Take a quick look around Lake Merritt, and it’s hard not to notice a number of new developments. From the affordable housing units going up along Grand Ave., the Emerald Views apartments to the west and the new Lake Merritt Apartments off First Ave., building is booming in Oakland.
Much of the construction is part of Jean Quan’s 10K Two initiative she announced during last week’s State of the City address. Her plan borrows heavily from former mayor and current governor Jerry Brown’s initiative of the same name that brought big changes to Uptown and parts of downtown. The current mayor’s goal is to expand that vision throughout Oakland—although East Oakland is conspicuously absent—with the hope of attracting 10,000 new residents.
Pushback on the plan from long-time Oakland residents already fed up with their rapidly changing city is likely to come soon, also are complaints from the regional business community who feel the plan just isn’t enough.
In a piece for the San Francisco Business Journal, real-estate reporter Bianca Torres says 10,000 new residents won’t mean much for a city of more than 400,000.
“Quan’s 10K goal targets 7,500 new units of housing, but she has yet to specify a time frame,” she writes. Adding, “The city is required by the state to plan for 14,765 new units between 2014 and 2022.”
Yet in an election year, moving beyond a reboot of old ideas and introducing a plan that accounts for only half the housing units the state mandates won’t be Quan’s biggest problem. The mayor is also fighting against job numbers that haven’t kept up with growth in the rest of the Bay.
On the west side of the bay, Marin County’ 4.7 percent unemployment rate is the lowest in the state. San Francisco and San Mateo counties follow close behind with unemployment rates at 5.3 and 4.9 percent respectively. While Alameda County’s unemployment numbers as a whole are below California’s 8.5 percent, as of November, Oakland continued to hover just north of 10 percent according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Cities like Stockton are listening to people like Eventbrite co-founder Julia Hartz who said rents at their new San Francisco offices “made me want to throw up,” and is doing whatever it takes to attract the West Bay’s tech companies east, bringing jobs with them.
In a very visible symbol of Hartz’s sentiment that “it’s very hard to stay in San Francisco as a growing tech company,” the Google barge that was formerly docked at Treasure Island pulled into a Stockton port last Thursday.
Stockton mayor Anthony Silva called the barge a “godsend” that marked “a new chapter for the city.” Silva hopes that the Google barge will bring a new factory or office space to Stockton along with the $12,000 monthly slip fee.
But the relationship with big tech in Oakland is tricky, and only getting more complicated after a slew of publicly obtained documents show Google’s attempts to become involved in the city’s Domain Awareness Center.
According to PandoDaily, while Oakland activists celebrated restriction of the DAC to sea and airports, emails revealed meetings between city representatives and Google executives including Scott Ciabattari.
While the content of those meetings and what an Oakland-Google partnership might mean for the DAC are still unknown, what is known is that Google and Ciabattari have been touring the country touting the high tech intel the company can make available to local, state and federal agencies.
PandoDaily’s Yasha Levine broke down one of Ciabattari’s sales pitches at the Geospatial Conference in Wyoming last year.
“His pitch revolved around Google Earth Enterprise, the company’s flagship intelligence product,” Levine wrote. “He described how Google Earth can be used to integrate disparate data intelligence sources and tie them all in with Google’s mapping technology. Google Earth has been specially designed in close collaboration with the intelligence community, and is perfectly suited for all kinds of law enforcement uses.”
According to Levine, Ciabattri described “how police departments can achieve total information awareness by using Google’s search functionality, which allows them to aggregate and centralize local, county and federal databases, and then grafts all of that intel onto a map,” and concluded with how Google can use its data trend technology to do “predictive policing.”
As it becomes clear that Quan’s bid for re-election will hinge, at least in part, on her efforts to bring new residents to Oakland, residents new and old may be asking more questions about who’s watching them than who’s collecting their rent.