Last June, after leaving my last job in the video game industry, I decided to spend the summer doing volunteer work. One organization with which I became involved is Just Cause Oakland, a community-based organization dedicated to protecting affordable housing for people of color and working folks. JCO came into being in 2000, and its first campaign was to pass Measure EE, a citywide ordinance that prevents tenant eviction without cause–a huge issue at that time thanks to the dot-com boom happening on the other side of the bay.
Since then, JCO has fought gentrification in Oakland, pushing for inclusionary zoning policies that require real estate developers to create affordable housing alongside the $600,000 condos and McLofts being built in East, West, and downtown Oakland. Just Cause is also involved in the fight to protect existing public housing, much of which is being demolished all over the country to make way for private development, and has uncovered some of the less-noticeable side effects of the subprime mortgage crisis–namely, renters being forced out of foreclosed properties when banks refuse to pay for water service or trash collection.
Of course, there is never an end to the tribulations we Bay Area renters face. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the property owners who got Proposition 13 passed in 1978, thereby slashing property taxes statewide and virtually bankrupting California schools, is at it again.
Proposition 98 will be presented to voters on the June 3rd ballot, disguised as protection against eminent domain seizure. What the proposition really calls for, however, is the end of rent control across California. Its passage would also prohibit inclusionary zoning practices and do away with various environmental protections.
Just Cause Oakland and other organizations have taken up the fight. I spoke at a rally yesterday in protest of this dangerous piece of legislation and was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle and Oakland Tribune.