People’s City Council protests gentrification in Oakland, Calif.

Oakland City Council takeover, May 5.WW photo: Terri Kay

Oakland City Council takeover, May 5.
WW photo: Terri Kay

Oakland, Calif. — Members of Black.Seed (formerly Black Brunch) and Asians4BlackLives took over the Oakland City Council meeting on May 5.  In its place, the more than 100 activists held a People’s City Council meeting. The action was taken to oppose the proposed East 12th Street apartment tower, slated for development on public land near Lake Merritt.

Community residents created a human chain in front of councilmembers’  seats and locked themselves to each other. They also sang, “Which side are you on,” a famous union song.  The Council adjourned their meeting without discussing items on the agenda, including the proposal in contention.

During the People’s City Council meeting, residents discussed gentrification issues, such as development and displacement, as well as police practices in Oakland. Many speakers made important connections between police violence and gentrification.

Xan West, from Black.Seed and a former resident of the Eastlake neighborhood, said during the People’s City Council: “The inconvenience we’re causing is temporary. The real inconvenience will take place for Black and Asian Eastlake residents if the city sells the land to the luxury condo developer. These residents won’t be able to call the Eastlake neighborhood home anymore.” (Save the E. 12th Street Parcel for the People Facebook page, May 5)

In the midst of a housing affordability crisis in Oakland, the city is proposing to sell publicly owned land to private developers UDR and Urban Core to create a 24-story, 300-unit, luxury high-rise apartment tower near Lake Merritt. The median rent would be $3,000 per month, and the development would not have any affordable units.

Across the bay in San Francisco, hundreds of activists stormed into San Francisco City Hall on May 8, protesting gentrification.  Organized by the Plaza 16 Coalition, they marched inside with a huge banner reading “No Monster in the Mission.” They demanded lawmakers place a moratorium on luxury-priced housing developments in the Mission District.