Fire at City Towers: Random Tragedy or Par for the Course? Part 5: The Struggle that Lies Ahead

Shortly after the petition was delivered to VPM Management, KDF Communities, the Oakland Housing Authority, Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Councilmember Carroll Fife, and Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker, the latter office replied:

Thank you for your email and attached petition. The City Attorney takes violation of tenants’ rights and safety very seriously.

Multiple City departments are currently investigating the February 2022 fire at City Towers. I would like to speak to tenants who are willing to share their experience with respect to the fire and other conditions at the property. Please encourage them to email me directly.

After reviewing the attached petition, I recommend each aggrieved tenant take the following actions to ensure creation of a formal paper record of the potential City Code violation that will support the City’s ongoing investigation and abatement efforts:

  • Please report all rat, mice and cockroach infestations to Alameda County Vector Control by calling the office (510-567-6800) or by emailing
  • Please report all habitability issues (mold, mildew, water and utility shutoffs, elevator issues, repairs, fire escape access issues) to Oakland Code Enforcement by calling (510) 238-3381 or emailing

It is important that individual tenants make these reports because these agencies require tenants to grant access to their units in order to conduct inspections to verify Code violations. We greatly appreciate each tenant’s willingness to continue to report these issues to the appropriate department because these reports give us the tools to enforce Oakland’s laws.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know.

This response from the Oakland City Attorney is due to the organizing done at City Towers, and the voices of residents at City Towers speaking out against the terrible management by Don McShane and VPM. Without this organizing, such a response would not have happened, and if organizing lapses into only individual actions, the problems will become “invisible” again to those in power.

The issues of City Towers are deeper than rat and cockroach infestations, they are issues of class and race. Issues of poor people and black communities being oppressed for the benefit of the rich and powerful. They are issues shared by people in public housing across the Bay, and the country. Though we should (and will) leverage responses like the one from the Oakland City Attorney strategically to address the immediate problems people are facing, we have to do so with an understanding that, ultimately, the power to end such suffering and oppression lies within the people themselves. A long and challenging road lies ahead of us to harness and wield this power, but we must courageously press forwards along this road, knowing that it is the only one that will lead us to liberation.

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