Oakland mayor says protecting the most vulnerable starts with housing

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Oakland's mayor Libby Schaaf has been in the spotlight since the tipoff of ICE raids.

Today she renewed her commitment to protecting the most vulnerable people in her city and that, she said, starts with offering them affordable housing. The mayor was at a groundbreaking ceremony in the Fruitvale district where long-time activists Arabella Martinez was being honored. Martinez was instrumental in transforming the Fruitvale District, a largely Hispanic neighborhood in Oakland.

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In the early 90s, nearly half of the businesses on International Boulevard were boarded up.

"And we were able to say well what we're going to do is re-vitalize the Fruitvale economically, physically and socially, " said Martinez.

She and others took on Bart which wanted to build a four-story parking lot to protect riders from the once crime-infested Fruitvale.

"She stood up and said BART should not be protecting its riders from this community, it should be benefiting this community, " Mayor Schaaf told a group of people who attended today's ceremony.

BART sold the land to the city of Oakland which then helped to create a public and private partnership to build affordable housing for seniors and in the Fall of 2019 a four-story apartment building will serve about 400 residents appropriately named "Casa Arabella."

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"Primarily townhouses for families and 21 of the units are reserved for formerly homeless veterans, " explained Chris Iglesias of the Unity Council the non-profit which has led the effort to make this project a reality.

Just across the street another public and private venture will go up, which will have even more units, 185.

Besides housing, that project will include office space for non-profit organizations in the neighborhood and an urgent care clinic.

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