Judge Takes Vacant Oakland House Dispute Under Submission

Two homeless mothers who have been occupying a vacant West
Oakland home for six weeks won at least a temporary victory on Monday when a
judge didn’t rule on the property owner’s request that they be evicted.

Instead, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Patrick
McKinney said at a hearing that was packed by the mothers’ supporters that he
will take the matter under submission and rule at an unspecified later date.

Mothers Dominique Walker, 34, and Sameerah Karim, 41, who
are part of a group called Moms 4 Housing, moved into the house at 2928
Magnolia St. on Nov. 18, saying they want to call attention to Oakland’s
homelessness crisis and to vacant, investor-owned homes in the city.

Real estate investment firm Wedgewood Properties bought the
house, which had been vacant for two years, for $501,078 at a foreclosure
hearing on July 31.

Wedgewood recently served an eviction notice on the women
but attorneys for the women and four other people filed legal claims asserting their
right to live there.

McKinney issued a tentative ruling last week saying the
claims do not appear to provide a basis for a valid claim of right to

At Monday’s hearing, McKinney said he’s inclined not to
grant claims to the women but said he would take the matter under submission
before he rules because “I want to carefully consider the issues that have
been raised.”

Attorneys for the women argued that they should be allowed
to live at the house in the interest of justice and based on a needs analysis
of Oakland’s homelessness crisis.

Wedgewood’s attorney Francisco Gutierrez urged McKinney to
dismiss the women’s claims immediately, saying, “A delay only benefits one
party in this case,” referring to the mothers.

After the hearing, tenant rights attorney Leah
Simon-Weisberg, one of the lawyers who represent the women, said the fact that
McKinney took the matter under submission “is significant because he could
have ruled from the bench.”

Simon-Weisberg said, “The court definitely engaged in
arguments about whether the mothers have a right to possession (of the house)
based on need.”

Walker said, “We’re glad the judge took our arguments
under consideration.”

Oakland City Councilwoman Nikki Fortunato-Bas, who attended
the hearing with Bobbi Lopez, the policy director for Council President Rebecca
Kaplan, said Wedgewood should negotiate a deal with Moms 4 Housing and the Oakland
Community Land Trust, a nonprofit that buys property and converts it to
affordable housing, in which the nonprofit would buy the house and allow the
women to continue living there.

But Wedgewood said in a news release, “We will not meet
or negotiate with the squatters’ organization that broke into our house and is illegally
occupying it.”

The real estate firm said it is “sympathetic to the
concerns of homelessness, but we will not consider discussions until after we
are in peaceful possession of our house.”

Fortunato-Bas told Walker and Karim outside of court, “What you are doing is incredibly brave,” saying their actions are “just and right for you and other homeless families.”

This post was originally posted at https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/east-bay/judge-takes-vacant-oakland-house-dispute-under-submission/2208154/.

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