TechEquity Collaborative Ballot Info Night: Housing, Housing, Housing.

Last Thursday the TechEquity Collaborative held an info session on some of the local ballot measures Oakland voters will be asked to weigh in on this year. Of the nine, we chose to highlight seven that we think are most relevant to creating an equitable tech-driven economy:

Measure A1, a bond measure to provide $580m in funding for Alameda County to build and protect affordable housing.

Measure C1, to extend an existing parcel tax that supports AC Transit services.

Measure JJ, to extend various renter protections to more renters in Oakland.

Measure KK, a bond measure to invest $600m in Oakland’s infrastructure, public facilities (like community centers and parks), and affordable housing.

Measure LL, to establish a civilian oversight commission for Oakland’s police department.

Measure II, to extend the City’s lease term on city-owned properties to a period that makes it easier for developers to gain the necessary financing to build.

Measure RR, a bond measure to invest $3.5b in BART infrastructure upgrades to make service faster and more reliable.

We had seven great speakers representing each measure who gave us a quick overview of the context behind each measure that doesn’t often show up in the language on the ballot.

Voters Edge is a great tool if you want to see the text of each measure and learn more about its impacts, supporters, and more.

These presentations were a great intro to a truly fabulous panel including Robert Ogilvie, SPUR’s Oakland Director, Jeff Levin, Policy Director at East Bay Housing Organizations, and Kim-Mai Cutler, a reporter at TechCrunch who has done extensive reporting on the housing crisis and its relationship to the tech world. The purpose of the panel was to provide some bigger-picture insights about the housing crisis and how these various ballot measures fit into that context.

Even though I was moderating, I was in full-on learning mode. The panelists started by describing the various policy choices throughout the decades that have gotten us to this point, including Prop 13 and Costa-Hawkins. Prop 13 makes it impossible to to raise property taxes after the initial purchase of a house, which results in underfunded public infrastructure and municipal leaders who are disincentivized to build housing (because over time a unit of housing will produce disproportionately less tax revenue to fund the increased cost of services needed to support new residents). Costa-Hawkins, the state law that prohibits rent control on rental units built after 1983, makes it harder for municipalities to prevent displacement.

We had great questions about finding more innovative ways to fund these initiatives rather than parcel taxes (answer: funding mechanisms are also pretty limited by law), how we do a better job protecting renters from bad-actor landlords (answer: some of that is addressed by Measure JJ, some of it is not), and how much dynamics in other Bay Area cities affect Oakland’s housing dynamics (answer: a lot; this is definitely a regional issue that needs to be addressed with regional solutions).

This conversation highlighted the constraints local actors operate under and shed light on the effect each of the housing-focused ballot measures would have on the crisis — which is to say, they’re all worthwhile short-term efforts but none of them (and not even all of them together) amount to enough to change the overall dynamic. To do that, we’ll need more fundamental change. These are issues we’re excited about engaging on as the TechEquity Collaborative works to create a more equitable tech ecosystem in Oakland.