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Open Letter to Tidewater Capital Developers: What’s Your Plan to Prevent More Harm to Black-Owned Business and Cultural Artists?



1431 Franklin Street Office Option (left) and Residential Option (right), rendering by Large Architecture

By Kitty Kelly Epstein, PhD
Special to The Post

Many people, including me, have long been concerned with Oakland’s lack of public recognition for the accomplishments of the Black community and lack of concern for its current condition.

Oakland has produced more African American sports greats than any other city in America. Oakland is home to the most militant and effective social justice organizations (the ILWU is one example) and the very first Black trade union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.  None of these have the sort of very visible recognition that is warranted.

And at the same time, half of the Black community has been forced to leave the city, and of those who remain, many are Black men who are forced to live on the street.

One bright spot has been the promise of a Black Arts Movement and Business District (BAMBD) in downtown Oakland, which promised to prioritize development to benefit the Black community and was passed by the City Council in 2016.

And now we find it is not new Black-owned businesses but yet another non-Black developer proposing to build a huge non-Black development.  So, to the developers at Tidewater Capital, I ask:  what exactly are you planning to do with the property you own at 1431 Franklin that will not further damage the community?

You have submitted two proposals to the Oakland Planning Commission: one for an office building, ridiculously unnecessary given the current number of office vacancies, and the other for a high-end residential building that would certainly house mostly affluent white folks and hire out-of-town labor for its construction.

And in the process, I would argue that your proposal would damage one of the most treasured, long-standing Black-owned, and historically recognized businesses in the city — Geoffrey’s Inner Circle at 410 14th St.

In some ways, the situation is similar to the forced closure of Black-owned Uncle Willie’s Barbecue at 614 14th St. by the actions of another huge developer, in that case, a hotel.

It may come as a surprise to you, but many of us do not believe that someone should get to build whatever they want just because they are rich enough to buy a piece of property.

Black-owned businesses and galleries, parking, and cultural spaces would all be of benefit to this district.  More unaffordable housing will not. Furthermore, you own another property nearby which you could develop without so much damage to the community.

So – what exactly are you planning?

Kitty Kelly Epstein is a professor of Urban Studies and Education, Oakland resident, host on KPFA Radio, an author of two books about Oakland.

The post Open Letter to Tidewater Capital Developers: What’s Your Plan to Prevent More Harm to Black-Owned Business and Cultural Artists? first appeared on Post News Group. This article originally appeared in Post News Group.


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