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Eduardo Martinez
Gayle McLaughlin
Jovanka Beckles

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Fit For Life
Tax breaks given:
Foreign Trade Zone for Chevron in Richmond?


Most people don't know that Chevron has received considerable tax and other advantages by getting its site declared a Foreign Trade Zone by the San Francisco Port Commission since 1998. This status is coming up for renewal on July 14.

This situation raises many questions:

1. Why does the SF Port Commission determine major economic decisions for six other Bay Counties, apparently without consulting local communities affected?

2. How much public money (Federal, State, and Local) is effectively transferred to local refineries by this designation? 

3. Should the City of Richmond and other entities intervene in the July 14 S.F. Port Commission meeting that will consider the renewal of the Chevron FTZ status?

 

I have raised these issues with City staff and with our county, state, and federal representatives: John Gioia, Tony Thurmaond, Loni Hancock, and Mark deSaunier.

 

At the very least the communities that are affected should be part of the negotiations that grant huge benefits to Chevron and other refineries and also encourage them to boost production at these locations.

 

City Manager Bill Lindsay has stated that he will be researching this issue and will get back with me next week. I will update the community as soon as I have more information.


 

                                                                            -- Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin

Tues. 6/23: Council looked at tenant protection choices
Clear & strong public support for Just Cause & Rent Control 


 

6/17 Town Hall. Photo: Mike Parker


 

North & East resident Rebecca Auerbach attended the Town Hall on Just Cause & Rent Control last week, got answers to her questions, and then decided to speak before City Council on Tuesday. Here are the comments she offered, along with her response to claims made later in the meeting:

I'm a Richmond homeowner, and I support rent control and just cause.

Being a landlord is already profitable in a stable market.  This extreme jump in bay area rents is a bonus, a random windfall on top of the good steady income that already comes from owning rental property.  Why should those who are already privileged receive this bonus while the least privileged members of our community are arbitrarily devastated?

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Lindsey about the idea of "ramping up."  If we take strong action now, we are free to scale back, but if we do less, and we discover later that our actions were too weak, it will be too late.  If rents skyrocket, we cannot lower them.  If struggling families lose their homes, we cannot give their homes back to them. If our community is torn apart, we will have no way to put it back together.  Please don't let this opportunity go by.  There won't be another.

P.S. Later in the meeting, Mayor Butt suggested that homeowners face the same rising costs as renters.  This is untrue.  I have been profoundly grateful to have had the opportunity to purchase my home in 2009 so that I am not at the mercy of this rental market gone mad.  My payments are fixed, my taxes have increased a time or two but never by hundreds of dollars per month, and maintenance costs only rise modestly along with inflation.  I am very glad to have this stability in my housing costs, and I would like to offer the same stability to my neighbors who rent. 
Where things stand now & what we can do next:
For Just Cause & Rent Control

 

On June 23, the Richmond City Council voted 4-2-1 to direct staff to bring back two draft ordinances on July 21:  One with Just Cause for Eviction and Rent Control (Option D), and one with a Mediation or Arbitration process to review each case individually (Option C).   Councilmembers Beckles, Martinez, McLaughlin and Myrick voted Yes; Mayor Butt and Councilmember Pimple voted No; Councilmember Bates abstained.

 

Dozens of impassioned public speakers shared compelling testimony pointing out the need to enact Just Cause for Eviction and Rent Control, as a way to protect low income tenants who are at risk of displacement and homelessness from rapidly rising rents.   A recent canvass of low income neighborhoods in Richmond conducted by ACCE and SEIU 1021 documented hundreds of cases of recent rent increases ranging from 5% to 70%, far exceeding cost of living increases.

 

Richmond's Fair Rent and Just Cause coalition, comprised of 16 local organizations, called on the Council to commit to a clear policy direction and bring back only one ordinance for Option D-Just Cause for Eviction and Rent Control-that could then be readily adopted and implemented.  Councilmembers Beckles, Martinez and McLaughlin stated they favor this as well. 

 

However, Vice Mayor Myrick has not yet finalized his position and wants the Council to consider two options on July 21.  Since he is undecided, it is important that you let him know your thoughts.  He can be reached at 510-620-6636 or jael_myrick@ci.richmond.ca.us

 

Here is more information about what the two options would look like.

 

Option D-Just Cause for Eviction and Rent Control-has overwhelming support in the community, particularly among low income tenants and their allies.  It would draw on best practices from the many Just Cause and Rent Control ordinances that have successfully protected countless renters and slowed down rampant gentrification in many cities.  This ordinance would include the following key components:

  • Limit on annual rent increases based on Consumer Price Index 
  • Establishment of a rent board to implement the ordinance
  • No evictions allowed without specifying a just cause
  • Reasonable re-location payments required for all no-fault evictions
  • Increased code enforcement and inspections on rental units
  • Requirement to notify to tenants about Just Cause and Rent Control ordinance
  • All costs associated with the ordinance to be covered by fees paid by landlords 

Rent control allows landlords to make a reasonable profit. In addition to regulated rent increases, certain documented unusual costs can be passed through from landlords to tenants.  Whenever a tenant moves out, landlords can set the rent for new tenants at any level.  According to California law, rent control can only be applied to apartments built before 1995 and not to any single family homes. Just cause for eviction can apply to all residential rental properties, and Richmond already has just cause for renters of foreclosed properties.

 

Option C-Mediation or Arbitration review process-has no apparent constituency championing it.  The California Apartment Association (representing large landlords) opposes just cause and rent control (Option D), but might be willing to consider a weak version of Option C.  This option calls for a non-binding mediation or arbitration process by a rent review board in each individual case of a contested rent increase above a certain percentage. 

 

While mediation can be a useful tool when all parties are acting in good faith, it is non-binding and cannot stop landlords (including absentee or corporate landlords) who are determined to exercise their current legal right to raise rent as much as they want.  San Leandro has a non-binding mediation review process that is rarely used and is ineffective in protecting tenants from unjust rent increases.

 

If Option C were formulated with a binding arbitration process, empowering a rent review board to review each case individually and make a binding decision on how much rent could be raised--a model that is untested--there could be serious legal and equity consequences.  Individual case review could be exceedingly cumbersome and costly if widely utilized, and it carries the risk of subjective or arbitrary outcomes.  Imagine both landlords and tenants crying foul when the decisions in their cases are less advantageous than other cases in their neighborhood.  Furthermore, with this process in place, landlords from the outset would have an incentive to always rent to higher income tenants, for whom they'd have a better chance of getting a favorable decision in future rent increase review processes.  Lower income prospective tenants would be inherently disadvantaged.

 

If you care about this issue, it is important that you let the Mayor and City Council know your views, in particular Vice Mayor Myrick, who is undecided but appears open to consider supporting just cause and rent control.  Call him at 510-620-6636 or send email: jael_myrick@ci.richmond.ca.us

 

And be sure to come to the July 21 City Council meeting to speak up for fairness, equity and justice!

 

                                                                                       --Marilyn Langlois


So, Save the Date now, and plan to attend the Richmond City Council meeting on July 21 (6:30pm), where the draft Just Cause-Rent Control ordinance will have a first reading.  With a clear message from the community, these measures could be approved before the Council's August recess!

Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin: 
We want a clean, healthy & economically just city.


The following is excerpted from Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin's recent email newsletter, reflecting on Tuesday's meeting and actions.  Read the full-length article here.  And use this link to join her email list, to get updates automatically.


There was an amazing turnout for this recent Council meeting. There were 39 public speakers and almost every single speaker was in support of Just Cause for Eviction and Rent Control.  It has been awhile since we had that level of turnout for one of our City Council meetings. It brings back memories of meetings related to the Chevron fire; meetings about a proposed (now rejected) casino; and meetings that led to regulatory oversight of the toxic Zeneca site. There is no question that the people of Richmond understand what we want our City to look like. We want a clean, healthy, and economically just city.


 

... Some have claimed we need to construct more affordable housing --and this is true.  We need new construction to meet our housing needs, and we have recently approved two major projects (which will allow for hundreds of new affordable units).  And yes, we need to approve more affordable housing projects, but in a city and society with growing wealth inequality --like ours-- we need to do more than build.  And talking the talk about social justice is not good enough.  Assuming that market forces, apart from our involvement, will solve this problem on its own is wishful thinking at best.  The "market" is not some "almighty power" that requires us to stand on the sidelines.   Tenants in Richmond are organizing and pressuring their City Council to "step into the market" and protect renters with an effective and strong Just Cause for Eviction and Rent Control ordinance.   We need to listen to their voices.   Without doing as much as we can to protect tenants who want to live stable lives in stable neighborhoods, we will be turning our backs on an opportunity-rich future for all --a future that Richmond as a whole deserves.


...We want to protect good landlords and good tenants in Richmond, and a good Just Cause for Eviction/Rent Control Ordinance will do just that.   Let's make it happen!


                                                           --Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin

  

Budget i$$ues:
Measure U funds and a promise delayed


The city is facing conflicting credibility issues with the 2015-16 budget. On the one hand voters expect the city to deliver on promises that the Measure U sales tax increase would go for road repair, youth services, and other projects.  On the other hand the bankers who just lowered the city's bond credit rating are expecting the city to deliver what is called "a structurally balanced budget."


No surprise, the bankers won. The staff and the full council, including those who a few months ago wanted to put Measure U into bonds for road repair ("because that guarantees you couldn't touch it") are all supporting the budget. The final discussion and decisions on the budget will be made at a special Council meeting Tuesday, June 30.


In my view the Council is doing the right thing. The financial industry has a knife to our throats.   Yet a democratic city government cannot survive without keeping faith with the voters.


Making the best of a bad situation:

  • The city has to openly admit what it is doing and explain the reasons why to the voters.
  • The Council has to commit now that the priority for the "one-time revenues" expected over the next year from sales of property and other sources will be for rebuilding roads. If the revenues do come in as expected, the bottom line is that the same amount will be spent on roads as if the city had designated Measure U funds.

When the city does get these one-time revenues it must then treat them as budgetable funds and use part of the money to rebuild the City's road crew to full staffing, full efficiency level.


We cannot cut our way to the better city services we need for our residents and to attract new businesses. We need to keep these services and the things that our city is known for, like the festivals that celebrate our diversity.


The long term solution for the city is not more cuts, but more revenues. Right now the most promising is the statewide movement to reform Proposition 13 and close the tax loophole that assesses commercial/corporate properties to pay far lower property taxes than they are worth.

                                                                                                 --Mike Parker
 
 
Sat. July 18th, 11-4 at the Marsh Hawk site, Miller-Knox  
Come to the RPA Summer Picnic!

 

RPA will provide compostable paper ware, ice, some beverages, and charcoal for the grills from noon to 1:30, if conditions allow fires.  Bring food to share. Please invite friends, family, neighbors.  

 

RPA Members Meeting Sat. 7/25/15, 3-5pm, at 1021 Macdonald 
Hot topics with a Focus on Education

Amply your voice: Unity, Democracy, Diversity! Updates from Steering Committee & Action Teams.  Report on reorganization plans.

 

New members can join at the door and current members can update their status.  


 

If you'd like to join now, follow this link to the membership form.  Print and complete the form and mail it in with a check for your dues, which start at $12/yr.  Or, to avoid printing and snail-mailing, you can:

  •  send an email to info@richmondprogressivealliance.net with the information requested on the form &
  • go to the RPA web page & press the "Donate" button in the left column and make a payment for dues. Any additional contribution helps us keep dues more affordable for those with low income and is welcomed.
RPA featured at June meeting:
Coalition for Grassroots Progress 

Margaret Jordan and Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin made presentations to a receptive mid- afternoon audience at the June 20 meeting of The Coalition for Grassroots Progress.  This group is an independent community-based political action committee for progressive change that evolved out of the 2012 Solomon for Congress Campaign.  It is based in the North Bay Counties of Sonoma and Marin.
 
Topics in their presentations included electoral organizing by the Richmond Progressive Alliance, corporate money in Richmond elections, and the transformation the city has experienced over the last dozen years. 

The presentations were M/C'ed by Santa Rosa Councilmember Julie Combs and followed by American journalist, media critic, and antiwar activist Norman Soloman. 
                                                                                                              --Paul Kilkenny
L to R: Santa Rosa Councilmember Julie Combs, Norman Soloman, Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin, and Margaret Jordan. Photo: Paul Kilkenny


Sun. 7/5, March & tour at noon; Event 1:30-3 at BBPC:
Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba


O

Can you help Rich City Rides get grant funding?
Volunteer Grant Writer or Trainee Wanted

Rich City Rides, a Richmond based bicycle organization is seeking someone to help with their grant writing work load.

 

Rich City Rides operates a community bike shop where they run a youth Earn-A-Bike and Adult Commuter Cyclist program to promote cycling for all, providing helmets, lights, bicycles and sharing the many healthy, environmental and financial benefits of everyday bike riding.

 

They also lead healthy bicycle rides throughout the month for all skill levels and host "pay-it-forward" and "pay-what-you-can" bicycle repair workshops every Friday. All are welcome and no one is ever turned away at the door.

 

It's part of a number of efforts around our city to create bike-able communities and jobs for young people. Visit their shop at 1500 Macdonald Avenue and take look their website at http://www.richcityrides.org/

 

If you are a good or even ok writer they will be happy to train you.

Contact Najari Smith

najari@richcityrides.org

510-255-0625 (C) 

 

Jovanka Beckles wants to to know about Saturday's
Health & Community Fair for the whole family