Civil Rights Groups Declare Victory on Loitering Ordinance Repeal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 9, 2018

Press Contact: Matt Kovac, mkovac@lccr.com, 415-510-9601

Civil Rights Groups Declare Victory on Loitering Ordinance Repeal

Advocates warn against Oakland Housing Authority Police abuse occurring under other pretexts

OAKLAND, Cal. – Following the Oakland City Council’s repeal of an unconstitutional loitering ordinance just six weeks after Lockwood Gardens Apartments residents filed suit, the civil rights groups at the heart of the litigation moved this morning to dismiss the complaint.

The plaintiffs, along with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR), the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, East Bay Community Law Center,  and King & Spalding LLP filed a federal lawsuit Sept. 19 arguing that the ordinance violated the 14th Amendment’s due process clause and Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. On October 30, Oakland’s City Council voted unanimously to repeal the 35-year-old ordinance; the repeal went into effect immediately.

“This is a victory for communities facing police harassment in the East Bay,” said Elisa Della-Piana, LCCR Legal Director. “The City Council has deprived the OHAPD of one of its major pretexts for abusive stops and searches. However, we know from talking with community members that this ordinance is not the only legal fig leaf used by OHAPD to justify harassing people of color on their own porches and lawns.”

The OHAPD was created to supplement the Oakland Police Department (OPD). However, OHAPD officers do not provide full-service policing to public housing residents, and many cities nationwide have eliminated their public housing authority police forces.

“Now that the ordinance has been repealed, it’s time for a community-driven approach to create safe, healthy neighborhoods for OHA residents,” said Vince Steele, Director of Organizing for the Ella Baker Center. “The City of Oakland should reassess its approach to public safety, and Lockwood Gardens residents should be front and center in those discussions.”

The repeal will come as a relief to Oakland public housing residents facing eviction over trumped-up “lease violations” stemming from unnecessary police stops.

“This ordinance didn’t just criminalize public housing residents, it put their housing in jeopardy,” said Meghan Gordon, Housing Program Director at the East Bay Community Law Center. “With the ordinance repealed, we hope the City of Oakland will recommit to protecting and expanding access to affordable housing rather than attempting to force out low-income tenants.”

“The repeal of the ordinance was a significant and welcomed step by the City of Oakland,” said Shilpi Agarwal, Staff Attorney at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. “There remains, however, much work to be done to stop public housing residents from being harassed and over-policed in their own homes.”