Land. Food. Power. again

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Hey folks,

I tried to publish this earlier this morning and the F*#ing computer/internet destroyed more than half my post. I just tired to rewrite it, so here it is. Sorry of the delay on the delay.

 

Sorry that my contribution is late. I’m in a motel room with Ila on my way to LA.

I will start by saying that I am a big fan of La Via Campesina because they fundamentally connect land, food and power – not just the question of ensuring that everyone eat, but that the fundamental questions around food sovereignty are about ownership, scale, community – basically – the violence of enclosure.

The strategies of La Via are finding there way into the US in a host of different ways. In the case of the work of Saru and ROC – the idea of not just fighting for food chain workers, but recognizing that the conditions for food-chain workers will never fundamentally change unless the nature of ownership changes is a good example. The work to develop COLORS and other attempts at worker ownership in various aspects of the food-chain is in that tradition. Unfortunately, Saru has not had positive things to say about their experience with coop development, and has been very critical of the model based on her (in my opinion) limited experience. That said, she is now working with her partner, Zachary Norris from Ella Baker Center on a food justice, worker justice/ownership project with formerly incarcerated folks, which I’m very excited about. (but I digress, as Chris would say).

I’m interested in us bridging the gap between the immediate justice issues in the food system and the more fundamental issues of Land Reform, ownership and power.

 

I want to share a few campaign that I know of and have been involved in that I think are helpful illustrations of things we can do – or ways we can build a movement, particularly in the urban context – that can try to do both.

 

In Oakland, we have an Oakland Climate Action Coalition that was developed to advance an Energy and Climate Action Plan for the city that was rooted in Climate Justice principles. As part of that, we knew that because climate “changes everything,” we could touch so much more than just GHG emissions in our plan. While we didn’t win everything in the plan, we were able to advance significant improvement in municipal zero-waste, transit and food systems.

One thing we fought for on the food side was, “10% of all fruits and vegetables consumed in Oakland be grown in Oakland,” and to justify that claim we used a food-miles analysis to show that it would reduce GHG emission in the city. We also had an elaborate survey of all the arable underutilized public and private land in Oakland to show that we could actually reach a 10% target through primarily non-commercial means (and there are examples of this in other places, such as Havana). We also put forward implementation mechanisms such as blight fine avoidance for private land if the owners give community groups rights to farm the land, models for community use-agreements for access to underutilized public lands; changes to urban ag policy such as giving renters the right to grow food on the land they rent. Again, we didn’t win everything, but putting it forward also gave OCAC the momentum to implement many actions based on the 10% vision. We occupied vacant lands, sometime successfully and sometime not, but always engaging the community in the questions of land, food and power.

I also want to share the story of Occupy the Farm (at the risk of being self-promoting). There’s a documentary called Occupy the Farm about the story, in which I am one of the four characters that drive the narrative, even though in reality there were a whole lot of people behind the actions. I won’t go into the whole story, but I think we can watch the film online now. Basically, we fought against the UC form paving over prime farmland in Berkeley/Albany. They want to turn it into a commercial development. We managed to semi-permanently protect 10 acres for a free public access learning farm that grows food that people can harvest and that goes to food justice projects for poor folks. We are still fighting over the remaining 10 acres, which they want to pave over and rent to Sprouts Market, among others.

I have a few things I want to share about this struggle. Some people were in it for the urban farming, some people were in it for the “occupy,” some were in it to fight the UC (and their cops), but I was in it for the land reform. “What can we do to take control of this land away from the UC –which is one of the most powerful land-holders/developers in the State of CA – and permanently protect it for public benefit?” I advocated (and still do) the use of an Agricultural Easement, which would allow us to restrict forever what the UC could do with the land. The State, by the way, privileges in law the protection of urgan and peri-urban agricultural land, so we even had that on our side.

The struggle continues, but as it is growing, we are making key connections to other folks in food justice fights. As part of the Fight for 15 with fast-food workers, Movement Generation and Occupy the Farm did workshops with fast-food workers on climate, ecology, peak oil, peak soil and exploitation of workers. We heard from fast-food workers about how they had to throw away food into dumpsters, hose it down with hundreds of gallons of water and then lock the dumpsters rather than give away unsold, edible food. They cried as they told us how they feel about what they serve, and they had such inspiring visions of how the food systems should be organized. For the fight for 15 day of action, Occupy the Farm and other urban farmers got together with fast-food workers and made hundreds of organic, veggie breakfast burritos and when we shut down the McDonalds, we have all the people in the drive-through free coffee, burritos and muffins. The burritos were wrapped in Fight for 15 fliers. THEN, the fast food workers and the farmers took a bus to the grand opening of a Sprouts in another town to protest Sprouts Union Busting, to protest their plan to build on the farm and to support the fast food workers. This was a great way to fight for the justice issues (higher wages, better conditions) in an industry that we all know has to go away (fast food) but with a vision of what we really want – and led by the workers in the industry. This was a small thing, but it is the kind of organizing we think we need.

The Food Chain Worker’s Alliance is the national campaign that tires to make those connections – from the farmers to the fast-food workers.

There is a narrative in the predominantly white “back to the land,” movement about how we, as a nation, are experiencing a generational loss of farmers. That most family farmers are aging out and industrial agriculture has taken over more and more of our food production. There are a ton of young, white, well-intentioned farmers buying land and starting these farms. But one thing that I always point out is that we have all the farmers we need, we just call them farm-workers because they are not in control of the land. Of course, running a farm is a much bigger lift than just knowing how to grow, but there is a deep tradition of peasant farmers in the US from other home countries that could be planted in this soil to grow a new food system –but it will take policy and action that changes the way land is held an how land is used. (I fully realize this is the same argument I made in the housing module, but it is the same problem).

Via Campesina has two important slogans. “Small Farmers cool the planet.” “Small Farmers feed the world.” Both are true. Industrial agriculture is just mining for calories, and the calories are subsidized by exploitation, pollution and habitat destruction, all of which lead to greater hunger and a hotter planet.

(this isn’t exactly what I wrote the first time, but here it is!)

Land. Food. Power.

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Sorry that my contribution is late. I’m in a motel room with Ila on my way to LA.

I will start by saying that I am a big fan of La Via Campesina because they fundamentally connect land, food and power – not just the question of ensuring that everyone eat, but that the fundamental questions around food sovereignty are about ownership, scale, community – basically – the violence of enclosure.

The strategies of La Via are finding there way into the US in a host of different ways. In the case of the work of Saru and ROC – the idea of not just fighting for food chain workers, but recognizing that the conditions for food-chain workers will never fundamentally change unless the nature of ownership changes is a good example. The work to develop COLORS and other attempts at worker ownership in various aspects of the food-chain is in that tradition. Unfortunately, Saru has not had positive things to say about their experience with coop development, and has been very critical of the model based on her (in my opinion) limited experience. That said, she is now working with her partner, Zachary Norris from Ella Baker Center on a food justice, worker justice/ownership project with formerly incarcerated folks, which I’m very excited about. (but I digress, as Chris would say).

I’m interested in us bridging the gap between the immediate justice issues in the food system and the more fundamental issues of Land Reform, ownership and power.

I want to share a few campaign that I know of and have been involved in that I think are helpful illustrations of things we can do – or ways we can build a movement, particularly in the urban context – that can try to do both.

In Oakland, we have an Oakland Climate Action Coalition that was developed to advance an Energy and Climate Action Plan for the city that was rooted in Climate Justice principles. As part of that, we knew that because climate “changes everything,” we could touch so much more than just GHG emissions in our plan. While we didn’t win everything in the plan, we were able to advance significant improvement in municipal zero-waste, transit and food systems. One thing we fought for on the food side was, “10% of all fruits and vegetables consumed in Oakland be grown in Oakland,” and to justify that claim we used a food-miles analysis to show that it woudl

The Food Crisis

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Providing access to food seems to be the most obvious foremost responsibility of any local society or global community. Yet, the current global food crisis caused by the free market has made it impossible for urban and rural communities around the world to feed themselves. I heard recently on KPFK, that Los Angeles, one of the richest cities has more hungry people than any other city in the country. Turning food into a commodity in an unregulated market has become a costly business, and it is poor people who, once again pay the highest price. In urban areas, all too many residents pay high prices for empty calories at local markets, they pay $6- $8 for a toxic meal at the fast food joints and then they pay the price with their health. Raj Patel, food expert and author of “Stuffed and Starved” stated that if we were to consider the true costs of the production and the consumption of a fast food hamburger, the price tag should really be $200 rather than $4. He goes on to say that one in five health care dollars are spent on the care for people with diabetes. Though there is technically plenty of “food” in urban areas, much of what is accessible is toxic, and so people are starved for nutrition. This makes me think of the free food I often see being given away on Downtown Skidrow or at community events. It is most often white bread, sweets, and sugar drinks. Though peoples’ intentions may be sincere, the food being dumped in poor communities is killing people, literally.

 

People picking and packaging corporate food around the world suffer from unstable living conditions, lack of water, and no access to growing their own food. There are no labor protections. Migrant women, who work in the fields in the U.S., are often sexually assaulted by their bosses. In an article we read for Urban Infrastructure, “Water Flowing North of the Border: Export Agriculture and Water Politics in a Rural Community in Baja California”, we learn that corporate growers are moving south of the border along the western coast of Mexico and extracting all the water from those regions. Mexican workers, who are happy to have the opportunity to work in their own country, have created large permanent communities surrounding these corporate enterprises. These communities have little access to the water in the area as the growers are siphoning it all off. Clearly the food crisis and a water crisis are integral to each other. Multi-national corporations are stealing and devastating the fresh water resources of rural communities around the world whether it is Coca Cola, Chevron or Monsanto. People who have farmed and fished in their home communities for hundreds of thousands of years can no longer survive. Individuals and whole families are forced to migrate to urban areas where they compete for low wages jobs. Many of these jobs are in food service.

 

With great eloquence and compassion, Saru Jayaraman, author of Behind the Kitchen Door, takes us through the full cycle to demonstrate how workers in the food service industry are underpaid, misused, and taken for granted. I worked in many restaurants myself so I understand many of the issues he discusses but I do think labor conditions have gotten worse. I worked at A&W Root beer, Perkins Pancake House, and Black Angus steak house and I felt, at the time, I was making pretty good cash. The rules on tips have changed quite a bit and tips are run up on credit cards now and taxed. My daughter and my son and law have worked in the industry in Minneapolis for years. They have varying experiences. As a bartender at one of the nicest hotels, Tommy makes some $60 – $70 grand. Yet, he has no job stability and is vulnerable to management changes or new ownership at any point.

The Restaurant Opportunities Center, the ROC, provide a great solutions by advocating for people in the industry, but more importantly, by starting a worker owned restaurant.

 

As La Via Campesina points out, solutions will not come from the entities who created the problem in the first place. The solution as suggested in many of the readings for this module will be in the development of food sovereignty. Rural and urban communities must take control in their immediate surroundings, their “commons” and make a decision to work cooperatively to buy and distribute locally grown food, or grow their own.

 

The conclusion I come to over and over in the Urban Sustainability program is that we must build small eco-friendly communities that depend on each member to do their part, to grow food, and reduce, recycle and reuse local resources.

 

 

Food Chains

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Also, I watched the documentary “Food Chains” a few months ago, and just went back and watched it again. Pretty amazing, and pretty appropriate given our current module. If you have Netflix streaming, it’s on there, and I highly recommend it!

And although I haven’t seen “Food Inc.” in a few years, I think it is another mandatory watch…

Sustainable urban food system

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I think there are several things wrong with our current food system, from the FDA, labeling, lobbyists, Farm Bill, Monsanto, etc. However, I believe the greatest challenge to creating a sustainable urban food economy is the ability of humans to reestablish or recreate our relationship with land (and ocean, to a certain degree), particularly as society becomes more urbanized. I think in today’s society, too much emphasis is put on what is the quickest and cheapest solution (and not just necessarily when it comes to food). Ultimately, this is the process of everyone to be involved in his or her food system, and create his or her food story, if you will. The food we produce and consume should be healthy, accessible, and affordable. It should be a benefit to the environment and ecosystem, produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods.

 

This eventually becomes agroecology and food sovereignty. The Los Angeles Food Policy Council is developing a food action plan that creates healthy, affordable, sustainable, and fair food, ensuring the community’s food production, access to and affordability of food, land and natural resource stewardship, job development, and public health and equity in the local and regional food system. This establishes a democratic food system that includes everybody from the farmer to the grocer to the server to the consumer.

 

One important piece in our readings that resonated with me was the bit about “the dumping of food at prices below the cost of production in the global economy, and the domination of our food and food producing systems by corporations that place profits before people, health and the environment.” America floods the international market with corn (among other things). It costs less to grow corn in Iowa and ship it to Africa than it does to produce and sell corn in Africa. That’s pretty astounding. Accordingly, food should not be grown exclusively for commodity; and food should not be an industrial/artificial process.

 

 

5,000 Mile Salad was a superb graphic. Consequently, I believe the first step in creating and establishing a sustainable urban food economy is educating society and giving consumers knowledge about food system/processes. The environmental implications of putting a hamburger patty (or let’s just say red meat consumption) on your plate are immense (deforestation to create farmland and land to graze, fertilizer and water to grow grains to feed cow, transport of grains to feed lot, water for cow, methane, soil quality, transport of slaughtered, water for sanitation and processing, packaging, transport to consumer, etc.). The “foodshed” of meals have grown exponentially; it is estimated that the average meal in America travels 1,500 miles from farm to fork. Additionally, consumers in the U.S. still manage to put 40% of our food on rubbage trucks and send them to the landfills (where they rot and spoil and release methane, all while people domestically and internationally die of starvation or are malnourished). This abhorrent misuse of food sounds eerily similar to the issues of water and energy that we are confronting.

 

 

I think education is key because, similar to many other facets of life, there is extensive inequality built in to our food system. I think education will bring attention to and alleviate the food deserts that are present in low-income neighborhoods, where fast food restaurants and convenience stores, not grocery stores or markets, are the main source of food. These are typically only good for high calorie, high fat, high sugar, low-nutrition menu items.

 

I think education will introduce people to the environmental hazards and carbon chain that that is directly linked to the industrial food system, such as the pollution and carbon associated with food production, including, but not limited to, farm machines, fertilizers and pesticides, erosion, deforestation, transport, packaging, etc.

 

Education will dispel the notion that organic is a niche market and large-scale, industrial farming is the only solution to feeding the growing population. Small, organic farms produce more and are healthier (soil, ecosystem, etc.). People should understand that our current system has been developed to accommodate revenues and commodities.

 

I think on telling stat is that one time, around the turn of the 20th Century, Los Angeles County was the largest agriculture producing county in the country. Now, only 1% of food consumed in Los Angeles is produced/sourced locally, even when a majority of nation’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts are grown in our backyard. Urban farming is a great start and agrotowers may ultimately be a part of the solution, but education is the most important aspect needed to create a foundation of food sovereignty and to recreate our food system.

All you can eat.

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There was a time when I could purchase groceries and it could be a mindless effort, now that has changed. Now many thoughts run through my head for example, will I consume this before it expires, is this company that treats their employees with dignity , and am I buying local.

 

I will begin with how I buy my produce. I always knew it was from their farm way over there to my table here. I never thought about where my produce was from or and what policies are in place so I can have strawberries year round. This changed last year when I learned about my carbon footprint. The stores I normally patronize are Hollywood Farmers market, Whole Foods and Costco, Costco, which is now the leader in organic groceries. I always tried to purchase organic products because of the quality and provisos the manufactures must maintain. When a farm is USDA certified organic, which means they are required to do more than not use sprays or chemicals. The rules are far reaching, a farmer must maintain and better soil, protect neighboring waterways, and animal habitats. After learning my carbon footprint I was able to better research the food I consume, I also learn the story of the production behind it. Everything from where is transported from to whom is picking it. I am now able to make better decisions.

 

Recently for our Urban Infrastructure class we read about neoliberalism, NAFTA and growing produce in Mexico. Looking at Mexico’s farming history juxtapose with neoliberal policies that were adopted, tells the story of the demand for food and the crippling effect on farming communities. One aspect of these policies is equal access to water. Neoliberal polices have played a role in dismantling tradition farming methods by expanding globalization and free trade. These policies also facilitated market-driven economy. Meaning, as demand grew in newly open markets credit to NAFTA, wages began to fall, and no real change to the local economies, revenue not trickling down. Creating a race to the bottom culture. Not only is this taxing on the residents but also the land. The on the ground reality is that the new farming techniques and competition puts more strain on the laborer, soil, and growing demand for water. As stated in La Via Campesina… “Tracing the roots of the recurring agricultural crisis back to over four decades of neoliberal policies that had fostered a market-based, technologically-driven, environmentally devastating global food system.” Makes me question…do I really need strawberries year round?” Farming demands and water conflicts are nothing new and goes on in happen in California and Mexico is no different. There is always a way to find fresh water for hydraulic fracturing and growing produce, but drinking water for residents is not always a top priority.

 

 

I am writing this post as Ramadan is coming to an end. For Muslims around the world Ramadan is a holy month of fasting, prayer, charity, and reflection. One practice during Ramadan is giving food to those that do not have as much. Fasting is common practice in many religions around the world. Fasting is done to express ones commitment to which they serve. What if we put religion aside and fasted for the benefit of the planet? Or conserve to help those without as much. It has been said if we stop eating meat; we can save so many gallons of water. Or…do you know how many gallons of water it takes for 1 hamburger patty? I am not saying we all go vegan or vegetarian. I am advocating conservation. In America we produce plenty and still have food insecurity, something is not connecting.

During World War I, US Food Administrator Herbert Hoover championed a campaign that tasked US citizens to cut back on meat, fat, sugar and wheat and to participate in Meatless Tuesdays and Wheatless Wednesdays. This campaign was done with conservation in mind, stating food is needed overseas. Citizens, restaurants and hotels made conservation efforts. Long to short in America, we can conserve it is in our history. From the readings it is clear that in the united States alone we produce plenty, but do we really need to produce and export that much, of course not. We are the consumers we have buying power to change. What I do to cut down on my meat consumption is have a vegan days twice a week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additions…

 

Hoover Food Campaign (This is a campaign I would not mind bring back) http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/hec2009000359/

 

 

Prison Food (With all that we produce export and waste, we can do better than this) http://www.buzzfeed.com/claudiarestrepo/adults-try-prison-food#.cq6oAgB2g

 

 

Americans Try Peruvian Food For The First Time (Just because I like to compare popular American food to others) http://www.buzzfeed.com/racheldotson/americans-try-peruvian-food#.xjB8jWnJW

 

California Drought and Meat consumption.

http://www.democracynow.org/2015/4/7/cowspiracy_as_california_faces_drought_film

 

Currently boycotting Driscoll berries.

 

Housing Boondoggle

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Sorry I posted my assignment as a response to another assignment.

Not I see how to do a new one.

 

6.17.2015

Urban Economies

Week 8/9 Blog

 

Housing Boondoggle

 

Upon reading ” The Rise of the Corporate Landlord”, my blood is boiling. The ease to which the 1% has extracted billions of dollars of wealth from middle class and poor communities, since 2007 is astounding. The theft was disproportionately targeted at communities of color where there were extraordinary numbers of foreclosures due to fraudulent lending practices. Much of this happened even under the growing awareness of the 1% brought to us by the Occupy movement. Huge investment companies like Blackstone and Colony Capital have spent $20 Billion dollars to purchase over 200,000 single-family homes in the United States just since 2012 (pg. 6). Between 2010 and 2013, 19% of single-family home sales were funneled to investors (pg.10)—12% in Los Angeles (pg. 13). The machinery, on Wall Street was already in place to snatch up peoples investments secured through a lifetime of hard work, care and diligence. For many it was only legacy they may have had to pass on to future generations. The Housing Act of 1949 relegated into law that “a decent Home and a suitable living environment” be made available for every family in the United States as soon as possible. The current rental crisis demonstrates that that goal was never realized and the intention was not adhered to.

 

The fact that originally, the constitution only allowed property owners the right to vote is a theme that continues to sit with me as I do the housing readings and write my blog. As the shift of home ownership moves to investor ownership, as accessibility, affordability and legacy is diminished for poor people and communities of color, I understand that corporate extraction of real estate will further political disenfranchisement. As many of the readings point out, secure housing is a baseline for other “rights” that we all should assume are guaranteed: safety, healthy food, a good education, proper environmental surroundings, green space and a political voice. Non-access to decent housing guarantees that there will be whole segments of certain population in poor areas that will not have access to the political process or any planning entities that are determining the future of their home surroundings.

 

Of course, I am considering how this huge multi-national corporate control of housing will impact the hundreds of millions of people who have been incarcerated, specifically in Los Angeles. Los Angeles has been one of the targeted areas for bulk sales of single-family homes along with. Properties controlled by corporate entities are unlikely to be held accountable for discrimination in their rental policies, mandates on qualifying income levels, the number of affordable units available, maintenance of properties and restrictions on renting to people with a criminal record. The communities that have already suffered the most under neo-liberal policies and operations that have taken hold since the 80’s, will continue to be the those who are rendered homeless, incarcerated, unemployed, unhealthy and unheard. Unless we build a movement that promotes the redistribution of wealth like Community Land Trusts.

 

The readings in this module provide a great framework to consider solutions. The very current reports generated by the Right to the City Alliance are excellent and well researched and provide very concrete proposal on how to move forward to address growing housing disparities. I am very excited to learn more about the history of Community Land Trusts in the 1984 publication by John Emmeus Davis and then note that the 2014 reports from the Right to the City Alliance promote Community Land Trusts as a part of the solution. As a matter of fact it may be an opportune time to identify vacant properties in South Los Angeles, pressure political entities, wealthy business people and individuals in the entertainment industry to donate to public land trusts in areas that have been most impacted by incarceration. I understand that there is way to create stability for people coming home from prison and jail. We can create land trusts along side a movement to build cooperative and worker owned enterprises and provide accessibility, security and a legacy for future generations to look forward to.

 

At the same time I am so angry about what we are reading, I am imagining the opportunity as to my specific goals for my capstone. I am looking forward to learning more about the specific process to build a land trust and to figure out how current investor holdings in single-family housing opens the doors for other opportunities. I am also motivated to contact the Right to the City Alliance to find out if they want to do a specific report on housing for people who have former convictions and their families loved whose “right to the City” is directly impacted by current criminal justice and housing policies.

Gimmie Shelter

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“If I don’t get some shelter

Lord, I’m going to fade away “

The Rolling Stones. “Gimmie Shelter” Let It Bleed Decca Records, 1969 Album

 

When Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote Gimmie Shelter I do not think they where thinking about Southern California’s housing issues. But the lyrics I posted are fitting to the importance of having basic shelter. Somewhere stable to eat, clean, and sleep, but housing insecurity is more than that. Many employers will not hire a homeless people or people without a residential address. Some employers have a stigma to hiring someone homeless they assume hiring homeless people are a risk. Potential employers worry if they will be able to shower or consistently show up to work. Another set back to no having permanent shelter is without a permanent physical residential address cannot open a bank account. Housing insecurities can be crippling to individuals that are have a rough time, and makes it next to impossible to improve ones condition. Without shelter one just might fade away as outlined in Rise of the Renter Nation.

 

I grew up in Los Angeles., my family and I have lived in South Central LA, City of LA (Filipinotown) Hollywood and Glendale. The major factor in looking for housing was how safe is the neighborhood. Many building were rent controlled and had long waiting list. In the 1990s there would be  a new  housing development,  maybe once every three years, which is in stark contrast to what is going on today. These developments are going up with little to no affordable housing allotment. According to the Housing Authority of Los Angeles website they manage 14 properties about 6500 units , although the population in the city of Los Angeles is 3.93 million. These figures speak to the real scarcity of affordable housing units. As stated in Rise of the Corporate Landlord “intensifying housing cost-burden for renters and surging post-crisis rental demand, which together have brought chronic housing insecurity for low-income renters to crisis proportions.” There are ordinances stating that certain developments have to have a percentage of affordable units. Developers have managed to get around the rule by modifying their plans and have challenging the rule in court. The current mayor Eric Garcetti has made housing one of his priorities addressed in his pLAn as out lined on the website ‘The availability and affordability of housing are among the most visible and important economic issues facing Angelenos today. They’re also critical elements to a strong and thriving Los Angeles. The pLAn and its strategic initiatives aim to ease housing costs, lower utility bills, promote appropriate development, encourage housing around transit hubs, and increase the production and preservation of affordable housing”

 

These days I do not recognize LA anymore. Small multi unit apartments have been demolished and replaced with brand new apartments or condos that line up and down Sunset and Hollywood Blvd. The city has lost some of its character. Do I say Gentrification? Gentrification is not only about who is moving in, but who is being priced out.

 

In 1970 the publisher of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, coined the term “Manhattanization” his name is Bruce B. Brugmann. I say this is what is going on in Los Angeles a Manhattanization. What Brugmann was naming is the “vertical urbanism, where city serves as a bedroom for a dominant urban core that is chock-full of cultural attractions. Density is a premium value in a successfully Manhattanized city, producing economies of scale, extraordinary concentrations of skills and an entertaining street scene. Human activities are more important than sunlight, nature or individual privacy.”

An example is Downtown LA; Downtown L.A., which used to be dead after 6 pm, is now a bustling hub for entertainment, sports, dining and housing. In Downtown LA many abandoned high-rise office building have been turned into polished lofts for rent and sale for example the Pacific Electric Loft apartments. I will add my definition to Manhattanization; where cities not just Los Angeles, are not just building high, they are building and pricing higher. Today when I drive through any city all I see are multi story apartment buildings. Brand new and stunning, but only if you can afford it. Nothing reflects the disparity between the new and old downtown like the stimulating L.A. Live district and it is aging neighbor, Pico Union district, which could use some attention.  This  begs me to ask building for whom? And many of these new developments are under occupied, and this does not stop new plans from construction.

Many of these housing issues can only be solved with the input of non-profit grassroots organizations. This is not an issue throwing money at can solve.

 

 

BTW: Many of the reading brought out a range of emotions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Housing as a human right

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Equitable and just housing contributes to urban sustainability because housing is a basic human right. Establishing basic human rights creates the fundamental framework and dynamic balance of the environmental, financial, and social factors (the sustainability triangle) that contribute to a healthy, functioning society. There are various arguments about what is a basic human right, and I think the necessary elements are those that allow and provide an individual to maintain a healthy, productive life. The foundation of these basic human rights, in my mind, consists of a healthy environment (clean air, clean water), food, education, healthcare, and housing, etc. (and note that this is an abbreviated list; there are certainly more). Those, in my mind, constitute a portion of the essential, basic human rights.

 

Quick side note- it is quite curious that homes sit empty when there are homeless/houseless people scattered throughout our cities and country. It is also quite curious that in a nation with an obesity epidemic, 40% of our food ends up as waste, all while others, including the aforementioned homeless/houseless, as well as low-income and poverty-stricken families and kids, suffer from malnutrition and starvation. Which also reminds me- why don’t we take the billions upon billions of dollars of unchecked donations made to political campaigns and actually contribute to fixing the issues that politics and politicians are unwilling or unable to fix? What would that look like? I digress.

 

Housing creates the neighborhoods and communities that supply our cultural commodity and social fabric. People should have a place, and/or be able to have a place, where they can go at the end of each day to eat, to rest, store their possessions, and that is secure. I think this also gets back to the idea of democracy and the right to the city; establishing just housing conditions creates a more equitable and sound community. Further, housing is about more than just the four walls and the roof; it’s also about the power and esteem and status of owning or maintaining your plot of land and the structure (or structures) that sit on it. Housing is as much a mental construction as it is a physical construction. Giving the ownership, or control, of land and housing to the individual returns the power back to the people. These are the qualities that must be put into place to create a fair, just, and equitable society. A society that provides for many rather than a few, regardless of race or ethnicity or class.

 

The “Rise of a Renter Nation” piece really reflects the ideals of just, affordable housing. I think that the five main components, and the subcomponents therein, comprise a model that can be implemented and constitute all of these initiatives, whether it is multi-family housing or single-family dwellings. Not to say that it can’t be done; it’s the common, corporate agenda that prevents just, equitable housing. As they say, ‘if there is a political will, there is a way.’ If the Department of Defense can have a $550B budget, and if we can give large financial institutions $780B bailouts, then we can afford large-scale affordable housing (I believe the text referenced $20B-$80B).

 

Putting another spin on it, and focusing on the financial aspect of sustainability, the finance involved with housing, whether it be owning a home or renting a home, is the typically the largest piece of capital outlay that individuals and families experience. Enabling individuals and families a more secure and just path to home-ownership/land-ownership, reinforces the financial base of the sustainability triangle. This in turn leads to a more healthy financial structure, and at the community level, leads to a better tax base, which then leads to better infrastructure (including education, as well as roads, transportation, utilities, etc.).

 

Watching the “A Matter of Place” video, it was both interesting and appalling to listen to other people’s experiences and compare them with my own. Although I was too young to recall, I know my mom was pretty limited in her ability to find housing for her and I. Both from an economic standpoint, and from the stigma associated with a single woman raising a child. Also another reason we lived with my maternal grandparents quite a bit. Again, something I think I’ve been aware of and known that it exists in some form, but I thought it was relatively remote. It is clear that it is very present, and massively unfortunate. It makes me want to be a “tester” (so if anyone knows how, let me know where to sign up). This also reminds me of a story Ka’prise told me about either something he saw, or something he and a friend did. A black guy (in his 20s) went and sat next to an older white lady (40s or 50s) at a bus stop. After fiddling around in his pockets and wallet, he asked the lady for a dollar to make fare. She said she didn’t have any money. He leaves. About five minutes later, a similarly aged white guy goes and sits next to the same lady. After checking his pockets and wallet, he asks if the lady can help him make his fare. She asks how much he needs. He then explains the entire situation to the lady and comments that she sickens him. A bit of an aside, but quite astonishing and gross.

A couple of random tangents that consistent with our current module

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http://www.endhomelessness.org/pages/housing_first

This was implemented in Utah with success. A Republican state of all places. They realized that it was more cost-effective for tax money to cover housing, healthcare, job placement, etc. I guess the unfortunate side of that is that money was the main catalyst, and not necessarily the welfare of people, but it was an effort that was implemented nonetheless.

 

http://www.ibtimes.com/google-lawyer-eviction-delayed-protesters-gather-mission-district-support-renter-1960706

This is just an article that is very present regarding a few things Gopal discussed last semester, and Gilda has mentioned (specifically, her mention of the Ellis Act at the Gentrification Panel earlier this week). It also reminds me of the video that Caroline sent out last semester.

 

Also, regarding Gilda’s comment from the panel, it would be interesting to see a model laid out by the City/County requiring developers to develop 4 units of affordable/low-income housing for every 1 unit of market-priced housing they develop. All I ever see or read about is high end apartments and condos.

 

This was just a quick sidenote… Back to the current post!