The Dimond Business & Professional Association (DB&PA) is among Oakland’s oldest continuing business districts. The mission of the DB&PA is to create a vital, safe, and beautiful place for all. The DB&PA actively contributes to the prosperity and customer friendly environment of the Dimond neighborhood by co-hosting events in the Dimond. The DB&PA also partners with the Oakland Police Department, City staff, and other local non-profit organizations to ensure a safe and clean Business District.

TOLA worked to develop a strong and sustainable Dimond District Community (DDC) by strengthening the DB&PA as a framework to build consensus and support for the long term of a Dimond District Community Benefit District (CBD). In order to achieve this TOLA worked to build an asset profile of the Dimond commercial district, create a marketing profile of the Dimond district, organize the merchant association, and develop and implement a strategy to engage property owner partnerships.

When TOLA began working with the DB&PA, they had a handful of awe-inspiring volunteers who were solely responsible for organizing the merchants and cleaning the streets. TOLA’s goal was to better organize them and bolster their efforts so that the DB&PA can continue to work towards becoming a CBD post-TOLA. Upon arrival in the Dimond District, the DB&PA had 6 dues paying members, out of the 123 merchants that comprise the district. At the end of TOLA’s 10 weeks of organizing, they had increase membership more than 7 fold – now the DB&PA has 49 dues paying members. But paying dues is only part of their success, mobilizing the merchants to participate in the betterment of their district is the hill we set out to climb.

To effective engage the merchants, property owners and neighbors TOLA utilized several methods of outreach. They drafted a brochure for the DB&PA merchants to distribute to customers, providing referrals for other Dimond businesses; crafted a survey to gauge the merchants experience with the DB&PA as a member or non-member.

In order to communicate the results of the survey and allow the merchants, property owners and neighbors to meet and mingle with their community leaders and City officials, the Fellows organized a mixer. Over 50 merchants, residents, property owners, volunteers and various city officials showed up to hear Mayor Jean Quan, District 4 Councilmember Libby Shaaf, Captain Tracey and the TOLA fellows presentation.

All of this progress and organizational development was completed in a matter of weeks with the dedication of a few young organizers, and while much work remains, the foundation that TOLA has laid for the Dimond District is invaluable and creates a climate for further success, independent of TOLA.