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As Oakland Rent Strike at 3rd Avenue Building Continues, Management Hires Armed Guards

No one from FPA Multifamily or Trinity Property Consultants has responded to multiple calls and emails requesting comments for this article. But the site’s management, which works for Trinity Property Consultants, wrote emails to the buildings’ residents in late September saying that they intended to address some of the buildings’ issues, that they had faced “threats to our team members’ safety,” and that they had “hired an armed service” to “protect our staff.” The email also stated a resident had been arrested on Sepember 21 in the building. 

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By Zack Haber

Since tenants living in the ReNew on Merritt building on 1130 3rd Ave. in Oakland started collectively withholding rent, management has hired armed guards. Rent-striking tenants say they are facing “harassment,” while management has said they hired the armed guards due to “threats” from tenants.

Alexandra ‘Ali’ Uro-May and Cassandra Chavez, who both live in the 18-floor complex, see management’s decision to hire armed guards as unnecessary retaliation.

“They’ve started treating us like we’re criminals,” said Uro-May.

“They are trying to use an intimidation tactic,” said Chavez. “All they want is rent and they aren’t worried about the problems here.”

Uro-May and Chavez are part of the ReNew on Merritt Tenant Council, a group of tenants living in over 40 of the buildings’ 178 apartments who started a rent strike on September 1. They’re seeking to collectively pressure FPA Multifamily, the building’s owner, and Trinity Property Consultants, the building’s property management company, to resolve habitability and safety issues at the site.

The issues, which are documented in over a dozen complaints to the City of Oakland since May 31, include black mold, backed up sewage, broken down elevators, and electrical problems. Tenants also complain of fire alarms going off erratically, problems with mail including stolen packages, and widespread rat and mice infestation. In June, Alameda County Vector Control released a report confirming “evidence of rodent activity” at the building. (Chavez said she recently found a dead mouse outside her door.)

No one from FPA Multifamily or Trinity Property Consultants has responded to multiple calls and emails requesting comments for this article. But the site’s management, which works for Trinity Property Consultants, wrote emails to the buildings’ residents in late September saying that they intended to address some of the buildings’ issues, that they had faced “threats to our team members’ safety,” and that they had “hired an armed service” to “protect our staff.” The email also stated a resident had been arrested on Sepember 21 in the building.

According to Oakland Police Department Public Information Officer Candace Keas, “an individual was detained” on September 21 at 1130 3rd Ave. after a manager called the police on a resident, but records “do not note…what the individual was arrested for.”

Chavez said her partner did not want to comment for this article. According to Chavez, a manager accused her partner of making threats during an argument between him and staff members about an incident where Chavez says a manager was bothering her about unpaid rent in the entryway of the building and in front of her children, which left her feeling “embarrassed, shocked and disrespected.”

“[My partner] was very upset,” said Chavez. “So, he went to have a conversation to say ‘please, don’t harass.’”

Shortly after the argument, armed guards showed up in the building. Chavez denies that her partner was making threats and said he was arrested hours after the argument had ended.

Then the next day, Chavez and her partner were served with a three-day eviction notice which accused them of violating their lease due to the altercation and arrest.

“Our hearts just dropped,” Chavez said about receiving the notice. “We have kids, and we didn’t have anywhere to go.”

Chavez and her family have been challenging the eviction, and at this point, they are still living in their apartment.

On September 23, the ReNew on Merritt Tenant Council sent a cease-and-desist letter to FPA Multifamily and Trinity Property Consultants “to demand an immediate end to retaliatory harassment of tenants and the retraction of the notice of eviction” for Chavez and her family’s apartment.

The council criticized the companies for “silence” and “denial” about tenant requests for them to resolve “ongoing safety and maintenance issues” and hiring “armed guards in tactical gear” who they accused of “aggressively” knocking on tenants’ doors “demanding entry to their units.”

A video Uro-May sent this reporter showed a security guard onsite identifying himself as working for Off-Duty Officers, Inc. The company’s director of operations and marketing manager did not respond to calls and emails requesting comments for this article.

Many of the habitability and safety issues that tenants are concerned with arose before FPA Multifamily bought the building, and brought in Trinity Property Consultants to manage it, in late August.

In an email to residents from late September, management said they were working on an “elevator modernization project that will be scheduled in the near future,” attempting to fix fire alarm issues, and had attempted to do unit inspections to look for “rodents, water intrusion and other deficiencies.”

Armed guards accompanied staff during these onsite inspections, which made some tenants uncomfortable.

Joie Seldon, who’s lived in the building for nine years and is a member of the council, called the presence of armed guards during the inspections “completely ridiculous, aggressive, and inappropriate on so many levels.”

In their email, management also wrote that the “tenant council” had “blocked and harassed our team in the hallway” while they were trying to do unit inspections, which prevented them from addressing some of the issues tenants are requesting that they resolve.

Uro-May said the tenants were witnessing and documenting staff and an armed guard as they inspected units but were not blocking entry. The video Uro-May sent this reporter showed tenants questioning the guard about the notice they were given about mandatory inspections and objecting to staff entering certain units that had signs reading “do not enter” displayed on doors.

The recording shows the guard admitting staff had entered despite the signs but saying that doing so was legal.

California state law allows a landlord to enter a unit during normal business hours for such inspections if they give at least a 24-hour notice, except in the case of an emergency. An email shows management contacted tenants on September 20 around 4:00 p.m. and announced “mandatory inspections” related to “pest control” and “maintenance” would start the next day at 9:00 a.m., leaving about 17 hours of notice.

Seldon said she wanted the inspections to happen but objected to how management scheduled and enforced them.

“That they wanted to do it was appropriate,” she said. “But how they did it was inappropriate. The fact that they said you could not reschedule made some people anxious.”

Uro-May said problems are persisting in the building. During a visit to the building, this reporter heard the fire alarm go off when there was no fire, which Uro-May said happens several times a day.

Chavez said mail problems persist and that “nobody can get into the mailroom now,” as management cut off access to it on October 10. This reporter found the door to the mailroom bolted shut on October 18. A note from management stated that “the mailroom was vandalized” and instructed tenants to “pick up your mail directly at the post office until our new mailboxes have been received and installed.” Amazon packages sat on the floor of the building’s entryway.

In an email from September 21 to residents, management wrote that “due to the ongoing threats to our team members’ personal safety, our office staff will work from an alternate location.” Uro-May and Chavez said that while management is gone, they still are occasionally seeing armed guards in and near the building.

ReNew on Merritt Tenant Council members are still withholding their rent, and asking to meet collectively with FPA Multifamily, and Trinity Property Consultants, to discuss how their demands can be met so the rent strike can end.

“Now more than ever we feel like we have to keep pushing because they cannot treat us like this,” said Uro-May.

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Activism

Tiny Homes Offer Hope for Holidays and Beyond

We are accepting applications for volunteers and accepting donations that we can use to build Tiny Homes. You might have things in your house or garage you haven’t used or extra construction tools, a bag of stud nails, used doors, windows, roofing materials, lumber, metal, hardwood flooring, sheetrock tape, paints, and anything that we can recycle to build and add to our Tiny Homes. 

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As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.
As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.

By Dr. Maritony A. Yamot and Rev. Ken Lackey

The holidays are the season when we stop and begin to think, “How can I give back this year and what are some different ways to help out?”

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help out during the holidays that don’t cost a thing. The Tiny Homes Project — with Rev. Ken Lackey of the Center for the Perfect Marriage Church at 6101 International Blvd. — needs to increase its capacity and we wanted to remind our community that everybody matters to God.

As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.

We want to launch an intensive month-long generosity campaign to help the increasing homeless issues in our neighborhoods by adding to the number of tiny homes that we have already built at various private locations in Oakland.

We invite you to join us as we partner with some of Oakland’s fabulous nonprofit organizations to meet critical needs in our communities.

Whether through donation or action, there are plenty of opportunities to give.

We are accepting applications for volunteers and accepting donations that we can use to build Tiny Homes. You might have things in your house or garage you haven’t used or extra construction tools, a bag of stud nails, used doors, windows, roofing materials, lumber, metal, hardwood flooring, sheetrock tape, paints, and anything that we can recycle to build and add to our Tiny Homes.

We are also looking for vehicle donations of trailers or any truck for hauling material and picking up volunteers and homeless people that are helping to build Tiny Homes. We build our homes with primarily donated and surplus materials, allowing us to cut costs and provide a pleasant home for under $40,000.

Each and every person who wants to help out and eradicate the homeless problem in the City of Oakland can donate funds for us to build a Tiny Home. If donors want to give money to the ministry, we will build a tiny home and name it after them. Know that your donations will be able to take a whole family off the street during this cold season.

In addition, we are open to getting a sponsor or sponsors for an entire Tiny Homes Community Park and we have a separate location that will be designated for homeless veterans, the elderly, single mothers or single fathers, and any individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, such as those living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, places not meant for habitation, or sleeping on our streets.

Please spread the word and contact us about any way you can help our Tiny Homes Community Project with Rev. Ken Lackey.

There are three ways to contact us

  1. By Phone/toll-free number: 1-833-233-8900 ext. 1
  2. By Email: TinyHomesC@gmail.com
  3. By Appointment/Donation Drop off location at the All About Grits Restaurant at 6101 International Blvd., Oakland, CA

Or you can attend our next two major events:

  1. Tiny Homes Fundraising Event on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. Place to be announced.
  2. Tiny Homes Community Building Workshop with the help of our community and local partners in the Bay Area. Date and place to be announced.

Contact us for more details of these two events or any ways you can help in this season.

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Activism

Faith Baptist Church Becomes Oakland’s First Official Resiliency Hub

Faith Baptist Church was the recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Legacy Award. Faith was chosen out of a pool of dozens of applicants for the award. The key differentiator was the Solar Battery Storage project. With that, Faith Baptist has the ability to totally exit the PG&E grid and generate 100% energy from its solar panels. That makes Faith Baptist a potential energy distributor.

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As members of the community that comprise Faith Baptist Church look on, California Interfaith Power and Light Executive Director Susan Stephenson, left (in white jacket), hands scissors to the eldest member of Faith Baptist for the ribbon cutting on Nov. 14 while Pastor Curtis Robinson stands just behind him. Also pictured are District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb (white hair, white shirt) and to his right (multi-colored top) is Shayna Hirschfield-Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager. Photo courtesy of Faith Baptist Church and California Interfaith Power and Light.
As members of the community that comprise Faith Baptist Church look on, California Interfaith Power and Light Executive Director Susan Stephenson, left (in white jacket), hands scissors to the eldest member of Faith Baptist for the ribbon cutting on Nov. 14 while Pastor Curtis Robinson stands just behind him. Also pictured are District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb (white hair, white shirt) and to his right (multi-colored top) is Shayna Hirschfield-Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager. Photo courtesy of Faith Baptist Church and California Interfaith Power and Light.

By Curtis O. Robinson, Sr., M.A., Harvard University fellow, ’19, Senior Pastor, Faith Baptist Church

So, when I say that Faith Baptist is Oakland’s first Resiliency Hub, the first question that many people ask is, “what is a resiliency hub?”

In an article from the Christian Science Monitor entitled “Resilience hubs: A new approach to crisis response,” the author writes, “Things that shock a community have to do with climate, but more urgently they have to do with systemic inequities.”

He was referring to police shootings, civic unrest, the growth of homeless encampments and more. The resiliency hub approach to these inequities uses a respected local organization, such as a church or community center, and bolsters it to help neighborhoods prepare for crises — hurricanes, heat waves, pandemics or unrest — and to respond and recover from them.

When Faith was approached with the idea of solar panels for its rooftop as a source of heat, the decision was relatively a no-brainer.

As a House of Worship, there is a collective emphasis on the workings of God in the universe. The first job that God gave humanity was to tend the Garden. When it comes to environmental justice, our goal then is to take care of this place called planet Earth.

The world is now in an environmental tailspin. However, with technology that teaches us how to create sustainable outcomes, sprinkled with common sense, we can achieve an environmental balance that can create safe spaces environmentally for our children and for our future.

Faith Baptist Church was the recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Legacy Award. Faith was chosen out of a pool of dozens of applicants for the award. The key differentiator was the Solar Battery Storage project.

With that, Faith Baptist has the ability to totally exit the PG&E grid and generate 100% energy from its solar panels. That makes Faith Baptist a potential energy distributor.

With the help of California Interfaith Power and Light and energy experts from the U.S. Green Building Council, we held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 14.

Joining us, among others, were Susan Stephenson, executive director of California Interfaith Power and Light, Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb of District 1, Shayna Hirschfield- Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager and members of Faith Baptist and the Pentecostal community that shares our space and Green Building volunteers.

We bask in the glory of energy independence, because we now tap into clean energy from above and not dirty energy from below.

Publisher’s note: Rev Curtis Robinson also is a columnist for the God on Wall Street column for the Post News Group.

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Activism

March Against Fear: When ‘Black Power’ Became Mainstream

What began as a solitary peaceful protest for voter registration became one of the South’s most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmichael formed unlikely alliances that resulted in the Black Power movement. This ushered in a new era in the fight for equality.

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James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko, the United States Library of Congress.)
James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko, the United States Library of Congress.)

By Tamara Shiloh

It was June 5, 1966.

James Howard Meredith (born 1933), on a mission to encourage Black voter registration and defy entrenched racism in the South, set out on a solitary walk from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi.

On the second day of his journey, Aubrey Norvell, a white gunman, waited on a roadside a few miles south of Hernando, Mississippi. He ambushed Meredith, shooting him in the neck, head, and back.

Within 24 hours, the nation’s three principal civil rights organizations vowed to continue the march: the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Success of the event could not be predicted. Leaders were aware that last-minute planning of a march could be dangerous, and the route chosen was not without uncertainty. The three-week march led to death threats, arrests, and the use of tear gas. Internal tensions surrounding leadership swelled and use of the slogan “Black Power” became a revolutionary phrase urging self-determination and Black pride.

The Deacons for Defense and Justice, a group of Black veterans from World War II who believed in armed self-defense, provided protection for participants. Founded in Jonesboro, La., in 1964, The Deacons for Defense had already protected civil rights activists from the Ku Klux Klan. About 20 chapters were created throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

The march ended on June 22, 1966. Meredith, sufficiently recovered, had been able to rejoin the event. Participants supporting Meredith along the way joined in, making the total number of marchers arriving in Jackson about 15,000. The March Against Fear was one of the largest marches in history for that geographical area. It was during the post-march rally that Stokely Carmichael first used the phrase “we want Black Power” during a public speech.

Carmichael sought to define the quest for Black Power in constructive terms, explaining to supporters in Detroit that “Black votes created Black Power…That doesn’t mean that we are anti-white. We are just developing Black pride.”

Meredith had become well known when he successfully challenged the Kennedy administration to protect his civil rights. His application for admission to the University of Mississippi, dubbed Ole Miss, had been twice denied. With backing from the NAACP, he filed suit for racial discrimination.

After heavy negotiations with U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Meredith was permitted to enroll at Ole Miss but only under escort of federal troops. He graduated in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

What began as a solitary peaceful protest for voter registration became one of the South’s most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmichael formed unlikely alliances that resulted in the Black Power movement. This ushered in a new era in the fight for equality.

Understand the complex issues of fear, injustice, and the challenges of change in Anne Bausum’s “The March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power.”

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