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Related Categories: East Bay | Health, Housing & Public Services
Eviction Defense Center Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary
by Lynda Carson (lyndacarson [at] excite.com)
Wednesday Jan 28th, 2004 4:03 PM
The Eviction Defense Center Celebrates The Ten Year Anniversary Of Providing Legal Representation For Low-Income Renters In The East Bay.
Eviction Defense Center Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary
by Lynda Carson 01/26/04

Shortly before 6pm, Thursday January 22, a group of around 18 community members started to show up at the Tropix Restaurant in Piedmont for a ten year anniversary celebration of the Eviction Defense Center (EDC).

The Eviction Defense Center, a non-profit organization is located downtown Oakland, and first opened it's doors back in Febuary of 1994. The small law firm of attorney's, staff and volunteers mainly serve low-income renters facing eviction from their housing in Oakland and Alameda County. The EDC has taken on over 10,000 cases during the past seven years, presently accepts around 1,500 cases per year, and has around 10-12 rotating staff attorney's to serve the clientele.

After so much hard work being put into the struggle to help people keep a roof over their heads, the small group of dedicated volunteers and advocates looked forward to a special evening with Anne Tamiko Omura, the Executive Director of the EDC, and her hard working staff. Gina Amato is the staff attorney of the EDC, Kristen Crowley the office manager, and new staff members Erica Garcia and Jorge Aguilar all arrived to celebrate this important anniversary crossroads.

A ten year anniversary celebration for the EDC, and the seven year anniversary for Anne Omura as the Executive Director of the EDC.

Not only a celebration with friends, food and drinks, but it was also a surprise birthday party for Anne Omura, of the EDC. As the participants anxiously awaited her arrival, they nibbled on a variety of delectable edibles in a softly lit colorful room of bamboo trimmings while discussing some of the latest politics, eviction cases, and offered warm compliments to one another upon their arrival.

Some community activists came by to offer support, such as James Vann of the Oakland Tenants Union, Adam Gold of Just Cause Oakland, and numerous attorney's from the East Bay Tenants Bar Association also appeared to show support for the EDC.

Soon, Anne Omura arrived with her husband Whitty, and warm cheers arose from the group of friends that cherished the moment as the excitement of the evening grew. Some red wine and plates of delicious food were quickly passed around as the gentle smiles of warmth and friendship were plentiful throughout the evening. Ira Jacobowitz, one of the founders of the EDC, excitedly gave a brief history of how the EDC came about and he focused on how dedicated Anne Omura has been to the cause during the past seven years while she has been the director of the EDC.

Attorney John Murcko helped to organize the celebration, and proudly was the one to offer Anne Omura a beautiful Community Service Award on behalf of the East Bay Tenants Bar Association which said; To Anne Tamiko Omura, Director of the Eviction Defense Center, For Outstanding Representation of Tenants in Alameda and Contra Costa County.

A toast of cheers arose as a smiling Anne Omura graciously accepted the service award as she warmly gazed upon the crowd of friends and co-workers during that precious moment as they recognized her hard work and dedication in keeping the EDC on track in it's defense of those in need. A truely wonderful moment of the spirit of humanity.

Shortly later, a beautiful candle lit chocolate birthday cake was brought out and Anne quickly dispersed the flames back into the ether as the crowd again expressed cheers of solidarity with this beautiful soul that meant so much to so many on the eve of her birthday.

Anne Omura says, "I'm grateful for being able to have this position at the EDC and I really love working with so many different people from the community".

In or out of court, the staff of the EDC offers free legal advice over the phone, and has a sliding scale fee for those needing legal representation to fend off their evictions. They remain very focused, and as time passes by the number of cases heading into the courts have increased through the years.

According to an April 2003 News Letter from the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM), theres been 6,264 evictions filed in Alameda County from 2001 through 2002, with another 3,526 evictions filed in Contra Costa County. According to county statistics, Alameda County in Northern California has the greatest number of evictions being filed annualy, with Los Angeles County in the southern part of the state being the eviction capital of California with 75,496 evictions filed from 2001 through 2002.

Making matters worse for the poor and displaced being evicted by the tens of thousands, the housing market has shifted from the mom and pop landlords to an industry of profiteering racketeers driving up housing costs through market strategy manipulations, corrupt politicians and stricter screening methods to cheery pick among the renters in search of the higher income brackets.

Renters often face discrimination and retaliation. Some landlords steal their deposits or the interest rates on the security deposits. Others charge more than the allowable annual rent increases permit, and then choose to evict if the renters speak out about the injustices being heaped upon them through the years. Other landlords demand that Section 8 tenants pay more than the contracts require, and the never ending schemes to fleece the renters are varied and numerous.

Elderly long term renters often are tossed out upon the streets by the new owner of a building that fails to recognize the fact that the faithful renters there have payed so much for so long, that by now they should rightfuly own the property.

No matter what the latest schemes may be to fleece the renters out of their money or force them out of their housing, there comes a time when people need legal representation.

Thats when the Eviction Defense Center comes in to help support and defend the abused renters from the ruthless profiteers that have been terrorizing so many families with retaliation, or their frightening 3 Day Notices or 60 Day Notices that tend to ruin the lives of so many people.

For those that fail to seek representation to defend themselves from unfair evictions, the Sheriff's Department exists to take care of them in short order.

According to the Alameda County Sheriffs Office, evictions are usually completed on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of each week. The fee being charged to send over an armed crew to do the dirty work of the landlords is only $75.00, and an extra fee of $30.00 is charged if they have to repost an eviction notice at the door of the victims soon to be tossed out upon the streets.

Many tenants have spent sleepless nights in fear of the Sheriff and his deputies as the clock seems to tick ever faster. With no where to go because the rents are so high and the landlords have just blacklisted them for the next ten years with their unlawful detainers, some renters wait until the last moment to flee the situation or are still there when the Sheriff's Deputies arrive to force them out onto the streets.

Oakland renter Joan Cook has resided in the same apartment for over 20 years and had this to say about Anne Omura and the Eviction Defense Center; "What a difference she's making in the lives of people. She could be getting rich, but instead helps out the community and helps to keep their lives intact. Without her help many people could not fight back. This makes a tremendous difference in the lives of people," Cook said.

Among so many others with their own experience to share about the EDC was Lorraine Key who has resided in the same place for 37 years and says; "Anne Omura and the Eviction Defense Center was there for me when I needed help after a new landlord took over and tried to evict me. They connected me with the Campaign for Renters Rights and between them all they were there to come to my rescue and convinced my landlord to leave me alone," Key said.

"When we occupied the City Attorney's and Mayor's office to protest slumlord Richard Thomas, the lawyers and staff of the EDC were there with picketsigns in hand. In the fight against the landlords and the forces of privilege in our society, the EDC is a breath of fresh air," said Rob Rooke of the Campaign for Renters Rights.

"My name is Sandra Miguel, and I want to say thanks to the EDC because two years ago I was evicted and they helped me alot. They gave me support and good information about my rights as a tenant. As a result of the help I received through the EDC, I got out of an awful situation and managed to land in a beautiful townhouse with 3 bedrooms for me and my children," Sandra Miguel said.

According to Former Rent Board Commissioner, Andrew Wolff; "Absolutely theres a need for the EDC! Annes really on the frontlines on a daily basis, and I know it may sound like a cliche, but it's true. I see people every day thats being defended by the EDC or has in the past. Talk to anyone in the low-income communities and they may not know where City Hall is, but they all know of the EDC or how to find it. If anyone could contribute time or money, the EDC is the organization to join and to help keep going for future generations ahead," Wolff Said.

Ebony Bolton says; "Since November of 2002, I have lived in the same place run by a landlord that discriminates, was rude and has harassed me. My child had heart surgery, and times were hard. It was a blessing that the EDC came to my aid when they did. It was Christmas time, and the worst time of my life was happening. Somehow the EDC pulled me through it all, and they managed to save my housing and keep a roof over my family," Bolton said.

Meika Johnson, formerly with Just Cause Oakland says; The EDC was great! They really served me well, and theres nothing I can say to really express my gratitude for what they have done for me. They were with me through the whole eviction process. Anne was great, does her job well and I'm at a loss of words to describe what a wonderful job she did by sticking it out with me all the way," Johnson said.

In the view of Donavan Allen; "I think we need the EDC because they help people from being unfairly run out their housing, and the EDC helped me out a number of years ago. I'm really grateful that they were there when I had no where else to turn," Allen said.

Local attorney Nikhil Unadkat says; "Homelessness is becoming a significant problem across America and the bay area, and is a very big issue in the lives of people. It's creating so much disparity and trauma throughout society. We need the EDC to be there to help out and represent the poor. In addition, the fact that the EDC is an activist organization in the courts is incredible," Unadakat said.

Nepta Jen had the following to say; "I've been an Oakland renter for around 7 years and the EDC helped me out around a year and a half ago. I believe that it's a great program because they helped me and my children out to keep our housing. I would'nt do anything to change the EDC and believe everyone was very helpful and friendly", Jen said.

Lori Kossowsky offers support by saying; "The landlords are trying to get rid of rent control and Measure EE because they would evict people in a heartbeat to raise the rents. Without the EDC, where would we go to get help?", Kossowsky said.

Attorney John Murcko was passionate about his views; "The EDC has provided excellent defenses in Alameda County for renters against greedy and vicious landlords for the last 10 years. Anne is the best director of the EDC because she's serious about the class struggle against the landlords. In her ideology she always puts justice and housing rights before other considerations. I can only hope that Anne has many children to carry on the struggle the same way as she does", Murcko said.

The author of this story has also been defended by the EDC on numerous occaisions and is forever grateful for the wonderful work they have done to help keep myself and others from becoming homeless upon the cold, lonely streets of Oakland. Thank you Anne, and everyone else that helps out at the EDC!

The Eviction Defense Center may be reached at; 510/452-4541