Residents from a number of community groups attended the City Council’s Rules and Legislation Committee, calling on the committee to support a temporary “moratorium on evictions and on rent increases until the City has developed and implemented strategies that protect and expand access for Oakland residents to affordable housing.”
After listening to community speakers, the committee agreed to put the “state of emergency” on the agenda for the April 5 City Council meeting.
Backers of the resolution include a coalition of organizations and residents that came together as a result of a resolution first passed by the John George Democratic Club last Saturday and unanimously endorsed by participants at last Sunday’s Post Salon at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle.
Qilombo Community Center of the McClymonds neighborhood is supporting the resolution, along with the Oakland Alliance, the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club and the Block By Block Organizing Network.
One of the speakers at Thursday’s council committee meeting was Janet Hall, who told council members that the community would hold them accountable for their actions.
“We should expect you to (call) the meeting to make this happen,” said Hall. “If you don’t do that, why in the world are you sitting here?”
“If there were an earthquake and we lost homes in the Oakland Hills, you can know for sure there would be a state of emergency.”
Timothy Killings of Qilombo said he hoped for unanimous council support in calling the state of emergency. “I hope we can get a ‘yes’ vote from every single one of you,” he said. “As a college student, I have been displaced six times – every single place I have lived in has been sold.”
Anita “Needa Bee” MiralleDeAsis, who – along with friends – delivers food and other supplies to those who live on the streets of Oakland, shared her experiences as well.
She said she has visited at least 25 Oakland homeless encampments where many families and infants live. Many of the homeless have full time jobs, and there are at least 59 encampments between Lake Merritt and the San Leandro border, she said.
At first, the council members resisted scheduling the community-written resolution, using technical objections. Councilmember Brooks, not a member of that committee, went up to speak at the meeting. “You should be facilitating the community’s request.” To use technical objections to avoid putting a state of emergency resolution on the agenda would be “disingenuous,” said Brooks.
Gay Plair Cobb talked about the urgency of what she sees in the streets of her West Oakland community. “I observe more and more people living in their cars or living in the parks,” she said.
Cobb said that displacement of Oakland residents is directly tied to lack of decent jobs – unemployment and low-skilled, low-paying jobs.
At Sunday’s Post Salon, speakers outlined the importance of the resolution and talked about a recent city report that shows the median rent for a 2-bedroom apartment is now $2,950 per month, an increase of 40 percent in the last year.
A renter working at Oakland’s minimum wage would have to work 185 hours a week to pay for the median priced 2-bedroom apartment.
The average Oakland renter can only afford to pay about $700 a month, according to the report.
“The situation is dire,” said Carroll Fife, who chaired the Post Salon meeting, titled “Fight to Stay in Our City – Oaklanders Fight Displacement.”
Some people may say a housing state of emergency is not possible, but it was passed in the city of Alameda a few months ago, said another speaker.
Post publisher Paul Cobb called for stepping up pressure on council members, especially those representing Districts 1, 3, 5, 7, the at-large position and the City Attorney, which are all up for reelection in November of this year.
“We as the citizens ought to serve eviction papers on the City Council,” said Paul Cobb. “We ought to notify all elected officials that their rent is due – the rent of doing what the people who elected them want.”
“Your ballot cast towards those running for City Council who support a housing state of emergency is your ticket to staying in Oakland,” said Cobb.
The next Post Salon planning meeting to discuss actions to stop displacement will take place Sunday, March 13, at 2 p.m. at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, 410 14th St. in Oakland.