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Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

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    Oakland City Council meeting shut down

    “Every semester for the past few years I have homeless students in my class, always more than one,” says Peter Brown, machine technology instructor at Laney College.
    Brown spoke at the May 6 city council meeting in Oakland, after the meeting was taken over by activists protesting the proposed development of condos on the corner of E 12th Street and 2nd Avenue.
    Peter Brown, at shutdown.A few minutes into the city council meeting, activists stormed the chambers with banners and signs that read “The People’s City Council,” “Public Land for Public Use,” and “Development without Displacement.” 
    Shortly after the activists arrived, council members recessed and eventually adjourned the meeting. After council members left, protesters continued to hold a “People’s City Council,” allowing time for speakers from the community.
    Brown and other community members attended the city council meeting in hopes of having their demands heard by city council members. Although sympathetic to the protesters, Brown expressed disappointment that the meeting was canceled. Instead of leaving without expressing concerns, he opted to stay and speak at the people’s city council meeting. 
    Activists said they staged the people’s city council meeting because council members were not listening and were trying to approve a major issue without community input.
    Kimberly King, a Laney College student from the Industrial Maintenance program, says she has been homeless since October 2013, when her unemployment funds ran out. She has moved 50 times in 87 weeks and even camped out on the concrete for six days.
    Despite being a renewable energy engineer, she has been unable to find full-time work. She attended the meeting because she wanted council members to hear her situation and to offer solutions.
    When asked what she thought about the protesters, King says she had mixed feelings. “The protesters accomplished their mission to prevent a vote on the E 12th street project- public land being purchased by a private developer. Sure, their points were valid. Sure they needed to protest. Sure the city council needed to hear them.”
    However, Kings says, “They needed to offer solutions. They did not do so. And their ‘People’s City Council’ action hampered me and others who wanted to dish out considerations and ideas to quell their need to grunt.”
     ProtestersBrown, who was at the meeting with the Refund Oakland Coalition, a group of public worker unions and community members whose mission is to hold the local government accountable in dealing with corporate investors, says that the problem of student homelessness is not an accidental problem. He believes it is the result of gentrification, real estate speculation, and government takeover of public spaces.
    “Everything is becoming privately owned. Including hospitals, schools, and land,” Brown said. “Housing is a right, water is a right, food is a right, education is a right.”
    The condos would be built on city-owned land and sold to private developers Urban Core and real estate firm UDR. 
    The development has also received negative attention recently because a group of non-English speaking Asian seniors were misled into thinking that the condos would be for affordable housing. Urban Core allegedly paid to have the seniors bused to the April city council meeting to support the development, according to the East Bay Express.
    Council Member Rebecca Kaplan said, “I respect that we live in a democracy and certainly people have different styles and tactics.” However, she would not comment on whether she would support the proposed development.
    Council Member Dan Kalb called the demonstrations “unnecessary and very long.” Looking visibly upset after the meeting was recessed, he said that the protesters “accomplished nothing.”
    Student King says, “I feel for students. I feel like the E. 12th Street project could be used for student housing.” King says District Academic Senate President Karolyn van Putten has been instrumental in bringing concerns about the student-housing problem to the Peralta Trustees Board, but she says, “I don’t feel like there is a willingness to help.”
    “I can think of nothing more destructive to education or more destructive to our community than to see it become a home we can’t afford to live in.” said Brown.
    For now the city council vote on E 12th Street has been delayed until further notice.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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