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Renters Rights Advocates Support Affordable Housing Act

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Carroll Fife, a longtime Oakland activist, speaks at a rally in support of proposition 10, the Affordable Housing Act, which would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. Photo courtesy of voteyesonprop10.org.

California voters will decide this November on Proposition 10, a statewide ballot initiative that would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.

“Costa-Hawkins repeal is one of the primary goals of the renters’ rights movement,” said Shanti Singh, communications and development coordinator for Tenants Together, on Wednesday’s “Your Call” radio show on KALW.

“We pushed very hard for that to happen with Assembly Bill 1506,  (but) it did not pass committee. So now we’re taking it directly to the voters because we know that is what California’s renters want,” said Singh.

Costa-Hawkins sets restrictions statewide on rent control. It exempts from rent control units built (or heavily renovated) after 1995, as well as single-family homes, and condos.

There has been a growing movement for the repeal of Costa-Hawkins, which could allow local governments to create their own rent control laws. Several tenants’ rights organizations, including Tenants Together, endorsed a similar bill last year introduced by Assemblymembers Richard Bloom, David Chiu, and Rob Bonta. It failed early on in the hearing process.

Bonta tweeted shortly after the vote: “I’m disappointed we came up one vote short on AB 1506 to repeal Costa Hawkins, but I’m grateful for the strong show of support at today’s hearing. Every great movement has a beginning, middle and end. We are in the middle!”

Activists who showed at the State Capitol building in January to support Assembly Bill AB1506 described Costa Hawkins in a press release: “It effectively limits local jurisdictions’ ability to address their specific housing issues and prevents them from stabilizing local communities,” the release read.

This year it will be up to the voters to decide. The California Democratic Party has endorsed Prop. 10, also known as the Affordable Housing Act.

The proposition is backed by over $12 million from supporters, including one major contribution by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
The anti-Prop 10 opposition committees have over double that funding, from several real-estate companies including Western National Group, Essex Property Trust, and Equity Residential.

Opponents of the ballot initiative say the repeal would dissuade future developments, preventing more affordable housing projects from being built if landlords don’t find the industry sustainable or lucrative enough.

But proponents say that under Costa-Hawkins, it’s too easy for landlords to take advantage and displace tenants, “When I first moved into this home, the rent was $1850. Four years later my most recent notice is taking my rent to more than $3000,” said Blackstone/Invitation Homes tenant and ACCE member Renita Barbee living in Los Angeles. “My landlord Stephen Schwarzman is worth $12.7 billion while I’m on the verge of losing my home. Our elected officials need to prioritize homes for families like mine instead of unlimited profits for corporate giants like Invitation Homes.”

Bay Area

Where Do Negotiations Go Now After A’s “Howard Terminal” or Bust Ultimatum?

The A’s are seeking to develop 55 acres at the Port of Oakland. The proposal includes a 35,000-seat baseball stadium, which would cost $1 billion, or 8.3% of the total project.

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Oakland A's Photo Courtesy of Rick Rodriquez via Unsplash

FILE – In this Nov. 17, 2016, file photo, Oakland Athletics President David Kaval gestures during a news conference in Oakland, Calif. TheAthletics will be phased out of revenue sharing in the coming years as part of baseball’s new labor deal, and that puts even more urgency on the small-budget franchise’s plan to find the right spot soon to build a new, privately funded ballpark. Kaval, named to his new A’s leadership position last month, is committed to making quick progress but also doing this right. That means strong communication with city and civic leaders as well as the community and fan base. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

John Fisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nikki Fortunato

Rebecca Kaplan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oakland’s City Council rejected the A’s proposed non-binding term sheet, which the team had presented to the City along with an ultimatum, “Howard Terminal or Bust.”

At a packed City Council meeting last week, attended by 1,000 people on Zoom, many residents were angry at what they viewed as the A’s real estate “land grab” at the Port of Oakland and either said that the team should leave or stay at the Oakland Coliseum in East Oakland.
Rejecting the A’s term sheet, councilmembers at the July 20th meeting voted 6-1 with one abstention to make a counteroffer, approving city staff’s and Council’s amendments to the A’s term sheet.

Council’s vote was to continue negotiating with the A’s, and the A’s gained substantial concessions, $352 million, enough to return for further negotiations, in Oakland. The Council’s vote didn’t derail A’s pursuit of Las Vegas.

Now, over a week since Council’s vote, neither A’s President Dave Kaval nor owner John Fisher have spoken publically on the A’s intent to continue bargaining with Oakland for their proposed $12 billion waterfront development at Howard Terminal.

The A’s are seeking to develop 55 acres at the Port of Oakland. The proposal includes a 35,000-seat baseball stadium, which would cost $1 billion, or 8.3% of the total project.

In addition to the stadium, the development features 3,000 condominium/housing units; over a million square feet of commercial space (office and retail); a 3,500-seat performance theater, 400 hotel rooms and approximately 18 acres of parks and open space.

The most fundamental sticking point, along with all the other complications, is whether a commercial/residential development, ‘a city within a city,” in the middle of a working seaport are compatible uses for the land. Many experts are saying that the existence of upscale residences and thousands of tourists strolling around will eventually destroy the Port of Oakland, which is the economic engine of the city and the region.

According to Kaval, who had pushed for the Council to approve the ultimatum, “We’re disappointed that the city did not vote on our proposal … we’re going to take some time and really dig in and understand and ‘vet’ what they did pass and what all the amendments mean.”

Although the A’s stated a willingness to be open to the amended terms Council approved, Kaval expressed uncertainty whether the Council’s amended term sheet offers “a path forward.”

“The current [amended] term sheet as its constructed is not a business partnership that works for us,” said Kaval, saying the team would have to examine the Council’s counter-offer before deciding to resume negotiations or return to Las Vegas or focus on finding a new home someplace else.

City Council President Bas and Mayor Libby Schaaf joined city and labor leaders to discuss the Council’s vote. Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan made it clear that the amended term sheet the Council approved should be considered a “road map for future negotiations … a baseline for further discussions.”

Upon Kaval’s dismissal of the Council’s stated positions, Fife said, “I don’t know where we go from here,” abstaining from the vote on the proposed term sheet.

Many find Kaval’s statement confusing because he used words like partnership but apparently ignored and/or disregarded the City of Oakland – the A’s major stakeholder and a business partnership since 1968, more than 53 years.

Some are asking if the A’s understand that Oakland’s 53-year relationship with the team is the basis for the meme “Rooted in Oakland?” Are the A’s willing to accept, as the Council has determined, that the terms of the business “partnership” must be equitable and mutually beneficial for all of “us”?

And the question remains after a 53-year relationship, is it reasonable to terminate that relationship or negotiate further for an equitable and mutually beneficial business partnership?

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Activism

Free School Meals for All Here to Stay in California

With 1 in every 6 children facing hunger in the U.S., California is the first state to promise that every public school student — all 6 million of them – will get free school meals.

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Nancy Skinner

With 1 in every 6 children facing hunger in the U.S., California is the first state to promise that every public school student — all 6 million of them – will get free school meals.

The universal school meals program, which will launch in the 2022-2023 school year, is part of the landmark state budget agreement reached between Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature last month. Days later, Maine became the second state to commit to offering a universal school meals program with the signing of its budget.

The program ensures that all students will be offered breakfast and lunch at their school, which state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said is “essential to learning.” Skinner has led the effort to establish a universal school meal program.

“We know that many California children are food insecure, and if you’re hungry you cannot learn well,” Skinner said. “The whole point of school is learning, and everything we can do to create an environment that allows children to thrive and learn is what we need to do.”

Skinner introduced a bill in March that would have established a universal school meal program. After the program garnered bipartisan support and the California Department of Finance forecast unexpectedly large projected revenues, lawmakers opted to include it in the state budget rather than as a separate bill.

The final agreement between Newsom and the Legislature calls for $650 million through the Proposition 98 fund each year to reimburse school districts starting in 2022, as well as $54 million in the 2021-22 fiscal year to supplement state meal reimbursements. Proposition 98 is the formula that determines what portion of the general fund goes to community colleges and K-12 schools.

The state program is set to begin in the 2022-23 school year because the U.S. Department of Agriculture has already committed to paying for school meals for all students through the 2021-22 school year.

The USDA has reimbursed districts for providing free meals to all students since the start of the pandemic. Before the pandemic, districts were only reimbursed for feeding students who were enrolled in the National School Lunch Program. Advocates said being able to feed students without having to check whether they qualified for free lunches allowed districts to serve more families at a time when many faced hunger and hardship.

Waiving the eligibility requirements allowed the Oakland Unified School District, for example, to distribute as many as 18,000 grab-and-go meals a day during the pandemic, said spokesman John Sasaki.

“That just goes to show the need that was there,” Sasaki said.

Previously, as part of the National School Lunch Program application process, families had to disclose their household income, how many people lived in the household, their children’s immigration status or if their children were homeless or runaways. Some families feared giving out that information, and students may have felt embarrassed to receive a free meal while others paid for it.

Schools in New York City began serving free meals to all students in 2017 after finding that some students would rather go hungry than admit they didn’t have enough money to pay for lunch. The decision followed a national outcry over “lunch shaming” — publicly shaming students for unpaid school meal bills, or even school staff throwing away their lunches rather than allowing them to eat.

Advocates believed that though 3.9 million students – 63% of California’s student body — participated in the program, the need was actually much higher.

“It’s such good news that everybody gets food with no strings attached, but to be able to do it in a way that nobody is called out is the best thing about this,” Sasaki said. “We want to make sure kids are never given a hard time for being who they are or being in the situation they are in.”

Districts will still be asking families to fill out household income eligibility forms, however. That’s because the number of families in the district that make so little that they qualify for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program remains a key factor in the state’s Local Control Funding Formula. The formula gives additional state funds to districts based on the number of low-income students, English learners, foster children and homeless youth they serve.

Tony Wold, the West Contra Costa Unified associate superintendent of business services, said the district was concerned that fewer families would fill out the household income eligibility forms because they didn’t have to in order to receive free meals. That could have potentially led to a reduction in supplemental funds for the cash-strapped district. To help solve the problem, the district had outreach workers call families directly, explaining why it was important for families to submit the information.

The outreach workers’ “big lift” resulted in more families filling out the forms than the previous year, Wold said, which kept the district’s unduplicated pupils percentage constant. That statistic measures the share of a district’s students who are low-income, homeless, foster youth or English learners — all of which drive the Local Control Funding Formula.

Outreach workers at Oakland Unified emphasize to families who are skeptical about the forms that they determine how much money goes to the classroom, Sasaki said.

California School Boards Association spokesman Troy Flint said the organization anticipates it will be harder for districts to collect income eligibility forms with the new universal meals program. The association hopes the state will provide some support to schools’ “diligent and creative efforts” to collect the forms, though the group isn’t calling for any specific change.

“This administration has prioritized steering additional money toward high-need students, particularly into concentration grants, so there’s reason to believe they might be willing to work toward a modification here,” Flint said.

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Bay Area

Nancy Lieberman Congratulates Kaplan and AASEG, continues to support efforts to Bring a WNBA team to Oakland

This week the AASEG (African American Sports and Entertainment Group) has moved forward to secure the exclusive rights to bring a WNBA team to the Oakland Coliseum.

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Nancy Lieberman/ Wikimedia Commons
This week the AASEG (African American Sports and Entertainment Group) has moved forward to secure the exclusive rights to bring a WNBA team to the Oakland Coliseum.
Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan was pleased to hear that National Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman was pleased too. Both parties had a lengthy conversation back in February, about the business of the WNBA and some of its hurdles. Kaplan told Lieberman the AASEG ( www.aasegoakland.com), and the motion she brought forward received a resounding approval (6-0-2) vote from Oakland City Council members to pursue terms to acquire the City’s 50% interest of the Coliseum Complex.
This critical vote came just three days after the Alameda County Joint Powers Authority unanimously approved a resolution to begin negotiating with the AASEG to bring a WNBA team to Oakland.  With these successive actions, the AASEG can formalize negotiations with City staff toward a Purchase and Sell Agreement for the Coliseum Complex.
Nancy Lieberman is one of professional basketball’s most celebrated female players and an American sports Icon. Nancy truly represents the theme of what is being proposed by the AASEG investment group. The council heard Ray Bobbitt, of AASEG and 97-year-old Gladys Green, present the goal of women leadership and ownership of a WNBA franchise as its primary agenda.Nancy Lieberman has an established record for being a leading advocate and supporter for social and racial equality her entire professional career. She has often credited the African American community, for supporting her and inspiring her possibilities. Now, that she is on the other side of her legend, she wants to pay it forward. Nancy and her business advocate Gary Reeves, said they plan to join a conversation with Ray Bobbitt and Rebecca Kaplan to review a potential alliance soon.

Nancy Lieberman loves the community outreach and civic leaders, who have paved the way for this opportunity. She cited the AASEG for its extensive community support. She said she is looking forward to meeting the AASEG community members and to give high praise and thanks to Rebecca Kaplan for her full-court press-style of support for AASEG, women’s sports, minority businesses, housing and job opportunities for the homeless and formerly incarcerated populations. Lieberman and Gary Reeves, her Bay area-based business advocate, want to meet and work with Gladys Green who is the inspirational leader of the East Oakland community and to congratulate Gay Cobb for the Post News Group’s extensive coverage and the recommendation that AASEG make an offer to purchase the coliseum.

In addition to working as Nancy Lieberman’s business advocate, Gary has been campaigning for support from a Who’s Who list of philanthropists and investors to support a home ownership pledge for those that need their down payments bridged to help them become home owners. During the pandemic his group, along with Lieberman, provided over 1 million dollars in free PPE and clothing for those in under-resourced areas. Oakland was also a benefactor of that program with BPL campuses and the Al Attles Foundation, ACE (Attles Center for Excellence)

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