By Dara Kerr
A coalition of local organizations tells Uber that if it wants to have a hub in Oakland, then it “should really roll up its sleeves and work with Oakland.”
Uber announced it would open an extension of its global headquarters in downtown Oakland, California, a couple of years ago. It had plans to renovate a historic 1920s-era building andto become one of Oakland’s largest employers.
This announcement was greeted with mixed emotions. While the city said it looked forward to added commerce, locals worried about gentrification and rising rents.
But, over the past two years Uber’s vision has dwindled.
The renovations, which were slated to be complete this year, have slowed and the building still appears to be in the early phases of construction. In March, Uber announced it was scaling back the project and would move in only a couple hundred employees.
Uber’s back-and-forth has left Oakland residents wondering what the ride-hailing company’s real plans are for the city. So, a coalition of local organizations and community leaders on Monday launched a campaign with a list of demands called “No Uber Oakland.”
“We want to hold them accountable to some of the things the community wishes they were doing,” said Orson Aguilar, president of Oakland’s Greenlining Institute, which is one of the organizations in the coalition. “A company like Uber wants to move to Oakland, it should really roll up its sleeves and work with Oakland.”
Uber has experienced a rocky past few months. It all started with a #DeleteUber movement in January centered on the perception that the company was not doing enough to protest President Donald Trump’s travel ban. And things got worse from there. Uber has been mired in at it headquarters, chaotic corporate culture, a and an . These scandals have added to No Uber Oakland’s concerns about the company settling in the city.
When Uber first announced its major hub in Oakland it said it was looking forward to working with the local community.
“We are excited to deepen our roots across the Bay by investing in the revitalization of historic downtown Oakland and to become a permanent part of the fabric of the East Bay community by adding thousands of jobs at our Oakland site,” Renee Atwood, Uber’s global head of people and places, said at the time.
The company has met with local organizations throughout the past couple of years and says it continues to be committed to the city.
“Over the last year, we’ve met hundreds of community leaders to hear concerns and discover ways we can work together to make Oakland and Uber a better place,” said Jordan Medina, Uber’s Oakland community outreach lead. “We’re proud of the relationships we’ve built and we’re committed to continuing these conversations as we gradually build out our Oakland presence.”
But local organizations say that while they’ve met with Uber, they’ve seen little action from the company. For instance, they’ve repeatedly asked to meet with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and have been repeatedly turned down.
Along with launching a website, social media campaign and inviting community members to get involved, No Uber Oakland has created a 10-point plan for Uber. They want Uber to hire Oakland residents, invest in education and training “pipeline programs,” contract with small local businesses, support local artists and more.
“They have a responsibility to cities like Oakland to keep them diverse and creative,” Aguilar said.