History of the building
Built in 1934 as the Ligure Club, a neighborhood center for the local Italian-American community, the building served as a social nexus predominantly for the Oakland Scavenger Association, the largely Genoese refuse collectors who formed one of the Bay Area’s first worker-owned and operated co-operatives. From this time until the early 1980s, it served as the site for not only countless social events (concerts, dances, banquets, weddings, birthday parties), but major civic gatherings and lectures. Public speeches by the likes of presidents (Richard Nixon) and supreme court justices (Earl Warren) filled the building to capacity, along with regularly-held forums on local politics. Even sporting events like boxing matches and bocce ball tournaments were regularly held at the building.
As the neighborhood changed, by the early 1980s the building transitioned first to a community centered-club called The White House before becoming the infamous Omni nightclub and grill from the mid-80s through the 90s. Focusing mainly on rock and local metal scenes, it featured innumerable local musicians as well as well-known performers as diverse as Dr. John, McCoy Tyner, Bad Brains, Primus, and Crazy Horse.
From the mid-90s onward the property was carefully stewarded by a thoughtful couple who returned the building to its more diverse traditional use - albeit on a smaller scale, with a mixture of occasional social events (dances, weddings, birthday parties) as well as civic ones (political forums, neighborhood meetings), while also making it their workplace and home.
History of the Omni Commons
In late October 2013, Temescal poet and artist Zach Houston, who had known the present owners for many years, introduced the owners to the Bay Area Public School and Sudo Room as we were searching for a new location.
Emerging out of the Occupy movement, these two groups had formed a collectively-run space in downtown Oakland that for two years was made freely available for meetings and events to all other local groups and individuals who shared a vision of a more equitable commoning of resources and meeting of human needs over private interest or corporate profit. When the opportunity to move to the far-larger Omni building presented itself, we started meeting weekly to build support for a far more ambitious project - a true Commons with a wide range of diverse resources and multiple meeting spaces for all of Oakland to participate in.
For seven straight months, we held open, widely-publicized meetings, working daily reaching out to all aligned groups and individuals in our community who might want to have a home with us at Omni. Through a consensus process across a multiplicity of groups, many thousands of hours were put in towards creating an effective, non-heirarchical internal working structure, assembling business plans and projections, and building our funding base.
In March 2013, we held a one-day speaking event at the Omni featuring Silvia Federici, Peter Linebaugh, and George Caffentzis.