Oakland, a city known for its toughness, and its residents are resilient, the mayor told the crowd at the Islamic Center of Northern California in downtown.
It has been a trying year for the East Bay city. A month after Schaaf’s address in 2016, the devastating Dec. 2 Ghost Ship warehouse fire killed 36 people and uncovered systemic problems in how the city inspects properties.
Schaaf hired a new police chief, Anne Kirkpatrick, to steer the department after it was embroiled in an embarrassing officer sexual misconduct scandal in 2016, and to see it through a federal reform program now focused on improving racial bias in policing.
Over the past five years, the police department has reduced misconduct complaints by 58 percent and use of force complaints by 77 percent, while violent crime dropped as well, the mayor highlighted.
“The work is hard, complex and just beginning,” the mayor said, adding that the city is working to regain the trust of the community.
Schaaf said the city is opening two outdoor navigation centers to help get people housed but much of the supportive help is about two years away, so the city is working with homeowners to see if they have a spare room or unit available.
“In Oakland, we don’t step over the homeless we step toward them,” she said.
Rents have skyrocketed and many have been forced to the outer layers of the Bay Area. Schaaf reassured residents that help is on the way with her “17K” plan to build more affordable units and ease the tension brought on by the regional crisis.
Even the A’s, who in September announced plans to build a new stadium near Laney College, cannot escape the affordability conversation. The planned site at Fifth Avenue and E. 8th Street has left residents of Eastlake and Chinatown worried about displacement. The mayor, who preferred the Howard Terminal site near Jack London Square, vowed the team and the city are working to protect neighbors of the 35,000-seat stadium.
“Concerns about this project are the same concerns Oaklanders are feeling everywhere. A fear that this intense moment of change will push out rather than lift up our most vulnerable residents, our small businesses, our unique ethos and culture,” Schaaf said. “That fear is real and nothing threatens Oakland’s sense of security like this cost of living crisis.”
In choosing the Islamic center at Madison and 15th streets, the mayor sent a political message of inclusion and diversity to President Trump, who has disavowed sanctuary cities such as Oakland. Before the speech, there was a performance by the Aswat Ensemble, a group with members from the seven countries included in the president’s travel ban. The crowd applauded when Schaaf called Trump’s election victory a “man-made” disaster.
Closer to home, hundreds of city SEIU Local 1021 members who went on strike Thursday afternoon marched to the center in protest of Schaaf. Council members Noel Gallo, Abel Guillen and Rebecca Kaplan said they would not cross the picket line to attend the speech and at one point Desley Brooks spoke through a megaphone while surrounded by union members who filled Madison Street. The city workers booed at people who walked through a gate guarded by an Oakland police officer into the center.
Gallo expressed frustration with City Hall.
“There’s a lot of distrust and mistrust,” he said. SEIU members are “just making enough money to pay their bills,” Gallo said.
Schaaf, a former councilwoman elected mayor in 2014, is up for re-election in November and although former Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente announced he will run no one has officially filed candidacy, according to the city’s online election database.
Reporter:Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group