It’s been a long slog but OUSD finally is taking bids to do affordable housing at two of its vacated school sites. For any rational actor, the idea of using otherwise vacant properties to create housing for underserved families and/or staff and potentially generate revenue, rather than pay ongoing upkeep costs for empty buildings, would be a no-brainer. That said, OUSD has been known to play the scarecrow in this repetitive play of institutional incompetence.
OUSD is one of the City’s largest landowners, with several empty sites, and nearly 50 acres of undeveloped land. They have a real opportunity to help relieve the housing crisis. This is the public’s land and it should be used for the public uses.
Listening to the start of the board debate, we might see them snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and bicker their way to nowhere, while staff can’t afford to live here and children sleep on the street.
We have seen this before. Let’s have every board member set their own terms and play lead negotiator demanding lease terms that will never work in the market, or imposing personal preferences. Make sure there are some Raiders box seats, that it’s named after somebody’s uncle and someone’s cousin needs to be a contractor on it. Or as we started to hear, let’s each set our own standards or push our preferences.
It has to be classified staff, no teachers need it, how about homeless families or youth, etc. In the end nothing gets done the building sits vacant for another decade, and remains a stain on the neighborhood, and a drain on the district’s budget rather than an asset.
Oakland’s own style of “whataboutism” has gotten us nowhere, and it often uses an appeal to speaking for or hearing from “the community” as a way to undermine the communities actual goals. For the Edward Shands site which I know better, there were community meetings, and despite issues with the process, the community made its preferences known. The site is currently a vacant stain on the community that attracts crime and other hazards. They want anything done with it, but particularly they talked about affordable housing or job training. You can see the priorities list below from the community meeting.
From there it went to the 10 member “7-11 commission,” the citizen body appointed by the Board to oversee the surplussing of properties. It passed there by a 9-1 vote of the committee. 9 to 1, so there was a process, and it listened to the community, and it ended almost unanimously.
It’s a little late for a “governing” board to start micro managing, or at least I would hope so. The public has waited too long for OUSD to finally put its property to work for the people. Let’s not bicker this one to death, like we do so many other opportunities. The Oakland community deserves better.
You can see more on the proposal here and the community partners behind it. Please encourage your board member to listen to the community and do something with our properties that benefits us.