Oakland’s Lower San Antonio District is a multi-ethnic neighborhood with a population almost evenly divided between African American, Latino and Asian American families. Partly because of this diversity, the neighborhood has lacked the strong organizational leadership that is so present in other Oakland neighborhoods. Historically, the area has received less than its proportional share of public investment and social services.
The Lower San Antonio Neighborhood plan grew out of a 2 year long community planning process involving over 1000 neighborhood residents. I led a team of planners and community organizers in an outreach process to bring together community leaders, nonprofit organizations, and cultural institutions from the area’s many different ethnic groups. I facilitated neighborhood planning council meetings leading to development of a final plan which outlined the area’s most pressing needs, identified what individuals and organizations were already doing to confront those problems and prioritized a list of new ideas for collaborative solutions to community problems. The plan directly led to the creation of several ongoing new multi-ethnic collaboratives including the Roosevelt Village Center youth collaborative, the EastLake Main Street Program, CIRCLES welfare to work initiative, and a neighborhood arts alliance. The strong cooperation evidenced by the LSA Plan was an important factor in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s decision to select Lower San Antonio as one of the neighborhoods in their national Making Connections Initiative. The Casey Foundation will invest millions of dollars in the community over a 5 to 10 year period.