RPA New LogoThe Activist

Issue #217, 01-08-2017

In this issue:
New rent control, just cause ordinance
Renters' right to organize included in new rent control law
Measure L Temporary Restraining Order denied by court
Mon, 1/16, 9am: MLK Day of service on the Greenway
Weds, 1/18, 6pm: Refinery Town book launch and fundraiser
South Bay Progressive Alliance launches!
Action Teams are where the action is
Four lessons for Richmond: City responses to the Ghost Ship fire
Sat, 1/21, 10am: Join the RPA at the Oakland Women's March
Steering committee spotlight: Sunflower Alliance
Evens and announcements

Now in effect
Rent Control and Just Cause ordinance

On December 30, 2016 the Rent Control/Just Cause law we worked so hard to win went into effect.  Even though the Rent Board is not set up and some of the rules and regulations are not yet established, certain parts of the law are active now. Most importantly:

  1. Starting January 1, rents in covered units (multi-family, built before 1995) must be rolled back to what it was on July 21, 2015  or whenever you first started paying rent  (whichever date is later).  A landlord may notify you of an increase of up to 3%.
  2. You cannot be evicted except for one of the reasons listed in the law.  If a landlord has recently notified you of an eviction, it may be invalid.

Mayor Tom Butt is expected to make nominations for the Rent Board soon and this Rent Board will get to work setting up the permanent structures and procedures for making rent control and just cause work in Richmond. In the meantime the city staff is taking care of interim activities.  They have set up a website and a  city office  where you can get more information:

440 Civic Center Plaza
Richmond, CA 94804
Monday - Friday
9:00 am -12:00 pm
1:00 pm - 4:00 pm


You can read the ordinance here

The first city sponsored workshop will be on January 18 , 2017 6:00 pm at City Council chambers, 440 Civic Center Plaza. If you need legal consultation, you can call Tenants Together’s hotline: (888) 495-8020 or visit Bay Area Legal Aid at 1025 Macdonald Ave. If you are 62 or older, Contra Costa County Senior Legal Services at (925) 609-7900 is also a great resource.

New ordinance protects renters' right to organize 

One feature of the new rent control law is that it protects the right of tenants to organize together.  The law provides that:

  • Tenants have the right to organize. It is illegal for landlords to retaliate;
  • Landlords must recognize and deal with an organization designated by the tenant as the representative of the tenant;
  • Tenants organizations have standing before the Rent Board.

These provisions apply to building-based tenants organizations, landlord-based tenants organizations (that may include tenants from multiple buildings owned by a single landlord), or to long-standing tenants organizations like Tenants Together.

Why is this so important?  Even though the new law protects tenants and gives them new rights, landlords typically still have much more power than individual tenants.  Landlords usually have an edge in knowledge, legal support, and resources to engage in prolonged legal disputes.  It is easier for a landlord to win in court even when the facts point the other way.  Often the only way to successfully take on a bad landlord is by organizing together, pooling resources for legal help, and bringing public and political pressure on landlords to settle. Rights are fine, but you have to organize and take action to make them real.

-  Mike Parker

[Photo from Fair and Affordable Richmond]

City prevails!
Measure L temporary restraining order rejected by court

The California Apartments Association (CAA) failed in its first attempt to stop Measure L, Richmond's Fair Rent and Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance, which was approved by 2/3 of Richmond voters this past November.   

On Friday, January 6, 2017, having given the City barely 24 hours notice, the CAA sought a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) of the measure to try and block its implementation. In an important victory for Richmond tenants and voters, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Judith S. Craddick denied the TRO.  I applaud our City staff for waging an effective defense on behalf of our residents! 

I was present at the courthouse on Friday along with tenant lawyers and activists from Tenants Together and Bay Area Legal Aid, as well as activists from RPA and ACCE.  It was exciting for all of us when Richmond attorneys came out of the judge's chambers, expressing that the City had prevailed.  Measure L remains in effect and its implementation continues.  

However, the battle is not over. While the Temporary Restraining Order was denied, the hearing for a preliminary injunction (as part of a lawsuit filed by CAA) is on January 27th at 1pm at the Martinez courthouse. Not only will the City be fighting this lawsuit, but Bay Area Legal Aid intends to intervene as well to support our tenant community.  

As the wealth and influence of big landlords continue to attempt to deny renters our rights under local, state and federal law, I feel fully confident that Richmond will continue to prevail.  We are committed to stand strong for our voters and tenants - all are part of our overall community.  The City of Richmond continues to move the implementation of our Fair Rent and Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance forward, and Mayor Butt is expected to put his Rent Board appointees on the January 17th City Council agenda.

Thank you to all the tenant advocates, the activist community, and the City of Richmond staff for working together to make sure democracy is upheld, as we join 12 other California cities with similar ordinances already in effect and work together to protect renters and stabilize our neighborhoods. See articles below for news coverage of the court's denial of the TRO and for details and information on Richmond's Rent Program, see www.Richmondrent.org . 

-  Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin

(For more information, see articles in the East Bay Times and IndyBay
[Photo credit: Tenants Together]

A Day on, not the day off!
10th annual MLK Jr. Day of Service on the Richmond Greenway

Join the RPA and Friends of the Richmond Greenway in helping transform the Richmond Greenway into a beautiful and healthy space that meets the needs of our community. The Greenway is a 2.5-mile path that runs parallel to Ohio from San Pablo Boulevard (where it will connect to the Ohlone Greenway) to Pt. Richmond through the heart of the Iron Triangle. 

The vision is to ultimately create a Greenway with community gardens, sports fields, outdoor performances, art classes, farm stands, food stalls, etc. -- a place where residents can meet, relax, and reinvigorate. Recently the City received a five million dollar state grant which will help build park infrastructure like walking and bike paths, lighting, bathrooms, fountains, a children’s playground, and a gazebo. But although funding is critical, so is community involvement!

Interested in getting involved?

  • Join the 10th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on the Richmond Greenway! Meet at 9am on Monday, January 16, 2017 on the Richmond Greenway at 20th Street. This family-friendly event brings out hundreds of community members to weed, mulch, and plant. Local schools serve a delicious lunch, and there will be entertainment and guest speakers. For several years, the RPA has hosted a clay table where children and parents make their own creations.  To volunteer at the table, contact Michael Beer at michaelandrewbeer@yahoo.com.

  • Consider representing the RPA within the Friends of the Richmond Greenway collaborative. Other FORG members include Urban Tilth, Groundwork Richmond, Rich City Rides, Dirt World, Ecovillage Farm, Watershed Project, Pogo Park, West County Digs, Richmond Friends of Recreation, Communities United Restoring Mother Earth, Native American Health Center, and Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council. FORG meets monthly and its members help organize Greenway events and participate in planning and hands-on activities involving urban gardening, play spaces, and public art. We have an opportunity to help create something wonderful and needed for Richmond residents and a future destination for the entire Bay Area. For more information contact Michael Beer at michaelandrewbeer@yahoo.com.

[With thanks and credit to Michael Beer for the article and photos]

Weds, 1/18, 7pm
Refinery Town book launch and fundraiser for the Richmond Pulse

Steve Early’s book Refinery Town, which chronicles the work of the RPA, is out this month! If you have not yet picked up your copy, here is a great opportunity:

On January 18, from 7 -8:30 pm there will be a fundraiser/ book launch at Kaleidoscope Coffee, 109 Park Place in Point Richmond (music and happy hour starting at 6pm).This party benefits the youth-led community journalism of the Richmond Pulse. Half the proceeds from the sale of each book will go to the Pulse! Please rsvp at lsupport@aol.com or by calling 510 260 0636. If you can’t make it and still want to make a donation, you can do so here.

Here’s what others are saying about Refinery Town:

In the otherwise bleak landscape of American politics, a few oases exist.  One of the most hopeful is the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), a now almost 15-year old electoral effort in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Richmond.  In Refinery Town, activist-author and recently-arrived Richmond resident Steve Early tells its story.  It is a tale well-told, and a good antidote for the despair that now runs rampant among many American progressives.

He successfully combines lively anecdotes, easy to read narrative, skillful analysis of often-complex issues, portraits of local leaders including the engaging Green Party former Richmond mayor Gayle McLaughlin, and commentary that places RPA in the larger context of American society and politics.  A lot is packed in these pages. 

-          Mike Miller, Counterpunch

The RPA has achieved more and lasted longer than any recent urban reform movement... Refinery Town tells its story and is indispensable reading for activists thinking about the real problems of governance once an insurgency gains a toehold of power. “If urban political insurgencies are going to succeed in more places,” Early writes, “they will need models for civic engagement like Richmond provides.”

-          Mark Dudzik, Jacobin

As part of the Sister Progressive Alliance Action Team, Steve will be embarking on a national tour to tell the RPA story in places like Visalia, CA; Burlington, VT; Greenfield, Mass; Cambridge, Mass; Troy, NY; Washington, DC; Corte Madera, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Mendocino Village, CA; Chicago, Ill; St. Paul, MN; Seattle, CA; Half Moon Bay, CA. (For related information see next article.)

Report from Sister Progressive Alliances Action Team
South Bay Progressive Alliance launches!

As reported previously, the RPA has created an Action Team to help progressives in other cities create similar grassroots advocacy and political organizations.

Last month, Action Team member Gayle McLaughlin made a presentation in San Jose, where activists agreed to start a South Bay Progressive Alliance. By 2018, the group hopes to launch several local city-based alliances in the area. The group is borrowing some tips from the RPA, including staying party neutral and supporting corporate-free progressive candidates running for local office. Gayle McLaughlin will also be making presentations in San Diego, CA; Vallejo, CA; El Cerrito, CA; and Oakland, CA. If you have friends and allies in those cities who may be interested in attending these presentations (or who may want to schedule one in their city), please email Juan at JuanReardon@sbcglobal.net . The Action Team will accommodate speaking requests as much as possible given time and money constraints. 

Finally, the Sister Progressive Alliance Action Team is looking for volunteers to help present the story and the ideas that made the RPA successful. While the speakers in the Speakers Bureau are carefully selected, there are other important tasks that need to be covered – in particular, a volunteer videographer is specially needed at this time. Please contact Juan Reardon for more information: JuanReardon@sbcglobal.net 

[With thanks to Juan Reardon for this report] 

Get involved!
Action Teams are where the action is

In the wake of the national elections, many people are interested in getting more involved at the local level. Although monthly Steering Committee meetings and quarterly membership meetings are a good place to start, the real place to get involved is through Action Teams. The leadership of some of the Action Teams are in flux right now, but please contact the following people to get involved:

  • Communications: The CAT is responsible for various RPA communications, including the newsletter, keylist, social and traditional media, etc. This team needs to be jump-started again with fresh leadership and new blood. If you are interested, please contact Michelle Chan at michellechansf@yahoo.com

  • Membership: This committee helps develop the RPA membership and provide outreach to constituencies across the city. This is a powerful committee with a lot of potential to increase the capacity of the RPA to work with, serve and support allied groups and causes across Richmond. Contact Zak Wear, zakwear@gmail.

  • Office: The RPA strives to be the heartbeat of the grassroots progressive movement in Richmond; part of that is providing a hospitable and functional hub for grassroots organizations in the area. Volunteers staff the office every weekday, help with events, and keep the office running. Contact Tarnel Abbot at tarnelabbott@comcast.net

  • Treasurer: Have a head for numbers, or have a knack for fundraising? We know how important these functions are to keeping our organization healthy and accountable. Contact current RPA Treasurer Shoji at jeffshoji@gmail.com

  • Housing Action Team: Ensuring that Richmond has quality and affordable housing is a key priority for the RPA. This team not only will be making sure that Measure L is successfully implemented, but it also is developing creative proposals for creating new low income/ affordable housing stock in the city. Contact Melvin Willis at mrmelvinwillis@gmail.com

  • Arts and Culture: We know that music, poetry, art, and community help nourish our spirit, strengthen our bonds and inspire our hearts. The Arts and Culture committee plans events, organizes parties, adds creative element to our advocacy and political work. Contact Tarnel Abbot at tarnelabbott@comcast.net

  • Schools Action Team: This Action Team works to strengthen and improve neighborhood public schools in Richmond. Contact Peter Chau at peter.n.chau@gmail.com

  • Sister Progressive Alliances Action Team: This new team supports activists and groups around the country establish progressive advocacy and political organizations in their communities. Contact Juan Reardon at juanreardon@sbcglobal.net

  • Immigration Action Team: This new Action Team that has been formed to address the needs of immigrants in our city, especially in the wake of the national election. Among its early activities: hosting a meeting on responding to hate crimes in our area, and cosponsoring an know-you-rights immigration workshop with JINA Immigration Legal Services. Contact Claudia Jimenez at jimenez.claudia78@gmail.com

[Photo: Community forum on responding to hate crimes in Richmond, organized by Immigration Action Team. Photo credit: Michelle Chan.]
Four lessons for Richmond
City responses in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire

In the following article, Mike Parker offers four observations for the City as it contemplates how to respond in the wake of Oakland’s Ghost Ship fire.

1.  When there is not a sufficient supply of cheap housing or when wages are not sufficient to support what housing is available, it is predictable that many will become homeless and others will look for inexpensive ways to live -- often in buildings not really suitable or safe for housing.  The campaigns we have had in Richmond to develop more affordable housing and protect the affordability of the housing we have through rent control are critical first steps -- but we need much more.

2. Young people need and will find venues to engage in social and artistic activities.  Ghost Ship provided something more than just cheap places for living -- a supportive community culture.  We must develop more inexpensive venues for holding events and exhibitions.

3.  We need better, more effective, and fairer enforcement of local safety requirements. A flurry of “cover-your-ass” activities after disasters like Ghost Ship are not a substitute for a regular enforcement program that helps people meet safety requirements. Simply closing a place and making people homeless transfers a problem without solving it. And we must develop ways to help people stay in their places or continue their work while improvements are made.

A knee-jerk reaction to greatly increase the number of inspectors is not the answer.  First, it is expensive and will take funds away from other needed city services. Second, when tenants fear retaliation from a landlord or fear that they will lose their housing if an inspector finds code violations, their refusal to open doors, cooperate, or report violations makes inspection programs ineffective.

4. The key to tenant safety is most of all tenant involvement: tenants knowing and demanding removal of dangerous living conditions; tenants reporting landlords who maintain unsafe housing conditions.  One of the important features of the recently adopted rent control ballot measure helps make this possible.  The new law prohibits landlords from evicting or otherwise penalizing any tenant who reports safety problems or demands that landlords correct dangerous conditions.  It also protects tenants who are forced to leave because a landlord has not complied with building codes.  Whether or not the landlord is operating legally, the landlord is still subject to providing relocation assistance in these cases.

-  Mike Parker

[Photo: Council chambers during a recent discussion of city responses to the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland. Credit: Mike Parker.]

A Saturday, 1/21, 10am
Join the RPA at the Oakland Women's March!

Can’t get out to Washington DC for the Women’s March on Washington January 21st? Then plan on joining the Oakland Women’s March (NB: not just for women)!

The Women's March, which the RPA Steering Committee unanimously endorsed in December, is a national movement to unify and empower everyone who stands for human rights, civil liberties, and social justice for all. It is an opportunity to gather in community to find healing and strength through tolerance, civility, and compassion.

People will gather at Madison Park (near the Lake Merritt BART station) in Oakland at 10am. The march beings at 11, heading along Lake Merritt and ending at Frank Ogawa Plaza/ Oscar Grant Plaza. There will be a rally at 12:30 pm with speakers, art and music.

Please register if you plan on going. Those who are interested in continuing on to the San Francisco event can do so (rally at 3pm, march at 5pm. Register for San Francisco march here).

And if you would like to head down with a Richmond contingent, contact Kathleen at kathleenwimer@gmail.com. She is looking for volunteers to help coordinate logistics.

[Photo: Instagram/@womensmarchwashington]

Steering Committee spotlight
Sunflower Alliance

As the RPA Nominating Committee develops a new slate of Steering Committee members, we continue our new series featuring organizational representatives on the RPA Steering Committee. We encourage all those who are interested in the work of these organizations to get involved and join. 

The Sunflower Alliance is a volunteer-driven climate justice collaborative based in the Bay Area.  It was born out of a huge August 2013 demonstration at the Chevron Richmond Refinery, which commemorated the massive 2012 refinery explosion. Today, its members include both individuals and organizations committed to environmental justice and the health and safety of all Bay Area communities threatened by toxic pollution and climate change.  

In its short history, the Sunflower Alliance has been involved in some impressive victories, including the successful campaign to stop oil services company WesPac from building the biggest oil terminal on the West Coast in Pittsburg. The terminal would have received 242,000 barrels a day of toxic and explosive crude oil and would have been located half a mile from downtown, near homes, schools, parks, and the waterfront. The Alliance was also part of the effort to stop a proposed coal export project in West Oakland and most recently was part of the campaign to successfully halt Valero’s crude by rail proposal in Benecia.

The Alliance has several active committees, including one that watchdogs the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the agency which regulates air emissions from refineries and other sources. A key priority has been getting the agency to stick to commitment to release, in a timely manner, regulations capping refinery emissions.

The Alliance frequently collaborates with the RPA, for example by working to hold Chevron accountable for its environmental impacts, by turning out volunteers to canvass for Team Richmond candidates, and co-organizing events, such as a 2014 forum featuring activists from Lac Magantic, site of a fatal crude-by-rail accident which left 42 dead.

The Sunflower Alliance meets regularly and has an email newsbulletin. To find out more, visit their website at http://www.sunflower-alliance.org/. The current Sunflower Alliance representative on the RPA Steering Committee is Janet Johnson.

Events and announcements

  • On Saturday, January 14 at 1pm at the Richmond Museum (400 Nevin Ave.), there will be public screening of North Richmond: Past, Present and Future, a 90-minute documentary produced by award-winning filmmaker Doug Harris. The documentary examines the history of North Richmond and the City of Richmond’s current efforts to annex the unincorporated county community. It is the last chapter of the acclaimed four-part “An Exploration of Our History” series. The screening will be followed by a discussion with filmmaker Doug Harris and others. For more information about the event contact Melinda McCrary at (510) 235-7387 or by email: melinda@richmondmuseum.org

  • Know any WCCCUSD students who are passionate about educational equity? The Potential Project is seeking teams of West Contra Costa public school kids to come up with creative ideas to improve student learning; and advance attendance, graduation and disciplinary justice. Winning teams will be granted up to $500 to put their idea into action. Deadline is Monday, January 23 and application information can be found here  http://www.thepotentialproject.org/how-to-apply.html

  • Save the Date! On Saturday March 4, 2017, Richmond will hold its 10th annual Sisters in Solidarity celebration to commemorate International Women's Day. The celebration will be held from 10 am - 2 pm in the Bermuda Room at Civic Center Plaza. This year, we invite women of all ages and male allies to join us in a march through the city to affirm our shared values of peace, justice, equity, inclusion, caring for future generations and the community. The event will also include lunch, performers, and inspirational speakers, featuring Cynthia Peterson, tireless West County advocate for eliminating all forms of violence against women.

Signed articles are the opinion of the author. Official RPA positions are noted as Steering Committee decisions. Other content created by Michelle Chan, editor.