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.)

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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.

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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.)

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EB PREC’s Plan to Replace Landlords With Communal Ownership

By Zach Haber, Post News Group

Excerpt: The East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative (EB PREC) is working to keep Black, indigenous, people of color and allied communities in the East Bay by communally purchasing and sustaining land and housing with local residents.

“The critical part of our project is that we take land and housing permanently off the speculative market,” said EB PREC’s Executive Director and third-generation West Oakland resident Noni Session. She, along with six other local residents, form the Black led and POC majority staff of EB PREC, and the growing cooperative currently has more than 125 other non-staff members including resident owners and investors.

In an interview with The Oakland Post, Session explained how EB PREC is replacing landlords with resident owners and investors who are driven by the desire to sustain the community as opposed to make money.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published September 19, 2019.)

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Are We Diluting the Mission of Community Land Trusts?

Excerpt:Community control of land” sounds straightforward, but in practice it can be limited, fleeting, or difficult to achieve due to high property costs and the social, legal, and financial challenges of collectivizing property ownership.

Recognizing these challenges with independent housing cooperatives and the shortcomings of the CLT model, new visionaries are developing community-funded models for land ownership, like the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative and the Community Land Cooperative in development by Ecovillagers Alliance.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published August 30, 2019.)

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How to Run for Oakland City Council

By Tia Katrina Taruc-Myers, Law Center Director of Legal Education

Earlier this month, we hosted a Policy Cafe and Teach-In about How to Run for Oakland City Council.

Mari Rose Taruc and Noni Session shared their experiences running political campaigns for Oakland City Council seats, and the Law Center provided a step-by-step guide to running for office. Fun fact: you only need 50 people to sign a nomination petition to run for City Council! 

Check out the recording below to get the tea on:

  • How to secure endorsements,
  • Exclusive tips on campaign marketing, fundraising, and outreach, 
  • How to handle horrors of campaign management like a seasoned pro.

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People power: A growing number of groups are flipping the Bay Area’s insane housing market on its head

By Erin Baldassari, The Mercury News

The Law Center's Tia Taruc-Myers at her home.

Tia, right, and Chris Taruc-Myers, prepare breakfast at home in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. The married couple along with other residents in the rent controlled building they live in worked with the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative to purchase the property, after their landlord decided to sell.

Excerpt: In less than a year, a nascent Oakland organization grew from a small staff with some bright ideas and a website into group that is stewarding two properties for permanently affordable housing, with plans to soon acquire a third.

How did they do it? By relying on a lot of people, a new model for investment and some innovative partnerships. But in turning a novel concept for developing affordable properties into a reality, the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative joined a growing number of organizations in the Bay Area challenging the status quo of the region’s skyrocketing housing costs.

The cooperative, called East Bay PREC for short, shares the same goals as many housing cooperatives and community and trusts:  acquiring and maintaining properties as permanently affordable homes and businesses. But the for-profit company isn’t either a cooperative or a trust. It’s a combination of multiple existing models for investment and ownership all rolled together.

Read the full article here.

(Originally published August 25, 2019.)

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Why I’m asking you to donate $10 instead of $100

Written by Tia Katrina Taruc-Myers, Director of Legal Education

For our #PeoplePoweredLaw campaign, I set a personal goal of recruiting 10 Community Members to donate $10 per month as opposed to recruiting 10 donors to donate $100 today. Here’s a few reasons why:

1) Receiving Many Small Donations Makes Our Budget More “People-Powered” 

Check out the section on financial transparency on our mission page here. As you can see, we’re primarily grant-funded. But as many other nonprofits could also attest to, grant funding can be here one day and gone the next.

A few foundations give to us yearly, but a lot of them are just for one time projects. That means we can’t count on them as a steady source of income every year. In contrast, monthly donors tend to continue giving.

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2019 Solidarity Economy Tour

Prospera and the Sustainable Economies Law CenterOn July 29th, 2019, Sustainable Economies Law Center's Summer interns and a few staff embarked on our annual Solidarity Economies Tour! The Solidarity Economies Tour is a one day adventure where Summer interns of the Law Center visit cooperatives, land trusts, urban farms, and other spaces in the Bay Area that are the seeds of an economy we are trying to cultivate through our work; an economy built community resilience and grassroots economic empowerment.

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Santa Clara says YES to Creating a City for Worker Coops to Thrive

“[Santa Clara is] the Center of What’s Possible, so Let’s Make [Coops] Possible” - Councilmember Debi Davis 

Worker owners, supporters, and beloved community came out to advocate for worker cooperative city support!On Tuesday night, over fifty coop members and supporters from all over the Bay Area gathered for a learning session requested by the Santa Clara City Council who later unanimously voted to support the development of worker cooperatives in their city! It was standing room only in the council chambers as a result of Kirk and Marguerite Vartan’s dedication and energy to get this session on the council’s agenda as well as partner and support organizations from across the South Bay. Kirk Vartan is the Founder and General Manager of A Slice of New York, a pizza shop that converted to a worker-owned coop nearly two years ago. Vartan created an impressive and engaging line up of speakers including Hillary Abell of Project Equity, our own Ricardo Samir Nuñez, Sue Lopez, a baker of 19 years from the Arizmendi Bakeries, and Rendell (Ren) Boguiren, a founding member and the board secretary of A Slice of New York pizzeria.

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Takeaways from Chordata Capital’s webinar: “Investing with a Reparations Lens” 

By Sophia Leswing, Law Center Summer 2019 Intern

What does it mean to invest with a reparations lens?

As a UC Berkeley undergraduate student minoring in Public Policy and passionate about racial justice, I frequently peruse the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society website for the latest research on inequity and policies. Last year, I stumbled upon Richard Rothstein’s book: The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, which outlines a history of both de facto and de jure government-sponsored racial disenfranchisement in the United States that has resulted in the staggering wealth gap between whites and blacks today. I found the book to be extremely compelling and deeply disturbing. I felt that if politicians [*cough cough* Mitch McConnell] today would only read this book in tandem with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations”, they’d without a doubt understand the need for reparations. 

I’ve become frustrated with the inaction to explore reparations at the national political scale, so I was very energized to hear about people pursuing reparations through their own personal investing habits.

      

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Retirement Investments That Nurture Communities

How can we apply our retirement savings to nurture the communities and planet where we plan to retire? 

We are thrilled to announce the launch of TheNextEgg.org, a community of people learning to self-direct their retirement savings into investments that repair injustices, sequester carbon, nurture local enterprises, and create a world that will sustain us into retirement and for generations to come.

The Next Egg is a project co-stewarded by Sustainable Economies Law Center, LIFT Economy, and author Michael Shuman. 

    

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People & Planet Over Programs & Profit

Part of our blog series where our Summer Interns introduce themselves to our communities.

By Tracy Bindel, Law Center Summer 2019 Law Clerk

Tracy Bindel

My name is Tracy Bindel and I grew up in a large family in rural New Mexico. I'm currently a night school student at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, MA where I am studying to become a Cooperative Lawyer. During the day, I am a Spiritual Director working to support white people spiritually who are waking up to their whiteness through a collective called Freedom Beyond. My dad, a long time IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) member, instilled in me and my brothers the importance of valuing labor from a very young age. His influence and growing up near two family farms roots me in the wisdom that people and our planet are always more important than programs or profit. This wisdom has guided me throughout my life and even to intern at the Law Center this summer.

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Guest Post: How I Launched the First Legal Cafe in Ohio!

By Jacqueline Radebaugh, Staff Attorney with ABLE Law and Law Center Legal Fellow

Most of you may already know about Sustainable Economies Law Center's Resilient Communities Legal Cafe program, the Law Center's innovative drop-in legal services clinic that happens 3x a month throughout the Bay Area.

What happens when you take the Legal Cafe model and replicate in a mid-sized town in Southwest Ohio, in a community that has never heard of it?

This is the story of how I was able to pull it off, the lessons I learned along the way, and how YOU, too, can launch a Legal Cafe to provide legal support to community-owned enterprises in your town. 

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Learning About Lawyering in the Just Transition

Part of our blog series where our Summer Interns introduce themselves to our communities.

By Savannah Wheeler, Law Center Summer 2019 Law Clerk

My name is Savannah Wheeler and I am a rising second year student at Berkeley Law. I am excited to be joining the Sustainable Economies Law Center team this summer as a legal intern, assisting the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative and the Law Center with legal research and community legal education.

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