On February 27, Black Lives Matter Sacramento and many Oak Park residents gathered in front of the Guild Theater, to make their voices heard about the changes coming to this neighborhood.
Meanwhile, inside the theater, Al Williamson, who runs the blog “Leading Landlord: Helping Landlords Increase their Income and Equity” had convened the “Summit at the Guild”, and was teaching predominantly white, Bay Area investors how they could best go about carving up Oak Park for fun and profit.
All over the country, the same pattern is unfolding. Hungry for land and profit, real estate profiteers search out areas that they can “revitalize”, bringing in higher-earning homeowners and renters, and attracting the even more lucrative commercial leasers to establish businesses that cater to these new high end residents.
But wait. There are already people living there. (Second verse, same as the first… an old, old story, right?)
How can the real estate profiteers proceed with their plans, with all of these people who stand in the way of their goals? Well- they have to remove them!
And so the story unfolds in cities all over this nation. From Brooklyn to the Bay. And Oak Park is currently on the menu, as well as Seavey Circle.
Of course, even long time Oak Park residents would love to see improvements in the neighborhood: more things to do, places to shop, and the greater sense of community and safety that comes along with a thriving local marketplace.
But... Long-time residents would also like to stay and enjoy these improvements!
So, collectively, we need to make sure we have a voice in shaping what the new Oak Park will look and feel like, and ensure that the improvements include things like:
- affordable housing
- incentives and support for long time community members to build businesses
- businesses that reflect the interests and needs of a diverse community
- resources spent on ALL of Oak Park, and not just focused on one area of the neighborhood. (Since when is there a North Oak Park and South Oak Park??)
Community members that attended the rally voiced these concerns. And the investor summit made it clear that their fears were warranted. For one thing, even though some were willing to buy tickets to enter the development summit, they were refused.
William Burg, who is white and a long time Sacramento resident, decided to attend the meeting. William Burg is a historian of Sacramento history, and was interested in the meeting in order to document what was going on. He had purchased his ticket in advance for this purpose. He was able to share with us the nature of the meeting (link to full report coming soon). Inside, Al Williamson was telling landlords how to plow through neighborhood resistance to gentrification.
With friends like these…
As a community, we have to do the work to plan on standing our ground (literally!), as deeply as they are working and planning to displace and replace us:
Burg observed: “Al Williamson wants to move to more properties in central and south Oak Park rather than his current focus on northern Oak Park. Ben Leybovich summarized that real estate is a good place to store money—big money uses real estate investment to lower their tax rate and create passive income”.
The protest rally outside the Guild was just the beginning of building an empowered community base to ensure that Oak Park doesn’t just become some one else’s “passive income tax break”.
Oak Park is a community of people who care about each other, who need resources in order to thrive, and deserve the opportunity to reap the rewards of a newly reborn, re-energized neighborhood.
Black Lives Matter Sacramento will continue to gather with Oak Park and Seavey Circle residents at rallies… but we also need the community to come to the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA) meetings and other city meetings where decisions are being made about Oak Park and other neighborhoods targeted by gentrification. It’s been a little too easy for these profiteers to sail the ocean blue over to Oak Park and decide how the new Oak Park is going to look and feel- and who gets to live there.
But if we show up, we can have a voice and ensure that long-time residents, those that have committed to this community through the good and the bad, have the chance to shape, and benefit from, neighborhood improvements.
One woman who attended the protest with her husband and adult children, said that attending the rally made her feel “empowered”. She said that she knows a lot of other residents in Oak Park who care about this issue, but haven’t felt like they have a voice. Black Lives Matter Sacramento hopes to change that.
Once a month this blog will revisit the topic of gentrification in Sacramento, including updates on the city meetings that you need to know about. Watch this space!