The real estate investment firm that owns the home on Magnolia Street in West Oakland where a group of homeless mothers and their children were squatting in recent months has caved and agreed to negotiate a sale of the property to an Oakland nonprofit.
Wedgewood Properties, the firm that has been accused of being a speculator who contributes to the affordability crisis in California, has said it will negotiate with the Oakland Community Land Trust and sell the property for a price that doesn't exceed its appraised value. Following last week's dramatic pre-dawn eviction by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, and a political tide that clearly turned in favor of the Moms 4 Housing group, the Mercury News reports that Wedgewood has conceded the fight after a meeting with Governor Gavin Newsom, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, and Councilman Larry Reid.
Newsom had hinted last week, at the close of a four-day tour of homelessness programs around the state, that there were "wonderful things" to come for the Moms 4 Housing group, after its peaceful protest and occupation of the vacant home gained national attention. "They’re representing tens of thousands of other mothers, families that are suffering," Newsom said on Thursday. "It takes a tremendous amount of courage to do what they’ve done. They deserve an enormous amount of credit."
And after spending over a month denouncing the women's actions as criminal, Wedgewood Properties said through its spokesman, Sam Singer, that the new deal "is progress that everyone should agree is a step in the right direction in helping to address Oakland’s homelessness and housing crisis." As we can all see, sometimes civil disobedience does get things done, even if this one house is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to solving the larger housing crisis in Oakland.
Dominique Walker, a homeless mother of two who works for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, began occupying the vacant home in West Oakland on November 19 — probably not coincidentally just one day before Wedgewood took legal possession of it following a sale in July. Several other women and their children moved in over the following weeks, and the women's protest struck a cord both locally and beyond, as they claimed that housing was their human right and this property shouldn't be just another mark in the profit column of a speculator. Following some wrangling in court, the women were ordered out of the home on January 10, and the eviction took place last Tuesday. Two of the women, along with two supporters, were arrested for obstructing the eviction.
In a statement today, Walker says, “This is what happens when we organize, when people come together to build the beloved community. Today we honor Dr. King’s radical legacy by taking Oakland back from banks and corporations."
It remains to be seen if any of the moms will actually move back into the house once it is sold.