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.
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."