2. One Housing Victory
In May, when activists found out that the city was selling a piece of public land on East 12th Street near Lake Merritt to a private developer solely for market-rate housing, they shut down an Oakland City Council meeting in protest.
Later, when the city attorney determined that the sale might be illegal, the City Council decided to pull back and reopen the bidding, this time with a focus on affordable housing first. The #SaveE12th campaign was a major win for those who have pushed the city to create more affordable housing.
The city has been meeting privately with five separate developer groups that want to purchase the 1-acre parcel. All of the groups have included affordable housing in their proposals.
Oakland has long been on the list of most dangerous cities in America, for its disproportionately high rate of homicides. After a decline in the homicide rate in 2014, the numbers inched up again in 2015. Two homicides in particular stood out.
First was the murder of artist Antonio Ramos, who was killed in late September while painting a mural on an underpass beneath Interstate 580 in West Oakland.
The painting was the idea of a nonprofit group and portrays the vision of an inclusive and renewed West Oakland. It is sprinkled with images of musical notes that seem to sing above the sound of the highway. Among renderings of brightly painted Victorian houses and the faces of children, white doves fly.
In the middle of working on the mural, Ramos was shot and killed. He was a young man intent on giving back to his community and the tragic irony of his death -- painting a symbol of peace -- rippled throughout the city.
At the end of the year, Torian Hughes -- considered a grandson by City Council president Lynette McElhaney -- was slain in what police say was a robbery homicide.
4. Fatal Police Shootings
The hashtag that helped define a movement, #Black Lives Matter, began, among other places, in Oakland.
Oakland's police department has been singled out by the Obama administration as a progressive department implementing new tactics to work more effectively in the community. But after two years of no fatal officer-involved shootings by the OPD, 2015 saw five killings at the hands of police, including at least one death some saw as suspicious.
The circumstances in each instance were distinct, but the message of Black Lives Matter and other activists was uniform: They criticized OPD as too ready to fire on black men. A group known as Mapping Police Violence ranked Oakland as the third-most-dangerous city in the U.S. for being killed by police in 2015.
The city says that each of these cases was justified and that it has strengthened internal review of all instances where officers use force against civilians.
5. The Coal Wars
Many Oaklanders were angry when they learned that developers of a new logistics facility being built on the site of a former army base want to export coal through the city. This got the attention of Mayor Libby Schaaf, who wrote “stop it immediately” in a letter to investor Phil Tagami.
Oakland officials are now considering what legal options the city has to stop the movement of coal through the city, although it appears there may not be many. There is a clause in the agreement between the city and Tagami’s group that would allow the city to amend the agreement if the project would affect the health or safety of employees or neighbors. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for Feb. 16.
6. Oakland's 'Soul'
A distinct feeling of what might be called gentrification anxiety lingered heavily in the air in 2015, like a fog rolling across the bay. There was a widespread sense of dread that seemed to say that nothing less than Oakland's soul was at stake.
Given this tension, it is perhaps not surprising that what started out as a noise complaint one night at Lake Merritt by a newer white resident against a group of mostly black drummers ended in an altercation and the police being called.
News spread quickly on social media that there were new bans being enforced at the lake. There weren't, actually, but -- added to reports that some black churches had also been the subject of complaints over late-night choir practices -- many were left feeling that the city's culture, especially black culture, was under assault.
When Uber announced in September that it would open a major office in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood, Schaaf called it a game-changer. The ride-service giant says it will create between 2,000 and 3,000 new jobs.
Uber could become a major player in defining the future of downtown Oakland when its office opens in 2017. Since the purchase was made on the private market, the company wasn’t required to provide any specific community benefits beyond a $1 million affordable housing fee.
Some are concerned that, as Oakland attracts more large powerful companies, the housing market will price out current residents, as has happened in San Francisco. Read some tips KQED has for Uber here.
8. The Warriors
Of course the Golden State Warriors winning their first championship in 40 years made this year’s list. They were (and continue to be) the best team in the NBA. In June, the Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games and brought a huge celebration to downtown Oakland. This season, the team is off to an even better start.
“Curry with the sauce all day.”
9. The Curfew
One of Schaaf's most publicly criticized acts of the year was when she instructed Oakland police to enforce a “protest curfew” to shut down unauthorized protests after dark. The new policy got off to a rocky start when officers tried it out on a peaceful protest organized by black women.
While Schaaf says that the policy helps stop looting, actual implementation by police seems to have ended. The backlash from many activists and civil rights groups, including the ACLU, helped set the tone for an antagonistic relationship between the mayor and the city’s activists.
10. Bizarre Brawls
This technically did not happen in Oakland, but at an Alameda City Council meeting, fisticuffs broke out between a tenants rights advocate and the director of public works. The tension? Rising rents and evictions in Alameda, and the passage of a moratorium on rent increases.