Mayor Tom Butt is expected to make nominations for the Rent Board soon and this Rent Board will get to work setting up the permanent structures and procedures for making rent control and just cause work in Richmond. In the meantime the city staff is taking care of interim activities. They have set up a website and a city office where you can get more information:
You can read the ordinance here.
The first city sponsored workshop will be on January 18 , 2017 6:00 pm at City Council chambers, 440 Civic Center Plaza. If you need legal consultation, you can call Tenants Together’s hotline: (888) 495-8020 or visit Bay Area Legal Aid at 1025 Macdonald Ave. If you are 62 or older, Contra Costa County Senior Legal Services at (925) 609-7900 is also a great resource.
One feature of the new rent control law is that it protects the right of tenants to organize together. The law provides that:
These provisions apply to building-based tenants organizations, landlord-based tenants organizations (that may include tenants from multiple buildings owned by a single landlord), or to long-standing tenants organizations like Tenants Together.
Why is this so important? Even though the new law protects tenants and gives them new rights, landlords typically still have much more power than individual tenants. Landlords usually have an edge in knowledge, legal support, and resources to engage in prolonged legal disputes. It is easier for a landlord to win in court even when the facts point the other way. Often the only way to successfully take on a bad landlord is by organizing together, pooling resources for legal help, and bringing public and political pressure on landlords to settle. Rights are fine, but you have to organize and take action to make them real.
- Mike Parker
On Friday, January 6, 2017, having given the City barely 24 hours notice, the CAA sought a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) of the measure to try and block its implementation. In an important victory for Richmond tenants and voters, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Judith S. Craddick denied the TRO. I applaud our City staff for waging an effective defense on behalf of our residents!
I was present at the courthouse on Friday along with tenant lawyers and activists from Tenants Together and Bay Area Legal Aid, as well as activists from RPA and ACCE. It was exciting for all of us when Richmond attorneys came out of the judge's chambers, expressing that the City had prevailed. Measure L remains in effect and its implementation continues.
However, the battle is not over. While the Temporary Restraining Order was denied, the hearing for a preliminary injunction (as part of a lawsuit filed by CAA) is on January 27th at 1pm at the Martinez courthouse. Not only will the City be fighting this lawsuit, but Bay Area Legal Aid intends to intervene as well to support our tenant community.
As the wealth and influence of big landlords continue to attempt to deny renters our rights under local, state and federal law, I feel fully confident that Richmond will continue to prevail. We are committed to stand strong for our voters and tenants - all are part of our overall community. The City of Richmond continues to move the implementation of our Fair Rent and Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance forward, and Mayor Butt is expected to put his Rent Board appointees on the January 17th City Council agenda.
Thank you to all the tenant advocates, the activist community, and the City of Richmond staff for working together to make sure democracy is upheld, as we join 12 other California cities with similar ordinances already in effect and work together to protect renters and stabilize our neighborhoods. See articles below for news coverage of the court's denial of the TRO and for details and information on Richmond's Rent Program, see www.Richmondrent.org .
- Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin
Join the RPA and Friends of the Richmond Greenway in helping transform the Richmond Greenway into a beautiful and healthy space that meets the needs of our community. The Greenway is a 2.5-mile path that runs parallel to Ohio from San Pablo Boulevard (where it will connect to the Ohlone Greenway) to Pt. Richmond through the heart of the Iron Triangle.
The vision is to ultimately create a Greenway with community gardens, sports fields, outdoor performances, art classes, farm stands, food stalls, etc. -- a place where residents can meet, relax, and reinvigorate. Recently the City received a five million dollar state grant which will help build park infrastructure like walking and bike paths, lighting, bathrooms, fountains, a children’s playground, and a gazebo. But although funding is critical, so is community involvement!
Interested in getting involved?
[With thanks and credit to Michael Beer for the article and photos]
Steve Early’s book Refinery Town, which chronicles the work of the RPA, is out this month! If you have not yet picked up your copy, here is a great opportunity:
On January 18, from 7 -8:30 pm there will be a fundraiser/ book launch at Kaleidoscope Coffee, 109 Park Place in Point Richmond (music and happy hour starting at 6pm).This party benefits the youth-led community journalism of the Richmond Pulse. Half the proceeds from the sale of each book will go to the Pulse! Please rsvp at email@example.com or by calling 510 260 0636. If you can’t make it and still want to make a donation, you can do so here.
Here’s what others are saying about Refinery Town:
In the otherwise bleak landscape of American politics, a few oases exist. One of the most hopeful is the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), a now almost 15-year old electoral effort in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Richmond. In Refinery Town, activist-author and recently-arrived Richmond resident Steve Early tells its story. It is a tale well-told, and a good antidote for the despair that now runs rampant among many American progressives.
He successfully combines lively anecdotes, easy to read narrative, skillful analysis of often-complex issues, portraits of local leaders including the engaging Green Party former Richmond mayor Gayle McLaughlin, and commentary that places RPA in the larger context of American society and politics. A lot is packed in these pages.
- Mike Miller, Counterpunch
The RPA has achieved more and lasted longer than any recent urban reform movement... Refinery Town tells its story and is indispensable reading for activists thinking about the real problems of governance once an insurgency gains a toehold of power. “If urban political insurgencies are going to succeed in more places,” Early writes, “they will need models for civic engagement like Richmond provides.”
- Mark Dudzik, Jacobin
As part of the Sister Progressive Alliance Action Team, Steve will be embarking on a national tour to tell the RPA story in places like Visalia, CA; Burlington, VT; Greenfield, Mass; Cambridge, Mass; Troy, NY; Washington, DC; Corte Madera, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Mendocino Village, CA; Chicago, Ill; St. Paul, MN; Seattle, CA; Half Moon Bay, CA. (For related information see next article.)
As reported previously, the RPA has created an Action Team to help progressives in other cities create similar grassroots advocacy and political organizations.
Last month, Action Team member Gayle McLaughlin made a presentation in San Jose, where activists agreed to start a South Bay Progressive Alliance. By 2018, the group hopes to launch several local city-based alliances in the area. The group is borrowing some tips from the RPA, including staying party neutral and supporting corporate-free progressive candidates running for local office. Gayle McLaughlin will also be making presentations in San Diego, CA; Vallejo, CA; El Cerrito, CA; and Oakland, CA. If you have friends and allies in those cities who may be interested in attending these presentations (or who may want to schedule one in their city), please email Juan at JuanReardon@sbcglobal.net . The Action Team will accommodate speaking requests as much as possible given time and money constraints.
Finally, the Sister Progressive Alliance Action Team is looking for
volunteers to help present the story and the ideas that made the RPA
successful. While the speakers in the Speakers Bureau are carefully
selected, there are other important tasks that need to be covered – in
particular, a volunteer videographer is specially needed at this time.
Please contact Juan Reardon for more information: JuanReardon@sbcglobal.net
In the wake of the national elections, many people are interested in getting more involved at the local level. Although monthly Steering Committee meetings and quarterly membership meetings are a good place to start, the real place to get involved is through Action Teams. The leadership of some of the Action Teams are in flux right now, but please contact the following people to get involved:
[Photo: Community forum on responding to hate crimes in Richmond, organized by Immigration Action Team. Photo credit: Michelle Chan.]
In the following article, Mike Parker offers four observations for the City as it contemplates how to respond in the wake of Oakland’s Ghost Ship fire.
1. When there is not a sufficient supply of cheap housing or when wages are not sufficient to support what housing is available, it is predictable that many will become homeless and others will look for inexpensive ways to live -- often in buildings not really suitable or safe for housing. The campaigns we have had in Richmond to develop more affordable housing and protect the affordability of the housing we have through rent control are critical first steps -- but we need much more.
2. Young people need and will find venues to engage in social and artistic activities. Ghost Ship provided something more than just cheap places for living -- a supportive community culture. We must develop more inexpensive venues for holding events and exhibitions.
3. We need better, more effective, and fairer enforcement of local safety requirements. A flurry of “cover-your-ass” activities after disasters like Ghost Ship are not a substitute for a regular enforcement program that helps people meet safety requirements. Simply closing a place and making people homeless transfers a problem without solving it. And we must develop ways to help people stay in their places or continue their work while improvements are made.
A knee-jerk reaction to greatly increase the number of inspectors is not the answer. First, it is expensive and will take funds away from other needed city services. Second, when tenants fear retaliation from a landlord or fear that they will lose their housing if an inspector finds code violations, their refusal to open doors, cooperate, or report violations makes inspection programs ineffective.
4. The key to tenant safety is most of all tenant involvement: tenants knowing and demanding removal of dangerous living conditions; tenants reporting landlords who maintain unsafe housing conditions. One of the important features of the recently adopted rent control ballot measure helps make this possible. The new law prohibits landlords from evicting or otherwise penalizing any tenant who reports safety problems or demands that landlords correct dangerous conditions. It also protects tenants who are forced to leave because a landlord has not complied with building codes. Whether or not the landlord is operating legally, the landlord is still subject to providing relocation assistance in these cases.
- Mike Parker
Can’t get out to Washington DC for the Women’s March on Washington January 21st? Then plan on joining the Oakland Women’s March (NB: not just for women)!
The Women's March, which the RPA Steering Committee unanimously endorsed in December, is a national movement to unify and empower everyone who stands for human rights, civil liberties, and social justice for all. It is an opportunity to gather in community to find healing and strength through tolerance, civility, and compassion.
People will gather at Madison Park (near the Lake Merritt BART station) in Oakland at 10am. The march beings at 11, heading along Lake Merritt and ending at Frank Ogawa Plaza/ Oscar Grant Plaza. There will be a rally at 12:30 pm with speakers, art and music.
And if you would like to head down with a Richmond contingent, contact Kathleen at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is looking for volunteers to help coordinate logistics.
As the RPA Nominating Committee develops a new slate of
Steering Committee members, we continue our new series featuring
organizational representatives on the RPA Steering Committee. We
encourage all those who are interested in the work of these
organizations to get involved and join.
The Sunflower Alliance is a volunteer-driven climate justice collaborative based in the Bay Area. It was born out of a huge August 2013 demonstration at the Chevron Richmond Refinery, which commemorated the massive 2012 refinery explosion. Today, its members include both individuals and organizations committed to environmental justice and the health and safety of all Bay Area communities threatened by toxic pollution and climate change.
In its short history, the Sunflower Alliance has been involved in some impressive victories, including the successful campaign to stop oil services company WesPac from building the biggest oil terminal on the West Coast in Pittsburg. The terminal would have received 242,000 barrels a day of toxic and explosive crude oil and would have been located half a mile from downtown, near homes, schools, parks, and the waterfront. The Alliance was also part of the effort to stop a proposed coal export project in West Oakland and most recently was part of the campaign to successfully halt Valero’s crude by rail proposal in Benecia.
The Alliance has several active committees, including one that watchdogs the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the agency which regulates air emissions from refineries and other sources. A key priority has been getting the agency to stick to commitment to release, in a timely manner, regulations capping refinery emissions.
The Alliance frequently collaborates with the RPA, for example by working to hold Chevron accountable for its environmental impacts, by turning out volunteers to canvass for Team Richmond candidates, and co-organizing events, such as a 2014 forum featuring activists from Lac Magantic, site of a fatal crude-by-rail accident which left 42 dead.
The Sunflower Alliance meets regularly and has an email newsbulletin. To find out more, visit their website at http://www.sunflower-alliance.org/. The current Sunflower Alliance representative on the RPA Steering Committee is Janet Johnson.