Here is our letter to Barbara Parker, Oakland City Attorney demanding that she repeal her discriminatory ordinance, where is yours?
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November 20, 2014
Via U.S. Mail
Barbara Parker, Oakland City Attorney
City Hall, 6th Floor
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza
Oakland, CA 94612
Re: Nuisance Eviction Ordinance
Dear City Attorney Parker:
At your direction, on October 21, the Oakland City Council unanimously voted to expand an existing law that allows the city to evict private property tenants who have become a “nuisance” to their communities. The revised policy expanded the ordinance to include “pimping, prostitution, pandering, and solicitation.”
Given your background in caring for the plight of women and children, we are surprised that you would take such unprecedented actions against our vulnerable population who barely has access to equal protection under the law. The majority of our populations are single mothers, head of households, much like your life experience.
One of the consequences of your new discriminatory Nuisance Eviction Ordinance will be to dehouse sex workers who are victims of or have witnessed crimes like – rape, robbery, theft, extortion, battery, kidnapping or worse.
Our concern is to call to your attention to how your mistaken ordinance will exacerbate actual situations of violence against our population. In one case in 2012, a woman was sexually assaulted in her Oakland home by a violent predator who posed as a prospective client. The suspect was apprehended and convicted and justice prevailed on several but not all levels after much of our volunteer unpaid time was spent with Oakland Police, District Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s office and the California Victims’ Compensation Program. Knowing of no way to keep her and others safe from him when he is released, the victim still fears for her safety. My point to you here is that the police named her as a prostitute in their report when in fact she had not committed any such act. They stereotyped her because of the circumstance under which she met the perpetrator. That misstatement by the police was then used to discriminate against her when she went to apply for benefits from the victims compensation fund. We waged a statewide campaign and reversed this state sponsored discrimination against her and others. http://news.yahoo.com/calif-prostitutes-may-gain-victim-compensation-061554920.html
Under your new ordinance’s overly broad language, that police report would be used to unhouse a victim of sexual assault. When a crime is reported, the police report names, either intentionally or unintentionally, the victim or witness as a prostitute or references the person’s involvement in prostitution. This method of identification will now be the means upon which arbitrary judgments and irreversible harm will happen.
Additionally, the idea that a rape victim will now have to go engage a private attorney to fight any unfair eviction under your new ordinance will be adding insult to injury.
Our community should have been contacted and been afforded time to properly vet your ordinance as to have removed these new ways you have created that will now target us for exploitation by landlords or anyone who will want to extort us for sex and or monies in order to divert being dehoused.
Your new law also empowers residents to make complaints about neighbors incentivizing landlords to evict tenants they say are prostitutes regardless or if they are or not. Given the number of vague clauses in the policy, its implementation would likely reflect existing law enforcement biases and profiling patterns — meaning that low-income tenants, transgender residents, and people of color would most likely be targeted.
Sex workers, civil rights activists, and tenant advocacy groups know that this ordinance will be used by Oakland landlords who wish to engage in speculation upon which to further profit contributing the housing crisis. The policy will waste limited resources on a nonviolent crime, and do more harm than good by forcing people out on the streets. In light of the contradictory language in the actual law, the City Attorney’s Office and your public statement that now says that authorities plan to apply the law very narrowly and that the ordinance is not meant to target adult sex workers is not believable.
The nuisance eviction ordinance has long stated that “a [t]enant need not be arrested, cited, or convicted of the conduct to justify removing the [t]enant from the [r]ental [u]nit.” Officials from your office said that the city would typically rely on police and arrest records before seeking an eviction due to prostitution. By depending on that kind of documentation, the law would still be applied in an inequitable and arbitrary way.
Also of issue is your public statement that the city would not seek to remove a tenant due to his or her status as a prostitute and would only launch eviction proceedings if there was clear evidence that involvement in prostitution on the property had created a nuisance. But that does not match the actual language you wrote in the ordinance. Your public statements seem disingenuous in light of the way trafficked victims are most often identified through anti-prostitution sting operations and are saddled with a prostitution arrest. City officials who are sincere about their intentions have not addressed “unintended” consequences.
All residents will live in fear of wrongful allegations. When residents are encouraged to call the police on their neighbors simply based on suspicions, it creates a record of police activity that the city can then use in an eviction case. For these reasons, the city could easily end up seeking evictions by relying on unproven accusations. If the City Attorney’s Office has any data on prostitution-related crimes or complaints that motivated the change to the eviction law, please provide it. We would be interested in analyzing statistics to help officials maximize community safety and minimize crimes and unfair treatment against our population.
So finally, we ask that you reconsider and rewrite your four page memo to the Oakland City Council to remove prostitution from this recently passed ordinance. Prostitution is actually constitutionally protected activity. Lawrence v Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003). And, as an official sworn to uphold the constitution, you would do well to take your oath seriously. Your new memo ought to include a recommendation to the city that they discontinue making arrests under California Penal Code 647(b) and implement the Obama administration statement “We agree that no one should face violence or discrimination in access to public services based on sexual orientation or their status as a person in prostitution” in the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights in 2010, (http://www.state.gov/j/drl/upr/157986.htm)
Erotic Service Providers Union
2261 Market St. # 548
San Francisco, CA 94114
cc: Rebecca Kaplan
Lynette Gibson McElhaney