Fix-it Clinics: Reducing waste one repair at a time

20180609_122049Last June’s Fix-it Clinic brought together neighbors and their items for repair, assisted by volunteers at local El Cerrito Library. (Photo Credit: Howdy Goudey) Below read a reprint from the Newsletter of Today at Berkeley Lab, featuring Fix-it Clinic extraordinaire, and El Cerrito Progressive member, Howdy Goudey.

Next Fix-it Clinic @ El Cerrito Library on October 17th, 2018   1-4PM

In Today’s ‘Throw-Away’ Society, Howdy Goudey Works to Create a ‘Culture of Repair’

— By Keri Troutman

Howdy Goudey, a scientific engineering associate in Berkeley Lab’s Energy Technologies Area (ETA) has always enjoyed “tinkering,” so he was intrigued when he first heard about “fixit clinics”— community events where people bring small broken items to get free repair help from fixit “coaches.” Goudey now volunteers as a coach with the nonprofit Fixit Clinic organization at numerous Bay Area events.

Fixit clinics, which have become increasingly popular across the nation over the last few years, help people fix all kinds of small items, from broken zippers, toasters, and electric toothbrushes to computer monitors, Blu-Ray players, and microwaves. The clinics are typically held in libraries, museums, and other easy-to-access community spaces, and staffed with an array of volunteer fixit coaches, equipped with tools and sewing machines at the ready.

“The Fixit Clinic philosophy is basically about empowering people to fix their own broken items and reuse them, in an effort to reduce waste and build a ‘culture of repair,’” says Goudey. Participants work alongside coaches to repair their items, creating an opportunity to learn new skills. A central component of the Fixit Clinic mission is to use small appliance repair to shift attitudes about consumption and sustainability.

Hands-on work has also been a part of Goudey’s career at Berkeley Lab since starting as a student here in 1993. Experimental design and setup, along with the inevitable repairs, definitely require tinkering skills. Goudey now spends much of his time doing physical heat transfer experiments and infrared thermography to collect data to validate thermal models that are used to rate windows.

“I grew up tinkering — taking things apart and putting them back together was a fun activity for me; something I did along with my dad,” says Goudey. “These days, it seems like not as many people have that fixit mindset.”

Organizations like Fixit Clinic and The Culture of Repair aim to change that mindset, both among the general population and at the product design level. Both organizations track repair “hacks” and monitor what leaves fixed so they can collect data around what is repairable. “It’s important to look at what kinds of failures are causing people to throw things away,” says Goudey. “And think about whether anything can be changed at the design level to reduce that.”

Go  hereto sign-up for a Fixit Clinic co- sponsored by El Cerrito Progressives, or to volunteer as a coach.


Displacement and Gentrification Report points to El Cerrito

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To see more on this interactive map please follow the link: Map

El Cerrito is not immune to the Bay Area housing crisis that finds long term residents forced to move or pay an extraordinary percent of their income toward rent in order to stay.  Although the City Council is looking into short and long term solutions for tenant protection, the City Council’s lack of support for a temporary freeze on rent hikes may result in some families packing their bags and leaving.   For example, a resident writes about their story  (September 2018) of displacement in El Cerrito Next Door.

   “We moved into El Cerrito 9 years ago and paid $2375 for a 3 bedroom, 1 bath. We had a neighbor that was downstairs. During the nearly 8 years we lived there, the rent increased to $2,575 in the last two years of our tenancy there. Last year, owner decided to sell and we had to move. When we looked around May/June timeframe, the going rent was minimally $3,500 for a shared rental. This year, and one year after our last move, we were given notice again to move as the owner is selling. The going rate now is $4,100. I think this is reflective of a rental hike. Needless to say, we couldn’t justify living in El Cerrito anymore and just moved out to Pinole this past week before our 3 kids starts school.”

Another renter of El Cerrito (who chooses to remain anonymous) found herself sleeping in her car after her landlord raised her rent from $1,100 to $1,600 a month.  As resident renters struggle to stay in their apartment, the risk of homelessness grows. Not surprising, research conducted by Zillow last year predicts that rising rents will see an increase in homelessness in urban areas.   For example, a  5 percent increase in Los Angeles rents would lead to roughly 2,000 additional people experiencing homelessness. Zillow Rising rents and Homelessness

What can residents and local politicians and policy makers do to stop the bleeding of our local low and moderate income seniors, workers and residents?

El Cerrito Human Relations Commission speaks out on El Cerrito Housing Crisis

At their September meeting, members of the Commission listened to testimony from residents about the perils of rent increases,  including a story from one of their own Commissioner’s, Makalia Aga.   Commission members agreed that housing as a basic right is under the purview of the Commission, as is a call to action to prevent our community from being an elite city, affordable only to those with high incomes.  Commission members will be voting on an action to take a resolution for a rent/eviction freeze to the El Cerrito City Council.

Time is Running Out for Renters.  As our City Council and other cities seek to develop their commercial area, housing stock and ultimately the health of their city budget, demographic changes are inevitable.  According to the Urban Displacement Project (UDP),  research on gentrification and displacement bears out the importance of not only increasing production of subsidized and market-rate housing in California’s coastal communities, but also investing in the preservation of housing affordability and stabilizing vulnerable communities.Download the Research Brief here.

Stephen Barton (El Cerrito resident) and Eli Moore recently prepared a report for the Haas Institute, making the case that relief for renters must happen now, and that rent control and just cause eviction although not the only solution, is part of the five pillars to ensure that a city like El Cerrito maintain it’s economically diverse population. Read the full report here:  The PDF _Rent Control- Opening the Door    45 minuteVideo Presentation

Do you want to be more involved in creating protection measures for tenants in our city? Please contact us at:





El Cerrito Shows UP NEW TIME: 5-6PM

20180621-untitled shoot-12By Carol Thomas-XL@MaryMartinDeShaw-0011-XL@MaryMartinDeShaw-0063-X3On a summer day in July of 2018 when news reports splashed out headlines and images of family separation, hundreds of residents descended on the intersection of San Pablo and Carlson. Families stacked the steps in front of the El Cerrito Plaza carrying signs of protest to say no to these policies.

Fast forward two months later.  As of August 31, according to the Washington Post, “Nearly two-thirds of the 497 minors still in custody — including 22 “tender-age” children, who are younger than 5 — have parents who were deported, mostly in the first weeks of Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy.”

And as recently as mid September, the New York Times reported that the number of migrant children being detained by the government has reached its highest level ever.  The Times showed that 12,800 children were detained in federal custody this month, compared to 2,400 children detained in May 2017. Federal shelters housing migrant children have remained filled at around 90 percent capacity since May of this year.

In addition to the assault on refugee families, Trump is proposing a regulation that could change the face of legal immigration — by restricting low-income immigrants. According to reporting by VOX New Trump Plan, it would give enormous discretion to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers to reject an immigrant’s application for admission, or for a green card, because the officer feels the immigrant doesn’t make enough money to support a large family or doesn’t have the resources to provide health care for a preexisting condition.

Please be advised that although the brash and heart wrenching reporting of family separation in July is no longer in the headlines, vulnerable families, refugees, immigrants, and our neighbors in our community are in peril.  What can you do?

1, Do not accept the normalization of administrative policies. Show UP! Thursday at 5:00 P.M. at the El Cerrito Plaza entrance on the west side, in front of Daiso.

2. Challenge your elected officials to push back on racist and heartless policies by calling and sending letters.

3. Write letters to the editors.

4. Stay informed and impassioned by connecting to organizations working directly with targeted families including:  Freedom for Immigrants, and  interfaith Movement for Human Integrity



El Cerrito Progressives Candidate Scorecard

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How do voters gather information about candidates to make the best ballot choices? We can attend candidate forums, watch videos, and read candidates’ websites. We can also ask candidates questions directly.

This is exactly what El Cerrito Progressives, a group of El Cerrito residents, did. We crafted 10 questions for our Assembly District 15 and 10 for El Cerrito City Council candidates. Questions were informed by three policy areas of our group’s particular interest: social and racial justice, environmental justice, and affordable housing. We scored the responses based on how closely they match our progressive policy agenda. You can find ECP Policy Statement for reference.  Our scores are based solely on the candidates’ responses.

El Cerrito Progressives does not endorse candidates and are providing this information as a service to help the community be informed voters.

ECP feels it is important to learn about candidates’ positions at the local level, where less information is available. We are very disappointed that City Council Member and current Mayor Gabriel Quinto did not take the time to explain his positions on issues important to the residents of El Cerrito. His lack of responsiveness raises questions about his receptiveness towards working with and for his constituents.

We also have developed an impartial assessment of Measure V The City Charter/Real Estate Tax Measure. That is found here Measure V- Why become a Charter City-    

We are providing this information to assist residents in being informed voters.  We did not take any endorsement positions on Measure V or or any candidates. We encourage everyone to do their own research about all candidates and measures on the November ballot. We hope our Scorecard is one useful source of information.


0 = Responded in a manner that did not address the issue

1 = Less than 25% in alignment with stated ECP policy positions

2 =  25%+ in alignment

3  50%+ in alignment

4  75%+ in alignment

5  100% in alignment

We didn’t score several questions because they were about issues that ECP had not yet taken a position on.

Assembly District 15

Jovanka Beckles Score 30/35

Buffy Wicks Score 34/35

35 maximum possible score

Click here for the full list of questions and answers. Assembly Candidate Answers


El Cerrito City Council

Janet Abelson  Score 18/45

Gabriel Quinto (no response)

45 possible maximum score

Click here for the full list of questions and answers. City Council Candidate Answers

Voting on Charter City for El Cerrito?

How the Real Estate Property Transfer Tax Compares to Other Cities and Counties

Neighbors debating the Measure V are extremely focused on the imposition of a real estate property transfer tax, if the measure passes.  In recent discussions in social media, proponents of the measure explain that the tax is an essential form of revenue to ensure that the city can continue to maintain a standard of service to the community.  Opponents questions the use of the funds, complaining that the City Manager’s salary and pension is bloated and far too excessive for a city of our size, draining our revenue.  It is also argued that the proposed $12/1,000 tax on property is much higher than most of the other communities with this tax.  ECP is including a document that compares all cities and their tax rate for your voting information.

Real Estate Property Transfer Rates by City


Measure V: Establishing a Charter City and Real Property Transfer Tax

Measure V will appear on the November 6, 2018 ballot in El Cerrito.

Measure V has two components:

  1. Establishing El Cerrito as a Charter City
  2. Enacting a real estate property transfer tax of $12 per $1000 on a home’s sale price, which is typically split between the buyer and seller (negotiable as part of sale).

If you vote yes on Measure V you are voting yes on both parts of Measure V. You are voting for El Cerrito to establish a Charter City and also for El Cerrito to establish a real estate property transfer tax of $12 per $1,000 on a home’s sale price.

Why make El Cerrito a Charter City?

El Cerrito would like to raise more revenue and sees the real estate transfer tax as a potential revenue source. The City Council can only put the tax to a vote if the city moves from a General Law to a Charter City. There are other powers available to Charter Cities, but the El Cerrito charter is explicitly not exercising these powers and any future changes to broaden the scope of the charter would require a vote of the people to make a charter amendment.

Some differences between a general law city and a charter city:

  • Charter cities can provide for any form of government including the “strong mayor” and city manager forms. El Cerrito currently uses the city manager form of government and this would continue under the charter city.
  • Charter cities are not bound by state election code and can establish their own election dates, rules and procedures. They can also establish their own criteria for city officers (provided they do not violate the U.S. Constitution), set term limits, and set council member salaries.
  • Charter cities permit public financing of election campaign while general law cities do not allow for this.
  • Charter cities can establish their own procedures for enacting local ordinances.
  • The Initiative, Referendum, and Recall are three separate remedies that can be utilized by voters of a Charter City and are not available to General Law Cities.
  • Charter cities may choose to exempt themselves from complying with municipal bidding statutes. In July 2012 the California Supreme Court ruled that the state’s charter cities are not required to pay prevailing wages under state law for local public works projects funded by local funds. However, El Cerrito officials are stating that they want to ensure the city complies with the statewide prevailing wage ordinance for public works projects. The draft of the Charter includes such language.


Overall, a charter city has more autonomy in the areas of taxation, elections, governmental structure, and zoning. Theoretically, the City has more control over “municipal affairs.” However, what constitutes a municipal affair may be subject to court considerations. It is for this reason that some believe a General Law city has an advantage. General state laws have been subjected to judicial scrutiny and tested over the years, so there is relatively little confusion about their application. City charters, by contrast, can be much more complicated and can raise many more questions about what can and cannot be done under State law.

In the case of El Cerrito’s Measure V, the proposed charter purposefully maintains all municipal code as is (consistent with state law for General Law cities). The sole significant change is the addition of the revenue mechanism of a real estate transfer tax. Form of government, elections, ordinance procedures, contracting and prevailing wage policies are all unchanged. The electorate would have to vote to amend the City charter in the future, so anything that is set in the charter can not be changed by City Council without a vote of the people.

The real estate transfer tax

El Cerrito had a Real Property Transfer tax until 2003 when it was repealed due to changes in state law. At that time it was $7 per $1,000 of the purchase price. Currently, El Cerrito is proposing a transfer tax of $12 per $1,000 of sales price. Alameda, Richmond, Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley, Albany and Piedmont are charter cities with real estate transfer taxes ranging from $7 per $1,000 to $15 per $1,000 of sales price.

For El Cerrito, a rebate of up to ⅓ the transfer tax will be available for work pursued on the home within a year provided the owner obtains a city permit, including: seismic upgrades, solar panel installation, energy efficiency improvements, and EV charging station installation.

There has been no indication that there has been any impact on home sales in cities that have a real estate transfer  tax. Traditionally this tax is split between the buyer and seller, but is negotiable as part of the terms of the sale.

If this tax passes it is estimated to raise between $2-3 million a year. This tax is only paid when a house is sold. It is not like a property tax which is paid annually.

Because the real estate market volume and sales prices can be volatile over time, the revenue from the transfer tax may be subject to change significantly from year to year. Allocating a portion of this revenue to reserve funds during high revenue periods will help avoid budget shortfalls during lower revenue periods.

Any money from this tax is required to go into the general fund and cannot be restricted in any way. Officials are saying the money might be used for police and fire departments, city parks, paths, play fields, and open space; programs for children, adults, and families; library programs; earthquake and disaster preparedness programs, and reserves. However, since the money is unrestricted, it could theoretically be used for other purposes.

For more information see the following City Council Agenda packet. It includes a lot of background information followed by a slideshow presentation.

Reference: Watchdog: General Law Cities vs. Charter Cities  By Barbara Zivica