OUSD has got to be the worlds stupidest landlord. It is the city’s 2nd largest landowner, sitting on a half dozen unused building and 50 undeveloped acres, and dozens of half empty buildings. Meanwhile it can hardly meet it’s own bills, its staff and families are being pushed out of Oakland, and it literally does nothing with the public’s property. Until recently, where it proposed to partner with the Black Cultural Zone, the Cypress Mandela Training Facility, and a Black developer to build OUSD staff housing, workforce training, and the Black Cultural Zone to support Black businesses. After years of idleness it seems something is finally happening. But the Board may still turn that lemonade back into lemons.
We at the State of Black Education in Oakland have pushed for OUSD to develop its sites and use its land to address the housing crisis affecting Black families, and others, though disproportionately Black families are on the street.
OUSD passed our Housing for All policy, which directs them to do just this, build affordable housing, and to use local contractors. The Edward Shands site is a perfect example, it has sat empty as a drain on the community. And the community was clear about what they wanted there, and it was not another year of fire starting, drug using, and blight or for the project to “get stuck in planning.” You can see evidence from the community here.
And in a rare moment of sanity, the OUSD board listened to the community and put it out to bid for workforce housing.
The bid came back supported by the community. A Black contractor, working with the Black community, doing the building in partnership with the Black Cultural Zone, and they are doing exactly what the community asked for; job training, housing, and supporting Black businesses through the Black cultural Zone. You can see the background to the project and proposal here.
So, who could be against this, maybe big developers who want the project themselves, or their proxies? But seriously who could be against this?
Weirdly it seems like two of the Black trustees, and those who tend to talk about needing to develop our local businesses and support Black folks, are the ones tearing this down. Both director Hutchinson and Director Williams, have lodged objections. With no viable alternative.
You know the whole argument that some perfect proposal that costs nothing and pays everything and serves everyone at the same time. The type of project that never actually materializes. That developers (even Black ones) are evil, and that Santa Claus can develop this on better terms. The type of project that makes for a good speech, but never helps anyone but the speechifiers.
So if you want to finally see OUSD do something with its vacant properties, that will help the Black community, OUSD educators, and the community overall please let President Gonzales, Director Hutchinson, and Director Williams know that you stand the with the Black community in East Oakland, and you want these projects to move forward.
The only “privatization” taking place here is the public’s property being held hostage by a historically incompetent district, and the political posturing of trustees, while Black folks sleep on the street.