A unified mix of Oakland advocate groups descended on a luxury high-rise to spotlight a building boom they say is not intended to house locals—creating more homelessness and forcing many to leave the city.
The collective of housing advocates to speak on the urgent need for more housing for community students on Nov. 23 at Mosswood Park in Oakland, CA.
Led by Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action, the rally and march included other organizations such as Moms 4 Housing, Sunrise movement, Poor People’s Campaign, Youth vs Apocalypse and Anti-Police Terror Project (APTP.)
According to its website, ACCE Action is a grassroots, member-led, statewide community organization dedicated to creating a transformative community through rallies, marches, and organizing to change local government policies. In a mass email sent out by activist and 2018 Oakland Mayor candidate Cat Brooks on Nov. 25, ACCE launched a Housing Week of Action, which included dozens of events focused on unhoused people: both housing-insecure people and their allies.
“If I sound angry, I am. I am angry that between 6,000-9,000 people sleep on the streets of Oakland every night,” said Brooks in the email. “I am angry that at least one woman forced to sleep outside is sexually assaulted every night. I am angry that there are children forced to sleep in tents and cars, and if they are ‘lucky’ RV’s.”
Participants met at Mosswood Park, which has one of the largest and fastest-growing homeless encampments in Oakland. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the camp is considered illegal by the city of Oakland– the city has 22 other camps that are sanctioned.
The march began at Mosswood after speakers such as Robinson expressed their experiences struggling with housing insecurities.
Laney College Student, Associated Students of Laney College (ASLC) senator and Umoja student leader Amin Robinson explained that his housing status has been secondary homelessness, a situation in which people allow you to stay on their couch or in a room from night-to-night.
The government should pay for housing for all because it’s a human right, Robinson said, adding that when students experience housing insecurities it takes away from their ability to study, focus in class, and be more competitive all around.
“Instead, [students] are focusing on: ‘what am I going to eat tonight, where am I going to lay my head, am I going to even eat this week, where am I going to get money,’” Robinson said. “They can’t even have a full-time student mentally.”
Laney’s previous plan to create a safe parking program where students could park and spend nights in their cars is not a proper solution, Robinson said. He proposed taking the area planned to use as a safe parking space and turn it into student housing.
Robinson said an example is Orange Coast County, which is projecting to build 323 units with 814 beds on campus, according to Orange Coast College’s website. With an estimated completion date of fall 2020, the housing project is funded by partnering with development, financing and construction companies and will not use any Measure M public funding.
Marching from Mosswood Park towards Telegraph and 39th Street to the MacArthur Commons, advocates stopped in a cul-de-sac located near MacArthur BART station to finish the rally with several more speakers.
Cat Brooks, who also attended the march, said the new MacArthur Commons was used as their destination point because the rental lease development is an example of new developments that are not meant for low-income families from Oakland.
Brooks said out of 385 units, 11 units (3% of total available units) would be available at $1400 for a studio and $1800 for a two-bedroom, chosen by lottery for those earning as much as $90,000 a year. Brooks said the developer owner is Hines, a privately owned global real estate company with a presence in 219 cities, 23 countries, and 124.3 billion dollars in assets.
Brooks said the MacArthur Commons is marketed as a place for people who are looking for a more transit-oriented place 17 minutes away from San Francisco.
“They didn’t build these for you. They didn’t build these for us. They didn’t build these for Oaklanders,” Brooks said.
Dominique Walker of Moms 4 Housing spoke at the rally, saying for every one homeless person there are 4 empty units of available housing in Oakland. Moms 4 Housing later tweeted they got the statistic from a 2018 MotherJones.com article. According to Mother Jones, there are nearly four vacant properties for every homeless person in Oakland. According to SFcurbed.com that statistic is a ratio of about 3.8 to one, close to the 4-to-1 ratio Moms 4 Housing cites as mentioned in the Mother Jones article.