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Judge Halts Funding for Housing Protested by Marin City Residents

In a ruling that marks a major milestone for affirming the concerns of Marin City residents, a Marin County judge has issued a preliminary injunction to halt public funding for the construction of a five-story, 74-unit housing development at 825 Drake Ave. in Marin City, a historically Black community that already holds a disproportionate amount of public and affordable housing in the wealthy enclave of Marin County.

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Pastor Rondall Leggett, of First Missionary Baptist Church, speaking at the Sept. 9 demonstration to stop the building project at 825 Drake Ave. (Facebook photo by Scott Clark)
Pastor Rondall Leggett, of First Missionary Baptist Church, speaking at the Sept. 9 demonstration to stop the building project at 825 Drake Ave. (Facebook photo by Scott Clark)

By Godfrey Lee

Save Our City, a community group working to stop the proposed development at 825 Drake Ave. in Marin City, issued a press release regarding the status of the project. It is summarized below.

In a ruling that marks a major milestone for affirming the concerns of Marin City residents, a Marin County judge has issued a preliminary injunction to halt public funding for the construction of a five-story, 74-unit housing development at 825 Drake Ave. in Marin City, a historically Black community that already holds a disproportionate amount of public and affordable housing in the wealthy enclave of Marin County.

Because the 825 Drake Ave. development was approved under SB 35, a law intended to fast-track affordable housing projects without public notice or hearings, the residents of Marin City were not given notice of the development until after it was approved by the Marin County Board of Supervisors.

While SB 35 was adopted to sideline wealthy enclaves that have historically stonewalled affordable housing projects in their communities, it has been used in Marin City to create even more housing density in the County’s most racially diverse, economically disadvantaged and politically disempowered community.

The well-intentioned law failed to carve out adequate protections for low-income California communities that already have a grossly disproportionate share of their region’s affordable and public housing options, and it has failed to ensure that the term “affordable” takes into account low-income communities like Marin City that are embedded in regions with the highest Average Median Income levels in the state.

On Sept. 6, Marin County Superior Court Judge Stephen P. Freccero entered a Limited Preliminary Injunction on behalf of a Marin City organization, Save Our City (SOC), temporarily halting public funding approved by the Marin County Board of Supervisors for the construction of a five-story, 74-unit housing development at 825 Drake Ave. in Marin City.

SOC had filed suit on May 18 to invalidate the Board’s approval of the bonds, arguing that the Board had improperly failed to exercise its discretion in deciding whether to approve the bonds. Transcripts of Board proceedings showed that Board members erroneously believed that a recent state law allowing expedited approval for certain housing developments had stripped the Board of the power to decide whether funding such a development was in the community and County’s best interests.

The Court agreed with SOC, finding that Board approval of the bonds did require that “the [local authority] decide the matter [at issue] after considering local residents’ views, and by clear implication requires the [local authority] to consider city priorities and housing needs, the wisdom of preferential financing for the project, and all other relevant considerations to which elected representatives normally give weight in executing their office.”

Given these considerations, the Court stated that the Board’s refusal “to consider or exercise its lawful discretion may be grounds to invalidate the resolution.”

Save Our City was formed to stop this large-scale development from being forced on the small, historically Black community of Marin City, which is already densely saturated with affordable housing and has only one park in the entire city.

The proposed development would encroach on that limited open space available to Marin City residents and block sunlight, particularly from the seniors living in existing affordable housing directly next to the proposed site.

Meanwhile, the wealthy and predominantly white surrounding communities in Marin County offer little to no affordable housing options for Marin County residents and have ample open green and recreational spaces for their community.

The Marin County Board of Supervisors is responsible for overseeing affordable and public housing options in unincorporated Marin. To address the housing shortages in California, state law requires each region to supply housing to meet its Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).

The RHNA is intended to promote several objectives including: (1) increase housing supply and the mix of housing types in an equitable manner; (2) discourage housing development patterns that segment communities, (3) affirmatively further fair housing. Marin County’s approval of the 825 Drake Ave. project in Marin City violates all these principles:

Marin City already has the most public housing in Marin County. While Marin City represents only 1% of Marin County in size (356 acres), it already possesses 60% of the public housing units available in all of Marin County (296 of 496 total public housing units).

Marin City already has the highest housing density. In Marin City 61.4% of the housing structures are buildings with five or more units. This is greater than the surrounding predominantly white and wealthy unincorporated communities, with Strawberry being the second largest at 42%.

Because Marin County has one of the nation’s highest Average Median Income (AMIs), the “affordable” 825 Drake Ave. housing development will not be affordable to most of the residents in Marin City and will perpetuate further gentrification of this community.

Marin County has repeatedly denied Marin City residents the courtesy of notice or an opportunity to be heard concerning the County’s approval of the 825 Drake Ave. project. During the County’s March 21 hearing to consider approval of $40 million in non-taxable bonds to support developer Caleb Roope’s construction of 825 Drake Ave., the residents raised their concerns about inequity and the project’s impacts on the community. With just five days’ notice before the hearing, community members scrambled to provide substantive feedback during the limited minutes of public comment. However, their comments fell upon deaf ears.

It is on this basis that Save Our City filed its lawsuit, arguing that the Board failed to perform their required duty under the law — which was to use their discretion to weigh whether the “governmental interest in not giving approval [of the bonds] may outweigh the desirability of furnishing low rent housing.”

Because of SB 35’s fast-track approval process, this bond hearing was the community’s sole opportunity to be heard on the devastating effects of the 825 Drake Ave. development. Instead of weighing these important interests, Board members made repeated statements about how their “hands were tied” and they did not have discretion to deny the bonds.

SOC co-founder Bettie Hodges observed that “The County has failed to represent Marin City throughout this process. First, we are told that they were not legally required to give us notice of 825 Drake’s approval, then, in the bond hearing, they tell us that they did not have discretion to consider our comments.

“We have been completely silenced at every turn. Our elected representatives could and should have given us the courtesy of notice and an opportunity to be heard, especially given the inequities in Marin City that are a direct result of Marin County’s history of discriminatory housing practices.”

Marilyn Mackel, co-founder of SOC, stated that “I was disappointed to see that even in the preliminary injunction hearing, the County stood silent. They did not defend their approval of the bonds, but also did not have the moral fortitude to concede that they failed to consider our concerns when they approved the bonds. Their repeated choice to stand silent is not just an abdication of responsibility, it is a perpetuation of economic and racial segregation in Marin County.”

Save Our City’s Lawsuit seeks to preserve this small piece of open space in Marin City. Marin County is known for its green and open spaces, including hiking trails, streams, open fields and waterways. While the rest of unincorporated Marin County is characterized by these copious green spaces, Marin City has only one small park that is made of concrete and astro-turf.

For more information, please contact: Bettie Hodges at bettie@hannahprograms.org, or Marilyn Mackel at mmackel@gmail.com

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Bay Area

Juneteenth ‘Round the Bay.

Juneteenth is upon us, and it seems that since it achieved status as a federal holiday, the celebration is being held in different places, and where it’s been well established, activities have expanded from one day in length to two or three. Below are just few of the places that will be celebrating. Take your pick!

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The 2022 Richmond Juneteenth Parade passes through the Juneteenth Freedom Underpass Mural at S. 37th St. en route to the festival grounds at Nicholl Park. Richmond Standard photo.
The 2022 Richmond Juneteenth Parade passes through the Juneteenth Freedom Underpass Mural at S. 37th St. en route to the festival grounds at Nicholl Park. Richmond Standard photo.

Juneteenth is upon us, and it seems that since it achieved status as a federal holiday, the celebration is being held in different places, and where it’s been well established, activities have expanded from one day in length to two or three. Below are just few of the places that will be celebrating. Take your pick!

 Oakland:

Established by Hella Creative, the Oakland Museum of California is hosting Hella Juneteenth: The Cookout. This year’s theme, the cookout, was chosen because of the significance “the cookout” holds in Black culture. Tickets are $10 for people over 12 and you can pre-purchase a cookout plate for $25 on the OMCA website.

Day: Wed., June 19

Time: 1 p.m.to 5 p.m.

Place: Oakland Museum, 1000 Oak St.

Price: $10

For more info, go to https://museumca.org/event/hella-juneteenth-the-cookout/

Fallen Heroes, Rising Stars: A Juneteenth Celebration Through Dance is hosted by the Grown Women Dance Collective in Old Oakland. The Dance Collective will also host community classes from Thursday June 20 through Saturday June 22

Day: Sat. June 22

Time: 3 p.m.

Place: Ninth and Washington streets

FREE!

For more info, go to https://www.grownwomendance.org/juneteenth-2022-1

Oakland’s 17th Annual Juneteenth Street Festival will have gospel, rap, R&B, jazz performances, a martial arts demonstration, motorcycle club display, exhibits and more

Day: June 22

Time: 11:30 a.m. t-6:00 p.m.

Place: 3233 Market Street

FREE!

Berkeley

The 37th Annual Berkeley Juneteenth Festival will feature The Dynamic Miss Faye Carroll, Samba Funk! And Boss Tootie among others.

Day: Sat. June 16

Time: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Place: 3271-3299 Adeline St, Berkeley, CA 94703

FREE!

For more info, go to: https://berkeleyjuneteenth.org/

Vallejo

Vallejo’s 34th Annual Juneteenth Festival and Parade, sponsored by African American Family Reunion Committee, features a Pop-Up Paint Party and art contest for school-aged youth from grades TK to 12 and more. The festival, including entertainment, wares for sale by vendors and information from community resources follows the parade.

Day: Sat. June 15

Time: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Place: Barbara Kodylis Waterfront Green

301 Mare Island Way in Vallejo.

FREE!

For more information, go to VallejoJuneteeth.com

Richmond

Enjoy live music, dance performances, cultural displays, local vendors, delicious food, and family-friendly activities throughout the day at the Juneteenth Parade and Festival.

Day: Sat. June 22

Time: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Place: Nicholl Park in Richmond, CA from 10- 6 pm.

3230 Macdonald Ave, Richmond

For more information, go to https://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/4665/Richmond-Juneteenth-Festival

San Francisco

San Francisco will hold its ‘Decades’ Juneteenth Festival, marking 48 years of holding the celebration. For eight blocks in the historic Fillmore District, something will be going on, from food, to music to fun!

Day: Sat. June 15

Time: 11a.m. to 6 p.m.

Place: On Fillmore Street from Geary Boulevard to Fulton Street.

FREE

For more info, go to https://juneteenth-sf.org/

 Marin:

Marin City will hold its Eighth Annual Juneteenth Festival. This year’s theme is Umoja wa Jumuiy, meaning ‘Communities United.

According to the web site, the festival “highlights local vendors and small businesses who come together in an African Marketplace.”

Supervised childcare is provided in a gated playground. A jumping tent, face painting, arts and crafts, and horse rides.

Date: Sat. June 22

Time: 10:30 a.m. -6 p.m.

Place: Rocky Graham Park, 830 Drake Ave., Marin City, 94965

FREE! VIP tickets are available for meal voucher, waited service & valet parking, go to https://juneteenthcommunityfestival.info/ola/services/vip-ticket-to-the-festival.

For more info, call 415-299-7571, or go to https://juneteenthcommunityfestival.info/

San Rafael’s first Juneteenth will be hosted by Christ Presbyterian Church. The church “invites Marin County to celebrate and remember the contributions of African Americans who advanced the development of Marin County.”

Day: Sat., June 15

Time: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Place: Christ Presbyterian Church

620 Del Ganado Road

San Rafael, CA

FREE!

For more information, go to https://www.cpcinterralinda.org/juneteenth

Mill Valley will hold a Juneteenth featuring, food, music, and fun including a basketball tournament.

Day: Sat. June 15

Time: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Place: Mount Tamalpais High School

700 Miller Ave. Mill Valley

FREE!

For more info, go to: https://www.cityofmillvalley.org/Calendar.aspx?EID=2464&month=6&year=2024&day=1&calType=0

South County

Hayward

Hayward’s Juneteenth will feature a Blues Festival!

Day: Sat. June 22

Time: 12p.m.-6 p.m.

Place: Hayward Heritage Plaza

           835 C St., Hayward

For more info, go to https://www.juneteenthhayward.com/

San Leandro

Join us for a Juneteenth Holiday celebration with a presentation by Chef Wanda Blake, of Wanda’s Cooking. Delve into the rich culinary traditions tied to this meaningful holiday while enjoying light refreshments. Discover the stories behind the flavors and celebrate the spirit of Juneteenth!

Day:  Tues. June 18

Time: 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Place: San Leandro Public Library
300 Estudillo Ave., San Leandro

For more info, https://www.sanleandro.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=215

Stockton

The San Joaquin Juneteenth Foundation will hold its 48th annual event with the theme: Love, Respect, Honor. It will feature community awards, health, education, and history expos; free Father’s Day photos; small business assistance; food and merchant vendors, food and exercise demonstrations.

Day: Sat. June 15

Time: 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.

Place: Weber Point Events Center

221 North Center St.

Stockton 95202

FREE! Reserve a spot at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/san-joaquin-juneteenth-foundation-inc-presents-2024-stockton-juneteenth-tickets-907998837967

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Bay Area

WOMEN IMPACTING THE CHURCH AND COMMUNITY

Rev. Talia Benet has been making a difference in the African American Bay Area Community since 1984. For the past four years her impact has been felt as the executive director of the Health & Human Resource Education Center (HHREC) located in Oakland.

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Rev. Talia Benet is senior pastor of Taylor Chapel CME Church in Vallejo. Courtesy photo.
Rev. Talia Benet is senior pastor of Taylor Chapel CME Church in Vallejo. Courtesy photo.

Pastor Talia Benet: An Advocate for Economic Development

The Pastor, Mother, Consultant, and Difference-Maker

By Antoinette Porter

Rev. Talia Benet has been making a difference in the African American Bay Area Community since 1984.  For the past four years her impact has been felt as the executive director of the Health & Human Resource Education Center (HHREC) located in Oakland.  HHREC was founded in 1984 and is funded by Alameda County Behavioral Health and the Mental Health Services Act.  HHREC has six community-based programs that are rooted and centered in health and wellness.  HHREC is committed to creating healthy communities by improving the overall health and quality of life of Bay Area residents.  They focus on reducing the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, as well as eliminating racism and violence of all kinds. HHREC acts as a fiscal agent for the Alameda County Office of Ethnic Services, The African American Health & Wellness Steering Committee, and the Alameda County Workforce Education and Training Program with Ohlone College.  Rev. Talia Benet is also the owner of a consulting firm that offers fund development strategy and provides grant writing services.

Benet is the senior pastor of Taylor Chapel CME Church located in Vallejo.  Taylor Chapel CME Church has served the Vallejo community for over 74 years. Pastor Talia credits her mentor, Bishop Charley Hames, Jr. for preparing her for such a time as this.

She is the proud daughter of retired attorney and Navy Vietnam veteran Mansour Salahudin. She is also the honored mother of Sparkle Hicks, currently attending Chico State.  Pastor Talia is engaged to retired Air Force veteran Michael Solomon.

“As far as impact, my goal is to build up the younger generation, coming behind me.  I often tell them my job is to pray for them and teach them how to “skip” to the bank!  The CME church has a rich history, but the youth must have a role and should be taught the value of community.  It’s all about mentorship!  At Taylor Chapel CME Church our young adult ministry takes the lead.”

This is the impact this woman of God has on her church and the community.

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Bay Area

Former Holy Names University Education Students Struggle to Complete Credentials, Call on HNU Trustees to Honor Commitment to Pay Teacher Training Scholarships

A group of former Holy Names University (HNU) education students are seeking support from local leaders and members of the public to push the HNU Board of Trustees to honor its commitment to use a still existing $55 million endowment to pay tuition for its education students who are now at other teacher training institutions after the university closed and abandoned them.

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Former Holy Names students who are teaching while finishing their teacher training are shown online during a Zoom meeting. Courtesy photo.
Former Holy Names students who are teaching while finishing their teacher training are shown online during a Zoom meeting. Courtesy photo.

By Ken Epstein

A group of former Holy Names University (HNU) education students are seeking support from local leaders and members of the public to push the HNU Board of Trustees to honor its commitment to use a still existing $55 million endowment to pay tuition for its education students who are now at other teacher training institutions after the university closed and abandoned them.

HNU trustees still administer the affairs of the university, though they closed the school in Spring 2023 and sold the campus to private real estate developers. Many of HNU’s former education students currently teach in public, charter, and private school classrooms around the Bay Area while struggling to pay the high expenses of finishing their teaching credentials, often at the cost of over $1,300 a unit.

About 90 former HNU education students signed a letter to Attorney General Rob Bonta, asking the institution’s trustees to use the $55 million endowment for its intended purpose, which was left to the university as part of an estate to support training for new East Bay teachers.

The HNU Board responded in an email to the issues raised in this article, saying that they were operating within the court-ordered requirements, which leave them with no discretion.

Though $50 million of the endowment is still tied up in probate court, approximately $5 million has been disbursed to provide scholarships to help students who need financial support. Some students have received a little money, but while the HNU trustees had pledged in probate court to reach out to all former students about the availability of scholarships, that has not happened, and the scholarship amounts have been arbitrary and partial, according to students.

“We’ve been reaching out to let people know how to apply,” said members of the student group. “The Attorney General informed us that they (the HNU trustees) said they were going to contact everyone, but that never happened. No one from the School of Education, who this money was intended for, has heard from them.”

When students originally enrolled in HNU, the university had promised that the Logan endowment would pay 50% of their tuition. Yet the HNU Board, led by chair Steven Borg, now is distributing varying amounts, generally not over $3,000, which does not pay for a single three-unit class.

Some students are taking three units per semester, while others are taking 12 units and received the same amount of money.  Those who have received scholarships, report that the money was not issued in a timely way.  Many students are graduating this semester after having paid out of pocket, and no retroactive funds are being distributed.

Scholarships must be issued promptly because students cannot graduate if they have an outstanding overdue balance, and much of the money students received was “not based on anything solid, not based on units they were taking,” said another student.

In interviews with the Oakland Post, some former HNU students, all of whom take classes at the University of San Francisco while teaching in K-12 classrooms, discussed some obstacles they have faced since HNU closed.

Adrianna Castaing, who teaches first grade at a private school in the East Bay, said she attended HNU since 2017, completing her undergraduate degree and then entered the teacher training graduate program.

Though she received no money for fall semester, she said she did receive a small amount after “little to no communication from HNU,” but the amount was not in any way equal to the amount she had to pay for her coursework, which she expects to complete this semester,

Donna McClinto, who teaches elementary school in Oakland, said she was denied any money because HNU said she still owed HNU, though she had never heard that before, and because she was not enrolled in classes at HNU toward the end, when the school stopped offering classes that she needed.  One of her classmates in the same situation did receive funding.  There is no clear formula for distribution and students feel that the amounts are arbitrary.

Alice Thiuri, who teaches high school at a private school in Oakland, said she received $3,000 which did not cover her tuition. “I requested a little more, but they said no, though I gave them receipts for five classes I took.”  They said the scholarship amount was not based on her expenses, but when she expected to graduate. She said she was told that the amount she received was determined by the Attorney General.

Kassandra Solano, an elementary teacher in Oakland who started at HNU in 2018, had completed all the classes for her masters’ degree except for one or two. “I reached out for counseling, advising, but heard nothing.  They kept changing advisors. I never found out what other class I needed to take,” she said.

“I reached out for a scholarship but was told I didn’t qualify because I wasn’t registered for classes,” she said. “HNU changed advisors three times, and there was never an answer from any of those advisors,” she continued. “I was very upset.”

HNU failed to create a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with any school of education, so that students could transfer, though the trustees had promised to do so.

“Every student was left to fend for themselves,” said Dr. Nirali Jani, a former education professor at HNU who is currently teaching at the University of San Francisco.

Many of the students emphasized that the closing of HNU and failure to maintain the scholarships only exacerbates the teacher shortage that is hitting Oakland and other districts across the state and country.

In response to this article, Bernard D. Bollinger of HBU wrote:

“The terms for the distribution of Logan Fund Scholarships for transfer students are delineated in … (an) order of the Superior Court (a public record).  Paragraph 1 … permits scholarships to be provided to ‘students who were enrolled at Holy Names University during the 2022-2023,’ (if) they continue to meet academic performance requirements of the Logan Fund gift instrument.

“It does not require that the scholarship recipients attend a school of education.  Distributions from the Logan Scholarship are specifically limited to the provisions delineated in court orders and the terms of the gift agreement, so neither HNU (nor any other party) has discretion on how to award those funds.

“As a result, HNU did not focus on getting MOUs with ‘schools of education’ but with schools that HNU believed to be attracting large numbers of transferred students from HNU in order to assist as many students as possible.

“The list of 11 schools that HNU has entered into an MOU with (including USF) can  be found on HNU’s website (at) https://hnu.edu/resources/formerhnustudents/#tinstitutions

“That section of the HNU website has a list of several resources for former students including under Financial FAQs.  At the question ‘Is my HNU scholarship still available?’ students can provide information and get in contact with HNU representatives via that link that is provided there in addition to readily available information on the HNU website.

“Student outreach was significant, with multiple emails and paper letters to former students.”

The student group will hold an information session for former HNU education students on how to apply for scholarships and to complete their teacher training programs Saturday, April 27, 3 -5:30 p.m. at Wild Child Schoolhouse, 160 41st St. in Oakland.

A happy hour will follow at Cato’s Ale House, 3891 Piedmont Ave. in Oakland.

For more information, email reclaimlogan@gmail.com.

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