460 Grand Avenue is a planned development at a prime real estate address near Lake Merritt that, when finished, will offer 78 apartment units in a brand new five-story building. About 30 percent of the apartments will be Section 8. “Section 8” is a “Housing Choice Voucher Program,” that provides rental help to private landlords. In basic english, it makes the apartment units affordable.

The prospect of affordable apartments in the middle of a Lake Merritt where rents are skyrocketing would seem welcome. But some in Adams Point, the neighborhood where the address is, are not at all excited about the prospect of these new homes.

The issues some Adams Pointers have about the units have come into conversations on listserves. I have a disagreement with one neighbor, Vivian Romero, who has a point that, regardless of how I feel, must be shared and these are her words:

First, it was this email she wrote that ignited me to respond:

Thanks Mark, but Adams Point is overpopulated. We see this in the spike in crime, illegal dumping, traffic and parking congestion, noise, blight, pollution. While it would be nice for people with the occupations that you listed to live in the new building, I doubt that’ll be the case. Regardless, it’s more people, which AP has no room for.

Some neighbors had started talking about putting a garden at the empty lot. That’s what I prefer to see.


That email – in particular the “While it would be nice for people with the occupations that you listed to live in the new building, I doubt that’ll be the case” comment – caused this response from me:


Say, Vivian Romero. Who are you to determine which kinds of people Adams Point “has no room for”?

Are you serious? Did I actually READ that?

You need to take that statement back. It reads like a foray into racism and classism.

Please, not in my Oakland.

Not in 2013.

To which she said…


Say Zennie Abraham, Jr. I’m not determining which kinds of people Oakland has room for. I said Adams Point is overpopulated.

Yes, I’m serious that Adams Point is overpopulated.
No, you actually didn’t read that I’m determining what kinds of people Adams Point has no room for, because I didn’t write that.

I have no intention of “taking back” a statement that I didn’t make, but I knew people would misinterpret it – just like you did.

It’s my Oakland, too.

And, it’s 2014.

Then, she followed up by stating this:

“I am not only speaking on behalf of myself, but several other AP residents that have called me with their concerns. I think many are too scared to post about section 8…affordable housing because they’re afraid of being called a racist and such…in any case, the project was approved by the planning commission for condos – 8 years ago. I wish Zennie, that you could let people ask their questions, yes, even about section 8 and affordable housing.

I have several neighbors calling me upset about this project. Many have not been aware of it. 2006 was 8 years ago. Bridges didn’t have any public hearings, and no one knew the project included section 8 and affordable housing. In looking over the document from the planning commission, I’m not able to find the part that talks about section 8 and affordable housing. Can you explain this part of the development?

Also, I have another neighbor concerned about the potential crime to the area. We have already experienced a rise in crime, the police refuse to patrol the area – what’s the plan for preventing crime?

Also, another neighbor says all of Adams Point was zoned for single family dwellings only. This was after all the multi unit buildings were built, and made the area extremely dense. I’m not clear on how this project got around any kind of zoning restrictions.

Parking – I understand the building will have 93 parking spaces – or around that amount. In the city document, it says something about a parking area being close by to handle overfill parking. I don’t know where this parking lot is – do you?

I’m not understanding how the project became exempt from an environmental report. Certainly a development this size will be bringing in more pollution and what about sewage and such?”

As I stated in the video, my reason for my reaction to what I perceive to be Vivian’s take, is the steady drum-beat of fears of black men that are written by some in the listservs.

I later talked to Vivian and asked to interview her so that she could express her opinion via video, which is less open to misinterpretation than text. While that has not yet happened, we did reach an understanding. Vivian asked me why I didn’t present others who wrote more extreme points of view. While my answer was that it was because she really went to privately contact me and was rather edgy in her prose, I did also say she had a fair point.

Well, to that end, here’s some of them and what they wrote (without email addresses):

Hello neighbors

Have you noticed the construction going on at 460 Grand Ave between Euclid & Bellevue?

The building will be 5 stories high with 68 units ranging from studios to 3 BD apartments.

34 of the units of will be Section 8 housing (intended for individuals and families with income under 30% of average median) and the other 34 is low income housing for people with income under 50% of average median.

I tried to post about this before but for some reason the post did not appear on the list.


– Nina Menendez

Unfortunately, it will bring down property values and wow all 68 units are basically low income.
Who put this together? Usually a small fraction of the building is used for section 8 that seems like a better situation.

– Lori Admokom

I believe there are many lovely people and families living in Oakland who don’t earn the half the median income. Among the people who might qualify for this kind of housing based on income are artists, musicians, writers, baristas, waiters, students, etc. From the drawings of the project I’ve seen, it looks like it will be a positive addition to the neighborhood. I certainly prefer a nicely designed building to the empty parking lot that has held that spot for several years.

– Mark Hurty

As previously mentioned, the empty lot is across the street from a large public park. One of our neighbors has planted and tends some flowers around the base of the sign in the large grassy field directly across Grand from this new construction. Since the empty lot is no longer available, perhaps the city would entertain a proposal to enlarge that little patch of flowers into a larger public gardening spot. I think that would be very nice.

– Mark Hurty

Whether Adams Point is overpopulated or not is certainly a matter of personal opinion. In my opinion, it’s not overpopulated. I think that’s not the real issue in this conversation, though.

I was responding to a message that offended me: that low income families and individuals are not welcome in Adams Point. A family’s income level should not be the criteria by which we welcome them as neighbors.

– Mark Hurty

I think concerns about crowding are perfectly valid, but preemptively judging the people who will live there because they might have lower incomes is where any campaign to stop this project loses me. Not that you explicitly state what your fears are about that, but it’s pretty clear.

Also, gardens are wonderful, but I question anyone’s ability to plunk one in a large plot of desirable land on a major thoroughfare that clearly is owned by somebody. I have no particular love for developers, but that seems naive, unless someone has actively worked to make that community space and was denied. It does not sound like that is the case.

– Evie Nagy

Again, what set me off was the constant drumbeat of behavior of some, sadly who are white, who walk down the street in Adams Point, and with their head down and in fear of connecting even just to nod hello to (in this case) me, and then act as if they have a fear of someone black.

I say that because in a small number of cases, I had someone white walk by me with their head down, after having their head up as they were passing by someone white in front of me. I’m happy to say that not everyone acts this way, not the majority, but the percentage of people who do is large enough to cause alarm.

There’s a clear and sick division of treatment in this part of Oakland between some whites and the African Americans they encounter. I am personally sick and tired of it, because this is not the Oakland I know, or want to develop. Oakland hasn’t been this way in the past, and for much of its post 1964 civil rights history. So, I’m outing this Adams Point conversation and calling an end to that behavior.

The 460 Grand Avenue project is slated to be built as of this writing. More updates on this, soon..http://ift.tt/1nLzCD4

By Zennie Abraham

Zennie Abraham | Zennie Abraham or "Zennie62" is the founder of Zennie62Media which consists of zennie62blog.com and a multimedia blog news aggregator and video network, and 78-blog network, with social media and content development services and consulting. Zennie is a pioneer video blogger, YouTube Partner, social media practitioner, game developer, and pundit. Note: news aggregator content does not reflect the personal views of Mr. Abraham.