Oakland village initiatives
this is part of the article collection Village Buildings.
Oakland is an interesting case where there's a very active movement for unhoused self-determination and village-building, led particularly by The Village Oakland, but this group and the City of Oakland have long been operating in sharp and open contention.
The Village Oakland has created village housing for stretches of time on several sites, beginning in January 2017 with the Promised Land village at MLK & 36th St / Grove Shafter Park (referred to as Marcus Garvey Park by The VIllage), described in this January 27th story https://hoodline.com/2017/01/activists-transform-dog-park-into-village-for-homeless-residents.
"The village has attracted attention from City Hall: 'they sent someone from the City Administrator’s office, and they were ready to negotiate on day one,' said De Asis. Because 'the city’s ignored this park for 30 years,' she said she’s not motivated to get them involved. "'
The city is never going to take care of us, ever,' she said. 'The goal right now is to get these young, single, primarily white folks with affluence and no children to come into Oakland and take it over.' Instead of asking for help or permission, 'we just decided that the time had come to take matters into our own hands.'" "
Initially, the organizers’ strategy was to occupy the land and claim adverse possession so they could officially claim the title in 5 years. According to land records, however, 'this piece of property is not owned by the city or county,' said De Asis. 'This parcel does not exist on any records.'" "
Hoodline contacted both the City Recorder and County Assessor’s office to verify the claim; according to the representative we reached, the park is publicly owned, but it’s not clear whether it’s city, county or state property. "
'We’re not stopping here,' said De Asis. 'This is just the first piece of land we’re taking,' she added. Future villages will be constructed on publicly-owned land, railroad rights-of-way, as well as vacant lots that have been undeveloped or become blighted."
Most comments on the story are (purportedly) from nearby residents, who discuss having used the open space for many years to walk dogs, how it is maintained by Oakland Parks and neighbors, how they did not hear of any outreach from The Village, and how they objected to The Village's locking of gates, occupation of area, and confrontations with neighbors.
Commentors allude (unverified) to prior history of The Village and leader Anita De Asis (aka Needa Bee) being in conflict with local non-profit housing developer EBALDC -- East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation -- over competing development proposals for another site.
January 2020 new village:
City's Compassionate Communities, Tuff Sheds, and Cabin Communities
Caltrans-owned parking lot on Oak and Sixth Streets
The city has moved, essentially in parallel, towards certain forms of sanctioned settlement, such as the "Compassionate Communities" program starting in 2016, of decriminalizing and offering waste/sanitation services to certain encampments. Or the program of city-managed cabin sites, originally branded by Mayor Libby Schaaf as "Tuff Shed" sites-- seemingly, to me, a way to emphasize their non-permanent, non-'home' status, and perhaps expediently suggesting 'tough' as in "tough love" or tough on crime. The were later rebranded as "Community Cabin" sites. I photographed the first of these, in May 2018 (https://photos.app.goo.gl/88G3UiiXTMU4U7PA8), which tended to confirm for me what The Village Oakland says, that these sites are rather prison-like. I noted that the cabins were closely packed, those in one area drab grey and other area brick colored, for no apparent reason, no personalized touches visible on cabins; not much apparent site design, no landscaping, no sign or site name; in fact the only signs in sight, ironically, are on the chain-link fences around it, saying "Lodging Not Permitted - California Penal Code 647(e) / Obstructing Pedestrians OMC 9.08.170."
I am reminded of something Mark Lakeman (Communitecture / City Repair Project) told me about the early days of Dignity Village in Portland. He said that initially, the lead activists, who were using the name Homeless Front, were used to and expecting a pattern of confrontation with city authorities, which had in fact been successful in getting effective publicity and perhaps unifying the core group. Mark had been invited to join their meetings, and listened without comment for some number of meetings, when eventually they asked him what he thought.
Mark said to them that perhaps they had an opportunity
Thompson, Walter. "Activists Transform Dog Park Into Village For Homeless Residents." Hoodline SF, January 27 2017. https://hoodline.com/2017/01/activists-transform-dog-park-into-village-for-homeless-residents.
Thompson, Walter. "Police, DPW Crews Clear Homeless Village Near MLK Way & 36th Street." Hoodline, February 2 2017. https://hoodline.com/2017/02/police-dpw-crews-clear-homeless-village-near-mlk-way-36th-street.