Over the past few years, Oakland has experienced significant positive and negative effects of the region’s economic boom. While property values have skyrocketed, development is booming, and the number of high school and college graduates has increased, many of the economic benefits have not reached, and in some cases have hurt, its longtime working class and minority communities. Unemployment rates among African-American, Latino, and Asian populations have declined significantly, but a stark racial income gap persists between these communities and white residents, making it difficult for many minority residents to afford skyrocketing housing costs. Average rent has increased by 38 percent since 2012 and the average median home price rose to $685,000 in 2017, up from $140,000 in 2009.
In 2018, the City of Oakland released a three-year Economic Development Strategy, with a primary focus on reducing racial disparities and promoting economic security and opportunity for all residents of Oakland. Implementing the Plan includes using a restorative community and inclusive economic development approach along the seven-mile International Boulevard Corridor. One of the longest contiguously-named streets in the Bay Area, International Boulevard connects Lake Merritt with Oakland’s eastern border and crosses through the city’s lowest-income neighborhoods. Both long-time residents and immigrant communities live in the corridor. Along with a number of businesses and community assets, the corridor also has homeless camps, high crime rates, and neighborhoods with a history of disproportionately high incarceration rates. Currently, a $178 million Bus Rapid Transit system is under construction along International Boulevard that pledges to transform the area, better connecting people to jobs, local businesses, and housing—but rising residential property values also bring the potential to displace many minority- and immigrant-owned businesses and lower-income residents.
To ensure economic security and growth along the International Boulevard Corridor, the City of Oakland will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive-level fellow for one year. The fellow’s role will be to coalesce disparate International Boulevard Corridor revitalization efforts into a unified set of activities that provides clear guidance to investors, developers, and community partners and delivers co-benefits to existing residents and business owners of color. The fellow will have the unique opportunity to contribute to one of the most complex and equity-minded urban development plans in the country.
Project Summary & Potential Deliverables
The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the Fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the project, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the Fellow and the host agency.
Starting in September 2018, it is proposed that the FUSE Fellow will design and launch an inclusive economic development guide for the International Boulevard Corridor that informs, tracks, and promotes business and real estate development, public and private investments, and community interests—and that benefits lower-income residents and business owners of color. The guide will be co-created with the Departments of Housing and Community Development, Planning and Building, and Economic and Workforce Development, and will incorporate and align with multiple ongoing programs. The Fellow will also be expected to coordinate with Oakland Public Works and the Oakland Police Department. The guide’s activities will be carried out by the Fellow and City staff in partnership with community leaders from the private sector and community-based organizations.
Success in this project will be evaluated in terms of the Fellow’s ability to consult with cross-sector stakeholders, understand their interests and areas of agreement and challenge, avoid duplication efforts, gather data, and conduct complex analysis to develop and implement inclusive economic development, with a special focus on East Oakland. The strategy’s success will require a high degree of accountability, coordination, and communication within city departments and with external stakeholders.
- Conduct research and assess current landscape – Review Strategic Plan and other documents, conduct research, and interview internal stakeholders to understand scope and tradeoffs of various economic development options and previous International Boulevard Corridor plans. Identify possible gaps and opportunities based on this assessment. Research the practices of other cities similar to Oakland who have implemented effective strategies with similar goals.
- Engage stakeholders and catalyze buy-in – Meet with external stakeholders from civic, philanthropic, and business sectors, to discuss options, preferences, and gaps and prioritize opportunities. Pay particular attention to East Oakland development opportunities that benefit community partners. Effectively incorporate internal and external stakeholders in developing the strategy to ensure buy-in for enacting its programs and partnerships.
- Formulate recommendations and a strategy to implement them – Present a list of recommendations based on research, observation, stakeholder interviews, and data. Develop a strategy that clearly outlines goals, timelines, activities, and tasks, partners, roles and responsibilities. Define reasonable benchmarks of success and identify “low-hanging fruit” as a way to accomplish early wins to build momentum.
- Monitor implementation and ensure project sustainability – Collaborate with Oakland City staff and community partners to implement strategy with a view toward short- and long-term goals. Support the development and institutionalization of structures and processes that reinforce and help sustain the collaboration between city departments and with external partners.
- Mark Sawicki, Director, City of Oakland Department of Economic & Workforce Development
- Aliza Gallo, Business Development Coordinator, City of Oakland Department of Economic & Workforce Development
- Marisa Raya, Special Projects, City of Oakland Department of Economic & Workforce Development
- Dr. Elena Ramsey and Amina Yusef, Mason-Tillman Associates
- Marsha Murrington and Viola Gonzales, AnewAmerica Community Corporation
- Walter Johnson, Allen Temple Baptist Church
- Joshua Simon, CEO, East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC)
- Chris Iglesias, CEO, Unity Council
- At least 15 years of professional experience in a management consulting, financial or business management field. Experience in urban economic development, land use, public-private partnerships, and community development preferred.
- Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities.
- Superior critical thinking and analytical skills, and ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations.
- Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations.
- Ability to relate to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy.
- Big picture thinker who can identify opportunities for strategic, data-driven decision making, and can introduce a mindset of organizational change.
- Self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker.
- Persistent in obtaining information and creatively resourceful in identifying solutions to complex problems.
- Flexibility, adaptability, persistence, humility, inclusivity, and sensitivity to cultural differences.
- Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity.