OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A formerly homeless couple from Oakland is living on a $4 million property in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the Bay Area, thanks to the generosity of real estate developer Terence McGrath.
In February, Greg Dunston and Marie McKinzie moved into the in-law unit of McGrath’s personal home, a sprawling 4500-square foot house on the 400-block of Hampton Road in Piedmont.
Prior to the move, McGrath sent an email to Piedmont Police Chief Jeremy Bowers, explaining the living arrangements, in case neighbors called 911.
According to Bowers, calls for service spiked shortly after Dunston and McKinzie arrived and began walking around the block, and smoking cigarettes on the sidewalk. Calls began to taper off at the beginning of April.
“It’s our mandate and it’s incumbent upon us to respond to issues that are related to crime or suspicious activity related to crime,” Bowers said. “Simply somebody looking like they’re not in the right place, or not looking like they live in a certain community, that’s not a crime. And that’s not something that this police department has a functional responsibility to respond to.”
2010 Census data shows 74% of Piedmont residents are white. According to Zillow, the median home price is $2.3 million.
“It’s a real issue in this neighborhood to walk while black or any other color,” said Lorraine Gray, a neighbor who had moved here several months ago.
“And so, the more the merrier, because let’s get some diversity in Piedmont.”
McGrath declined to comment, in an effort to deflect attention away from himself, according to Annie Campbell Washington, former Oakland city council member, and designated spokesperson.
“I was astounded. Terry is an amazing man, and to see him actually take an action like this. We can talk about being helpful, and Terry stepped up,” said neighbor Jordan Gudebski.
Gudebski says he understands why neighbors called police on Dunston and McKinzie, but he urged his neighbors to “try and move past that fear”.
“I can understand that initial reaction, but what I would say is look a little more deeply, trust Terry, trust your instincts to connect with them and see who they really are,” Gudebski said.