Downtown Oakland’s skyline is expanding upward with hotels and mixed-use condos, but in the meantime, what has been happening to the city’s single-room-occupancy hotels? Called SROs, these buildings are a form of affordable housing for low-income individuals and the formerly homeless, and their numbers have been dwindling quickly.
At the moment, the City of Oakland does not have policies in place to protect them from continuing to disappear.
“In 2004, there were 31 SRO hotels with 2,285 rooms. Since then, some buildings have been demolished and others converted to apartments, leaving only 1,311 units,” East Bay Express reported last week. Most recently, two SROs in downtown Oakland were sold to investors, while The Sutter Hotel, also in downtown Oakland, is reportedly being sold to a boutique hotel developer. The loss of these three SROs would mean the removal of “more than 1,000 existing affordable housing units clustered around downtown and West Oakland,” explains East Bay Express in a different article.
Steps have been taken to preserve SROs in other cities. For example, during San Francisco’s first tech boom in 2001, SRO tenants in San Francisco’s Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods formed the Central City SRO Collaborative. The group’s mission is to empower tenants through education and community organization in order to advocate for better living conditions, and it is just one reason for there are protective measures for SROs in the city.
In Oakland, however, there are currently no regulations to prevent the loss of SRO housing. Elisa Dennis, an affordable housing consultant with Community Economics, told East Bay Express that while the city’s policy is to preserve existing affordable housing, there simply isn’t enough money to do it. “The loss of these SROs, it’s yet one more nail in the coffin for Oakland’s most vulnerable. There’s this flurry of investor activity, and nowhere else for people to go,” she said.