Every morning, Irma Cardenas watches her brother wake up at 4 a.m. to begin the four-hour commute to his construction job. “My brother leaves every day at 5 a.m.,” states Irma. “Sometimes, when there is a lot of traffic, he can be back by 10 p.m.” Irma and her family live in the Monument Corridor neighborhood in Concord, California. Located in Central Contra Costa County, northeast of Oakland in the Bay Area, Concord has a well-deserved reputation as a suburban, middle-class community. Nevertheless, for those who live in “La Monument,” an imaginary wall seems to surround their neighborhood.
In Texas, when they talked about “smart growth,” they said it would limit suburban sprawl but it was just gentrification. Sprawl hasn’t stopped. As they began to develop downtown, they pretended that there were no people of color downtown. Those people who were supposed to be our allies are running us out of our communities.
Situated at the juncture of San Francisco’s Chinatown and financial district, 53 Columbus is a “prime” piece of real estate by anybody’s estimate. But the tenants of this very desirable property—mostly low-income Chinese immigrants—probably wish it were not so. Their troubles began in 1998 when San Francisco City College—the owners of 53 Columbus—issued eviction notices with the intention of demolishing the building.
Over the last decade, Florida-based mega-developer Lennar Corp., has been snatching up the rights to the Bay Area’s former naval bases—those vast stretches of land that once housed the Pacific Fleet but are now home to rats, weeds, and sometimes, low-income renters.
Despite Katrina causing the worst affordable housing crisis since the Civil War, the federal Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) is spending $762 million in taxpayer funds to tear down over 4600 public housing apartments and replace them with 744 similarly subsidized units—an 82 percent reduction. HUD took over the local housing authority years ago and all decisions are made in Washington D.C. HUD plans to build an additional 1000 market rate and tax credit units, which will still result in a net loss of 2700 apartments to New Orleans. The new apartments will cost an average of over $400,000 each.Affordable housing is at a critical point along the Gulf Coast. Over 50,000 families still living in tiny FEMA trailers are being systematically forced out. Over 90,000 homeowners in Louisiana are still waiting to receive federal recovery funds from the so-called “Road Home” reconstruction fund. In New Orleans, hundreds of the estimated 12,000 homeless have taken up residence in small tents across the street from City Hall and under the I-10.
Members of Labor, Congregations Organizing for Renewal, other residents, Urban Habitat and representatives from many of our allies, including EBASE, TALC, EBHO, and UC-Berkeley's Center for Community Innovation packed San Leandro City Council chambers so full that there was standing room only by the time the meeting began.