We compiled resources so communities can take action and support our beloved small businesses as they renegotiate commercial leases and protect against eviction. During this half-hour huddle, Tobias Damm-Luhr from the Lawyers Committee shared about eviction moratoriums adopted by cities, sample letters to landlords, tips on renegotiating rent payments, and more!
The Sustainable Economies Law Center is co-hosting this event with Legal Services for Entrepreneurs, an economic justice and community empowerment project of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights. LSE was founded in 1997 by attorneys who recognized that a small business’s long-term viability may be jeopardized when it forgoes legal assistance on fundamental business matters. LSE provides free transactional legal services to low-income individuals who want to start or develop businesses, businesses committed to investing in economically distressed communities, including hiring people with arrest and conviction records, and mom and pop shops located in areas where gentrification is a force for displacement.Read more
Last Friday, March 20, the Law Center co-hosted a webinar with the Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives (NoBawc) for the cooperative community to share resources and discuss potential responses in light of unprecedented challenges caused by the pandemic. If you missed the webinar, you can tune in to the recording below.
Watch the Webinar RecordingRead more
In light of developments around the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) here in California, as of March 10, 2020, the Law Center will be suspending all public in-person events and moving them online for the next two weeks.
We are also recommending that all Law Center staff work from home and use their best judgement in determining whether or how to participate in outside events, including following recommended prevention practices as they conduct their work.Read more
By Natalie Orenstein of Berkeleyside
The Law Center's Jay Cumberland, second from the left, congregate alongside supporters and opponents of Berkeley’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) outside a City Council policy committee meeting Thursday, March 5, 2020. Image credit: Natalie Orenstein
Excerpt: Under TOPA, authored by Mayor Jesse Arreguín, landlords who wanted to sell their rental property would have to give their tenants the first right of refusal to buy it, at a price named by the owner. The tenants can assign their rights to a city-approved affordable housing organization — like a land trust — if they couldn’t afford the cost themselves. If the tenants decided to move out instead of buying the building, those housing organizations would get second dibs.
Read the full article here.
(Originally published on March 6, 2020.)
Subin Devar, the Law Center's Director of Community Renewable Energy, penned this essay, Are You Thinking About Climate Change Wrong?, as part of our membership campaign in January 2020. It was recently republished in Nonprofit Quarterly.
Everyday people, at least in the US, are more concerned and more pessimistic about climate change. Perhaps this is because of diminishing trust in government or the sheer scale of the problem. From my experience, people who work on climate, energy, or social justice issues are a bit more hopeful than others, even if they are weighed down at times by worry. It appears that people around the globe are a little more optimistic that we can avoid the worst effects of climate change. But is that enough? Avoiding the worst effects?
In this context, a pass/fail framing of climate change has two key problems.
The Law Center's Director of Community Renewable Energy, Subin Devar, contributed to this white paper which provides guidance for creating community solar programs that promote racial and economic equity.
SUMMARY: This paper is intended for city elected officials and policymakers, administrators of municipal electric utilities (i.e., munis), and local advocates building equitable third-party or muni-owned community solar programs. It is most applicable to municipalities with a municipal electric utility or other lever that provides flexibility in sourcing energy, such as a Community Choice Aggregation entity. Much of this paper is relevant for policy makers and advocates designing regional or state-level community solar programs, as well.
Read the full report here.
Neil Thapar, the Law Center's Director of Food and Farms, penned this essay, How to Win Land Justice in a Decade, as part of our Land Justice campaign in January 2020. It was recently republished in Civil Eats.
Excerpt: In the next decade, we can rewrite the story of our collective future—one that manifests indigenous sovereignty, reparations, and a livable climate. Winning land is a precondition not only for a racially equitable food and farm economy, but for a real, thriving, and inclusive democracy. And, true to the definition of democracy, we all have a role to play.
How is February almost over already? As we look forward and make plans for the coming year, we made this video to share how 2020 is turning into the most lovable year yet. Enjoy! And see below for the many ways we want you to be part of it.
A housing lawyer, a farmland lawyer, an energy lawyer, and a grassroots finance lawyer walked into our office and formed the Law Center's new Land and Resources Circle. Together, they agreed on a collective vision: Democratize. Decolonize. Decarbonize.
And so they launched the #DemocratizeDecolonizeDecarbonize campaign. Their goal? Recruit 20 new Community Members. Their game plan? Set some time aside away from their daily grind. Reflect on the Law Center's work on housing, farmland, and energy. And then take a deep-dive with a three-part essay series explaining why we do what we do.
Neil wrote about unjust farmland ownership in How to win land justice in a decade.
"The land we occupy today has been stolen from the indigenous peoples of this continent. A crime repeated every time land is bought and sold as a commodity.* Anyone who has felt the sand between their toes on a beach, stood in awe of a mountain range, or laid their head to rest in a warm place they call home knows that land is not simply a commodity. Its value cannot be reduced to dollars and cents. In the case of the farmland that nourishes all of us, commodification has created a crisis in our food system that only a strong commitment to land justice can solve."Read more
By Karen Khan of Fifty by Fifty
The Cheese Board Collective, in Berkeley, CA, has been owned by its workers since 1971.
Excerpt: For worker cooperatives, one of the barriers to growth is access to capital. Small business loans usually require the business owner to offer what is known as a “personal guarantee”—i.e., if the business fails to pay off a loan, the owner is on the hook to pay it back. Without a lone owner to guarantee the loan, lenders have been wary of lending to cooperatives, where multiple people own the business. To help grow local cooperatives, Berkeley, CA, is changing the rules.
Berkeley established a small business loan fund with a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration in 1987, writes Oscar Perry Abello in Next City. The fund has been used to support minority-owned and women-owned businesses denied traditional loans, but because of the personal loan guarantee, loans to cooperatives have been exceedingly rare.
Read the full article here.
(Originally published on November 19, 2019.)
Law Center staff at the Law Center's 10-year anniversary party held on October 12, 2019.
Excerpt: Many organizations — including those funded by AmbitioUS — are popping up in recent years to develop new economic systems focused on local production, sustainability, and community. However, many of these organizations run into entrenched legal barriers and regulations that work for free-market capitalism but not so well for collaborative ventures. The Sustainable Economies Law Center is a nonprofit law center that is working to cultivate a new legal landscape. AmbitioUS is supporting SELC’s project, Next Egg, which will give individual investors a community-based option for investing outside of Wall Street.
Read the full article here.
(Originally published January 8, 2020.)
By Subin DeVar, Director of the Law Center's Community Renewable Energy Program
This is the final part of #DemocratizeDecolonizeDecarbonize, a three-part essay series exploring the Law Center’s work on housing, land, and energy. More goodness: Part 1: “Social housing is the only way forward” & Part 2: “How to win land justice in a decade.”
Read time: 6 minutes
Are you thinking about climate change wrong?
Hi! It's me, Subin DeVar. I’m the Director of the Community Renewable Energy Program at the Sustainable Economies Law Center. I am writing this as I prepare for parental leave — I’m going to be a dad soon! And as a soon-to-be father, I feel a special type of urgency in my need to tell y’all that… most of us are thinking about climate change wrong. 😬
(Thankfully, young people know better, but I’ll get to that later.)
For most Americans, the general assessment goes something like this:
Humans need to do something soon to prevent catastrophic climate change.
And if we do what’s necessary, yay! we’ll have saved the planet.
If we don’t, it’s going to be really bad, maybe irreversible.
With worsening droughts and fires already affecting us, it’s easy to think about climate change itself as a fire that just needs to be put out.
There’s nothing obviously wrong about this win or lose way to think about greenhouse gas emissions and its impacts. It follows a typical logical flow:
Society has a problem.
Problem requires solution.
Whether society responds with necessary solution determines success or failure.
Oakland, CA – Policy Advocates for Sustainable Economies, a 501(c)(4) arm of the Sustainable Economies Law Center, partnered with Cooperative 4 the Community to support a participatory budget ballot initiative campaign in Oakland.Read more
We recently hosted our first-ever livestream, featuring members of our Land and Resources Circle: Chris Tittle (Housing), Neil Thapar (Food & Farm),Cameron Rhudy (Grassroots Finance), and Subin DeVar (Community Renewable Energy)! If you missed our online fireside chat, fear not! We recorded the livestream and you can now go back and relive our tarot card reading and meet our surprise guest (most undeniably the cutest guest we've had in Law Center history).Read more