Oakland’s Department of Public Works (ODPW) and Oakland’s Police Department (OPD) and Auto Plus Towing evicted at least 20 adults and five children who were living in RVs, campers, and other vehicles in a parking lot in Union Point Park on Tuesday.
“I grew up within a mile radius of here my whole life and I’m a member of this community but they’re trying to shuffle me out of where I’m from,” said Nicole Kahele. “We’re staying in a public park because there’s no affordable housing.”
Kahele is one of four Union Point community members who, after experiencing past evictions, filed a lawsuit claiming the City of Oakland and Mayor Libby Schaaf are violating their fourth, eighth, and 14th amendment rights and that ODPW is not following its own stated policy when it evicts unhoused residents.
“The City is supposed to bag, identify and tag all the property that people want to keep but can’t take with them and store it for free for three months,” said Needa Bee, an unhoused, lifelong Oakland resident who lives outside of Union Point but is helping with the suit. “That has never happened in the three years that I have been following evictions.”
Kahele and the other defendants, all of whom lived at Union Point before the eviction, had filed a restraining order to U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer through their lawyer, Emily Rose Johns, that prevented ODPW from evicting them.
The order also protected other Union Point residents, as the city couldn’t evict some residents while allowing others to stay. But the city successfully challenged and overturned the order while Johns was on vacation and posted eviction notices on Friday, Aug 16, leaving most Union Park residents five days to pack all of their belongings to leave.
The rush to pack was especially difficult for those who have physical limitations and/ or disabilities. Elijah Marra, who was recovering from hernia surgery that he’d had two days before, complained of sharp abdominal pains as he packed his belongings. While he was able to keep his most important belongings, there was much he had to throw away.
Residents whose vehicles didn’t run, like lifelong Oakland resident Dre Nash, had to have them towed and impounded. The City offered some of these residents a single night in a homeless shelter but no one was offered permanent housing. Nash’s RV home and almost all of his belongings are currently in an impound lot and he’s unsure of when or how he can get them back.
Oakland’s assistant city administrator Joe DeVries, who helps to organize and implement the Schaaf’s administrations plans and policies for homelessness, claims that he and the city see eviction as a last resort, but that they’ve received complaints from housed residents, as well as the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the California Coastal Commission.
“It’s tidewater land and it’s protected so it’s really not an appropriate place to have people camping,” said DeVries.
While DeVries claims the encampment was filled with trash and not well kept, those staying at Union Point claim it’s difficult to keep clean when the city doesn’t provide consistent trash service, and that housed residents would have the same issues if they didn’t have weekly trash pickup.
None of the Union Point residents the Oakland Post spoke with wanted to leave the site without being offered another permanent living option and many claimed they felt safe there as they supported each other.
While Union Point’s residents claim that some housed people come by and harass them, some nearby housed residents say they don’t want them forced out.
“They’ve fallen on hard times and everything’s so damn expensive here,” said Douglas Thorn, who’s lived near Union Point for three years. “I think they’re decent people, and I enjoy having them here.”