Berkeley / East Bay
Gray Panthers Newsletter
October 2015

6501 Telegraph Ave.- Oakland CA 94609

Tel: (510)595-9696

The October membership meeting will be on
Wednesday, October 28, 2015 at 1:30pm
at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, Berkeley.
All Panthers and community members welcome.
Wheelchair accessible.
expected speaker: Herb Behrstock, celebrating the 70th birthday of the United Nations

Board Meeting
Wednesday, October 14, 2015 At Niebyl-Proctor Library 6501 Telegraph
at 2:00pm

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Dues: $35/year ($15 low income)
Send a check with your name and mailing address to Gray Panthers of the East Bay, 6501 Telegraph Ave.- Oakland CA 94609.

NOTE -- Traffic Tickets can also be worked off by volunteer work for Gray Panthers

Living Graveyard

Third Mondays, Noon - 1:00 pm. date subject to change –– check
Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay Street (two blocks from 12th Street BART)
People lie down in front of the Federal Building, covered with sheets to represent the dead. Names of some Californians who have died in Iraq and the names of some Iraqi dead are read during the event. A gong is sounded after each name.
Please bring a white sheet. A pad to lie on is recommended.
Info: Ecumenical Peace Institute, (510)990-0374.

Tax the Rich Rally

TAX THE RICH RALLY meets every Monday 5-6 pm at the top of Solano Ave in Berkeley (rain cancels) to protest the inequality of taxes in our country. We hold signs saying “Tax the Rich” and “Tax the Big Corporations.”

Monthly Peace Rally

Every 3rd Friday, Gray Panthers and Strawberry Creek Lodge sponsor a Peace rally, at Acton and University in Berkeley. Next rally will be on Friday October 16, 2-3 pm.
Come sing, wave signs, listen to approving honks from passing cars and trucks. For more info, Call Fran Rachel at 841-4143

Solano Stroll

In the general meeting there was a short report on the Solano Stroll; the Gray Panther Table had plenty of visitors and everyone, as usual, had a good time.

Shattuck Theater News

The 2211 Harold Way project was approved 6-3 ZAB, 6-3 Council to build tall ugly housing for rich people.

Trailer Park Evictions

Sharon Maldonado summarized the eviction crisis at the Audiss Trailer Court. The owner, a long time opponent of rent control and affordable housing, is trying to avoid his responsibilities to tenants (preparing a resident impact report) by re-labeling the place as an “RV Park.”

Closure of trailer parks, one of the few sources of affordable housing today, is a major threat to low-income, senior and disabled people. It’s happening all over the State, she said. The San Jose area is particularly impacted – as many as 30,000 people may lose their spaces and well as their trailers, many of which are old, not in shape to go on the road again.

In El Cerrito, the residents of the Audiss trailer park have been told they must vacate to make room for a new market-rate townhouse development. Several tenants live along and pay less than $700/mo for their spaces. Some are low income seniors or have low-wage jobs at Golden Gate Fields. One lady had been at Audiss for 26 years. Sydney Manchester-Jones, a 70-year-old park resident who depends on disability benefits, says he might have to go to a homeless shelter. Sharon’s group was to go to El Cerrito City Council on October 6 to speak out on this matter. Audiss is the only trailer park in El Cerrito,

To get around the owner, the townhouse developer may end up doing the resident impact report.

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Report on September 23, 2015 General Membership Meeting

Report of Washington DC HUD Conference and panel on Housing Here and Now

Present on the panel: Moderator: Gary Hicks, Conferees: Eleanor Walden and Avram Gur-Ayre, HUD members: Bill Rogina and Robin Thompson; Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguin (in audience), Berkeley City Council Members

Eleanor’s Report: The Resident’s Council at Redwood Gardens developed out of what CSI (owners) were doing: not communicating with residents and not giving feedback on the HUD money they were spending. If we had known what they planned, we could have rented a trailer for meetings. They took away the laundry and a garden we had developed over 10-20 years/ They then attacked our kitchens and cupboards and generally made an intolerable mess for 11/2 years. Some very disabled people had to move for that period.

At the HUD conference we learned about our rights as tenants and how to ask the right questions: we have the right to a tenant organization, and a community space in which to meet. Ben Metcalf, Deputy Assistant Secretary of HUD, said, “ Tenants can’t make an effective management group for their own housing” in a room full of oppressed tenants! Eleanor asked, “Do I need to send letters all the way up the chain?” We then started a newsletter, and did finally get to communicate with CSI, (thanks to the local HUD officials)

Avram’s Report: At the HUD meeting in DC, there were about 80% poor black women mostly from the southern states. They have no resources to help themselves, no recourse if there are problems, and feel that if they complain, they will be evicted. But we learned procedures for approaching landlords to make repairs, remove bedbugs, and make a safe building. Rally to try to buy out landlords. Get the ears of our representatives.

There is racism in the operation of the buildings. The general message was “Be our eyes and ears”. Eleanor lobbied congress people about these issues.

HUD Representatives

Robin Thompson, Multifamily Asset Manager (Deals with the nitty-gritty and residents’ concerns)
Bill Rogina, Construction Faciliator (helped build Redwood Gardens)
Both did a great job of telling a little about their specialties, and answering questions from people in the audience. Their main message was “We rely on tenants to let us know!” what is going on in HUD properties.
They also worked to make the distinction between

  1. Property-based vouchers
  2. Public housing “voucher”—not really a voucher, it ends if you leave
  3. Tenant-based vouchers, which are the “gold card”. You can take this with you if you leave a Section 8 property, even to another county or state.

They also spoke about the NAHT (National Association of HUD Tenants—look on web for 5 tenets of this organization, among which is The Right to have a Resident’s Council!

Kriss Worthington, member of Berkeley City Council, started his part with a quote from the Civil Rights Movement: “Nothing about us without us!”, emphasizing the need to bring all our housing facilities into the effort to better the experience of living in them. At hte end of his talk, Kriss gave out a sheet with 23 suggestions of actions people can take.

Examples of reasons “not to give up”, are that HUD stepped in when BHA was doing illegal stuff.

On the Harold Way project the council took $2.4 million out of the Housing Trust Fund (HTF), which was for “really” affordable housing, to give to developers. Besides HUD properties, there are RCD and SAHA, private affordable senior residence apartments. Another worry: “Landlords are saying there is a target on their back” They have Costa and all sorts of advantages, and rents are higher than they ever have been. (SF Chronicle) “There’s just not much we can do about it” (See 9/29/15 Council agenda) Jesse has researched a lot in this area, about what the real facts are. Finance, Insurance and Real Estate. the three most lucrative business interests. Blackstone is in the mix also advocating unaffordable housing. “Affordable housing is 80% the Median Income in Alameda County, which is ~ $200,000.”

Gary then called on “Lotus”, a housing ambassador, Mr. West, Carolyn Scarr, and Marga Riddle, who had various questions about vouchers (outlined above) and HUD properties and their contracts. Ms. Thompson responded: The contracts are for 20 years and get renewed. They cannot take HUD with them. (Property owners) Mr. Rogina added that non profits wouldn’t exist if they opted out so often, and that in fact, it doesn’t happen often. You can’t “opt out”. Ms. Thompson added that the process to decommission a property takes one year, with a lot of hoops to jump through, and if they miss one, or make a mistake, they have to start the year all over.

Other places might tear a place down, such as in the Midwest, where there is little need for senior housing (It occurred to me that with the baby boomers all over this country needing this kind of care, why are they saying that???) Are they kidding us?

Both Eleanor and Avram came home fired up and wishing to organize Strawberry Creek Lodge as well, as there are compatriots there, and want you all to talk to people you know in public housing units, and HUD units. Let us unite!