Pupusa problems and affordable apartments
on June 4, 2009
Oakland City Hall regular, Sanjev Handa chastised city council members at Wednesday’s night’s City Planning Commission meeting for only taking a 2.28 percent pay cut which is lower than the 10.31 percent pay cut city workers will face.
Handa also wondered why the council members neglected to cut their car allowance when Oakland is facing a $83 million dollar budget deficit.
Without paying Handa any attention, the commission went on to consider the pupusa problem.
Maria Menendez, who owns Las Rancheritas truck, a popular venue for people coming from the flea market, said that her permit for the mobile operation parked at 6161 Coliseum Way was denied because of a complaint from local business owner Bill Neiman.
He said the truck is illegally parked on the congested street and its presence encourages her customers to do the same. “We are here to object. The existing tenants have been overusing the property since July 2008. The currant tenant illegally uses his own property. He sells used vehicles even though he doesn’t have a permit to do so,” said Neiman.
Neiman and an assistant showed blown up photographs attached to poster board of the street intersection. The photos were not made visible to the audience.
“We are sympathetic to the application and believe she deserves to make a living where there is enough land and parking for her customers,” said Neiman.
Commissioner Doug Boxer appeared confused, “There are no pictures of the taco truck in operation.”
“That’s right!” said someone in the audience.
Neiman said he’s owned the property next door since 1989 and Menendez wanted a daily permit. Someone else in the audience said, “No!” in response to the statement.
A city employee read a statement on Menendez’s behalf and a friend took to the podium.
The friend said, “Maria doesn’t speak English so she can’t explain herself. I don’t understand what the problem is. The person who rents the space is very happy having her there. It’s the only way she can support her children. She is a single Mom.”
Then Menendez arrived and the friend joined her to translate.
“I only want to work Saturday and Sundays, no weekdays at all,” she said. “ I don’t know why they don’t want to give me the permit. I’m not close to a restaurant and not affecting anybody. I bring a lot of my clients who support me. Nobody makes any accusations against me except these people,”
Boxer appeared sympathetic to Mendndez’s plight and pushed other commission members to come up with a solution.
“Can everyone who came in to support raise their hands?” asked Boxer. More than 30 people who stood along the walls and the back of the chamber raised their hand after the request was repeated in Spanish.
The commission agreed to a 5-0 vote to remand Mendndez’s application. Which means a decision wouldn’t be made that evening to give her time to work on signage and crowd control. This decision was met with applause and bravos from the people who came to support Menendez.
Mendndez’s petition for a permit may come up before the board again in July if all the issues aren’t ironed out before then.
The next big item was the 2007-2014 Housing Element that would provide affordable housing for those with special needs like seniors and the disabled. The proposal could create 16,629 new rooms between 2007 and 2014.
A man named Joseph who spoke in favor of the Housing Element said, “Until moving into affordable housing I was paying two thirds of my income for a noisy smoky room next to a McDonald’s drive thru. Now I live in a building with a community room. I would like other low income seniors to have this opportunity.”
Five other people approached the podium in favor of the proposal. The commissioners seemed favorable, but there was some skepticism. C. Blake Huntsman and Sandra Gálvez, felt the proposal could do more.
Gálvez said, “I applaud this document – a lot of work has gone into it. It’s very thorough, but I don’t think it’s aggressive enough. I would like the opportunity for this commission to entertain inclusionary zoning and condo conversion.”
Condo conversion would allow for pre-existing buildings to be turned into affordable housing. This would allow the city to save money by not having to build new buildings from the ground up.
In spite of some misgivings, the commission voted 5-0 to pass it along to the City Council.
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