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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Health, Housing, and Public Services
Just Cause Oakland and St. Peter’s Housing Committee to Merge
The Long Awaited Merger Announcement!
It is said that those who share a common direction and sense of unity can get where they are going quicker and easier, because they are traveling on the thrust of one another. Motivated by the desire to build a more powerful grassroots force for justice, we have decided to merge with our sister organization in San Francisco, St. Peter’s Housing Committee, and create a bigger, fiercer organization. After 10 years of collaborative work with St. Peter’s, we have witnessed and been impressed by the powerful organizing and tenant advocacy St. Peter’s conducts with Latinos in the Mission District and across San Francisco.
We are inspired by a shared vision of deepening solidarity between African-American and Latino communities in San Francisco and Oakland, and contributing to the development of a vibrant grassroots movement.
Our two organizations have had a close relationship for years, as we have developed housing, anti-gentrification and community development related campaigns in our prospective cities. We have engaged in numerous joint discussions about our models, approaches and political analysis of the problems in our communities. Our members have participated in joint actions, and have interacted at conferences, meetings and other venues where we have done work in common. Finally, both organizations are active members of the Right to the City Alliance, a growing network of urban justice organizations, primarily combating gentrification. While we are not entering into this merger because of financial necessity, we understand that the economic crisis is bringing many organizations to the brink of bankruptcy.
Just Cause and St. Peter’s have weathered the storm well but we feel it is an excellent time to be merging, because we will become a stronger more efficient organization and will be able to navigate the changing economy even better as a larger, regional organization. These times are also marked by tremendous political opportunity. The entire economic model that runs this country is in question, and many significant political reforms are possible. By joining forces, we feel confident that we will be able to take advantage of the moment to advance bigger changes, and win more resources and power for the communities we work with in Oakland and San Francisco. Don't worry, our organizing in Oakland will continue to grow and we will not be changing our core areas of work or how we organize.
There are many decisions still to be made around the merger – not least of which will be our new name! But we have time. We are working hard with our members, staff and board to move the process forward with the goal of beginning an initial transition on January 1, 2010.
You may have seen some news coverage of the police raid that took place at 2755 74th Ave. on Friday Sept. 25th--this is the same building where the shoot out with Lovelle Mixon happened a few months back. SWAT Police, Sheriffs Deputies, and OPD Officers were looking for a suspect who lived in the building and proceeded to knock down the doors on all the apartment units, spray teargas, and detain some of the tenants. The suspect was not in the building and the police were told that multiple times prior to the raid. In the aftermath, important aspects of the story were left out of the media, namely, the residents and their fight to get stable, affordable housing for their families. This is also an example of a foreclosed property owned by a bank that has not properly maintained the building.
Just Cause Oakland and St. Peters Housing Committee have been working with families from the building who have come together in this stressful time to assert their rights and to fight for the justice that they deserve in this matter. Due to public pressure and tenant advocacy, the tenants living at 2755 74th Avenue in East Oakland will be placed in a motel for three weeks, paid for by Tamalpais Bank (the property owner).
Tamalpais Bank’s CEO Mark Garwood felt that it was a moral obligation to help these residents and has committed to repairing the preexisting damage to the property due to lack of upkeep. The bank will forgive any unpaid rent and waive the termination fee as well as refund their security deposits. The bank has also hired independent contractors that are addressing the issues that are being raised (tear gas damage, hazardous clean-up, repairs, etc.).
That's the good news, but many of the families are traumatized by the events that have occurred there this past year. It was 6 months ago when Lovelle Mixon had the shootout with police at that building. At that time, one of the residents, who now has a 2 week old infant, was pregnant with twins and lost one of them due to the stress of that event and the continued lack of safety and security and uninhabitability at the building. Prior to the raid, the building was in great disrepair and had not been properly maintained by Tamalpais bank since they took ownership in July '09. There were numerous habitability issues including water leaks, roof damage, mold, and other heath risks and safety hazards.
We will continue to advocate with the tenants to make sure the bank, the police, and the city do the right thing. Please respond to this message if you want to help us fight for Tenant Justice!