Isaiah Tage has big dreams after college.
If you are a person of color under the age of 30 living in Oakland, there's a good chance you will spend this summer unemployed with few long term job prospects ahead.
This story is Part 1 of our Living in Debt series.
"It's been hard," soft-spoken, 21-year-old Louis King said. "Being a young black male, when you go out looking for a job, a lot of people just look at you like you're just a kid on the street. A street kid who probably won't come to work, and I'm really the opposite. I'm very respectful, but people don't take the time to see that."
King, a student at Hayward's Chabot College who always dresses in a jacket and tie for interviews, said he's willing to work hard, but it's frustrating trying to find a job.
"People say it's the economy, but I just don't know," he said.
Hurting for jobs
Oakland is hurting for jobs and no where is unemployment more dire than with the youth population. In some neighborhoods, the unemployment rate for those between 18- and 24-years-old is as high as 30 to 40 percent, experts say.
On the whole, Oakland's unemployment rate is at 17 percent, higher than the state's 12.1 percent.
"People are really hurting now," said Matthew A. Graves, Jr., executive director of Alameda County Youth Development Inc. "You now have an older population that's competing with a younger generation for entry level jobs, just because they've been unemployed for so long. So the few jobs that's out there that would of gone to a younger person, is now going to someone older."
And the stress for money is real, Oakland youth say.
"I really do feel that pressure, " said Isaiah Tage, 18, a student at the College of Alameda. Tage is the first in his family to go college. "I feel like I gotta make it, I got to help my family, I want them to be proud of me."
Sometimes that stress and pressure for money leads to wrong choices.
"A lot of us are trying not to be another stereotype out here in the streets," King said. "I mean, you don't want to go out sell drugs and rob and stuff. You're actually trying to look for a job. When you don't have a job you can't support yourself, help your family, it's like, what do you have left to fall back on?"
Long term, if the city of Oakland is to push its way out of its current financial gloom, it must produce stable jobs with livable wages for those that have suffered the most during the city's financial downturn, including Oakland's youth, experts say.
"We don't want to have a recovery that benefits the same people," Jennifer Lin, a research director at EBASE, said. "We want to make sure we have a recovery that is broad, that reaches young people, people who were previously incarcerated, people with just GED or a high school diploma. We want to make sure as a city that we're investing in economic sectors that benefit everyone."
One area where many believe the city can grow jobs for young residents and others is at the former Oakland Army Base.
A dream yet realized
The former Oakland Army Base can sometimes seem like a mirage of good fortune.
The site – co-owned by the city and the Port of Oakland – is an enormous chunk of land, the size of about 200 football fields, right at the base of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Roughly 365 acres, it was first opened in 1941 and served as a major military hub until it was officially closed in 1999 – part of a wave of military base closures across the country.
The potential for the old base is great. If done right, the base can become an enormous economic boom for the city and the port, with thousands of jobs in a variety of fields including construction, maritime and the green industry, along with areas like technology research and development.
But up until recently, for many it's been a frustrating, start and stop development process for the site. Over the year, previous attempts to develop the base, including plans for an Indian casino, an A's baseball stadium and a movie studio (run by Keenen Ivory Wayans) all failed.
"It's been a very long road and a very frustrating road because we've been quite close to development, but there's been a number of challenges," Councilwoman Nancy Nadel, who represents West Oakland where the base is located, said.
But now, both the port and City Council say that this time the base development is moving at a good clip.
Currently, the city and the port are in a public-private partnership with AMB/CCG to redevelop the site into a large-scale industrial district. City officials have said that there will be shovel-ready projects in "12 to 18 months."
Port of Oakland officials expect the army base will play an important role in its future growth.
"We're excited about developing the army base area," said Isaac Kos-Red, a spokesman with the Port of Oakland. "It's going to be play a key role in the port's ability to grow its export business, for example. We expect great things."
Nadel agrees that the base represents exciting opportunities for the city.
"(The army base) is an important piece of real estate that everyone has great hopes for," Nadel said. "I think that long term, we will be providing some good options for Oaklanders, young and old alike."
NEXT: Part 2, Can Tony Smith turn around Oakland public schools? See our full Living in Debt series.
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