Oakland Parking Lot and Parcel Tax, Measure Y (November 2004)

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An Oakland Parking Lot and Parcel Tax, Measure Y ballot proposition was on the November 2, 2004 ballot in the City of Oakland in Alameda County, where it was approved.
  • Yes: 96,174 (69.6%) Approveda
  • No: 41,992 (30.4%)

Measure Y has resulted in the collection of about $20 million each year in additional taxes.

In the aftermath of the successful vote on Measure Y in 2004, there has been ongoing turmoil and litigation in Oakland around the question of whether the city is spending Measure Y tax funds as they are required to under the terms of Measure Y. [1]

According to columnist Bryon Williams, "Voters assumed a yes vote meant $4 million would go to fire services each year; 40 percent of the remaining $16 million would go toward violence prevention programs administered by the city's Department of Human Services, and approximately 60 percent of the funds would be directed toward police services, specifically the community policing program as well as additional officers for truancy enforcement, domestic violence and special victims units."

Specifically, Measure Y funds were supposed to be used to increase the number of full-time police officers to 803. However, from the time that Measure Y passed in 2004 to mid-2010, "the city has reached a minimum of 803 officers for no more than six months."[1] Since the passage of Measure Y, the City has been sued three times. The first lawsuit was filed by Charles Pine, a non-attorney, whose lawsuit was dismissed. Oakland resident and attorney Marleen L. Sacks filed her first lawsuit in April, 2008, including several of the same claims made by Mr. Pine (e.g. failure to staff the 63 community policing positions, failure to maintain baseline staffing) as well as a claim that Mayor Ron Dellum's $7.7 million "Augmented Recruitment Program" was illegal. After prevailing in the first suit, Ms. Sacks filed a second suit in March, 2010. [See details below under "Lawsuit."][1]

City attorney's analysis

The city's attorney prepared an analysis of Measure Y for voters to inspect prior to voting on Measure Y. That analysis described Measure Y as:

"This ordinance raises revenue to fund violence, crime and fire prevention programs in the City of Oakland. The revenue will come from a new parcel tax along with a surcharge on those who park in commercial parking lots. The permitted uses of the revenue are community and neighborhood policing (hiring and maintaining an additional 63 police officers above the currently budgeted 739 officers), violence prevention services with an emphasis on youth, and fire services. The revenue allocated to the violence prevention services will be not less than 40% of the total proceeds allocated for community and neighborhood policing plus violence prevention services. $4 million of the tax proceeds will be allocated to fire services. The parcel tax will be $88.00 for a single family residential parcel, $60.12 for each unit in a multi-family residential parcel. For non-residential parcels, the parcel tax varies depending on the frontage, area and use of the property. See the formula at Part 3, Section 2(c). The surcharge for those who park in commercial parking lots will be 8 1/2%."

Text of measure

The question on the ballot was:

"To reduce violent crime and increase public safety, shall the City of Oakland increase successful after school, counseling, truancy, and job training programs, early intervention programs for children who witness violence, programs to prevent child abuse and domestic violence, and increase community police officers, paramedics and emergency fire personnel in each neighborhood by authorizing a surcharge on parking in commercial parking lots and parcel tax subject to annual performance and financial audits by a citizens oversight committee?"


Alameda County Superior Court judge Frank Roesch ruled in February 2009 that Oakland's use of funds from Measure Y for recruiting and training of non-Measure Y police officers was an "impermissible" use of funds. Plaintiff Marleen L. Sacks (a local resident taxpayer and attorney) estimated that the amount misspent is approximately $15 million, while the City admits the amount is closer to $11 or $12 million. Roesch's ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Ms. Sacks after the Oakland City Council approved a plan of Mayor Ron Dellums to use $7.7 million of Measure Y money to help the Oakland Police Department reach full staffing by the end of 2008.[2]

Measure Y was meant to provide 63 additional police officers and $8 million annually to fund specific types of violence prevention programs in Oakland.[3]

As a result of the court ruling, Oakland must repay approximately $15 million to the Measure Y fund, and perform annual audits of the Measure Y fund going back to when it first started.[3]

Oakland has since appealed the court ruling.[3]

In March, 2010, Ms. Sacks filed a second lawsuit, alleging that by failing to appropriate funding for police academies, the City had failed to comply with the requirements of Measure Y. Measure Y requires that the City, at a minimum, at least "appropriate" sufficient funding to "maintain" non-Measure Y police staffing at 739 officers. Ms. Sacks argued that because annual attrition is over 50 officers a year, the City's failure to budget for or schedule police academies since the fall of 2008 was inconsistent with the need to "maintain" the threshold staffing and appropriation requirements, and therefore, the City was prohibited from collecting Measure Y taxes for 2009/10 and 2010/11. Ms. Sacks' second lawsuit also alleged violations referred to in the City Auditor's report, and failure to comply with the California Public Records Act. Following the layoffs of 80 police officers in July, 2010, the City discontinued the collection of Measure Y taxes, but placed a new measure on the November ballot to eliminate the threshold requirements.[2]

Measure Y Programs Evaluation

Measure Y legislation requires a professional evaluation of how well policing and violence prevention services are implemented. Three percent (3%) of the Measure Y funds are dedicated to violence prevention and police services are budgeted for evaluation. The Oakland City Administrator’s Office oversees the contract administration of the Measure Y evaluation. Resource Development Associates and Gibson and Associates won a competitive process to evaluate Measure Y. Findings from the 2009-10 Measure Y Evaluation report include: that truancy and juvenile crime is reduced among participants; nearly all eligible Oakland youth exiting Juvenile Hall were re-enrolled in an OUSD school or education program; street outreach worker presence reduces crime in the areas targeted; and programs are effectively engaging high-risk individuals, serving those with serious and offense histories. [3]

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