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

April 5th, Oakland’s Housing Emergency Declared

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Lots is happening in the fight against displacement in Oakland. Let’s get to it:

First Friday-Come out to this week’s First Friday and join Oakland Against Displacement and Oakland Awake. Rooted Oakland: Holding onto Home meet-up starts at 8pm, Grand and Broadway, “A festive, mobile happening with art, giant projections, drumming and more!” Mobilize while having some fun and meeting your neighbors who are working to stop the wholesale displacement of Black and Brown families, artists, small business people and all who have made Oakland the creative, diverse place it is.

4c707ae2776cb3113781c55aaa8d7476 Tuesday, April 5th at City Council-The City Council has agendized our demand to declare a State of Housing Emergency and consider a moratorium on rent increases above the CPI in our existing law AND a temporary stay on no cause evictions while they work on ways to stanch the wholesale removal of people from their homes, neighborhoods and businesses.

The Block By block Organizing Network along with the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club had called for a rally but given the early start of the meeting, we are asking people2016-03-01 23.49.29 just to show up and get seated-no rally. We will be providing some small sustenance to folks as they arrive and invite others to help us. We need to honor and nurture community members who regularly come to meetings where they rarely feel heard.

What Libby Schaaf says– According to her recent newsletter, “The impacts of displacement have already been real and devastating. Understandably, they’ve led many to call for sweeping measures. But as attractive as ideas like blanket moratoriums on rent increases and evictions may sound to many – two ideas that are being discussed and may be presented at the April 5th City Council meeting – such sweeping controls are legally dubious under present law.”

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Evicted cat

We are asking for temporary relief since the solutions we’ve been seeking had not been contemplated until very recently. We’ll be watching to see which council members use these excuses not to take emergency measures. If there were a devastating fire or earthquake, would they not act? For some life long Oaklanders, it is no less an emergency.

Renters’ Protection Ordinance-Last week the Citywide Displacement Network came to the Rules Committee to demand the City Council agendize this ballot initiative. It puts the onus on landlords to show why rents should be increased above the CPI instead of expecting the tenants, most of whom don’t know of the law’s existence much less how to use it, to file a timely objection to the increase and gives tenants a fighting chance to protect themselves against illegal increases and evictions. It should also come to back to the council this month.

The City Council could place this initiative directly on the ballot or consider its provisions and pass it as a city ordinance without waiting for the November election. In fact, the measure came out of the Renters’ Working Group in the Mayor’s Housing Cabinet where it was ignored or downplayed.

Appeal of the Bay Development Project at Alice and 14th Street- Last winter the city approved a project on the corner where the beautiful mural depicting Oakland’s history of art and its unique culture of resistance was recently completed. The city planning department requested no concessions from the developer toward replacing the mural or providing any level of affordable housing. It also provides no parking for programs at the Malonga Casquelord Center which may doom the center.

A group called Keep Oakland Creative appealed that planning decision and their appeal will also be heard later this month. The group says that the appeal is about the broader issues of an unresponsive planning department as much as this particular building application. So stayed tuned, you will hear more from these folks about the need for community benefits and engagement as part of our planning process.

City Reduces Affordable Housing for Low-Income Residents– For more information on these city decisions, check the Oakland Post News Group: http://postnewsgroup.com/blog/2016/03/25/city-guts-affordable-housing-funds-low-income-oaklanders/.

Don’t forget-First Friday, then Tuesday, then check your local listings on the city clerk’s agenda for more: http://www2.oaklandnet.com/Government/o/CityClerk/s/AgendaManagement/index.htm

The People’s Proposal Vs Urban Core but did it have to be that way?

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If you attended the Oakland City Council hearing on Monday evening, held to showcase the 3 housing proposals for the E 12th Street parcel, you would have thought it was greedy developers versus poor residents, but like anything in Oakland, it’s not that simple.

I’ve been following Oakland politics since the mid 80’s sometimes closely, sometimes peripherally, but in all those years, I have never seen Mike Pyatok or The East Bay Local Asian Development Corporation, known to all as EBALDC (eebaldtsee), decried as greedy corporate types.

The activists from the East Lake neighborhood, some of whom are long time, generational residents, but also including those who reached the shores of Lake Merritt more recently-drawn here by our reputation for creativity, diversity of not only ethnicy but ideas, and our storied culture of resistance-arrived in time to fall in love with the Town but then found that love to be unrequited-at least by our leaders.

They presented what seemed to be opposing proposals along with one from the Bridge Housing Corporation, which also has a good rep in the community, but apparently no dog in this race. In a nutshell, the folks from #SaveE12th or the People’s Proposal working with Satellite Housing proffered a small project of 132 units in a 7 story building and Urban Core working with EBALDC proposed two towers, one with 26 floors of mostly market rate units or possibly some in the upper limits of “affordability” with a smaller tower. This project would offer 108 units for lower income renters like those who are rapidly being displaced by the current volatile housing market.

I just have to say that “market rate” is a strange term, one that implies the folks who already live here aren’t part of the market but are just people in the way-whereas the new-money-people-no perjorative names here-will come whatever the price, just cause we’re such a great place to live (ironic, tell that to the city council and mayor who want to reduce the costs known as impact fees to developers cause maybe no one really wants to come?)

Anyways, there is a total of 24 units difference between these warring proposals. But there are two other very important differences to contend with beyond the number of affordable apartments. 1)the Urban Core/EBALDC folks have financed the deal mostly by building all those unaffordable units (laughingly called market rate) and they can recompense (like that fancy term?) the city to the tune of $4.7 million, a mere $400k less than their original proposal, cash the city could probably use. So here the People’s Proposal which I’ll call the #PP, no, maybe stick with #Save, which is offering to build a low rise complex with purportedly all the city’s current affordable housing funds, leaving nothing left for other projects, hmm, concerning maybe?

Here’s the other big difference, 2) when all those unaffordable units are built, towering over most of the neighborhood, except the existing 26 floors at 1200 Lakeshore, which admittedly looks pretty bizarre so close to the edge of the Lake, ok,ok, no more tangents. The other yuuge difference to the neighborhood is the way the Urban Core project will impact the current residents’ homes when spanking new, very expensive, luxury-type apartments are thrown into an area that previously nutured a  mix of people, cultures, and lifestyles. That mix will vanish like El Nino in February. God only knows where everyone will go, God or whoever’s in charge at the tent city now residing under the bridge by the new LM boulevard.

So what to do, who to choose? If I were on the CC, I’d be tempted to  give the #Save group all the housing funds and at least get something built to offer the neighborhood right now. But, of course, that won’t happen. What I’m really wondering is-why the brilliant, politically-oriented minds contained in the mayor’s or city council’s collective brain, couldn’t have gotten some of these guys together and said, “Is there a way to build a range of affordable units with some at “market rate,” some at middle management rates, some at upwardly-mobile-we-hope rates, and almost as many at lower-income, social-security-only rates as the #Save folks have proposed without using all the city’s housing fund??

In this way the parcel could be developed more densely than most of the neighborhood because up is the appropriate direction for cities to be going, but NOT so out of whack with the surrounding community that that existing culture is destroyed forever.

So, now I’m wondering why didn’t they do that? Why didn’t Mayor Schaaf, no. 1 city cheerleader, apply some of her secret sauce to this mix and bake an Oakland flavored cookie out of it, or a papusa, something?? Now we will probably get a much better project from Urban Core than we had initially-although I have it on good authority that they had early on offered to put significant affordable units in the project, then backed off-because that’s what it always looked like we’d get. In the end we’ve achieved lots of bad feelings, ill will, and distrust in government process for something we could have had last year with albeit, some leadership.

On the other hand we now have an informed, activated citizenry working together-young and old, a grand Oakland mix of cultures who have learned to be skeptical and organized and tenacious. So watch out, more to come very soon from all the corners of our city, our beloved Town, bit by bit we are organizing. We’re going to take on the bureaucracy and the political class and we’re going to energize our collective creativity.We might even serve as a model to our “leadership.”

We’re coming from old political clubs, neighbohood-organized associations, and new alliances. We demanded a Declaration for a Housing Emergency last fall (check this blog) and it’s way past time for that to have happened. Those being ousted now come from all sectors-the poor, oldtimey residents, teachers and students, artists and middle management professionals-our representatives have shown that they are better at pitting us against one another than bringing us together so-looks like we’ll have to do it ourselves. Stay tuned.

 

The Long Sordid Record of Oakland’s Neglect of Affordable Housing, continuing saga…

I turned on the radio today, KPFA of course, in time to hear my old friend, architect and well-respected political and tenant activist, James Vann being asked by Kitty Kelly Epstein why a progressive council in a city like Oakland couldn’t seem to pass serious tenant protections. James answered, “I just don’t think we have anyone on the present city council who is progressive.”

That’s quite an indictment, especially when that little island city of retired military across the Estuary, Alameda,just passed stricter renter protections and extended a moratorium on no-cause evictions plus a cap lower than Oakland’s on rent increases.

James also stated (also embedded in his letter) that the city manager in charge of the mayor’s housing cabinet declined to even pass on the recommendations of the Renters’ Working Group to the mayor because….

I don’t think I need to add much more to this long, sad history of Oakland’s abrogration of its responsibility to its renters which is equivalent to neglect of its citizenry since the majority are tenants. What the hell is going on, Oakland??

[I have changed only typos in the following. Warning:read only with a strong drink, a good glass of wine, or your suitcase packed.]

Sordid Record of Oakland City Council on Rental and Housing Issues

jamesevann@aol.com

I presented this letter in October to the Renter’s Working Group of the Mayor’s Housing Cabinet process:
_______

Oakland’s current affordable housing crisis — particularly for renters — is not new, and has been acknowledged as a “crisis” by successive city councils since before the economic downturn of 2008. Events that have characterized the “crisis” over many years have at least included:
• the real estate “flipping craze” of the late 1970s that caused tenants to qualify “Measure E,” a rent control initiative that barely failed 53% to 47% in 1980, because Mayor Wilson and landlords quickly wrote the current and one-sided “Rent Arbitration Ordinance,” backed by over $20,000, and trumpeted as “Oakland-style rent control.”
• the condo conversion explosion of the 1970s, that resulted in the flawed condo conversion ordinance of 1981.
• appeals by tenants to make the “Rent Arbitration” ordinance more fair for tenants. Referred by CM Spees to a task group of tenants and landlords. No mutual decisions reached. No action by CC.
• the condo conversion rush of 2005-08. A tenant offered proposal not acted on by CC.
• appeals to end the passing to tenants of LLs (landlords’) “mortgage payments” from Rent Law (2007-08). Rent Board approved removal in 2008. Not acted on by CC until 2015.
appeals for needed revisions of the Condominium Conversion Ordinance; a continuing request since 2006. No actions ever by CC.
• appeals for “inclusionary zoning” in 2006; No CC action on “Inclusionary Zoning” and “Condo Conversion’ proposals. Referred by CM Brooks to a Blue Ribbon Commission. CC took 8 months to appoint the Commission.
• Blue Ribbon Task Force of 2006-08. After meeting for 18 months, and presenting a report of “lukewarm” recommendations, CC took no action on the Committee’s report.
• Mayor Dellums’ comprehensive Affordable Housing Program Plan of 2008; Presented to CC in 2009. No action by CC.
• uprising by tenants in 2013 – 14 against excess pass-through of 100% capital improvements, and lack of action after 5 years on “elimination of debt service pass-through” from Rent Board. Referred by CM Reid to “landlord & tenant work group. Repeal of debt service and compromised report of work group on capital improvements accepted by CC in 2014.
• “Tenant Protection Ordinance” struggle of 2014. CC approved text in 2014, but stripped “implementation and remedies” sections from the ordinance, rendering it useless to tenants.
• revised condo conversion ordinance developed by OTU in 2008 – 10 with CM Brunner, who refused to submit to CC unless prior assurance of passage.
• Condo Conversion Ordinance refined by housing advocates in 2014-15. Resubmitted to CM Kalb in early 2015. Held Up 5 months by City Attorney’s office for legal review. Finally released by CA in Nov 2015. No action by CC in last 2 months.
• CED staff announces “crisis” in Rent Program because tenant petitions increased from 1/2% to 1% of tenants, and applied to CC for a quadruple rental fee in order to double staff capacity. Both LLs and tenants strongly disagreed, and called for audit of Rent Program’s efficiency. OTU also argued that the city’s “one of a kind” rent program is the problem; that because it is a program that is activated only by tenant petitions, and that the program relies on landlords to inform tenants of their right to file a petition against that same landlord’s exorbitant increases or other illegal action (which many LLs don’t do), that tenant petitions should actually be at least 20% of tenants, not 1%, thus as more tenants learn of their right, it is impossible that increasing staff will solve the problem. It is the program that must change. What Oakland needs is a real rent control program, rather than the present landlord designed farce.
• As an assist to the current RAP problem, OTU submitted to the Renters Work Group of the Mayor’s Housing Cabinet the draft of a “Rent Control” ordinance recommended for inclusion in recommendations of the Housing Cabinet for the mayor. Manager Byrd decided against forwarding the recommendation to the Cabinet, perhaps considered “too radical.”
• Renters Work Group urged that a “resolution of urgency” be recommended directly to Mayor (not thru the Mayor’s Housing Cabinet) for immediate submission to CC to declare a “state of emergency in rental housing and a moratorium on rent increases and no-cause evictions” (as Alameda has done) to permit time to work out the problems in the rent program. T Moss, mayor’s chief of staff, reported at next meeting of the Work Group that instead of addressing the rental crisis (even though Mayor Schaaf has stated that ending displacement of long term residents is among the highest priorities of her administration), that the mayor decided to submit to CC an “emergency resolution” only for homeless programs. No action would be taken on declaring a rental housing emergency (despite the fact that the adopted Housing Equity Roadmap found that btw 2011 & 2014, Oakland had lost over 25% of its African American population and over 14% of families with school age children)

Through all these and other recurring housing and renter problems, the common identifying characteristic has been that hearing after hearing, and proposal upon proposal, the City Council of the time has almost never taken action.

This time, something different needs to happen. All council members, on several occasions, have acknowledged that Oakland is in a severe housing crisis, particularly for the majority of Oakland’s residents — the renters of Oakland’s flatlands, here the median income for a family of four is only $34,000, not nearly enough to pay current fast rising rents in Oakland. Many of these households presently pay 60 to 80% or more of their income for rent. By 2014, the city’s housing crisis had led to a loss of 25% of Oakland’s African American population and 17% of families with school aged children as documented by the city’s adopted Housing Equity Roadmap .

Declaring a “Housing Emergency” and enacting a “Moratorium” on rent increases and no-cause evictions will go a long way toward assuring tenants that city fathers (and mothers!) are serious about the crisis and, this time, will do more than just talk. Declaring a “Housing Emergency” is also a powerful signal to the suffering community that City Hall finally hears their pleas, and establishing a moratorium timeframe expresses to the community that the city is finally committed to assure that this time, action, not just talk, will happen.

James Vann

To add to this long list of inaction, Oakland is one of the only surrounding cities without developer impact fees and the city is poised to ….perhaps….maybe….enact a weakened fee, not comparable to those of other cities and which excludes 4,000 units presently in the pipeline and offers significantly lower fees in areas where the threat of gentrification is imminent.

Or it may postpone the whole thing until the building boom is over. The discussion will finally get started on January 26th at 1:30pm (is that a problem for you?)

Please, please, please, if you are a renter, know a renter, or might have a family member who would like to be a renter (rather than, you know, living with mom) let your council member know how seriously you take these issues. It truly is a State of Emergency in Oakland!