Tenants available for interviews and photos
To interview us:
Grantmakers in the Arts:
East Bay Community Law Center & Urban Habitat:
East Bay Express:
Grassroots Fundraising Journal:
East Bay Times:
National Radio Project/ Making Contact:
Press release 1/25/18:
For Immediate Release: Local / Arts
Contact: Devi Peacock, Co-Organizer
Tenants, Neighbors Unite to “Liberate 23rd Ave”
Long-time community center to become first commercial-residential land trust,
preserve affordable housing and space for next 100 years
January 25, 2018, Oakland - “They said it was impossible,” says Devi Peacock, “But we see what happens when people come together and claim our power.” The co-organizer of #Liberate23rdAve, a massive community-led campaign to buy a long-time queer and trans, people of color -led building and turn it into a land trust, has good cause to celebrate: Just twelve months ago, tenants of what is now known as the “Liberated 23rd Ave. Community Building” received an email from their landlord, saying she would put the building up for sale in just 90 days--unless the tenants came up with a plan to buy it themselves. By all accounts, they were wildly successful. But it didn’t start out that way.
“We could never compete with the likes of Big Tech,” says co-organizer eri oura, who lives in the building and works downstairs at The Bikery, the community bike shop run by Cycles of Change. “We don’t have that kind of cash.” It’s hard enough to afford rent in this town, oura says. “Now fancy restaurants are coming in. We know what’s next. We had to defend our right to survive.”
And they are, says co-organizer Eugene Kang, also of Cycles. “It felt like life or death. We’ve been in the neighborhood for twenty years; we have a responsibility to the community. And we can’t afford anywhere else. So we rolled up our sleeves and said, ‘We’re staying. What do we need to do to stay?’ And we went all in.” Residents and workers in the community groups housed at the building (Cycles of Change, Oakland SOL, Peacock Rebellion and others) reached out to community partners EastSide Arts Alliance, People of Color Sustainable Housing Network, and Sustainable Economies Law Center, who offered tips on how to navigate the giant project of raising money, buying and managing a building. Government officials gave a lukewarm response, so tenants launched a crowdfunder-- and raised nearly $90,000 from 600 people in 8 weeks. They partnered with Oakland Community Land Trust, secured loans from Northern California Community Loan Fund, and local government came around. They got a grant from the Community Arts Stabilization Trust. Soon, the land trust will teach tenants how to collect rent, resolve conflicts--all the joys of managing a building. “This is very much led by the tenants,” says land trust executive director Steve King. “They’re preserving both affordable housing and community space. It’s incredible.”
The landlord, Ming Cheung, was thrilled. She’d been hoping residents would work together to keep the long-time community space in the community. “Pay it forward,” she said.
“It’s a blessing,” says co-organizer Leo Orleans, who lives in the building and coordinates SOL’s community garden programs. “It’s a blessing because it’s ours. We’re taking our future into our own hands and saying ‘Yes! Yes! We belong here.’”
The residents are holding a community celebration this Sunday, January 28th, 3pm-5pm at EastSide Arts Alliance. Free; info at www.youcaring.com/liberate. Available for interviews and photos.
Organizations in the #Liberated23rdAve Building:
Liberated 23rd Ave LLC, a project of Oakland Community Land Trust: www.oakclt.org