OAKLAND, CA – Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and City
Councilmember Abel Guillen (District 2) introduced legislation
to address the housing crisis in Oakland by calling on the
City Council to declare a shelter crisis at its meeting tonight.
“Oakland has the second-fastest rising rents in the country,”
said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “As a result, we’re seeing
more and more residents struggle with housing instability
and homelessness. Declaring a shelter emergency
immediately give us the tools to aid the most vulnerable, and
the flexibility to come up with creative solutions to address
the housing challenges of those in danger of being priced
out of Oakland.”
The California Government Code sections 8698, 8698.1, and
8698.2 allow a governing body of a city to declare a shelter
crisis when a significant number of persons are without the
ability to obtain shelter, resulting in a threat to their health
and safety. By declaring such a crisis, the City Council would
authorize the suspension of certain rules and regulations
concerning housing, health and safety, as applied to specific
public facilities, to the extent that strict compliance would
hinder the mitigation of the shelter crisis, thus enabling a
more flexible set of building and land use requirements so a
project could proceed in a more cost effective and
“Oakland has an immediate need to quickly increase the
number of shelter beds as the wet, cold winter weather is
upon us,” said Oakland City Councilmember Abel Guillen.
“We're particularly concerned about creating shelter now for
children and families. We must also implement longer-term
strategies that address the near-homeless and integrate
those efforts with the larger problem of affordable housing
The proposed ordinance before the Council also allows the
City to establish alternative minimum health and safety
standards to such public facilities during the duration of the
crisis. The authority under this ordinance only affects
additional public facilities open to the homeless and needed
to mitigate the shelter crisis. The declaration would be in
effect a minimum of one year.
Homelessness in Oakland and the Bay Area is a significant
problem, and has been more apparent given the upward
pressure on rents during the past two years. The number of
homeless people in Oakland as of the most recent 2015
count is approximately 2190.
On any given night there are an estimated 1,384 people who
are unsheltered. With approximately 350 shelter beds plus
60 beds during the winter months, a majority of homeless
peoples are unable to find shelter.
The homelessness problem affects Oakland's population
disproportionately: a majority of the homeless are African
American and Latino. Often homelessness is accompanied by
other challenges such as mental health difficulties, chronic
physical illness, victims of domestic violence, and substance
An outgrowth of these limited shelter options is the growing
number of unauthorized homelessness encampments
throughout the city. These encampments present public
health and safety threats to the people who live in them in
multiple ways: crime, lack of sanitation and debris collection
facilities, weather exposure, traffic hazards and other risks.
As a result of the market pressures and growing challenges
of addressing the city’s homeless population, over the past
four months the City Administration has established an
interdepartmental task force to examine other, more
sustainable and effective approaches for housing the
homeless, including reallocation of the substantial annual
City resources used for public safety, health, and clean up to
house and assist the homeless in a different way.
This has been done in other cities which have established
sanctioned shelters with more extensive support services and
storage so that underlying problems can be addressed.
This City Administration’s interdepartmental task force is
working in concert with the Housing Cabinet Mayor Schaaf
formed to address the impacts of the Bay Area’s affordability
crisis on Oakland to help preserve, build and protect housing
for existing Oaklanders.
Erica Terry Derryck