On March 6, the City of Oakland backed down from evicting the residents of a homeless encampment on a plot of land at the corner of E12th Street and 22nd Avenue in East Oakland. This happened after one resident filed a lawsuit on behalf of himself and the six other residents.
On February 27, 2019 the residents decided they were going to fight
an eviction by the city by filing a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, and a civil rights violation complaint. They claimed the city does not own the parcel, and that they are the rightful occupants according to Civil Code 1006, which states that:
Occupancy for any period confers a title sufficient against all except the state and those who have title by prescription, accession, transfer, will, or succession; but the title conferred by occupancy is not a sufficient interest in real property to enable the occupant or the occupant’s privies to commence or maintain an action to quiet title, unless the occupancy has ripened into title by prescription.
They further assert that the city’s attempt to evict them is a violation of their 4th and 14th Amendment rights.
City officials say that they did not evict the residents because they had never intended to remove the encampment at E12th and 22nd. Assistant City Administrator Joe DeVries said an administrative mixup led the encampment to be scheduled for eviction.
Because the city assured Federal Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton that they would not evict the encampment, the judge informed the plaintiff
Michael Bowen that a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction was not necessary for her to grant. However, she did inform Bowen that if the city went back on their word, he could refile his motions. Judge Hamilton also let the city know that if an eviction was attempted she would not be pleased.
According to parcel maps from Alameda County Assessor’s office the parcel has not been assigned a number nor is there a record of title. Because
of this, the residents have taking to calling this tiny parcel “No Man’s Land.”
However, according to city officials, the land is the city’s right of way because of their ownership of other parcels nearby.
Bowen who has been occupying the land since Spring 2017 decided
to take it upon himself to establish himself and the other six residents of the encampment as the only known occupants and claimants of the parcel in an attempt to stop the city from evicting them and disrupting the stability they have been able to create for themselves.
“No one has ever cared about this land for decades. So why now in the middle of a shelter crisis and homeless state of emergency?” Bowen asks. “And the city never offered us services though they provided porta potties and trash pickup to the former encampment across the street. And suddenly they want to evict us?”
Claiming a 1968 court case, Department of Public Works vs Shasta Pipe and Supply Company (1968), Lavan vs. The City of Los Angeles (2012), and Civil Code 1006, Bowen vs the City of Oakland is arguing that the only way the city can evict Bowen and the other six residents is by following imminent domain procedure. Otherwise his 4th and 14th Amendment Rights are being violated. City officials dispute this claim.
This is the second active civil suit the City of Oakland is facing from an unhoused encampment. Miralle vs the City of Oakland was the first civil suit filed in November when Housing and Dignity Village was sent eviction notices. (While Housing and Dignity Village was destroyed, that court case continues.)
Bowen is representing himself on behalf of his encampment with support from legal and homeless advocates on his team including The Village in Oakland #feedthepeople, Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, and Land Action.
The civil suit is active and scheduled to begin in June 2019.
The second encampment: Union Point
On March 19, residents of an RV homeless encampment at the otherwise empty and unused Union Point Park parking lot were scheduled to be evicted. But they decided they were going to fight the City of Oakland in court over their eviction. And for now, they have succeeded: U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer granted the Union Point residents a temporary restraining order, which will halt eviction proceedings until their case is heard. The civil right lawsuit, which is called Le Van Hung e
al vs Libby Schaaf et al, is set to begin in the summer of 2019.
The plaintiffs claim that the city’s past encampment evictions have violated the 4th, 8th, and 14th Amendment rights of unhoused Oaklanders all around the city. Residents assert the city’s eviction process is cruel and unusual punishment for being homeless, violates their right to have private property protected from unlawful seizures, and ignores their right for due process and equal treatment under the law.
In his early morning order dated March 20, 2019 Judge Breyer stated that “Plaintiffs have demonstrated they face immediate and irreparable injury in the form of a loss of their homes and possession and the possibility of criminal sanction.”
In a signed declaration to the judge, Union Point Park plaintiff Amanda Veta states “Every time I have been evicted I have lost my whole life. I have lost IDs, pictures of my family I can never replace, paperwork cuz The City throws my stuff away. And with this eviction, we won’t just lose our little things. We all live in vehicles. We could lose our homes too.”
Veta’s concerns are not far reaching. In the fall of 2018, the City of Oakland and the Oakland Police Department towed a number of RVs, campers and vehicles from an encampment in West Oakland. More than 40 people lost their homes on wheels and all their personal belongings. Three weeks after towing and impounding all the vehicles, the city had all the vehicles crushed.
In November 2018, the Housing and Dignity Village encampment filed the first homeless encampment lawsuit against the city. During court proceedings of Miralle vs the City of Oakland, the city attorney assured the Federal Judge Haywood Gilliam that when an encampment is evicted, personal property is stored for up to 90 days for free and all residents are offered adequate shelter. The judge took the city’s word and lifted the initial temporary restraining order protecting Housing and Dignity Village.
When the city evicted them, none of the 13 residents were offered housing that could adequately suit their needs.
To this day, four truckloads of their personal property have yet to be recovered despite the plaintiffs’ and their legal team’s repeated attempts.
Since the destruction of Housing and Dignity Village in December 2019, plaintiffs from Miralle vs. the City of Oakland have been collecting statements from other encampments who were evicted, and encouraging encampments facing eviction to file a lawsuit. The result has been dozens of signed testimonies that counter the city’s false claims and two new lawsuits. Veta agrees with their findings.
“The city has never offered me housing the four times I have been evicted from my homeless encampment,” Veta said. “When I witnessed six other evictions the city does not bag and tag anyone’s property or store it. They throw away everyone’s property and offer no one housing. The city has no remorse in what the do to us.”
Some of the residents of the Union Point Park encampment have lived there as little as two weeks, others for as long as eight years.
Plaintiff Le Van Hung lived at Union Point for two weeks before he was evicted. He has faced several evictions from the city. He relocated to Union Point after being evicted from the E12th and 23rd avenue parcel in late January.
“It’s terrible to be moved around. It takes time to pack, clean and move. It takes a lot of time to find a new place to be homeless at. Every time I move I lose property because the city throws away our property when they evict us. We don’t move fast enough and they throw away our belongings,” his signed testimony states.
The plaintiffs at Union Point Park and homeless folks across Oakland also agree the evictions cause depression, stress, lack of motivation, lack of stability, destruction of feeling safe, and cause major setbacks.
“I am 61 years old and I am tired of being evicted and shuffled around. These evictions cause me depression that can last weeks or months. I have high blood pressure and these evictions make my condition worse,” Hung said. “The city said they have a Shelter Crisis and a Homeless State of Emergency. They have admitted there is not enough housing in Oakland and that has caused the homeless crisis. They have admitted they don’t have a solution. So why are they evicting people left and right when we are trying to house ourselves when the city can’t. The evictions cause so much hardship. They need to stop.”
Union Point Park plaintiffs will be representing themselves on behalf of their encampment with support from legal and homeless advocates on his team including The Village in Oakland #feedthepeople, Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute and Land Action.
For press info call The Village in Oakland, at 510-355-7010.
Anita de Asis Miralle, also known as Needa Bee, is a mother, educator, mentor, writer, poet, activist, organizer, and trouble maker, with a passion for justice and love for the masses.