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New Berkeley Terner Center Database Gives ‘Road Map’ for Local Housing Reform

Local municipalities around the U.S. now have a road map to pursue housing reform through a first-of-its kind database created by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley. It catalogs state incentives and programs that legislators can emulate to produce more local housing. As part of Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, the Terner Center’s database sorts 144 pro-housing policies from 20 states by factors related to affordability and equity.

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: The first-of-its kind database sorts pro-housing policies from 20 states by factors related to affordability and equity. View of San Francisco. (Photo by Mike McBey via Flickr)
The first-of-its kind database sorts pro-housing policies from 20 states by factors related to affordability and equity. View of San Francisco. (Photo by Mike McBey via Flickr)

By Ivan Natividad

Berkeley News

Local municipalities around the U.S. now have a road map to pursue housing reform through a first-of-its kind database created by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley. It catalogs state incentives and programs that legislators can emulate to produce more local housing.

As part of Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, the Terner Center’s database sorts 144 pro-housing policies from 20 states by factors related to affordability and equity. This can serve as a resource to help policymakers and housing advocates implement effective housing policy in their local contexts, said Shazia Manji, a Terner Center research associate.

“It is clear that state action is needed to overcome local resistance to housing production; what is less clear, however, is the road map to shift policy,” Manji said. “This database and typology are a first effort to catalog what states across the country have done to advance home-building.”

To capture the breadth of state pro-housing laws across the country, Terner Center researchers scanned published research of state laws that were designed to produce more local housing production. A legal search engine was also used to identify laws that may have not been included in academic research studies.

The final report focuses on laws passed by state legislatures, and approved by governors, that impact local planning and zoning decisions.

Manji said the data shows that state legislation typically employs several policies at a time to put the necessary pressure on localities to produce more housing. The development of these state pro-housing tools often occurs through years of work.

“While legislation can, and sometimes does, implement new and novel approaches, the majority of the laws we reviewed made changes to try and improve upon existing laws and requirements,” said Manji. “… This report sets the stage for a much-needed and more comprehensive effort to compile and characterize what states have already done to intervene in local housing policy and practice.”

For the full report, go to https://ternercenter.berkeley.edu/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/State-Land-Use-Report-Final-1.pdf

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Activism

Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

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Bay Area

Gus Newport: A Soldier for Justice

One year ago, on June 12, 2023, my husband of 35 years was picked up by a van at our house in Oakland. It was the last time I saw him alive. The van was owned by Owl Transport, a company used by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It was to take my husband to the San Francisco VA Medical Center to see about getting a new hearing aid. Within a half hour of leaving the house, a San Francisco Fire Department ambulance was called to 8th and Harrison streets because Gus was unconscious. When they arrived at San Francisco General Hospital, Gus’s cell phone, wheelchair and tote bag had all gone missing. An enterprising social worker Googled Gus and found a phone number for his daughter in Atlanta; she called her brother in Oakland, and he immediately called me.

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Kathryn Kasch and Gus Newport
Kathryn Kasch and Gus Newport

By Kathryn Kasch

One year ago, on June 12, 2023, my husband of 35 years was picked up by a van at our house in Oakland. It was the last time I saw him alive.

The van was owned by Owl Transport, a company used by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It was to take my husband to the San Francisco VA Medical Center to see about getting a new hearing aid.

Eugene “Gus” Newport was 88 years old and wheelchair-bound because he had lost a leg in 2021, but my husband remained as active as I had always known him, forever engaged in civil rights and community development work, just as he had been as mayor of Berkeley from 1979 to 1986.

Gus had a busy week ahead of him: on June 16 he was going to be interviewed for a film about his friendship with Malcolm X; on the following day he was scheduled to fly to Atlanta for a weekend board meeting.

Within a half hour of leaving the house, a San Francisco Fire Department ambulance was called to 8th and Harrison streets because Gus was unconscious. When they arrived at San Francisco General Hospital, Gus’s cell phone, wheelchair and tote bag had all gone missing. An enterprising social worker Googled Gus and found a phone number for his daughter in Atlanta; she called her brother in Oakland, and he immediately called me.

The next morning, I called Owl; they said they were investigating and had notified the VA, but the VA never called the family. I was able to reach Gus’s VA doctor, who works primarily at UCSF, and she told me to call the Patient Advocate number, but they never called me back.

The doctors at the hospital determined that Gus had suffered a severe neck and spinal injury and that if he ever regained consciousness, he would be a permanent quadriplegic.  On June 17, we decided to let him go. The VA doctor helped me convince the San Francisco Medical Examiner to carry out an autopsy, which was finally done on June 30, and it confirmed that Gus’s injuries were the result of somehow falling backward in the van.

Three weeks after the accident, someone finally called me from the Veterans Transportation Service office in San Francisco — but he would not tell me anything about what they thought happened in the van, though he said they were working to make sure this never happens again.  They had never looked for a second phone number to reach the family and continued to call Gus’s missing cell phone after he died.

In July 2023 the family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Owl in San Francisco Superior Court, and we are waiting for a trial date to be set. In December 2023, the Chronicle ran an investigative article about the poor billing system for the SFFD ambulances, and sure enough, when I asked our lawyers if they had seen a bill, they showed me an invoice “addressed” to “Eugene Doe, Homeless, San Francisco, CA 94107” — adding insult to injury, even though the driver had Gus’s name and address on his log sheet since he had just picked him up.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee made some inquiries to the VA on our behalf, and in February, eight months after the accident, an undersecretary of the VA called me — but only to offer me his condolences. He still said nothing about what their investigation had revealed. After I asked him some questions, he said they are still using Owl because they have not been able to find another company to serve the Oakland area — more discouraging news.

And in September 2023 our attorney filed a claim for wrongful death with the VA, but when he called the Office of the General Counsel in February, he learned that the claim had been received but had never been downloaded into their system, let alone assigned to a claim agent!

Gus was drafted into the Army in 1956 and was sent from his hometown of Rochester, N.Y., to Fort Knox, KY, giving him his first exposure to racist Jim Crow rules in Indiana and Kentucky. From there he was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, where he worked in intelligence and logistics and played football for the base team, injuring his right knee — “playing football for my country,” he said. He also uncovered corruption among American officers who were skimming money from payments to German civilian workers. He threatened to go to the Stars and Stripes newspaper and was abruptly discharged and put on a plane back to the U.S.

Gus was a civil rights and peace activist all his life, starting with protesting police violence against Blacks in Rochester in the 1960s. He came to Berkeley in the 1970s and in the spring of 1979 was drafted by Berkeley Citizens Action to run for mayor. He won that election and was re-elected in 1982 by the biggest plurality in Berkeley history. He challenged unnecessary wars and budget priorities that consistently fund excessive Pentagon spending instead of our domestic needs and security. He supported sanctuary for refugees from Central America, divested from apartheid South Africa, and pioneered in providing domestic benefits for unwed partners.

Countless times in his life, Gus stepped up when his voice was needed. On April 5, 1977, his birthday, a group of protestors in San Francisco began the longest occupation of a federal building in U.S. history, and Gus showed up to support the dozens of disabled activists who were demanding their civil rights. Specifically, they called for implementation of Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, which was designed to help returning Vietnam veterans and included language stipulating that no person should be discriminated against on the basis of disability in any program receiving federal assistance — from schools to transportation and public buildings. After 25 days the “504 occupation” succeeded.

When Gus was elected mayor, his administration created the Mayor’s Task Force on Persons with Disabilities, passed ordinances to ensure access to all public meetings and non-discrimination in City hiring and provided funding for programs serving people with disabilities.

Now we are still faced with the task of uncovering the truth of what happened to Gus in the Owl van and seeking justice for our loss. Unfortunately, except for the one doctor, the Veterans Administration has done nothing to answer our questions or help with our plight.

Years ago, I remember Gus’s granddaughter had just learned the Pledge of Allegiance in kindergarten. She was declaiming some of it in the back seat of our car — “with liberty and justice for all” — and she paused. She asked us, “What’s justice?”

Kathryn Kasch is a retired housing planner who was born and raised in Oakland.  For more information, go to gusnewport.com.

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Bay Area

Oakland Students Find Learning and Classroom Disparities in New Report

The Oakland-based student program, Energy Convertors, released their yearly report on learning proficiency and classroom management for the 2023-2024 school year. Fellows in the program found that students in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) believed they were proficient in English and math curriculum, when in fact they were not. Energy Converters fellows surveyed 353 OUSD high school students (1% of all OUSD students) asking questions based on how they felt they were doing in their classes, how teachers were conveying proficiency goals to them, and whether teachers were keeping a conducive classroom environment.

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Oakland students released a report showing learning and classroom disparities that are hindering their education. Photo by Ridofranz, iStock.
Oakland students released a report showing learning and classroom disparities that are hindering their education. Photo by Ridofranz, iStock.

By Magaly Muñoz

The Oakland-based student program, Energy Convertors, released their yearly report on learning proficiency and classroom management for the 2023-2024 school year. Fellows in the program found that students in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) believed they were proficient in English and math curriculum, when in fact they were not.

Energy Converters fellows surveyed 353 OUSD high school students (1% of all OUSD students) asking questions based on how they felt they were doing in their classes, how teachers were conveying proficiency goals to them, and whether teachers were keeping a conducive classroom environment.

The report, titled “Demanding Proficiency over Pageantry”, found that 3 out of 4 students surveyed believed that they were reading on grade-level and 3 out of 5 students believed they were meeting the grade-level standard in math.

Nearly 75% of those surveyed also said that a teacher has not discussed whether they were reading or understanding math proficiently.

A study conducted by Families in Action (FIA) Oakland showed that in the 2021-22 school year only 36% of students were at grade-level reading proficiency and 26% were proficient in math.

The FIA study also showed that Black and Latino students had the lowest proficiencies in these areas at 12% and 15% respectively.

MarQuis Evans, program manager of Energy Converters, told the Post that their annual reports are based on the experiences and topics that their fellows are encountering at their schools. The students are asked to share how they feel about a particular situation, in this case how well they are doing in the classroom, and then tasked with researching the effects of those subjects in relation to Oakland students.

“A lot of students were voicing that they passed a class but they don’t necessarily know if they understand [the subject],” Evans said.

A goal of Energy Convertors is making sure the kids know that they have to be their biggest advocates in school. Teachers deal with many students over the course of their day so knowing how to ask the right questions about their educational needs is imperative.

Charles Cole, founder of Energy Convertors, said he’s pushing this responsibility onto students and their parents because they are ultimately the ones who have to deal with the consequences if they’re not staying on top of their work.

“No one is coming to save you,” Cole said.

Another finding in the report was that many students, 80% who took the survey, said they were not aware that they were chronically absent. To be considered chronically absent, a student has to miss 10% of the total school days in the year, which could mean anytime over 18 missing days.

Vulnerable groups in California such as students with disabilities, English-learners, and students of color all have high absentee rates ranging from 25% to 37%, according to the CA School Dashboard.

The report recommends that schools should use incentives, like rewards, to push kids into attending their classes. It also states that students should be communicating why they are missing from their classes and what support they might need in order to attend more frequently.

Michelle Coleman, former OUSD administrator and current principal in West Contra Costa, said it’s important for students to be able to express their concerns about their education.

Coleman explained that in her experience it helped to keep all stakeholders informed about what was going on. For example, the school would notify parents after a certain amount of absences and would offer support in cases where resources might help get the student to attend school more often.

She shared that she wished students understood that as much as they are having struggles, teachers are also trying their best to keep kids in line and help them achieve grade-level goals, but it’s hard for them to care more about their education than the student actually cares for.

“I have high expectations, but it’s because I believe in you, and I know you can do it, and I will help you get there, but I need you to help yourself first,” Coleman said.

Coleman stressed that the most important aspect in all this is that the students feel like they are succeeding and the people around them are rooting for them to do so. Educators are setting these kids up to be functioning members of society and to give back to the community the same way they were given opportunities and chances because it ultimately takes a village to raise these students.

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