To: Libby Schaaf, Ed Reiskin, Shola Olatoye, Latonda Simmons and Lara Tannenbaum
Re: A project to develop the Wood Street Commons into a model to solve homelessness,
The residents of the Wood Street Commons in West Oakland are inviting you to participate with us in creating a new model for the unhoused and dispossessed which enables us to shed our homeless status, and instead be the owners of our homesteads within a tiny home ecovillage with shared infrastructure, which transforms areas of open land into cooperative communities based on the traditional idea of the commons.
We the people who have landed here over the last 5-6 years enjoy some unique advantages. We have had the time and space to build our own hand-crafted tiny homes, or convert our trucks, vans and RV's into permanent residences, which has allowed us to enter a form of the ownership class. Typical homeless policy affords people only temporary solutions for housing, and rarely places them on a track of ownership of their land and their domiciles. In addition, our homesteads reside on areas of open land that, in spite of starting out as mounds of construction debris, have developed soil and natural features that demonstrate the potential for residential habitation on distressed and marginal lands. Having this much space has allowed us to develop common areas for meeting, as well as shared infrastructure, like a live musical stage with an audience area, an outdoor kitchen area, and a shower with gray water feeding a small garden. We have developed a road map to expand this infrastructure into a new kind of commons that will anchor a revitalization of West Oakland, and beyond.
We would like the opportunity to formalize what we have developed in an organic, spontaneous manner, into a model that could be reproduced throughout Oakland on areas of underutilized open land, a model comprised of tiny home ecovillages with shared infrastructure, on land that is owned or leased by a cooperative land trust owned primarily by the residents themselves.
We believe that humans need stability and access to cooperative community in order to give their best back to the city they live in. Cooperative community is the medicine that replaces many other medications, but conventional policies toward homelessness do not build cooperative community into the architecture and infrastructure they are offering. The unique conditions of the Wood Street Commons have allowed us to test this way of life, and now we are passionately committed to maintaining and improving what we have built, and in turn giving the City of Oakland a chance to be a world leader in solving urban homelessness completely.
Great advancements in human life can have a humble appearance in their early stages. We ask you to look past the appearance of trash, visual blight and the stereotypes of homelessness, and see what people with the least resources can do with sufficient time and space. We have included a map with this presentation which shows the layout of the commons with additional homesteads and shared infrastructure, including the following:
1. A cafe
2. A live musical stage with audience area
3. Elevated water tanks for fire abatement
4. Art studio
5. Music studio
9. Electronic repair shop
10. Flea market and bazaar
12. Bicycle repair shop and electric cargo trike manufacturing
13. Bicycle locking stations
14. Meeting area (The All or None patio)
15. Art gallery
16. Landscaped frontage of Wood Street, with art, sculpture, cob bench and traffic calming
17. Innovative tiny homes, such as cob houses, stretch fabric soft domes, monolithic aircrete domes, and commercially manufactured tiny homes on wheels
18. Safe onsite self-storage
19. Solar power systems on each homestead, along with security lights and security cameras
In addition, we are partnering with people from local businesses and academia to bio-remediate the soil, utilizing particular plants, fungi and soil organisms that reduce heavy metals, as well as generate living soil through the recycling of our biomass, and the utilization of compost, compost tea and biochar.
As a commons, we are open to the public 24/7, and we share our amenities with the surrounding community. We help to re-establish a rich nightlife and local culture, the hallmarks of a great city. We provide informal social services to people getting out of jail, or to people getting out of mental facilities. We help to re-unite families torn apart by inhumane homeless policies. We help to reduce the waste stream going to the ocean, to landfill and to incinerators, through the re-use, re-purposing and re-furbishing of items that are removed by hand from the waste stream by our residents. We provide mentoring and instruction in gardening, bicycle repair, cob house building and solar power systems construction. We help to heal and re-socialize people suffering from abuse, PTSD, drug addiction and over-institutionalization.
We help to dissolve the invisible barrier between the housed and the unhoused. We foster the methods and the culture of consensus and self-governance. Ultimately, we will provide Oakland with the Commons, which is the missing third leg of a stable civilization, along with Capitalism and the State.
We are accomplishing this through the establishment the Oakland Commons Trust, which receives gifts of land, as well as money from public and private sources to purchase or lease parcels of land, or to create contractual agreements for the co-stewardship of the land with partners like the City of Oakland, Caltrans, the State of California, etc.
Let we the people stay here and develop everything put forth in this document. Be partners with us in co-creating a historic transformation of Oakland, that will place Oakland in a position of leadership in the development of commons based cooperative communities in every city of America, and the world.
Residents of the Wood Street Commons
Our promise to the City of Oakland.
We will develop outreach throughout Oakland to help people who are willing, to move off of the curb and onto the dirt, which is to say, on to the living soil of the commons. We will continue to strengthen the culture of the commons, so that we can fulfill our role of generating "humanization", which is to say, guiding and inspiring the City and the marketplace and ourselves to develop more humane practices, processes, and policies, and help us all to become better stewards of the land.