In The Moms of Magnolia Street, the Bay Area’s KNTV followed three women and their families who illegally moved in and occupied a single-family home that had been vacant for years, beginning a movement addressing government-sanctioned home discrimination, predatory lending and the corporatization of housing.
KNTV, NBC’s San Francisco O&O branded NBC Bay Area, just released a four-part digital investigative series that follows the journey of a group of mothers who went from homeless to activists by illegally occupying a vacant home in Oakland.
The Moms of Magnolia Street, available for streaming on the NBC Bay Area app, Roku, Apple TV and NBCBayArea.com, tells the story of how these women took matters into their own hands as California’s affordability crisis pushed thousands of Black residents out of their homes and onto the streets.
“The journey of these mothers speaks to the hardships that many people are facing in the Bay Area as they struggle to survive,” says Stephanie Adrouny, KNTV’s VP of news. “We hope this investigation will shed light on how we got to this point where so many families are struggling to stay in their homes or find homes in their own communities.”
The story dates back to November 2019, and according to Sean Myers, a digital project producer at KNTV who co-produced the series, the house was owned by one of the largest corporations of home flippers in the country, which intended to renovate it and sell it as soon as possible.
“They banded together and said enough is enough,” Myers says. “That is how this movement came to be at the beginning, a movement of homeless working mothers with children who are dealing with a monumental task of finding housing in the city of Oakland.”
Myers says the women, born and raised in Oakland, are educated, working and in some cases have adopted children from family members unable to care for them.
“They wanted to highlight the fact that corporations were coming in and buying up property and making money when they couldn’t find homes to begin with,” he says.
Two months after the women occupied the house, sheriffs evicted them in the middle of the night.
“[There were] multiple people in fatigues with AR-15s” Myers says. “They had armored personnel carriers on the scene.”
Myers says some people questioned whether the response was appropriate. “Other people felt like what they are doing is illegal, get them out of there,” he says. “We will leave that to the viewing audience to decide how they feel about that.”
The four-part series, essentially a feature length documentary, took 18 months to complete. It was “quite a monumental task,” says Myers, who credits the station “for sticking with it, for understanding the gravity of it and the potential.”
Myers says the housing crisis is the biggest story in California.
“This was an important opportunity to show it from a perspective that all-too-often we gloss over or ignore in disproportionately minority to low-income neighborhoods.”
Marketing a digital-only, four-part investigative series that can only viewed via streaming can be a challenge.
To meet it, the station created a long-form trailer as well as 60-second and 30-second promos that aired on KNTV. Myers says the station is also promoting the series within its newscasts.
Adrouny says KNTV has plans to air the series on KNTV in the future.
“Our goal is to have as many people see this important series,” Adrouny says. “Therefore, we have made the project available on a number of platforms to make it accessible to as many people as possible.”
Myers says the story of The Moms of Magnolia Street demonstrates the relationship local TV news has with the community.
“A national outlet could certainly take a stab at the story,” Myers says, “but I think telling the history of a community and understanding what community members are saying is something that we have an advantage with as local reporters. I think we have really taken advantage of that here.”
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