To be honest, and why not, I don’t read 97 percent of the Daily Kos emails that clutter my inbox. But last week, KOS campaigns sent out a California YIMBY email with the tag line “Add your name if you want fair housing laws, mixed income communities, and affordable cities.”
If only. The YIMBY’s (“Yes In My Back Yard”) are a national expansion of developer-funded campaigns such as BARF (Bay Area Renters Federation), which change state and local laws allowing displacement of current residents and the creation of high-end condos and rental units. Last year, Gay Shame led a demonstration outside of the national YIMBY conference in Oakland, pointing out, among other things, that for the mostly rich techies and tech companies such as Google, Apple, and Facebook, the Mission and Oakland aren’t actually their backyard.
The most recent YIMBY victories in California were led by state legislator, and claimed to be gay man, scott weiner. Last year’s bills included SB 35, which forces local communities to fast-track and approve housing projects if they claim to provide some affordable housing. The first time it was invoked was to attempt to require the Berkeley City Council to approve an apartment complex on the parking lot currently covering the Ohlone Shellmound near 4th Street. Ohlone people led a movement to stop the development, and actually won the battle with the City to turn down the project. The initial developer, scenting a prolonged battle, has backed off, but the property owner is still declaring their intent to build.
“Affordable housing” is defined as housing for people earning up to 120 percent of the median income, as calculated by the federal department of housing and urban development. State law requires that 15 percent of new housing built in urban redevelopment areas be affordable for low or moderate income people. In San Francisco, the median income for a 4-person household is $118,000, and a single person is $83,000. When you add 20 percent to the median, “affordable” means a family of 4 earning up to $140,000, or a single person earning over $99,000. Even these requirements tend to be ignored by local governments. The Daily Kos email encouraged people to pressure the governor to sign another set of YIMBY bills that among other things would have created more density near BART, and put more pressure on local governments to approve housing developments.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, September 22, Gay Shame hosted people from Defend Boyle Heights in a conversation and then an action at 55 Dolores St. Boyle Heights is a mostly Latinx area east of downtown LA, that has recently been the target of gentrification sprouting art galleries and film projects, and upscale breweries, beer festivals, etc. Some of these breweries have been meeting venues for white supremacists. DBH campaigns have successfully forced certain projects to relocate, although, as they pointed out at the event last week, the galleries are often moving to other vulnerable communities. Although the specific leading edge of gentrification in Boyle Heights is different than the techies currently invading the Mission, Gay Shame and DBH have a lot in common in terms of fighting what appears to be an unending onslaught of $$$ against people.
After the conversation, about 100 people marched through the streets to 55 Dolores. Urban Green investments, which bought the former apartment house, evicted all the long-time tenants under the Ellis Act, which avoids the city’s (insufficient) tenant protections. After the evictions, the building was remodeled, and condos sold, apparently exclusively to tech workers. Demonstrators arrived at the building while doing condo-techie speed dating, and were greeted by projections saying “These Techies Evicted Everyone That Called 55 Dolores Home,” and “Give Back the House Keys and Get the Fuck Out.”
Not surprisingly, the YIMBYs’ support for “affordable” housing, doesn’t extend to rent control They are NOT supporting Proposition 10, which would allow local rent control laws to apply to single family and newer apartment buildings. Costa-Hawkins the existing state law prohibits local rent control from applying to any units occupied after 1995, or to single family homes or condos. The proposition would remove these restrictions. The proposition includes the existing requirement that rent control not violate the “landlords’ right to a fair financial return” on their investment. If Prop 10 passes, in most cases, local governments would still have to expand their own rent control ordinances, or, as in the case of Pacifica, first succeed in passing one.