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 at the Law Center's 10-year anniversary party held on October 12, 2019.
SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIES LAW CENTER
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 more
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
By Neil Thapar , Law Center's Food and Farm Director
Read time: 6 minutes
This is part two of #DemocratizeDecolonizeDecarbonize, a three-part essay series exploring the Law Center’s work on housing, land, and energy. ICYMI, click here to read the first essay, “Social housing is the only way forward.”
This is the decade of possibility. And as a new father, I feel a stronger sense of purpose and motivation than ever before to help build a just world that my daughter will grow into. Ten years from now, if we take advantage of the opportunities to secure land justice that are in front of us, I see a world where many more people feel a sense of belonging and security because they govern the land they live on, together.Read more
By Chris Tittle, Law Center's Director of Organizational Resilience
Read time: 6 minutes
This is part one of #DemocratizeDecolonizeDecarbonize, a three-part essay series exploring the Law Center’s work on housing, land, and energy.
It’s time to think big about housing. Twelve million beautiful and green new housing units in the next ten years. A massive reinvestment in housing under public control, resident control, and community control. Tenant protections, rent control, and anti-displacement measures across the nation.Read more
By Juliana Broad with the Next System Project
Excerpt: Recent pro-cooperative policy changes in Berkeley, California have given rise to what could be heralded as a new “Berkeley Model” of cooperative economic development. In February, the city council unanimously adopted a set of recommendations that will support the development of worker co-ops in the city. The city council’s resolutions include giving worker co-ops preference for city contracts, providing technical assistance for existing small businesses to convert into worker co-ops, and implementing a workaround so that worker co-ops can access the city’s revolving loan fund.
The council’s workaround deserves some attention. Revolving loan funds are pools of money sustained by the U.S. Economic Development Administration that can be extended as lines of credit to businesses that have been turned down by loans elsewhere (for example, by “risk-averse” private banks). Like most small-business lenders, revolving loan funds normally require an individual associated with the business to personally guarantee to repay the loan if the business defaults. Rather tellingly, this requirement is at odds with the multiple-owner model of a worker co-op. The Berkeley City Council’s innovation—developed in conjunction with the Oakland-based Sustainable Economies Law Center—makes it easier for worker co-ops to access these loans by adding an alternative to the conventional individual guarantee. Given that there are more than 500 other revolving loan funds across the country, there will be plenty of opportunities to replicate and build off of the framework established with the “Berkeley Model.”
Read the full article here.
(Originally published December 19, 2019.)
By Jade Yamazaki Stewart of Oakland Magazine
Excerpt: [East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative's] organization uses cooperative ownership models to turn tenants into owners and give them the opportunity to build equity and intergenerational wealth. It’s part of a larger movement to make housing affordable one property at a time. In the Bay Area, the Oakland Community Land Trust, the Bay Area Community Land Trust, and the Northern California Community Land Trust are all buying properties and turning them into affordable housing. But the East Bay co-op’s funding and ownership model is unique.
Tia Taruc-Myers and her husband had been living in a North Oakland fourplex on 61st Street off of Martin Luther King Jr. Way since 2008. Although she had an absentee landlord, rent stayed at around $460 per room, so she didn’t complain. Then, last summer, the landlord painted the building a color Taruc-Myers describes as “gentrifier gray” and put it up for sale. “We were really scared when we heard the building was going to be sold,” she said. “We felt that we were definitely going to lose our home.” So Taruc-Myers reached out to the co-op's Executive Director Noni Session, and she eventually agreed to take on the property as its first project, to be known as Co-op 789.
Read the full article here.
(Originally published October 2, 2019.)
By Subin Devar, Director of the Law Center's Community Renewable Energy Program
A just transition presents the opportunity to address the social inequity underpinning the existing extractive economy and in its place build a fair and sustainable society. Leaders in the environmental and climate justice spaces have developed frameworks and advocacy tools to move the conversation forward. Yet, as it is currently playing out, the transition is neither happening rapidly enough, nor are state renewable energy laws and regulations adequately centering equity. A key gap that local communities, regional networks, and national advocates have identified is the need for law and policy resources in the drafting of equitable renewable energy legislation and regulations in support of the broader movement.
We put together a short list of ways to make your Thanksgiving a day of economic and racial justice: