OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Housing activist Carroll Fife, who helped lead the takeover of a vacant West Oakland house by a group of homeless mothers to highlight the city’s housing crisis, has notched a stunning city council election victory over two-term incumbent Lynette Gibson McElhaney.
Fife ran for Oakland’s District 3 on a platform of changing housing policies, re-imagining public safety, and working for economic justice; her victory signals a progressive shift among Oakland voters seeing a worsening housing crisis and growing backlash over cases of police brutality.
McElhaney was the first Black woman to serve as City Council president and has been a proponent of affordable housing but was seen as more moderate than Fife.
Last November, Fife’s Moms 4 Housing group occupied a vacant West Oakland home on Magnolia St. for about two months to call attention to the plight of the many homeless people in society and the housing crisis affecting the Bay Area and the state.
The group was eventually evicted by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office in January, after failing to win a court decision to allow them to stay, and four Moms 4 Housing activists were arrested.
A deal brokered in January by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s office called for the Southern California developer which owns the property to sell it to the Oakland Community Land Trust, a nonprofit that buys properties and converts them to affordable housing. Schaaf endorsed McElhaney in the race.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Fife said McElhaney contacted her to concede the race and in a statement Monday, Fife thanked her volunteers for their work.
“This one council seat is just the beginning,” Fife said. “Our campaign is transitioning into a permanent political organization dedicated to passing transformative legislation and building a progressive majority on the Oakland City Council. Join us as we build a better Oakland for all.”
In February, Fife was among a group of Moms 4 Housing activists who were recognized at the Oakland City Council meeting as Black History Month honorees.
One of those honored had mixed feelings at the time of the event, perhaps foreshadowing the battle over city council seats up for grabs this election.
“It is amazing that our city council would honor us,” said Moms 4 Housing activist Dominique Walker at the time. “And also I felt that this was kind of just for show. Because, yes, it is Black History Month, but 7 out of 10 of the homeless population is African-American. So I think the real way for the city council to honor Black History month is to do something to fix this.”