Oakland sees exodus of nonprofits from downtown as market booms
By Kimberly Veklerov
San Francisco Chronicle
22 April 2017
Photo courtesy Natasha Dangond, The Chronicle
Image: Tatiana Larkin with Oakland Natives Give Back, packs up items in the office as she prepares to move from 17th Street near Telegraph to shared quarters in the Pill Hill neighborhood.
Dozens of nonprofit organizations have made plans in recent months to leave downtown Oakland as commercial rents skyrocket, changing not just the neighborhood landscape, but where low-income children and families go to get basic services.
Many of the nonprofits signed leases when building vacancies were high and the local economy was climbing out from the depths of the recession. With their agreements now expiring, organizations are seeing their rents nearly double. Some have chosen not to renew and move instead, while several have downsized in response. Others, still, have little say in the matter as buildings change hands to developers that do not offer renewal deals.
“Oakland has always been waiting for the next wave to come to it. Ten years ago it was biotech, which of course never came. Fifteen years ago it was the so-called multimedia boom,” said Karen Chapple, Professor of City and Regional Planning and leading expert on urban displacement. “Now there’s the hope that the technology boom will spill over from San Francisco, partly because the workers have already relocated to Oakland. It looks like some of that spillover has materialized in this go-around.”
Factors contributing to the tough market are the absence of commercial development, an exceptionally low vacancy rate — less than 5 percent for office spaces — plus the impending arrival of Uber and the sale of older buildings to developers that refurbish the properties and increase their value.