OCCUR is a community organizing and direct service non-profit organization founded in 1954.
The group was founded by white business and political leaders in the city to address problems of disinvestment in Oakland’s core urban area. Kaiser Industries provided staffing for the group with Norris Nash, customer relations director for Kaiser Industries.
In 1954, amendments to the Housing Act gave cities the option to use federal money for redevelopment. To take part in the program, cities needed to provide a “workable program,” part of which was demonstrating citizen participation in determining priorities for community development. Due to its focus on urban development and its political/economic ties to the city, OCCUR became the citizen group that acted as the citizen advisory group to the City. In this role, OCCUR recommended the creation of the Oakland Redevelopment Agency.1
In 1969, the Oakland Black Caucus (“a militant group of the city’s Negroes” - Hayes, 1972. 113.) sued OCCUR through the San Francisco office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on the basis that the organization did not represent Oakland’s minority and low-income communities and so these communities were excluded from the redevelopment process. HUD sided with community leaders in determining that OCCUR was not representative of Oakland’s population and did not adequately fulfill its role as providing the citizen-input element of the redevelopment process. It froze Oakland redevelopment activity until the city could show that its citizen advisory group was actually representative of the city. OCCUR reacted by creating a committee to review its membership and dues process. Paul Cobb and other members of the Black Caucus sat on the committee. As a response, OCCUR set up a 21-person Board of Directors (which included Cobb, Elijah Turner, and other members of the Black Caucus) and eliminated the small membership dues (previously $18). This was a successful program that turned OCCUR into an organization led by a population that was more representative of Oakland’s diversity. By 1976, Paul Cobb was appointed as Executive Director of OCCUR1.
Current Role and Services
Today, OCCUR acts as a direct service and public policy nonprofit advocating for low-income and communities of color in Oakland and the East Bay overall. Its programs include the David E. Glover Emerging Technology Center, Micro- Enterprise Technical Assistance, detailed asset mapping and census information, public-policy involvement in issues of disinvestment and discriminatory lending, collaborative community development (bringing groups together to redevelop local properties), consumer education on financial literacy and other issues, and technical assistance and capacity-building for other local nonprofits.
- Oden, Robert Stanley. From Blacks to Brown and Beyond. Cognella, 2012.
- Hayes, Edward C. Power Structure and Urban Policy: Who Rules in Oakland? McGraw-Hill, Inc.: 1972.