Low-cost commercial kitchen is in the works for East Oakland

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The Arroyo Viejo Leisure Center in East Oakland will soon get a new commercial kitchen after Oakland City Council on Tuesday agreed to accept $ 100,000 of equipment from Google to help store it. Council member Loren Taylor, who drafted the resolution and represents District 6 where the center is located, told The Oaklandside that the kitchen is expected to open next year.

The recreation center already has two kitchens and the intention is to convert one of them into a commercial workspace that can be used by food entrepreneurs who currently cook from home. The kitchen will also benefit area residents, Taylor said. “The East Oakland neighborhood surrounding the Arroyo Viejo Recreation Center is a food desert where our residents lack access to healthy and nutritious food,” he wrote in the resolution’s accompanying report.

Taylor told The Oaklandside that before receiving the giveaway from Google, the city planned to use some of its funds from the CARES Act – a federal COVID relief program – to purchase new kitchen equipment for the center. Equipment will be inspected by city staff to ensure compliance with safety and licensing requirements.

“We have a number of companies operating underground without a proper license in the city of Oakland,” Taylor said at the meeting. “Others have paid high costs to operate commercial kitchens in Alameda, Emeryville, and these additional costs can overwhelm someone trying to build their own financial independence.”

Food business entrepreneurs will be able to rent the space for less than what they would pay in commercial kitchens at market prices, and the fee will be used to pay for maintenance. The Arroyo Viejo kitchen will be inspired by Alameda County Commercial Kitchen SpaceTaylor said.

The approval of the Arroyo Viejo kitchen wasn’t the only move city council took on Tuesday to help spur economic growth in East Oakland. The board also approved an exclusive negotiation agreement with the Black Cultural Zone Collaborative that will allow the nonprofit group to lease Liberation Park, its community space on 73rd Avenue and Foothill Boulevard.

The new commercial kitchen space in East Oakland builds on other recent initiatives to provide more opportunities for food entrepreneurs. Alameda County decided in May to implement AB 626, a 2018 state law that allows counties to license home food businesses. Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operation, or MEKHO, permits allow entrepreneurs to make and sell food from their homes, although permit holders are limited to $ 50,000 per year under AB 626.

Prior to MEHKO permits, people in Alameda County could operate temporary businesses – better known as pop-ups – from traditional restaurants and commercial kitchens, provided that certain health requirements of Alameda County were encountered. People who got a cottage food permit could also sell food prepared in their home, but not convert their home into a restaurant.

None of the Oakland council members opposed Arroyo Viejo’s plan on Tuesday. But several residents called during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“I encourage you all to vote yes, but also to let you know that there is commerce in this part of the city, and we would like to continue to be interested in the incubation of existing businesses,” said Diane. Lewis, head of corporate outreach for Main Street. Launch, an Oakland-based nonprofit.

Maria Alderete, owner of Luka’s Taproom and executive director of Community Kitchens, said the nouvelle cuisine will be a great resource for local entrepreneurs. “I think we can support the food incubators in the city,” said Alderete, “and I also see Arroyo Viejo as a way to feed the neighborhood community members. This Google giveaway will really help with that.

Note: Google News Initiative is a financial supporter of The Oaklandside.


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