A Sunday Afternoon in Berkeley

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Photo by Sheraz Sadiq, KQED

Yesterday we held a No Hate Rally in Berkeley and the haters didn’t come–or did they? I went and I’ll admit that I have hate in my heart toward the whole Trump Clan, the hideous Trump cabinet and the Republican leadership.

So what was the story yesterday in Berkeley? Was it a violent riot as most media portrayed it, a beautiful peaceful gathering for the whole family, a staunch defense of the city or… a mixture of all of that? So far I’ve read about a dozen versions and each is colored with its own bias, of course. I’ll share some of them leaving out the names of those who described their personal experiences unless they have been published them.

One friend who has mobilized as security for demonstrations over the years and engaged in self defense at times said, “I saw a large group of Black Bloc young people congregating on the corner.  There were 30 – 50 of them there…. As I walked down Allston toward McKinley, this group of Black Bloc people started to chase down one person who was running from them toward McKinley.  I have no idea who this person was.  The Black Bloc people caught him, threw him to the ground, and started to beat him with a stick, kick him and beat him with fists.”

This stands in contrast to another report, “others rallied and then started marching toward MLK park. After a few blocks we were joined by about 100 antifa activists dressed in black to create an inspiring demonstration of unity and determination to make Berkeley and the entire East Bay a fascist-free zone.

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Photo by Sheraz Sadiq/KQED

Once at MLK park people prepared to defend themselves against the kind of attack that left at least seven people suffering from knife wounds in Sacramento last June. Instead, the handful of fascists stayed behind the police barriers, some literally kneeling at the cops’ feet as they hurled racist jibes and gave the finger to the anti-fascist protestors. People became predictably angry…..Remarkably, and contrary to some of the media narratives, the fascists escaped with their lives and without serious injury.”

This is a little of what I saw and posted on facebook, since corroborated by some reporters who were there, “Ok there is one guy here that the crowd was chasing as he left the park. Apparently he had his hat and glasses knocked off and then was surrounded while he was still arguing that Trump had created jobs. A couple of BPD had to come and rescue him, sending him on his way.
I expected to go to Civic Center Park to be angry at these guys but then I started to feel afraid for him. I still don’t like mobs nor the idea of picking on the weak, which he was at the time.” He was eventually led away by a Berkeley cop.

Other friends testified to peaceful crowds and heartening speeches even at Civic Center. There were certainly many folks, thousands at the alternate rally, lots of good signs and happy faces with the Berkeley/Oakland Stands United Against Hate posters that were produced by the hundreds.

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Photo by Dan Brekke/KQED

Further facebook topics for discussion:

One lively discussion as to whether Antifa  and especially the masked black clad crowd (Black Bloc) were useful/positive/ protective demonstrators and necessary or a truly violent faction of the Left. After the events in Charolottesville and the role that Antifa is said to have played in protecting peaceful church going folk, mostly Black, by the way, some of us, me included, have felt the need to-if not embrace them-then not reject them for their “bravery” or others for their dedication if not their tactics.

The other isue that has been raging is whether the media or was it the “fake news” -please note I mean this ironically-over played the violence of the day in Berkeley given all the folks carrying signs with young and old family members, large groups in Groucho masks, they were the “Marxists,” and speeches about love and inclusivity.  Still I can’t blame reporters who saw some attacks and at least one beating and were themselves threatened. One reporter even jumped between the black clad counter protestors and the right winger they were beating.  https://www.revealnews.org/blog/reveal-host-al-letson-shields-man-from-beating-at-anti-hate-rally/

Our own Darwin BondGraham of the East Bay Express filed this report, tweeting it in real time, https://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2017/08/27/liveblog-east-bay-demonstrators-protest-against-hate . “Update at 2:10 p.m.: Antifa members badly beat up an alt-right demonstrator on a downtown street.”

Here’s another account that seems a little bipolar but it was that kinda day, “Anyone who was on the ground in Berkeley yesterday will tell you how beautiful a demonstration it was: thousands of people, old and young and in between, socialists, anarchists, liberals, unionists, brass bands, religious groups, students, you name it. There was tactical cooperation between very different groups. A large Antifa contingent played a vital role in defending the community from the 30 or so white supremacists who showed up armed and looking to fight. There were a handful of scuffles, and a few Nazi’s got mildly beat up and removed from the park by Antifa folks. But the day was overwhelmingly celebratory and peaceful.”

And yes, I also saw a report from a “No Hate Rally” organizer who was at least momentarily glad that some Antifa were there when faced with the White Supremacists at the park.

But here’s a divergent point of view from someone I respect as a very thoughtful human being though I know her only a little, “#1: If you live in Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, Albany, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, El Cerrito or Richmond, in other words, the inner East Bay, you knew this would happen. You knew 200 or so self-righteous, BAMN/BlackBloc/Antifa, or whatever the hell our masked avengers call themselves this week, would show up with aggression and hostility in their hearts and make sure they push a small number of extremists around, punch them, and dominate the news cycle. You knew this would happen no matter how many thousands of peaceful people showed up. We need to stand up to these people. They are harming our community. They distract the media from what we are fighting. What we are fighting here is white supremacy. Comment #2: I’m not all that excited that 4,000 mostly white people showed up in Berkeley to protest what in our community amounts to an extremely small fringe group who have zero impact on how we live day to day, and congratulated themselves about how they’re fighting Nazis and KKK types. Look at our community and you will see that how we live day to day supports institutionalized white supremacy. Start with R-1 zoning which protects white privilege in housing, move on to the underfunded AC Transit system which many people of color depend on because car ownership is too expensive, look at all the laws and regulations, starting with the U.S Constitution and moving on down to our regional transit and air pollution agencies that prioritize property and profit over people’s health and well being. I love living in Berkeley. Relative to the rest of the nation, we are a deeply progressive community. However, relative to reality, we have a very long way to go to address privilege and build our commons.”

20170828_182727And lastly, my friend who witnessed the beating suggested, ” My view, deeply held, is that massive unity and nonviolence (with appropriate defensive security) is the way toward social progress.  The difference between our side and theirs is that they rely on violence; we need to rely on politics and unity.  If we become the mirror image of them, we lose.”

We can blame the media, we can certainly blame the fascists, the president and his followers who knowingly opened a Pandora’s box of evil and keep it open–but then–we’ll have to decide. We may have a romantic notion that if the communists, free thinkers, and artists who thrived in Germany in the 1920’s had only had more sticks, more street fights or even arms, the Nazis would’ve been beaten back, but I doubt that. I think we’ll find that the fight was already lost by the time those streets fights had begun to take over the life of that country.

I’ll admit I have lots of hate in my little formerly-Quaker heart. I really want to hurt some of those folks that I can never even reach and I think they deserve it. I would attack someone who attacked my own but I just can’t be a bully for other side. Punching down will always be something I feel in my gut is wrong.

I don’t think we are on the verge of  a Brown shirt nation either. So many folks have come out all over the country to stand against hate and white supremacy, In fact I didn’t even think I’d live to see the day that that term is acknowledged as an American problem. 34,000 people signed up to be a on a coalition call that I was on recently to fight white supremacy. Thousands rallied to the airports with almost no warning. We are not that country even though a hateful percentage has been unleashed-our young folks have lived differently than the Trump generation, my generation, they will not accept it and neither will we.

So maybe we need to go home and call our neighbors to do some radical activities like my friend above suggested-fight for local transit and push back when NIMBYS refuse to let low income housing into our neighborhoods, put our kids in public schools and demand they be funded-there’s so much else, much less heroic.  Don’t get me wrong (though I know many will), we should confront this evil and I’m always ready to take to the streets, it’s in my DNA. But I need to know I’m fighting evil not becoming one with it.

                                                                     Addendum

My simple rules for tumultuous times or how not to become a reactionary:

*don’t react with violence towards people with little to no power.
*don’t react with generalizations against the media when they report things you didn’t want them to see.
*don’t react with new (or existing) laws that criminalize people based on association.
*don’t be ready to restrict others speech just because it’s hateful unless they attach actions or the imminent threat of actions to speech.

Or to paraphrase Miranda Rights and any NCIS show you’ve ever seen-no matter who you are, all of the above can and will be used against you.

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To Do List, Last Week in June

Please squeeze in one or more of these opportunities for activism this week!

It’s been a hectic week even for diehard activists. And if you’re freaked out about losing your healthcare now or very soon, you’ve been frenztiedly calling Washington, DC. But some Americans unlucky enough to be represented by Republican senators, have been filling the hallways of Congress this week even if you don’t see it on tv-sitting in at their senators’ offices and going out in plastic ties, otherwise known as handcuffs.

Here in California voters for Single Payer Healthcare traveled by bus to Sacramento today to protest the sidelining of a bill which would guarantee free healthcare to every Californian. More on that in another blog.

On Monday-Oaklanders for a People’s Budget shut down the Oakland City Council meeting when it became clear that council members were going to vote on a budget which did not prioritize the funds need to help the homeless nor to prevent the imminent displacement of many more renters. There were other necessities being demanded like funding for the arts. See ReFund Oakland or https://www.facebook.com/DefundOPD/  18839239_307755119662088_2859169411652791691_n

Tuesday-Last night the same city council came to an impasse/tie over the implementation ordinance that would set the final rules for the new police commission.

And tonight-Wednesday- the Oakland School Board expects to remain in session until they are able to pass a contentious budget for the upcoming year at OUSD. According to Mike Hutchinson, they’re still at it as I write this at 11 pm  six hours in.

So, phew, not much left to do for the remainder of this week, right? Please read on..

Thursday-The Public Defenders Office led by Brendon Woods and their allies will be holding a press conference and rally tomorrow at the iconic Oakland courthouse at noon which hopes to forestall the removal of Oakland and Berkeley arraignment hearings all the way to…Dublin. Here’s more info-unnamed (3)

I’ll be there because the fight for justice still begins at home.

Then at 4 pm the City Council will make another try at passing a budget which needs to be done by Friday, June 30th, by law. Please see ReFund Oakland on 19399573_1326252544156296_7554708531302223629_nFacebook https://www.facebook.com/Refund-Oakland-388201741294719/ or my recent guest blog from Margaretta Lin, https://draketalkoakland.com/2017/06/26/tell-the-oakland-city-council-tonight-refund-oakland/

 

But wait, did you forget that the Supreme Court temporarily let stand parts of the Orange Moron’s travel ban? As a result a coalition of refugee and immigrant groups are asking you to start showing up at airports, SFO for us, after 2 pm. If you’re not at the Oakland City Council meeting, catch lunch after the Public Defender’s rally, then jump on BART and head out there.

Here’s more info from Zahra Biloo at the Council on American Islamic Relations_

Community advisory from CAIR-SFBA and Advancing Justice-Asian Law https-cdn.evbuc.comimages305773251144539292471originalCaucus: http://bit.ly/2sKmVVv

Media statement from CAIR National: http://bit.ly/2sKiaeW  

Facebook live video explaining all of it: http://bit.ly/2sKE9lN

Also on Thursday– in the morning…from the California Immigrant Youth Jusice Allianc

Join us this Thursday to demand the release of Maguiber, an Alameda father of 3 US-citizen children, who is currently in deportation proceedings because of local law enforcement’s collaboration with ICE.

Help us continue sharing his story as we demand the Field Director Jennings us his unnamed-11prosecutorial discretion to release Maguiber.

 
#FreeMaguiber
Thursday, June 29
10:30 am 
1401 Lakeside Dr # 1200, Oakland, CA 94612        

 

Friday evening-

The ACLU led group People Power has managed to arrange a community meeting with our local Republican and Jeff Sessions supporter, Sheriff Ahern, to talk about our sanctuary laws and how he does/or does not implement them. It’s important we have a good turnout. Here is the info-

Freedom Cities Action • City/Town Council Meeting- starts at 5 pm
Location:

Hayward Adult School, 22100 Princeton Street, Hayward, CA 94541

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Rabi’a Keeble, founder of Qal’bu Maryam Women’s Mosque holds Teach-in on Islamophobia in Oakland’s City Hall

Tell the Oakland City Council Tonight–ReFund Oakland

Guest blog by Margaretta Lin, Executive Director of the Dellums Institute for Social Justice and  former Oakland Deputy City Administrator–includes specific asks of the City Council during its final budget talks. Please forward to your CMs and sign up to speak on Item 13!

PREVENT HOMELESSNESS BY FUNDING ANTI-DISPLACEMENT

On Monday, June 26th, the Oakland City Council will determine whether Oakland’s new homeless epidemic will continue to surge. The Mayor’s budget allocated no funds for anti-displacement and homeless prevention, other than for the City’s Rent Adjustment Program, which does not advocate on the behalf of individual tenants.  By allocating only a small housing pot for housing, the Council President’s proposed budget pits the needs of tenants facing evictions against the homeless.

The vast majority of Oakland residents identify anti-displacement and homelessness as their top priority.  Yet the Council President’s proposed budget only allocates $1.77 million over 2 years for anti-displacement—less than the budget proposal for the City of Berkeley, with ¼ of Oakland’s population!  None of Oakland’s $1.163 BILLION in General Funds is being proposed for anti-displacement or homeless services.

Contact Oakland Council Members NOW and ask them to represent Oakland residents’ valuesFUND ANTI-DISPLACEMENT AND HOMELESS PREVENTION!

 

Council President Larry Reid, District 7, 510.238.7529, lreid@oaklandnet.com CM Dan Kalb, District 1, 510.238.7001, dkalb@oaklandnet.com

@DanKalb

CM Abel Guillen, District 2, 510.238.7002, aguillen@oaklandnet.com

@abel_guillen

CM Lynette McElhaney, District 3, 510.238.7003, lmcelhaney@oaklandnet.com

@lynetteGM

CM Annie Campbell-Washington, District 4, 510.238.7004, acampbellwashington@oaklandnet.com

@annieforoakland

CM Noel Gallo, District 5, 510.238.7005, ngallo@oaklandnet.com

@NoelGallo5

CM Desley Brooks, District 6, 510.238.7006, dbrooks@oaklandnet.com

@desleyb

CM Rebecca Kaplan, At Large, 510.238.7308, rkaplan@oaklandnet.com

@Kaplan4Oakland

Oakland has lost over 36,000 African Americans—26%–since 2000, a bigger decline than major cities like San Francisco and DC.  The homeless rate has increased by 39% in 2 years as median rents increased by 54%.  70% of low-income tenants going through legal evictions have no lawyer and 3,000 tenants have limited access to housing counseling.

Oakland developed a model anti-displacement safety net with proven strategies of coordinated housing counseling, legal services, and emergency housing funds for low-income tenants and elderly homeowners.  City quarterly reports showed that INVESTING IN PREVENTION WORKS to keep people in their homes and out of homelessness.

The problem has been that the City provided limited funds since there are no dedicated funding sources for anti-displacement and homeless prevention strategies.

Let’s turn the tide on Oakland’s displacement and new homeless epidemic and invest in preventing more human suffering.  That’s how we’ll build an equitable and inclusive Oakland for All!  Please contact the Oakland City Council!!

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Focus on Resistance

Waking up to my twitter feed in the morning, it seems we’ve all gone Russian crazy. Now.. if you can rid us of 45 by finding connections to bad Russian dudes, by all means, do it. Then I’ll stop trying to scratch the inside of my brain wondering why the old Cold War has been revived and seems to have flipped the bad guys and confounded the good guys-it’s just too confusing. Besides I don’t trust the nice folks at the FBI, CIA, etc, to tell me who my president should be.

How about that Voter Suppression?

Anyway, I’m truly sorry that we are not focusing on the more obvious villain of this shocking electoral turn-around, no skullduggery necessary-voter suppression, aided and abetted by a right leaning Supreme Court which gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act-and left us open to every kind of racist, nefarious Republican plot in which no Russian had a hand.

We’d already witnessed the first selection of George Bush after the Florida voter rolls were purged of hundreds of Black sounding names, which even then required the high court to hand him the presidency.

So, we should’ve been prepared to see a wholesale slashing of voters from the rolls, the reduction of voting hours, the removal of available polling booths, etc, to give the Republicans the edge that outright precinct gerrymandering had not been able to provide. It’s about to get much worse with Jefferson Beauregard Sessions running the DOJ like the Confederacy of old.

Instead we focus on the diabolic doings of Vladimir Putin, and I’m sure he’s worthy of the bulls eye on his pale naked back, but really, does that make it ok that many Republican governors see voting as something that the “wrong” people should be prevented from doing? Too many of us have spent hours begging people just to consider voting to believe it should be made more difficult.

Spend as much time as you can registering voters and talking to them about how they will vote.

So Much for the Environment…                    

While we are focused on the cheesy melodrama that elected Mr. Drumpf, the rest of the entire Republican controlled Congress is busy gutting the 21st century and lots of the 20th century’s advances. To (nit)wit- All kinds of protections for our waterways are being dirtied https://futurism.com/trump-aims-to-eliminate-clean-water-rule/, regulations on methane gas, 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide to hold in heat, are being eliminated.  https://www.forbes.com/sites/janetwburns/2017/03/03/epa-drops-request-for-data-on-methane-emissions-that-could-cost-us-trillions/#7673485d617d

Trumpcare, too Toxic for Congress…

The “replacement” for the ACA, much like the replacements in the iconic film, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, mv5bnti4nzg5mtm4nf5bml5banbnxkftztcwotewmjg4mw-_v1_  is so dangerous to our continued health that it has to be quarantined lest even Republicans become exposed to its sickly aura. [Doesn’t it seem like many of them have already turned into robots and mannequins? Hmm, maybe we should find those pods.]

In California a single payer bill is back and it would cover all Californians including immigrants while being simpler and cheaper to administer that\an the ACA. It is SB 562.

http://www.latimes.com/business/lazarus/la-fi-lazarus-california-single-payer-healthcare-20170303-story.html

Homeland Security Police State Build Up…

And now, the ultimate in police state style governing-ICE vans parked outside courthouses, ICE police roaming the streets and hallways in unmarked jackets-why don’t they just go with long black leather coats, steel-tipped boots and hats covering their dead-Stephen-Miller eyes since they prefer the geheime staastspolizei style? Look it up. images-5                      ap_091209048890-b499337a2d9e0b713a557a3936d469d80d5cb054-s700-c85

This creepy, constitution-shredding activity is spreading. Passengers on a domestic flight to New York were asked to show ID in order to get off, not on, but off the plane, and they complied-why folks-don’t do that!

Supporting Sanctuary State Legislation

We’re in California where the California Values Act, SB 54, is on its way to passage in an “urgency” vote. We hope that then we’ll be able to curb some incursions of the secret police  by attempting to prevent our local police forces, including sheriffs and high way patrol, CHP, from helping ICE to terrorize our hard working immigrants.

But we need to do more, much more. In addition to finding ways to keep the feds polluted mitts off our tax dollars-we’re a donor state, giving more than we receive-we’ve got to find ways to make “sanctuary” mean something. Right now our resolutions and laws have too many loopholes. Rather than large sweeps we can organize against, they are stealthily picking off individuals and families wherever they can trick them into answering  any questions about their status or of using the services for which they, immigrants, also pay.

What to do-a 5 Point Plan                                                20170121_122129-1       

1st– We need to make sure that our police departments are trained in how to recognize ICE, report on raids, no matter how small, and assist immigrants who may need to report crimes but are afraid of the consequences to their families.

2nd– We have to demand that sheriffs departments, notoriously filled with elected Republicans, are given clear instructions on when they can and when they cannot assist ICE in reporting who is in their jails.

Beyond that, we have to search for new candidates to run for these offices-candidates who care more about their constituents than their Trumpian ideology. This will become more obvious as the return of banking deregulation results in another crash and another massive wave of foreclosures and sheriffs are called on to assist the banks to throw people out of homes.

3rd-We have to sit down with our district attorneys and talk to them about the odious practice of plea bargaining which was almost always a bad deal for low level offenders, innocents among them, who were talked into declaring themselves guilty to avoid threatened longer sentences if they opted for a trial by their peers. The state has cut court costs so the increase in this type of “justice” is one result. But besides consigning many to jail terms with little proof of guilt, it may also consign defendants to deportation as criminals.

4th-We now have a bill which could repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, one piece of legislation which prevents municipalities from passing renter protections on buildings erected after 1995 and other restrictions on tenant protections. Wikipedia says, “The Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act (“Costa-Hawkins”) is the California state law that prohibits municipal rent increase limitations on certain kinds of exempted dwelling units, allows rent increases on subtenants following departure by tenants of rent-controlled tenancies, and prohibits “vacancy control” — the regulation of rental rates on units that have been voluntarily vacated by the previous renters at an amount other (presumably lower) than what the open market would bear.”  920x1240

Simply put, we can’t call ourselves sanctuary cities if many of our residents are living in tents, subject to immediate removal and loss of their belongings at any time. Our Assembly Member Rob Bonta is one of the co-authors of this bill and we need to mobilize if we hope to defeat the well-heeled real estate industry  which is already gunning for it.

Mr Bonta is also with us on SB54, Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon’s bill to protect immigrants and refugees from allowing our police to help detain them for ICE [except in the case of dangerous criminals.] Bonta also sponsored AB 3, the Stronger Public Defenders Act, and supports AB 291, the Immigrant Tenant Protection Act, SB 29, Dignity Not Detention, SB 30 requiring voter approval of the border wall, and of course, SB 54. Get behind these important sanctuary bills.

5th-It’s much harder to find support to make police agencies more transparent but we must insist on policies which clearly state that police are not above the law. Drumpf’s new AG Sessions has declared open season on police killings of Black and Brown people. I never knew the season had closed but it will be even more dangerous to walk, shop, or drive while Black during this regime.

IMG_20150612_212616That means ending the practice of allowing sheriffs and police departments of buying military equipment and curbing the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights which so far trumps our own. Oh yeah, pun definitely intended. California under the Copley Decision is currently one of the least transparent states concerning police misconduct.   http://www.theinvestigativefund.org/investigations/1293/copley_v._account-ability/

We have lots of work to do, the resistance must continue to build. But keep your eyes on the prize-a better state, a better world-don’t give in to the melodrama, as alluring as it is. I’ve outlined some actions we can take and reported on ones we are taking now-even more serious resistance is being considered in the halls of Sacramento. We are the 6th largest economy, remember? Ok then…

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Help Wanted: An Oakland Planning Director for Equitable Development

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“We write to reflect the concerns of those who have historically been marginalized and bear the burden of unjust planning decisions that have destroyed vibrant local economies and neighborhoods of working class communities of color for over a century in our town.”

Guest blog by Lailan Huen-edits from the original are mine-for brevity only.

Dear Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Administrator Sabrina Landreth, Assistant City Administrator Claudia Cappio, and Hawkins Company:

We represent eight community-based groups impacted by the Planning Department’s decisions and policies in Oakland, and we demand inclusion of community stakeholders in the hiring of the new Director of Planning and Building.

Specifically, we write to reflect the concerns of those who have historically been marginalized and bear the burden of unjust planning decisions that have destroyed vibrant local economies and neighborhoods of working class communities of color for over a century in our town.

It is these Oakland neighborhoods that are now being most impacted by new development, and the current planning processes are insufficient for protecting these neighborhoods at risk of displacement.  Additionally, we see that the lack of safe and affordable spaces for our arts and low-income communities, as exemplified by the GhostShip warehouse fire, is of life and death.

As residents and stakeholders who have been advocating for equity for decades, we have seen the disproportionate power held by developers looking to make more profit without much regard for the residents of Oakland in the political process.

We understand that many developers have been consulted in this process, but only a small handful of community-based stakeholders have been invited to participate.  The City of Oakland must include the voices of those who are most impacted and at risk to achieve its equity goals.

Therefore, we have gathered requests for candidate criteria and stipulated the process below:

  • A planner with a track record in community engagement and participatory processes for neighborhood planning that provides meaningful time for feedback beyond minimal-17 day-notices.
  • Prioritizes equity and understands how institutional racism and environmental injustice have caused harm to working class communities of color in Oakland, including tools to mitigate past harms and create targeted opportunities in these neighborhoods.
  • Has a balanced approach to considering residents and neighborhoods in decisions-in addition to developers.
  • Has a proven track record with preservation of vulnerable historic, cultural and arts districts in phases of gentrification and new development.
  • Recognizes that city staffers with traditional planning backgrounds are less likely to understand the impact of institutional racism, and will hire more representative staff.
  • Comprehends the challenges facing the arts community currently being displaced, and brings experience to support and create safe affordable spaces for Oakland’s vital creative culture.
  • Knowledge of finance in regards to affordable housing programs and a willingness to look at innovative and non-traditional approaches to fund it.
  • Commits to planning tools such as specific plans, zoning changes, density bonuses, and incentives to leverage developer contributions for community benefits to include affordable housing, community retail space, local hire, and public open space.
  •  And to using public land for affordable housing and community benefits and openness to working with Community Land Trusts to secure permanent affordable spaces.
  • Willingness to implement innovative models such as Planning Leader Institutes, Neighborhood Planning Liaisons, Registered Community Organizations, and an Equitable Development Scorecard to assess how projects will meet the city’s equity goals.

Building an Equitable Process

  • At least 3-4 community seats on a candidate review and interview committee, including from these areas of expertise: 1) affordable housing, 2) historic preservation, 3) environmental justice, and 4) arts and cultural district anti-displacement.
  • Inclusion of sample work, design guidelines, as part of the application review process.
  • An opportunity for the public to be invited to hear from potential candidates.
  • Consider recruiting applicants from cities with equitable processes such as: Seattle, Portland, Twin Cities, Philadelphia or a planning applicant familiar to Oakland and has the requisite experience to advance equity as stated above.

Oakland is at a crossroads. Our community desperately needs a Planning and Building Department that is at the forefront of innovative, equitable, sustainable and participatory policies, such as the above listed cities already have.

We are tired of being left out of the process, disregarded when we do participate, and given lip-service without follow-through.  We want real accountability from the next leader who will make bold decisions to protect what we love about Oakland: our cultural and economic diversity, our thriving creative arts life as a key to our local economy, and a democratic process that includes the voices of residents.

We support positive community development and truly smart growth for transit-oriented development which can provide needed housing that is equitable and involves long-time residents. In order to develop a planning regimen which can expedite the process, all stakeholders-including residents and workers- must be included in a meaningful way with public standards for equitable development.

Please share with us the timeline, process, and opportunities for input, and kindly provide a response to our requests within two weeks.  2016-03-25 22.08.15 (640x360)

Thank You,

Block by Block Organizing Network

Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition (OCNC)

Oakland Chinatown Lodge of the Four Family Associations

Black Arts Movement Business District (BAMBD)

Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)

The Dellums Institute for Social Justice

East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC)

People of Color Sustainable Housing Network

The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club

 

 

 

Oakland City Hall-Winchester Mystery House or Wonderland?

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Yesterday I attended a city council meeting-the Committee on Economic Development, CED-to discuss putting the renters’ protections initiative on the November ballot. The meeting lasted over 2 and half hours without seeming to come a conclusion. I signed up to speak online before I left home but didn’t get a chance to utter a word. The end “result” of that meeting was so byzantine, confused, and unwieldy that the city council members didn’t seem to understand it any more than I did.

images  City Hall has become the Winchester Mystery House of government-you enter not knowing when you’ll get out-but having wasted hours trying to find a door that leads to anywhere, you fall back out of its ornate gates, worn-out and discouraged if mildly entertained.

Maybe it’s more like Through the Looking Glass with Alice– whose face and name changes with the day, the committee meeting, the issue. That’s one of the most frustrating things about our “new” city council, they’re a bit like a side dish that doesn’t gel, a recipe missing an ingredient or two or a cake that falls flat just when you think it’s ready to be eaten. 7e86a1deb9fc267058115d3eaa3f5bd31book36

We’re 51 days into the 90 Day Moratorium-Sorry about all those silly analogies, because I just can’t figure out why all these smart, seemingly progressive, well-educated (the Goldman School of Public Policy got some splainin to do) relatively young folks can’t quite get anything done that really needs doing.

So yesterday both sides of the renters’ protection initiative spent most of their time in offering sad anecdotes to the their opposing narratives. But, at least the renters group had some heavy hitters like the woman from Tenants Together who explained that the City was wrong in calculating the cost of the initiative, should it pass. Since complaints will be reduced given the increased protections, there would be fewer hearings than now, thus lower expenses.

Margaretta Lin compared other cities with similar protections demonstrating how we lagged behind policy-wise, and James Vann said that the organizations involved in this measure are willing to negotiate with the council and mayor if they seek some changes before offering it on the ballot. The overall thrust was that the measure should shift the burden of proof from the tenants, many of whom are too scared too file, to the landlords for whom this is a business and filing is not as burdensome and-the measure actually states that landlords are to be guaranteed a fair return.

Poorly advised by EBRHA-But the small landlords, most of whom were women, thought that 1) the council was actually passing the initiative not merely offering it as a ballot measure which would then have to be voted on by the whole city and 2) they would not be able to obtain a needed increase/fair return for items like higher garbage and water costs. Since the East Bay Rental Housing Association, EBRHA, brought them there and fed them these lines, I suggest these small landlords get their money back since none of that is true.

2book5These landlords are able to not only recoup their expenses and charge the tenants for 70% (note 70% is more than half, a lot more) of the cost of any capital improvements they choose to make-not to mention the tax write-offs–but under the new measure, they would still be allowed to request increases if utilities or other costs go up significantly. To paraphrase James Vann, we all know that there are good landlords and good tenants, bad landlords and bad tenants, but right now, the bad seem to be changing our city radically and not all to the good.

My unheard statement-Let’s continue to negotiate a measure that all can live with but that lightens the landlords’ thumbs on the scales of justice and provides some hope to Oakland’s long suffering renters, especially those who have raised their families here and live in fear of being torn from their homes like refugees after a natural disaster.

Another thing, how about them SRO’s-I would also have asked what is being done to stop the closing of all our SROs and where the additional tent cities can be sited that will be needed if the existing SROs are allowed to go the way of fresh water salmon, the whipsnake and corral reefs-come to think of it, those may be faring better than low-income renters these days.

CM Rebecca Kaplan tried to get the CED Committee to commit to allowing a discussion of the actual measure by the full council at some time in the near future. I think she may have succeeded in spite of Chair Larry Reid throwing up his hands in exhaustion after wasting time arguing with some affordable housing folk over who should get to speak when.

Chair Reid was attempting to be fair but it didn’t come out quite that way. Audience members got the shouties  after being shut down which is quite different from smashy-smashy but seems to have the same effect on CM Reid.

When I noticed that our young city attorney seemed to have sprouted a giant hat while he was busy explaining away any attempt at clarity the CMs were mumbling about, I figured I had probably eaten the wrong kind of cookie. I made my escape, and as you can see, the only thing I remember was that it was another Tuesday in Wonderland. Time to take a nap. Maybe I’ll wake up and it’ll all make sense.

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Actual photo of the city attorney on Tuesday

East Bay Housing Emergency at the Wellstone Club-April 28th

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Wellstone Club Schedules Round Table on Affordable Housing-Thursday, April 28th

The club meets this Thursday, Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, wheelchair access on 28th St. Discussion to start at 7pm, potluck precedes. All are welcome.

Anyone who reads the paper or has checked their twitter account lately, will know that the hot topic throughout Northern California-Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, Alameda, San Jose, and even Lafayette, Healdsburg and Santa Rosa-is runaway rents. As city councils are inundated by demands to provide more affordable housing, they are also being implored to offer immediate relief from rent gouging and wholesale evictions.

Oakland and Richmond, once seen as the step children in Bay Area development, find themselves fighting for the “soul” of their cities where once blue-collar and white-collar workers rubbed elbows with artists, entrepreneurs and the new T-shirt-collar-tech workers. Sedate Alameda which rarely saw any kind of demonstration, now has rowdy council meetings and an organized, irate citizenry.

All of these cities struggle with housing budgets which were hollowed out by our governor’s destruction of redevelopment and the feds refusal to build anything that’s not a weapon of mass-or at least small scale-destruction. The available funds are not close to the need for safe, affordable housing in almost any NorCal city, [SoCal is also in a bind but that’s a whole other discussion] and low to middle income residents are not ready to move en masse to Bakersfield yet-though they may have to at some point.safe_image.php

The Wellstone Club and its partner the Block By Block Organizing Network, BBBON, joined with the Oakland Alliance and the John George Democratic Club under the The Post Newsgroup Salon this spring  to demand that the City Council of Oakland declare a State of Emergency and Moratorium on rent increases for 90 days while the city looked at specific solutions, noted here:http://postnewsgroup.com/blog/2016/04/04/suggested-actions-protect-tenants-oakland/

At the same time the Citywide Displacement Network led by the Oakland Tenants’ Union demanded the city place the Renters’ Protection Upgrade measure on the ballot but without success but the Network is pushing on with a signature campaign to place it there in November.

Richmond, Alameda, and Berkeley are all working on numerous solutions, notably renters’ protection ordinances, bond measures to provide funds for new housing, condo conversion ordinances, public land for public good policies, and a push to repeal state laws that deny protections to tenants in newer buildings, among others. 2016-03-01 23.47.02 (448x640)

Representatives of these organizing efforts will come together-the East Bay Housing Organizations, the Oakland Tenants’ Union, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, The Berkeley Progressive Alliance, The Alameda Renters’ Coalition and the Oakland Alliance to brief the club and all interested parties on their efforts-how to join, support each other, learn from each other, and to organize region-wide towards long term, state solutions.

Please plan to attend, bring your friends, your organization, if not represented here, such as-small business and artist advocates who currently have few protections against the corporate gentrification of the neighborhoods they have invested in-and get ready to organize with the power of the not-so-silent majority in your cities, towns, counties and at the state house with us.

For more information, contact-Pamela Drake-pamleaadrake@gmail.com, 510-593-3721

 

Oakland City Council Declares Emergency Over

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The Oakland City Council heard from housing rights/housing security activists tonight including some who demanded more city assistance for those who need it less. One council member was moved to declare that he wouldn’t be “appeasing the activists.” Since a tenant had suggested that war had been declared on those who can no longer afford the new rents, appeasement was avoided at all costs by the majority of the council.

Many poor beleaguered developers showed up toting back packs and looking distressed saying that they couldn’t possibly build in one of the most popular spots of the country if they were called on to donate a fraction of a percentage of their profits to mitigating the the wholesale removal of ordinary Oaklanders.

Gary Winkin-Bottom of upper Blackhawk said, “Who’s going to pay the move-out fees”…that the council might someday-possibly-impose, on-a-sliding-scale-to-a-few, long-deceased, drawn by lottery, suffering landowners-or at least their great grandchildren who may be reimbursed under certain circumstances to be detailed in rules to be determined at some undisclosed time and place  in closed session.[Yeah, they really almost said all this. If you don’t believe me, order a tape from KTOP and watch it, I dare you.]

Sometime around 11pm the city council got around to discussing all this in ever decreasing levels of arcane minutiae and vigorously disagreeing with each other.

But at the conclusion of this hard fought discussion for the withering soul of the city formerly known as Oakland, the council thanked the staff for vigorously misleading them and applauded each other for their courage in the face of activists who openly prayed for them. A good time was had by all except for one local advocate who missed an appointment emptying her cat’s litter box. Oh, the horror!

State of Emergency-75 Days and Counting

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Our Oakland City Council with the encouragement of 400 to 600 residents (estimates vary) last April 5th, finally agreed with what we have been saying for months-we are in an affordable housing crisis. Renters had hoped to breathe a sigh of relief and there is time for a brief respite, very brief.

Of course, this crisis can’t be resolved in 90 days but since we’re already off to a bad start, it looks like we’ll have to keep the pressure up.

At least the council is dealing with it. I really have no idea what the mayor is doing about the state of emergency. I guess watering down the previous mayor’s roadmap- maybe global warming has caught up with us already-is a plan?

But here we are, 15 days gone, 75 to go. We have not heard a response to our 12 recommended actions some of which could  improve the housing situation of our most vulnerable Oaklanders almost immediately. We do know that the City Council [CC] is barreling ahead with plans to impose the tiniest, tardiest impact fees in the area.

Impact fees are those most municipalities collect to put into an affordable housing fund or funds for other impacts such as transportation costs and park improvements. Developers coming to Oakland have been expecting these to be imposed for over a year now. They know how they work since most surrounding cities have already imposed them.

Based on my quick calculations-Alameda has the lowest impact fees at $18,000 per unit of housing but they also have inclusionary zoning-requirements to build a percentage of a project as permanently affordable. Berkeley, which also has inclusionary zoning and has charged impact fees for years, is busy raising theirs to $30k or even $34,000 in some cases, and Emeryville raised theirs to $28,000 last year.

Despite the study the city was required to do which recommended at least $20k per unit, our council has asked for $5500 per unit plus some transportation impact fees which raises them to the grand total of $7000 per unit, about 25% to 30% of what other cities have already been charging-this in the city which has hit 4th place in the race to be the highest cost for rental housing in the country.

Additionally, the city has decided to raise the level of affordability, meaning the level at which renters and even buyers can get housing assistance from (top level) 80% to 110% of median income or up to $110,000 per family.

They also want to transfer some of the money in the affordable housing fund to mortgage assistance, from renters homes to ownership which would reduce the numbers of people housed overall. For more on this see, https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2016/04/18/18785341.php

We know the middle class needs help in this housing market and we know they are important; but with very limited funds and the CC unwilling to impose much more, how can we justify ignoring the needs of the lowest income, most vulnerable people-single moms, seniors, and many of  the original Black and Brown residents of this city.

Okay, there’s more. The Citywide Displacement Network took the Renters’ Protection Initiative to the Rules Committee on April 7th requesting that the CC agendize the measure a pathway to putting it on the ballot. The CC can put it directly on the ballot themselves and save the community thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars to run a campaign that could force the CC to place it on November’s ballot anyway.

You would almost think that the city mothers and fathers did not want to give the people of Oakland, 60% of whom are renters, the chance to vote for these protections??? Now due to the Council’s odd (?!) delay, it will not come before them until the same time as the petitions for the initiative will (almost) be due. SIGH! 2016-04-19 00.27.05

There are members of the CC who really want to assist folks who need housing security. I’m not going to dismiss them all as callous but I am going to ask that some of them get out in front on this. You know who you are! The time for leadership is almost past-only righteous anger and utter hopelessness can follow if you do not.

The CC, maybe even the mayor, should be seriously considering the 12 recommended actions that were part of the Emergency Declaration. Here’s just a couple in no particular order:

  • require owners to file petitions with the Rent board instead of the other way around. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is a longstanding demand/request/need.
  • make it illegal for owners to deny receiving payments from tenants when they are paying on time and in compliance with their rental agreements. (crazy ask but some landlords are doing this!)
  • require that at least 5% of units be available to households at 15% to 30% AMI (5%… too much??)
  • Here’s another doozy-establish a program to punish discrimination based on Section 8 as a source of income. Some of those people you see in tents under bridges or just under trees have Section 8 vouchers that they can’t use.
  • Here are the rest- http://postnewsgroup.com/blog/2016/04/04/suggested-actions-protect-tenants-oakland/

Add to these actions my favorites-make sure you vote for a Democrat for President and lobby your legislators early and often to provide funding and bills that make it easier to build and maintain housing for all our folks.

Let your council member know you are counting the days and ask for a full report on what s/he has been doing during this emergency AND how you can help.

 

BBBON, Wellstone Support Emergency Measure, Moratorium

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For Immediate Release
Statement on Housing Emergency Ordinance

Oakland, CA: The Block by Block Organizing Network and the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club today announce support for City Council President Lynette McElhaney’s proposals to Declare a Housing State of Emergency and impose a moratorium on rent increases above the CPI granted by the existing rent ordinance and on no fault evictions for tenants under the Just Cause Ordinance, including extensive rehabs.

We applaud the John George Club, the Oakland Alliance, and the Oakland Tenants’ Union for taking these demands, which we began making in November of 2015, and converting them into an ordinance-all of our grassroots organizing efforts coalesced as a result of the Oakland Post Salon -but we see this as just the first step of solving the ongoing crisis.

Housing experts say that an estimated 44,000 units will not be covered by these measures. Our city must develop a fund that can aid these tenants and homeowners at risk of displacement. We might start by demanding that banks- which get city business-help fund such a need since they do not now provide loans or other services to the majority of Oakland neighborhoods. We should also consider passing an Eviction Registry so that we know whether evictions are legal and what we can do to prevent them.

Additionally, our organizations will work with Oakland city leaders and other cities to demand that the outdated Costa-Hawkins law, which exempts more recently built housing from renter protections, be reversed by the state legislature.

We know that tenants are being evicted against the law, sometimes with the help of the city bureaucracy. For instance, when tenants have paid rent for years while living in a warehouse that did not meet city standards, shouldn’t the city have some responsibility to work with the tenants before red tagging the building and issuing them a last minute eviction as they did at 1919 Market Street?

There is much more work to be done-passing adequate impact fees similar to other bay area cities, not adjusting affordability levels to accommodate higher income residents before providing for those in the most need, strengthening condo conversion laws now, and increasing the percentage of boomerang funding available to build affordable housing. Providing a timeline for these and other items already noted in the Housing Equity Roadmap is paramount, and we will be asking for that timeline at the City Council tonight.

Contact: Pamela Drake, 510-593-3721 or Sharon Rose-510-915-6894