The town of Marysville, CA, north of Sacramento, hosts a parade each year honoring the Bok Kai Temple and the Chinese-American descendants of people who came to the town in the 1880s. Seminar-goers from the Temples and Museums Conference got to watch the parade down the main street, a spectacle that included their beloved and extremely long Chinese dragon (I counted at least 35 pairs of legs propping him up), martial arts clubs, high school bands, the de rigueur politicians in vintage cars, lads popping fire crackers along the street, and fire trucks old and new.
The day after the town celebrated “Bomb Day.” The event begins with a procession through town. Participants carry plaques with the names of various Buddhist deities. Thousands of firecrackers explode, turning the street a bright pink with their detritus. Eighteen handmade bombs stuffed with gunpowder are set off near the temple. A ring atop each cylinder bomb blasts into the air while young men below scurry to catch it and learn the lucky number it bears.
This was the 136th year of the Bok Kai Festival. Bok Kai is a protective god. The temple bears his name and is one of oldest Taoist temples in the country. The celebration happens in the second month of each Chinese New Year.
Friends of Marysville (California) Bok Kai Temple spearheaded a “Temples and Museums: Managing and Interpreting Historic Cultural Assets,” conference March 12 and 13. The Chinese American Museum of Chicago put on the event. I attended as a member of the Brannan Island-Isleton Historical Society board and learned that we in Isleton are lucky to have a tong building (Chinese gathering place and temple) that is under restoration. The Bing Kong Tong will have its many artifacts replaced and be ready for public viewing by about April of 2017.
But I learned that many towns’ and cities’ Chinese temples have gone under the wrecking ball, usually to make way for freeways and other roads. Their artifacts have been carried off as well.
Presenters shared their difficulties in preserving Chinese temples and their original contents. They were from Singapore, Victoria, Idaho, New Hampshire, Oregon, and other parts of the United States, along with a number of places in California.
Marysville organizers said their town has a long history of Chinese integration into the community and that they have been valued community members. Chinese descendants and non-Chinese members of town attested to that and urged participants to see the Bok Kai Temple in town. The temple was built in 1865, destroyed by fire the next year and rebuilt. Renovated in 1880, the temple saw 1,500 Chinese and other citizens at its grand opening. It is the oldest continually operating temple in Northern California.
Bok Kai was known as Ruler of the North. He vanquished the Demon King and is known for his ability to bring order out of chaos. He also is considered a water god, providing protection from both flood and drought.
We then adjourned to the Chinese temple in the town of Oroville where the restorer’s daughter gave us a tour of their extensive museum and still-active temple. The temple was built in 1863 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Conference organizers said that they want to keep the momentum of preservation going and will pass the baton to San Jose and Isleton to host the next two seminars.
Locke, CA — The management association responsible for the maintenance and historical preservation of the Delta town of Locke, California, has won a nearly five- year lawsuit over resident Martha Esch and co-defendant Dona LeBlanc, and will be able to reclaim a historic building in the town for preservation purposes. The Lock Historic District, where the property at issue stands, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990.
On February 19, 2016, the Locke Management Association (LMA) prevailed on summary judgment after being forced to sue and endure five years of litigation to protect its right of first refusal. The suit resulted when Esch bought the historical building at issue from LeBlanc without giving the LMA first right of refusal as required in their bylaws and covenants, conditions, and restrictions.
Chinese workers who were responsible for developing the farmland founded Locke in 1915. The town they established is the only standing rural Chinese town in the United States built exclusively by Chinese people for themselves at the time established. Thousands of visitors come annually to step back in time and walk through a town that looks much like it did 100 years ago.
The judge’s ruling frees the townspeople to continue preserving Locke as an important historic landmark and enables the LMA to buy back the building, which in the peak of Locke’s heyday, was a gambling hall. The years of lawsuits and counter lawsuits have drained the LMA’s pockets and energy. Meanwhile Esch has occupied the building and operated an art gallery on the premises.
“After five years, it’s nice to exhale and get back to the work we’ve been waiting to do all this time,” said Russell Ooms, president of the LMA. “The suits cost the town $100,000 — money that could have been spent on upkeep and preservation.” Members of the LMA board, a governmental body set up by the County of Sacramento in 2003, receive no compensation for their long hours of work.
The court ruling states that, without the LMA’s knowledge, the defendants began negotiations for the building around mid-January of 2011, with LeBlanc as the prospective seller of the property. Shortly thereafter Esch signed a formal offer to purchase it. The agreement contained an all cash offer for $21,000, the price Esch paid LeBlanc. But “the contract contained no contingency for the LMA to consider its right of first refusal,” the court ruling said. Defendant Esch was aware of the LMA
right of first refusal “for some time” prior to closing escrow, and admitted to actually reading them prior to closing escrow.
In February of 2011, counsel for LeBlanc notified the LMA too late in the process of the sale. The LMA did vote to exercise its right of first refusal and notified interested parties who had a right to purchase the property, as required in its bylaws and the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. The lists for notification include former Chinese residents, their descendants and ascendants as well as other interested parties added to the list. The court document shows that Esch, in attendance at that meeting, closed on the sale two weeks later, “with personal knowledge of the LMA’s rights of first refusal….” The judge found that Esch had exercised “willful disregard.”
In public and in the press, Esch has questioned the authenticity of Locke as a Chinese-founded town and belittled the importance of much beloved Chinese elder Connie King, one of the last longtime inhabitants. “Connie King, would be thrilled that Ms. Esch has been put into her rightful place with Sacramento Superior Court Judge David I. Brown’s words,” said resident James Motlow. Motlow spent years recording the last Chinese residents on camera. “The judge said, (The evidence) ‘is insufficient to establish that Esch acted legally or ethically.’ The Locke Management Association has acted legally and ethically and is working everyday to preserve everything that Connie King fought for,” Motlow said.
The ruling said Esch must now let the LMA have the building on the same terms as her initial real estate purchase of $21,000.
Note to Editors: We are happy to provide more information on this lawsuit — elaborate on what impact the Locke Management Association’s success has on the town of Locke and its people, or answer any other questions. Please contact: Gregory P. Wayland, Esq.
The Locke Management Association is a California non-profit mutual benefit corporation. Its purpose as stated in its bylaws is to improve the well-being of Locke, preserve the town’s cultural and historical integrity, and manage the town. Its board members include representatives from government and other agencies and groups, and town building owners, both Chinese and non-Chinese. No board members are compensated.
It’s the first evening of summer, the end of a long, fairly hot day, but the community garden is a welcoming spot. Families, couples and single folks are strolling in for the third in a series of cooking classes at the tables in back of Oak Park Sol Community Garden on Broadway.
Tyler Wescott, a certified Food Literacy Center “genius,” is dividing up what can only described as beautiful fresh produce among the three tables. On the back, his T-shirt says: “Ask me anything.” So I do. Tonight the recipes adults and children will be learning to make are white bean hummus—with squash, cucumbers and purple carrots cut up to dip into it—and SunButter yogurt parfait with seasonal berries on top. SunButter is a brand made from sunflower oil, cane syrup and salt, to satisfy the “unsaturated rather than saturated fat argument,” Tyler says. A major thrust of the organization is to encourage children to eat more fruits and vegetables. And to prove to them that those things can taste outstanding. Tyler will be the instructor this evening for this all-volunteer endeavor. His second in command is Tara Martinez who is not yet through the academy but is savvy enough to lend a hand with teaching the creation of parfaits. Tara is working at Whole Foods in Davis but about to transition to a job in Sutter General’s café. Formerly she interacted with an Obama-supported program that introduced a fruit-of-the-day to schoolchildren. At recess, she would hand out, and teach kids how to eat, everything from oranges to papayas. “The kids didn’t know what half the stuff was,” Tara says. “It made me sad.” She discovered that the Food Literacy Center, which just happened to be next door to the restaurant where she was a cook, was hosting a volunteer orientation. She signed up. “I love everything to do with cooking,” she says. She soon added her name to the volunteer list, which is about a hundred strong now. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of good people who intensions are all the same.”
Pat (no last name given) has lived in the neighborhood 33 years and is sitting on a bench waiting for the cooking to begin. She’s glad that children are being given a chance to become familiar with vegetables. “They wash, cut, stir, mix vegetables they normally wouldn’t try,” she says. The last session she attended they shredded beets, carrots and onions and topped the slaw with vinaigrette they fashioned themselves. “They would never have tried any of that before,” she says. She likes to see the teens participating too. “It’s fun to watch them enjoy the results of their cooking. Particularly the veggie wraps they had us make one time.” She has picked up tips too. Last session she learned to cut a green onion and deposit the part in water that you are not using in your dish. “It keeps growing and pretty soon you have your own chives.”
Oak Park Sol Community Garden
Kids’ herb garden. Don’t pick yet, please!
Baby Gage Jones supervises from his Dad’s head while his family makes hummus from fresh produce.
Oak Park Sol Community Garden’s worm box.
Kids from the Oak Park neighborhood wait for food genius Tyler to blend their hummus.
You’re never too young to make and enjoy hummus.
Farmers with plots donate some of the produce for the classes although most of it comes from other natural food resources. Today the donor is Heavy Dirt in Davis. Honey used in recipes is local, with the thought that people with allergies to various regional plants will find relief. A crowd of all ages has gathered. There is room for about 10 people per table. Tyler introduces what they will be making today and points to a mouth-watering array on each table. Zucchinis mingle with purple basil. Yellow nectarines, plums and apricots call out to be eaten. Tyler talks about the white cannellini beans that people can find canned if they do not want to cook them themselves and describes them as a fun alternative in hummus.
People gather around the tables and begin. Mike Jones, holding baby Gage, looks on while his wife Gina and their other son dig in to help with hummus. The family lives a couple of blocks away across from McClatchy Park and heard about the events at the farmers’ market. Gina is a vegan, Mike says, so these vegetable-oriented foods really appeal to her. While he likes vegan cooking, he says he still likes his meat and dairy. It is the second time for Max and his mother Rochelle. “He is getting more adventurous,” she says with a laugh. “He tried a yellow zucchini and he liked the Asian lettuce wraps and stone fruit salad last time. It is really helping his eating habits with this exposure.” Heather is there with her two sons Elliot and Martin. Her younger son likes to “mix a bunch of foods together,” she says. “He’ll easily mix sweet and sour.” They have been to a few classes at the College Heights Library. Heather looks down at her son after he has sampled the parfait. “Is it amazing?” she asks. “OK, high five.”
Meanwhile, Randy Stannard is nearby showing people the worm box that Sacramento State Environmental Studies Program has made for the garden. Randy is president of the board at Oak Park Sol and works for Soil Born Farms. Soil Born promotes programs that encourage young people and adults to learn how to produce healthful foods, and it mentors future farmers. The focus also is on teaching people to cook what they and others grow, and transforming urban spaces into community gardens. In general, they focus on green space development, Randy says. “Transitioning vacant lots or any unused spaces—like funny empty corners on a block. We can turn these into productive spaces. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a community garden. Some spaces may be suitable for some sort of housing development. Or maybe a little park instead of dead grass and weeds.” A major focus in the garden is to spread the concept and practice of urban gardening throughout this low-income neighborhood. Individual family plots are 15×10 feet, but all the gardeners take care of other areas of the garden. Within the community space is a kids’ garden, a wheel-chair accessible garden, a shade garden and native bee habitat—to mention a few. A greenhouse on the premises supports native plant growth. The 11,600- foot perimeter is planted with native California shrubs and wildflowers to attract butterflies and native bees. Besides the cooking classes, anyone can come to free composting and gardening classes. Randy and other food activists worked to see an ordinance passed by the City of Sacramento that promotes urban agriculture and is giving access to land for farmers. People with homes of an acre or more can support farmers. The ordinance took effect in April with the “purpose to support production and sale of locally grown foods, build community, increase public health and well being” and provide economic opportunities in areas that have been vacant or underutilized. These types of actions must be a neighborhood-led process, he stresses. “This community garden was started by the residents, spearheaded by Cara Jennifer Solis. Earl Withycombe inherited the land a few years ago. His family had owned the land since the 40s. The house associated with the land had burned down and he wanted to make it into something meaningful.” Randy says that in 2011, dumpsters started removing debris from the area. “It was full of trash and drug paraphernalia. Now people are gardening here year-round.”
I’m excited to invite you to the opening reception of my new gallery and home of Home Free Publishing beautiful downtown Isleton, California. Save the date and join us for an evening of art, music, food and fun. Everyone welcome!
Grand Opening Reception of the F and Main Gallery
Featuring works by these Artists:
Painter, Gregory Crawford
Painter, Sally Ooms
Photographer, James Motlow
Photographer, Keith Palmer
36 Main Street, Isleton, CA
(on the corner of F St.)
Saturday May 16, 2015
5PM – 8PM
Hors d’oeuvres from local purveyors Local wine and other beverages Live music
This is a copy of the letter I wrote for the Rio Vista Beacon. There is also a brief news story from the local CBS affiliate. Photos from the candle light vigil on Saturday 3/28/15 will be posted next week.
I don’t usually see people in terms of good or bad. But this last week has jarred me out of my non-judgmental mind-set.
A kind elderly man on my rural block was murdered. He lived about five houses from me on a levee with his wife of 56 years who had been his high school sweetheart. The murderer was a young man whom I do not know but who obviously had anger issues. He had had altercations with many neighbors. He lived in a trailer hidden from the street by the house he once lived in but lost. Neighbors who know him say he has become increasingly bullying and irrational of late. I don’t know if he was doing drugs or not.
I came home Sunday night, Feb. 15, and was escorted through a crime scene area. When my partner told me who had been killed I was in a state of shock. Who would kill this gentle older man? He kept a few animals and last year wanted to give me a sheep that had followed him around since it was a lamb. He brought equipment to help neighbors with their gardens. He let people in the neighborhood swim and fish off his private dock on the slough, including the man who murdered him.
On Valentine’s Day, my partner and I pedaled our bikes past the older couple’s house. They were having a gathering and called out and waved to us. Although they own the levee road, they are always nice about granting access to walkers and bicyclists.
So, here is the story, as I understand it: Apparently my elderly neighbor went to the trailer to inquire about a dispute between the younger man and his son. The unbalanced younger man had thrown a rock through the older man’s sons’ window and cut his son’s face. I don’t know if our older neighbor had entered the house invited or uninvited but he had no weapon. He did not own a gun and all of us feel certain that he did not have violent intensions. He was shot dead.
The next day we learned that the shooter was still on the loose. While police knew who he was, there were no photos of him on the sketchy news reports, so that was frightening for us. We then heard that he was in jail, that he had turned himself in. Next we heard that he had been released because “there was not enough evidence” to charge him. There was much anger, confusion and more fear in the neighborhood, along with absolute outrage and sorrow on behalf of the dead man’s family.
Two days after the shooting, three Sheriff Department SUVs were parked near the murderer’s trailer. Finally, I thought. They are going to arrest him. But, when I took flowers to the widow and family gathered at the dead man’s house later that day, I was told that, no, the police were protecting the murderer while he got his possessions out of his house. The shooter had been afraid someone would take revenge on him for what he had done.
Now we all have learned that if you go into anyone’s house and they say they feel threatened, they have the right to kill you. In this case I feel the murderer was mentally impaired or on drugs or both, and that he did something a person in his right mind would not do: kill a non-aggressive kindly man who had been friendly to him in the past. So, the shooter got away with murder and moved on. As far as we know, he is not in any kind of program to help him so he doesn’t do this again.
I wonder what the dead man’s family will tell their children about how their beloved grandfather died. What kind of lesson is this for the children in our community? What kind of lesson is this for us adults? The murderer has two children of his own who were thankfully not at home during the killing. But think of the legacy they are yoked with.
I wonder if the murderer will come back. I don’t know what he looks like, so should I just be afraid of every stranger that comes to my door? I also wonder whose neighborhood he is living in now. Not yours, I hope.
Rachel Brown is jittery today. She sits in the Family Promise Day Center with one eye on her children who are playing nearby. She is feeling nervous because this afternoon she will go for a job interview. Rachel is half African-American (she mentions that her father was the first black attorney in Vallejo) and half Cuban. She is going for a position as a Cuban-English translator.
Rachel, 32, and her husband lived for a long time in San Jose but became homeless in Sacramento. Her husband was a Bay Area limousine driver whose car, through no fault of his own, caught on fire on a bridge. He was able to save four of his passengers but five of them died. Even though he wasn’t culpable, he was fired from his job. He started going to therapy. Rachel says he has a lot of anxiety surrounding the accident, so much so that he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has had a hard time at subsequent jobs.
A common story when people are struggling to maintain jobs, the couple got behind in payments. They lost their Sacramento dwelling and paid to stay in motels because they couldn’t save enough to rent an apartment. They called Next Move Shelter but were unable to get in. When they called Family Promise Rachel says “one of the ladies did an intake over the phone. The next morning they took us in. November 11th. We have been here all through the holidays and they really took good care of us.”
The parents and their children, 9 and 6, go each evening to their lodging in the church that is sheltering and feeding families in the Family Promise rotation system.
Rachel’s husband is working now and Rachel hopes to be at a job soon too. Since they have been part of Family Promise, they have saved some money but they have $1,095 to pay back to make up for their eviction and get the debt cleared off their credit report. “Here they help us with resources. They tell you people you need to contact and send out faxes for you,” Rachel says. “I can get phone calls here too. It is probably the best family shelter here in Sacramento. All the pictures on these walls are success stories.
“But you have to be willing,” she says. “You have to do your footwork.”
Family Promise wants to keep families together and solvent. Marsha Spell, executive director of Family Promise of Sacramento, says she is seeing more and more families desperate for housing, people who have found themselves on the streets because they could not make the rent. Calls from people wanting to be taken into the program are averaging about 115 a month.
The non-profit, one of 187 affiliates in the country, guides families toward lasting independence. “The problem of poverty is complex,” says their website. “It won’t yield to a simple solution or quick fix.” For the past 10 years, the local Family Promise has approached the problem by meeting immediate needs but also by helping alleviate the root causes of their clients’ poverty.
Spell describes her 90-day program: Families are taken into their center and assigned a case manager to work with. Children go to school and parents who are not employed are required to spend their time investigating five jobs a day. Staff helps develop budgets, stressing that rent, food and utilities come first with extras after that. They also look at ongoing expenses people may have, like storage costs, car payments and insurance. “And do they have parking tickets or speeding tickets they didn’t pay,” says Spell. “We want them to address it all, moving forward, with nothing to hold them back.”
There is help with emotional setbacks as well. Family Promise offers marital counseling and anger management courses, to mention a few.
Families use the day center for laundry, showers, telephoning, and researching and sending out resumes on computers. There is a child play area and adults who have not gone to work do chores. In the evening, Family Promise transports everyone to a church host. Churches who participate rotate the family night care once a week. Each family is given a room and meals. Currently 16 churches are a part of the local Family Promise. The faiths included are Catholic, Jewish, United Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Latter Day Saints and non-denominational.
“Each family is different. We focus on families we can help the quickest,” she says. “Most families have been evicted. The next landlord then wants two and a half times the rent to get into the building. So families get motel rooms by the month and run out of money the third week. The motels do not give them a break. The no-tells are the worst. They charge $325 a week at least.
“They could get a good apartment for that much a month but they can’t muster the deposit. So then they usually go from family members’ to friends’ homes couch surfing, but there is limit to that.
“The most common thing we see is that people do not know how to get started again,” Spell says. “They may not have had parents who taught them life skills. They may never have balanced a bank statement or know how to budget themselves. If they get behind in car payments, they might just ignore them so they don’t have to think about the problem.
“We hold them to it while we show them what they have to do to make it work. One family went out to eat at Joe’s Crab Shack and spent over $100. Another was paying $125 for a gym membership. We steer them back to basics. Most of our graduates make it when they leave,” she says proudly. “Many have stayed in contact.”
One hundred and seventy-three families that have graduated in 10 years, 31 this year. That is a national high within the Family Promise system.
Family Promise receives no federal or state monies. “That’s a huge thing,” Spell says. “We are totally dependent on donors and grants. We are not a rich non-profit.” Like their families, “we have to watch every penny.”
Spell never seems to rest. She manages estate sales on the weekends, ferreting out cars, furniture and household supplies she can give to the families. “We get 35 percent of the proceeds. Sometimes we sell cars right on the spot, or when families are moving out, we find out if cars are available.”
She says it takes about $15,000 a month to run the program. Since the 2008 crash, donations have gone down. “But we have just picked up a couple of grants,” she says. “We have to constantly work to keep the numbers up.”
Gentrification: a general term for the arrival of wealthier people in an existing urban district, a related increase in rents and property values, and changes in the district’s character and culture. The term is often used negatively, suggesting the displacement of poor communities by rich outsiders.
Every year the National Low Income Housing Coalition puts out figures that relate to housing and wages, that is the wage a person must earn to afford rentals in communities across the country.
The report, called “Out of Reach” is appropriately titled. For at least the last 20 years, the crisis of unaffordable housing has been growing so that even renters with adequate jobs who think of themselves as middle class are finding themselves in trouble, and low income and extremely low-income renters are forced out onto the streets.
About this displacement, the Sacramento Housing Alliance says “our neighbors, friends and loved ones are making decisions that no one should ever have to make to pay rent—like going without medical and dental care, nutritional foods and adequate child care.
So when is a rental house/apartment considered affordable? Most guidelines say:
a. When an individual or family can pay for it out of their monthly income and still have enough money left for food, clothing, transportation and health care.
b. When the rent and utilities cost no more than 30 percent of the household income. However, this means that a family of four with two working parents earning the minimum wage can only afford $700 in rent or mortgage payment and utilities.
Sacramento’s growing population is creating a demand for rental housing that is not being met. Rents are rising. What was a short time ago an average of $1,021 for a two-bedroom apartment has popped up to around $1,369 a month, according to the online real estate data base Zillow.com. Senior citizens on social security, people receiving unemployment insurance and people with disabilities receiving SSI are but a few of the population who are staring impossible rents in the face.
It is looking grim even for working families. If you take the recent statistic of what was considered fair market rent in Sacramento ($1,021 for a two-bedroom apartment), the affordable rent and utilities without paying more than 30 percent of income on housing, a household must earn an annual salary of $40,840. In California the minimum wage workers earns $8 an hour. To afford the fair market rental for two bedrooms, a minimum wage earner must work 100 hours a week for 52 weeks a year.
Compounding the unavailability problem is Sacramento County’s recent decision to change an ordinance that required developers to include housing for low income and extremely low income people to be built in their future developments. Now developers pay fees into a housing trust for poor people en lieu of building more affordable housing.
And, it looks as though the city will soon enact a similar ordinance revision.
Carol White, a social worker with Family Promise of Sacramento, says families she sees are recently displaced and homeless predominantly because either their landlord has decided to sell their dwelling and has evicted them, or they have been living with others who then move out and they cannot make the rent.
“When you have been evicted from other places, it a big problem in terms of renting anything else. Most of the families we see all seem to have one or two evictions of this nature,” White says.
Family Promise is a non-profit group of approximately 13 Sacramento area church congregations who rotate hosting families at night in their churches and feeding them a warm dinner. During the day, they provide a center in the Loaves and Fishes complex to help them find housing and solutions to problems blocking permanent independence.
Director of the Sacramento Housing Alliance Darryl Rutherford says the calls to his office from desperate people who are finding it impossible to rent a place to live are increasing. “Rents are what the market will bear. Couple this with the low minimum wage, housing is getting out of reach for a lot of people,” he says. The median rent in Sacramento has increased 13 percent over the past year, he says.
Another issue is the proposed development for Sacramento’s downtown area, Rutherford says. “Soon it will be catering to the few elite and ultimately shove the working poor out to the fringes.”
He says people will either move to where they can afford to rent or make do somehow. He is hearing of families doubling and tripling up in rentals and still having a hard time making ends meet.
Rutherford says that with the gentrification of downtown, a lot of small businesses that are not included in the economic development plan will be displaced as well. “Sacramento is definitely not going to meet its goals for sustainability. One can appreciate the focus on redevelopment of downtown but it should be with a minimum impact on the people there.
“You lose a lot of the fiber of the community, all the social connections of the neighborhood, when you drive people out to create condos, boutique hotels (as is the case of the Marshall Hotel on 7th Street which has been a 90-room single room occupancy hotel for low income people) and large hotels.”
“People are not seeing the larger picture in the need for affordable housing. They think it is for ‘those people’—the homeless or extremely poor. They do not think about themselves as being low income. If only more people would understand that we are fighting for the working class.”
A recent article in the Sacramento Bee quoted neighbors of the Loaves & Fishes’ Friendship Park area, where there are plans to expand homeless care facilities, as saying they were afraid that more people will be drawn to their part of Sacramento and cause sanitation and petty crime problems. But with the rapid displacement of people from ever more expensive places to live, a surge in homeless, near homeless, poor, and low income workers searching for cheaper housing is already a fait accompli.
Director of Counseling Programs Tommi Avicolli Mecca at the Housing Rights Commission of San Francisco says right now that city is seeing an epidemic of evictions in working class neighborhoods. “There is a mass exodus of poor and working class people. They are being forced to leave the city or become homeless.”
He says real estate speculators are coming from around the world and availing themselves of the Ellis Act to buy cheap rent control buildings, then evicting tenants. The Ellis Act provides loopholes for landlords in selling their buildings and circumventing municipal rent control provisions like San Francisco’s.
Avicolli Mecca says the new landlords typically divide up or re-rent the spaces for an astronomical fee. “Then we are seeing lots of condos being built. There is a need for affordable housing but the city is not paying attention here either.
“So now you have SROs turned into Air B&Bs or tourist rooms sold for tons of money by the night. We are no longer housing poor people in SROs.
“I live in a city that is supposed to be filled with the most compassionate, understanding and caring people in the world, I see a constant abuse of the homeless and displacement of the working class. Plus we are losing diversity. The African American population is down from 21 to 6 percent and Latinos and LGBT people are being pushed out of the Mission, particularly young people. The Castro is losing older gay men, some of whom have AIDS. Upscale tech types are moving into all these neighborhoods.”
Avicolli Mecca calls San Francisco “a war zone” with working class and strong communities being pushed out. “We are becoming a city of the rich.”
And the poor are going elsewhere. A flood of displaced people coming to the Sacramento area certainly is imminent if people do comparative shopping. A family in the San Francisco Mission’s upscaled buildings will have to earn $30,000 a month to afford their $10,000 a month apartment. In the Castro, the rents for newcomers will soon go as high as $8,500 a month.
“If San Francisco is not dealing with these problems in a caring and compassionate way, I don’t know how anyone can,” he says.
Nationally, says Out of Reach, the 2014 two-bedroom housing wage was $18.92, more than two and a half times the federal minimum wage, and 52 percent higher than it was in 2000. In no state can a full-time minimum wage worker afford a one-bedroom or a two-bedroom rental at Housing and Urban Development-estimated fair market rent.
In December, the National Low Income Housing Coalition urged policy-makers to raise the federal minimum wage and combat income inequality. They also have pushed for funding of the National Housing Trust Fund to build, preserve and rehabilitate rental homes that are affordable for extremely low and very low-income households. “The shortage of affordable housing must be addressed. Expanding the supply of affordable rental homes dedicated to the lowest income renters is a critical and fundamental part of any real solution,“ says the coalition.
“In both rural and urban America, renters are affected by the affordable housing shortage and rents are expected to continue to rise in coming years as the demand grows. Over half of all renters (53 percent) are cost burdened, paying over 30 percent of their income for housing, up from 12 percent” a decade ago.
“The lack of decent housing affordable to low income households has remained a pervasive national issue for over 25 years, affecting every single community across the United States.”
This link to a great article in The New York Times was sent to me by Signe Lindell, a Santa Fe city councilwoman whom I know. In New Mexico Tent City, a Glimmer of HopeAlso would like to invite you to participate in the Go Fund Me campaign for the Taos Men’s Shelter that I have written about in previous posts. http://www.gofundme.com/taos-mens-shelter Please share these links with friends who might be interested. There are some handy buttons to do so below. You might also like: