Political Notebook: Oakland mayoral candidates back building LGBTQ senior housing

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday November 2, 2022
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Oakland mayoral candidates Sheng Thao, Loren Taylor, and Ignacio De La Fuente. Photos: Courtesy the candidates
Oakland mayoral candidates Sheng Thao, Loren Taylor, and Ignacio De La Fuente. Photos: Courtesy the candidates

Just as San Francisco's LGBTQ population is aging into retirement years, so is Oakland's LGBTQ community seeing a growing number of its members become senior citizens. But unlike its counterpart across the bay, the East Bay city has yet to build an affordable senior housing complex that is primarily targeted at LGBTQ older adults.

As the Bay Area Reporter reported in September, a new affordable housing project in San Francisco aimed at LGBTQ seniors is proposed to have 185 units in a 15-story building on upper Market Street. It will be the third such development specifically geared for LGBTQ seniors in the city's greater LGBTQ Castro district.

With many LGBTQ people priced out of San Francisco in recent decades having moved to Oakland in search of cheaper housing, there is just as much a need for affordable senior housing in Alameda County's largest city as there is in San Francisco. Thus, the B.A.R. asked the crop of contenders seeking to become Oakland's next mayor where they stood on building an LGBTQ-affirming senior housing project in their city.

The three leading candidates in the race who responded to the B.A.R.'s questionnaire all expressed support for working on such a project during their mayoral term.

District 4 City Councilmember Sheng Thao noted that she has long worked to address the needs of her city's LGBTQ residents, dating back to when she served as policy director and chief of staff to lesbian At-Large City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, now running to be elected Tuesday as Alameda County's first out supervisor. That has included housing, whether it be for seniors or transitional housing for homeless transgender youth, which Thao said she has been trying to address in partnership with Oakland's LGBTQ community center.

"I am leading the efforts to establish an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District (EIFD) which would allow us to bond against future revenue to build more affordable housing, including LGBTQ senior housing," Thao told the B.A.R.

District 6 City Councilmember Loren Taylor said he would work closely with LGBTQ advocates, such as the nonprofit Lavender Seniors of the East Bay, to push forward such a housing project. He noted he has supported projects during his time on the council that will bring 800 affordable housing units to his district.

"Residents like our seniors who live on a fixed income in the midst of the escalating cost of living in Oakland are in a precarious situation, and it is our job as government to support and stabilize them. These challenges are only exacerbated in historically marginalized demographics like our LGBTQ seniors," wrote Taylor in his response. "That is why I prioritize affordable housing development with seniors in mind."

Taylor also pointed to his serving for nearly four years on the Oakland council's Community & Economic Development Committee where he has helped to guide, advise, and decide on similar housing projects.

"Through this committee we have ushered in tens of thousands of units of housing. The percentage of affordable housing units to market rate housing units has more than doubled, but still falls short of our goal and our need," wrote Taylor.

Ignacio De La Fuente, formerly the District 5 city councilmember, told the B.A.R. that during his tenure on the governmental body, his district saw the construction of a historic amount of affordable housing. He would seek to achieve a similar milestone if elected next week to succeed Mayor Libby Schaaf, who is termed out.

"I would bring the same expertise and approach to the job of mayor," pledged De La Fuente. "Working with the city of Oakland Adult & Aging Services is an important nexus to developing a firm grasp on the needs of LGBTQ seniors in terms of affordable housing, but more importantly is developing a relationship with organizations that are already doing the work, but need assistance with bolstering their path forward such as: Lavender Seniors of the East Bay, Oakland LGBTQ Community Center and SOS Meals on Wheels etc."

Fonda backs out Bay Area supervisor candidates

Actor and environmental activist Jane Fonda is supporting two history-making supervisor candidates in the Bay Area via her political action committee focused on electing political leaders who will address climate change. The Jane Fonda Climate PAC has endorsed Laura Parmer-Lohan in San Mateo County and Honey Mahogany in San Francisco County.

Parmer-Lohan is vying for the District 3 seat on the Peninsula's Board of Supervisors. If elected November 8, she would be the first out lesbian to serve on it.

Her campaign announced Fonda's endorsement of her candidacy on October 27. It noted that she has refused to accept donations from the oil industry and is focused on addressing such issues as wildfire prevention and the impacts of the state's yearslong drought.

"Laura will work to protect the county's amazing beaches, forests, and open spaces for future generations to enjoy and work to preserve clean air," stated Fonda, who was in San Francisco November 2 as the featured guest for a fundraising event held at LGBTQ nightclub Oasis. "She is not taking money from Big Oil and will work to transition San Mateo County away from fossil fuel dependence."

Mahogany, if elected to the District 6 seat on her city's board, would be the first transgender individual and drag queen elected as a San Francisco supervisor. She is running against gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, appointed to fill the vacancy when Mahogany's former boss, Matt Haney, resigned to become a state Assemblymember.

Fonda endorsed Mahogany in mid-October and had released a video praising her candidacy. Reacting to the news in an October 17 tweet, Mahogany wrote, "Ok, I'm absolutely ecstatic about this one. @Janefonda is a legendary activist and powerful voice for change with @janeclimatepac. She's supporting my campaign as we have an opportunity to make history together. But don't just take my word for it — hear it from Jane herself!"

Fonda followed up the endorsement with helping to fundraise for Mahogany (and other candidates she is backing this year) with an October 28 event that brought together her co-star on the hit Netflix comedy "Grace & Frankie," lesbian actor Lily Tomlin, and the rest of the cast for a live reunion where they read the script from two episodes on the show. Contributions of $22, to be split between Mahogany and Fonda's PAC, gained people access to the online fundraiser.

"With Election Day just around the corner, our Climate Champions like Honey Mahogany need all the help we can give them to put them over the top on Nov. 8," wrote Fonda in an emailed invite.

In May, ahead of the June 7 primary, Fonda's PAC had endorsed East Bay Assembly candidate Jennifer Esteen, who had been vying to become the state's first Black female LGBTQ legislator. But Esteen failed to advance to the general election.

UPDATED 11/3/22 to correct that Laura Parmer-Lohan is vying for the District 3 seat on the Peninsula's Board of Supervisors.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on the California Legislature set to become the first in the U.S. with 10% of its members LGBTQ.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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