Economic Downturn in Oakland: Fruitvale and San Antonio Neighborhoods
Our Mills Spring documentary project is focusing on an area that includes the neighborhoods of Fruitvale and San Antonio. We are asking people how the economic downturn is affecting them, their businesses and their lives. And, we are asking what are the stories you want to be told?
In addition to the documentary reports we will produce, we are also trying to create a portrait of the area, including a map with stories and a blog.
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During the past half year, Mills public radio reporters had one assignment: spend time in Oakland’s Fruitvale and San Antonio neighborhoods, asking residents, business owners, teachers, students and non-profit workers what was happening in their communities?
It’s not a typical approach to reporting—we didn’t have a specific story in mind, we wanted to find out what stories neighbors wanted to tell.
Shani Aviram Cooper's Chapel
In 2011, Oakland experienced a spike in violent crime after four years of declining crime rates. Since the beginning of this year, crime has risen by 21%. In Fruitvale, merchants are struggling to combat the violence. One business is taking part in that effort. Cooper’s Chapel Funeral Home has been in the neighborhood for almost a century. And now, a new manager is set on making the historic mortuary a vital part of the community.
Listen to Shani Aviram's story
Stella Marie Carpio ARISE Charter High School
The Oakland Unified School District has the largest enrollment of any district in Alameda County, with more than 46,000 students in more than 130 schools. About a quarter of those schools are charters. Charter schools operate outside many district regulations, allowing them to be more flexible than conventional public schools. That can also make them more controversial. Stella Marie Carpio takes us inside one relatively new charter.
Listen to Stella Marie Carpio's story
Mazuri Colley San Antonio Park Transformation
San Antonio Park Transformation: San Antonio Park stretches a full city block on each side, in a lush area near Foothill Blvd and 18th Avenue in Oakland. About 15 years ago the park was considered a dangerous eyesore, according to park organizer Grey Kolevson.
But over the past decade, San Antonio Park has become an important example of what can happen when people pull together to build something up. Mazuri Colley reports on how San Antonio Park is fulfilling that mission.
Listen to Mazuri Colley's Cover story
Maddie Fowler Street Level
Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood has a history of welcoming new immigrants. At the turn of the 20th century the area was full of orchards and beer gardens that served as an attraction to San Francisco residents. Today, you can see colorful markets full of produce and piñatas or eat delicious tacos at one of the area’s many food trucks. Day laborers wait on street corners eagerly looking for any type of work. There to help them is the Street Level Health Project. As Maddie Fowler reports, its mission is to provide help and hope to the most distressed members of the community.
Listen to Maddie Fowler's story
Karen Gordon Roosevelt Middle School
Many public schools are coping with constant and deep funding cuts. So neighborhood schools are looking for creative ways to meet students’ needs. Fourteen of Oakland’s public schools now house on-site health centers. One of the newest is a state of the art clinic at Roosevelt. It helps kids who are struggling with the twin traumas of violence and poverty. Karen Gordon reports on how the new principal plans to transform his school.
Listen to Karen Gordon's story
Esther Honig Mobile Food Vendors
Oakland is known for its food trucks, which serve everything from tacos and tamales to West African cuisine. The city’s largest concentration of mobile food vendors—a predominantly immigrant population—is in Fruitvale. These micro-businesses provide owners low-overhead and the opportunity to become successful entrepreneurs. But if running a small business isn’t hard enough in this economy, vendors now face an additional challenge: armed robbery. As Esther Honig reports, crimes against mobile merchants have spiked in the last six months.
Listen to Esther Honig's story
Tymeesa Rutledge Foothill Market
Many of Oakland's corner stores are run by immigrants from the Middle East, and many of those merchants are originally from Yemen. The reason? People see their countrymen’s success and that has a ripple effect, according to Ahmed Alkholeidi, the California chapter president of the American Association of Yemeni scientists and professionals. He says “The corner store was started by one Yemeni, but then the second one came. "So that Yemeni is doing good,” he says, "so I will have one like him!" And the third and the fourth and so on.
One of those stores is Foothill Market on 19th and Foothill. The Hassan family runs it. Ali Farrad Hassan is a first generation Yemeni-American. He's been working in his uncle’s store for a few years now. As Tymeesa Rutledge reports, his mission is to make Foothill Market a community hub for the neighborhood.
Listen to Tymeesa Rutledge's story