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Will St. Andrews Plaza be the first to be stung by WOSP?
Police raided the St. Andrews encampment at 34th and San Pablo directly after the West Oakland Specific Plan (WOSP), leaving some wondering, is this the start of the hammer coming down?
by Pink Edge
On the night of Monday, August 25th, police descended upon St. Andrews Plaza, a small park in West Oakland and home to many in the area that lack housing. Since the US government began pumping in crack-cocaine into the United States which hit Oakland hard in the 1980s, along with lack of access to jobs, the “San Pablo Corridor” and the rest of ‘Ghost Town,’ has been awash in drugs and criminal activity. For elites, such activity is not problematic as long as it is contained in a set area and properly managed and to not spill out into affluent areas and more importantly, leads to people acting out against their conditions. However, with the passing of the West Oakland Specific Plan (WOSP), city developers and capitalists are now hoping to bridge the condos and retails space of Emeryville with the Downtown Oakland core. Unfortunately for them, the countless efforts over the years to “clean up” the plaza have been rather unsuccessful so far.
Recently, a group called the San Pablo Corridor Coalition has come up with a plan to replace the homeless population with art and sculpture installations. The coalition was formed in 2009 by businesses and property owners in collaboration with the Oakland Police Department. They then “adopted” St. Andrews Plaza in 2010, and the next year they received a grant of $75,000 to renovate it. Their plan for the plaza was originally approved in the beginning of 2013, and recent updates on their Facebook page suggest the park was to be fenced off for the installations in March of this year– so it is clear they are running very behind schedule. At no point was even the slightest effort made to involve the people living at St. Andrews in these plans and according to one man at the plaza, the meetings that were held, “Never had anyone from here.”
Interestingly enough, this raid comes just weeks after the city approved the West Oakland Specific Plan, widely criticized as an effort to gentrify the area. One of the four “Opportunity areas” designated by the plan include the stretch of San Pablo Avenue between downtown Oakland and Emeryville. Along this street, one of the precise targets of development include the block just south of St. Andrews. For the whole block, including the side facing the plaza, the city intends to have townhouses built for the wealthy, with retail stores located at their base. The final draft even mentions the Coalition’s plans for the park, as their “beautification” falls perfectly in line with the gentrification scheme outlined in the WOSP. If the city and its developer cohorts are successful, San Pablo Avenue will become nothing more than another bland shopping district to connect Emeryville to Downtown Oakland.
On August 31st, two days after the West Oakland Specific Plan came into effect, a group of people, including residents of nearby squats, approached St. Andrews Plaza with bags full of food, and pitchers of water and coffee. Simultaneously, a police car pulled up the park and came to a stop. For the next two hours, free beverages and snacks were given out to those who lived there or passed through. The cop’s plan for the afternoon may forever be unknown, but regardless, he drove away just minutes after witnessing the neighborhood solidarity. According to someone living there, the police hadn’t been back to harass them since the raid, which had ended in a single arrest. But it is only a matter of time until that changes now that one more major hurdle has been overcome in the effort to transform West Oakland into a developers paradise.
While many resent the crime associated with the plaza, (a much similar situation exists at 16th and Mission in San Francisco) and we certainly do not find it desirable, the displacement and gentrification of the plaza or the neighborhood will not solve these problems. Instead, they will simply be pushed elsewhere, where it does not interfere with the lifestyle of the wealthy- which is how it ended up at St. Andrews in the first place. This entire process is happening throughout Northern California, as more and more people are being pushed into Antioch and Stockton. The eviction of the plaza will not be isolated to that corner either. It will affect every resident struggling to pay their rent or their mortgage as well, and those that aren’t struggling yet soon will. We must support each other against the forces of capitalist development, because it will not solve our problems. We can only do that ourselves.