After a series of eviction battles that started in 2014, the property at 4700 Telegraph Avenue has finally been vacated and is now being prepared to be demolished in order to make way for the condo project proposed by the Nautilus Group.
Last year the Nautilus Group announced their development plans to build three mixed retail and residential buildings in Temescal. The development group bought three properties in the neighborhood. One of the locations being the building at 4700 Telegraph Avenue, where the Nautilus Group proposed a 48-unit condo building over a commercial space. The other two developments will be at 5100 Telegraph Avenue and 4801 Shattuck Avenue.
It shouldn’t come to a surprise that condo buildings are popping up in Temescal. The neighborhood’s hip charm has made it a destination for dining and shopping, and now it’s becoming a prime real estate neighborhood.
Gabriela Laz, owner of Rise Above, was leasing the retail space of the building at 4770 Telegraph Avenue, when she received the first eviction notice by the Nautilus Group in 2014. Laz had been running the print shop in the space since 2005. Her business also promoted local creatives and was often an event space for artists and musicians. Laz resisted the eviction until she officially moved out in the beginning of February after being offered a retail space in the community resource center, Omni Commons.
“I resisted moving out for almost a year without paying rent. After a while the pressure from the Nautilus Group was just too much and I felt like it was time to move out,” said Laz.
During the resistance. Laz’s partner and local artist, Jim Seibold, painted a mural on side of the property to make a statement against the demolition of the building. The graffiti mural colorfully portrays a wrecking ball about to hit a small building which symbolizes Rise Above, and the other spaces being demolished as part of the three condo projects.
During this time Scott Nanos, a book vendor, had been selling used books outside of Rise Above. Nanos had been selling his books outside of Pizzaiolo, an Italian pizzeria, with the permission of the restaurant owner Charlie Hallowell. However, the property owner was not on the same page and pressured Nanos to stop selling books outside the restaurant.
Laz and Nanos provided conflicting accounts on their relationship. While Laz denied being associated with Nanos in anyway, Nanos suggests that actually Laz supported his business.
“Gabriela agreed to let me sell books outside her shop, which was a great opportunity because of the amazing foot traffic,” said Nanos.
As Laz was gradually moving out, Nanos moved inside the space in December of last year to avoid rain from hurting his business. Once Laz was completely moved out by February 2015, and the property was mostly empty, Nanos felt inspired to take advantage of the opportunity to run a temporary bookstore.
With the help of an artist friend, Nanos spraypainted the outside of the shop with the words “Books for Days: Temporary Bookstore”. It was the start of Nanos’ venture to create a space that sold used books on mysticism and racial equality but also a venue for people of color to explore art and spiritual healing.
About ten months after moving in, Nanos said he received a call from Andrew Cussen, the Nautilus Group property manager.
“Andrew Cussen called me and told me about the plans the demolish the building in December of 2015,” said Nanos. “But he said I could stay until then.”
Nanos took advantage of the time he had and filled the shop with his books which he curated and collected over the years. Nanos saw the potential to hold community events that spotlighted people diversity in the community. Nanos hosted shows focused on queer, people of color, and feminine energy during his time in the retail space.
“Books For Days was the best because it really inspired the community to have positive energy,” said frequent customer, Bethany Santos.
However, Nanos venture wasn’t welcomed by everyone in the community. Nanos mentions that there was a man with “patriarchal values” who was harassing women in the shop. Nanos claims that he confronted and banned the man, who then soon became violent and broke one of the windows of the shop.
At that point Nanos said he felt pressured to move on from the bookstore to avoid more conflict. His feelings intensified a few months later when The Nautilus Group contacted Nanos again, but this time they wanted him to quickly evacuate the building by the first of September.
“The Nautilus Group accused me of squatting, but I had remained there because they had allowed me to,” said Nanos. “Andrew had totally changed his approach with me.”
According to Nanos, Cussen showed up at the property at the beginning of September and kicked out a few young men that were helping Nanos with the store.
“He threw out the boys and locked himself in,” said Nanos. “He later left but not before he had the locks changed.”
Nanos talked to the caretaker of the property, who gave him a key to access his books and other belongings in the store. Nanos planned to empty the property and put his books back in storage, but found resistance from the young men who had been helping him run the store.
One of the young men was Daron Glenn Anderson Jr., who Nanos had met when he first started selling books on the streets of Temescal. Nanos enlisted Anderson and his friends to help him run the shop on days he wasn’t able to be in there.
“I trusted these boys. I opened my doors to them and trusted them to help me run the shop,” said Nanos.
Anderson, 23, and his friends had been staying in Nanos’ apartment, and sometimes in the shop, and weren’t ready to give up the property to the Nautilus Group.
Nanos claims that Anderson wouldn’t let him come back to the property to recover his books. Nanos accepted defeat and moved what remained of his book collection to a small space in a lawyer’s office along Oakland’s embarcadero.
Anderson used a portion of the space for retail, but closed off the rest with sheets that served as walls. The property had broken windows and there was still broken glass among the books being sold inside. The walls were graffitied with things like “Fuck gentrification”.
Regulars could still come in to buy books, but customers felt like it was a different kind of store that Nanos had been running. Santos said she stopped going to the store when she felt like it had just become a “kick-it spot” for Anderson and his friends.
“The energy just felt so different. The guys in there wouldn’t even look up from their computers to look at you,” said Santos. “But they were quick to take your money if you wanted to take a book with you.”
Anderson said that him and his friends were living on the property, but were soon summoned to court after the Nautilus Group posted an eviction notice on the door of the building in October. By mid-November Anderson had agreed to leave the property.
“I wanted to defend the building from these greedy companies for the Oakland locals, because gentrification is real,” said Anderson when questioned about his plans for the property. “Scott was whack but I wanted to really protect this historic neighborhood.”
Andrew Cussen refused to comment on Nanos and Anderson’s involvement, but confirmed that the property would be emptied early December. The afternoon of December 3rd, workers went into the property and began emptying the retail space, throwing out hundreds of books in boxes and furniture into large garbage bins.
Stevonne Ratliff who owns the store, Concept 47, across from the property at 4700 Telegraph Avenue, was present as the Nautilus Group had the space emptied out.
“I hate being across from an empty, barred up building,” said Ratliff. “At least when those kids were there it didn’t look as bad as this.
Ratliff commented on her confusion with the bookstore that Anderson was running. She mentioned that people would come in and out of the property throughout the day.
“But they weren’t there to buy books, that’s for sure. They were probably smoking and selling weed,” said Ratliff. “At least that’s what it looked and smelled like.”
Katia Burgos watched as workers threw away all the books that were left inside the building. She mentioned that they told her she could take any of the books with her.
“I was devastated seeing them throw away all those books. I wish I could have taken more, but there was just too many,” said Burgos. “They should have at least donated them, but they don’t care about that.”
The windows of the building have now been boarded up but the wrecking ball mural is still present on the side of the building, serving as an ominous reminder of the fate of the building.
View a slideshow of the conditions of the building at 4770 Telegraph and what are the plans for its future, here.