Re: Article: Homeless Oaklanders were tired of the housing crisis. So they built a ‘miracle’ village

Tim McCormick

I love and have been following group behind this project Cob on Wood. Also  love how it connects to Portland where many people are intrigued by and have explored similar cob building methods. (traditional methods of mixed straw, mud, sand construction, often employing rounded and hand-molded forms, to create highly insulating, fire-safe, strong, inexpensive structures. 

The City of Portland has been exceptionally accommodating in allowing cob building in city code, fairly uniquely among US cities as far  as I understand. 

There are cob structures in various places around town, such as a seating/hut area at Portland State University near the corner of one building on the East edge of Park Blocks. 

I used to live just a few blocks away from the location of this "miracle village" in West Oakland -- which for those unfamiliar is a distinct area and city council district near NW corner of Oakland, to the west of downtown Oakland, that includes where the Bay Bridge and BART train tunnels connect San Francisco to the East Bay. (or, connect the West Bay to Oakland, as Oaklanders often prefer to say). As well as major port and military logistics operations, and container cranes (key local icon).

Overall it is a quite amazing environment -- Oaklandish! as a local civic group and culture/apparel brand's name says --  with heavy industry mixed with old residential, easy hop one stop on BART train to downtown San Francisco, and a kind of widespread laboratory of living and building approaches. It's tragic and wounded, in ways, such as West Oakland being entirely redlined and blight-designated for many decades, from which it is just now recovering; the huge scale of homelessness, and terrible conditions a lot of people are in; and the widespread displacement of poorer and minority populations occurring in last 10-15 years. 

At the same time, as this article highlights one case of, it's also long been a very creative, generative, even joyous and liberatory environment where all kinds of wide-ranging social and living, progressive  exploration occurs, and has for 150+ years. West Oakland had a well-established major Black community back to the late 19thC, became an important national center of Black society, culture, communication because it was the endpoint of the Transcontinental railroad, and home base for the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a key Black institution. Many of these porters were able to save money and buy homes in West Oakland, one of the relatively few urban areas in the country where that was possible, and this helped seed generations of Black community and enterprise there.. 

West Oakland was a key founding center and base for the Black Panther Party, and other extraordinary social organizing movements. Including more recently the Moms 4 Housing occupation & organizing for housing rights, which began with occupation of a vacant, investor-owned house on Magnolia Street under 2 blocks from where I lived.

Apologies for my effusion -- the area around the village featured in Guardian article means a lot of time, gives me a lot of ongoing inspiration and food for thought though I haven't been there in person for 2.5 years. I am currently putting together an essay / chapter about West Oakland shelter/housing explorations, for the Village Buildings project (see:, and may visit and stay there in the next few weeks on a trip to California. 
Anyway, great article, thank you Angie for sharing. 
cheers, Tim 

Tim McCormick
Moderator PDX Shelter Forum, Editor at HousingWiki,
Organizer at Village Collaborative
Portland, Oregon 

On Tue, May 11, 2021 at 5:27 AM Angie Gilbert <kaytayang@...> wrote:
Tucked under a highway overpass in West Oakland, just beyond a graveyard of charred cars and dumped debris, lies an unexpected refuge. There’s a collection of beautiful, small structures built from foraged materials. There’s a hot shower, a fully stocked kitchen and health clinic. There’s a free ...

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