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After Two Years, Wood Street Safe Parking Site Opens

The struggle to open the site began in the summer of 2019 when Oakland’s Mayor Libby Schaaf announced plans for the city to sanction the opening of a safe parking site near Wood Street, saying the site would open “in the coming months,” but the project soon faced delays.

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The City of Oakland has opened a safe parking site, where people can legally live in RVs and trailers and receive services, through a Berkeley based non-profit called Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency. Mayor Libby Schaaf announced plans for the site in the summer of 2019, but the project faced delays. Photo by Zack Haber on July 9.

On July 7, the Berkeley based non-profit Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) opened a site, sanctioned by The City of Oakland, for people to legally park and reside in RVs or trailers while having access to electrical hookups, fresh drinking water, and portable toilets.

It sits just west of Wood Street in West Oakland and in the middle of a large community of homeless people. The site had been planned since 2019 but took over two years to open in part due to protests and an occupation.

As of Tuesday, people living in six RVs and one trailer have moved into the site. Some homeless residents who live nearby have shared concerns about their ability to access the site, skepticism that it would meet their needs, and worries that it could displace those in their community who are not able or interested in moving to the site. City of Oakland Public Information Officer Autumn King said the site could accommodate 40 total RVs or trailers.

The struggle to open the site began in the summer of 2019 when Oakland’s Mayor Libby Schaaf announced plans for the city to sanction the opening of a safe parking site near Wood Street, saying the site would open “in the coming months,” but the project soon faced delays.

In early November of that year, Oakland oversaw a two-day clearance of a 1.5-acre parcel of land just west of Wood Street in order to make the land available for a non-profit to open the site. City workers and a contracted towing company removed vehicles, both inhabited and abandoned, from the parcel along with possessions and trash. Oakland’s Police Department also asked people to leave the property with their possessions, but faced resistance from a group of over 35 protestors.

During that year the handful of residents remained on the parcel, and the safe parking site was not constructed. In July of 2020, released e-mails between members of Oakland’s City Administration, City Council, and Game Changer’s lawyer, Patricia Smith, showed the company planned to lease the land to the city for $1 a year to allow a non-profit to use it for a safe parking site.

A proposed lease in an e-mail Oakland’s City Administration sent to Smith led some to believe, increasingly, that the site’s construction could displace residents. The lease quoted The City of Oakland Geographic Emergency Shelter Intervention Policy and stated that one goal for such a parking site is “alleviating the impacts encampments have on the surrounding community.”

It also stated that when such sites open “the city determines an area surrounding the site that is considered an invitation zone,” where those living nearby are invited to participate, but that once the site fills up “the invitation zone becomes the closure zone and enforcement is used to remove or prevent the return of any encampment in that area.”

The parcel for the proposed parking site sits in the middle of a community of homeless residents who live on land owned by Oakland or CalTrans. While no one knows exactly how many people live there, and the population often changes, recent articles in The SFChronicle and The Guardian suggested the population to be in the hundreds. While residents and supporters worried that many members of this population who could not access or were not interested in accessing a safe parking site would be evicted from the area, it was also unclear what would happen to residents living on site after the lease ended. In an interview from November 2020, Smith stated Game Changer planned to develop the land within two or three years.

In November 2020, about 60 advocates and residents showed up to protest Alameda County Sheriffs evicting the handful of people who still remained on Game Changer’s land. Some protestors locked arms in front of the entrance to the gate, delaying the sheriffs’ work. While all residents left the tract of land, their property remained onsite, and some returned later in the day.

After another smaller protest, Game Changer agreed to a settlement with the residents. Several residents received about $2,200 each on the condition that they leave, while another received a large storage unit and yet another received a trailer to live in. With the land cleared of occupants, the city signed a lease with Game Changer LLC to use the land, and eventually contracted with BOSS to open the site, although that process took an additional eight months while the parcel sat vacant and fenced off.

Now opened, some residents fear eviction and are skeptical of the site

The Oakland Post interviewed six residents who live near the recently opened safe parking site. One of them, who goes by the name Puffy, is in the process of moving into the site but is pessimistic about it.

“I don’t want to move in there,” he said. “But I pretty much don’t have a choice.”

While pointing to an area where homeless people live along Wood Street, he said “They can’t have this in a photo op. When it’s open and going, everybody around here is going to have to go.”

The City of Oakland has not posted any eviction notices near the safe parking site recently. Janis Mara, a spokesperson for CalTrans, said that agency has not currently scheduled any clearances for the Wood Street homeless community. But residents are still worried.

Another resident, who asked not to be named because they fear being excluded from the site, had been evicted by the City of Oakland and CalTrans in the past, and is considering moving into the safe parking site. The resident is hesitant to move to the site but seeks security from eviction.

“I don’t want to lose what I’ve established here as my home,” he said. “I’ve gotten used to the area and the community we’ve developed here. But the site is a place where you don’t have to worry. There’s this constant threat of eviction looming over my head.”

Ramona Mason, who lives on CalTrans owned land near the site, said she would not move to the site because she believes it would not allow her to bring her dogs. Another resident, who asked not to be named because he wants to maintain a good relationship with those who operate the site, said he was surprised that no one had approached him about the site since he lives right outside its gate. He stays in a self-made home.

“I would absolutely consider moving there,” said Gill Vasquez, who lives in an RV near Wood Street. “But no one’s reached out to me. What I would like to see is them notifying people, letting us know if there’s an opportunity for us to have a space.”

Vasquez also noted that a portion of land next to the Safe RV Parking site was left vacant and fenced off. He wondered why the safe parking site did not include that portion of land. County records show this area is part of the same parcel the city is leasing from Game Changer LLC. It makes up about a third of the total parcel. When asked if the city had plans for this portion of the parcel, Oakland PIO Autumn King said, “there are no finalized plans for the other side of the site at this time.”

Puffy claimed that when he agreed to move to the site, representatives from BOSS told him he could not cook and that only one person was allowed to live in each RV or trailer, although they would allow one visitor per day.

“They expect you to eat their food and you can’t live with your girlfriend or boyfriend,” he said.

BOSS has not responded to e-mailed questions including a request to share the list of rules they ask residents of the site to follow. Puffy said he was not given a copy of the rules.

One resident, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation from the city or CalTrans, said the site would not offer them anything they did not already have. They noted that many residents had already figured out how to access electricity and water from nearby sources.

“What can they offer me except more rules?” they said.

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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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