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Mass Evictions From 
Oakland's Public Housing

Fraud And Corruption At The Oakland Housing Authority Results In Mass Evictions! 

LYNDA CARSON / Indymedia 27apr2006

A Nightmare At Hope Vl Project

[More by Lynda Carson]

 

Fear and panic have set in at some of East Oakland's public housing units, as Police agents from the Oakland Housing Authority have been making late night visits to the tenants recently, while demanding that the families pack up and move within a five day period.

After refusing to pack up and run, nearly 30 families are facing mass eviction by the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) from their public housing units on 65th Ave at Lockwood Gardens, a Hope Vl Project.

The OHA is claiming that the 29 families facing eviction from Lockwood Gardens are Unlawful Occupants (squatters) who have illegally gained possesion of the housing units, and the OHA has served them 30 Day Forcible Detainer eviction notices in an effort to remove them.

On Friday April 28, the first 3 cases out of 29 eviction cases or more, have landed in Alameda County Superior Court. Oakland's Eviction Defense Center has teamed up with attorney Bob Salinas, of Sundeen Salinas & Pyle, to file a Demurrer (seeking dismissal of evictions) on behalf of the first 3 families that were served Forcible Detainer eviction notices, by the OHA.

Lockwood Gardens has 372 units, is part of a revitalization project of east Oakland's public housing properties, and a partial recipient of $26,510,020 in grant funding from the Hope Vl program. The revitalization funds were divided between 3 public housing projects in 1994 and 1996, and renovations have since then taken place to demolish and rebuild the 3 locations into modern housing units, in Oakland's blighted east side neighborhoods.

Attorney Laura Lane, of the East Bay Community Law Center is also representing a number of the families facing eviction at Lockwood Gardens and those cases will head to court at a later date.

Currently, out of the 29 families facing eviction, the Eviction Defense Center (EDC) is representing 9 families in court, and the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) is representing 12 families. One family has already been frightened into moving away from their public housing unit by the OHA, and that leaves a total of 21 families out of 29 facing eviction that have legal representation to defend their housing. No one seems to know if the remaining 7 families facing eviction have moved away or are seeking legal representation else where.

Jennifer Bell of Goldfarb and Lipman, is the General Counsel for the Oakland Housing Authority, and is leading the charge in court to evict the 29 families from their housing units in east Oakland.

During an April 24 interview with David Lipsetc, a Senior Policy Analyst with the Oakland Housing Authority, Lipsetc blamed the tenants for what is occurring and accused all 29 families of committing fraud to move into their public housing units.

"The OHA has served eviction notices to 29 families at Lockwood Gardens because none of the families applied for, or got onto the waiting list to move into their public housing units," says Lipsetc. "The tenants worked with a former clerk to gain access to the units, the OHA does not have any files on the families, and the OHA does not believe that any of the families signed a lease before moving into those units. Forcible Detainers are standard procedure for those that have illegally moved into the OHA's public housing units," Lipsetc said.

"We only recently discovered that the 29 families were illegally living in those units after we ran a check on the list of clients waiting to move into those units, compared to the names of the families actually residing in those units, and the client numbers on our waiting list did not match with the names of the families that actually moved into those units."

"As far as we can tell, there were no signed leases, no files established for these families, no security deposits have been payed before moving in, and those families got ahead of all the other families on the waiting list to move in," said Lipsitc.

Contrary to what Mr. Lipsitc states on behalf of the Oakland Housing Authority, the facts reveal that the 29 families have all signed Leases, Tenant Agreement's To Maintain A Drug-Free Environment, Occupant's Responsibility statements, Lease Compliance forms and a host of other documents before moving in to their public housing units, and the documents were all counter-signed by a host of clerks and managers working for the Oakland Housing Authority. Billing Summaries, Tenant Leases and Notices have a host of names on them such as Kim Boyd an OHA Supervisor, Donald McShane an OHA Manager, and Alice Ferguson another OHA Manager.

In addition, as important as it may be that low-income tenants should not jump in line ahead of one another to move into this much needed subsidized housing, most Housing Authorities across the nation recently said the hell with their waiting lists, and allowed Hurricane Katrina's victims to jump in ahead of all of those already waiting in line for subsidized housing.

Upon further examination, theres a web page called "HUD's Public Housing Program" which has a section called "WHEN WILL I BE NOTIFIED?": According to HUD's own website, it states; ["If the HA determines that you are eligible, your name will be put on a waiting list, unless the HA is able to assist you immediately.] The content on that web page was updated as recent as April 25, 2006 and may be found at; http://www.hud.gov/renting/phprog.cfm

After discovering that the families facing eviction actually did indeed sign leases and other documents before moving into Lockwood Gardens, suddenly no one at the OHA would go on record to offer a comment about the signed documents that contradicted the accusations of their spokesman David Lipsetc.

The documents clearly reveal that the 29 families facing eviction at Lockwood Gardens have all been checked out, and qualified as being eligible to move into those units, regardless of what the Housing Authority may be saying at this point.

"The Police have been looking for Carolyn Wilson of the Oakland Housing Authority, ever since she disappeared recently," said Ms. Kelly.

Ms. Kelly a resident of Lockwood Gardens prefers to use only her last name for this story.

"I moved into Lockwood Gardens on October 27, and Carolyn Wilson's name is on my lease," said Kelly. "I first received a message from the OHA at my mothers home, telling me that a unit was available at Lockwood Gardens, and I went to their office location on 65th Ave to fill out the necessary forms to move in. I supplied birth certificates, photo ID's, social security numbers, income statements and everything else asked of me to qualify for moving in. Theres no way that I committed fraud by following through with everything being asked of me by the Housing Authority. I am a 41 year old woman with an 11 year old child, and I am very frightened by the way the OHA has been treating me."

"I was terrified recently when the OHA Police showed up at my door recently around 10 pm at night, accusing my family of committing fraud to move into this townhouse, and they served me a 5 Day Notice to surrender my home to the OHA, or else," said Kelly.

Officer Jerold Coates, a 13 year employee of the OHA Police Department, and Officer Malcolm Williams are involved in the investigation taking place at Lockwood Gardens.

According to Ms. Kelly, "Officer Coates told me that Carolyn Wilson was demanding that everyone must pay her $500 to $1,000 to move in, and he wanted to know how much I payed her before moving in. I denied paying Ms. Wilson anything extra to move into Lockwood Gardens."

"From what I am being told by others is that Carolyn Wilson of the OHA skipped town with everyones security deposits of $500 to $1,000 for each family involved in the scam, and that the OHA will not receive a subsidy from HUD for the families facing eviction in those units, because the OHA believes that the wrong families are residing in those housing units," Kelly said.

One of the families that moved into Lockwood Gardens and is now facing eviction, moved away from another public housing location in Oakland in order to move into the Hope Vl project on 65th Ave. It takes permission to move from one location to another in public housing and the Section 8 program, and managers or staff at the OHA had to give their blessings before this family was allowed to relocate to Lockwood Gardens.

Jorge Aguilar, an attorney for the Eviction Defense Center, has his own understanding of what is going on. "An agent of the Oakland Housing Authority defrauded nearly 30 families of the most vulnerable segment of the community. They are now trying to cover their wrongful act by evicting those families."

"The OHA is trying to circumvent Measure EE. The irony is that, the OHA is using Forcible Detainers to evict, which have traditionally been used to defend tenants from landlords using self help evictions. During a recent interview with one of the families facing eviction, a little boy started crying and stated that the Police came by and tried to take my bedroom away from me," said Jorge.

"My name is Winou Wakeyo, I'm from Jimma, Ethiopa, and I moved into Lockwood Gardens on November 22, 2005. I work 12 hours a day on Sundays for a Pastor who told me to come here to find housing, and I did everything the Housing Authority asked of me before moving in. A big Policeman came by recently late at night with a 5 Day Notice telling me that I must surrender my home to the Housing Authority. There were 2 Policemen. It scared me very much, and someone later told me to find a defender to save my housing, and I contacted the Eviction Defense Center for help," said Wakeyo. I do not understand the customs of this country, and I asked my defender what I did wrong, and I was told that someone stole some money. The Housing Authority stopped accepting my rent for April, and about 2 weeks ago, they suddenly sent back the rent that I payed for March, and I do not understand why they are doing this to me."

Laura Lane, an attorney for the East Bay Community Law Center also has her own view point and said, "The Oakland Housing Authority seems to be in a complete disarray. The management has failed to adequately screen, train or supervise its employees-- but when the employees make mistakes or fail to follow the law, the Oakland Housing Authority's response is to blame the tenants, blame the attorneys, blame the federal government-- blame anyone but the Oakland Housing Authority. There is an utter failure to accept personal responsibility."

After it became apparent that many families were seeking legal help to fight their evictions, it was on March 20 that a meeting was held at the East Bay Community Law Center for the victims of the housing scam, and around 20 people showed up for the meeting. At this point, after everyone started sharing what had occurred to them, it became clear that most of the families involved suddenly realized that Carolyn Wilson of the Oakland Housing Authority had stolen their security deposits, and skipped out of town.

The tenants at Lockwood Gardens believe that there may be another 40 families or more to face eviction, since they learned that the OHA Police were also investigating other public housing properties throughout Oakland, that may also be caught up into the housing scam.

As recent as April 22 (saturday morning), OHA Police were back at Lockwood Gardens pounding on the tenants doors, and demanding to know if the families have moved yet. "This time the Police were not satisfied to know if my family had moved yet," said Ms. Kelly, "but they wanted to know if any of us noticed any other families moving out of here lately. Considering the way they have been treating us, I don't think we have to tell them anything at this point, and they need to talk to my attorney if they have any further questions."

Eviction Defense Center 510/452-4541
East Bay Community Law Center 510/548-4040
Sundeen Salinas & Pyle 510/663-9240
Jennifer Bell/Goldfarb & Lipman 510/836-6336
David Lipsetc OHA- 510/874-1511
Joyce Roberson- Head of OHA Public Housing 510/874-1520
Jon Gresly- Director of OHA 510/874-1510
Lynda Carson may be reached at; 510/763-1085 tenantsrule@yahoo.com

source: http://la.indymedia.org/news/2006/04/155096.php 27apr2006


Lockwood Gardens, Coliseum Gardens and Lower Fruitvale

HOPE VI Site Profile

City: Oakland 
Official PHA Name: Oakland PHA 
Name of Site: Lockwood Gardens, Coliseum Gardens and Lower Fruitvale 
HOPE VI Coordinator: Philip J. Neville 
Phone: 510-874-1520 
Fax: 510-874-1674 
E-mail: pneville@oakha.org 
Address: 1619 Harrison St.
Oakland, CA 94612 

Site Profile: 
FY 1994 Implementation Grant: $25,510,020
FY 1996 Assistance Award/Amendment Funds: $1,000,000

OHA's HOPE VI program in East Oakland involves the extensive renovation of 372 out of 550 housing units in two complexes and four scattered sites (consisting of 60 units) located in Lower Fruitvale. Fourteen scattered-site units are scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt. A site-based management strategy is currently being tested at Lockwood Gardens, which has 372 housing units.

The HOPE VI program enabled OHA to expand its collaboration with the Mayor's office, which began with the City's 1991 campaign to reduce violence and drug trafficking within and around the Coliseum and Lockwood communities. The Mayor's Office was very supportive in preparing the original HOPE VI application and has been heavily involved in the effort ever since.

The joint successes from both the Mayor's program and OHA's HOPE VI development process have positively impacted the Coliseum and Lockwood sites. There is marked improvement in the environments at both sites. Resident-planted gardens are not vandalized and children and adults can remain outside after dark, which was considered unsafe just a few months earlier. Policing services are provided by the Oakland Police Department to all authority sites. Officers from the Oakland Housing Authority's Security Services Department supplement the City's services. To supplement security at Coliseum and Lockwood, iron fences are used to surround the complexes.

OHA was the recipient of several HUD grants in 1995, including a HOPE VI planning grant for the West Oakland area. Additionally, there are two major modernization programs currently in progress in West Oakland.

source: http://www.housingresearch.org/hrf/HRF_SiteProfile.nsf/0/c165807fa8eaa5a5852569d5004d16eb?OpenDocument 27apr2006

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