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Facing Eviction, Tenant Sues UC Regents to Release Public Records

In a letter sent in August last year to Logusch, Wallace, and other 1921 Walnut Street tenants, UC Berkeley Real Estate Director Michelle De Guzman wrote, “The University will not be holding in-person or virtual conversations regarding the property for the foreseeable future.”

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Tenants living in the 112 year old apartments at 1921 Walnut St. in Berkeley could face eviction and lose their rent controlled housing if UC Berkeley follows through with plans to demolish and redevelop the site for their Anchor House project. Photo on June 22 by Zack Haber.

Tenant Natalie Logusch is suing the UC Board of Regents to demand they release public records she requested about a year ago related to UC Berkeley’s demolition and development plans that could displace her and her neighbors from their apartments at 1921 Walnut St.

“The public has to know the truth about what the plans are,” said Logusch. “The UC thinks they can push this through by withholding information.”

According to Kyle Gibson, Communications Director for UC Berkeley Capital Strategies, Logusch could receive the records soon.

“The university is discussing a settlement of the lawsuit with Ms. Logusch’s counsel that includes production of documents,” he said. “We hope this matter will be quickly resolved.”

For Logusch, suing to get the UC Regents to release their records is part of the broader effort to save her and her neighbors’ homes. Paul Wallace, another Walnut Street tenant, said that by not releasing the records, UC is “keeping us [tenants] in the dark.” According to Wallace, he and his neighbors have requested meetings with the university about the development that could displace them, both on their own and through Berkeley’s student union, the ASUC, but the university has always refused.

In a letter sent in August last year to Logusch, Wallace, and other 1921 Walnut Street tenants, UC Berkeley Real Estate Director Michelle De Guzman wrote, “The University will not be holding in-person or virtual conversations regarding the property for the foreseeable future.” At a meeting with the UC Regents during May of this year, UC Berkeley Chancellor  Carol Christ claimed the university has initiated “hundreds of hours of community engagement” related to the Long Range Development Plan, which includes Walnut Street’s redevelopment. According to Wallace, however, the university has never met with him and other tenants in his building, and the only avenue he has had for the Regents to hear his concerns has been to call into their meetings and make public comments that are limited to one minute.

“You want to appeal to keep your home, but you only have a minute to do it,” he said. “It’s ludicrous.”

Logusch and Wallace are two of seven tenants, including one child, who currently live in the 112-year-old apartment building on 1921 Walnut St, next to UC Berkeley’s campus. These tenants have lived there from between six and over 25 years. In April last year, the university delivered a letter to the Walnut Street tenants telling them the Regents planned to demolish and redevelop the property they live in. While the letter stated there was “no imminent action planned,” it stressed tenants, who would be offered a relocation plan, could be forced to leave after being given 90 days’ notice.

In July 2020, the UC Regents purchased the Walnut Street building from its previous owner, Waterbury Properties. Since the housing units were covered under rent control, City of Berkeley law had limited the amount that Waterbury Properties could raise the rent on the building per year. But the tenants may have lost these protections when UC Berkeley purchased the property.

“UC Berkeley is exempt from any local zoning and housing ordinances,” said John Selawsky, a Berkeley Rent Board Commissioner. “In terms of state and local law that makes them a sovereign entity.”

Due to local and state laws that cover the City of Berkeley, if a private developer demolished and then rebuilt housing on the same property, as UC Berkeley plans to do, they would have to relocate tenants and then provide them with a right to return. If they demolished rent controlled units, they would have to rebuild the same number of units at a lower-than-market-rate rental price. But these laws do not apply to UC Berkeley.

“These current tenants could lose housing,” said Selawsky. “But Berkeley could also lose a rent controlled building forever. There’s no provision for replacement that UC has offered. And that galls me.”

According to UC Berkeley, the plan is to demolish the building as part of a broader plan for the area to build student housing for transfer students. The project is called Anchor House. The university claims Anchor House will allow 244 apartments with 772 individual bedrooms to be built, funded by donations from a private donor. Gibson claims that demolishing the Walnut Street building will allow 75 students to be housed and that revenues the project generates “will go toward providing annual scholarships for students from underrepresented populations and first generation college students.”

The current Walnut Street tenants disagree with UC. Their website describes the project as “high-end student housing with luxury amenities.” They discovered through a public records request that Jaclyn Safier heads the foundation that is financing the project, and have questioned her intentions after learning she is a billionaire who made at least 13 donations to the Republican Party and National Committee in 2016. They note that the Anchor House plan includes 17,000-square-feet of commercial retail space that can be leased to non-UC vendors and amenities such as a dorm lounge and a teaching kitchen with a scullery. They think there could be enough space for student housing and for their apartments to remain if the plan did not include such additional spaces and amenities.

The Walnut Street tenants feel they have wide support for preserving their rent controlled apartments. The Berkeley Architectural Association recently released a 161-page report agreeing that the existing apartments could be saved if the university reduced some amenities and removed the commercial spaces from the Anchor House plan. A section of the tenants’ website lists supporters including The Sierra Club, UC Berkeley staff and students, and Bay Area Tenants and Neighborhood Councils. Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board sent a letter on June 8 last year calling for the building to be preserved, and Berkeley’s City Council unanimously passed a resolution called “Support the Preservation of 1921 Walnut Street” on July 28 of the same year. 

On March 18 this year, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín spoke at a rally in support of the Walnut Street tenants, saying “We need more student housing, but it cannot happen by eliminating existing affordable housing.”

UC Berkeley has its own supporters. The website for Anchor House shows a letters of support from the Downtown Berkeley associationSan Francisco Housing Action Coalition, and the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce.  They also list support statements from four transfer students. Alice Waters, the founder of Chez Panisse restaurant and a 1967 UC Berkeley graduate, is quoted praising the Anchor House plans, and specifically the kitchens and gardens it could accommodate.

Spokespeople for UC Berkeley and Chancellor Christ have also repeatedly described the relocation package they are offering tenants as “generous.” The Regents are offering rental assistance for three-and-a-half years in another apartment they deem as a “comparable dwelling unit” to where the tenants currently live by paying the difference each month between what tenants currently pay, and what the new unit’s rental price would be. The tenants see this as only a temporary fix, claiming that after three and a half years, when the assistance ends, they will no longer be able to afford the new units. While the Regents have also offered a lump sum option to tenants, the tenants say it is not enough to pay for a mortgage in Berkeley.

Wallace is unhappy with the exit package and fears what will happen if he is displaced from his home. “I’ll be driven out of California,” he said, “or certainly Berkeley.”

Facing limited legal options to stop the destruction and redevelopment of the stie, tenants and their supporters have turned to protest. Shortly after the tenants received the letter informing them of the university’s plans in April of last year, they formed the 1921 Walnut Street Association, which included all tenants in the building except one, totaling about a dozen tenants. Some tenants have since left the association after moving from the area.

The association has regularly written letters, commented in public meetings, and launched twitter campaigns. They organized four large protests that have attracted public figures, local politicians and activists. During one protest, on April 24 this year, about 100 people came out to support the tenants, marching from the 1921 Walnut Street to People’s Park, the location of another site of UC proposed development for student housing that has faced pushback from the local community.

One request for public records that Logusch is currently suing to have released asks for all public comments in response to the UC’s development plans and preparation and environmental impact reports related to the Walnut Street project. Releasing those comments, she said, could allow her to build a stronger movement by finding other supporters interested in saving the Walnut Street apartments.

“Who are the other people who oppose this?” Logusch said. “I have no idea because UC won’t put that information out there. And that’s probably part of the reason they haven’t released the records.”

In her case, Logusch v. The UC Regents, Logusch’s lawyer, Sara B. Kohgadai, accuses the Regents of violating California’s constitution by withholding public records. The case states that the California Public Records Act requires the UC Regents to determine if they have records within 10 days and that the determination period can only be extended to 14 days. Since Logusch initially filled the requests, on June 24 last year, the UC Regents have never formally stated whether it had the records Logusch requested or provided a reason why withholding the records was subject to exemption. Instead, the Regents responded to Logusch’s follow up emails with the same form letter on three separate occasions, which attributed delays in responding to the coronavirus.

“Judging from its form communications,” wrote Kohgadai in the case, “it appears [the UC Regents] violates these duties as a matter of course.”

When asked why the UC Regents has not already released the public records, UC Berkeley Capital Strategies Communications Director Kyle Gibson claimed that several other people requested the same documents around the same time as Logusch, that the Regents responded to those requests, and “believed [she] was among those who received the documents, but inadvertently she was not.”

Whether or not Logusch receives the documents, she is determined to keep organizing with her neighbors and their supporters to save her home.

“I will fight this every way I can,” she said. “This is my home. I am not going quietly. I will not let them displace me.”

Bay Area

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm Visits Bay Area

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) welcomed U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm last Friday to California’s 13th Congressional District for two events highlighting innovative responses to the global climate crisis.

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Jennifer Granholm

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) welcomed U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm last Friday to California’s 13th Congressional District for two events highlighting innovative responses to the global climate crisis.

Congresswoman Lee and Secretary Granholm, a former UC Berkeley faculty member, first toured the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to hear from the nation’s leading scientists about their efforts to discover new technologies, ensure a clean and sustainable water supply, decarbonize the planet and solve the climate crisis.

Following the tour and discussions with scientists such as Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna, Congresswoman Lee and Secretary Granholm joined East Bay mayors and other local officials at a solar-powered Berkeley home to promote the Department of Energy’s Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP+), an online tool helps local governments cut red tape on the review and approval of residential solar power.

State Senator Nancy Skinner, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, and other local leaders participated in the event at the home of Berkeley resident Pablo Diaz-Gutierrez. With the sky covered in gray smoke from the California’s massive wildfires, Congresswoman Lee, Secretary Granholm, and local leaders spoke about the importance of residential solar power at a time when threat of fire is causing shutdowns of traditional power sources across the state.

“Here in California, we’re experiencing the climate emergency first-hand. We have lost so many homes and lives – and entire towns – to wildfires over the last few years,” said Congresswoman Lee. 

“We know that these unprecedented fires are driven by climate change. We also know that communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis both here and around the world,” she said.

“Increasing access to residential solar in communities like Oakland and Berkeley – where certain neighborhoods have experienced generations of environmental racism – helps to keep us on the path to justice. I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Granholm and President Biden to build back bolder and address the climate crisis with the urgency that it deserves.”

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Bay Area

Who Is Janani Ramachandran, Candidate for Assembly District 18? 

Social justice lawyer Janani Ramachandran is a runoff election for State Assembly District 18, which will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 31.

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Janani Ramachandran/ Photo Courtesy of Janani Ramachandran

Social justice lawyer Janani Ramachandran is a runoff election for State Assembly District 18, which will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 31.

Post columnist Richard Johnson conducted the following interview with the candidate, which has been edited for length and clarity.

(RJ): Tell us about your background and upbringing?

(JR): I am the granddaughter of immigrants from a small village in South India who immigrated to this country for a better life, education, jobs and health care. My grandparents were represented by labor unions that eventually led to stable jobs, higher living wages, health care and decent benefits. I am grateful to have been part of a family that was lifted out of poverty because of the strength of their labor unions.

When I went to my undergrad at Stanford, I worked at a community health clinic for a few years serving teen moms and immigrant mothers while providing Case Management services for many folks. A majority of my work there was with survivors of domestic violence. Many were on the brink of homelessness.

(Later), I lived in Oakland and attended Berkeley law school and continued to do a lot of direct Community Services representing elderly tenants who were facing eviction. I worked on restorative justice programs to address community violence, interpersonal violence, and continuing to represent survivors of violence.

All of these experiences got me thinking about the corruption in many parts of the system whether it is Oakland Calif., local governments or across the country. So, I joined the City of Oakland Public Ethics Commission to determine where the corruption really lies, to uncover bribery and lack of transparency. 

(RJ): What do you bring to the table that others are lacking?

Firstly, real compassion. You know, we have a lot of leaders working in politics but are faking it, because they want political power. They are driven by ego and greed.  I have provided Community Services my entire life.  I’m driven to do this, because I’ve seen the unintended consequences of our laws that are not written with the interests of us and not written with the interests of communities in Oakland.

(RJ): Can you name two main challenges that you feel passionate about that would benefit the people?

(JR): One thing is raising the minimum wage because $15 does not cut it for anyone, especially here in the East Bay. In Oakland, if you made $15 an hour, you would have to work 89 hours a week for a one-bedroom apartment. Our wages are too low, and I want to raise the minimum wage to $22 an hour.

The second thing is housing. A lot of my work as an attorney was representing elderly tenants in Oakland who are being evicted and/or survivors of violence. Many of these people are being evicted despite the global pandemic. So, our state does not put any priority on tenants. 

(RJ): Far too many legislators in office tend to renege on their promises that govern them.

(JR): Corporate money is a huge reason why people don’t keep their promises. Our own governor, Gavin Newsom, promised that he would implement a “Medicare for All” system that would be paid for by the government. This system will save lives and save our state money. The only people that it would harm are big pharmaceutical companies, or big health insurance companies. 

These are the very industries that are lining the campaign’s pockets of even our so-called progressive Democrats, including my opponent who insists she is for universal health care. 

To the contrary, she’s gotten over $200,000 from the healthcare industry and Big Pharma who do not want a universal health care system because it’s going to impact their profits. This happens time and again! 

(RJ): What do you put first in your life to help you remain on the right path?

(JR): I believe in God and I’m spiritual. This is important to me because my spirituality guides me to make sure that I’m not operating in greed, but I’m doing so for the service of others.

(RJ): What is your position on LGBTQA issues?

(JR): I support them as I am LGBTQ myself. I identify as a queer woman and as a lesbian woman.

(RJ): How has women’s liberation helped or hinder the community?

(JR): It’s important that genders are equal, and we need to start treating all genders as equal. Women do not make the same money, and we earn approximately .35 cents to the dollar. 

We need to make sure that we have equality. We need to make sure that women have paid leave to take care of family members, children and elders without having to risk their jobs.  We have so many women who are incarcerated for reasons unrelated and even though they’re Victims of Crime themselves. We need to unpack this and dive deeper and make sure we have equality in so many different ways.

(RJ): What is your position on providing living spaces, employment training and substance funding to those who have paid their dues to society by serving their time?

(JR): Absolutely, we need to make sure that we are providing all the required social, mental, housing and employment opportunities for those who are re-entering society. We need to make those pathways easier, not more difficult in the way that we have them.

(RJ): Will you support more family visits (for inmates? Will you support legislation that requires education and training for inmates?

(JR) Yes. We need to provide all sorts of services and opportunities for all inmates. I previously volunteered in the San Quentin Restorative Justice Project. I learned so much from and about these men. The programs offered prepared them to engage in a conversation about growth, learning and the restorative justice process with fellow inmates and leaders. These types of programs should be funded more and eliminated.

(RJ): Given the fact that we live in a divided country, one blue and one red, how can you help to bring people together in unification?

(JR): We need to return to compassion and empathy. We need to see humanity and each other right now. But I need to say this is not only the case in California. It’s not just about blue versus red. You know, it’s about Democrat versus Democrat as well. I’m going up against an opponent who slammed it and she was a fellow Democratic and woman of color who slanders, comes up with lies, and dirty-nasty smear campaigns that violate all sorts of ethics. So, we need to look within our own party.

(RJ): Since marijuana has been legalized, (why are offenders still incarcerated)?

(JR): I don’t understand why we still have individuals incarcerated for crimes related to marijuana and cannabis. They need to have an immediate pathway to release and to be pardoned. It is unacceptable that we haven’t already implemented that. 

(RJ): How do you see the role of the police? Do they truly serve and protect the communities?

(JR): I know we need to hold police accountable. We really do need to make sure that police are not getting away with committing crimes and with a sense of impunity. Last year, there were 1172 people killed at the hands of police. How many of their families got any sense of justice? How many of those police officers faced justice? Few cases have been fully investigated.

(RJ): What should the voters know about you that they don’t already know?

(JR): I’m real, I’m authentic. I’m not going to be someone who makes empty campaign promises while turning my back on the people. When I say I’m listening to the people, I am. When I am elected, I’m coming back to make sure that I continue to hear from you and implement the answers. 

I want us to march together, protest together and fight together because politics can’t be the answer alone. It has to be politics along-side social movements that create change. We have to work together, and I will continue to ask for your feedback, ideas and solutions. 

(RJ): How do you see the recall of Governor Newsome?

(JR): I oppose the recall. If we as voters decide that we’re not happy with what he’s doing, then next year is an opportunity for voters to vote him out. I think about what those hundreds of millions of dollars could have gone towards instead of being used on a recall: public education, recovery, supporting small businesses, raising the minimum wage.

(RJ): Back to religion, how can churches assist someone in your position?

(JR): I’ve had the honor of speaking at several churches in Oakland with pastors inviting me to address their congregation. I also spoke to their church members who reside in East and West Oakland to share my message and connect with folks. I really appreciate having the opportunity to speak at churches.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Berkeley

African American Bay Area woman successfully launches natural hair care collection in the middle of the Pandemic

Joy Truth has plans for further product development of the collection with styling products and other hair treatments focused on curly hair health.

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ILC Products

On June 10, 2021, Founder Joy Truth debuted her new hair care collection, I Luv Curls. The hair care system is designed to inspire women to embrace their curls and “luv” their natural hair.

In the midst of the pandemic and on the heels of the passing of the CROWN Act, (Crown Act SB 188 Introduced in California by former Senator Holly J. Mitchell and signed into law on July 3, 2019 which prevents race-based hair discrimination and is currently on the ballot in 7 other states), Joy Truth saw this as the perfect time to launch her new products targeting women of color who are transitioning back to their natural hair.

“Launching and Innovating during a pandemic was divine order, it provided the time and focus that I needed. When everything shut down, the frolicking stopped, and I transferred that energy to my heart’s joy I Luv Curls.” Joy Truth commented, “I made a commitment to move forward despite what was going on around me.”

After blending numerous concoctions and conducting focus groups with friends transitioning from straightening their hair, Truth landed on the perfect ingredients that resulted in healthy, moisturized, shiny curls and coils. Currently the collection consists of three core hair care products and a heat activated deep conditioning cap. The A D D + C L A R I T Y clarifying cleanser is a gentle, botanical, clarifying, sulfate-free deep cleanser containing Peppermint Oil and Rosemary Oil. The A D D + M O I S T U R E ™ hydrating masque is a botanical, nutrient-rich, luxurious, deep treatment with moisture-locking humectants. The A D D + S T R E N G T H™ is a luxurious, botanical, protein-rich ayurvedic deep strengthening treatment. And finally, the ADD + HEAT microwavable deep conditioning heat cap enhances the masque treatments by slowly diffusing heat to infuse moisture and or strength deep within your hair follicles.

Joy Truth has plans for further product development of the collection with styling products and other hair treatments focused on curly hair health. This is not the first launch for this entrepreneur; A creative and visionary entrepreneurial leader whose passion for beauty and wellness led her to leave Corporate America and launch twin companies, Harmony Beauty Boutique and Harmony Yoga Pilates – a unique brand of personal care products and wellness services. Joy Truth’s mission is simple and bold to help you “Be a Better You!”

Born and raised in the SF Bay Area, Joy Truth holds a BS in Information Systems Management from the University of San Francisco, serves as the Vice-Chair of the Advisory Board of her alma mater, is a Christian Ministry Leader, and contributes to social impact causes that benefit women of color. She resides in Berkeley, CA, with her husband Neil, bonus son Jordan and their dog (Malshi) Zoe.

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Based in Berkeley, California, I Luv Curls is a company committed to the best results for your natural hair journey. In doing so, we educate and raise awareness of what textured hair needs, formulate and produce a necessary brand of Loving and Kind, Botanical, Ayurvedic, regimen driven hair care products that absolutely luv your curls! We transform your curl drama into a luv story. For more information, visit www.iluvcurls.com.

Press contact: Cindy Hill

Phone: (415) 715-4714

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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