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Art vs. housing: Oakland neighbors fight downtown tower that would block mural

February 11, 2016

Oakland community groups are calling for more concessions from the developer of a 126-unit residential tower approved last week that would block views of an $80,000 mural painted on adjacent buildings.

Opponents of the project, which would replace a parking lot at 250 14th St., said it doesn’t provide enough benefits to the community during last week’s Planning Commission hearing. They are calling for developer Bay Development to finance or fundraise for a replacement for the mural, which was previously subsidized by a $40,000 city grant. They also want the developer to dedicate parking in the new project for staff and visitors to the nearby Malonga Arts Center at 1428 Alice St. They also want at least 15 percent of the units to be affordable to tenants making less than $64,000, with rents of no more than $1,600. The tower is currently approved to only have market-rate units.

While the opponents have a long list of demands, the developer is stressing the economic benefits of the projects, which include building needed market-rate housing and providing a huge influx of taxes to the city. The parking lot on the site currently pays only $7,350 in annual taxes, while the new building would pay $1 million in property taxes, said Maria Poncell, principal of Bay Development, at the hearing.

Groups including the Oakland Chinatown Coalition, Community Rejuvenation Project and artists from the nearby arts center are planning to file an appeal on Thursday after the city’s Planning Commission approved the project last week. The groups have organized an online fundraising campaign that has raised $1,876 as of press time to pay for the appeal, and over 200 people have signed a petition against the project. If filed, an appeal would require the project to go to the City Council for a final vote…(more)

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