The 23rd Avenue Community Building in Oakland’s San Antonio neighborhood is more than just a mixed-use complex. It’s a demonstration of how creative solutions and community-minded capitalism can come together to preserve both affordable housing and commercial space for nonprofit tenants in a fast-gentrifying city.
In early 2017, the owner of the complex notified the residents of the building’s eight apartments and the four nonprofits occupying the ground-floor commercial spaces that she intended to sell the property in a few months. This gave the occupants just enough time to swing into action — to execute a communications and crowd-funding campaign, and to team with the Oakland Community Land Trust (OakCLT), which helped the residents and nonprofits develop a financing plan and then made an offer to buy both the building and a vacant adjacent lot that serves as home to a community garden.
In November 2017, the 23rd Avenue Community Building’s erstwhile landlord accepted OakCLT’s offer. The property is now permanently preserved as affordable housing, and the “liberated” tenants include 23 low-income residents, a community bike shop and a martial arts studio, as well as an event/food justice space and an arts organization/maker space that serve gay, lesbian and transgender people of color. The food justice organization maintains the community garden at the rear of the building. OakCLT works closely with residents and nonprofit occupants alike to build their capacity for self-management and building maintenance.