The Death of SB 827 (increased density around transit) applaud or mourn?

1d54a74021bc9ffc493679b4d827f149

A Sacramento reporter called me the other day to ask me how I thought the Bay area was feeling about SB 827, the Wiener-Skinner bill that would wrest some level of local control from communities that use zoning and other more imaginative strategies to prevent dense development, that is, high-rise and even low-rise housing in transit zones. download (3)

But before the article even came out, my prediction that the bill would die, came suddenly true. And it died an ignominious death-it didn’t even get out of its first committee hearing at the capital-but this is not before it had animated heated discussions in every hamlet and city disguised as a suburb across the expanse of the golden state.

Those who feared SB 827 may not want to dance on its grave just yet as the original author, Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco claims he’s not giving up. “I will continue to work with anyone who shares the critical goals of creating more housing for people in California, and I look forward to working in the coming months to develop a strong proposal for next year.”  http://sd11.senate.ca.gov/news/20180417-senator-wiener%E2%80%99s-bill-allow-more-housing-near-public-transportation-stalls-senate

Wiener also said (in the above statement) that he was “heartened by the conversation it has started, both with those who support the bill and with critics of the bill.” And there I agree with him. We need to have this conversation and we need to have it among friends since we all live in a state that has almost no really affordable housing AND no  comprehensive transit systems that compare with those in cities like New York, Boston, DC, Chicago, Philly, you know, real cities.  NoLita

I grew up on the outskirts of a small town near a big East Coast city that was rapidly transforming into a suburb-this was the 50’s and early 60’s-so I regularly find Californians’ ideas on a number of things to be odd and somewhat removed from reality (my definition of that, of course.) For instance, you will often hear Californians say, we can’t have a festival, a picnic or whatever in March or April, because it might rain! But it rains whenever it feels like it in most of the country and people still plan festivals, barbecues, etc despite the likelihood of actual weather, you know, more than foggy-in-the-morning-clearing-with-sun-in-the-afternoon.

images (1) And so it is with our understanding of transit. Californians think that driving to a parking lot and getting on a sort of subway that takes us to one or two parts of town is transit. No wonder our cars clog the streets of our  downtowns. In fact, how many real downtowns where jobs, entertainment and retail all coexist within walkable blocks can you find in the entire state, one, two, maybe three?

Political Perception makes Ornery Bedfellows

The Wellstone Democratic Club tried to debate the bill at a recent meeting and lots of folks I have never seen before showed up. Some said they were there to support affordable housing and anti-gentrification measures, still others feared their quaint neighborhoods would be transformed into concrete canyons.

Rarely does the Right join with the Left or if you don’t like those characterizations, the wealthy homeowners join with the anti-gentrification folks something which by definition happens outside of their high-priced enclaves, like they did in opposing SB 827. It would have been amusing if not so worrisome, because in this case, there interests do not overlap.

So at the Wellstone meeting most spoke about the problems with the bill, all the things it left out (I for instance felt sad that I didn’t get promised a pony-something I’ve always wanted) all the things it might change inalterably and all the folks who might be driven out by luxury, that is, market rate housing.

I know that the authors  went to great lengths to tweak it, alter it and promise more goodies if only you clapped your hands 3 times. The bill’s bland scale was a mind boggling readjustment or an overreach, depending on your point of view, of our state’s zoning rules and even the vision we have of the California dream….

Burned_out_home_in_Silicon_Valley_sellin_0_5315974_ver1.0_640_360

Burned out 1000 sq ft house selling for $800k in San Jose

But one younger person, not a white-haired liberal like the rest of us, wanted to know why we opposed folks his age being able to live somewhere much less own a home. Good question and it encapsulated the growing generation gap between those of us who’ve obtained a corner of the American/California dream and those who are lugging along student debt while hoping that at some point in their lives, they won’t have to scan craigslist for Housing-Share any longer.

00505_dxRhwrWVKBM_300x300

Private room in Berkeley, $1175

But according to Katy Murphy’s story in the Mercury News, ” Anya Lawlor of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, argued that it was too simplistic of a solution, ignoring decades of research and advocacy on the preservation of affordable housing and development near transportation hubs….that legislation of this scope can take years to become law.”  https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/04/18/why-did-californias-major-housing-bill-fail-so-quickly/

Maybe that’s why, skimming my local pages on Nextdoor, many of my neighbors reacted to this proposal as they would a terrorist threat. Yes there were some who suggested we were in a housing crisis but they were quickly driven away by the fear mongering. In fact when I suggested on social media that the bill could be amended to consider these concerns and to add affordability requirements, some of my closest allies questioned my judgement and maybe my morals too.

20180422_200635

Apartment building next to single family home near Piedmont Ave

While the bill was in hospice, Senator Wiener tried intubation by adding an inclusionary zoning clause (requiring affordable housing be included which matters a lot in Oakland since that policy is NOT in place here) and lowering the height demands of the bill, but it barely took another breath before it keeled over from the weight of confusion, consternation and out-right hate from all of its anxious would-be relations. The will has yet to be read on this blockbuster (get it?) bill before we are all fighting over the remains or rather attempting to put a stake through its heart.

Issues raised, my take-

1) Subsidized housing

Housing is not or should not be a privilege though it obviously is here in Oakland where tent cities expand daily. Housing should be seen as a necessity, a public utility and subsidized to the tune of whatever is necessary to house our workforce, our families, our future and that includes the poor to the middle class like they do in many other countries where owning a home is not perceived as synonymous with being grown or successful and lifelong renting is a comfortable solution not a prediction of PTSD. 20180422_200927

Some of the affordable housing folks object to this bill because market rate developers could not be pressured into offering community benefits like subsidized units and local retail on the ground floor. That’s likely true but it’s a hell of way to get affordable housing built and not a sustainable approach over the long term. We also want prevailing (union) wages, of course, cause we don’t want out-of-town workers sleeping in their cars much less homegrown workers who have to live in tents while constructing luxury housing for newcomers.

Sounds like we all still want a pony —but but–we live in a wealthy state and if we can’t afford to subsidize housing for our folks, we shouldn’t expect to have a growing economy. Fix Prop 13, pass oil depletion allowances, tax professional services, but get something built since the Feds apparently won’t anytime soon.

2) Comprehensive mass transit

But that’s not all, who are we kidding with transportation hubs, we live in a state that has little to no dependable public transit capable of serving the majority of our everyday needs. And no, RM3 will not fix that. It won’t shorten the headways between BART trains or provide many more AC Transit buses on busy routes, much less expand those routes. Folks love to fuss about Uber, etc (me included) but it’s there because we simply cannot get around on our local transit and we can’t all ride bikes, not that there’s anything wrong with bikes-yeah, more bikes, more scoooters, whatever, please.

I can walk out of my house in the morning on time but that doesn’t mean the bus will arrive and mine is not the only street where this happens. You can’t reconstruct California around transit hubs if they aren’t there. We need transit choices like you find in other, less expensive, less wealthy cities. I’d even give up my pony for that! So Scott and Nancy and Governor Whoever, can you get on that too??

3) Dense cities & active downtowns

So here’s the last point I want to make which, damn, may be the most important one. Look around you please Californians. This whole state is one giant suburb. Is that what you really want? Do you want to be wedded to your cars and crabgrass, especially knowing that your children will be moving away or living their lives like Russians in old movies, multiple families to an apartment? 20180423_205440

I have the benefit of having some young people in my life, but not so young that they shouldn’t be able to have an apartment or house or condo without checking the housing wanted, apartment-to-share listings, who allow me to see things in a different way. Also I like to travel and I appreciate cities. Some of them are full of low-rise apartments like Paris whose average buildings are 5 or 6 stories high although that’s about to change. https://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/newly-freed-from-height-limits-paris-skyline-ready-to-rise.html

20180423_205722Some cities like New York and Chicago and now Atlanta have apartment and condo buildings with many more stories but, of course, some of their chicest, most expensive neighborhoods are similar to Paris. Even the Piedmont Avenue area is more like Paris and less like Rockridge, Crocker Highlands, or North Berkeley. I’m not even bringing Piedmont of Orinda into this discussion. They’re different animals.

But areas like Rockridge and North Berekeley near BART were once surrounded by working class cottages whose owners are now house-millionaires while their offspring move away or yeah, wait for them to die before they can hope to live in their pristine California craftsman cottages (with additions, of course, for those 6 burner stoves, ginormous fridges and farmhouse sinks, but don’t get me started.)

20180422_200843 City living can be convenient and attractive, public transit doesn’t have to try so hard to reach it, eating out, which is now a national pastime for the young, is closer and a bit cheaper. Yes, I am betting that young families wouldn’t mind living in a fourplex with a shared backyard or nearby park if it meant not moving to Sacramento or Omaha.

For those families living in old lead-filled homes or crowded into small apartments, many might prefer newer family sized buildings that could be built with subsidies, rather than subsidizing their children’s learning problems later on. Pay now, pay later but pay anyway.

What is so wrong with building up a bit and not insisting that the California dream is a picket fence with grass we can’t afford to water (and why should we? It’s not sustainable.) Rockridge wouldn’t have to be a canyon but a well-designed low-rise urban landscape with occasional high-rises in their midst. Crocker Highlands could easily sustain duplexes and triplexes along Lakeshore and even higher. The problem on my narrow little street isn’t too many dwellings but too many cars. Only reliable transit can fix that. I can imagine a triplex on our little lots with an occasional empty lot transformed into a mini park.

20180422_201215 Most of us when we travel prefer these kinds of cities where gleaming downtowns alternate with five to eight story side streets and cafes and street vendors encourage us to entertain and shop in public, where civic life is not limited to fighting on twitter but watching people’s children frolic while sipping a glass of locally made wine. These activities do not have to be limited to the gentrification class if we subsidize housing, transit, and promote local business. And if we do not, it won’t be long before our booming economy (not to mention confounding climate change, already here) will sputter and die.

Let’s rethink California! Si se puede….

 

 

 

Sheriffs to Receive Summons to Appear at Peoples’ Tribunals

California Sanctuary Campaign Media Advisory

Notice to Appear – Peoples’ Tribunal May 5th

Oakland, CA: On Tuesday, April 10th, 10 am, 1401 Lakeside Drive, Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern’s offices, an alliance of coalitions including ACILEP, Detention Watch Network, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Freedom for Immigrants (formerly CIVIC) and many more organizations representing immigrants, those seeking asylum and groups opposed to mass incarceration will deliver a Notice To Appear [Orden del Pueblo] at the May 5th Peoples’ Tribunal [Tribunal Popular] at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond, CA.

Reverend Dr. Maria Cristina Vlassidis Burgoa of the Starr King Unitarian Universalist Church in Hayward will deliver the summons, saying, “We demand that all elected officials, especially local law enforcement officials, adhere to the letter and spirit of the law by affording everyone due process. We further demand an end to the collusion between ICE and the Alameda County Sheriff’s office and call on Sheriff Ahern to appear before the people and answer to these and other charges.”

At the same time as the Notice To Appear is being delivered to Sheriff Ahern, these demands will also be conveyed to Sheriff Livingston in Contra Costa County and David Jennings, ICE Field Director in San Francisco. Coalition members will  serve Attorney General Jefferson Sessions and ICE Director Thomas Homan in Washington, D.C. tomorrow.

Tribunals are taking place nationwide during April and May to bring attention to the purposeful cruelty being afflicted on these communities by ICE and other law enforcement agencies who promote family separation, exile from community, and mass incarceration. The Tribunals call on agency directors and elected officials to listen to testimony on the harm being done to them and accept the judgement of the people who have suffered directly under these conditions.

Contact: Pamela Drake-510-593-3721, pamelaadrake@gmail.com or Judith Stacey-510-559-0703, judith.stacey@nyu.edu

20180409_134259

 

Call to Action: Governor Brown & Attorney General Becerra Must Affirm SB54–No Troops, No Loopholes for County Sheriffs

20180115_173501

Governor Brown: Don’t Send Our National Guard to Assist Border     Patrol!

President Trump and his Homeland Security Department are preparing to request US governors deploy National Guard Troops to the border with Mexico to “assist the Border Patrol.” https://www.politico.com/story/2018/04/04/trump-national-guard-border-kirstjen-nielsen-502117

The California Values Act, otherwise known as SB54, which took effect on January 1, 2018, prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from using money or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes, and proscribes other activities or conduct in connection with immigration enforcement by law enforcement agencies. Passage of SB54 demonstrates the resolve of the people of California to refuse to cooperate with Trump’s racist attacks on people of color, including and especially, refugees seeking asylum.

We call on Governor Jerry Brown to act in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the California Values Act and refuse any request for such deployment of the California National Guard. Contact the Governor with this link by twitter @jerrybrowngov or use this link: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/

 

Attorney General Becerra: Tell California Sheriffs to Stop Assisting ICE and Stop Posting County Jail Prisoner Release Dates!

DZ9Fm5CU0AAPxWf

The Sheriffs of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties recently instituted a policy of making the release dates of county jail inmates public on its “inmate locator” website. This coincides with similar steps taken by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office to publish inmate release dates as a means of circumventing the state sanctuary law, SB 54.  These notifications benefit ICE in its effort to detain people as they emerge from the jail who may not have committed a crime or who have already paid their debt to the public.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/activists-speak-out-after-calif-county-posts-inmate-release-dates/vp-AAvrytU  

https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2018/03/29/experts-concerned-contra-costa-sheriff-tipping-off-ice-by-posting-release-dates-of-detained-immigrants/

This assistance to ICE is in letter and spirit a violation of California Law. We call on Attorney General Becerra to demand that Sheriffs throughout the state halt this practice and obey current California law. Tweet directly @agbecerra  or contact the Attorney General with this link: https://oag.ca.gov/contact

The California Sanctuary Campaign is a coalition of leaders of the interfaith community, union and other community leaders, as well as community and political organizations.

Please contact Sharon Rose-sharonroseesl@gmail.com or Pamela Drake-                pamelaadrake@gmail.com to join this call.