|Issue: #100||January 6, 2012|
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Housing Element to Council January 15
Controversy over Rent Control, Renters' Rights
The Housing Element of the General Plan will be coming before the Council on Tuesday January 15. This element is a forward looking document which reflects well on the City and, if passed, would be of tremendous help to the people of Richmond.
The element includes four issues that appear to have engendered some controversy.
- The first would increase tenant protections through rent control and by strengthening requirements for "just cause" before evictions.
- The second would strengthen Richmond's Inclusionary Housing Ordinance to make sure that developers create more affordable housing for Richmond.
- The third would strengthen the city's Blight Program by passing a vacant property ordinance to make sure banks register vacant, foreclosed homes, thereby making it easier for the city to identify the owners of properties that are blighting to our neighborhoods.
- The fourth would expedite the development of a community land trust to stabilize neighborhoods and increase the supply of affordable housing.
The REDI (Richmond Equitable Development Initiative) coalition, made up of community groups including Urban Habitat, Faithworks, CCISCO, GRIP, ACCE, and others has worked diligently over the last two years to get these policies included in the Housing Element. The Richmond Planning Commission has passed these recommendations. They are currently being opposed by the city staff, the Chamber of Commerce, and the California Apartment Association, which represents owners of multiple unit buildings.
Perhaps most controversial is whether or not the city should adopt a Rent Control policy. Unfortunately, council members Rogers and Butt along with Bates and Booze have indicated they are against such a policy.
Something must be done to help renters! Approximately 50% of Richmond residents rent their homes, and the numbers are growing. Renters are disproportionately the poorest members of the community and have little economic power. It is the obligation of the Council to approve a Housing Element that protects the interests of this section of our population.
City Approves Permits in Quick Turnaround
On Monday December 24, City Manger Bill Lindsay announced that the City had granted Chevron the permits for its controversial piping for rebuilding the refinery. This action came only one working day after Lindsay, on Friday December 21, had put out a statement that appeared to respond to public demand for putting safety first before granting the permits.
Lindsay's Friday statement represented a real step forward. Specifically he said that before Chevron's permit can be approve the following must happen:
1. The City needed to hear from the "experts" it had hired that Chevron's proposals represent the best and safest feasible approach and not simply that the proposal is consistent with industry standards.
2. Chevron needs to provide the information requested by the Chemical Safety Board (and have the city's experts review it)
3. Other government agencies need to review Chevron's materials and proposal.
Lindsay announced on Monday that the permits were granted because the first two conditions had been met. Perhaps this was true technically. But the speed in granting the permits, before third parties had a chance to examine the new materials submitted by Chevron and the very quick "investigation" on the issue of "best available technology" by the experts, all muddy the issue again.
There is also the larger question of whether Chevron is using the technicality of "rebuilding" to avoid making the refinery safer in general with more modern technology.
Issue of Inspection and Replacement Schedule
The Council and the public still need to examine the Chemical Safety Board's report. Additionally it appears the approval did not contain any requirements about inspection procedures. All the experts seemed to agree that there is no perfect solution -there is no pipe that withstands corrosion and stresses forever. Therefore the key issue is not so much the pipe material but what inspection and replacement procedures are in place. It was in these areas that Chevron failed to carry through its own procedures.
Finally, there is the question about how Chevron responds to emergency situations. A San Francisco Chronicle report suggests that part of the problem could have been damage to the pipe caused by attempts to repair the leak without shutting down the unit.
The above represents the views of the writer and are not necessarily those of the RPA.
December 19 Meeting
Community speaks out on Chevron
Fire Marshal explains his role
Many aspects of the Community meeting on the Chevron Rebuild called by Bill Lindsay and held two days before the statement described above had a familiar ring.
Jobs vs. Worker and community safety
Chevron was encouraging its supporters to counterpose jobs to concerns about safety. The construction unions and the usual suspects were there to insist that trusting Chevron's decisions was necessary. ("Grant the permits or jobs will be lost.") The language used always avoided naming Chevron as the cause of the layoffs.
All the old myths about the 2007 expansion project were repeated again-that it was the city or environmentalists responsible for stopping the expansion project. In fact it was Chevron's lies on the Environmental Impact Report that provided the basis for a judge to rule against Chevron. Chevron was not forced to stop the project. It could have continued most of it while it proceeded with a proper EIR, but the economy had shifted and Chevron found it more profitable to suspend the project and blame environmentalists. In this case too, a delay in the permit did not require Chevron to layoff anyone.
What was remarkable about the discussion is that no jobs were really at stake. The project was going to go ahead whatever pipe would be specified. The only likely downside might be a short delay while information and expert opinion was being gathered. While there might be some short term layoffs-common in the construction industry-the total number of hours paid on the job would likely be greater if the safer methods were followed.
Further, there was another alternative. Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), which provided much of the technical information that brought the issues of Chevron's rebuilding into the light, argued that the city should issue the permits and notify Chevron that it was rebuilding at its own risk. If the studies now under way indicated safer methods, then Chevron would be expected to tear down and rebuild at its own cost.
CBE, APEN, WCTC and RPA also raised a number of questions about the procedure, the vetting of the cities' experts, and the availability of critical documents.
At the meeting people who raised questions of Chevron's judgment were denounced as Chevron bashers. Congressman Miller and Supervisor Gioia (also the Chair of the Bay Area Air Quality District) both made it clear that they felt Chevron was not being forthcoming in providing necessary information. Of course they were also denounced as Chevron bashers.
Many speakers at the meeting praised Miller and Gioia along with Mayor McLaughlin and Tom Butt for standing up to Chevron for the community
Excerpt of Congressman Miller's Letter to Mayor and City Council
These events raise a number of unanswered questions about the adequacy of Chevron's inspection system, its decision-making integrity, and its willingness to tolerate unacceptable levels of risk.... There is already evidence that Chevron's mechanical integrity management regime failed in a spectacular manner.... [Chevron]Assurances alone about technical and organizational changes are not sufficient.
Groups Request Full Public Review of Chevron Findings
A "Collaborative" of union, occupational safety, environmental, and community groups are coordinating an effort to get a full public review of the Chemical Safety Board's findings on the August 6, Chevron Fire in late January.
The Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) of the University of California has helped to convene leaders of a number of organizations. Currently the Collaborative includes representatives of the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 5, USW International, the BlueGreen Alliance (BGA), Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The Collaborative expects other organizations to join.
"The primary purpose of this Collaborative is to ensure that the views of workers and affected communities are included (1) in the rebuilding process at the Chevron Richmond site, and (2) in efforts to improve the capacity of industry and government to prevent and respond to similar incidents in the future."
"The Collaborative is dedicated to the principles of transparency and public participation in developing the best possible set of solutions to address health and safety practices in the refinery industry. The Collaborative is interested in broad health and safety matters as well as detailed technical issues."
Errors, Bias in New York Times
National Article on Richmond and Chevron
The New York Times ran a large national article describing the relationship between Chevron and Richmond. For a newspaper with a reputation for fact checking and bias-free reporting the Times story was notable. For example it repeated the Chevron myth that the City had blocked the expansion project when in fact it had approved that project. Letters were sent to the Times to correct the story but to date, none have been printed. Here is one:
I live in Richmond, California which explains my concern with Mr. Onishi's, "Together a Century" story. Facts are wrong. Chevron is NOT the city's largest employer, a myth perpetuated by its p.r. staff, but we are proud of Kaiser Permanente, an innovative program established for workers' health.
Embellishments show bias - "left-wing anti-corporate activists..." Actually a diverse group of ordinary citizens went door to door over a period of 8 years to persuade neighbors they didn't have to accept Chevron's surrogates.
Missing facts would provide context like Chevron's property tax appeals asking for a $150 million in refunds.
The first paragraph reveals all. Chevron is the fifth richest corporation in the world and, after 100 years, we are still awash in poverty and elevated childhood asthma rates.
Onishi sees Chevron's despotism as normal while we who vote to control our own destiny are "seizing power"? Does Onishi have a problem with the concept of democracy?
City Council Vacancy
As most readers know, Gary Bell's family announced that he would be unable to take his seat on the Council. See Bell Family press release.
While the RPA did not endorse Gary Bell in the election, we recognize that he is committed to the city, has campaigned in a respectful manner, and is a class act. Our best wishes and support to his family in dealing with this difficult time.
City law provides for the Council to select a replacement (requires 4 votes).
The Council will announce the date of a meeting for the purpose of selecting a replacement Councilmember whose term would last until through 2014 and be up for election for the following two years. Any Richmond voter may nominate her/himself. At the meeting there will be presentations, public comment, and council discussion. The Council will then vote on the nominees. If no nominee gains a Council majority, the Council may hold another meeting.
If the Council cannot get a majority to support one candidate within 60 days of the vacancy, the Council must schedule a special election (or combine it with another election within one year). The person elected in a special election would remain in office until the end of 2016. According to City Clerk Diane Holmes a special election would cost the city $200,000 or $100,000 if combined with another vote like a bond measure.
RPA urges Council to appoint Eduardo Martinez
The RPA Steering Committee unanimously urges the City Council to appoint Eduardo Martinez to fill the vacancy on the City Council.
- As the next highest vote-getter in the recent Council election, getting only 518 votes fewer than Gary Bell, Eduardo has undergone the public scrutiny that a democratic election process requires and provides.
- Eduardo's presence on the Council will help correct the current under-representation of the Latino community, the largest ethnic community in Richmond,
- Eduardo is independent of Chevron. He supports active community oversite and programs to protect the surrounding community from pollution and threats from accidents and city policies that require Chevron to be a good neighbor.
--RPA Steering Committee 1/4/13
Letters to Council needed
There will be a lot of lobbying, money, and other pressure brought to bear on Council members on the issue of appointments. Residents need to speak up.
Councilman Jim Rogers is the "swing" vote on this issue. He can be contacted
Here is one excellent letter sent to Councilman Rogers and others.
Dear Council Member Rogers,
I am appealing to your sense of fairness and your knowledge of what a true democracy is. After a very contentious campaign paid for and run by Chevron with lots of lies and distortions on their part, the Chevron candidates won. There are those of us in Richmond who understand that certain council members do the bidding of corporations, and not the people. However many people get lied to and vote against their own interests.
I am so sorry that Gary Bell is very ill and is not able to serve on the city council. Eduardo Martinez lost by only 500 votes, and you do know that he did not have the money or the means to get the word out about his upstanding credentials, his stellar background and experience. Given that he was unable fight against the horrible lies by Chevron because of their unending flow of cash, Eduardo indeed "won" based on that alone.
You do realize that the fastest growing and largest ethnic population in Richmond is Latino.
This section of the Richmond citizenry needs to be represented more and heard more. That is another reason why Eduardo must be on the city council.
Since we've had progressives on the city council, Richmond has had an incredible renaissance. Our crime rate is way down, we are bringing in the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, we've attracted "green" businesses, we are developing more and more worker-owned businesses that keep the money in Richmond and provide jobs, we have youth training for jobs and youth organizations such as Urban Tilth, we have more bike lanes that provide safe bike routes and encourage a healthy lifestyle, etc. Let's keep going with a progressive mindset. Let's not let dirty, polluting industry run our city. Let's take our city and make it one of the most attractive, safe, and healthiest cities around. We should be encouraging the growth of healthy businesses which would make the city more attractive as a place to live, work, dine and recreate. It would encourage people to buy houses in Richmond which would raise our property values and increase property tax revenue.
In conclusion, I urge you to vote for Eduardo Martinez to serve on our council. It's the right thing to do.
Thank you for your time.
A Richmond Resident
San Quentin Richmond Project
Getting the Word Out
I, along with my office staff, have been making regular visits to the men of the San Quentin Richmond Project (men from Richmond serving time in San Quentin) and are making connections for them with the "outside community." We are circulating this video, produced by the men, among our violence prevention groups, youth groups, city staff and the community at large.
It is deeply important that we showcase the transformation that these men are making while in prison and share their message with our community, especially our youth.
Please feel free to forward this video link http://youtu.be/o_-coLXrqfU to your lists. We'll continue to update the community on efforts of the Richmond Project as we continue to prioritize this "inside/outside" connection in the interest of a safer, more peaceful Richmond.
You can help further the work of the Richmond Project by writing a check to San Quentin TRUST (write Richmond Project in the memo section of the check) and sending to:
Accounting, San Quentin State Prison, 1 Main Street, San Quentin, CA 94964
Mayor, City of Richmond
Special Canet Reception: Sat, Jan 12, 2pm - 4pm
Richmond Art Center Presents
Cuba: Portrait of a Revolution
A solo exhibition of Cuban Artist,
Antonio Canet Hernández
This exhibition features the complete set of 95 prints created by the late Cuban artist, Antonio Canet Hernández (1942-2008) who was considered a
living treasure of Cuba during his lifetime.
The Richmond - Regla, Cuba Sister City group was gifted this collection of signed, limited edition prints by the artist to hold in trust for, and to show to, the people of the United States. The linoleum block prints tell the history of the Cuban Revolution in a graphic format and are called Serie Moncada: Fidel y el Moncada vistos por Canet
(Moncada Series: Fidel and the Moncada as seen by Canet).
This is the first time the series will be exhibited in its entirety in the United States.
Special Canet Reception: Sat, Jan 12, 2pm - 4pm
Live music by Tito Gonzalez Y Su Trio & dance performance by Las Puras Dance Company, Refreshments, Free
Exhibition: January 12 - March 8, 2013
Richmond Art Center 2540 Barrett Ave,
Gallery Hours: Tues-Sat, 11-5
Exhibitions and events are FREE and open to the public
Wheelchair accessible ~ Free and abundant parking
Curated by Tarnel Abbott with help from The Richmond Regla (Cuba) Friendship Committee & The Richmond Progressive Alliance Arts Committee.
Sponsored by The Richmond Regla (Cuba) Friendship Committee, Richmond Art Center, The City of Richmond Arts & Culture Commission, & The Richmond Progressive Alliance Arts Committee.
Click here to download the full PDF release
Monday, January 21, 9 am -- 2 pm
MLK Day of Service on the Greenway
The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on the Greenway takes place on Monday, January 21 from 9 am to 2 pm. Sixth Street is one place for volunteers to register to work. Projects include mulching, planting, etc
You should bring gloves, water, sun lotion. From 12 pm to 2 pm, after an invocation and remembrance of Dr. King, a free lunch will be served and performers will entertain us. Stay and work or work and play for as long as you like.
Progressive Alliance members can (and will) volunteer as individuals to help with various gardening-type projects.
The RPA has also organized and will host a children's activity booth where kids of all ages can get their hands into red clay to create their masterpieces. These self-drying creations from the earth can then be taken home.
The Greenway promises to bring a needed park and recreational space to an under-served part of Richmond.
For this reason, Friends of the Richmond Greenway received a $5 million dollar State grant to rejuvenate the Greenway and transform this unused railroad track into a vibrant park, community gathering place, and urban farm landscape. Urban Tilth is taking the lead in making this happen.
Monday, January 21 will be another step forward in a process in which Iron Triangle and Richmond residents literally help build a better Richmond.
You will find more information and schedule here.
Konopacki animation, Ed Asner narration
CFT: Tax the Rich Educational
Tax the Rich: An animated fairy tale
This animated fairy tale is getting wide circulation and is under attack by Fox News, Limbaugh, and Beck.
Watch this 8 minute video written and edited by Fred Glass of the California Federation of Teachers
Pass it on.
RPA Activist Info
is for Richmond community members who want to be active in taking on the problems of the environment, racism, joblessness, housing, and crime to create a healthy Richmond. We believe that community involvement means more than voting every two years. It means regular communication with the candidates we elect, letting them know our issues and positions, supporting them as they try to take our issues forward. It means we attend meetings, use email, phone our neighbors, or go on marches building an organized movement to create real change.
Comments and columns are welcome. Articles and columns are the views of the author, unsigned text the views of the editor, Mike Parker, and not necessarily those of the RPA. Send photos, articles, and comments to RPAactivist@gmail.com or call 510-595-4661. Longer articles of analysis and archives of past newsletters can be found on our website.