Bay Area Leaders Break Ground on New Community Advocacy and Training Center in Oakland


December 6, 2017

Media Contacts:
Bilen Mesfin Packwood, bilen@change-llc.com510-681-5978
Debi Kar, debi@weareresonance.com510-356-7733

Bay Area Leaders Break Ground on New Community Advocacy and Training Center in Oakland

Restore Oakland will create opportunities for restorative justice, livable wages, dignified working conditions, affordable housing, and more

OAKLAND, CA – Today, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United) announced the groundbreaking of Restore Oakland. The community advocacy and training center, slated to open in early 2019 in the Fruitvale neighborhood of East Oakland, will create opportunities for restorative justice, livable wages, dignified working conditions, affordable housing, and more. The announcement took place with a press conference at the future location of Restore Oakland, at 1419 34th Ave, and featured elected, community, and industry leaders.

“In a community where mass incarceration and economic injustice are harming our families, loved ones, and neighbors, Restore Oakland will be one central space where everyone can dream, organize, and act—together,” said Liam Chinn, executive director of Restore Oakland. “At Restore Oakland, residents will build power and access opportunities that will make it possible to earn a better living, build toward a safe and secure East Oakland, and restore health and wholeness to the community.”

Restore Oakland will offer:

  • Job training and placement - Hands-on training through COLORS Restaurant and placement services to help workers advance to livable-wage jobs.
  • Business incubation - Support working people to incubate and launch their own worker-owned food enterprises.
  • Restorative justice - Act as a neighborhood space where community members can resolve and heal from conflict, offering an alternative to punishment and incarceration.
  • Community and economic power building - Community organizing and community self-determination to drive investment away from punishment and into prevention and opportunity, such as jobs, housing, and education.

“We’re thrilled to break ground on a project born out of our dream for an Oakland where everyone belongs and thrives,” said Zachary Norris, executive director of Ella Baker Center. “Restore Oakland will work toward one Oakland where zip codes no longer determine how we live and each resident can access dignity, hope, and opportunity. We will deepen our community partnerships to foster a Bay Area where everyone can prosper, our families feel safe, and all residents can take part in the benefits of a flourishing economy and thriving community.”

Founding organizations Ella Baker Center and ROC United are working in partnership with Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, Community Works West, Causa Justa/Just Cause, Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY), La Cocina, and many other local groups to establish Restore Oakland. The initiative has kicked off a fundraising campaign to support the renovation of the building, with a goal of raising $5 million.

“The restaurant industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Bay Area economy, and is the largest employer of people of color, immigrants, and formerly incarcerated people,” said Saru Jayaraman, executive director of ROC United. “But these communities are consistently shut out of livable wage jobs. That’s why our region has the largest restaurant race-wage gap in the country and why we need COLORS restaurant. Housed within Restore Oakland, COLORS will create jobs and career opportunities for local community members, including people who have been formerly incarcerated, while providing a model for the industry.”

The Restore Oakland vision extends beyond the physical building and will include leadership development and community mobilization activities that center partnership and collaboration, including efforts by groups like RJOY and Community Works West to establish restorative justice hubs across Oakland. 

“We are eager for a resource like Restore Oakland, which will tackle multiple community needs all in one space,” said James W. Head, President and CEO of East Bay Community Foundation. “Perhaps just as important, Restore Oakland will bring together community leaders and nonprofits from across Oakland to collaborate on everything from housing rights and healing to jobs and conflict resolution to business incubation and workers’ rights. Together, we will accomplish much more than when we go it alone.”

Restore Oakland will address the twin drivers of inequality—the criminal justice system and lack of economic opportunity—that impact this community. East Oakland residents experience one of the highest rates of incarceration in the Bay Area and unemployment rates are three times the Alameda County average.


About the Ella Baker Center

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights was founded in 1996 by Van Jones and Diana Frappier. Throughout its history, the organization has engaged in campaigns related to civic engagement, violence prevention, the green jobs movement, juvenile justice, and police brutality. The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights works locally, statewide, and nationally to end mass incarceration and criminalization and mobilizes everyday people to build power and prosperity in our communities enabling them to reinvest in communities, change policies, and redefine safety. For more information, visit On Twitter at @ellabakercenter.

About Restaurant Opportunities Centers United

Initially founded in New York City by Fekkak Mamdouh and Saru Jayaraman after September 11th, 2001 to provide support to restaurant workers displaced as a result of the World Trade Center tragedy, the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York launched the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United which has grown into a national organization with over 25,000 low-wage restaurant worker members nationwide. Since its founding, ROC United has won more than a dozen workplace justice campaigns, winning more than $10 million in misappropriated tips and wages and discrimination payments for low-wage workers, and significant policy changes in high-profile restaurant companies covering thousands of workers. They played instrumental role in winning statewide minimum wage increases for tipped workers, and other policy campaigns at the local, state, and federal levels. ROC also partners with over 200 responsible restaurant owners to promote the ‘high road’ to profitability, has trained more than 5,000 restaurant workers to advance to livable-wage jobs within the industry, and has published over 30 ground-breaking reports and a nationally bestselling book on the restaurant industry. For more information, visit On Twitter @rocunited.