Woman in helmet rides a bike, in a blur, past victorian houses.
An $850 million infrastructure bond measure could raise money for affordable housing, bike paths, and city facilities. Credit: Amir Aziz

While the mayor’s race is dominating headlines leading up to the Nov. 8 election in Oakland, voters will also get a chance to make significant changes to city policy at the ballot box. There are 10 measures on the ballot this year, collectively involving hundreds of millions of dollars.

Three of those measures attempt to address the city’s housing crisis in different ways: allowing the city to develop public housing in the coming years, raising funds to build more affordable housing, and extending eviction protections so more renters can keep their housing.

Here’s more on what measures Q, U, and V would do if passed.

Measure Q: Social housing

Measure Q will permit the city of Oakland to build or acquire up to 13,000 units of government-funded housing, also called “social housing” or “public housing.” 

While the measure does not guarantee that Oakland will build even a single unit of such housing, it gets the necessary permission out of the way so that if a project is proposed and approved by city leaders in the future, it can go forward. 

Why is that permission needed? In 1950, an amendment to the state constitution, Article 34, required a majority of voters in a community to approve any public housing before it could be built. Since then, voters have squashed many housing proposals, wielding their authority under Article 34. 

Advocates for housing and racial justice have long pushed for a repeal of the provision. Article 34 is widely considered a product of racist and classist reactions to the prospect of once-exclusive neighborhoods becoming integrated in the 1950s.  

If Measure Q passes, Oakland would essentially bypass Article 34, pre-approving social housing without having to wait until an election to float individual projects in front of voters. But all proposed projects would still have to go through standard city approval processes. And note that the measure doesn’t create any funding to build social housing.

The 13,000-unit figure comes from the number of low-income housing units the state and regional governments have required Oakland to plan for.

Originally proposed by City Councilmember Carroll Fife, the council unanimously voted to place Measure Q on the ballot. It needs to be approved by a simple majority of voters to pass.

Measure U: Housing infrastructure bond

Measure U would raise money for affordable housing, street repaving, and other city infrastructure upgrades by issuing $850 million in general obligation bonds.

Property owners would be taxed yearly at a rate of $71 per $100,000 in assessed property value.

The measure is designed to solve some of Oakland’s $6.5 billion in outstanding capital improvement needs. More than a third of its revenue, $350 million, would be used to create or preserve affordable housing, the largest single allocation for that purpose in Oakland’s history. 

Transportation projects, like street paving, bike lanes, and sidewalk repair, would command $290 million, and the remaining $210 million would be spent on city facilities like libraries, fire stations, and public pools.

Oakland voters have approved similar infrastructure bond measures in the past, most recently the 2016 $600 million Measure KK. Such bond measures undergo analysis by a citizen oversight board and annual audits.

The Oakland City Council voted unanimously to place Measure U on the ballot, and a number of local organizations, including the Alameda County Democratic Party, East Bay Housing Organizations, SPUR, the Oakland Tenants Union, and Bike East Bay, are supporting it, along with Mayor Libby Schaaf. 

These proponents say the bond measure will make neighborhoods and public spaces safer and create critical housing for homeless residents without raising taxes. A new city policy passed with Measure U in mind says new bonds can’t be issued until old bonds are retired, or the tax base grows, to maintain the current tax rate.

In the county voter guide, opponents of Measure U, including the Alameda County Taxpayers’ Association and mayoral candidate Ignacio De La Fuente, say the measure’s language and promises are too vague. They say conditions in Oakland have worsened in spite of the previous infrastructure bond measure and criticize the city for continuing to tax residents.

Measure U needs a two-thirds majority to pass.

Measure V: Eviction protections

Measure V would extend Oakland’s eviction protections to include more households.

In 2002, Oakland passed a Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance, which says landlords must have a “just” reason to kick out a tenant. There are 11 reasons a property owner can cite to pursue an eviction under this policy, such as if the tenant has missed rent payments, if the owner wants to move into the unit, or if the renter is using the apartment for illegal activity.

But the just-cause ordinance only applies to housing built before 1996. If passed, Measure V would extend the protections to renters in housing built after 1996, but new buildings would be exempt for the first 10 years after they’re constructed. The policy would also be extended to tenants of RVs and tiny homes, which can now be rented as legal units in Oakland, per a recent law

Measure V would also prevent “no-fault” evictions of children and educators during the school year. No-fault evictions are those unrelated to the renter’s actions, such as an eviction because the owner is moving in. Evictions based on non-payment of rent or criminal activity are not “no-fault” evictions and could still happen at any point in the year.

The measure would also remove one of the current 11 “just causes” for eviction. Currently, a landlord can evict a tenant if the renter refuses to sign an identical lease when their lease expires. If Measure V passes, that would no longer be grounds for eviction in Oakland.

Since the pandemic started, an eviction moratorium has been in effect in Oakland, temporarily preventing almost all evictions, even those permitted under the just-cause policy. When the moratorium is lifted, Oakland will revert to its standard just-cause ordinance. Measure V affects that permanent policy.

Measure V, originally introduced by City Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Carroll Fife, was placed on the ballot unanimously after it was scaled down from the initial proposal, which would have extended protections to more renters. It needs a simple majority to pass.

Natalie Orenstein covers housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. She was previously on staff at Berkeleyside, where her extensive reporting on the legacy of school desegregation received recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists NorCal and the Education Writers Association. Natalie’s reporting has also appeared in The J Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, and she’s written about public policy for a number of research institutes and think tanks. Natalie lives in Oakland, grew up in Berkeley, and has only left her beloved East Bay once, to attend Pomona College.