Despite community-wide power outages -- and a last minute change in venue -- 700 Marin Organizing Committee leaders assembled at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael on Sunday, October 27th for their 10th Anniversary Convention.
24 hours before the assembly, leaders learned that the planned location for their Convention would be needed as a local command center to address power outages and host fire evacuees from Sonoma County. Demonstrating flexibility, leaders quickly relocated the assembly to a synagogue down the street. With 99% of the County left without power (in an effort to prevent more fires), MOC demonstrated the power of organized people with the tenacity and resilience to show up against the odds.
Using a generator and portable mic system, leaders from 22 institutions ratified their agenda of issues moving into 2020, reported 75% progress on a $100,000 investment campaign, and celebrated 10 years of citizen power in Marin County. In the midst of anxiety-ridden uncertainty, MOC proved their people can and will show up.
NonPartisan Marin Activist Organization Gathers to Chart Future Course, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin Voice: MOC Ready to Practice Revolutionary Patience with New Issues Agenda, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Credited by the Marin Independent Journal for being "instrumental in convincing Marin County, San Rafael, and Fairfax to adopt renter protections" (including mandatory mediation and just cause for evictions), Marin Organizing Committee leaders are taking the fight to the City of Novato. At a press conference in front of City Hall, low-income senior leaders of a 128-unit Novato apartment called on the City to monitor the situation and support low-income tenants.
Over the last 16 years, residents have faced 13 rent increases -- the most recent of which being 15%. Resident leader Sharon Wagner-Higgins says that similar to other residents, she has to choose between her medications and affording rent. If nothing changes, she says, "I'm going to end up on the street."
“It makes no sense to tie the rents to the area median income in a place like Marin that has high income disparity,” says Marin Organizing Committee leader Judith Bloomberg. “These are people living on fixed incomes. They shouldn’t be punished because some workers in Mill Valley and Ross are making half-a-million each year.”
Leaders testified at City Hall to ask the Council to help ensure that the landlord keep their promise to meet with residents and negotiate in a good fair. Said tenants association leader John Geoghegan, “You folks have helped us in the past and we hope we can continue to count on your help in the future to ensure Novato remains age friendly for seniors.”
[Photo Credit: Alan Dep, Marin Independent Journal]
Low-Income Novato Seniors Rally Over Rent Hikes, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
After months of organizing work by One LA leaders -- and building on leaders' successful efforts to launch MHLA and enroll thousands of residents in the program -- the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health announced plans to invest $5.6 million to enhance My Health LA (MHLA) with mental health services.
This move will allow approximately 145,000 low-income Angelenos who currently receive health care through the County's MHLA program to access prevention services that will reduce the risk of developing potentially serious mental illness. MHLA primarily serves low-income and undocumented immigrants who have no other access to health coverage. MHLA did not previously cover mental health as a funded benefit.
With standing room only, 300 delegates from One LA member and guest institutions convened on Sunday, July 21, 2019 at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills to set an ambitious agenda for 2020.
"Our 2020 vision is a roadmap to building power," said Nancy Goldstone, Co-Chair of the assembly and member of Temple Beth Am. "I don't need to tell you that it will be a watershed year, nationally and locally. While many will be focusing on the presidential election, half of LA city council and half of LAUSD board members are up for election, and we have a major contest in LA County Supervisor's District 2. That is where decisions are made that affect us daily."
Teams of leaders from across LA County shared stories about what is at stake around One LA's four issue campaigns: immigration, housing, human trafficking and mental health. "We need our state senators, county supervisors and city council members to do more to protect immigrants," shared Yadira Mireles, on the immigration team at San Gabriel Mission. "People need lawyers. They need good information. People coming out of detention need shelter and services. We can't just be a sanctuary city in name only. We want elected officials who will work with us so that Los Angeles will truly be a place that welcomes immigrants."
State Senator Holly Mitchell and City Attorney Mike Feuer joined the assembly and reacted to One LA's vision for building power. When asked if she would join One LA leaders in a listening campaign on mental health issues, Senator Mitchell rose to the challenge and offered to co-host a session. City Attorney Feuer laid out specific ways his office would work with One LA on all four issue campaigns, encouraging leaders to contact his office directly in cases of immigration fraud, intelligence on human traffickers, and housing fraud.
One LA leaders then caucused by region on specific strategies to build more power ahead of the 2020 elections, including broadening and expanding their constituencies through recruiting other institutions, and raising more hard money to hire and train organizers. "Hard money is our favorite kind of money," said Janet Hirsch of Temple Isaiah. "It is money that we control, and that lets us set our agenda on our own terms and our own time." Leaders pledged $200,000 in hard money commitments for 2020.
Before adjourning, leaders unanimously ratified a proposal to organize candidates forums and conduct a robust Get out the Vote Campaign ahead of the 2020 elections.
Money Matters: A Reflection, by Diane Vanette, leader of One LA and Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills
Responding to dual threats of deportation and homelessness faced by low-income immigrants, Marin Organizing Committee (MOC) launched a careful campaign to explore how to protect tenants. The campaign culminated in a major victory this week, with leaders persuading the San Rafael City Council to not only mandate mediation between tenants and landlords when rent increases exceed 5% per year, but also to implement 'just cause' for eviction standards. San Rafael is the county seat of Marin County, one of the most expensive places to live in California, and home to 70% of Marin County renters.
Landlords and representatives from the California Apartment Association appeared in force to testify in opposition, but MOC leaders had been laying the groundwork for two years. In response to pressure from MOC leaders in 2017, the Marin Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to support a mandatory mediation program for renters, which would apply only to unincorporated areas of the County (about 8,300 renters). In 2018, the Marin Board of Supervisors passed a 'just cause' for eviction ordinance protecting tenants from sudden eviction -- again, only in unincorporated areas of Marin County. Beyond negotiating for these protections, MOC shepherded a deal between Canal neighborhood tenants and a landlord who had initially imposed a 45% rent hike over 2 months, successfully increasing the time frame to 16 months.
In response to passage of the ordinances, leader Meredith Parnell declared, "MOC is pleased that the San Rafael City Council is moving forward with these small steps to protect renters...we look forward to working with the city to ensure there is a well-resourced and multilingual community education and outreach campaign to explain these new ordinances to landlords and tenants alike.”
[Photo Credit: Adrian Rodriguez, Marin Independent Journal (top); Marin Environmental Housing Collaborative (bottom)]
San Rafael City Council Approves Renter Protections, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin Voice: Protecting San Rafael Tenants Helps Prevent Homelessness, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin Supervisors Improve Renter Protection With 'Just Cause' Ordinance, Marin Independent Journal [pdf] (2018)
San Rafael Canal Area Landlords, Tenants Strike Deal on Rent Hikes, Marin Independent Journal (2018)
MOC Wins Significant Step on Renter Protection, West / Southwest IAF (2017)
At a news conference outside City Hall, One LA and a coalition of tenant advocates pressed the city to move forward with a 'right to counsel' ordinance, calling on Mayor Eric Garcetti to allocate $10 million to assist tenants in his upcoming budget.
"We have a humanitarian crisis in our city in regards to homelessness and housing," said Fr. David Matz of St. Agnes Catholic Church. "In the last ten years we have lost one thousand families from our parish due to these issues. Many of our elderly are forced out of their apartments and left homeless."
Every year, close to 30,000 people in Los Angeles face evictions. The money from the city would go not only to legal aid, but also to education and prevention, outreach and emergency payments to help keep struggling renters in their homes. The price tag of $10 million would fund the first year of a multi-year timeline to phase it in.
"One LA has worked alongside Mayor Garcetti on the passing of proposition HHH and the linkage fee," continued Fr. Matz. "Now the LA Right to Counsel Coalition is presenting this strategy to address one of the biggest root problems of homelessness-- evictions. We know that Mayor Garcetti is working diligently so we ask him for his support for the "Right to Counsel" and to fully fund it."
Inquilinos Solicitan Ley Que Los Proteja del Desalojo, Estrella News (Video en Español)
Novato City Council Ponders Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, Marin Independent Journal
After careful agitation by leaders of Marin Organizing Committee, the Marin County Board of Supervisors passed a 'Just Cause for Evictions' Ordinance with a unanimous vote. Leaders [in photo above] filled the County chambers in support of the ordinance which is expected to protect approximately 3,400 renters currently without protection from arbitrary eviction in Marin.
In its coverage of the meeting, and the multi-year fight, Marin Independent Journal called Marin Organizing Committee "the leading voice calling for action to address the housing crisis."
The Just Cause Ordinance was carefully crafted to provide protection to tenants without restricting landlords from acting to remove problem occupants. Evictions are permitted when tenants skip out on rent, breach rental contracts and or pose other problems.
While the ordinance is limited to protecting only tenants in unincorporated Marin, leaders are hopeful that the data collection incorporated in the ordinance will establish important evidence about rental conditions across the County.
Marin Supervisors Improve Renter Protection With 'Just Cause' Ordinance, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin Supervisors Support 'Just Cause' Rule for Evictions, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
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
One LA leaders and allies from St. John's Well Child and Family Center, Clinica Romero and the Building Healthy Communities effort in Boyle Heights testified in support of the program's preservation.
The Board of Supervisors also voted to direct the Director of Mental Health to come up with a funding plan for providing mental health services to MHLA patients at primary care settings. This is a major step forward toward increasing access to mental health services, which has been a big priority for One LA. Leaders recognized Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Katherine Barger for introducing the motion, and the entire Board of Supervisors for addressing the need for increased access to mental health services.