Community Foods Market CEO Brahm Ahmadi speaks to a group of residents from Oakland and neighboring cities about the progress of the grocery store's construction at a site tour on October 13.

Ahmadi said he had no choice but to fundraise from residents, rather than taking a more traditional path such as a loan from a bank. On paper, the project showed a high risk of failure “both because it’s a start-up and a low-margin business—also because of the perceptions of the challenges of the neighborhood,” said Ahmadi.

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DeFremery Park is an island. A two-story light blue Victorian sits alone in a massive yard, surrounded by fields of vibrant green grass. It’s quiet in the park on most days, the building’s stoic presence adding a layer of calm to the surrounding West Oakland neighborhood. The house sits next to a tennis court, a…

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A pile of items donated to victims of the San Pablo fire sits in a warehouse in West Oakland. Photo by Abner Hauge.

The residential building at 2551 San Pablo Avenue caught fire in the early-morning hours of March 27, killing four people and displacing more than 100. That day Strauss started a crowdfunding page to collect donations for displaced residents. It wasn’t the first time he’d done this—as a founding member of the Oakland Warehouse Coalition, Jonah Strauss had collected donations for survivors of the Ghost Ship fire and their next of kin.

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