A small group of advocates for unhoused residents gathered outside of The Evictors and The Law Offices of Alan J Horwitz on Monday Jan. 27 to protest the firm’s agreement to represent Game Changer LLC in their effort to evict nine unhoused Oakland residents from land the company has owned but left unused for years.
In advance of the protest, Alan J Horwitz wrote an email to the advocates and taped a copy to the door of his offices, at 501 3rd Street in Oakland.
“When you appear at my office later this afternoon,” reads Horwitz’s email, “I am sorry to say that no one will be present. I have instructed my office to go home because it is not fair for them to suffer through a hostile attack by a misguided mob.”
Although Horwitz and his staff had already left their offices, protesters still gathered around 3 p.m. to hold signs, chant, and talk with media. Before ending the protest around 5 p.m., they taped some of their signs to the doors of Horwitz’s offices, matching his gesture.
“The heart of the West Oakland Wood Street community is a private lot that’s owned by Game Changer LLC,” said Dayton Andrews, an advocate who works with unhoused residents who live on or near Wood Street in West Oakland. “They’ve been trying to push the community out so they can ultimately develop it.”
Some Oakland residents have lived along Wood St. between West Grand Ave and 26th St. in West Oakland for about eight years. Sitting about as far west into West Oakland as you can get, many of its residents have found it’s offered decreased conflicts from neighbors and police than other sites. Some residents claim police directed them to the site from other areas of town. As time passed and space on the street filled up, residents began to move onto tracts of land just west of Wood St owned by Game Changer LLC and Caltrans.
By the time the City of Oakland moved to clear the tracts of land on Nov. 5 and 6 2019, at least a hundred vehicles were on site, some abandoned, as well as dozens of people who lived in tents and self-made structures. Many then moved onto Wood St. The city has laid out plans to lease Game Changer’s land for one dollar a year for 18 months and possibly three years in order to make a city-run safe parking site for residents that live in vehicles. But residents and advocates claim such a site would only be temporary, and would be unavailable to residents who don’t live in vehicles.
At least nine residents stayed on Game Changer’s tract of land, defying the city-run clearance, with the support of over three dozen protestors. Game Changer has hired Horwitz’s firm to remove the remaining residents.
“Your protest is, quite honestly, perplexing,” wrote Horwitz in his email to the protestors. “It appears that the city and my client are attempting to deliver exactly what you are demanding: a safe place for those without housing to park their vehicles and be provided with basic human needs, like potable water, garbage removal and sanitation.”
The proposed safe parking site wouldn’t be available to those who live on the site but don’t live in a vehicle.
The Oakland Post emailed Horwitz and asked if there was a plan for residents that don’t live in vehicles, but he didn’t respond. Since other city-run safe parking sites limit stays to six months, some advocates and residents worry the Wood St. residents will soon have no safe place to go.
“What people are asking for is exits out of homelessness…not just temporary reprieves from being on the street,” said Dayton Andrews. “So in lieu of that folks would also like to remain in place with expanded services. Those are the two things people are demanding and that’s not what we’re getting.”