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Liveaboards sue City of Oakland for taking their boats

The former occupants of two boats destroyed by the city of Oakland, Calif., have sued the city after police officers seized and demolished the vessels.

According to mercurynews.com, a federal lawsuit that was served earlier this week that said Oakland Police confiscated a houseboat and a sailboat during a sweep of the Jack London Aquatic Center in October 2018. The plaintiffs, 41-year-old Katherine De la Riva, and 73-year-old William Allan, weren’t given the chance to contest the seizure or collect the boats once they were seized.

Their lawyers says that it is against the law to keep the plaintiffs from contesting the seizure and to prevent them from trying to retrieve the boats.

“Our clients are now living in vehicles or couch-surfing,” said attorney EmilyRose Johns of Oakland. “Where they once had homes, the city’s actions made them homeless.”

The suit names the city of Oakland, two individual officers and Sean Alexander Marine Services, the company the city allegedly hired to destroy the boats, as defendants.

City and police department representatives directed inquiries to the City Attorney’s office, which declined comment, as did Sean Alexander Marine Services.

Overnight docking is prohibited at the Jack London Aquatic Center, which is used mostly for public boating programs.

Still, Johns, who filed the suit alongside the East Bay Community Law Center in September, said the destruction of the boats is part of a larger pattern of the city violating the rights of the homeless.

De la Riva had been living on the houseboat she inherited from her father and docked it in different locations around the bay area. In January 2018, the boat had mechanical problems and the Coast Guard towed her to Jack London Aquatic Center. That September, she reportedly secured space at a private dock in Oakland and put down a deposit. She bought a new motor for the boat and planned to move once it was installed.

In late September, De la Riva and others with boats at the aquatic center were notified that they had 72 hours to vacate the estuary, according to the complaint. De la Riva reportedly reached out to Oakland Police officer Kaleo Albino, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit. He allegedly told her she would have until October 5 to install the motor and move the boat.

Instead, on October 2, Albino and other officers seized the boat, according to the suit. An invoice from Sean Alexander Marine Services lists the boat as one of six destroyed after the sweep.

Allan, the lawsuit’s second plaintiff had been living aboard the sailboat he purchased in April 2018. He was repairing the boat and planned to sail to Half Moon Bay where he was planning to dock it permanently when the work was finished. 

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