Over a decade ago, the Unity Council, a non-profit community development corporation, began promoting economic development in Oakland’s Fruitvale Commercial district by planning the construction of the Fruitvale Village – a hugely successful transit-oriented development. The Fruitvale Business Improvement District (FBID) was created in 2001 that created a fund that the property owners pay into to ensure the Fruitvale Commercial District continues to improve.

Since then, the Fruitvale Commercial District has seen many achievements related to economic development, design & physical improvement, safety & cleanliness, event promotion, and organizational outreach. The current FBID is set to expire December 2011 and a renewal of the FBID is needed. In the current economic climate there was bubbling resistance to renewing the assessment, so TOLA and the Unity Council set out to remind property owners about the great changes the Fruitvale has seen since the FBID went into effect. Without the assessment fund (that generates $324,713/yr), regular maintenance and continual improvements would not be possible.


TOLA, under the guidance of the Unity Council, began an education campaign to the merchants and property owners within the Fruitvale Business District. The Fellows interviewed 31 merchants/property owners to figure out what services the wanted to see improved and how the FBID funds could be better spent. After 31 interviews, they organized 4 community meeting where local government officials and the merchants/property owners could learn more about the BID’s funding, voice their opinions and met their neighbors and representatives. These presentations were conducted in both English and Spanish to ensure the information was delivered and digested by the attendees.

To ensure the property owners voted to renew the FPBID, the Fellows conducted a GOTV drive. TOLA Fellows, Unity Council staff and volunteers walked and talked tirelessly until the very last votes were counted. When all was said and done, the FPBID won in the final 3 hours. The final results? 50.8-49.1!