A judge on Thursday postponed a hearing until Monday in the ongoing battle over a vacant West Oakland home that’s been occupied by two homeless mothers, saying there’s been confusion about notifying all of the parties in the case.
At a hearing packed by dozens of people who support mothers Dominique Walker, 34, and Sameerah Karim, 41, in their effort to remain living at the house at 2928 Magnolia St., Alameda County Superior Court Judge Patrick McKinney said, “I understand the confusion” and said there seems to have been a lack of notice.
The women, who are part of a group called Moms 4 Housing, moved into the house without permission on Nov. 18 to call attention to Oakland’s homelessness crisis and to vacant, investor-owned homes in the city.
Real estate investment firm Wedgewood Properties, which bought the house on July 31 for $501,078, recently served an eviction notice on the women but attorneys for the women filed legal claims asserting their right to live there.
McKinney issued a tentative ruling on Tuesday saying the claims do not appear to provide a basis for a valid claim of right to possession. But the judge said he invites the women to provide evidence that they have a right to occupy the house when he holds a hearing on the matter.
That hearing was scheduled to occur on Thursday but McKinney postponed it until Monday.
Speaking to her supporters and the news media outside the courthouse after Thursday’s brief hearing, Walker said:
“I thank everybody for being here on short notice.”
Walker promised to keep fighting to stay in the house, saying:
“The system is not set up for us to win but we’re not going anywhere.”
Tenant rights attorney Leah Simon-Weisberg, who represents the women, said the basis for their claim that they should be allowed to stay in the house is “housing is a human right,” drawing applause from the women’s supporters.
Simon-Weisberg alleged that Oakland’s housing crisis “is directly related to speculators like Wedgewood.”
Oakland City Councilwoman Nikki Fortunato-Bas, who attended the hearing with Bobbi Lopez, the policy director for council President Rebecca Kaplan, said Wedgewood should work out a deal that would allow the women and their allies to buy the house and continue living there.
She said she’s “demanding” that Wedgewood negotiate a deal with Moms 4 Housing and the Oakland Community Land Trust, a nonprofit that buys property and converts it to affordable housing.
Speaking to reporters while the mother’s supporters tried to drown him out by chanting, “Moms 4 Housing!” and “Down with Wedgewood!”, Wedgewood spokesman Sam Singer said the case is a straightforward situation of illegal entry and illegal occupation.
“You can’t steal from other people.”
He said Wedgewood wants to renovate and rehabilitate the house as soon as possible and put it back into the housing market in order to improve the neighborhood, the community and the city.
Singer said Wedgewood tries to “flip” houses and is in the business of buying, renovating and quickly selling homes to first-time buyers, rejecting the allegation by the women’s supporters that the company holds homes vacant.