Anti-gentrification activists and residents fighting for affordable housing say the recent arsons in the East Bay are not aligned with their beliefs. Fire investigators still have not determined the cause of the most recent fire at the Alta Waverly construction site in early July or if the four fires are connected in any way.
“When the second [Emeryville] fire happened it was somewhat obvious it was someone doing this with a mission, but I don’t think that person’s message is that they care about housing,” said Victoria Fierce, one of the executives for the housing organization East Bay Forward.
Fierce told 2 Investigates she identifies as someone who is against gentrification.
“I don’t think this is anti-gentrification work. I’m an anti-gentrification organizer. I think this is an emotional response to what is a very real problem,” she said.
In fact, Fierce said this kind of destruction hurts housing for everyone. She said they impact insurance rates, building and business prospects and overall rent prices.
2 Investigates spoke to Chetriakha Kumar who lives right next to the Alta Waverly construction fire site. If completed, the project would have created units that was out of her price-range. However, Kumar said she was not afraid of the project pushing her out of the community. She was looking forward to it.
“The bottom was going to have stores, and I was like that’s so close! I can walk around the corner. It’s going to beautify the city,” she said.
Dave, who did not want to give his last name, told 2 Investigates he was angry about the fires even though he wouldn’t have been able to afford one of the units either.
“I would still feel the benefits because even though I can’t afford to get into the brand new building, I can afford to get into one of the units that those people left and went there!” he said.
Dave admits there is a lot of animosity in the Bay Area regarding affordable versus unaffordable housing. He doesn’t not think the construction fires are coincidental.
Fire investigators have identified a person of interest for one of the Emeryville arsons. That person or his/her motive have not been identified.