitting on as much vacant property as OUSD. They are one of the City’s largest landowners, but cant pay the bills. The Piedmont CDC building has sat vacant and cost the district roughly $250,000 in upkeep, its market rental value is roughly $230,000. So we lost $2,300,000 in potential rent and paid $250,000, for a building that has sat vacant for a decade.
These are resources our families need, but we have squandered them. This makes no sense when land value is at an all-time high, as is displacement.
OUSD owns 525 acres, 10% of which is totally undeveloped and at least 6 properties that have sat completely vacant for the better part of the decade. Not to mention the 11,000 empty seats in underutilized schools. Meanwhile we see year after year cuts in services and budgets, and more kids and families out on the street.
These are public resources that need to be used for the public. If OUSD can’t figure out how to better utilize the resources they have, then they deserve a takeover.
Last month the district looked at the old Edward Shands site. It has sat as a blighted property for 6 years, a stain on the neighborhood and a drain on the district and city, instead of a resource.
The community wanted something done, anything done, that didn’t add to displacement. They wanted low income housing, job training, really anything other than to leave the site vacant, where it attracted crime and drug use.
This week OUSD is looking at the Piedmont CDC. A building that has sat vacant since 2010, with an upkeep cost of $25,000 per year. They could rent it out for an estimated $230,000 per year. The area is zoned residential, so they could potentially do housing for vulnerable students/families or staff as well.
In a city with a homelessness epidemic, and over a thousand unhoused students in OUSD, not to mention the pricing out of staff and particularly classified staff. This liability could be turned into a resource.
These properties could provide real answers to the challenges we face. OUSD will never outcompete on salaries with suburban districts. We can retain staff by subsidizing housing, or creating home buying opportunities, that can make Oakland affordable. And we can improve schools and the lives of families by providing them housing stability.
Homelessness is an epidemic. If you are in schools, you see kids that are couch surfing, sleeping in cars, tents, shelters, and the streets. Meanwhile there are acres of undeveloped land, and buildings that are half full. Oakland churches recently opened their parking lots to folks sleeping in cars. Oakland Unified should be able to do that and more.
Other districts have used their resources for housing—in So Cal a boarding school for foster students was built on district land, other districts have created housing for vulnerable populations from homeless, to low income, to seniors, to lower paid school staff who couldn’t afford to live in the district. Further San Francisco is looking at partnering with homeless support agencies to do shelters in school building themselves, which has had some challenges, but could be promising.
Oakland could do more and do it better by partnering with community-based organizations and non- profit developers. We need to explicitly include housing and stability, for staff and families as part of its overall school planning process. Housing is at the root of many of our challenges in Oakland.
Oakland is a rich city, with poor schools. And Oakland Unified is a district in deficit, but sitting on riches—both in its physical resources and the staff and families. Whether we capitalize and develop these resources or squander them, will depend on what we do. The 7-11 Committee has an opportunity to change business as usual in Oakland, I hope they take it.
Update- this from a teacher, asserting that the cdc site is not vacant– The former Piedmont CDC is not vacant. It is currently a public library. Piedmont Ave Elementary has not been able to afford to staff its own library, which has sat unused for years, so that library has been vital. The best possible outcome would be for PAES to be able to staff its library and for the CDC building to be a CDC again.
I pulled the vacancy data from the board documents (apologize for weird formatting) which state–
“Vacant Is the property currently vacant? How long has it been vacant? The 86 Echo Ave property (Piedmont CDC) has been vacant since 2010. The former use was a Childhood Development Center. The program closed in 2010 due
to reductions in state funding allocations for early childhood. There was also low enrollment of students who qualified for the state funded seats in the pre- school.
Since the site has been vacant, the 86 Echo Ave (Piedmont CDC) site has cost an average of $25,000 to the district. “