Jose Rodriguez, a stocky auto mechanic from Jalisco, Mexico, has been squatting in a vacant home in Richmond's Iron Triangle for the past four months. "I like this property. I've already spent $5,000 repairing it," Rodriguez told Richmond police officers last week, as they were kicking him out in order to demolish the site. "I didn't do anything wrong."
As the tsunami of foreclosures in Oakland finally subsided over the past year, residents of the city's flatlands neighborhoods looked around at the new landscape and saw less room for themselves and people like them. Many of their neighbors were gone, of course. And many of the foreclosed homes were snapped up — not by new homeowners, but by large-scale investors, including national and global corporations.
Bruce Mirken is conducting what seems like a high-profile auction in New York City.
“As you can see,” he says to the gathered crowd, “we’re auctioning this lovely Manhattan luxury condo that was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Blankfein back in 2008 for $26 million. I wish you could see the lobby of this building. It’s bigger than some small countries!”
It’s Sunday afternoon, and two-dozen San Francisco homeowners and activists are gathered in front of venture capitalist Peter Briger’s house, in the wealthy South Bay suburb of Atherton chanting, “Come out and talk to us! Don’t throw us under the bus!”
Briger is co-chairman of Fortress Investment Group, which owns the company foreclosing on some of the demonstrators’ homes. A protest two weeks earlier at the downtown San Francisco offices of the company did not draw a response, so they are taking their concerns to Briger’s home.