Marin Organizing Committee (MOC) has for several years worked toward developing permanent housing solutions for unsheltered people. That goal was advanced Tuesday, as the Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to accept a state "Project Homekey" grant and move forward with a site in an abandoned nursing home, creating permanent supportive housing for 43 people.
Hundreds of leaders from MOC member institutions signed and shared the petition in support of the project, wrote letters to the Board, and spoke at the Board meeting both in person and over Zoom. While the project faced significant opposition, MOC demonstrated to elected officials that MOC leaders support and believe in this project.
[In photo: Former nursing home to be converted into permanent, supportive housing. Credit: Shary LaVars, Marin Independent Journal]
Marin Voice: In Support of ‘Housing First,’ Supervisors Should Push for Larkspur Homekey Site, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
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]
Marin County supervisors have extended a ban on renter evictions through the end of September in an effort to prevent tenants from losing their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the two-month extension. The temporary ban was first enacted in March and extended in April, May and June. It was set to expire July 31.
Under the countywide moratorium, a landlord cannot evict a residential tenant who is unable to pay rent due to financial losses stemming from the pandemic. Those can include increased child care expenses because of school closures, or lost wages due to reduced hours or layoffs.
Julia Kiely, a member of the Marin Organizing Committee, urged the supervisors to bolster funding for legal services for tenants facing eviction. She said the moratorium is “not self-enforcing.”
“Safe, secure housing is critical to both healthy outcomes and controlling community spread of the virus,” Kiely said.
Lucie Hollingsworth, a senior attorney with Legal Aid of Marin, urged the supervisors to consider ways to help renters who are unable to pay back missed rent after the ban expires to “stem the tidal wave of evictions that looms.”
“An extension only serves as a temporary Band-Aid,” Hollingsworth said. “Expecting tenants to come up with thousands of dollars in back-rent when the moratorium expires is unrealistic.”
[Photo Credit: Marin Independent Journal]
Marin County Extends Eviction Ban Through September, Marin Independent Journal [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]
Over the objections of commercial landlords, the Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday granting renters additional time to repay back rent in response to a push by Marin Organizing Committee (MOC) and allies. As a result, residential and commercial tenants in Marin will have 90 days after a countywide moratorium on evictions expires on May 31 to repay back rent, plus added protections.
Said Reverend Tom Gable of Marin Lutheran Church and MOC:
“We are particularly supportive of the new language that prohibits harassment, allows tenants to self-certify their inability to pay, and requires tenants to be notified of their rights before a landlord can take action in court.”
However, leaders continue to push for more. According to MOC leaders, "90 days is an impossible timeline for renters to repay rent they missed during the shelter-in-place order. We risk spawning a second public health crisis if we allow Marin families to be thrown out of their homes as a result.”
Marin Tenants Given Extra 90 Days to Repay Back Rent, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin Renters Allotted $1M More In Pandemic Aid, Marin Independent Journal
After leaders of Marin Organizing Committee (MOC) called on Marin County Supervisors and every city mayor and councilmember in the county to pass an eviction moratorium, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to protect renters affected by the coronavirus emergency.
The ordinance lasts until May 31st and will apply both to unincorporated areas and incorporated cities. Effective immediately, the resolution also stops landlords from charging a late fee for rent that is delayed due to the health crisis -- something MOC fought for until the last minute. The resolution will apply to all tenants regardless of their immigration status.
MOC leaders were the only ones to speak at the hearing, not only pushing for the fee waiver, but also for an extended period of time to repay missed rent. MOC leader Sami Mericle, who lost three of the four jobs she relies on to afford a shared two-bedroom apartment in San Rafael testified in person:
“There is no way I could repay the missed rent by the end of the state of emergency...and I’m not alone.”
MOC leaders are calling the moratorium a "good first step" while noting that the "County has the leeway to alter and extend this resolution as the situation unfolds." Leaders are also calling for homeowner protections from foreclosures.
[Photo Credit: Alan Dep, Marin Independent Journal]
Supervisors Should Help Renters and Approve Bigger Aid Package, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
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 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]
Despite fear of eviction, forty tenants in San Rafael, CA worked with Marin Organizing Committee (MOC) and Marin Legal Aid to fight back against a 40% rent increase that puts most of their families at risk of homelessness or displacement. After a change in ownership, rent was increased by $700 a month with only 60 days notice, from $1,900 to $2,700 by September 1st. Tenant and community leaders argued that the rapid rent hike would leave families homeless and deprive 60 schoolchildren from stability in their home lives and education.
Marin Organizing Committee called upon the landlord to negotiate with the tenants and called upon the City of San Rafael and the County of Marin to put stronger renter protections in place. San Rafael City Mayor Gary Phillips, Marin County Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, and San Rafael School Superintendent Mike Watenpaugh pledged support moving forward. MOC ultimately shepherded a negotiated deal in which the rent increase would be phased in over 16 months (by 2020).
Having successfully advocated for a Mandatory Mediation Ordinance in 2017, MOC is now pushing for passage of a 'Just Cause' Eviction ordinance which would establish a set of criteria for eviction and provide stronger protections for tenants in a County with historically weak recourse for renters. Leaders packed a Marin County Board of Supervisors workshop to support such an ordinance, including clergy, tenants, and apartment owners who testified that such an ordinance would not hurt landlords operating in good faith. The Board decided to move forward, directing County staff to prepare options for consideration at an upcoming meeting.
[Photo Credit: James Cacciatore, Marin Independent Journal]
Marin Supervisors Want to Move Ahead with 'Just Cause' Ordinance, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
Marin Faith Community Rallies Behind Families Facing Huge Rent Increase, Catholic San Francisco [pdf]
San Rafael Canal Landlords, Tenants Strike Deal on Rent Hikes, Marin Independent Journal [pdf]
George Russell: Troubled Waters in San Rafael's Canal, Marin Independent Journal [jpg]