Oakland North’s 2017 year in review — our top stories

Oakland's holiday tree at Jack London Square. Photo by Peter Bittner.

Oakland's holiday tree at Jack London Square. Photo by Peter Bittner.

2017 brought a new group of student reporters to Oakland North from across the country and the globe. They covered a city in flux: a housing and homelessness crisis that shows no sign of abating, a school district facing millions in budget cuts, a citywide crackdown on warehouse spaces in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire, and local reactions to the new immigration and sanctuary city polices coming out of Washington under the new Donald Trump administration.

But they also dug deep into stories about the people, places and ideas that make Oakland unique, like the senior retirement center that opened its doors to refugees from the Santa Rosa fires, workers trying to prevent a Hepatitis A outbreak in the city’s homeless camps, the people getting ready to run new pot-based businesses once recreational marijuana sales become legal in 2018, and of course, the massive Women’s March, which brought some 80,000 peaceful protesters to Oakland.

We also produced new episodes of our Tales of Two Cities podcast, which covers audio stories from Oakland and Richmond in collaboration with our sister site, Richmond ConfidentialClick here to check out all episodes of the Tales of Two Cities podcast. The four episodes from the fall 2017 semester (While You Were Sleeping, Tracks and Borders, Resistance, Play and Self-Care) were reported by first year students and produced by second year students Rosa Furneaux, Rachel Loyd, Abner Hauge and Brian Krans.

Here are some of our favorite and most-read stories from 2017. Thanks for reading (and listening, and watching) — we’ll be back on the beat again in late January!

Oakland North and Richmond Confidential are projects of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, and all reporting is done by students. You can click here to learn more about our history and support community journalism through our school’s Hyperlocal News Fund

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The New Year

The new year began with protests against Donald Trump’s inauguration (including some artistic ones), against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and in support of the Women’s March Oakland, which brought tens of thousands of people together for a march through the downtown. City officials began working on ways to financially help people displaced by the Ghost Ship fire.

Oaklanders reacted to the Trump administration’s intention to repeal the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare) and DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era executive order that protects children of undocumented immigrants from deportation. They also weighed in on the #DeleteUber boycott, as the company made plans to move a headquarters to downtown Oakland, and protested the administration’s immigration polices on a Day Without Immigrants, as Bay Area officials reaffirmed their support for sanctuary cities like Oakland.

City officials struggled with trying to move homeless people into permanent housing, and with the need for safe, affordable  warehouse dwellings and art spaces, as artists rallied to support the arts community and the city offered Ghost Ship survivors emergency loans.

For the first time since California’s drought began in 2014, the East Bay’s drinking water reserves reached full capacity. 

Spring

In the Bay Area, people continued to react strongly to the new policies being proposed by the Trump administration on healthcare, immigration, trans people serving in the military, and much more. State legislators began pushing for a single payer healthcare system, while one gym in Oakland pushed back against a rollback on transgender rights and city officials planned a boycott of any companies that would work on Trump’s border wall.

The city’s struggle with the safety of warehouse and low-income living spaces worsened as the city’s second large fire in five months broke out in a San Pablo Avenue residential building, killing four and displacing about 100 people. Local activists worked to get financial aid to those displaced, and to provide feminine hygiene products to homeless women.

Oakland schools also wrestled with the issue of student suspensions, which create financial costs for students and their communities, and disproportionately affect minorities. Oakland students also participated in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical festival, performing a range of poems and speeches about social justice and politics.

A crowd of about 1,000 people turned out to support immigrants on May Day,
City and county officials began tackling a joint plan to reduce homelessness,

In sports news, the A’s renamed their playing field after Hall of Famer Ricky Henderson, and fans reacted to the plan to move the Raiders to Las Vegas and to the return of Marshawn Lynch.

Summer

Experts debated the effects of new state law Proposition 57, which increased parole opportunities for inmates to reduce prison overcrowding, while Oaklanders  sparred over where to put a new stadium for the Oakland A’s.

Oakland opened its first community center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) people, sent rescue workers to assist with hurricane relief efforts in Texas and Florida, and received an influx of animals rescued from the storms. Locally, residents helped clean up the shoreline for Creek to Bay Day, and danced the night away at the Pediatric Prom for hospitalized teens.

As US Attorney Jeff Sessions announced plans to rescind DACA, Oakland school officials vowed to protect local students, and other organizations began efforts to help recipients know their rights.

Autumn

Once the council reconvened after summer recess, Oakland city workers threatened to strike over their contract and pay rates. As the homelessness crisis worsened, the city voted on an emergency ordinance to provide more shelters. They also voted to ban the sale of flavored tobacco projects in Oakland, and joined San Francisco to sue five oil and gas companies.  Meanwhile, the school district launched an effort to test for lead in campus water supplies, after it was found at McClymonds High School.

As the national conversation increasingly focused on race and nationalism, groups in the East Bay hosted anti-racism trainings for white people, and launched The North Pole web series, a humorous way of looking at displacement and race in Oakland.

After sweeping fires broke out in Santa Rosa, we covered the response from Oakland firefighters, as well as an Oakland senior home that opened its doors to displaced residents. (We also animated the drawings of one evacuee as he chronicled his experience.)

In Oakland, activists worked to get breathing masks to homeless people, as air quality dropped thanks to the thick smoke and ash. Others worked to stave off a potential Hepatitis A outbreak, and to bring food to the encampments.

In development news, residents continued to debate a location for the new A’s Stadium, pushing back against plans to cite it near Laney College. Airbnb announced that its home-sharing business was pumping $22 million into Oakland’s economy, and we tried to figure out where that money was going. Incubators worked to bring more minority-owned businesses into the cannabis economy, and a novel health program delivered food, instead of medicine, to pre-diabetic people. Meanwhile, organizers announced plans to open a long-term home for sex-trafficked teenagers, and the Pacific Institute, Oakland’s groundbreaking environmental research think tank, celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Throughout the fall, teachers and students protested plans to cut as much as $15 million from the Oakland schools budget, city workers continued to push for higher wages, including protesting outside of the mayor’s State of the City speech, residents protested the Trump administration’s travel ban, inmates at the Glenn Dyer Detention Facility in downtown Oakland went on a hunger strike over prison conditions, nurses picketed outside of Kaiser Oakland for a new contract, and residents rallied to support Puerto Rico after devastating hurricanes there. 

And Bay Area residents continued to react to what was happening in the Trump administration, including the indictment of two of his campaign advisors, and changes to federal regulations involving birth control.

Winter

To the dismay of many teachers and students, the school board voted in $9 million in cuts (rather than the full $15 million) and still hadn’t gotten lead testing results for all district schools. After reaching an impasse with the city, city workers went on strike.

Oakland North students also finished off a dozen major reporting projects they’d been working on for most of the fall. These included a large multimedia project called Birthing Inequalities, focusing on the racial disparities in the health of newborns in Alameda County, and a profile of of Vanessa Russell, the founder of Love Never Fails, a group that provides help to survivors of sex trafficking.

They also reported on the Oakland school district’s policy of requiring an ethnic studies course for all high school students; now at the two-year mark, the class has been rolled out to 8 of 14 schools. We learned about local efforts to battle the digital divide, which cuts many off from Internet and computer access. And we covered the ongoing tensions between city officials and advocates for the homeless as they attempt to open new shelters and city-sanctioned street encampments to deal with the ongoing housing emergency.

They covered innovative projects in Oakland, like the Town Kitchen, which trains low income and formerly incarcerated young people in culinary skills, and learned about the role commercial kitchens are playing as incubators for new food businesses. 

They profiled three female artists who run their own galleries or shops, as well as three high school athletes who hope to keep playing the game after they graduate, and got up close with Oakland’s new generation of women who weld.

Thank you for supporting community journalism!
We wish you the best for 2018.

One Comment

  1. Victoria

    How well are the arts doing with increasing diversification in those areas of art where there is still great disparities? Take a look at the San Francisco Ballet Company and its Training school. Are they diverse throughout the races and genders and throughout the year or do they increase visibility of diversity merely when they are looking to increase their purse size. They have a new Black (African-American, of non-mixed race heritage) born in Oakland who is a Ballerina Student appointed to dance the principal role of Clara for the 2nd season in a row. They even feature her in their 2017 souvenir magazine along with company members who are “of color” (none who are African-American females) and in all their 73 years of presenting this full length version (opened 12/24/1944 for the first time ever in America) this ballet that is now an endeared and treasured holiday tradition, they can’t seem to remember ever having an African-American Dance this Principal Role. Yet, during the regular season and even now, their web page does not reflect this sentiment nor have they fully celebrated this young Black Ballerina to the extent that they intend to change the face of their Ballet school or company, unless it’s to line their purse by selling high priced tickets to benefit those who are ghosts within the walls of their ballet building on the basis of convenience. Shouldn’t they be doing more for her and others like her? Why are there so few (she’s alone as goes non-mixed African-Americans at her level but there is at least 1 above and 1 below her Girls Level 6 intermediates out of nearly 50 Students or more in the intermediate through advanced levels of training)?

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