Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Oakland, California —A developer’s recent glossy sales brochure hails the Coliseum Gardens housing development in East Oakland as the most comprehensive development to date for one of Oakland’s largest nonprofit housing developers, but close scrutiny of the project reveals that only 4 out of the 178 low-income public housing families displaced by the development actually managed to return to the newly rebuilt housing complex that was recently christened as Lion Creek Crossings.
Phase 1 of the 20 acre project at the Coliseum Gardens/Lion Creek Crossings mixed income housing development was completed in June of 2006, with phase 4 of the development expected to be completed by December 2008.
Documents reveal that as an effort to reduce violence and drug trafficking within and around the Coliseum and Lockwood communities of Oakland, the HOPE VI program enabled the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) to use nearly $61 million in federal funding to displace Oakland’s low-income communities from the above mentioned locations.
These projects are only a small part of what is known as the Oakland Coliseum Redevelopment Area, which is approximately 11 square miles in size, extending from 22nd Ave., all the way to the San Leandro City limits, and is located between E. 14th St., and the Oakland Estuary/Airport.
The OHA’s Board of Commissioners approved the selection of the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC), the Related Companies of California (Related Companies), and Chambers General Construction as co-developers of the Coliseum Gardens public housing site during its board meeting on October 21, 2002. As partners in the development project, the OHA owns the land, and the developers own the buildings.
As a result of the OHA approval, local nonprofit housing developer EBALDC and Related Companies, LLC., out of New York City, created Creekside Housing Partners, L.P., to take control of Oakland’s public housing property at the Coliseum Gardens site.
After the eviction of 178 families and the demolition of their 178 public housing units during 2004, Creekside Housing Partners (CHP) moved as quickly as possible to rebuild and finish off “phase 1,” of their project. Phase 1 of the development is managed by Related Companies, the tenants pay their rents to the New York based firm, and during the past 6 months the developers have moved people into 115 newly rebuilt housing units at the development.
Twima Early works at the management office of Related Companies located at Lion Creek Crossings and was eager to help shed some light on whats been going on at the newly privatized public housing site in East Oakland.
In an October 18 interview, Twima Early said, “During the past 6 months, we have completed phase 1 of our project and moved people into 115 housing units at our new development. Out of the 178 families who were originally displaced by our project, the OHA sent us a list of 13 families who were eligible to move back into this location, and only 4 of those families actually moved into our new development.”
“It seemed odd that the Housing Authority would only allow 13 families to move back into this location, and I can’t explain why so few were allowed to return,” said Early.
When Randy Shaw of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic learned how few of the original public housing tenants that were actually allowed to move back into the Coliseum Gardens/Lion Creek housing development, he said, “The Hope VI program has once again proved to be the major cause of the displacement of low-income people. I’ve never heard of numbers so skewed before in regards to the displacement of families who were promised that the Hope VI project would be beneficial to them.”
Since 1994, Oakland officials and the Federal Government have targeted Oakland’s poor with nearly $84 million in federal funding through the Hope VI program.
The privatization of Oakland’s public housing units have been occurring at a rapid pace. When wealthy billionaire Stephen M. Ross, CEO of Related Companies, teamed up with local nonprofit housing developer EBALDC to re-develop the Coliseum Gardens/Lion Creek housing complex, it became apparent that the developers made out much better than the displaced families did.
Carlos Castellanos of EBALDC is involved in the Coliseum Gardens/Lion Creek development, and when I asked how did this project benefit the families who used to reside there or how is the City of Oakland benefitting from the displacement of so many families, Castellanos said, “These are loaded questions and not something that I want to talk about. I think that a lot of those tenants did not really want to move back, and I think that you really need to talk to the Housing Authority to find out what happened to all of those families.”
Vivian Haine resided in a public housing unit near the Coliseum Gardens site, and said, “About a year ago, Kim Boyd the site manager where I resided at, told me that I’m lucky to be living here even if there is no money for repairs at this building, because they didn’t have enough funding to finish off the project at Coliseum Gardens, and most of the evicted tenants had no where to go. I believe that many of the families displaced from the Coliseum Gardens development couldn’t find any housing to move into and may have become homeless,” Haine said.
Records show that on June 24, 2006, the OHA’s Board of Commissioners approved the use of market rate rents in its Project-Based Section 8 program at the Coliseum Gardens/Lion Creek development, to cover a $600,000 funding shortfall after the EBALDC/Related Companies claimed that they needed more money to complete phase 3 of the project.
A Sept. 19, 2006, OHA memo mentions that EBALDC/Related Companies are co-developing the rental portion at Coliseum Gardens/Lion Creek Crossings site, which will include 157 units of public housing. The total number of rental units, including public housing, now planned is approximately 440 units, plus another 28 units of for-sale housing which are planned to be developed by Chambers Construction Company.
With the demolition of 178 public housing units by the developers, and only 157 public housing units being rebuilt at the Coliseum Gardens/Lion Creek Crossings housing site, theres been a net loss of 21 public housing units at this location.
The OHA and City of Oakland continue to funnel millions of dollars to the EBALDC/Related Companies partnership, in an effort to privatize part of Oakland’s public housing program in East Oakland.
Since its inception, the Hope VI program has resulted in the demolition of more than 120,000 public housing units across the nation, only to be replaced by 40,000 mixed income units, and less than 12% of the displaced families have managed to gain entry back into the locations they were originally evicted from. In order to make way for the new housing projects being developed that resulted in the privatization of the nation’s public housing properties, around 30% of the displaced families are given Section 8 vouchers, 49% are moved into other public housing units, and most of the rest of the tenants often end up losing their rental assistance.