A sign supports Measure Q along the sidewalk in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland

California voters will be participating in the presidential primary earlier than usual, joining 13 other states to vote on Super Tuesday, March 3. Oakland voters will also be voting to create funding for struggling public parks. Measure Q will provide money for city parks, homeless services, and clearing storm drains. According to a count conducted by the group “Everyone Home” a community group intent on ending homelessness, the number of people without homes increased by over 40% between 2017-2019 in Alameda County. Oakland is in crisis, with immediate action needed to place people in housing, but Measure Q is not the correct way to do it.

Measure Q would add to a 1989 parcel tax, the Oakland Landscaping and Lighting Assessment District (LLAD). The bill would raise $21 million annually, with a $148 tax on single-family homes and $101.08 on multiple family residencies. Tax on non-residential spaces would be determined by the square footage of the property. 

Measure Q is referred to as the “2020 Oakland Parks and Recreation Preservation, Litter Reduction, and Homelessness Support Act.” While this title covers a lot of ground, only 30% of the revenue will be used to support homelessness by providing temporary shelter, transitional housing, and permanent housing. A small part of the revenue, 5%, will be devoted to maintaining the city’s storm drains. At 65%, the majority of the revenue will be dedicated to city park maintenance, such as picking up litter, landscaping and maintaining restroom areas.

Oakland has suffered from a housing crisis since the economic recession in 2008. In 2015, city officials aggressively promoted development in the city.  Five years later, construction cranes dot the skyline erecting condos and luxury apartments. This development craze while intended to create housing has continued the displacement of residents, meanwhile available housing sits vacant.

With so many people forced to live out-of-doors, Oakland’s public facilities have been strained. Oakland’s parks have been underfunded and in need of support for years. Oakland’s city parks need funding and keeping them clean will create jobs and increase social equity for residents. Measure Q will not be able to do this. Without making housing the priority, not enough people will be able to transfer into housing to relieve the strain put on the parks. With the passing Measure Q, we will be accepting that large numbers of people living in public parks is the status quo and paying a tax to accommodate this.

California Governor Gavin Newsom is dedicating federal land throughout the state for people without housing: 36 of these sites will be in the Bay Area. Mayor Schaff needs to take advantage of this opportunity and ensure these spaces are utilized. Rather than repurpose public spaces such as libraries and public parks to accommodate the housing crisis, Schaaf should have the resources available to build on these sites without passing on the cost to residents with another parcel tax. Measure Q will support homelessness–we need to make choices that end homelessness.