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City Destroys Self-Made Homes

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While establishing a fire lane and cleaning a portion of a Home Depot parking lot where around 50 unhoused residents live, on Oct. 22 and 23 Oakland’s Department of Public Works (DPW) destroyed over a dozen self-made wooden homes and left those displaced with no alternative housing options.

“It’s nothing but it keeps a roof over my head,” said José Vargas about his thin, high-ceilinged, self-made home with a bed, couch and TV in an interview with the Oakland Post a few days before the demolition. He lived there with his partner, Jillian Wright, but was disassembling the home during our interview to save the wood, which he says he purchased at Home Depot for about $300.

“If the city gets to [my home] first, they’ll just destroy it,” said Vargas.

Vargas has lived in Oakland since his family came from Mexico when he was 3 years old. He had stable housing and worked in a restaurant until his father passed away three years ago. Since then, he’s lived by Home Depot, in an encampment that residents call The Community of Grace (COG).

COG has been under scrutiny since at least last November 2018, when the site’s City Councilmember Noel Gallo talked with KCBS about the site’s crime and squalid conditions. A walk through the site reveals large trash piles, living and dead vermin, and human waste. But the residents, most of whom are long-time Oakland residents priced out of their former housing claim that most residents leave Home Depot alone and that the city refuses to provide dumpsters, do consistent trash pick up, and provide adequate toilet services.

Vargas says he first found out he could no longer keep his home on Oct. 14, when the city put a notice on it saying it was a fire hazard. Vargas and his partner, Wright, understood the concern as one of their previous self-made homes recently caught fire, but they were frustrated that the city offered no alternative housing.

Wright says that for more than four months she has been on a waiting list for the city’s Community Cabins program, which offers temporary shelter in shared 10’x12’ cabins, but hasn’t been able to enter the program. Oakland North reported in September that the Community Cabins can only currently offer beds to 195 participants.

“This is as an attack on curbside communities,” said Candice Elder of The East Oakland Collective (EOC). “They’re citing self-built homes for fire-code violations that normally only apply to your traditional single-family home.”

Elder was on site when the city destroyed about 20 self-made homes between 81st and 85th Avenues beneath the BART tracks in East Oakland in mid-September.

At the city’s request, EOC successfully raised funds to provide replacement tents but the group refused to do it for the city again as they want the city held accountable.

“There should be a time period when residents can address any safety or fire code concerns to see if they can get their self-built structures more safe,” said Elder. “But the city is jumping straight to the extreme of destroy.”

EOC was able to negotiate with the city to allow some structures to remain for residents in particularly vulnerable situations. Two single mothers were able to keep their homes, as were an elderly couple.

The city’s leniency did not extend to residents with disabilities. A total of at least 13 homes were destroyed, including one belonging to Amy Krawkowskeie who has both cerebral palsy and a traumatic brain injury. The Oakland Post interviewed her partner, Kayla Krawkowskeie, as she packed up all of the couple’s belongings on October 22, hours before her home was destroyed.

“The fact that they’re demolishing our house is ridiculous,” Kayla said, who felt that she was being punished for other people’s lack of common sense. “We just need to be more careful about not cooking inside of places like this.”

Unlike the vast majority of other displaced residents, the city offered Amy and Kayla Krawkowskeie space in a Community Cabin site for six months. Although the couple preferred to stay in their former home as they had lived at COG for four years, they accepted the offer after the city destroyed their home.

The Oakland Post e-mailed Noel Gallo for comment on this story but did not hear back. The Post also e-mailed Assistant City Administrator Joe DeVries, who wrote the policy for The Community Cabins program, but did not hear back.

The city plans a similar operation in the private lot that borders the Home Depot lot and also has self-made homes, on Oct. 29 and 30.

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Bay Area

De La Fuente Runs for Mayor

De La Fuente said he “will not tolerate homeless encampments where violence and drug abuse are rampant.” These encroachers are disrespecting our neighborhoods, our schools, our businesses, our residents, taking over our parks and defacing our city. He said the residents and businesses in our low-income flatland neighborhoods have been disproportionately affected by these encampments, and they deserve better. In collaboration with the county, we will serve our homeless residents who need it most, but not at the expense of other residents and businesses in our city.”

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Photo Caption: Ignacio De La Fuente

By Paul Cobb and news services

Ignacio De La Fuente, the former President of the Oakland City Council for 11 years, says he will run for mayor to rescue the city from its deep troubles.

He said he is returning to political leadership after a 10-year absence. Claiming that he is “sick and tired of what’s happening to our city,” and he can’t just stand by and witness “the city that I love become a place where people are afraid to walk the streets, to take their children to parks, to go out to dinner with their families or to park their cars on the street. I cannot let our city continue [to] be a place where seniors are assaulted and robbed in broad daylight, a place where illegal side-shows are constant throughout the city and a place where children are being shot and killed! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Oakland is not a dumping ground, and it is time to take action!”

He, along with the support of his former council colleague Nate Miley, who is now serving as an Alameda County Supervisor, and who is sponsoring a fundraiser for De La Fuente, has boldly declared that he will “do whatever it takes to increase the number of police officers, but I will give them the resources that they need to help them do their job, but above all, I will provide them the back up and political support that they need and deserve to perform their job for our residents and for our businesses.”

He said he “will not tolerate homeless encampments where violence and drug abuse are rampant.” These encroachers are disrespecting our neighborhoods, our schools, our businesses, our residents, taking over our parks and defacing our city. De La Fuente said the residents and businesses in our low-income flatland neighborhoods have been disproportionately affected by these encampments, and they deserve better. In collaboration with the county, we will serve our homeless residents who need it most, but not at the expense of other residents and businesses in our city.”

He wants to change the focus and emphasis of how the city spends its infrastructure money on what is truly needed by “repairing potholes, taking back and beautifying our parks, fixing our sewers and providing robust programming for our recreation centers and libraries to enrich the lives of our kids and seniors.”

In a characteristic fearless, colorful style that he achieved a no-nonsense reputation De La Fuente announced “The job of mayor is not for the faint of heart! Oakland is a great city that needs a mayor with the political backbone and experience to make the tough decisions to get this city back on track!

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Activism

Sheriff’s Deputies Skate with Marin City Youth

Sgt. Scotto and Deputy Gasparini, two officers from the Marin County Probation Department, came to interact with the youths and help them learn to skate and play basketball. Sharika Gregory, who hosted the event, really appreciates how Scotto and Gasparini interacted with the kids and said that it made a great difference.

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Top: Scotto lifting Aria, 7, so she can make her basketball shot. Middle: Sgt. Scotto and Dep. Gasparini of the Marin County Probation Department. Bottom: Scotto playing limbo. (Photos by Godfrey Lee)
Top: Scotto lifting Aria, 7, so she can make her basketball shot. Middle: Sgt. Scotto and Dep. Gasparini of the Marin County Probation Department. Bottom: Scotto playing limbo. (Photos by Godfrey Lee)

By Godfrey Lee

The Father’s Day Skating event on Sunday, June 12, at the Golden Gate Village’s Basketball Court in Marin City was a successful event that contributed positively to the relationship between the Marin County Sheriff’s Department and the Marin City community and helped some of the children get to know the officers.

Sgt. Scotto and Deputy Gasparini, two officers from the Marin County Probation Department, came to interact with the youths and help them learn to skate and play basketball. Sharika Gregory, who hosted the event, really appreciates how Scotto and Gasparini interacted with the kids and said that it made a great difference.

During the event, Scotto helped lift Aria, a 7-year-old girl, so she could make a basketball shot into the basket. Later Scotto played limbo with the children and tried his best to go under the rope.

The community generously contributed to the skating event. The Corte Madera Safeway and Costco donated the food. The Costco in Novato gave the skates. The Target in Marin City and the Marin County Probation Department also gave skates and gift cards.

Rev. Stephanie Ryder and the Redwood Presbyterian Church in Larkspur, also donated money to help to buy more skates for the events.

Gregory said that this was a very wholesome event for the community and will continue to host similar events in the future.

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Bay Area

WCCCSB Member Mister Phillips Announces Run for Richmond Mayor

Attorney and West Contra Costa County School Board member Mister Phillips is a fourth-generation Richmond resident and the son of two law enforcement officers, Tommie and Cynthia Phillips. Tommie was a lieutenant at the Richmond Police Department. Cynthia was a deputy at the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office.

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Mister Phillips, a West Contra Costa School Board member, ran unopposed in the last election. Photo by Buddy Terry.
Mister Phillips, a West Contra Costa School Board member, ran unopposed in the last election. Photo by Buddy Terry.

By Shantina Jackson-Romero

Attorney and West Contra Costa County School Board member Mister Phillips has filed initial papers to run for mayor of Richmond, CA, in November.

Phillips said that he is running, because he believes that “the city is heading in the wrong direction.” According to the Bay Area Council, “A record 64 percent of residents say the Bay Area is headed in the wrong direction, a 14-point jump over the previous year and the highest level of dissatisfaction since the poll began in 2014.”

Phillips envisions “a community with clean and safe streets, great schools, livable wages, affordable housing, and quality parks and recreation for all,” according to his website.

Phillips is a fourth-generation Richmond resident and the son of two law enforcement officers, Tommie and Cynthia Phillips. Tommie was a lieutenant at the Richmond Police Department. Cynthia was a deputy at the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office.

Phillips, age 44, is a two-term member of the West Contra Costa County School Board and a three-term member of the Democratic Party County Central Committee. A former Naval Reserve officer, Phillips has been an attorney for 19 years and been in business for 17 years. He has been married to Angela Phillips, since 2010. They have four children. For more information, visit www.misterphillips.com.

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