It’s hard to walk around in Oakland without noticing another new apartment building under construction. Before long, leasing offices will open and we will have thousands of new neighbors. How well will these new folks integrate into the fabric of existing communities? Will they shop in local stores? Join neighborhood cleanups? Do they plan on sticking around, or moving out to the suburbs when they need more space? What expectations do they have for the neighborhood?
Marketing and leasing professionals play an influential role in deciding how buildings and neighborhoods are presented to newcomers. Through their slick brochures, well-appointed leasing offices, and apartment websites, these professionals curate first impressions for prospective tenants.
But take a look at the websites of the newest developments in town and you’ll notice there’s a problem. Marketing specialists and “Community Managers” are brought in to coordinate the lease-up, branding and marketing for the building, but their strategies illustrate a lack of connectivity and sensitivity to the surrounding area. And it shows.
Fortunately, with a few adjustments, leasing activities can contribute to building a more cohesive neighborhood. If you are a marketing professional, leasing agent, or Community Manager, follow this guide to help bridge the divide between upscale leasing offices and local neighborhoods.
Oakland has a lot of festivals and annual events, but these stand-out community celebrations below go out of their way to be the kid-friendliest of their kind. What make these events accessible and fun for all ages? In general the event organizers:
Lincoln Summer Nights - Summers
Art + Soul - September
Mountainview Cemetery Pumpkin Festival - October
East Bay Mini Maker Faire - October
Oaktoberfest - Fall
Día de Los Muertos - October
Children's Teach In - January
The Young Activists for Black Lives Coalition includes: Abundant Beginnings, Rice and Beans Childcare Coop, Sama Sama, Radical Monarchs, Our Family Coalition and Bay Area SURJ (Children and Family)
Oakland Running Festival - March
It's so much more than a fun time...
Local festivals, community celebrations and annual events like these are more fun and festive when people of all ages can come together to learn, participate and play. Just like our neighborhoods and communities.
Let's extend the spirit and success of these events and build a more family-friendly city using the same strategies as these festivals. Together, we can create a more kid-friendly, teen-friendly senior-friendly, EVERYONE-friendly city so that all Oaklanders can thrive in all of our neighborhoods, each and every day.
We were inspired by a Next City post from a few years ago that featured picture books about life in the big city, so we decided to build on Anna Clark's list and add a few of our favorites books with kids (and kid-like animals) growing up in an urban environment.
These books feature apartment buildings, public transit, folks walking to get places, neighborhood retail, activism and even some great public spaces. Find these books at your local public library, the Oakland Museum of California Store or your favorite independent bookstore:
Books with an Oakland Connection
Other Books with City Kids
What are your favorite stories featuring families in cities?
Help us grow this list!
Make yourself at home.
Are you new to Oakland? Welcome! As you’ve probably already noticed, Oakland is a special place. But like all new places, it takes some time to get your bearings.To help ease your transition, Family Friendly Oakland has gathered the inside scoop from neighborhood leaders to create this welcome guide that includes important things you need to know, along with some tips to help you become a more engaged steward of our City. This is not an official City document, nor is it comprehensive in every way. But in lieu of a warm casserole delivered to your door, this is our neighborly effort to help you get in the Oakland groove.
Step 1 - First things First
If you’ve just moved here and aren’t sure where to start, check out these links to help you get set up and on your way to becoming an official resident of Oakland.
Step 2 - Safety check
Here are some tips to keep you safe and strategies to help you better respond in an emergency.
If you dial 9-1-1 on a cell phone in Oakland, your call will be received by the California Highway Patrol at the Vallejo Dispatch Center. This center responds to cell phone 9-1-1 calls from nine Bay Area counties. There will be a delay before your call can be forwarded to the Emergency Call Center. If you see a crime in progress, and are calling on a landline, call 9-1-1. If calling from a cell phone within Oakland, call 510-777-3211 (Oakland Emergency). To report a crime after the fact or to report suspicious activity that is not life-threatening, call the non-emergency number 510-777-3333 (Oakland Non-Emergency).
Put these numbers in your phone:
Take the Fair Housing challenge
How long does it take to find hints of housing discrimination against families online?
Less than one minute.
April is Fair Housing Month, in recognition of the Fair Housing Act, which bans discrimination against seven protected classes in housing practices. Buyers and renters have the right to housing, regardless of their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status or disability.
But what exactly does familial status mean? In a nutshell, landlords and sellers can't refuse to rent or sell to a household with children and they can't set alternate terms for leasing or selling. Doing so violates federal Fair Housing laws.
According to the National Fair Housing Alliance, "Familial status" means having a child under age 18 in the household, whether living with a parent, a legal custodian, or their designee. It also covers a woman who is pregnant, and people in the process of adopting or gaining custody of child/children.
Look for these signs of housing discrimination against families with children:
Why is Familial Status a protected class? According to HUD's recent press release kicking off the month:
"Every type of discrimination robs individuals and families of their right to choose where to live, but one form of discrimination HUD is particularly active in addressing is discrimination against families with children, known as familial status discrimination. Each year, approximately 12 percent of complaints are filed with HUD alleging this type of discrimination. State and local fair housing groups that partner with HUD in fighting discrimination also describe familial status discrimination as being one of their priority areas, as anecdotal evidence shows that it is often a proxy for race discrimination. In addition to the loss of housing, this type of discrimination has a destabilizing effect that prevents families from positioning themselves in ways that enable the next generation to take advantage of all this country has to offer."
Learn more about Fair Housing at www.hud.gov/fairhousing. Call HUD to report housing discrimination at 1-800-669-9777 or report online.
Let's Paint the Town safer.
A Head Start
Thankfully, Oakland doesn't have to start from scratch to develop a painted streets policy. Portland has a colorful street paintings program, Seattle has a standard approval process, and KaBoom, the leader of the Play Everywhere movement, has sponsored multiple playful street and sidewalk projects in cities around the country.
In fact, there are no shortage of cities that have already implemented programs and we can review their policies when drafting our own. See below for a list of cities and links to their programs and policies.
Oakland also knows how to run a community stewardship program! Our City's award-winning Adopt-A-Spot program empowers citizens to plant gardens in street medians, maintain storm drains and beautify litter containers and utility boxes with mosaics and murals. OakDOT can learn from this program, and build on its success.
According to the OakDOT plan, the next step is to develop an arts policy for integrating art into our infrastructure, produce guidance for materials and maintenance and implement a pilot project. However, according to our recent meeting with city staff, the City is no longer planning on implementing a pilot program. Instead, they are actively working on drafting guidance for projects which will clarify City requirements and the process for seeking approval. The program guidelines will be brought to the Public Works Committee for approval sometime this year.
For more information, follow Friends of Lincoln Square Park on facebook, twitter and instagram to keep up with the latest news and updates on this campaign to improve this beloved park and recreation center, the heart of Oakland Chinatown.
Lincoln Square Park Recreation Center Community Meeting
Here's the Problem
It's been 40 years since any major improvements have been done to the recreation center. The slide on the popular junk ship play structure has been broken for months and the windows of the recreation center leak whenever it rains. Toe tot lot has a boarded up hole where the slide was removed. The classrooms are small and often over crowded and the recreation center staff have to turn away groups because there isn’t enough space to accommodate the demand. The aging facilities have served the community well over the generations, but it is in need of critical investments that can no longer be delayed.
Meanwhile, the longer we wait, the busier it gets. Up until the early 2000's the park was primarily used by the adjacent Lincoln Elementary School's 500 students, small groups of local Asian teenagers, and very few seniors. About that time, the School District expanded the number of public charter schools and implemented an open enrollment policy which allowed families to enroll in non-neighborhood schools. Over the years, as many as five charter schools have been operating within a few blocks of the park, increasing the usage significantly.
By 2010, Lincoln Elementary replaced their portables with a modern multi-story building and expanded their enrollment to nearly 750 students. In total, there are now nearly 2,000 school-aged students within a half mile that use the park on a regular basis. As many as 75% of the students attending these schools do not live in the area, and commute in by bus and car on a daily basis.
Furthermore, with no-large scale public senior center in Oakland Chinatown, active adults began converging at the park and in the Recreation Center. What was once a handful of seniors has since become over several thousand for both informal and formal activities. Future development will bring over 5,000 new residents within a half mile, so the park usage will continue to grow.
The community has been waiting for a very long time for a new and improved center. Thanks to the City's partnership with the Warriors Community Foundation and the generosity of Kevin Durant and his charity foundation, there will be some refurbished basketball courts coming soon. This is a great start, and an amazing opportunity to jumpstart renovations on the rec center.
On Dec. 3, the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland became the deadliest in the city’s history, claiming the lives of 36 individuals. The warehouse inferno also consumed an event venue and artist collective that up to two dozen people—many of them artists—called home.
In the weeks since the fire, there's been no shortage of reporting on the many factors that set the scene for this tragedy, including the lack of coordination between public agencies, the disregard for common safety measures, and the broader housing crisis that disproportionately affects artists.
And yet, there has been little reported on the fact that for the past few years, a family that included three young children was living in the Ghost Ship in unsafe and substandard living conditions. While the subtenants who made the warehouse their home opted into the collective, the children likely had little choice in the matter. While their lives were thankfully spared, their improvised home was not.
Given the circumstances, it’s not enough to characterize artists simply as individuals in need of affordable places to create and live. We need to first understand that artists are a very diverse group, with a range of incomes, ages, and household sizes. And as the victims of the fire have demanded, we also need strong rental protections, eviction controls, and safe and affordable spaces for those who have been marginalized by society to gather and collaborate.
But if we genuinely want to make room for our artistic communities to thrive, we need to consider them within the full circle of life.
If Oakland wants to build more family friendly affordable artist housing, we don’t have to start from scratch. Other cities have been creating a range of developments that integrate family friendly affordable housing with artist housing. We can learn from them. Here are four developments that we'd like to learn more about. Did they live up to their promise?
Artspace Tannery Lofts has over 100 units of new affordable housing for individual artists and their families. The Lofts include studio, one, two and three bedroom units. Read or listen to KQED's Jan 2016 story on the these Lofts.
A 35-unit affordable rental housing project for artists and their families, by Artspace, in partnership with Northeast Community Development Corporation.
Designed with an emphasis on families, Artspace Jackson Flats features more two- and three-bedroom units than traditional developments and has a open green space with a playground.
According to the Line, "Children can often lend to the creative and collaborative environment Artspace seeks to foster. Kids are often the first to break down communication walls, running through the halls and forming relationships with other children in the building."