Displaced for 95 days, Coliseum Connections residents demand answers from city and landlord
on April 6, 2023
Dozens of displaced Coliseum Connections Apartments residents protested Wednesday, the 95th day of their displacement from a Jan. 1 flood, calling on the city and landlord to do more to get them back into their homes.
Chanting “Home, not hotel” and carrying placards that read “No More Lies,” they rallied in front of the West Oakland Senior Center and demanded to know why the apartment complex is still not repaired and why they are being pushed out of the temporary hotel rooms the city put them up in.
Residents say the city has offered to use Federal Emergency Management Agency money to pay relocation fees for those who qualify for government subsidized housing, giving them 10 days to decide and three weeks more to make the move. Those ineligible for subsidized housing were told they will not get relocation money, the residents said, and will be forced to find an apartment or pay their own hotel rent.
“If you have one bedroom, it’s about $7,000,” said tenant Alejandra Villa. If you have a two-bedroom, it’s about $9,000. So it’s not that much money, but it’s only a good offer for subsidized housing. So people like me, who is for fair market value, I don’t get nothing from the city.”
The residents were displaced when over 3.5 inches of rain fell on the morning of Dec. 31, flooding the East Oakland complex’s parking garage, where the electric room is located. The flood damaged the electricity system, forcing more than 300 residents to be evacuated. Since then, they have been living in a series of hotels.
At a February meeting, Michael Johnson, president of UrbanCore, which owns the property, told residents that the building would be repaired and ready for their return by the end of March.
Villa said that date has now been pushed to June. Frustrated with the delays and the prospect of another move, residents united in protest.
“I’m here because we’ve been displaced for 95 days,” said tenant Jasmine Braggs. “Our demand is we want housing vouchers. Our demand is we want to be placed properly. We want the building fixed. They have to come and see us individually to see what we want.”
This week, the residents formally organized as the Coliseum Connections Tenants Association after the city said it would stop supporting their temporary housing and hired consultants Overland, Pacific, and Cutler to lead relocation efforts. The association spelled out the tenants’ demands in a letter to landlord UrbanCore Development, property management company FPI, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao and the Oakland City Council.
Thao, who was at the Senior Center, invited residents inside for a conversation with her and representatives from BART, which owns the land Coliseum Connections sits on. The meeting was closed to the public, and Thao refused to talk to reporters afterward.
Villa said that during the meeting, about 20 tenants told their stories and demanded at least three months to find new housing. They also wanted relocation fees paid for everyone.
She said the mayor promised to try and come up with a better solution.
“She came with heart. She met with the people. She stepped out of the podium and sat with us,” Villa said. “But nothing was an action that I can say by tomorrow, these people are going to have everything. There’s no timeline.”
She added that residents plan to go to every meeting and “hold officials accountable.”
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