Dellums Calls for Coherent Housing Policy

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday March 06, 2007

Only hours before they were to become public record as part of Oakland City Council’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Affordable Housing, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums released its second set of task force policy recommendations last week, calling for several proposals for a “coherent and responsive public policy to address affordable housing needs in Oakland.” 

Two of the Housing Task Force’s recommendations were virtually identical to the areas being scrutinized by the Blue Ribbon Commission itself, developing an inclusionary zoning policy for the city, and changing Oakland’s condominium conversion policy. In addition, the task force made recommendations in seven other housing policy areas, including the development of a city industrial land conversion policy that prioritizes the rezoning to affordable housing where such land is rezoned, and strengthening Oakland’s rent control law. 

In its summary, the Housing Task Force said that its recommendations “will need courageous and bold leadership” and that the city “should lead the effort to chart a new course of responsible public policy for housing and ensure our community remains both economically and racially diverse.” 

The task force added that its recommendations represented “a major shift in housing policy from a speculative development to people-oriented and sustainable development.” 

In the period between his election last June and his taking of office in January, Dellums organized 41 volunteer citizen task forces to make recommendations in various city policy areas. The task forces turned over those recommendations to the Dellums administration earlier this year, but until last week, only the public safety recommendations have been made available to the public. 

Dellums has not commented publicly on the housing recommendations, and staff members have said privately that the mayor’s office will not necessarily adopt all of the recommendations, but will most likely go through them point by point to develop them into a working housing strategy. 

While the Housing Task Force report includes a minority report of those members who dissented on the main decisions of the group, the deepest division appeared in the recommendation to strengthen the city’s rent control law, with 10 task force members voting for the recommendation, five voting against it, and 6 abstaining.  

A recommendation to prioritize allocation of public funds to the neediest passed 19 to 4. A recommendation to create a separate housing department within the city’s Community and Economic Development Agency passed 20 to 4, a recommendation to change the city’s condominium conversion policy to strengthen protections for renters, to prevent renter displacement, and to provide affordable housing for all income levels passed 21 to 4. And a recommendation to expand resources and funding for affordable housing passed 21 to 1. 

The Dellums administration has given no timetable as to the release of recommendations from all of the task forces, but appeared to speed up release of the Housing Task Force report after city staff members said they were going to make the report a part of the Blue Ribbon Commission packet, making them available to the public. 

Both the Housing Task Force and the Blue Ribbon Commission are pushing for city elected officials to take action on affordable housing issues before the summer break, with the task force setting a May 1 deadline for implementation of a city inclusionary zoning policy. 

Ron Carlisle, one of the two co-conveners of the Housing Task Force, said that the May 1 deadline was “a big issue” for task force members. 

“At the time the task force was meeting, City Council was debating both the inclusionary zoning ordinance and a change in the city’s condo conversion law,” Carlisle said by telephone, “with the council splitting down the middle on the issue. There were charges by some of the task force members that some of the opposition to affordable housing in Oakland wanted to leave these issues unresolved. In addition, several people were charging that the outgoing administration [of Jerry Brown] was delaying the process.” 

Carlisle said that as a co-convener to the task force, he remained neutral on that issue. 

But Carlisle believes that the task force and the Blue Ribbon Commission are in sync with trying to make changes in Oakland’s housing policy quickly. 

“The commission chairman is committed to bringing something to the council as soon as possible,” he said.