Looking Back on 2023


As we bid farewell to 2023, I wanted to take some time to reflect upon the challenges we faced as well as the achievements we made in the City of Oakland. It has been an especially hard year for all of us, as we work to recover from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as addressing the community safety issues that began in 2020. My Administration was hyper-focused on addressing these challenges through hollistic investments, new strategies, and stronger coordination between the City Council as well as the County, State, and Federal government.

Before we dive into our recap of 2023, I wanted to take a moment to honor the life and loss of Officer Tuan Le.

Tuan Le, an immigrant and patriot dedicated to serving his community. An Oakland High graduate, he chose the path of a police officer during the global pandemic.

Through unwavering dedication, Tuan earned his place in specialized units, confronting the city's toughest challenges head-on. He consistently raised his hand, offering help even in our darkest hours.

Oakland owes an immeasurable debt of gratitude to Officer Tuan Le. A debt we can only begin to repay by living life as he did—through duty, honor, and service to others.

God bless Officer Tuan Le, and may his legacy endure eternally in Oakland.

Portrait of Officer Tuan Le

Portrait of the late Officer Tuan Le, who gave his life in service of the residents of Oakland

Reflecting on My First Term as Mayor

One of my first acts was Mayor was developing a strong Leadership Team including our new City Administrator Jestin Johnson, our new Fire Chief Damon Covington, our new Housing & Community Development Director Emily Weinstein, a new Communications Director Sean Maher, and our new Department of Violence Prevention Chief Dr. Holly Joshi. These individuals are essential to our work in making Oakland a safer, and flourishing place to live.

We are committed to and have began the hard work of addressing years of long-standing issues and laying the groundwork to propel Oakland forward. This work centered around four key priorities:

  • Community Safety
  • Oakland Fresh
  • Economic Development
  • Affordable Housing & Homelessness

As we came into office, we inherited a record $360 million deficit.This deficit was caused by the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic alongside the end to Federal Aid that kept Oakland in the green during the worst of it. The main areas that impacted city revenue were downtown office vacancies due to changes to remote work, lower than usual retail transfer taxes, and a lack of tourism and conferences in the City of Oakland which resulted in less tax revenue in total.

Recovering from a pandemic like this means ensuring we can continue to provide essential services, especially in areas like community safety, so our businesses and communities can continue to grow. This is why we worked overtime to ensure not a single employee was laid off during this budget work. And thanks to those efforts, we are able to continue hiring new employees in key departments and expand the services the City provides.

This work was thanks to an effort to bring Oakland together under a #OneOakland mentality to focus on the critical needs and vision we all share, regardless of political background. We are stronger when we work together, and for the first time in years the Mayor's Office and the City Council worked collaboratively on this budget.

Community Safety

Making Oakland safer for children, families, businesses, and visitors is my top priority. I join Oaklanders in demanding more prevention, enforcement, and accountability for the criminal groups inflicting harm upon our community.

This is why I am focused on taking aggressive action to reduce crime by investing in a robust police department, strengthening violence prevention initiatives, and leveraging technology to disrupt criminal networks.

Oakland has more police officers, safety ambassadors, and violence prevention teams on our streets than anytime in the past two years. We’ve also increased patrols and undercover operationsand provided funding to business districts to enhance security.

Oakland will also relentlessly pursue accountability and work with our law enforcement partners to thoroughly investigate cases for prosecution.

As Mayor, I will continue to push and employ initiatives that focus on reducing crime and improving our sense of security.

  • Oakland has more police officers than anytime in the past three years
    January 2021 - 690 police officers
    December 2023 - 724 police officers
  • Oakland increased number of police officers on the street by:
    • Budgeting for more police academy classes (Increase from 4 to 6 classes per year)
    • Restoring police foot patrols citywide
    • Partnering with the state to bring California Highway Patrol officers into Oakland to help address traffic safety in our busiest corridors.
    • Deploying the Auto-Burglary Suppression Team and Commercial Burglary Task Force to operate in business districts citywide.

Progress is underway and over the last two months* that have been reductions in property crimes in business districts across Oakland:

Improved Community Safety

Operation Ceasefire:

As Mayor of Oakland, I'm excited to revive the successful Operation Ceasefire strategy that significantly reduced gun violence from 2012 to 2019. Last year, I funded commissioned an audit funded by Kaiser Permanente and the US Department of Justice to examine the effectiveness of the current Oakland Ceasefire strategy. The audit found that the City of Oakland has not effectively implemented the strategy since late 2019. During this period, the resources, management talent and accountability needed to implement the strategy were significantly watered down, resources stripped away, or refocused.

Operation Ceasefire was an extremely effective program that recieved national recognition for bringing homicides down to record lows in Oakland. It requires very precise strategies to be coordinated between the Oakland Police Department, the Department of Violence Prevention, community partners, and the Mayor's office so we can better target the very small group of people committing gun violence and other crimes in our street.

The audit was completed by The California Partnership for Safe Communities, who intiailly helped Oakland create the Ceasefire program, as well as former Ceasefire leadership who oversaw the operation during its years of success. We are already taking action by redeploying our officers to better support our communities and reworking our Department of Violence Prevention to better support the program. We will be back to the original strategy in just a few weeks, with OPD redploying as soon as this Saturday.

Read the Audit Summary Here.

In addition to our investment in a strong response to crime, we also implemented a number of strategies to support our hollistic vision for community safety:

  • High Tech Flock Cameras: thanks to our strong partnership with the Governor's office, Oakland was able to secure state funds to install over 300 flock cameras throughout the City. These cameras are high-tech, crime fighting tools that allow us to look up a vehicle's license plate, make, model, color, and other unique characteristic in real time across the city. This will help our officers better respond to crimes in progress while also helping us better collect evidence when prosecuting criminals.I worked closely with our privacy commission to ensure we had a strong policy that both helps us fight crime and protects our privacy.
  • Investing in Community Safety Programs: We brought new initiatives like the Violence Prevention Hub in Fruitvale and grants for violence interrupters in schools. We also worked to secure over $500,000 to audit Oakland’s gang violence prevention program, Ceasefire, which was responsible for the huge reduction of gun violence and homicides before the pandemic. Additionally, the city deployed new school site violence prevention staff as well as hosted the first summit on school site safety with our OUSD leadership.

Mayor Thao joins city staff and community in welcoming Oakland's new Department of Violence Prevention Chief, Holly Joshi

  • Improving 911: Oakland’s 911 system has been broken for far too long and my Administration will not tolerate long wait times or dropped calls when people are calling for help during an emergency. My Administration is investing $2.5 million to help invest in new technology upgrades and more staff to improve 911 wait times. You can help by applying to be a Police Dispatcher today.
  • Building a Stronger, More Dynamic Fire Department: while the city’s budget deficit was challenging, we faced that challenge down and made sure that our Fire Department continued to have the resources it needed to provide for our communities. We also reaffirmed our commitment to strong, local leadership in the Department with the appointment of Damon Covington as our new Fire Chief.

Mayor Thao and City Administrator Johnson stand with newly sworn in Oakland Fire Chief, Damon Covington

  • Expanding Oakland’s MACRO Program: The majority of 911 calls are for non-emergencies, which means we are deploying our police officers and other emergency responders to issues that aren’t always appropriate for them. The Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland (MACRO) Program is growing and expanding in order to take more of these types of calls, helping our officers and emergency responders focus on protecting and saving lives.

Mayor Thao joins MACRO as they hit the streets and answer calls for service.

  • New Community Ambassadors: The City of Oakland rolled out a new community ambassador program to increase community safety throughout the City. These amabassadors operate as additional eyes and ears on the street and work closely with the business, community members, and police department to increase the sense of safety in Oakland.
  • Street Safety Through Design: Traffic fatalities and injuries have increased across the nation since 2021, and the City of Oakland is working day and night to ensure everyone can travel around our city without fear. My Administration completed dozens of street safety projects across the city while ensuring major projects like the 14th Street and Lakeshore Avenue bike and pedestrian projects move forward. My Administration is focused on improving staffing as well as fixing administrative hurdles that slow these lifesaving projects down while working to secure additional resources to improve street safety across The Town.
  • Street Safety Through Enforcement: We also brought back traffic enforcement officers and as well as secured additional support from Highway Patrol to help enforce our traffic laws while lowering speed limits in high injury cooridors as well as school sites. The City also worked to change state law to allow us to pilot automated speed enforcement-- a tool used across the country to better enforce laws and help free up our officers so they can focus on responding to emergencies.

Before her election, Mayor Thao joined street safety advocates on a ride around Lake Merritt and talked about the importance of better street design.

Oakland Fresh

  • One Oakland Spring Clean: Early into my term, I worked with community organizations, businesses, and leaders to bring Oakland's first "One Oakland Spring Clean" forward. This week-long event included a massive pothole blitz, the removal of scores of abandoned cars, and a citywide cleanup and beautification effort led by City Staff. This week-long event was a smashing success, and we plan on continuing these efforts with our soon-to-be-launced "Oakland Fresh" campaign. Stay tuned!
  • Illegal Dumping Enforcement: this year, I attended an Illegal Dumping conference right here in the City of Oakland to recommit to our work in ending illegal dumping. The Cirty of Oakland is continuing to focus on holding bad actors accountable while hiring more staff to improve our city's cleanliness.
  • Tackling Abandoned Vehicles: Like many of you, I am sick and tired of seeing stripped and abandoned cars throughout the City of Oakland. This is why we rolled out our new abandoned auto team that has DOUBLED our towing capacity of abandoned vehicles. Their work has already resulted in faster service response across Oakland. We still have lots of work to do, but these early results are encouraging!

The Abandoned auto unit works day and night to tag and tow abandoned vehicles littering our streets

  • An Equitable Urban Forest: In 2023, my Administration rolled out the draft Urban Forest Master Plan, which creates a roadmap for a more equitable urban canopy in Oakland. Additionally, the City of Oakland continued its work planting trees in new trees in Oakland while announcing a $8 million grant we recieved in September.
  • Oakland’s 5-Year Paving Plan: My Administration is committed to continuing Oakland’s work on street paving. When I was sworn in in 2018, Oakland was 80 years behind on road maintenance. With the completion of our first paving plan in 2021, we made a huge difference in the shape of Oakland’s streets. My Administration is committed to continuing that work with the largest paving effort in Oakland history.This is only possible thanks to the voters passing Measure U last year. Thank you!
Screenshot 2024-01-10 at 6.03.08 PM

The colored lines represent all the roads set to be repaved during the 5-year paving plan.

Economic Recovery

  • Investing in a Green Economy: A major focus of my Administration is the growth of the Green economy, and we have found strong success in our efforts to attract green business in Oakland, including through major federal investments into hydrogen, reshaping port infastructure to help us reduce toxic emissions, and working to bring new, great-paying blue collar jobs in semiconductor technology to West Oakland through federal investments into black businesses.
  • Activating Oakland: We know that a major part of community safety is an activated community that comes together, breaks bread, and celebrates one another. This is why we were proud to roll out Activate Oakland, which provided small grants to individuals and organizations dedicated to putting on events in their communities. In 2024, you will see this investment in action as we sponsor over 120 community events throughout the city.
  • Five After Five: the City of Oakland launched the Five After Five program which allows downtown patrons and workers to park at the secure Franklin Street Garage after 5pm for just $5. The garage is manned by security and is a great place to park while you shop, dine, and enjoy Oakland's amazing downtown culture.
  • Celebrating Oakland's Culture: Our City is one of the most diverse and culturally rich places in the world, and we continue to celebrate both. Oakland recently created two new cultural districts, the Latinx Arts Cultural District and the Lakeshore LGBTQ Cultural District as well as hosted dozens of cultural and music and art events across the city.
  • Talking Transition: Talking Transition Oakland was a citywide community engagement effort to help define the priorities of Oaklanders, especially those who don't normally get to engage with the City. We paid Oakland youth to do do outreach to their neighbors and communities about the issues most important to them and gather the data so we can commit to a strong, shared vision for the City of Oakland.

Mayor Thao hears directly from the community about their biggest issues and needs at one of the many talking transition events hosted in 2023.

Affordable Housing & Homelessness

  • Investing in Affordable Housing: Despite facing a $360 million budget deficit, we secured $209 million for affordable housing thanks to the voters passage of Measure U last year. This will be the largest investment in affordable housing in Oakland's history.
  • A Bold Housing Element and General Plan: The City of Oakland passed a progressive and bold Housing Element that sets the stage for future housing growth across the city. Thanks to this, we are one of the few cities in the state that has received a “pro-housing designation”, allowing us to access extremely competitive grants. Building off this work, we approved phase 1 of our General Plan that expands zoning options citywide, allowing small property owners more flexibility to build as well as expanding transit-oriented development, and legalizing affordable housing and missing middle housing across the city.
  • Closure of Wood Street: My Administration successfully worked with the state and our unhoused neighbors to close down the largest encampment in Northern California, Wood Street. With 85% of the encampments residents accepting shelter, we were able to clear the site and help get people off our streets and into dignified conditions. The site will now be home to a 170 unit affordable housing development which will further help us solve homelessness.
  • Project Homekey & Rapid Response Homeless Housing (R2H2) Program: thanks to support through the state's Homekey program, the City of Oakland successfully secured the Imperial Inn on MacArthur as a new supportive housing site. Since the launch of Homkey in 2020, Oakland has been able to secure funds to purchase 6 seperate sites totally 204 units.The success of Homekey inspired us to launch the Rapid Response Homeless Housing (R2H2) Program this year.
  • Expanding Head Start Services: As a single mom, I understood how vital childcare was to my family's economic well-being, and the City of Oakland has worked to expand our Head Start program to include increased hours of operations as well as a new Mobile Head Start pilot to help bring the classroom to our most vulnerable families facing homelessness. As someone who directly benefited from this program, I know how important early childhood education can be for our family and children.

The Mayor's Office, City Staff, and housing partners tour Piedmont Place; a recently converted hotel that now serves as supportive housing.

Looking forward to 2024: A Vision for Oakland's Future

  • Community Safety Strategy Implementation: Our focus remains on building a robust and accountable police department, led by a new Chief, and strengthening violence prevention initiatives. We will build off the success of our new hiring incentives that brought us back to sustained staffing on the force to help recruit and retain a police force rooted in Oakland and Oakland’s values.
  • Leveraging Technology: The installation of 300 high-tech cameras dedicated to fighting crime, the approval of automated speed enforcement which will help us hold dangerous criminals accountable, and a revised drone policy will enhance our technological capabilities and help us use more tools to make Oakland safer.
  • Promoting Clean and Healthy Neighborhoods: The launch of our new citywide beautification effort, Oakland Fresh, coupled with continued investments in economic opportunities, will contribute to a thriving and vibrant city.

    Prioritizing Key Areas: Addressing Homelessness and Affordable Housing
  • Affordable Housing Initiatives: We've secured substantial funding and grants to create or preserve over 1,400 affordable housing units, representing a monumental step in tackling the housing crisis.
  • Homelessness: Our approach involves coordinating care services, promoting public safety, and investing in the Rapid Response Homeless Housing Acquisition Fund.
  • Permitting: Oakland passed a comprehensive and progressive housing element, which is focused on speeding up permitting for everyone –especially affordable housing. My administration also welcomed Oakland’s first permit ombudsman to help us identify issues we have with permitting and help us improve systems.
  • Fostering Clean and Healthy Neighborhoods: Oakland Fresh Initiative: Launching Oakland Fresh will unite city departments to address abandoned cars, illegal dumping, and blighted properties, ensuring our neighborhoods remain clean, safe, and accessible.

    Economic Opportunity: Paving the Way for Growth

  • Green Economy Agenda: Collaborating with the Port of Oakland, we aim to create more green jobs, contributing to a cleaner, sustainable future. This includes the major federal investment into a hydrogen hub, millions in state grants to help us modernize the port, securing new MOUs with the nation of Vietnam to increase trade, and working to secure more energy efficient investments like new, cleaner ferries and cargo vehicles.
  • Streamlining Permitting: Efforts to cut red tape and simplify permitting processes will make it easier to do business, build housing, and plan events in Oakland.This includes fully implementing our ambitious and progressive housing element, identifying and addressing barriers to housing construction, making it easier to start and sustain a small business, and expediting construction of housing that meets affordability and environmental requirements.
  • Cultural and Economic Initiatives: Initiatives like the Oakland Film Council, Five after Five, and the Activate Oakland program will foster economic growth and vibrancy. Our office will continue to invest in the art and culture that makes Oakland a unique and beautiful place to live.
  • Investing in Deep East Oakland: My Administration has joined community leaders and business owners to make a $100 million investment into deep East Oakland over the next ten years. This initiative is called “Rise East” and is part of a community-led effort to bring equitable investment into East Oakland.

In conclusion, I want to express my gratitude for the collective effort and resilience displayed by the people of Oakland. Together, we have faced challenges, celebrated accomplishments, and set the stage for an even brighter future. Let us continue working hand in hand, drawing upon our shared love for the Town, to fight for Oakland and deliver results together.

Thank you for your continued support, and let us look forward to a brighter and safer 2024.

In Service,

st sig

Sheng Thao,

Mayor of Oakland