'Moms 4 Housing' Court Hearing Delayed

4 min
Dominique Walker (second from left) and her supporters outside of the Hayward Hall of Justice on Dec. 26, 2019. (Kate Wolffe/KQED News)

Updated Thursday, 11 a.m.

In the living room of the house at 2928 Magnolia Street, a big paper sign advises visitors to remove their shoes. Large black letters identify the space as a "Baby Zone."

Dominique Walker’s 1-year-old has been learning to walk in the carpeted living room of the West Oakland dwelling. The family has been settling in since Walker, 34, and her co-occupant Sameerah Karim, 41, entered the house without permission in November. The property is owned by a real estate investment company in Redondo Beach, California.

A sign reading "No Shoes, This Floor is a Baby Zone" hangs in the West Oakland house currently occupied by two moms. (Kate Wolffe/KQED)

The two mothers, both homeless, occupied the house to not only find shelter but also draw attention to the vast number of properties in Oakland that currently stand vacant — often because of real estate speculation — amid the city's housing crisis. This comes as a recent federal report found a 2.7% increase in homelessness nationwide, driven almost "entirely" by a 16.4% increase in California.

Since occupying the house, the two women have done their best to make it a home in time for the holidays. Their Christmas tree is decorated, and Walker said they plan to make a gingerbread house.

But their stay here may be short-lived. In early December, Walker and Karim received an eviction notice from Wedgewood LLC, which owns the investment company that owns the house.

The women were dealt a blow on Tuesday when Alameda County Superior Court Judge Patrick McKinney issued a tentative ruling in favor of Wedgewood that said “the claims do not appear to provide a basis for a valid claim of right to possession and instead contend only that the claimants have a right to occupy the subject premises."

Tenants rights attorney Leah Simon-Weisberg said her clients still plan to make their case.

"We'll be talking about why housing is a human right and why that is a basis for the court to interject itself and say, 'Yes, they can stay,' " said Weisberg. “The fact that the judge wants to hear what we have to say is encouraging."

On Thursday, the two occupants had prepared to contest the eviction in court, only to find out in the morning that the judge had postponed the hearing until Monday.

Among the women's many supporters are Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan and Councilmembers Nikki Fortunato Bas, Dan Kalb.

"What we are asking for is simple. Wedgwood: Sit down with Moms for Housing and negotiate the purchase of this home so that they can stay here in their community," said Bas.

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Wedgewood, however, has said they won't negotiate with the women while they are unlawfully living in the property.

Unexpectedly, the Southern California-based youth shelter program Shelter 37 inserted themselves into the showdown on Monday, urging the women to leave the property so it could be converted into a shelter space.

"I encourage Mothers 4 Housing to voluntarily leave the property as quickly as possible so that we can train disadvantaged Oakland youths, give them jobs, and teach them skills," said shelter founder and former NFL player James Washington in a statement.

That interjection, however, has raised suspicions among the women's supporters, some of whom are questioning the organization’s ties to Wedgewood.

An earlier version of this article stated the women "broke in" to the home. It has been edited to clarify that they entered the home without permission.

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