Preparing To Be Open
BROUGHT BY LA COMMUNE, AUGUST 20, 2014
PROPOSAL : PREPARING THE OMNI TO BE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
The Omni is already a dynamic and exciting space, and will become even more so when it is opened to the public in September. In order for the Omni to be a functional, safe and autonomous social center, it is important that we establish the framework for public use now, before we open the doors. This will head off a number of predictable conflicts and problems, and hopefully save us all some headaches down the road.
This proposal outlines seven areas of a public use framework : hours, public areas, staffing, ground rules, expulsion, bathrooms, andafter-hours access.
The Omni will open to the public on September 13 with the regular hours of 10am to 6pm. These will be our public hours seven days a week going forward. La Commune staff will open the front door at 48th & Shattuck, as well as La Commune and the public areas of the Omni, in the morning, and close the public areas, La Commune, and the 48th Street door at night. (La Commune will be locked up for the night at this time.) After three months, we can check in about the prospect of expanding those hours if it seems advisable.
The public areas of the Omni will be La Commune, the basement, and the ballroom (if not previously reserved). All other areas of the Omni (Sudo Room, CounterCulture Labs, and the ground floor kitchen and hallways) will be considered members-only areas and restricted to active members of the Omni collectives. This definition may be revised when we open the second floor to the Omni collectives.
The Omni will require staffing whenever it is open to the public. The initial open hours of 10am-6pm, seven days a week, will coincide with the shifts of La Commune, so the La Commune staff can be in part responsible for opening and closing the building. This proposal requests that one other person from any of the collectives be present every day the building is open, to act as a greeter, help orient people in the building, answer questions, and deal with any problems that might arise. All member collectives are requested to put out a call to their membership asking for volunteers to staff these shifts. Each collective is expected to be responsible for at least one day a month, regardless of its size. We will be dealing with many challenges in having such a large building open to the general public, including crime and antisocial behavior of various kinds, and staffing is absolutely essential.
The Omni must have clear and posted rules about what is not permitted in the space. We need a sign prominently posted at each entrance, in the bathrooms, and in other places as appropriate. These rules include : NO DRUGS; NO SLEEPING; NO STORAGE; NO VIOLENCE; NO HARASSMENT; NO THREATS; NO SHOUTING; NO SOLICITATION. We can word the signs however we like but these things have to be crystal-clear. Every community space in Oakland and elsewhere has dealt with these issues and the Omni will be no exception. With compassion and love, we have to deal with these things strongly from the beginning.
We need to be able to kick people out for violation of our ground rules, or at our discretion. This is sad but totally necessary. Day staff (La Commune staff and the rotating volunteer) are empowered to expel people from the space for violations of the ground rules or according to the good judgment of the day staff. We can form a conflict-resolution group to deal with appeals to expulsions, but we do need to be able to expel people for violent or antisocial behavior, drug use, threats, or as necessary on a case-by-case basis, as soon as we are open to the public.
Public bathrooms are always a tricky issue. Organizers of other community spaces have told us many stories about bathrooms being used for drug use or prostitution, or simply of people locking themselves inside and refusing to come out. We also need to deal with the issues of safety and comfort in unisex bathrooms -- that is, the possibility of antisocial behavior in such bathrooms. Bathrooms are part of the commons that we offer, and it's a very important human rights issue to have access to them, but we need to make sure that our bathroom system is functional.
All of our bathrooms need to be refurbished so that Omni staff can enter them with key access if someone has locked the door. The Omni should allot funds to pay for this. The La Commune bathroom and the Sudo / CCL bathroom should be redesignated as single-occupancy unisex bathrooms so that those who would feel more comfortable not using a multiple-occupancy unisex bathroom are able to do so. Urinals in the bathrooms should be covered up so that they are not used by men in bathrooms that are intended to be unisex.
As per the section on Hours, the Omni will close to the public at 6pm. La Commune will also be closed at that time, which means that the 48th & Shattuck door will not be usable. The Omni will still be available to members of its collectives, including those, like Sudo Room, that require 24-hour access, through the side door on 48th Street. This door will be the after-hours access. Members will be furnished either with a key (following a lock-change at the Omni's expense) or a magnetic card or fob (if an appropriate access system can be developed). We will ensure that the fire codes are followed and particularly that fire egress is possible after-hours. Those members present after-hours are requested not to use closed spaces.
Opening to the general public every day of the week is a great fulfillment of the Omni's mission to be a radical social commons. Let us make strong decisions now about how we receive the public, so that this wonderful project can most fully flourish.