How to win land justice in a decade

Two women and a map

By Neil Thapar :neil:, 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
Add your reaction Share

Social housing is the only way forward

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
Add your reaction Share

Major advances in 2019 toward a more democratic economy

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.)

Add your reaction Share

The East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative’s new way to build housing equity

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.)

1 reaction Share

One year in one page: is it possible?!

1 reaction Share

Highlights from the Energy Justice Strategy and Policy Workshop

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. 

Read more
2 reactions Share

3 Ways to Make Your Thanksgiving a Day of Economic and Racial Justice

We put together a short list of ways to make your Thanksgiving a day of economic and racial justice:

Read more
Add your reaction Share

A New Economy or a Return to the Little Tradition?

By Tracy Bindel, Law Center Intern

How Spirituality & Economic Democracy Can Weave Communities Together

For the first two weeks of June 2019, I attended an institute at the Underground Seminary studying a Post-Colonial Survey of the Bible at the Church of All Nations (CAN) outside of Minneapolis, MN. What is the connection between the study of law and Underground Seminary? I’m glad you asked. Most seminaries do not have a lot of overlap with us at the Sustainable Economies Law Center. However, the Underground Seminary was a glimpse into a community that is pushing the edges of what it means to live in sustainable mutual relationship with each other, the land, and the planet.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Making a More Democratic Economy, One Revolving Loan Fund at a Time

By Oscar Perry Abello of Next City

Excerpt: The Sustainable Economies Law Center supported worker cooperative members to participate in the local policy-making process that eventually led to the changes to Berkeley’s small business loan fund in September. The center’s “policy brigade” initiative brought together a group of worker co-op members into a yearlong cohort, providing hands-on experience in policy advocacy work.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published November 19, 2019.)

Add your reaction Share

Santa Clara, California is taking steps to invest in worker cooperatives

By NCBA CLUSA

Excerpt: In a unanimous vote last week, the Santa Clara City Council adopted recommendations put forward by the Committee on Economic Development, Communications and Marketing to advance worker cooperative development in the community. The motion to move the worker co-op effort forward was led by Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published November 5, 2019.)

Add your reaction Share

Berkeley Just Made its Small Business Revolving Loan Fund Work for Worker Cooperatives

From the Office of Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin

CoB Logo Mayor.png

BERKELEY, CA (September 25, 2019) Businesses that are at risk of closure because their owner is retiring or putting the business up for sale are now eligible for the City’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) for the purpose of converting them into worker cooperatives, thanks to a unanimous vote of the Berkeley City Council last night revising the RLF policy. This will help the workers acquire and democratically own and operate the business, keeping it rooted in Berkeley and elevating the jobs and wealth-building opportunities provided to its employees.

“Worker cooperatives are an essential part of our city’s economy and by helping lift them up we can develop new opportunities to promote these unique Berkeley institutions” said Mayor Jesse Arreguín. Arreguín has long championed worker cooperatives, introducing a package of reforms in 2016 as a Councilmember to promote and support worker cooperatives.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Guest Perspective: Training for a New Economy through the Law Center’s 2nd Annual Law Seminar

Guest Post by Samira Seraji, Third-Year Law Student at UC Berkeley School of Law

Dozens of community lawyers and organizers joined the Sustainable Economies Law Center on Friday, October 11 for their 2nd Annual Social Enterprise Law MCLE Seminar. Nearly 100 participants, including lawyers and non-lawyers, attended the day-long event, which capped the Law Center’s #PeoplePoweredLaw fundraising campaign.

SELC Executive Director Janelle Orsi presenting

Janelle Orsi, Executive Director of the Law Center, presenting at the 2nd Annual Social Enterprise Law Seminar.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

How affordable housing activists are trying to thwart cutthroat real estate capitalism

by James Rainey, Los Angeles Times

Noni Session, director of the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative and a third-generation West Oakland resident, cultural anthropologist and grass-roots organizer at her office in Oakland on Sept. 3. Session and her cooperative are seeking economic justice by halting her community’s displacement through a cooperative economy.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Excerpt: “Part of what we will need to turn things around in this world is to have people become really dedicated and affectionate land stewards,” said Janelle Orsi, founder and executive director of the Sustainable Economies Law Center.

Orsi’s public interest firm is crafting the “justice easements” to lock in affordability. Like agricultural easements designed to preserve farmland, the justice easements will designate housing as the only appropriate land use, with an additional requirement — that future rent increases be limited to, for instance, hikes in the consumer price index.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published October 21, 2019.)

Add your reaction Share

Berkeley City Council adopts creative personal guarantee mechanism for loans to cooperatives

By Sara Stephens, Law Center Staff Attorney

Cooperatives

Last Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council unanimously approved amendments to its Revolving Loan Fund (“RLF”) Administrative Plan, recommended by the Sustainable Economies Law Center (“Law Center”). Perhaps most critical was a set of changes to the personal guarantee requirement. Cooperatives are often unable to access loan funding due to the requirement that a single member, or all members, provide a personal guarantee for the full amount of the loan, for the life of the loan. Such a requirement is not compatible with a collective ownership structure, where no single member owns a majority of the assets, where members may come and go more frequently than conventional business owners, and where members often come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Berkeley approves new financial opportunities to promote worker cooperatives

From the Office of Mayor Jesse Arreguin

CoB Logo Mayor.png(Berkeley, CA) – Businesses that are at risk of closure because their owner is retiring or putting the business up for sale are now eligible for the City’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) for the purpose of converting them into worker cooperatives, thanks to a unanimous vote of the Berkeley City Council last night revising the RLF policy. This will help the workers acquire and democratically own and operate the business, keeping it rooted in Berkeley and elevating the jobs and wealth-building opportunities provided to its employees.

...The Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) worked with Berkeley’s Office of Economic Development on the latest proposal. This comes after a report by Project Equity revealed that half of business owners in the United States are considering transitioning within the next five years, with 85% having no succession plan, and a third planning to close down altogether.

“The changes the Council have adopted will make it possible for more workers to become owners of the companies they helped build, elevating the quality of their jobs and saving businesses from closure” said Sara Stephens, Housing and Cooperatives Attorney for the SELC. “These amendments will certainly prove widely influential, as cities around the country are looking to Berkeley as a model for how cities can prioritize worker cooperatives and more equitable local economies."

Read the full article here.

(Originally published September 26, 2019.)

Add your reaction Share

Thanks to our Partners and Collaborators: