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Tamiko Overton Parks
August 22, 2023 — Tashenia Pearson, a home and property owner, is engaged in an ongoing battle to remedy controversial property issues that had a disparate impact on her parents, as the first Black property owners in her neighborhood. The issues continue to affect her unfairly and unjustly, as the current property owner. Ms. Pearson’s property, located in Livermore, California, is a symbol of historical and ongoing racial segregation that has been permitted to endure.
In 1971, Ms. Pearson’s parents, Mr. Lacerial and Mrs. Opaline Pearson, were encouraged to purchase their home and lot by their agent in an all-white neighborhood. However, unbeknownst to them, the adjacent property had been granted a “recreational easement” over a significant part of their lot. The easement stated the 7-foot strip of land was to be for the exclusive use of the neighbor, despite the Pearsons being responsible for taxes and insurance on that same land. This encroachment deprived them of access to land they own. Furthermore, there was a divisive six-foot concrete wall between the lots that placed the 7-foot strip of land the Pearsons owned on the neighbor’s side, giving the appearance that it is their land. That wall still stands.
Over the years, Ms. Pearson’s family was subjected to constant harassment. They endured racial slurs, vandalism, and an atmosphere of hostility. Despite efforts to rectify the situation, including assistance and advocacy from the Veterans Administration, the issues persisted. Tashenia’s parents fought to gain access to the entirety of their land until their deaths. When Tashenia Pearson took possession of the property, she continued the fight for justice, culminating in a legal battle and an arbitration proceeding.
The core of Ms. Pearson’s struggle goes beyond property boundaries. She highlights the racial underpinnings of the dispute, noting the concrete wall represents a historical symbol of racial segregation. She argues that this issue is not just about land rights but also about rectifying past wrongs and challenging systemic inequalities. “The purchase of this home was a source of great pride for my parents, especially since it was located in a brand-new community where they were able to witness its construction from scratch and tailor the home features to their liking. This achievement was particularly significant considering their humble beginnings in small rural towns in Alabama and Oklahoma,” says Tashenia Pearson
The City of Livermore is implicated in Ms. Pearson’s fight as they have done nothing to rectify violations such as property encroachment and unpermitted structures. Further, the City of Livermore is guilty of inconsistency in its enforcement of city codes, and of treating Ms. Pearson unfairly and inequitably as compared to her white neighbors.
The legal proceedings are ongoing, with Ms. Pearson now appealing the decision of the arbitrator who recently ruled against her and in favor of the white neighbors, despite Ms. Pearson’s abundant evidence demonstrating the illegality of the concrete wall, which is leaning and cracking. The arbitrator did not review city codes in place at the time the wall was erected. He did not conduct a public policy analysis as to why the easement and wall violated the Pearson’s rights. While the arbitrator admits the wall is leaning and cracking, as per the testimony of a structural engineer, he stops short of calling it an unsafe and unsightly nuisance. He also does not consider the fact that the wall and easement prevent Ms. Pearson from ever being able to sell her home, rent it out, or use it for business purposes as the placement of the wall causes it to be non-compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as violate city fire safety codes. Ms. Pearson’s home has zero value, as a result of the easement and wall. The absurdly unreasonable, discriminatory, one-sided provisions granted to the adjacent property by a nonsensical “recreational easement” FORBIDS Ms. Pearson from accessing or using property she owns (and pays taxes for) in any way.
Ms. Pearson seeks to restore her property rights, rectify past damages, and address the racial implications with regard to her property. Ms. Pearson’s case underscores the broader conversations about racial equity, property rights, and the physical walls of segregation. The City of Livermore must be held responsible for its complacency in failing to enforce its own building codes. The builder, Elliott Homes, must be held accountable for its conveyance of a deed to the Pearsons that did not mention the recreational easement or the wall.
“In this instance, the Pearsons can touch and feel the racial divide- a dilapidated wall separating their home from their white neighbors. Despite the unsound wall violating city ordinances, the City of Livermore allows it to remain in place to “protect” the white bordering neighbor. This wall must come down like the walls of injustice,” says Kavon Ward, CEO and Founder of Where Is My Land and Justice for Bruce’s Beach.