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San Francisco to Distribute $90 Million in Rent Relief

City’s new Emergency Rental Assistance program, with funding from the U.S. Treasury will launch on May 28 and support vulnerable San Francisco tenants.

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By David Odisho: SAN FRANCISCO, CA / U.S. - MAY 1, 2020: Activists congregated outside of San Francisco’s City Hall on May Day rallying for the #CancelRent movement amid a crippled economy that has displaced many.

Mayor London N. Breed announced on Monday that the City’s new emergency rental assistance program will begin accepting applications on May 28. The City’s program is designed to keep tenants in their homes by leveraging existing eviction protections and maximizing prospective rental assistance.

San Francisco’s local program can provide up to six months of rental assistance including three months of future rent. The local program will prioritize the most vulnerable tenants using an evidence-based screening tool that considers a range of factors, such as past homelessness and extremely low household income. San Francisco’s program is in addition to the State’s rental assistance program, which will provide rental assistance for unpaid rents for the period of April 2020 to March 2021.

“This has been a year of challenges unlike anything we’ve faced before, and the economic fallout of the pandemic has been devastating for so many businesses and employees. This rent relief is critical to helping tenants and small property owners get back on their feet as we continue on with our economic recovery,” said Breed. “It’s absolutely crucial that we keep people in their homes, and this funding will help ensure that happens.”

The new rental assistance program is starting with a $26.2 million allocation from the U.S. Treasury, which will then be supplemented later this year by another round of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan. Over $90 million has been allocated to San Francisco tenants and landlords from the federal government for rental assistance, with over $60 million in total being allocated to this new rental assistance program over two rounds of funding. The remaining $30 million in funding from the federal government is earmarked for San Franciscans in funding directed to the State of California.

“Under the historic American Rescue Plan, thousands of struggling San Franciscans will receive much-needed emergency rental assistance,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “By expanding and extending the vital Emergency Rental Assistance Program, the Democratic Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration are ensuring that struggling families continue to have a safe place to live during the pandemic. As House Speaker, I will continue to work hand-in-hand with Mayor Breed to ensure all San Franciscans have access to safe and affordable housing in our vibrant City.”

“San Francisco’s rent relief program will play a big part in keeping families secure in their homes,” said Assemblymember David Chiu. “However, these programs are only good if the public takes advantage of them. I encourage all renters who may be struggling with unpaid rent to apply for this assistance as soon as possible.”

The City is committed to ensuring that as many residents who need assistance receive assistance. However, applications will be prioritized from households who are most vulnerable to becoming unhoused due to certain economic and social factors.

In order for a tenant to be eligible to apply, they must have qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They must also demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability and have a household income at or below 80% of area median income (AMI).

These limits are currently $102,450 for an individual and $146,350 for a family of four. However, the local program will prioritize applicants with very low (50% of AMI) and extremely low incomes (30% AMI). Applicants above 80% AMI will not be eligible for rental assistance through the City or State programs.

The Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development is leading the implementation of the new rental assistance program in close partnership with a network of BIPOC-led, San Francisco-based, culturally competent community-based organizations. 

The City’s rental assistance program is part of a regional homelessness prevention initiative led by All Home. The multi-lingual, low-barrier application will be screened using an evidence-based tool developed in consultation with local and national experts, including UCSF School of Medicine’s Center for Vulnerable Populations, to ensure assistance is provided to the most vulnerable tenants.

Beginning Monday, tenants interested in applying can visit: sf.gov/renthelp to familiarize themselves with the program requirements before the application opens on May 28. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. Applicants will be required to provide documentation to verify identity, income, COVID-19 financial impact and unpaid rent. Since the program will be targeted to the most vulnerable tenants, rental assistance will not be first-come, first-serve. The City encourages tenants to apply on their own online if they are able. If tenants need help completing an application, a network of community-based partners are available to help. These community-based partners may be found at sf.gov/renthelp, by calling 311 or at www.sfadc.org.

Bay Area

Vice Mayor: Business Group Wants to Buy Coliseum, Attract WNBA Team

The group will provide additional details of its effort at a news conference at 11:00 a.m. Friday at a site to be determined.

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Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan.

Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan said a local business group has made serious inroads to buy the city’s 50% stake in the Oakland Coliseum complex and to bring a WNBA team to the city.
Kaplan’s office shared a news release Monday about the effort by the African American Sports and Entertainment Group.

Kaplan said the group is in negotiations with the Oakland-Alameda Joint Powers Authority, has submitted a formal proposal to WNBA officials, and has submitted a term sheet to the city, which the City Council’s rules committee recently voted to advance to the full council for a vote.

The group will provide additional details of its effort at a news conference at 11:00 a.m. Friday at a site to be determined.

“I am pleased that there is such great interest in doing an important development at the Oakland Coliseum that will provide jobs, revenue and community positivity,” Kaplan said. “My goal is to help this process move forward before the summer recess.”

Kaplan said the group has the backing of more than 30 community groups of faith-based institutions, labor organizations, civic leaders, and job development organizations. She did not name the groups

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Art

City Selects Ayodele Nzinga as Inaugural Poet Laureate

As poet laureate, Nzinga will make an inaugural address, partner with the city’s youth poet laureate Myra Estrada on a reading series, deliver four readings in Oakland, and write a poem that commemorates the city.

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Oakland first poet laureate Ayodele Nzinga, author of “SorrowLand Oracle” and “The Horse Eaters,” in an undated photo. (Photo courtesy City of Oakland).

Poet, playwright, and community activist Ayodele Nzinga was selected as Oakland’s inaugural poet laureate, city officials announced on June 11.

Nzinga is the founding producer and director of the West Oakland theater company Lower Bottom Playaz, established in 1999. She’s also the founding director of Black Arts Movement Business District Community Development Corporation, which produces BAMBDFEST, an international arts and cultural festival celebrating the arts in the Black community.

“Her decades-long commitment to Oakland’s art scene will feed the richness of her storytelling as she nurtures creativity in others,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement.

Nzinga is the author of at least two books of poetry: “SorrowLand Oracle,” a collection of spells, incantations, prayers, and “The Horse Eaters,” which is described as an origin tale, a reclamation of memory and a movement toward wholeness in thought.

Nzinga said she is “overjoyed” with her selection as Oakland’s first poet laureate.

“I look forward to representing ‘The Town’ and the honor of bringing poetry to the people!” she said in a statement.

As poet laureate, Nzinga will make an inaugural address, partner with the city’s youth poet laureate Myra Estrada on a reading series, deliver four readings in Oakland, and write a poem that commemorates the city.

“Whether in the visual performing arts, music or literature, the talents of the Town’s artists are world-renowned and deserve recognition and financial support,” J. K. Fowler, cultural affairs commissioner and chair of the poet laureate selection team, said in a statement.

City officials closed nominations on May 19 for Oakland’s inaugural poet laureate and five members of the city’s literary community selected Nzinga from other nominees based on five criteria.

That included their poetic work, and among other things, their understanding of civic stories around belonging, culture, and equity.

Nzinga will serve a two-year term until May 2023. Her selection comes with a $5,000 honorarium.

The date for the inaugural address by Nzinga has not been set.

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Business

Go Fund Geoffrey’s

Whether it was Paul Mooney, Faye Carroll, Sugar Pie or Jay-Z performing or whether it was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Elihu Harris, or Kamala Harris along with many of the Bay area’s elected officials they too have come to bask in the limelight of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle.

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Geoffrey's Inner Circle

For more than 30 years Geoffrey Pete ‘s business, Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, has been a cultural hub because of its full-service restaurant, live entertainment, nightclub parties, jazz music and community special occasion events. Faith-based organizations have also rented the spacious facilities for services and concerts. Their full-service restaurant, bar and live entertainment business along with their tenants and multilevel event rental spaces have been severely interrupted and devastated by the COVID 19 lockdowns and restrictions.

Whether it was Paul Mooney, Faye Carroll, Sugar Pie or Jay-Z performing or whether it was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Elihu Harris, or Kamala Harris along with many of the Bay area’s elected officials they too have come to bask in the limelight of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle. Now those lights are dimmed due to the economic conditions that have descended on high intensity people-contact businesses.

Thanks to a group of customers and supporters a Go Fund Me page has been opened for the public to contribute to support Geoffrey’s Inner Circle https://gofund.me/b2541419.

The Post newspaper has notified the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce that regular articles concerning the needs of Geoffrey’s and other Black-owned Businesses will be published weekly.

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