Months of hard work by Marin Organizing Committee leaders paid off as San Rafael, Novato, and Marin County enacted rent increase moratoriums in areas most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. MOC advocated for a freeze on rent increases since last summer, when it became clear that the economic effects of COVID-19 would leave renters saddled with thousands of dollars of debt. With statewide protections on the verge of expiring, MOC leaders redoubled their efforts after the new year. On January 18th, 200 MOC leaders assembled on Zoom with a Marin County Supervisor and two San Rafael City Councilmembers. During the meeting, MOC leaders asked these officials to commit to working with MOC around the issue of rent freezes.
The next day, the San Rafael City Council unanimously voted for a moratorium on rent increases in the Canal neighborhood through the end of 2021. The following week, the Novato City Council followed suit, voting unanimously to approve a rent freeze through 2021 in three city census tracts hardest hit by the pandemic.
On February 9th, the Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a ban on rent increases in parts of unincorporated Marin County, thereby including those who reside outside city limits who would have been left unprotected by the Novato and San Rafael ordinances.
These emergency measures will provide thousands of families much-needed time to recover from the devastating financial impacts of the pandemic. MOC leaders will continue to fight for expanded emergency protections and an equitable and smooth distribution of rental assistance funds to renters and landlords.
[Photo Credit: Ethan Swope/Special to Marin Independent Journal]
Marin Activists Seek Rent Freeze During Coronavirus Crisis, Marin Independent Journal
San Rafael Bans Rent Hikes in Pandemic-Stressed Canal, Marin Independent Journal
Novato Enacts Limited Rent Freeze for Pandemic Relief, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin County Weighs Pandemic Rent Freeze in 2 Census Tracts, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin Voice: County Supervisors Should Approve Rent-Increase Moratorium-by MOC's own Sami Mericle and Marta Villela, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
After more than 1,200 leaders gathered online, signed petitions and pressed upon state legislators the importance of expanding access to state Earned Income Tax Credit benefits to undocumented taxpayers, California IAF leaders declared a victory for essential workers.
“We commend Governor Newsom and state legislators for investing in families, especially during a deficit year,” said Rabbi Susan Leider with Congregation Kol Shofar, Marin Organizing Committee. “We know they have faced enormous pressure to cut back, and instead they have paid in. This tax credit is not just a one time handout, but will help families year after year. Our leaders have been working for months to make sure our essential workers aren’t left behind, and this is a huge step forward.”
While not a full expansion to all undocumented workers, the tax credit will help tens of thousands of families with at least one child under the age of six who pay their taxes using an ITIN. Some households may receive up to $2,600 each year, depending on their income and family size, a significant investment in some of the most vulnerable families impacted by the pandemic.
Allies also celebrated the victory, including Senator Maria Elena Durazo: “Under the states’ current economic situation, we are happy to be able to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit program for ITIN filing California families.... Thank you to the California IAF members for continuing to push for this inclusion, which United Way sees as a fundamental tool to move families out of poverty. With your continued advocacy, California will move out of this global pandemic, a more united and inclusive state.”
California IAF Declares a Victory for Essential Workers, California IAF
No Relief Here, Voices of Monterey Bay
Immigrant Workers Face Economic Uncertainty During Covid-19 Shutdown, America Magazine [pdf]
Sami Mericle, a representative of the Marin Organizing Committee, thanked the board for acting to further protect vulnerable renters during the health emergency but urged supervisors to “continue to explore ways to keep workers housed for the duration of the public health crisis and the economic recession that is already upon us.”
“An additional month of breathing room will still not be enough time for households who have lost several months of income,” Mericle said. “Even once the shelter-in-place is fully lifted, we expect the demand for jobs such as gardeners, house cleaners and restaurant workers will still be diminished, leaving many people unemployed.”
Marin Supervisors Extend Moratorium On Residential Evictions, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans on April 15 to make $75 million available to help undocumented workers left out of unemployment relief programs like the CARES Act, but California Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) organizations say this is not enough. One LA-IAF leaders, with the rest of the state network, are calling on Governor Newsom to do more for undocumented immigrants.
"Our immigrants make California a beautiful state," said Father Arturo Corral of Our Lady Queen of Angels / La Placita. "We need to always ask [the governor] to do his best."
Leaders with [COPA-IAF, One LA-IAF, Inland Communities Organizing Network (ICON), Bay Area IAF, and Common Ground are calling] for several initiatives to help undocumented workers including: expanding the eligibility of State Disability Insurance to workers unemployed because of Covid-19 but ineligible for unemployment insurance; sending $1,200 to any Californian who qualified for the California Earned Income Tax Credit last year or this year; expanding no-cost to low-cost hotel options to agricultural workers; making more money available to food banks and school districts feeding students.
[Photo by Chava Sanchez, LAist]
Newsom Announces Covid-19 Relief For Undocumented Workers; Advocates Say It's Inadequate, Monterey County Weekly [pdf]
California Bishops Ask Governor to Increase Aid to Undocumented and Low-Wage Workers During Pandemic, California Catholic Conference of Bishops [pdf]
Letter to Governor Newsom, California IAF
Common Ground Bursts Onto the Political Scene in Vallejo, Engaging County, City Officials and Police
It wasn’t a phone call left for a city or county official that may or may not be returned. Or a call to police dispatch that said there are 15 calls for service already on hold.
Tuesday night’s gathering at St. Basil’s gymnasium gave the community — at least 250 individuals, anyway — a chance to voice their concerns face-to-face with the Vallejo City Council, Solano County Supervisors, and law enforcement.
The... event, [organized by the seven year old IAF affiliate] Common Ground went well, with topics including homelessness, rising rents, and school safety.
“We were thrilled with the success of the evening,” said Common Ground member Cheryl Gewing.
“I think it was impactful to hear people’s personal stories and troubles they’re facing and trying to understand the process available to them,” said Councilmember Pippin Dew.
“I liked the sharing of the stories … that the community is involved and wants to work with us,” added Councilmember Rozzana Verder-Aliga.
Mayor Bob Sampayan said city officials were already aware of most of the issues presented, but it was positive to sit at a table “and hear the personalized stories.”
“I think it was awesome to have such a wide representation of people of the faith community, schools system, law enforcement, city and county leaders,” added Solano County Supervisor Erin Hannigan, calling the event “anything but warm and fuzzy. It was the cold, hard truth about what’s happening in the community.”
Co-host Tazamisha Alexander said the packed room was indicative that the community and officials are willing to work together....
[Note: Common Ground is part of the Bay Area IAF. In collaboration with the Bay Area IAF, an interfaith delegation of clergy and seminarians from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific participated in the action as part of an intensive course on community organizing.]
For the second time in 2018, Marin Organizing Committee leaders stood on the front lines of the fight against astronomical rent increases that put in jeopardy the ability of Canal tenants to afford to stay in their homes. In August, right before the start of the school year, tenants of a different apartment complex received notice of a 40% increase in rent. MOC worked on a political strategy, including a press conference/rally with clergy and school district speakers and meetings with the tenants and public officials, that pressured the landlords into negotiating a better deal for the tenants. . In addition, MOC led the effort to establish, in Marin County territory as a first step, a ‘Just Cause Ordinance' that requires landlords to have a just cause for eviction. While this ordinance does not apply to rental housing in cities, the ordinance does include, for the first time, tracking of landlord activity across all Marin County.
In December, tenants at a second apartment complex in the Canal received notice of a 65% increase in rent to begin on February 1, 2019, as well as some eviction notices. In response, Marin Organizing Committee leaders took matters to San Rafael City Council and asked the City to implement a ‘just cause’ ordinance which would require the landlord to have a justified cause for eviction similar to that approved by the Marin County Board of Supervisors earlier in the fall. Furthermore, MOC leaders urged the City to provide county mediation between landlords and tenants when rent is increased more than 5% a year. At the City Council meeting, Mayor Gary Phillips publicly stated that the city would consider implementing both practices in upcoming months, and directed the City Attorney to research whether the City Council could enact an emergency moratorium on rent increases and evictions in the meantime.
San Rafael Activists Rally Against Canal 65% Rent Hike, Marin Independent Journal
300+ leaders of the Marin Organizing Committee gathered for a candlelight vigil to commemorate the end of a 10-year old temporary shelter program they established, REST, and the start of a new best-practice system of care to end homelessness in Marin County, called Housing Focused Shelter.
"Justice requires permanent housing over a temporary spot on a church floor," said Rev. Jan Reynolds, the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael and member of Marin Organizing Committee.Read more
After the Dean and President of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP), the Very Reverend Mark Richardson, participated in the school's community organizing course, he had this to say:Read more