Since taking office in 2015, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has made three new appointments to Oakland’s seven-member planning commission. She’s also re-appointed two members. In each case, Schaaf put a developer, architect, or attorney from the real estate industry on the commission.
Yesterday, Schaaf nominated her fourth new pick for the board: Jonathan Fearn, a vice president with the developer SummerHill Homes.
The mayor’s choices are drawing criticism from community groups and unions worried about how development in Oakland affects low-income residents and workers.
Critics say real estate industry representatives on the commission aren’t always sensitive to the social and economic impacts of projects and policies, and that the board needs more diversity.
“The planning commission has historically been heavily weighted to include developers, architects, and others who have a financial interest in fast-tracking development, and who come from wealthier neighborhoods,” said Ayodele Nzinga of the Community Coalition for Equitable Development, Black Arts Movement and Business District, and the Oakland Chinatown Coalition.
Over the past year, Nzinga’s coalition has negotiated community benefits agreements with developers building along the 14th Street corridor bordering Chinatown and the new Black Arts Movement and Business District. She said her group is interested in minimizing displacement, adding more affordable housing, and ensuring high paying jobs, among other priorities.
“We are disappointed in the latest appointment of a real estate…
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