Join public housing tenants from Cypress Village and Lockwood Gardens in Oakland and Sunnydale in San Francisco in a discussion about recent tenant organizing efforts. The San Francisco and Oakland Housing Authorities, just like Housing Authorities across the country, have been forcing tenants to live in dangerous conditions in order to justify selling public housing off to the highest bidder. Tenants at the few public housing projects left in the Bay Area are coming together to fight back.
Learn about the nationwide plan by the politicians, the developers, and the banks to eliminate all public housing by handing it over to private developers and management companies, and what tenants in the Bay Area are doing to stop it! There will be a brief presentation and some roundtable discussion about how people can work together to fight against the privatization of public housing and gentrification locally and nationally.
This event is part of a national movement. On May 4, over 100 people participated in a Truth Commission on the nationwide privatization of public housing across on Zoom. Tenants are organizing in San Francisco, Oakland, New York, Boston, and Minneapolis.
In Oakland, tenants have been organizing at the last two public housing developments in the city: Cypress Village in West Oakland and Lockwood Gardens in East Oakland. Cypress and Lockwood are not currently facing privatization but residents have been organizing to form independent tenant unions to fight for residents’ interests and be prepared to fight against privatization.
In San Francisco, there is a citywide privatization plan called HOPE SF. The city government, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Google, Kaiser Permanente, and foundations in the city are working together via the HOPE SF scheme. HOPE SF’s plan is to eliminate the last public housing in San Francisco (Sunnydale, Potrero, Double Rock/Alice Griffith, and Hunters View) by destroying it and building mixed income developments owned and managed by different private developers like Mercy Housing, the John Stewart Company, and BRIDGE Housing.
There are only two remaining public housing developments still under the San Francisco Housing Authority: Sunnydale and Potrero. Tenants at Sunnydale have been organizing to resist the privatization and destruction of their homes, to not be bullied into signing leases with the private developer Mercy Housing, and to speak up about the truth that these private developers are just going to make the situation worse for residents and leave them more vulnerable, as we’ve seen in developments that have been privatized in the Bay Area and across the country. Sunnydale residents have been working with residents at Potrero and privatized developments like Double Rock.
This event is sponsored by the United Front Against Displacement, the Cypress Village Tenant Union, and the Residents of Sunnydale.
Residents of Harlem River Houses and Fulton Houses were joined by neighbors from across the five boroughs on Saturday May 1st at Charles Young Triangle in East Harlem (153rd and Macombs Pl) for a rally and march, and to commence a rent-strike starting the same day.
The rent strike is an oppositional measure taken in the face of attempts by NYCHA and the City to convert their homes to Section 8 and private management through the RAD/PACT program. Lawyer Arthur Schwartz, with Advocates for Justice, was among the attendees and speakers, and was collecting checks to deposit into the escrow account, officially initiating the process.
After the rally, which included speakers from Harlem River and Fulton Houses, as well as Holmes Towers & residents on the front lines against RAD and privatization in Boston and Minneapolis, the group marched in Harlem River Houses demanding homes remain in service of people, not profit.
“The vast majority of Harlem River Tenants did not ask for RAD, did not approve RAD, and will fight back against this attempt to destabilize and displace working class families. We plan to unite with others facing RAD takeovers and similar schemes across the city and throughout the country. We will not be bullied into signing new leases designed to allow privatecompanies to raise rents and make windfall profits.”
The event was co-sponsored by the United Front Against Displacement (UFAD) and the Justice for All Coalition (JFAC), and was attended by delegations from Committee for Independent Community Action (CICA), CAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, and the Holmes-Isaacs Coalition.
Speakers will include residents living in RAD-converted developments in NYC (or those in process), as well as residents from Boston, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Oakland who are on the frontlines of the privatization of public housing.
For more information on the events of at Harlem River Houses, please contact email@example.com , 646-780-9657
For more information on the Truth Commission, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, 347 531– 8339
Some Quotations from the Rally at Harlem River Houses on Sat. May 1st:
“The reason they are changing stuff is because we are not fighting. A lot of people are fighting for a lot of stuff and they come together and they win. Like the union, they come together and they fight and they win But we are standing here today for that one reason, to fight against New York City Housing so they don’t take you out. Fight for your place where you live today, and don’t let NYC Housing try to pull you out of something where you came out from to be where you are to be where you are now. I was five years homeless in the streets and I walked by 8th avenue and Frederick Douglas Blvd, and I walked by 2850 [Frederick Douglas where Harlem River Public Housing is located] and now I live in that same building that I passed by a couple of years back … We got to come together. You can’t be afraid.”
“They were gonna take all the air, all the sunlight away from me and all the people in my development, but we fought back, and you all have to fight back … They think they’re gonna take it from us and we’re gonna lay down, but we’re going to fight. We started a lawsuit, we knocked on those doors, we said stand up and fight with us, and we won.”
“[Chuck Schumer] announced last week, he did a press conference … He said We’re gonna get NYCHA $40 billion to meet all the capital needs that they have. Now I don’t necessarily trust NYCHA to spend the $40 billion properly. But once they get this money they don’t need RAD, they don’t need privatization. Because the excuse they’ve been giving is that the federal government never funds NYCHA enough to do the repairs we need. Now it’s very likely that sometime in June, NYCHA is going to get $40 billion to fix every last piece of these falling apart buildings that you live in … So, I wrote a letter to Greg Russ, it’s on the table over there, and I said, Mr. Russ, I had written to him about Fulton … Why are you forcing people—I heard about at Harlem River Houses—to sign these leases. The leases, I don’t care what the Legal Aid Society Says [Legal Aid has a contract to work with RAD conversions] do not give people the rights they have as NYCHA tenants. Because the NYCHA lease says right in the leases you have rights under federal law and state law. And these RAD laws don’t say that. They are private sector leases just like for people who reside in private buildings… So I wrote to him and said these leases take away rights from people, and you don’t need the money from these private corporations that you’re inviting to run NYCHA. He wrote me back in three days, and I said if you don’t stop, stop forcing people at Harlem River Houses to sign leases and put RAD on hold until the federal government acts on this bill, I’m going to court to sue you.”
“Sisters and Brothers of Harlem River and Fulton Public Housing. We are in Solidarity with You. Stand up against Greg Russ and his developers and the city officials who want to displace your homes and communities through RAD and privatization without your consent. Continue to organize and fight to save your homes and communities. Continue to speak truth to power, and let the world know how Greg Russ deceives us, and through privatization, and gentrification is deceiving and misleading you … Greg Russ came to lead our public housing from 2017 to 2019. He lied, he bullied, he intimidated – to silence residents into accepting RAD; he used non-profits, developers, banks, mainstream media elected officials to push his plan.”
“We should be unified. We can beat these people, we will beat these people, we must beat these people. We cannot let these people tell us how to live without dignity. We want dignity and the only way we’re gonna get it is if we have to do it, we will fight for it. We will not let our houses become condominiums for rich people, and we will put our money into escrow.”
NYCHA/ RAD is breaking the law in its scheme to hand ownership of public housing over to the worst predatory banks and property managers in NYC. In the meantime, they’ve abandoned tenants, ignored repair requests, and let buildings fall into disrepair. Harlem River Houses is one of the first Public Housing Developments in NYC.They think if they pull this off here, others will fall. Let’s Rise up and Say No
On Saturday, April 10th at 12pm at 1654 Sunnydale Avenue, in front of the San Francisco Housing Authority office at Sunnydale, residents of the Sunnydale housing projects will hold a protest to oppose the HOPE SF plan to privatize and redevelop all of Sunnydale. The SFHA, Mercy Housing, and Related California plan to demolish residents’ homes and replace them with mixed income Mercy Housing units. In other words, the plan is to eliminate public housing through privatization.
Residents at Sunnydale and Hahn received 90-day notices from SFHA stating that they have to leave their homes by April 13th, 2021 so they can be demolished for the next phase of the redevelopment. Residents are opposing the redevelopment because they know it will lead to everyone at Sunnydale being displaced. Residents don’t want to be forced out of their homes. Residents don’t want to move into the new poorly constructed Mercy Housing apartment buildings and live under a private landlord.
The federal government and Housing Authorities across the country purposefully let public housing like Sunnydale fall into disrepair and seriously threaten residents’ wellbeing in order to justify privatizing public housing. We have seen privatization happen on a massive scale over the past decade across the country with programs like the HOPE VI and the RAD program, which have had disastrous results for people living in public housing. The city of San Francisco says that the HOPE SF plan is different, but residents know that it is more of the same.
Sunnydale residents and the United Front Against Displacement are holding this protest to expose the true nature of the HOPE SF plan. On March 9th, residents and activists rallied in front of the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development and City Hall, and on February 13th in front of the SFHA office at 1815 Egbert Avenue. Together, the people will continue to oppose the plan to privatize Sunnydale.
The United Front Against Displacement is an anti-gentrification organization that resists gentrification and struggles against attempts to criminalize and displace people.
On Saturday, February 13th at 12pm at 1815 Egbert Avenue, in front of the San Francisco Housing Authority headquarters, residents of the Sunnydale housing projects will be protesting to oppose the new development happening at Sunnydale. The SFHA, Mercy Housing, and Related California have been pushing through with their plans to redevelop all of Sunnydale.
Many residents know that these plans will lead to displacement and other serious problems going unaddressed in the process, creating a much worse situation. Residents of one block of Sunnydale recently received 90-day notices from SFHA stating that if they don’t leave their homes in April, they will be evicted. SFHA, Mercy, and Related California have claimed to have gotten resident input during this process, but residents believe these meetings have been a formality and that they haven’t been heard at all. In fact, residents who are being asked to move into the new buildings are being bullied into doing so and SFHA isn’t being upfront about the changes that will come with the move.
Housing Authorities across the country purposefully let housing projects like Sunnydale fall into disrepair and seriously threaten residents’ wellbeing in order to justify redeveloping – and thus eliminating – public housing. This type of neglect from the state is not unique to San Francisco, as we are simultaneously protesting with residents of the Peralta Village housing project in West Oakland, where residents have serious issues with their living conditions that the Oakland Housing Authority refuses to address. Although the HOPE SF plan is presented as a way to replace public housing units, the reality is that it is the privatization of public housing. We have seen this type of privatization happen on a massive scale over the past decade with programs like the HOPE VI and the RAD program, which have had disastrous results. Despite the assurances that this plan is different, this development will lead to residents being displaced at some point in the near future due to this shift of public housing becoming private housing.
Sunnydale residents are hosting this protest to expose the SFHA for their actions. We are standing in solidarity with residents in West Oakland and in public housing and privatized developments everywhere in the U.S. Residents will be delivering a petition with a list of demands to the San Francisco Housing Authority at this Saturday’s protest.
The United Front Against Displacement is an anti-gentrification organization that resists gentrification and pushes back against attempts to criminalize and displace people.
Residents at the West Oakland Wood Street homeless encampment have been embroiled in a land use dispute with San Francisco developer Fred B. Craves for almost 4 years. This particular conflict began on March 17, 2016 when Craves, a billionaire and head of Bay City Capital, purchased a plot of land located between 2201 & 2701 Wood Street. This is but one example of gentrification, which is a larger conflict between working class people and big real estate developers taking place all over the country. Gentrification is the relationship between real estate, local government, and law enforcement to displace working class people. It is often coated in this language of “development” or “relationship” with businesses, but it is a sharp contradiction between two classes with different interests. This contradiction is especially sharp in Oakland, as it is the nation’s most “intensely gentrified” city.
Craves set up a shell corporation called Game Changer LLC in 2012 specifically to engage in real estate speculation. He founded the firm in Delaware for tax reasons even though its office is in San Francisco’s financial district. His legal representatives have stated that he plans to build a biomedical research facility on the lot. This lot is one section of the West Oakland Wood Street encampment which is one of the largest homeless encampments in the East Bay and at any time anywhere from 100-200 people live there. Craves purchased a small parcel that sits in the heart of this larger encampment. For years the city has treated Wood St as an informal “dumping ground” for people with nowhere to go, pushing people to the encampment after evicting them from elsewhere. The plan to develop has the potential to make hundreds of millions of dollars for the developer and leave the residents with nothing and nowhere to go. This is not some “trade off.” Poverty, displacement, and gentrification are just the other side of the coin to massive profits and wealth accumulation in the Bay Area, just like many other cities in this country.
The initial attempts to displace residents
Although Fred B Craves bought the plot of land in early 2016, like many developers, he just sat on the lot. That is, until October 2018 when he began taking actual steps to develop it. During this time, residents of the lot began finding notices posted up around the area, threatening them with eviction if they did not leave by a certain date. It was at this point that organizers of the United Front Against Displacement began working to bring people together to develop a plan. Residents agreed that they could not move in the time given by these notices and even moving at all would not actually improve their situation. People would just have to be “homeless somewhere else” as one resident put it. The initial date came and passed without an activity, but on the second week of October, new notices were out up, listing October 16th as the new eviction date.
Early on the morning of October 16, 2018 police arrived at the lot in order to displace residents from the lot. Six officers arrived on the scene. Five activists rallied and formed a small picket line with residents. This caused the cops to quickly disperse. No residents were displaced. This would be one of many eviction defenses to transpire on the lot.
Shortly before this period, the United Front Against Displacement became involved in Wood Street. The UFAD is an anti-gentrification organization. Evictions and displacement attempts are some of the most violent stages of gentrification. Therefore we must actively defend against any eviction or displacement attempt. When venture capitalists and real estate speculators like Fred B Craves seek to develop land, they must first displace people by any means at their disposal. People must come together to oppose this, not because we want people living on the streets but because these gentrification efforts are not in our collective interests.
The developer unveils a “safe parking lot”
After the initial eviction defense, the UFAD and Wood Street residents organized several rallies against Craves’s development projects. We worked to educate surrounding residents of the stakes of the struggle and that if they did not come together, they would be next to get kicked out. However, the city worked to undermine our efforts by putting together “listening sessions”, where city officials would try to lie to residents that such projects were actually good for them and could lead into other housing opportunities for all residents. Due to our efforts, residents were prepared to call out this dishonest officials and these meetings backfired. Under this new resistance to their development plans, Craves shifted tactics. Craves struck a deal with the City of Oakland to lease the lot to the city to be temporarily used as a “Safe Parking Lot”. These lots are small, enclosed lots where people living in vehicles can park if they follow the various rules and restrictions imposed on them. Examples of rules used at other safe parking lots that the city has opened: curfews, no visitors, and random searches of personal property. They are highly regulated and are subject to rampant abuse by staff. The city uses these lots to claim that they support homeless people, but are actually a part of the city’s strategy to eliminate homeless encampments, control people, and put them in a jail-like situation. The city will open similar sites wherever there are a high concentration of encampments to offer a small portion of homeless people access to these new services. The remaining people that are not allowed in or refuse are removed from the areas surrounding these sites. These sites function as tools for the local government to eliminate populations of desperate people by offering inadequate shelter to a handful.
The planned lot at Wood Street was announced in the weeks leading up to the largest attempt to clear the lot. Organizers of the UFAD again worked to bring residents together against the eviction. However, the city had become even more directly involved and spent time building fear among residents. The eviction was to occur on November 19, 2019, at which point over 50 people were living on the lot. The city of Oakland sent out over 50 police personnel, over a dozen vehicles and two tow trucks. During this time, Fred B. Craves sent private security guards to offer residents anywhere from $40-200 to leave the lot voluntarily. This is paltry compensation to give someone to self-evict. For comparison, since that date, Craves has spent over $120,000 on private security to keep people off the lot. Although the UFAD mobilized about two dozen protestors, Craves and the city were able to push most people off the lot, leaving only a handful of residents in their homes.
What we failed to realize that while the eviction was a major threat to all residents, those residents were dealing with more than just evictions. Residents had real issues with living on the lot and living with each other. While we were able to unite with many residents that could not or would not move, many saw the eviction as a “fresh start” even if the future was unknown. Our inability to recognize this left us unable to work through these issues with residents and had a negative impact on the eviction defense.
It was after this point, that Craves filed a “forcible detainer” against the remaining residents and moved to evict them using the court system.
Residents and activists had little ability to intervene in the court process. Residents lacked money to pay for lawyers and activists were unable to find lawyers to take the case for free. Rather, then just passively wait for the case to resolve, activists spent the next year trying to prepare residents for when the court gave its expected verdict in favor of Fred Craves.
On the week of October 5, 2020, the remaining residents on the lot were informed that they would be forcibly removed from their homes on October 13. This sparked a massive eviction defense led by members of the UFAD. At five in the morning on October 13, over fifty people gathered to hold an eviction defense. People stood guard at different entry points with banners, megaphones, and signs ready to form a picket line. Most likely due to this, cops did not come, and no one was displaced.
The eviction defense carried out this way over the next month with people taking different watch shifts starting at 5 AM every day to guard against cops while others were on standby in case a picket line needed to be formed. Members of the UFAD hosted weekly coordinating meetings to organize the defense efforts.
Alameda County sheriffs arrived in the early afternoon two weeks later on October 29, 2020 to remove people from the lot. They set up a perimeter and did not allow anyone into the Wood Street encampment. As the sheriffs guarded the lot, a group of private contractors reinforced the gate. However, because UFAD members are familiar with the area and the people on the lot, a group of about twenty people snuck their way onto the lot and set up a picket line. Under threat of arrest, people were pushed to the street where over 100 people gathered there to protest and prevent the sheriffs from arresting residents. After a standoff that lasted several hours, the sheriffs left, and while ostensibly people were removed from their homes, no one had trouble getting back onto the lot. The sheriffs informed residents that they had fifteen days to move all of their belongings out.
The following week, residents were once again told they had to move out, this time by Oakland Police Captain, Bobby Hookfin. They were told they had until November 13, 2020. On that day, private contractors had heavy equipment ready to dismantle residents’ homes. The residents refused to move without a cash settlement so when police arrived, several people formed a barricade using wooden shields to protect the residents. The police left and Fred Craves’s private security and contractors were left without police backup so they in turn cleared the scene and no one was removed from their home.
The final push
During the next and final push to evict residents, police and private contractors assembled early in the morning on November 16, along with no less than four private security guards. On top of that, one contractor had gone out earlier that day and hired several men off the street, offering them money just to intimidate anyone forming a picket line. However, the eviction defense was prepared; a strong line formed and people held shields. Some of the hired hands tried to break the line but were unable to. Due to the resilient defense, Fred B Craves’ lawyer Pat Smith (who had said earlier that no negotiation was possible) was forced by the protest to negotiate with the residents. Each remaining resident received $2,500. Once the money was transferred into the residents’ hands, protestors put down their shields. The lot had been cleared but the remaining residents had reached a satisfactory resolution since the compensation was sufficient for them to leave.
Reflections and the path forward
Members of the UFAD understand that the final goal in the struggle on Wood Street is not to keep people living in an encampment; the final goal is housing for all. But this is impossible under our capitalist system. Thus, while we organize together and struggle for a better future, we must also fight against all incidents of exploitation, displacement or the harassment of working class people. This is why eviction defenses are integral to UFAD’s work. Every “deep cleaning” by the city, every removal of people from their homes at the behest of the rich, every displacement is the harassment of working people. We must continuously fight against this harassment and, when we win, we can celebrate these small wins along the way.
The primary reason that the eviction defense was so successful was that members of the UFAD were willing to go among the masses to discuss the larger political situations and build working relationship with residents at Wood Street. On October 29, the day of the coordinated eviction attempt between Craves and the OPD, there was no one from the UFAD watching the lot. But we were able to mobilize quickly because residents called and texted us. But there is need for more organization among residents. Having activists watch the lot all day every day with a large, mostly passive audience waiting and ready to mobilize is not a sustainable eviction defense model. Therefore, any prolonged struggle of this nature is contingent on not just trust between residents and activists but that residents are organized and able to take action themselves.
Despite trust and long-term collaboration between residents and UFAD activists, the lot on Wood Street was ultimately cleared. However, as an organization we gained much valuable experience on how to unite people in struggle and fight back. The struggle on Wood St is but one of many conflicts that we must be ready to carry on the struggle. Obtaining cash settlements was a serious material benefit to the residents, a small win- but this is not the ultimate goal of the UFAD. Under our capitalist system, where housing is treated as a commodity and working people are exploited more and more, gentrification will continue. What we want is an end to evictions and to eviction defenses. We want to live in a world that actually serves the people. We must come together, struggle together, and fight against our oppressors. We have a world to win!
On March 17th 2016 Fred B. Craves (founder of Bay City Capital LLC, lead director with Madrigal Pharmaceuticals), a venture capitalist who specializes in pharmaceuticals and biotech investments, purchased a plot of land located between 2201 & 2701 Wood st in West Oakland with his shell company, Game Changer LLC. A venture capitalist tries to invest in new or rapidly expanding businesses in order to make money. Craves has raised over $1.6 billion dollars through his investments and accrued a net worth of over $217 million dollars. In 2007, he sold his company Reliant Pharmaceuticals to pharmaceutical conglomerate GlaxoSmithKline for $1.65 billion dollars, which was the largest all-cash transaction for a venture-backed biotech company at the time. This transaction was possible largely due to the success of the product Lovaza, a supplement. That product is a synthesis of the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil. His latest investment is in the Gentrification of Oakland.
The Private Lot on Wood st
This lot was once one of many industrial warehouses in the neighborhood but has been abandoned since at least the 1980s. The property was long in default and was sold by the City of Oakland to Fred B. Craves on March 17th, 2016.
His investment into the supposedly abandoned lot on Wood st is part of a plan to eventually build a biomedical technical research facility. This facility would eventually take on similar ventures in an effort to sell pharmaceuticals and their associated patents at a profit to generate more capital for future investments. This property is also in an attractive location in a rapidly gentrifying city. There are plans to share a parking lot with the music studio across the street and other leased offices and commercial space in front of the facility to attract even more investment as the lot is developed.
Occupants on the Lot
The City of Oakland’s alliance with real estate developers and other capitalists has left almost 10,000 people homeless. The city uses the Oakland Police Department to clear people out of populated areas with threats of property seizures, tickets and other violent harassment. In this situation, many find seemingly-abandoned lots as a refuge from the government, the police and other actors who seek to exploit and oppress the homeless residents of Oakland. The City of Oakland’s own records indicate that the lot on Wood st has been inhabited by homeless people as early as 2004. Many people have called the area surrounding the lot home since at least 2013. Most have called Oakland home their entire lives. Over time, the forces of gentrification and the unofficial policy of the government have forced so many onto the streets and onto the lot itself and the surrounding area.
This encampment has grown to be the largest informal homeless encampment in Oakland, with a population of at least 100-200 people. For years, the Oakland Police have directed homeless people to Wood st as an informal “dumping ground” for people with no where to go in order to keep them out of sight. Now that there is money to be made, we are seeing people being asked to move again! The clearing of this lot is just the earliest phase of clearing all of Wood st as even this “abandoned” area is gentrified.
Local History of the Struggle Against Gentrification
Activists and residents of the area came together to form the United Front Against Displacement in October 2018 as a new surge in intense evictions and sweeps began to happen in the neighborhood. That month the city of Oakland towed over 15 RVs and trailers in a single morning, leaving almost 40 people with nothing. These people had been staying on Wood st and as the police had pushed more people into the area, local businesses demanded that the cops clear people out and make sure they couldn’t come back. These businesses even went so far as to move massive logs into the street to limit people’s ability to park. Obstructing a street is normally illegal, unless it is in the interests of big business. Less then a month later, the City of Oakland sent about 6 cops to clear out the lot of Wood st. This was the first attempt by Fred Craves to clear out the lot. Fortunately, residents and activists were prepared, formed a picket line and turned the police away!
Escalating Eviction Attempts
Since this first attempt, Fred Craves was seriously delayed in his development plans. His legal team (part of the law offices of Alan J. Horowitz) have only increased their harassment of residents of the lot. Fred Craves has a number of paid security guards in the area that regularly harass people. These security guards also pay off a couple of the local drug dealers to violently threaten residents and activists that try to bring people together. This has made it very difficult to bring residents together and encourage them to fight. However, this level of oppression demonstrates how far these developers will go to protect their interests. Furthermore, it also demonstrates how residents and activists have proven that they will not back down and have defeated lesser attempts to displace the community! This escalation hasn’t been cheap: Fred Craves and his lawyers have claimed that they have spent $30,000 a month in security since November 2019. ALL TO HARRASS AND THREATEN PEOPLE!
The last push to clear the lot was in November 2019, when over 50 people were living on the lot. The city sent out over 50 police personnel, over a dozen vehicles and two tow trucks! Fred Craves also attempted to bribe many residents to move off of the lot (bribes ranged from $40-$200). These are pathetic gestures when this many people stand to make money hand over fist! Activists and residents mobilized again in the face of this threat and while many were pressured to leave, no vehicles were towed and no property was confiscated. After this point Fred Craves’ legal team served the remaining residents with a “forcible detainer” and began the first actually-legal eviction process. It is worth mentioning that EVERY tenant and homeless legal service refused to represent the residents of Wood St.
The Current Situation and the “Safe Parking Lot”
Residents were finally served an eviction date of October 13th, 2020. Activists were accosted by a lawyer representing Game Changer on Monday October 12th, who stated that the lot would eventually be turned into the research labs described above, while also somehow being converted into a “Safe RV Lot” even though Craves does not have a contract with the city to build it. If the lot gets built, it would be a very limited resource because most of the folks residing on the land owned by Game Changer do not all own working RVs. This would clearly prohibit them from living on the fictional RV lot they were proposing to us. Not to mention the many folks residing on the sidewalk/curbside of Wood st live in homes they built which are not all mobile. Furthermore, this “Safe RV Lot” would only be an 18-month program, whereas most residents have struggled with homelessness for years. This program will only further destabilize the community.
On Tuesday, October 13th, Sheriff Ahern (from the Alameda County Sheriff ’s Department) had planned a raid to evict 6 folks currently living on the lot, starting at 6 AM. Folks from various activist organizations in the Bay Area, as well as unaffiliated neighbors, were able to mobilize at 5 AM. Around 40 folks showed up and split off into smaller pods–guarding off each entry point to watch for the sheriffs.
The most important entry point to watch or guard is located at Wood & West Grand. The gate to enter the Game Changer lot by car would be here, but the lot extends past 24th St where folks could enter through holes in the fences on foot. Midday on Tuesday, three cop cars approached the opening at Wood & West Grand – folks on watch were able to form a barricade using shields and prevented their entry. Since Tuesday, we have had at least 2-4 folks watching the main gate from 5:30 AM to 4:00 PM. The fight has only just begun, and it is only a matter of time until another notice is served, or the sheriffs show up without any warning, as they always do. A sizable rapid response team are now linked into this struggle and will be notified if and when a raid begins.
UFAD members have been in conversation with several Wood st residents about the eviction notices and we urge everyone else who works independently to continue to build longstanding relationships with the residents we meet during shifts guarding the gate. It is up to all of us to use this information and personal experiences as a catalyst to inform fellow comrades and residents of this past weeks’ events. Wood st residents must be brought up to speed, as well as housed comrades who choose to show up and resist these evictions.
Preventing this illegal eviction of the 6 folks living in the Game Changer lot impacts the entire encampment and all of homeless Oaklanders. We must stand united in preventing sweeps at Wood st due to the hundreds of residents currently living here, while the City and the landlords continue to evict people every day, and most times do this before anyone can intervene. The reality is that folks who continue to be evicted from other parts of the Bay Area will continue to run out of areas to live curbside. Wood st is often the last place in the East Bay people can go.
These issues are not isolated only to the Bay Area, but appear throughout the entire nation. In addition, these issues are not isolated to only folks living on the streets, but for all working people in the world. We all are at risk of losing our homes and lives under a capitalist system that criminalizes poverty while continuously negating any fair chance at living or survival.
We urge folks interested in showing up to eviction defenses to also conduct their own research independent and not stop here, as things are rapidly changing and escalating every day. We need to come together to struggle collectively around these issues in order to better understand how to unite in the struggle against our common oppressors.
Published by the United Front Against Displacement
The coronavirus pandemic and the recent uprisings against white supremacist police terror after the murder of George Floyd have rocked the U.S. and the world. With over 15.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 650,000 deaths worldwide, and over 4 million cases and 140,000 deaths in the U.S. alone, it is clear that the pandemic will not be over anytime soon. In the U.S. we have witnessed the horrible and untimely response by the U.S. government to the pandemic as the American medical system has been exposed in its lack of preparedness for the pandemic. Testing for the COVID-19 virus has been abysmal as it has been extremely difficult to find access to testing centers, particularly in working class communities of color such as West Oakland.
Alameda County has the highest amount of cases in the Bay Area with over 10,000 cases confirmed. In Oakland, homelessness is on the rise and those who are homeless receive little to no support from the city. For example, the West Oakland Wood Street Homeless Community, which is one of the largest homeless communities in the Bay Area, has received no resources such as access to clean water, hand washing stations, showers, porto potties, or even trash dumpsters since the pandemic has started. This type of carelessness and incompetence on the part of the City of Oakland is indicative of the nature of the current system where profit and private interests are prioritized over the livelihood of working-class Oaklanders. The police have continued to harass, displace, and terrorize people in these communities, many of whom have lived in Oakland for their entire lives.
What is going on in Oakland is representative of the national situation. Due to the pandemic, tens of millions have been forced into unemployment, struggling to pay for rent and other necessities. Homelessness has continued to rise and the police have proceeded to terrorize and harass homeless people and working-class Black people more broadly. Over the last two months, we have seen millions across the world rise up against the oppressive system that has doomed millions to suffer unemployment, poverty, and police brutality. We need to act now, and build upon this momentum and advance a long term, sustained mass movement against white supremacy, police brutality, and the capitalist system as a whole.
We have come up with a list of demands to counter the terrible situation that the U.S. state has subjected working people to endure. We demand:
1. An end to police brutality on Black, Indigenous, Trans, Queer, and homeless communities. 2. Proper sanitation services for all homeless communities. 3. Housing for all. There is room for everyone! 4. Cancel rent, back rent, and information on landlords should be publicly available to all renters. 5. No re-opening of workplaces until there is comprehensive COVID-19 testing for all. 6. Protect students, families, and teachers as the new school year approaches.
These demands address the symptoms of the capitalist system in which we live in. Under capitalism, healthcare is for profit, millions are homeless as millions of homes remain vacant, landlords live off the backs of tenants, the government puts people at risk for the sake of economic growth, and the police terrorize and harass working class people while they protect private property and the status quo. We have had enough!
We put forward these demands in the spirit of the ongoing revolutionary struggle against capitalism which continues today in the legacy of the heroic acts of people and organizations like the Black Panther Party. The Black Panthers stood in armed self-defense against the police with the belief that the police do not serve the interests of the communities they patrol. The police will not protect the masses of people who are without work, healthcare, and the means to subsist in this society. They will only crack down when the people rise up. But we must rise up if we want to change this rotten system!
Please come out to West Oakland Bart Station on Saturday, August 1st at 1pm to participate in a rally for our demands in solidarity with the West Oakland Community. We ask that all those in attendance wear masks and practice social distancing when possible.
All Power to the People!
This event is organized in collaboration with Revolutionary United Front.
The California Department of Transportation (District 4), the Oakland Police Department, and the California Highway Patrol have continually harassed homeless people in Oakland. Over the last month, the West Oakland Wood Street Community, which consists of nearly 200 residents, has received threats of losing property and having their vehicles towed. The particular area in question is the southern portion of the Wood Street Community on Caltrans owned land beneath the I-80 freeway.
Many of the current residents of the Wood Street Community were once renters and homeowners in the City of Oakland. People come to Wood Street when they have no other place to go. For years the Oakland Police Department has had an unofficial policy of directing people to move to Wood Street who live in their vehicles or who have been cleared out of other homeless encampments.
At the beginning of June, Wood Street Community residents residing on Caltrans land were told that they would have to relocate or risk losing all of their possessions in the scheduled “cleaning.” When residents asked where they were to relocate, the Oakland Police Department told folks to move one block away on West Grand Ave and Wood St. Oddly enough, many residents had already been pushed off that very corner a few months ago! The City of Oakland and the State of California has offered a solution that is not a solution at all. In fact, it is an extremely serious health risk.
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, people are being told to shelter-in-place and maintain a safe distance from others. But when it comes to homeless folks, the city has no problem with forcing dozens of residents to cram themselves into an area consisting of less than 100 feet of curb. These living conditions put people at extreme risk by increasing their chances of contracting the COVID-19 virus. This lack of humanity on the part of the City of Oakland is unsurprising given that the city has made no attempt to protect the Wood Street Community by providing basic sanitation to combat the virus. It has fallen into the hands of residents and organizations such as the United Front Against Displacement and the Berkeley Free Clinic to work to improve basic sanitation resources in the area in an attempt to protect residents and prevent the spread of the virus.
The eviction led by Caltrans is part of a larger strategy to get rid of all homeless people living on land owned by the State of California in West Oakland. This is in contradiction with the State’s goal to get people off of the streets into long term housing because breaking up encampments make it harder for people to get off the street. This is why the United Front Against Displacement called for an eviction defense to come to the aid of residents.
Despite the fact that a few residents were illegally coerced into moving, there was no significant loss of property. This should be viewed as a major success given that at the beginning of the month OPD tagged over a dozen vehicles to have towed if they did not move from the area. This is an extreme threat being that people use their vehicles to live in, commute to work, and run essential errands. This threat is unsurprising given that the police constantly harass and terrorize poor homeless people, especially during the pandemic.
While the eviction defense was an overall success, it is important to recognize that this is just the first stage of Caltrans’s attempts to displace residents on Wood St. They will be back in the near future to either finish evicting residents on the southern end, or force residents on the northern section of Caltrans land to move. If they are successful in their next operation it will be a step closer to displacing the entire Wood Street Community, which has perilous implications not only for the residents of Wood St., but all houseless and vehicularly housed people in Oakland. It is imperative that we come together to push back against the government’s attempts to displace working people. If we work together, we can not only fight back more effectively, but stop any and all attacks against the working people of the Bay Area.