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Oakland Protesters: Luxury Units Sit Empty While Residents Lack Affordable Housing

OAKLAND (KPIX) - Saturday's march through the streets of Oakland wrapped up a week of housing protests. This day the protesters' message was that this is not a problem of scarcity.

"I think it's great that all of us are here together today," said affordable housing advocate Vanessa Bulnes. "It's like the Warriors used to say, there is strength in numbers."

This was a day that brought together more than a dozen activist groups in Oakland, concluding a week of protest focused on one issue. The day started in Mosswood Park, which people in at least three dozen tents call home. From there, they marched about half-a-mile, right past vacant several properties that they say are a large part of the problem.

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"That's part of the focus today," Bulnes explains. "To get people off the streets and into those homes that are vacant and have been vacant for so long."

"There's all these empty units," says Eddie Ytuarte, head of the Oakland Tenants Union. "Why are they not used in the most appropriate way? And the best way is for low-income people to have access to these units."

Ultimately, the march made its way over to MacArthur Commons, the sprawling multi-part development on Interstate 580, which organizers say does not include enough affordable units. Residents looked on as some speakers blamed them for displacement in this neighborhood. The issue is personal here. So what is the answer?

"That's the question of the hour," replies Bulnes. "I don't know what it's going to take, but something has to be done. In my neighborhood when I drive down the street as the increasing number of people sleeping in RVs. Then I go to another area to sit in a seat [and see] people living in tents. So it's like it's growing and it's growing, and it's growing, and I don't know what it's gonna take."

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