STOP THE TEARS AT THE BORDER!

teargasNationally, Families Belong Together are calling for a National weekend of protest on December 1 and December 2nd.  Locally, West County residents can join the chorus to STOP THE TEARS by Showing UP at the El Cerrito Plaza at Noon on December 1st. Event Sign Up  This visibility action is for ONE HOUR and meant to be a reminder – just 10 hours from our borders, we are placing innocent people in harms way, ignoring international law, and making it virtually impossible for asylum seekers to carry through with their quest for asylum.

When tear gas traveled through the throngs of migrants on the border areas of our State, most citizens stood by horrified by the images of women and children frantically running for safety,   Trumps latest manifestation of a hostile policy toward migrants  follows on the heals of the failing family separation policy,  long term detention of immigrant families, not to mention the newly restricted rules for asylum application.  It is clear that the architects of the current administrative changes at the border are determined to halt any immigration of the refugees who are fleeing from countries that have been torn apart by violence, political corruption and economic deprivation.

Locally, other efforts are underway to support the migrants at the border.

The city of Berkeley will donate money for the migrant caravan to the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, not to exceed $250 per council member. Funds will help provide food, shelter and basic needs to caravan members detained at U.S. ports of entry or traveling to immigration hearings, according the Daily Cal (November 28, 2018)

safe_imageTo learn more about the solidarity work that can be done on the border, please join the Interfatih Movement 4 Human Integrity

Saturday, Dec. 8th, 7 pm – 9 pm
People’s Assembly for Migrant Caravan Solidarity
@ 1st Pres. Church Oakland, 2619 Broadway Ave. Oakland
Join IM4HI & the Migrant Welcome Committee of the Bay Area for an evening of sharing and action as we better understand the recent caravans and take action in solidarity with their participants.
  • Find out the root causes of the mass migration of Hondurans and other Central Americans in this historic moment.
  • Hear testimony from participants of the migrant caravans about the realities, stories and power of their journey and collective action.
  • Find out the many ways individuals and organizations right here in the Bay Area can support the material and political goals of the migrants who are seeking asylum in the US.
Financial Donations to support organizations in Tijuana supporting migrants
and migrant legal defense will be collected at this event.

 

Tenant Voices Muted in City Tenant Protection Proposals

When El Cerrito adopted the El Cerrito Affordable Housing Strategy  the staff identified four pillars to address affordable housing needs.  The Community Workshop (above) emerges from staff’s research to address the second pillar: Reduce the Risk of Displacement and  Stabilize At-Risk Populations. In other words, mitigate gentrification as the region grows in this next decade and protect those renters who are on fixed, low or middle incomes and paying over 50% of their income in rent.

In early November,  City Staff  hastily organized a Community Workshop on Tenant Protections. It was no surprise that only a hand full of tenants attended, matched by a similar number of landlords.  The majority of those in attendance were members of El Cerrito Progressives, including tenants and allies.  We learned that non-binding rent mediation anchored the proposal for tenant protections.  Also known as the Rent Review Program, once implemented, the  tenants and landlords sit down together when there is disagreement on rental terms.  Sounds good?  Let’s say the mediator decides that the tenant has a case and that the 20% rent increase is unwarranted, that would be a victory for the tenant, right? Wrong.  The mediation is non-binding and the landlord can ignore the mediator’s decision.  According to Carol Lamont, previous Housing Director for the City of Fremont, and the developer of a rent mediation program for the City of Fremont:

The best the mediation process offered was additional time for tenants to move out before a rent increase that they could not afford went into effect. Now I have been told by one of the mediators, who is a long time resident, that Fremont’s ordinance is useless, and that it reflects poorly on the City.

Many members of the audience  urged staff not to put forward the Rent Review Program. Audience members cited poor evaluation reports of similar programs from San Leandro and Concord as well as Fremont, all pointing to the weaknesses of non-binding resolution.  Even landlords spoke up against the program, but for obvious different reasons.

But most voices were muted, and continue to be muted over the call for a Rent Review Program.  The Rent Review Program will be heard by the City Council on December 18th, when our local officials make decisions on tenant protections.   Tenants and homeowners continue to be concerned that the protections being suggested will be too little too late.  But there can be an alternative or additional course of action.

When the Human Relations Commission met in September of this year, Commissioner Makalia Aga raised the issue of a moratorium on rent increases and help with eviction. As a long time resident, senior citizen and renter, she faces a 20% rent increase in the next few months, and worries about her future in El Cerrito.  Members of the Commission took up the banner and returned the following October to present a strongly worded resolution recommending that the City Council adopt an anti-gouging measure and just-cause eviction ordinance to protect tenants. They voted in the majority to bring the resolution to the City Council for the November agenda. So where is that resolution and why does it not appear on the November Agenda?

El Cerrito Progressives and other concerned residents will be at the meeting on Tuesday, November 20th to ask that question, and hopefully reset the volume so that tenants can truly get some needed protections. (BTW – we know there are good landlords and encourage you to join us !)

 

 

 

El Cerrito Shows UP Going Dark (for awhile)

GET OUT THETE 101The ushering in of Daylight Savings Time will mark the end of El Cerrito Shows UP  for this year.  Local residents mobilized in 2016 at the height of the Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville to send a message that our community does not tolerate hate and racism.  Since that time, residents faithfully appeared week after week (prior to winter darkness) to maintain this message.  Some of the human billboard actions were huge, with over 600 people in attendance.

@MaryMartinDeShaw-0011-XLFor almost a month, hundreds of local residents responded to the separations of families at the border.

IMG_1790 (1)With a plethora of countywide actions from the different organizations of the social justice community, residents “kept the heat on ICE.” (ICE is the acronym for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The County Sheriff finally agreed to end the County’s contract with ICE and no longer houses detained immigrants at West County Jail.

The point of El Cerrito Shows UP has been two-fold:

  • To build resistance and remind residents that our current administration cannot be tolerated, accepted or be normalized.
  • To create community among people who care about social justice and prevent isolation and depression that can easily beset individuals when power in this country is so abused and intended to promote hate.

Clearly, for those who are politically involved, we know the November 6th elections mean the possibility of stopping the train wreck of policies threatening our health care, education, environment and more.  How can we show others that voting can make a difference?  On Thursday, October 25th, from 5-7 pm., residents will gather for the last El Cerrito Shows UP for this year.  PLEASE JOIN US.  We will be focusing our attention to the mid-term with sign’s to remind voters what is at stake.  If you haven’t been involved, this is a time you can meet up with others and get involved. Plenty of phone banking, text banking and canvassing is still needed to be done.  You can find the Indivisible East Bay ready to get you started.

Volunteers Giving Free Rides to the Poll on Election Day (El Cerrito Area)

Free Rides to the Polls on November 6th (1) 

If you live in El Cerrito, Kensington, Albany, North Berkeley (to University Ave), Richmond Annex or Richmond, El Cerrito Progressives is coordinating a team of volunteer drivers on Election Day, November 6, to provide a ride to your own polling place and back.

To arrange for a ride, just text: 510-883-4526. Ordering a ride in advance is recommended, since rides will  be on a first-ask-first-serve basis. Please give the address where you need to be picked up, and list a time, preferably on the hour or half-hour. You’ll get a text in reply with details as to who will be picking you up and what time. Please spread the word to workers, elders and community centers!

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

Screen Shot 2018-09-26 at 7.40.55 AM

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:  elcerritoprogressives@gmail.com

VOTE YES ON 10!