Equitable Development

Urban Strategies Council is located within one of the largest regional economies in the nation – an important hub of housing and commercial activity and an area that is among the country’s most desirable places to call home. The Council remains committed to ensuring that the benefits of local growth and development are equitably distributed and do so primarily through our work on affordable housing and community benefits agreements.

Housing

The Council works in partnership with local government agencies and elected officials, non-profit advocates, affordable housing developers, and other stakeholders to address Oakland’s housing crises, including affordable housing, displacement, and healthy housing. Specifically, we track local housing development and the affordability and quality of existing housing stock. The Council also has launched research and advocacy efforts to address the local impacts of the foreclosure crisis, as well as the wave of speculative investment that has followed, and we continue to advocate for increased rental and home ownership opportunities affordable to low- and moderate-income residents.

Community
Benefits

We believe that existing residents of low-income neighborhoods should share in the benefit from economic development activities and should never take on an undue share of the burdens of development. Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) – a key tool to help accomplish this goal – are legally binding agreements negotiated by community groups with developers and/or public agencies that require the provision of benefits identified by resident and community groups. Winning and implementing these agreements requires strong advocacy and an organized base of residents with the capacity to speak for themselves. Our work in the community benefits arena also includes monitoring the implementation of CBAs and helping residents devise ways to ensure that community benefits promised by developers and public agencies outside of CBAs are delivered. Our community benefits projects include the securing of agreements for the Candlestick Park-Hunters Point Shipyard Development Project in San Francisco and the Brooklyn Basin (formerly Oak to 9th ) in Oakland.

As the engines of development rev up, the Council is exploring new strategies for ensuring that developers and businesses that come to Oakland are good corporate citizens and work to provide community benefits, including contributing to affordable housing, providing employment opportunities for Oakland residents, and making philanthropic contributions to residents and the city.

Project Highlight: Brooklyn Basin (formerly “Oak to 9th”) Community Benefits Agreement

In July 2006, the Oak to 9th Community Benefits Coalition capped off a three-year organizing and advocacy effort with Oakland City Council’s approval of a Development Agreement for a 3100-unit development along Oakland’s waterfront. The Urban Strategies Council serves as co-coordinator of this Coalition, in partnership with Oakland Community Organizations, East Bay Asian Youth Center and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. Decision-making membership is made up of three resident, member-based organizations representing neighborhoods immediately adjacent to the project site. The final agreement between the City and the Coalition commits to the construction of 465 units of housing affordable to families and seniors with annual incomes between $20k and $50k. The project also includes an innovative job training and local hiring provision that establishes a pipeline for training and long-term placement in the unionized construction sector, tailored especially to immigrant workers and formerly incarcerated persons. You can see the details of the final agreement here.

Our research in this area

Guiding Principles for Equitable Development

The following were adapted from “Equity Principles for Community Empowerment in Land Use and Economic Development,” produced by the Center for Community Builders’ (CCB), of which Urban Strategies Council was a founding partner. These principles exemplify our approach to housing and development, and guide our work to ensure that associated benefits are equitably distributed.