New oral history map shows Oakland eviction data

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After a year of collecting eviction data and personal accounts from Alameda County renters, low income tenants, and recent evictees, members of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project unveiled their latest oral history map and urged supporters to take action by protesting and raising awareness of evictions.

On September 9, volunteers of the mapping project hosted an event called “Counterpoints: Stories and Data for Resisting Displacement” at the East Side Arts Alliance in Oakland. The venue for the debut of the oral history map was packed. As partners, contributors, interviewees and others involved or interested in the project poured in, guests stood and sat on the floor to view the presentation and guest speakers.

While supporters ate taro fritters and kanom krok, a Thai dessert, event organizers showcased a giant map projected on a screen, filled with hundreds of red and blue dots representing evictions and displacements in Oakland and the greater Bay Area over the last two years. (Displacement occurs when a person must move to a new town due to economic pressures in their home city like rental prices or low income levels.) All of the dots on the map showed an address and reason for displacement or eviction, but the blue dots provided personal narratives accompanied by an audio interview with each tenant.

Then, the members of the mapping project played videos and audio recordings of people sharing their stories of dealing with increasing rental rates, eviction or displacement. One of the videos showed Kristal Osorio, a high school student, who said her family recently received a 60-day eviction notice so their landlord could renovate and raise the rents at their apartment complex. “Just being displaced again, here in America, you feel like you’re not good enough, like you’re not stable,” she said. “I feel like that’s one of the reasons I decided to fight to stay in my home.”

According to the video, Osorio’s family is just one of 33 tenants who received the notice. Organizations like the Filipino Advocates for Justice are urging people to protest these no-fault evictions. “It takes organizing from everyday people and the people on the front lines, who are being most effected, to win this,” said Sammy Gutierrez, a youth counselor and civic engagement coordinator for the group. “It can’t happen without us. You can’t save the hood without the hood.”

The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, formed in 2013, is a volunteer group that uses data analysis and collection along with storytelling techniques to document both displacement and evictions, in which a landlord requires a tenant to leave a property.

Based in San Francisco and Oakland, the group has released over eight maps and seven reports on topics ranging from eviction to relocation, as well as oral history work and films that are shown to the public upon completion.

One of their more notable maps is called Mapping Relocation. This map shows where people move when displaced from San Francisco, whether it be to somewhere else in the Bay Area, California or the rest of the United States. It also includes a breakdown of the ethnicity of the individuals and how many become homeless.

They also created an interactive map called Killings By Law Enforcement. It allows viewers to click on different sites throughout Oakland to learn about the stories of people who have been killed by a law enforcement officer.

This year, volunteers of the mapping project created a new digital oral history map, which builds onto their existing San Francisco map by adding the cities of Alameda, Oakland and Fremont. This map is unique because it not only shows the location of everyone who has been displaced or evicted in the past year, but also provides a personal audio narrative from the former renter of the apartment or house.

According to Erin McElroy, co-founder of the project, it’s a way to conceptualize what would otherwise be just dots on a map. “I think maintaining a historical lens is really important, and nobody can tell the history of a building or space or a displacement better than the person living in it or going through that,” she said.

Before showing the new map during their celebration, members of the project first went over their report and focused on surprising statistics. According to the group, as of this July, the average apartment rent in Oakland was $2,912, and from 2010 to 2014 there has been an overall loss of four percent of the city’s African American population. “Oakland has been losing its black population pretty dramatically over the past decade and even before that,” McElroy said.

Displacement of this magnitude is not new. Last year, Oakland’s Department of Housing and Community Development released a report called “A Roadmap Toward Equity: Housing Solutions for Oakland, California.” It showed that Oakland’s African-American population fell 24 percent between the years 2000 to 2010.

In collecting data and other information needed to complete their map and report, volunteers worked with members from 10 partner organizations, including the Alameda Renters’ Coalition and the Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition. High school and graduate students provided vital materials too. Students at Coliseum College Prep Academy, an Oakland high school, administered a survey to study the effects of gentrification in their neighborhoods and gave the results to the mapping project. UC Davis graduate student Matthew Palm also sent some of his data on the ability of Section 8 voucher holders to be able to afford rental listings. Section 8 is a voucher program that provides assistance to very low-income families to afford decent, safe and sanitary housing.

According to Palm, he was given a grant from his school to obtain the documents for research unrelated to the eviction crisis, but he was happy to give the project some of his findings. “I shared it because they are a great organization that puts the word out and holds people accountable,” Palm said.

Once the report presentation concluded on Friday night, the group showed audio and video personal accounts of people dealing with eviction. Many of the people who had been interviewed were in the room. The recordings were later made available in a canopied area next to the stage.

In one video, members of the Alameda Renters Coalition described how rent is increasing in the city of Alameda and how they decided to take action by getting a petition for rent control and just cause for eviction laws signed by 8,000 people.

In another, an East Oakland tenant named Teresa Salaza talked about living with the threat of eviction.

Most individuals present had some connection with eviction, or at least felt the burden of it. Those who have never been evicted still felt the weight of possibility. “I definitely feel the pressures of rent increases and the uncertainty of living in a place that’s so expensive,” said Carla Wojczuk, co-founder of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. “And the price of living is increasing.”

To end the evening, partner organization and mapping project members gave recommendations on what to do if facing an eviction notice and where to go to combat evictions. Organizations like the East Bay Community Law Center and Causa Justa Just Cause were brought up as resources for those who want to fight an eviction in court and or protest them in the community.

Members of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project say they will continue to thoroughly analyze Oakland’s data as well as continue to work on another map that will focus on San Mateo County.

For more information on the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, click here. To see the new oral history map, click here.

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