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During a meeting on December 15, Oakland’s City Council discussed defining what shelter options Oakland would be required to offer homeless people if the city clears their communities during the local emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They postponed making a final decision on the matter until the new year. Given dangers posed by the pandemic, City Council will determining whether it sees homeless shelters as a safe option for evicted homeless people.

The City Council unanimously approved the Encampment Management Policy (EMP) on October 20, which set clear parameters for where the City could choose to focus clearances. The resolution stated people living within 50 feet of a residence, business, park or sports courts could face eviction. But the EMP did not overturn a resolution Council also unanimously passed on March 27 that requests that the City only execute evictions if “individual housing units or alternative shelter is provided.” …


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A sign on the door of Peet’s Coffee at 1111 Broadway in Downtown Oakland announces that the store is temporarily closed. The COVID related temporary closure started December 5 and ended on December 14. Photo by Zack Haber on December 11.

In the wake of confirmed in-store positive COVID-19 cases at Oakland and Berkeley locations, low wage Peet’s Coffee workers and ex-workers say they want the company to organize better safety measures.

Since workers currently employed at Peet’s said they feared retaliation for speaking out, and ex-workers said they thought naming themselves could make securing new employment more difficult, all workers and ex-workers quoted in this article appear under pseudonyms. They are all in their early 20s and make or made around 16 dollars an hour.

“I couldn’t bear it anymore,” said Stephanie, who recently decided to quit working as a barista at Peet’s after a year and a half. “I would go to work crying, come home crying. I had nightmares and panic attacks at the thought of being a conduit for the virus and getting people sick because of the exposure I had to endure.” …


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Black Organizing Project’s Organizing Director Jessica Black speaks outside of MetWest Highschool on November 13, 2019, announcing the People’s Plan. The People’s Plan became the foundation for the George Floyd Resolution to Eliminate Police the Oakland Schools Police Department. Photo courtesy of Black Organizing Project.

Oakland’s School Board voted on Wednesday to pass a resolution to implement Phase 1 of a reasonable compliance safety plan, a plan Black Organizing Project, Oakland Unified School Department staff, and community partners formulated to deal with school safety without police presence.

The unanimous vote came after Black Organizing Project (BOP), who describes itself as a “Black member-led community organization working for racial, social, and economic justice,” organized for 10 years. Their goal was to eliminate the Oakland Schools Police Department (OSPD), which works exclusively in OUSD schools. …


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Timothy Busby on Gilman Street in Berkeley in early 2020. Photo courtesy of Timothy Busby.

Timothy Busby, a 56 year old writer who lives in a van in Berkeley, just started chemotherapy for cancer in his neck. He has tried to plan ahead by arranging indoor shelter for his recovery through his healthcare, non-profit, state and county programs but has been unable to secure it. A friend of his, Alastair Boone, is putting together a fundraiser to secure him a hotel room to recover in, and Busby is accepting the help.

“There are so many different systems that are failing in this case,” said Boone, who criticized Busby’s healthcare provider for not taking into account his shelter needs. Busby pays $507 a month to Blue Cross Blue Shield Mississippi, the vast majority of his $733 disability income. …


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Tenants living in The Vulcan Lofts, an artist live / work near Fruitvale that has over 200 rental units, say that many who live there are not recognized by their landlord as tenants, which makes needed repairs and maintenance difficult or impossible to secure. New amendments to proposed regulations to the Tenant Protection Ordinance could help them if passed. Photo on Nov 22 by Zack Haber.

A coalition of ten different organizations have asked Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program (RAP) to amend proposed regulations to the Tenant Protection Ordinance (TPO) in an effort to make replacing vacating roommates and filling extra space in rental units easier for tenants.

“In Oakland tenants already have one-to-one replacement rights,” said Jackie Zaneri, a tenant attorney with ACCE Action, a grassroots organization that is leading the push to amend current proposed TPO regulations. “So if you have three roommates, and one of them moves out, you already have the right to bring in someone else. …


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Activists hold shields and stand crouched behind them on Friday, November 13th on a tract of land just west of Wood Street in West Oakland. The shields created a barrier to delay the eviction of unhoused people living in buses. Photo by Zack Haber.

San Francisco based company, GameChanger LLC, and seven unhoused residents ended a land use dispute on Monday when residents agreed to leave a 1.5 acre tract of company owned land just west of Wood Street in West Oakland in exchange for accepting material or monetary concessions.

Both sides agreed to each other’s terms after a year long standoff that involved a court battle, law enforcement actions, several protests, and civil disobedience.

Over the last year, the United Front Against Displacement (UFAD), a grassroots group that organizes to prevent displacement, supported the residents during the standoff by organizing several protests and defensive actions. …


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Mike Hutchinson, who is poised to win the District 5 School Board election, speaks at a protest against NewSchools Venture Fund outside of an invitation only fund raising dinner for the organization at Oakland’s Marriott at City Center on May 8, 2019, a few months after the Oakland Educator Strike. NewSchools Venture Fund is a billionaire backed organization that has invested in Oakland Charter Schools. Photo by Rex LC and courtesy of East Bay DSA.

As final votes are being tallied, three Oakland School Board Director candidates backed by the Oakland Education Association who ran on platforms against privatization, cuts, and public school closures hold significant leads poising them to win against candidates who, backed by political action committees, spent between two to three times more money on their campaigns.

District 1 candidate Sam Davis, District 3 candidate VanCedric Williams, and District 5 candidate Mike Hutchinson, each thus far have secured between 10–13% more votes than their opponents Austin Dannhaus, Maiya Edgerly and Leroy Roches Gaines. …


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Residents of the homeless community 37MLK, Rome (center) and Chrise (right), stand outside of Rome’s tiny home which community volunteers built. The community exists in a high sensitivity area, so could be under threat due to the passage of the new Encampment Management Policy. Photo by Zack Haber on October 25.

Late on October 20, Oakland City Council unanimously passed an Encampment Management Policy that codifies where people experiencing homelessness are and are not allowed to live, but firm plans for what shelter options people will be offered if cleared from a prohibited area have not been set.

The policy defines any space within 50 feet of a residence, business, protected waterway, public park, or sports court, and within 100 feet of a school, as a “high sensitivity area” and further states that “encampments located within a high sensitivity area that are not approved by City Council will be subject to closure intervention.” …


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Puffy, a 66 year old resident who lives on a tract of land owned by Game Changer LLC, stands near the property under the 880 Freeway. He is one of the residents that activists are trying to protect from eviction. Photo by Zack Haber on Oct 18, 2020.

Bay Area residents have been gathering together to stop the Alameda County Sheriff from executing an eviction order against unhoused residents who live on an approximately 1.47 acre tract of land just west of Wood Street in West Oakland.

So far the eviction has not been enforced.

“They were supposed to evict us on Tuesday [Oct 13], but the activists showed up,” said Puffy, an unhoused person who is 66 and claims he has lived in West Oakland since 1989 and on the tract for two years and seven months. …


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SMC Tenants Council Member Katie Brown holds a Declaration of COVID-19 Related Distress form with the words “CANCEL RENT” written on it outside of landlord SMC East Bay’s leasing office in West Oakland. Photo on Oct 4 by Zack Haber

Members and supporters of SMC Tenants Council formed a car and bike caravan rally on Sunday to protest their landlord, SMC East Bay, serving them Pay Rent or Quit notices. The notices demanded that within 15 days tenants pay back rent or fill out and sign COVID-19 financially related distress forms. That same day, the SMC Tenant Council also emailed their landlord asking them to rescind the demand to pay or sign. On Monday, the following evening, their landlord agreed, and no longer demanded tenants pay or sign the forms.

“SMC East Bay is just trying to squeeze out any rent that they can by scaring people,” said Katie Brown, just after receiving the demand to pay or sign. She lives in an SMC household, one of over a dozen who received the notices in Oakland. …

Zack Haber

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