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Developers Fuck Off!
Squatters’ Rights in Oakland

Earlier this year, the Oakland community squat space Hot Mess/RCA won the first of its legal battles against the developers trying to evict them from the property, a pioneer case for squatters’ rights in the US. While their order of eviction was overturned, they will have many fights ahead of them in a system that sees squatting as a dangerous illegal activity, one that impedes on the capitalization of property by banks and speculators. It seems like most of the time, the authorities that be would rather see their citizens homeless in order to line their pockets with money from developers. However, in California the law of “adverse possession” creates guidelines for squatters and makes it possible for them to own the property the are squatting after 5 years of paying property tax and living openly on it. That’s how Steve DeCaprio, from the band Embers and CEO and founder of the non-profit Land Action, took legal possession of his own home, and in March he was interviewed on CNN about squatting and squatter’s rights in California. He did a great job of presenting a responsible face for squatting, showing that the fears that drive the evictions of squatters are unwarranted in many cases. In fact, it seems like many of these evictions are more driven by profit than by public safety. Personally, I find it “morally yucky” that banks in California have foreclosed on hundreds of thousands of homes after manipulating families into shady mortgages and taking in billions of taxpayer dollars as a bailout. Taking possession of an abandoned property and restoring it seems like a better way to go for the neighborhood, community and country at large. Check out the CNN segment with Steve as well as an Oakland squat photo essay below.



Press release:

Oakland, CA-

On Thursday March 14, 2013 occupiers of properties in Oakland, California won the legal battle to maintain community space in the Alameda County Superior Court. Judge Victoria Kolakowski issued a judgment in favor of the defendants, occupiers of the properties known as the Hot Mess/RCA Compound, and against plaintiff Rockridge Properties, LLC. This community space includes housing, an urban farm project, and a social center. In a long fight for squatter’s rights this judgment is a welcome victory.

Oakland, which is known for one of the most resilient encampments of the Occupy movement, has also been home to numerous occupied spaces before and after the Occupy movement began.

In her ruling dismissing the lawsuit on March 14, 2013 Judge Victoria Kolakowski stated, “There is no authority for the proposition that the successor of an ownership interest also obtains the prior owner’s possessory rights retroactively.” (Rockridge Properties, LLC v. Carey et al., Alameda County Superior Court case number RG12638555)

Upon their victory co-defendant Steven DeCaprio, CEO and founder of the non-profit Land Action, stated, “This ruling gives hope that we will return to the principal that land should be used for the benefit of society and not merely as a commodity to be abused by banks and speculators.”

Since the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008, banks who received generous bailouts by the federal government have, for the most part, refused to provide any relief to home owners facing foreclosure.

Teri-Dawn Elkins, Development Director for Land Action states, “This victory for occupiers should put the banks on notice that it is in their best interests to renegotiate mortgages with home owners rather than later losing those foreclosed properties to adverse possessors such as the ones in the HM/RCA Compound.”

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