San Francisco Chronicle: 5 ways Oakland can preserve its soul in a tech boom

920x1240.jpgOakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has been using a new word lately to describe her vision for the technology hub growing in her city: “Tech-quity.”

With Uber planning to open a 3,000-person office in the long-underutilized Sears Building in downtown Oakland, there is no turning back the tech tide rolling across the bay. Though only 3.1 percent of Oakland’s workforce is in the tech sector, that number is sure to grow as other companies follow Uber’s lead, seeking office space at a quarter of the cost of San Francisco.

In a welcome-to-Oakland letter to Uber executives, Schaaf defined tech-quity as providing “equitable access to top-notch training and jobs for our residents and fostering our local technology sector’s growth so it leads to shared prosperity.”

It sounds like a noble goal, but it will be difficult to enforce.

In Uber’s case, the San Francisco ride-hailing company acquired the building in a private land deal, so it didn’t need government approval or tax incentives to buy the property. That left Oakland no leverage to enact a community benefit agreement, a strategy used in San Francisco’s Mid-Market neighborhood to compel tech companies to help out the community.

Instead of enforcing tech-quity through tax incentives or government mandates, Schaaf said, change will be more sustainable if companies “see it as the right thing to do.”

“Rather than thinking of it as enforcement, I’d rather see it institutionalized. The list of items in my letter was not a checklist of things for companies to do, but a menu. Ideas to stimulate the imagination. One size is not going to fit all,” Schaaf said.

Tech-quity will be the centerpiece of Schaaf’s state of the city address Wednesday, the next step in her bid to turn Oakland into a kinder, more inclusive tech hub.

That task will prove difficult, as Oakland’s leaders face a three-tiered challenge: They must simultaneously attract tech companies; minimize the displacement of longtime residents by a sudden influx of wealth; and find a way to make Oakland’s tech scene as diverse as the city itself.

Tech industry leaders, urban planners, activists and city officials suggest five techniques Oakland could adopt to achieve tech-quity:

Attendees take a break for lunch during the New Co. festival at Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of city hall in Oakland, Calif., on Thurs. October 8, 2015.

1. Think outside the office

Unlike many tech companies its size, Pandora doesn’t have a cafeteria — on purpose. It wants its 1,000 employees to leave its downtown Oakland high-rise.

“There are no free meals at Pandora,” said co-founder Tim Westergren, whose streaming music company has been the core of Oakland’s tech sector for a decade. “The more amenities and things you provide around your office, the more it becomes this self-contained bubble and the less people interact organically with the community around them. And I think that’s very tempting for a lot of tech companies.”

To that end, Schaaf’s office has been introducing companies that want to serve food in their offices to local vendors.

Pandora employees also receive 40 hours a year in “volunteer time off” to donate to schools and nonprofits — another way to get into the community.

“It will behoove Uber to invest in the community,” Westergren said. “Use their resources and their voice and the podium they have to advance things that are important to Oakland.”

2. Exert leverage

As part of its “Twitter tax break,” San Francisco offered companies a temporary exemption from the city’s 1.5 percent payroll tax if they moved into the long-dreary Mid-Market neighborhood. The area has attracted commercial tenants, though the city lost $34 million in potential payroll taxes last year alone.

“The big danger is that Oakland has historically been so desperate for economic development that it may just give away all of its leverage in negotiating terms with new employers,” said Van Jones, a CNN commentator and founder of YesWeCode, an Oakland tech skills training program for low-opportunity young people.

Because of San Francisco’s tight commercial real estate market and Oakland’s growing appeal, companies may no longer need big tax breaks to come to the East Bay. But, Jones pointed out, businesses must often acquire permits and licenses from local government. Considering the tech industry’s general aversion to red tape, the city could find novel ways to offer incentives for certain behavior, he said.

“Government should have a fast track for companies that really want to be good neighbors,” Jones said. “And everybody else would get the normal, bureaucratic government treatment.”

For years, Oakland imposed fewer taxes and fees on developers or new businesses than neighboring cities. But as the flush times approach, it is considering an impact fee — a one-time payment from developers to get permission to build.

“This is a perfectly appropriate idea. But what is that number? And how will it be implemented?” said Egon Terplan, a regional planning director for SPUR, an urban planning think tank.

3. Expect public pressure

Media entrepreneur John Battelle expanded his NewCo festival — a sort of open studios for new tech businesses — from San Francisco to Oakland this year. Far more companies in the Oakland portion are “mission-driven,” he said, a reflection of the city’s long history of social activism. There, Battelle heard a constant refrain: “‘Keep Oakland Oakland.’ ‘Make tech in Oakland look like Oakland.’”

“If Uber had decided to move 3,000 employees into South San Francisco, there wouldn’t be a story about any of this,” Battelle said. “That in itself is a social pressure.”

Oakland is on the cutting edge of a cultural shift in which people increasingly want to work for a company “that is making things a little bit better rather than a little bit worse,” he said.

Attendees take a break for lunch during the New Co. festival at Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of city hall in Oakland, Calif., on Thurs. October 8, 2015.

“Creating that expectation is what Oakland is doing right now by welcoming Uber in, but saying, ‘We have this expectation of you,’” Battelle said. “Now the question is, over the next 10 years, does Uber live up to that?”

If Uber or any company doesn’t live up to the city’s expectations, it should expect backlash. “This is still Oakland — one of the hotbeds of activism on planet Earth,” said Jones, previously a Bay Area street activist. “If they choose not to be good neighbors, Oaklanders will probably make them understand the folly of that course.”

Westergren’s Pandora has experienced some backlash — and it hasn’t scared him away.

“I like that our office windows have been broken once or twice,” he said. “That’s real life. The answer isn’t to build a big wall.”

4. Build atop parking lots

While it seems as if a trendy new restaurant opens in downtown Oakland every week, there are 40 acres of surface parking lots and vacant parcels there, according to a study by SPUR. That’s enough room for buildings that could house an additional 36,000 jobs and 19,000 residents without displacing any homes or businesses, according to the report.

Plus, the city can dangle this empty space as a carrot to big companies that want to move or expand in Oakland, said Oakland tech entrepreneur and philanthropist Freada Kapor Klein. She and her husband, Mitch Kapor, plan to spend $40 million over the next three years to help African Americans and Latinos get into the tech industry.

“The city could say to a company, you can build on that piece of land — if you build a coding camp there, for example,” Klein said. “We’re startup people. We like principles better than rules.”

5. Train locals

Oakland is among the most diverse cities in the country. The tech industry is under fire for its lack of diversity.

City leaders think they can bridge this divide by turning Oakland into something of an incubator for tech diversity.

The city “is trying to build a tech economy that people in Oakland can work in,” said Marisa Raya, a special project analyst with Oakland’s Economic and Workforce Development Department.

With the Kapor Center set to open next year — and Jones’ YesWeCode and similar organizations in town — that vision is taking root.

Last week at the Oakland Museum of California, YesWeCode brought together a dozen tech employers — including eBay, Lyft, Pinterest and Square — to form the YesWeCode Working Group, which is trying to diversify the technology workforce. The tech companies agreed to create 300 job-track apprenticeships over the next five years.

Such recruitment efforts are a way to make sure that Oakland’s tech scene doesn’t just poach skilled engineers already well-compensated in San Francisco.

“The basic trade of computer engineering is teachable in a relatively short period of time to people who have basic mathematical literacy,” Jones said.

In any other city in the country, the impending arrival of 3,000 high-paying tech jobs — and a potential of a boom yielding thousands more — would be met with unadulterated joy. But when Oakland leaders and merchants see how much of San Francisco has grown unaffordable, there is some trepidation.

Blue Bottle Coffee isn’t a tech company, but its supporters regularly laud it as a mission-driven, Oakland-grown success story. At the opening night of the NewCo conference in Oakland this month, Blue Bottle CEO James Freeman said he worries about how Oakland is changing.

“Most of our baristas live in Oakland,” Freeman said. “But how long is that going to last?”

Joe Garofoli is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: jgarofoli@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @joegarofoli

Source: San Francisco Chronicle


SF Chronicle: 5 ways Oakland can preserve its soul in a tech boom

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Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has been using a new word lately to describe her vision for the technology hub growing in her city: “Tech-quity.”

With Uber planning to open a 3,000-person office in the long-underutilized Sears Building in downtown Oakland, there is no turning back the tech tide rolling across the bay. Though only 3.1 percent of Oakland’s workforce is in the tech sector, that number is sure to grow as other companies follow Uber’s lead, seeking office space at a quarter of the cost of San Francisco.

The question is what kind of tech hub will Oakland become.

In a welcome-to-Oakland letter to Uber executives, Schaaf defined tech-quity as providing “equitable access to top-notch training and jobs for our residents and fostering our local technology sector’s growth so it leads to shared prosperity.”

It sounds like a noble goal, but it will be difficult to enforce.

In Uber’s case, the San Francisco ride-hailing company acquired the building in a private land deal, so it didn’t need government approval or tax incentives to buy the property. That left Oakland no leverage to enact a community benefit agreement, a strategy used in San Francisco’s Mid-Market neighborhood to compel tech companies to help out the community.

Instead of enforcing tech-quity through tax incentives or government mandates, Schaaf said, change will be more sustainable if companies “see it as the right thing to do.”

“Rather than thinking of it as enforcement, I’d rather see it institutionalized. The list of items in my letter was not a checklist of things for companies to do, but a menu. Ideas to stimulate the imagination. One size is not going to fit all,” Schaaf said.

Tech-quity will be the centerpiece of Schaaf’s state of the city address Wednesday, the next step in her bid to turn Oakland into a kinder, more inclusive tech hub.

That task will prove difficult, as Oakland’s leaders face a three-tiered challenge: They must simultaneously attract tech companies; minimize the displacement of longtime residents by a sudden influx of wealth; and find a way to make Oakland’s tech scene as diverse as the city itself.

Source: SF Chronicle


#YesWeCode, MacArthur Foundation, John Legend and Top U.S. Companies unite to build new ecosystem of learning

EMBARGOED UNTIL OCTOBER 6, 2015

MEDIA CONTACT
Lex Hundsdorfer
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 #YES WE CODE, MACARTHUR FOUNDATION, JOHN LEGEND AND TOP U.S. COMPANIES UNITE TO BUILD NEW ‘ECOSYSTEM OF LEARNING’

 ‘LRNG’ to Create 21st Century Paths to Success for All Youth

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today #YesWeCode joined with national education, technology and corporate leaders to launch LRNG, a bold new endeavor to close the nation’s sharp and growing divide between young people who have access to 21st century opportunity and those who do not.

Read more

InMenlo: White House names #YesWeCode Leader of Excellence – and Kay O’Neill heads to Washington

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Kay O’Neill came to Menlo Park in 1988, buying a little bungalow the same weekend she married husband Peter. She worked as a licensed marriage and family therapist for 20 years before first getting involved with Acterra’s Be the Change environmental leadership program, and then meeting Van Jones, co-founder of#YesWeCode.

“Meeting Van pivoted by career into workforce development,” she says. “The goal of #YesWeCode is to bring diversity to tech by connecting low-opportunity youth to training and ultimately tech careers.

Along the way she got, as she explains, “on Obama’s bucket list.” “We [#YesWeCode] got recognized as a Leader of Excellence in Apprenticeship Development, Education and Research at the ApprenticeshipUSA Summit at the White House held the second week of September.”

ApprenticeshipUSA launched in response to the President’s call for increased apprenticeships in his 2014 State of the Union.  #YesWeCode announced its apprenticeship (job-training) pilot in Oakland earlier this year as part of The White House TechHire initiative.

The year-long program, called The #YesWeCode Coding Corps, engages Peralta Community College District and tech boot camps to provide African-American, Latino/a and Native American young people with technical training, college credit, mentorship and paid apprenticeship at tech companies, such as Square and thoughtbot.

Kay views her role as chief architect of the talent pipeline. “We are losing this untapped talent, the hidden coders,” she says. “We need the home grown workforce to close the economic equity gap. We say, ‘#YesWeCode graduates will: Make Apps. Make Money. Make History.'”

Through the TechHire initiative, #YesWeCode has also committed to raising a $10 million scholarship fund for The #YesWeCode Coding Corps, and is a founding partner for two TechHire cities, Oakland and San Jose.

Kay traveled to Washington with colleague Johnnie Williams, who is running the apprenticeship program. In addition to the White House summit, they participated in a Congressional event on Capitol Hill and met with Congresswomen Barbara Lee and Anna Eshoo. Side note: Kay was one of the corps of women who helped get Eshoo first elected in 1992.

You can learn more about #YesWeCode and how to donate online.

Photo of Kay with Johnnie Williams and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo courtesy of Kay O’Neill.

Source: InMenlo


Black Enterprise: #YesWeCode Will Recruit Minorities for New Tech Training Initiative in the South Bronx

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By now you should know, but in case you didn’t: Silicon Valley isn’t the only place where technology startups run rampant.

Innovation hubs are popping up in every nook and cranny across the nation, including the South Bronx.

Nevertheless, coding and programming jobs continue to be out of reach for low-income minorities. But leaders like Assembly member Michael Blake (D, 79th District – The Bronx, NY) are trying to find ways for the country’s tech revolution to transform joblessness in the South Bronx.

[Related: BE Smart: All Star Code Educates Next Generation of Tech Entrepreneurs]

Last week #YesWeCode, an organization founded by former White House appointee, Van Jones, teamed up with Blake to organize New Faces of Tech, a broadcast event at the old Bronx County Courthouse. #YesWeCode, a Dream Corps initiative, works with partners to help train 100,000 low-opportunity youth of color around the country to become high-level computer coders. The historic courthouse recently underwent revitalization after having been abandoned for 37 years.

The event showcased Bronx-based tech exhibitors like Mass Idea, SCENYC, Knowledge House, Liquid Talent and many others. The entire event was broadcast live as New Faces of Tech on MSNBC’s Growing Hope Live from the Bronx and was  sponsored by Ford.

“All of these incredible groups that have been doing phenomenal things that people may not be aware of…We want Bronxite’s to know about them so they can tap into these opportunities,” said Blake in a different interview on Bronxnet.org.

“We look at the courthouse as not just a place of former history, but new history,” said Blake. “We’re launching an innovation center at the heart of our district because we are committed to transforming the South Bronx into a global urban metropolis and getting Bronxite’s jobs and economic opportunities.”

New Faces of Tech will connect youth participants to some of the Bronx’s emerging tech leaders in augmented and virtual reality, digital design, motion, software development, and gaming.

“YesWeCode is a phenomenal collaboration. We are excited about that partnership. It’s a game-changer,” said Blake in the Bronxnet interview. “We’re constantly talk [ing] about our vision of turning the South Bronx into an urban Metropolis. We are not only going to do that through jobs and education. For the 139,000 people that live there, we don’t want you to be consumers, we want you to be creators.”

#YesWeCode’s presence in the Bronx is indeed necessary, as the area has struggled with persistent unemployment for decades. Almost 30% of the Bronx’s 1.4 million residents live at or below the poverty line. Among the boroughs, it ranked last in job growth between 1990 and 2014, at 17.7%, according to the state Labor Department. Additionally, less than 70% of adults living in the Bronx had attained at least a high school diploma; one of the lowest attainment rates in the country.

Source: Black Enterprise


DNA info: Bronx Startups Flex Their Tech Muscles at the Old Borough Courthouse

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SOUTH BRONX — Robots and startups filled the second floor of the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse on Thursday during an event meant to show off the area's burgeoning technology scene.

Projects ranging from an online platform to help Bronx artists sell their work to video games about climate change helped demonstrate that while people may not commonly think of the South Bronx as the next Silicon Valley, the neighborhoods are no strangers to tech enterprise.

Companies had booths set up throughout the courthouse to display what they were working on, including one from Mass Ideation founder Miguel Sanchez, who said he has been developing a series of video games focusing on climate change, ocean pollution and land use for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"You have to choose what route to take to fish, and if you fish in the wrong areas that have ocean pollution, you’re not going to get as much fish," he said. "So you’re going to understand what real fishermen have to deal with because we litter so much."

Sanchez is still trying to determine how to tackle the land use game.

"That's a tough one," he said. "We're trying to figure out what's fun."

The company is also working on a program that takes people through a tour of different NOAA satellites and lets them see what each one does.

Tech company scenyc was at the courthouse as well to show off NYCNAK, an online retailer where people can purchase a curated selection of art and music.

The site focuses on artists from The Bronx, in hope to help get the borough some more recognition for all of its contributions to the art world.

"Katy Perry or whatever is not going to be on here because we’re small but also because we’re not interested," said Chanez Baali, director of scenyc. "It’s really about fostering relationships with Bronx artists."

"Hip-hop, street art has been used and used and used time and time again, and The Bronx hasn’t seen any money from this," she continued.

Products on the website can range in price from $1.50 to $10, and the platform currently has about 100 users, according to scenyc.

Although the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse had stood vacant and derelict for decades, it has recently seen a huge burst of activity.

In addition to the technology showcase, the courthouse hosted a massive art show in the spring, and the television series "Gotham" filmed there in August.

Henry Weinstein, one of the owners of the building, said he was now looking to turn the building into a museum, a workspace for artists, or some combination of the two.

Sanchez predicted The Bronx would be the next big tech hub in the city and that the borough was a perfect fit for such a boom.

"The Bronx is known for its extraordinary creativity, and the people here don't lack work ethic," he said. "It’s just opportunity they lack."

Read at original source.


VIDEO: Van Jones on #YesWeCode

Loudspeaker Films presents a short video featuring #YesWeCode founder Van Jones speaking about how #YesWeCode is going to train 100,000 low-opportunity young people for high-skill tech jobs. 

 

 


"Growing Hope in the Bronx": Diversity in Technology

New York Assemblyman Michael Blake, hip-hop legend D-Nice, and former White House advisor Van Jones, a founder of Yes We Code, joins Frances Rivera to discuss inspiring young people to succeed. 

Source: MSNBC.com


"Growing Hope in the Bronx": Diversity in Technology

New York Assemblyman Michael Blake, hip-hop legend D-Nice, and former White House advisor Van Jones, a founder of Yes We Code, joins Frances Rivera to discuss inspiring young people to succeed. 

Source: MSNBC.com


News on News: MSNBC to Broadcast Live from the Bronx Sept 10th

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Thomas Roberts, host of "MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts," will host a one-hour special with MSNBC’s Frances Rivera reporting live from the historic Old Bronx County Courthouse.

"Growing Hope Live from the Bronx" will air on Thursday, September 10th at 2 pm ET.

The special will feature interviews with Assemblyman Michael Blake (D-Bronx), who is hosting “The New Faces of Tech” community event with #YesWeCode, New York City Chief Technology Officer Minerva Tantoco, Van Jones, founder of #YesWeCode, and DJ D-Nice. The broadcast will also examine the jobs of tomorrow and the changing face of technology. Rivera will look at how community-wide initiatives, such as “#YesWeCode Employers’ Council,” aggregates employers’ commitments for providing training scholarships and apprenticeships.

The “Growing Hope” campaign is sponsored by the Ford Motor Company and is part of a nationwide initiative that MSNBC launched in 2014 to raise awareness and highlight issues affecting local communities. Earlier this year, MSNBC and the Ford Motor Company worked together on “Growing Hope Live from Detroit,” a special broadcast that highlighted a hackathon hosted by the Ford Motor Company Fund and #YesWeCode for 100 Detroit middle school students, and “A Growing Hope Special: The Cycle Live from Oakland,” which served as the kick-off for #YesWeCode and the Hidden Genius Project’s Summer of Innovation Program that provided young African American men with computer programming skills and mentorship opportunities.

“MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts” airs weekdays from 1 pm to 3 pm ET.

Source: News on News