Tenant Victory In Oakland


root - Posted on 20 August 2001

Eviction for Profit System Exposed

by Lynda Carson

Oakland,Ca Late last week, details started to emerge regarding a law suit that involved a number of African American renters of Oakland being evicted, only to be quickly replaced by Spanish speaking immigrants being charged double the rents. A jury trial decided in favor of the African Americans who fought the evictions, and that it was the opinion of the jury that the evictions were discriminatory and unlawful.

During the past year a landlord by name of Paul Maguire bought up a number of properties in Oakland totaling around 155-180 rental units, many of which fall under local rent laws. Oakland has a Rent Arbitration Program meant to provide a system that decides whether or not landlords are allowed to raise the rents above the 3% annual cap on rent increases. Allegedly to avoid Oakland’s rent control laws, Mr. Maguire chose to evict the renters rather than to allow them to fight the desired rent increases through a hearing process of the Rent Board. Apparently it was African Americans who were the victims of Mr. Maguire’s criminal activities. At least 24 units were involved in the suit. Oakland does not have a Just Cause Eviction Ordinance in place, which means that landlords may evict for almost any or no reason at all. However, evictions that are retaliatory in nature or based upon discrimination are unlawful.

Ken Greenstein, a local tenant activist attorney with an office in San Francisco, is very excited about the jury decision protecting the renters’ rights. Calls to Phil Rapier and Bob Salinas, who represented the victims, confirmed the jury decision. A press release may soon be forthcoming with more details.

When I asked Phil Rapier why landlords of Oakland believe that they can get away with evicting for profit in Oakland, Rapier replied that it is because THEY CAN! The jury’s decision that this was a case of discrimination certainly puts a different light on the situation in Oakland. Still, as known by tenant activists involved in Oakland’s rental battles, this is something that has going on a long time. Landlord tenant disputes continue to erupt throughout the city as the landlords try to raise the rents to heights unknown in Oakland’s history.

Oakland’s rental battles are heating up to extremes lately, with landlord and tenant forces boiling over in the Rent Program last Thursday in City Hall. Mayor Jerry Brown had his henchmen unlawfully shut down the Rent Program in an alleged effort to remove Rent Board Member Andrew Wolff before his term expires in October 2001. Wolff, appointed by Elihu M. Harris back in 1998, is a pro-tenant Board Member under attack by the Mayor and landlords who want him out. He refused to comply with a July 24 fax notice from Mayor Jerry Brown dismissing him from the rent board, resulting in the lock-out on July 26. Oakland’s City Charter states that it takes a hearing and a vote of at least 6 Council Members to remove appointed Commissioners and Board Members before their term's expire.

When Mr. Wolff showed up at last Thursday’s Rent Board Hearing at City Hall to take his place among the other board members, the hearings were shut down after roll call. For now until further notice, renters and landlords are locked out of the process, thanks to the politics of Mayor Jerry Brown interferring with due process of law.

For more on that event, click onto the SF/IMC story "Politics Shut Down Oakland’s Rent Arbitration Program" by Lynda Carson:

http://www.sf.indymedia.org/display.php?id=102452

To contact the attorneys:

Phil Rapier 510/ 444-6262

Bob Salinas 510/ 663-9240

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