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No end to potential occupy sites in Oakland (Community Voices)

The Tribune tower through a broken window in Key System Building

The Tribune tower through a broken window in Key System Building

As Occupy Oakland looks to make its next move and perhaps set up additional encampments, I've put together a short list of buildings that need the energy of the movement. Some of these spaces have sat empty for years. Others, get so little love, they might as well be vacant. Let me know your suggestions.

The Parkway Theater

Shuttered in 2009, right when Great Recession was gaining steam, it has sat hollow despite efforts by one serious investor to get thee theatre rolling again.

I live just a few short blocks away and every day my heart breaks a little more as the Parkway sits empty for seemingly no logical reason.

I say, let's create an Occupy the Parkway, which will let the owners know that
even if they don't care about the Parkway, we certainly do.

Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center

Close to the Parkway and in need of occupancy, the Kaiser Convention Center has sat vacant for close to seven years. Built in 1914, the historic center - once known as the Oakland Auditorium and complete with a large theater, a large ballroom and arena space - it was once was the site of an Oakland roller derby team, rock concerts and community events.

The city said it doesn't have the $5 million-$9 million to upgrade the Kaiser, so it sits empty by Lake Merritt, while construction crews use its grounds as an annex for their equipment.

Key System Building

Right in the heart of Oakland sits an empty historic building that needs serious attention. The Key System Building has sat boarded up and vacant for decades.

Over the years, the Beaux Arts site has been included in a number of proposed development projects that ultimately fell through. For a time, the building's exterior was in horrible condition and there were rumors the building was the site of more than one rave (remember them?). It's more cleaned up today, with a nice mural wrapped around the bottom exterior, but it still sits empty.

I think many in the Occupy movement should take note that the building butts up against the University of California Office of the President. So if you're looking to make a statement against high university fees and such, you can't find a more perfect spot.

The old Barnes and Noble Building in Jack London Square

I don't know why the Port of Oakland can't secure a permanent tenant for this large site, but it has essentially sat unoccupied for most of the Great Recession. Why can't the site be used as an educational facility by the community? Maybe we can have a few needed day care programs go in that space? If not ... maybe Occupiers? Anything is better than letting the space go empty a good chunk of the time.


A writer and photographer, Jennifer Inez Ward has been documenting Oakland neighborhoods for more than 10 years. A graduate of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, she focuses on the uniqueness and beauty of everyday life in a city that is too often overlooked for its treasures and pleasures. Throughout the years, Jennifer has had the honor of showcasing her work at a number of venues, including a permanent loan of images that are displayed on the front wall of Barnes and Nobel in Jack London Square. Jennifer is a featured artist documented in “Images of America: Black Artists in Oakland."

good list. what about the old Omni building at 45th?

To the occupiers: Try occupying a job and if that goes against your anti-capitalist spirit, then occupy a library and do some policy research and pitch policy changes to council.

What is the point of occupying The Parkway? What makes you think no one cares about the building?

Are you really asking why a 25,000 sq ft building located far from mainstreet sat vacant during the Great Recession? 


Are you kidding? This is opening a can of worms. It is illegal squatting aka trespassing. The owners who pay the prop taxes will get them legally evicted. The court will say the owners have the legal right to evict. The cops come. Excessive force is blamed. The city gets sued. etc etc. Why dont YOU let them occupy YOUR HOME intead!!!!  Oh wait you are NIMBYs!

If your plan goes forward, may I suggest you prepare to spend your weekends collecting trash, cleaning the faeces left around etc because these squatters wont be paying any taxes or garbage pickup, utils etc.  While you're at it...breathe deeply as you clean shit off walls, floors etc. 

Here's another scenario...the squatters light small fires to stay warm, the building catches fire, someone dies, the owner gets sued for negligence (not providing a proper environment for squatters...(some stupid judge will allow that!),  etc etc.

CIVIL society with laws, rules and regulations is being hijacked.  The 99% of us who live by these rules are being sabotaged.  This is the start of anarchy.

Whoever proposed this should get their heads examined!


I took the tone of this article as being light hearted and not serious.   I do not think the author was actually trying to imply that the Occupy Oakland demonstrators should physically occupy these vacant historic buildings.  The point of this article is that these are signifcant vacant buildings that have been unoccupied for a long time and we need tenants for them.

I love the list, but let's add Edward Shands Adult School on Church Road in East Oakland. After decades serving Oakland's adults looking for a second chance at education or first chance to learn a skill or English as a Second Language, it sits idle. It took the remaining teachers and staff a whole year to empty it of all the textbooks, workbooks, etc. Sorry to harp on the destruction of Adult Education in California and Oakland especially, but it is a huge need no longer being filled.

OUSD's AE director, Brigitte Marshall, closed down the dept. as fast as she could and was then given the job (or the title to it) as the Human Resources Director. Since human resources at OUSD are at the botton of the priorities list, that makes sense.

The problem with choosing sites like the Parkway is, this is our neighborhood, where we live. When you choose to occupy the area with a huge group of people, without adequate restrooms or services, choosing places that already have issues of their own, you are asking the neighborhood of 99%ers to take the load. I do not see how this effects the 1%. Rather, it overloads poor, middle-class and already underserved communities.

Parade down the streets, picket the banks and other financial institutions, don't camp out in our neighborhoods. If you are trying to solve homelessness and the needs of the poor, there are a lot of organizations you can volunteer for and donate to in order to accomplish more focused goals.

Note: if you want to effect change at the Parkway, join one of the groups trying to work with the owners, picket it during the day, contact the business owners -- don't try to increase issues in an already hurting local community.

There's one very large problem with this list:  the members of Occupy Oakland do not own these properties.  Does OO plan to ask permission of the owners whose properties are being targeted for take over or, are we now at the point with OO where anyone's private property is fair game if OO decides that it wants to take it? 

I see very little difference between Wall Street seizing control of financial resources for the exclusive benefit of the 1% and Occupy Oakland members seizing control of property that belongs to private parties or the City (and all of its residents) for their exclusive use.

I passed the 'fed up with OO' point long ago and I'm willing to bet that I'm part of a majority of Oakland residents who have simply had enough of watching their city being abused by Occupy Oakland.

LMcNeil, there is a name for that - the 99% fed up with the 99%, whose 90% rule make them no different than the 1%. We are a growing majority. Even some in the movement are getting fed up with the bs that is OO if talk boards are to be believed.

from OO: 

occupyOaklandRT RT @zeptember: PSA: I will not be going back to #occupyoakland, because I do not condone the angry, shouty in-your-face provoking at the police officers


Not sure what all of the OO is actually accomplishing. The police force is already spread thinly enough. We had to bring in other municipalities to lend additional "hands" at $1k per officer per day. An employee of a new restaurant on Park Blvd last night was held up at gunpoint. Both of my family cars have been broken into in the past 4 months, while OO keeps the police plenty busy chasing them around downtown to what avail?!

I think we should Occupy the homes of all commentors.

If you comment, we shall occupy. And #occupytrolls too!

Fascinated that this blog post provoked so much commentary.  I think Jen was being somewhat tongue in cheek, but the feelings we all have are not casual, are they? Deep concerns about Occupy Oakland, foreclosures and our city.

Not only are you not particularly funny Reginald, but it's just this kind of rude dismissiveness and disrepect for the thoughts and concerns of Oakland residents that has turned so many of us against OO.  Way to represent.