Monday, October 19, 2009

Nic Nak Liquors Appealed to City Council

On October 7, 2009, the Oakland Planning Commission approved a major conditional use permit and a major variance for the Nic Nak Liquor Store to sell alcoholic beverages. This approval occured in the face of heavy public opposition by members of the East Lorin Neighborhood Association, the Shattuck Crime Prevention Council and North Oakland business owners.

North Oakland and South Berkeley already have an overconcentration of liquor outlets with a total of 18. Many of these existing liquor outlets have been problematic with reports of increased crime, loitering, graffitti, and public drunkeness. Contrary to the Oakland Planning Code that governs Alcohol Beverage Sales and is geared towards preventing an over-concentration of such outlets, Nic Nak Liquors would be located within 1,000 feet of another liquor store. Despite having its Deemed Approved Status as a legal nonconforming use lapse for five years, the Planning Commission approved Nic Nak's request to reopen. In doing so, the Planning Commissioner's, led by Doug Boxer, Senator Barbara Boxer's son, failed to carry out the stated purpose of the Oakland Planning Code, which is to eliminate and/or ameliorate nonconforming uses such as Nic Nak Liquors. Boxer, like other Commissioners who voted to approve the Nic Nak's application, could not seem to rationalize his support other than to indicate it was very emotional.

Word on the street is that the North Oakland Community is fed up with the Planning Commission's legally suspect decision to approve Nic Nak Liquors and has appealed it to the City Council. Members of the community have banded together raise the almost $1,200 filing fee. Nic Nak Liquors will not be able to sell liquor until the matter is resolved by the City Council. Should the City Council uphold the appeal, the Pannell's only recourse would be to sue the City.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Nic Nak Liquor Store--Nothing different. It's all exploitative.

Nic Nak Liquor Store at 6400 Shattuck Avenue is attempting to reopen after being closed for more than 5 years. Because their Deemed Approved Status as a legal nonconforming use has expired, they must get a Major Conditional Use and Major Variance from the City of Oakland Planning Commission. The Shattuck Crime Prevention Council, the East Lorin Neighborhood Association, business owners and hundreds of residents in the North Oakland Community do not want another liquor store--we already have 18 within one mile of Nic Nak.

The community is opposed to Nic Nak because of the demonstrated link between liquor stores, crime and public health problems. The City Planning Staff originally recommended denial of the Nic Nak liquor store indicating the City could not make the legal findings to approve it--meaning it was contrary to the existing planning laws and regulations in the City of Oakland, not to mention the adopted public policy of the City Council. Nevertheless, the City Planning Commission wants to approve the liquor store. Why? That's a good question that only several Planning Commissioners including Sandra Galvez, C. Blake Huntsman, and Douglas Boxer can answer.

The video below by Mikkey Halstead explores the relationship of liquor stores in African-American communities to its residents. While his video focuses specifically on the exploitative nature of non-black owned liquor stores and their negative effect on African-Americans, we see absolutely no difference in North Oakland between a black-owned liquor store and a non black-owned liquor store and its adverse effect on all residents of our community. From our perspective, which differs from Mikkey Halstead's, the race, ethnicity or national origin of the owner and the patrons is irrelevant. Fundamentally, liquor stores in North Oakland sell the same things: liquor, high octane beer, fortified wines, junk food, processed food, cigarettes, and lotto tickets.

People may argue about food security and the importance of the corner liquor store to low-income communities and the relevance of convenience to those with limited transportation, but the fact remains the same; liquor stores are exploitative by the very products they peddle and the price they extract from their customers. In the case of Nic Nak, it doesn't matter whether Mr. Pannell is African-American or not, he proposes to sell the same products as any of the other 18 liquor stores within a mile, none of which are healthy for the community. North Oakland and South Berkeley are replete with healthy alternatives to the corner liquor store and have an abundance of easily accessible public transportation. The corner liquor store is a legacy of times past when North Oakland and South Berkeley were disadvantaged.

Watch and listen very carefully to Mikkey Halstead. Going beyond the stereotypical characterization of Middle Eastern shop owners (which we resoundly reject), the fundamental storyline here is the damage the corner liquor store inflicts on communities. This video says it all.

Do we really want Nic Nak in North Oakland? Planning Commissioners, do you want Nic Nak in your neighborhood?  Do you really think that it is somehow better that it is an African-American who profits from the corner liquor store at the expense of the community, rather than anyone else?

We have to wonder what really motivates the Planning Commissioners who elected to support the Nic Nak application for a Major Variance. Does the approval of the Nic Nak, despite fundamental conflicts with adopted public policy in the City of Oakland, somehow assuage their liberal guilt? Do they think the approval of a black-owned liquor store is somehow righteous payback for past transgressions? Or are these Planning Commissioners simply positioning themselves for their next political office and think it politically astute to approve a black-owned liquor store using a unique and unprecedented legal theory so they can secure potential future votes in a community where playing racial politics and building coalitions is critical to being elected?

The support of these three Planning Commissioners is only folly as this matter will most certainly be appealed to the City Council and could be litigated in the courts. Commissioners: make sure your findings are well-reasoned and rooted in a strong legal foundation as they will certainly not pass judicial scrutiny as written.

You Planning Commissioners are proposing to sacrifice our community for your own political gain--selfish to say the least. Not unlike Mr. Pannell's proposal to sacrifice our community for his own profit.  Listen carefully. Mikkey Halstead has it right when he shines a light on the unhealthy aspects of the corner liquor store.

CAUTION: The following video may be considered controversial. It uses adult themes and adult language. It is not suitable for children or those who do not wish to hear adult language.