An Oakland Loveletter: Saving Local Independent Merchants with Smart Policies

by | May 30, 2019

Dear Libby Schaaf, Nikki Fortunato Bas, Loren Taylor, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Dan Kalb, Sheng Thao, Noel Gallo, Rebecca Kaplan, Larry Reid, and City of Oakland Staff,

We are a small but growing group of Oakland Localists who cherish our city and care deeply about its future. And, we worry that we may lose all that we embrace without proper policies, planning, and oversight. We believe that we are at risk of losing our local independent merchants. And if we lose them, we will lose what we value like our: sense of community, penchant for social activism, character, and diversity, to name a few. Rapidly growing cities often lose their identities. And we don’t want Oakland’s name added to the list.  

Local Merchants Make Oakland Special

Our beloved Oakland culture and economic health is anchored in the entrepreneurial spirit of our local independent merchants, makers, designers, artists, craftspeople, and other small businesses. Many of them are Oakland born and raised. Are we doing enough to protect our special identity? Sadly, we don’t think so. 


The City of Oakland must take action to Keep It Oakland

Importantly, we know that cities that ground their policies in supporting small business leaders fare better economically, socially, and are more enjoyable to live in. Studies even show that it is profoundly better for the environment. In other words, to empower entrepreneurs to create thriving independent businesses is the optimal path to a stronger, economically healthier, and overall happier city. It is a win for everyone.

However, there is a challenge. City governments are usually addicted to the short-term payoffs of developers, corporations, national chains, and businesses that do not substantially contribute to the community. Additionally, we are at the mercy of greedy landlords that are driving out small businesses at an alarming rate. If we don’t kick the habit now, we know what will happen.

We need a Shop Local Vision and the Policies to Support it

So, here is what we would like you to do: 1) Recognize that small businesses are the path to an economically and socially vibrant future 2) Establish that they are THE PRIORITY 3) Develop policies that support and protect them. 4) Stay on course and fight the good fight. And, we recommend that you peruse the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website for ideas about how to shape our future with A Small Business First vision. 

We ask: What are you going to do to Keep it Oakland?



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