The three biggest issues facing Oakland now are crime, homelessness and blight, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said at a State of the City address this week.
Schaaf spoke to the public and city councilmembers at a special City Council meeting Tuesday morning. She is leaving office following two consecutive terms, which is the maximum an Oakland mayor can serve.
Her office would not say what the mayor has planned after she leaves office.
Schaaf has been a stalwart supporter of Oakland police, though the department has fewer officers now than when she took office.
“Police staffing remains a challenge,” Schaaf said in her address.
In 2015, the Police Department had 695 officers. It now has 680.
Deaths by violence are up. Last year, 134 people died in killings such as stabbings and shootings. That is an increase from 93 the year she took office. This year violent deaths are nearly on par with last year as of Tuesday.
“Libby Schaaf will go down as one of the worst mayors in Oakland’s history,” said Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, which aims to end police terror in communities of color. “She unconditionally supported the police.”
Brooks said Schaaf “wounded the soul of Oakland” by working to gentrify Oakland, making it like San Francisco.
“We must now cope with how we heal our city,” Brooks said. “More than any other mayor, she will be known as the person who presided over the destruction of Black Oakland.”
Touting work on homelessness, violence prevention
Schaaf praised the City Council for making historic investments in violence prevention by funding the Oakland Department of Violence Prevention. The department has done work in schools and to prevent gender-based violence, Schaaf said.
Schaaf also touted some success with helping homeless people in the city.
Homelessness “has exploded on our streets,” she said.
Schaaf said 34 percent of the homeless population was sheltered in early 2022, compared with 21 percent three years ago. During those three years, the number of sheltered homeless people grew from 861 to 1,718.
Schaaf also touted the increase in the number of options homeless people have for temporary shelter. More options are available now which allow people to live by themselves, such as in cabins, rather than in congregate settings.
“We must now cope with how we heal our city. More than any other mayor, she will be known as the person who presided over the destruction of Black Oakland.”Cat Brooks, Anti Police-Terror Project
Schaaf said the 4 percent increase in the unsheltered population is due to an increase in people living in vehicles.
She said shelter capacity has tripled recently. But she said the turnover in city staff who manage homelessness programs has been a problem.
Unfortunately, data show the number of homeless people on Oakland streets has grown 131 percent between 2015 and 2022, according to the latest count, which is a rough estimate.
Since 2019, homelessness in Oakland has grown 25 percent.
Nearly 60 percent the people on the street are Black people.
Dominique Walker, a founding member of Moms 4 Housing, a group advocating for housing as a human right, said that the percentage of Black people without a home is offensive. The large proportion of Black unhoused people is due to racist foreclosures and racist policies that have driven Black Oakland residents out of their homes, Walker said.
Schaaf cited successes dealing with blight in the city. Successes include the city’s monthly Bulky Block Parties, which allow residents to get rid of bulky trash items.
Speaking on the run
Schaaf left the City Council meeting for a speaking engagement before the public commented.
City councilmembers vote 4-2 to accept Schaaf’s report. Mayoral candidate and City Council President Pro Tem Sheng Thao was absent, and Councilmember Noel Gallo was excused.
Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan and Councilmember Carroll Fife voted against accepting the mayor’s report.
Besides her role as mayor, Schaaf worked for the city for 17 other years.
“To all of you I have worked with over these last 25 years, thank you,” Schaaf said shedding tears.
The mayor is planning to hold an in-person State of the City address Oct. 19.