“It was a victory,” said one of the potentially evicted moms in question, as an Alameda County judge keeps their housing hopes alive, at least for now.
The four homeless mothers who’ve been occupying an empty Oakland house since November, along with their children, have quickly become Bay Area folk heroes and the inspiration for a regional movement called Moms 4 Housing. The mothers hoped not only to put a roof over they and their children’s heads for the holiday season, but also to raise awareness of the fact that there are about 4,000 vacant housing units in Oakland — which is almost exactly the number of homeless people there are in Oakland. The argument has captured the Bay Area’s attention and imagination, but honestly, what they are doing is clearly illegal. The moms were served an eviction notice in early December according to the Bay Area News Group, but the moms appealed the eviction and it has not been carried out, pending a December 26 hearing (the day after Christmas!). That hearing was delayed until this morning.
Huge turnout for @moms4housing at the Hayward Hall of Justice this morning. Roughly 100 people are here to support the working moms who took over an empty home in West Oakland that is owned by a property management company. @nbcbayarea pic.twitter.com/77LwON80j3— Melissa Colorado (@melissacolorado) December 30, 2019
It may not have been a Million Mom March, but more than 100 pro-Mom protesters packed the Hayward Hall of Justice so thoroughly that not everyone could be could be admitted to the courtroom. KQED’s Kate Wolffe reports that the judge declined to throw out the moms’ case and will likely rule on the matter within 24 hours. KPIX adds that this means the mothers can stay in the house, at least for the immediate time being.
UPDATE: The judge in the @moms4housing declined to hear expert testimony from the defense. He heard both arguments and says consider them and make a judgement soon (today or tomorrow likely) @KQEDnews— Kate Wolffe (@katewolffe) December 30, 2019
“We consider that a win for now,” the moms’ attorney Leah Simon-Weisberg told the Bay Area News Group. “For us, that creates a lot of hopefulness in terms of his future decision.”
The protesters then proceeded to what they’re now calling the “Mom’s House” in West Oakland, and engaged in chants of “Whose house? Moms’ house!”
The vacant house’s owner, real estate developer Wedgewood Properties, argues this is outright squatting and theft. (Alameda County Judge Patrick McKinney had tentatively ruled in their favor before, though that’s now up in the air.)
“This ‘Mothers four Housing’ case is a straightforward situation: The squatters broke into Wedgwood Properties’ home at 2928 Magnolia St., and are illegally occupying it. They have no legal or ethical defense for their actions,” Wedgewood spokesperson Sam Singer said in a release. “Wedgewood takes no pleasure in seeking law enforcement to evict the squatters. Wedgewood requests the squatters peacefully and voluntarily depart the home.”
In a curious twist on the case, Wedgewood announced last week that they plan to turn the place into an at-risk youth job training center. They announced a partnership with an L.A.-based youth organization called Shelter 37, in what Wedgewood said in a release would “provide job training to at-risk Oakland youths as part of the home’s restoration.” Critics note that Shelter 37 has had no Bay Area presence with their charity events and celebrity golf tournaments until now, and that Wedgewood CEO Greg Gaiser just happens to sit on the Shelter 37 board of directors.
@Moms4housing, homeless mothers who have occupied a vacant home owned by a real estate speculation corp, was given an eviction notice for 12/26/19.— Boots Riley (@BootsRiley) December 25, 2019
The corp, Wedgewood, has employed the help of Shelter 37, a Southern CA-based non-profit run by former NFL player James Washington pic.twitter.com/Xyo73ypr93
But the Moms 4 Housing have acquired friends in high places too. Oakland city councilperson Nikki Fortunato Bas threatened the city could seize the property if Wedgewood did not negotiate with the moms, and that move also has the support of councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Dan Kalb.
“Some sources will put (Wedgewood’s) revenue at half a billion dollars,” Bas said at a rally this morning. “This is truly a battle between a goliath corporation that has been profiting off the foreclosure crisis, and that has meant that it’s driving displacement, driving homelessness and gentrification, in communities like West Oakland.”
Full comments of Oakland Councilmember @nikki4oakland outside the courthouse today. She says the offer still stands for Oakland Community Land Trust to negotiate with Wedgewood to buy the property. @KQEDnews pic.twitter.com/r5MxNAsorc— Kate Wolffe (@katewolffe) December 30, 2019
The moms have become a cause célèbre in the local media. But Judge McKinney’s decision is expected today or tomorrow, and either way, will likely change the trajectory of this saga.
This is a developing story and we will update this post with any additional developments.
Image: @SpencerHudsonSF via Twitter