Oakland, like the rest of the Bay Area, has a housing crisis rooted in the fact that so much office, retail and entertainment space was built without enough homes for the people who work in them — especially low-wage workers. As a result, Oakland has over 4,000 unhoused people, a population that has grown more than 86% in the last five years, even as the minimum wage has gone up.
And yet at a City Council hearing earlier this month to discuss the Oakland A’s $12 billion residential and commercial development at the Port of Oakland, team President Dave Kaval publicly stated for the first time that the A’s want a special exemption from the city law that requires them to provide onsite affordable housing or private money for affordable housing elsewhere in the city. The attending City Council members were rightfully appalled.
Rents in Oakland have doubled in the last decade, causing gentrification and forcing thousands to move away. This disrupts individual lives and communities as well as the commute for everyone in the Bay Area, as low-income workers now must drive in from miles away. Large mixed-use developments with office space (of which Howard Terminal proposes 1.5 million square feet) are in particular a gentrification risk, bringing thousands of highly paid workers that bid up rents in adjacent neighborhoods.
It is in this context that Kaval and the A’s are attempting to get a special exemption from the city’s existing affordable housing requirements, which require new projects to either set aside one out of every 10 homes for low-income residents or pay a fee into the fund that the city uses to build affordable housing. A project of this size would normally have either 300 affordable apartments or pay $75 million into the city’s housing fund.