by Marie Felde
Campus experts in a wide range of fields will team up with City of Oakland officials and community-based organizations to tangibly improve the lives of neighborhood residents, thanks to a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Sept. 21.
The Institute of Urban and Regional Development will receive the three-year grant from HUD's Office of University Partnerships. It is one of five funded nationwide. Among its ambitious goals is to develop a model other colleges and universities can use to help make a difference in people's lives.
"What made this grant application stand out was not only our long-standing partnership with Oakland," said the campus's Victor Rubin, "but also the serious commitment of university resources and the commitment to assemble scholars and students from across the campus for a truly interdisciplinary effort."
The overwhelming response within Berkeley to a call for potential participants for this effort--more than 50 responses from at least 20 campus units within a week--confirmed that there are a variety of resources and a tremendous desire among many faculty for more effective ways of engaging in teaching, research and community service in Oakland, said project leaders.
Rubin, who will direct the newly formed Berkeley/Oakland Joint Community Development Program, is executive director of the University-Oakland Metropolitan Forum. Professor Judith Innes, director of the Institute of Urban and Regional Development, will be the principal investigator.
They added that the grant provides more than $1 million directly for housing rehabilitation, commercial district public improvements, parks, street trees and other physical improvements.
Key to the program is joining the expertise of the university with that of the city and the many existing community service providers to improve the social, economic and cultural lives of the residents.
In almost all cases, several university departments will join together to work hand-in-hand with the city and community on projects already identified in neighborhood strategic plans.
Examples of the kinds of work envisioned are:
o A cooperative effort between the campus's technology experts with those at the Oakland Public Library.
The HUD grant will fund computers and training in neighborhoods to give local residents and small business owners access to the Internet and other online services.
o MBA students from Haas School of Business will provide non-profit organizations with assistance in accounting, strategic planning and other aspects of organizational development.
o Students and faculty from architecture and civil and environmental engineering will play key roles training new contractors and crafts persons in rehabilitating vacant homes to provide affordable resale opportunities.
o Students and faculty from landscape architecture will work with community-based organizations and city park and recreation staff in the redesign of several neighborhood parks.
Other projects will involve students, faculty and staff from environmental education, law, civil engineering, information science, city planning, African-American studies and many other professional schools and disciplines.
"This joint venture brings a tremendous opportunity to enhance the city's cultural and economic development programs, as well as our rehabilitation and home ownership programs, which directly benefit city residents immediately and in the long term," said Antoinette Hewlett, Oakland's director of the Office of Housing and Neighborhood Development.
The collaborative projects will be concentrated in North Oakland's San Pablo Avenue/Golden Gate area, and in specific parts of West Oakland, San Antonio, Fruitvale and Central East Oakland districts. Some resources will also be available citywide.