Oakland Mayor Announces $1.7 Million Grant for Affordable Arts Spaces

She said it was "especially important and prescient"​ given the fire at Ghost Ship on Friday.

Dec 7 2016, 9:45pm

Photo of Oakland courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf announced a $1.7 million grant for the arts yesterday, aimed at nurturing at the city's artists and cultural organizations by making affordable space for them and preventing their displacement. In the press release, Schaaf said the philanthropic grant was "especially important and prescient" given the tragic fire at Oakland's Ghost Ship venue on Friday.

"The arts are at the center of vibrant and diverse communities, and are critical to neighborhood health and well-being, yet artists and cultural organizations are increasingly vulnerable to instability and displacement," Schaaf said.

The grant combines private and public funds from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the nonprofit Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST). It is designed to combat the rising housing costs in Oakland that risk displacement for artists.

Tenants rights' activists have connected the Ghost Ship fire to the affordability crisis of housing in Oakland, arguing that the fire was a symptom of poor urban planning approaches which favored profitability over protecting vulnerable people. Across the bay, San Francisco is the most expensive city in the United States, and the nearby Silicon Valley has also substantially contributed to rising rents.

The grant aims to provide financial and technical assistance to artists and arts communities, and help CAST create a real estate acquisition program to help make art spaces more sustainable. Funds will be set aside so Oakland artists and arts organizations can purchase real estate and lease at below market rates.

CAST is also partnering with Northern California Community Loan Fund (NCCLF) to offer arts communities technical expertise in real estate consultation.

Oaklands arts and cultural institutions generate an impact of $53 million a year, according to a 2010 study by Americans for the Arts.

Last year, Schaaf assembled the Housing Implementation Cabinet to address the housing crisis, composed of housing experts, advocates, and developers. This year they released "Oakland At Home," which introduced strategies to protect affordability for Oakland residents as well as build more affordable and market rate homes.

In a letter accompanying the report, said it was "unacceptable" that "Oakland is fast becoming unaffordable to those who have called our city home for generations and who give our city its rich diversity."

Follow Alexander on Twitter.