Sunday, October 21, 2007

POWER To The People: Mayor Reverses His Citywide Affordable Housing Policy

"POWER" of the people regarding Mayor's new affordable housing push

ZD's INBOX: Zuma Dogg, I just spoke with (my associate). He has told me that you wanted some information on what happened last week to make the Mayor change his tune to have Mixed Income Housing (Inclusionary Zoning) in the city of Los Angeles.

This is from an email that I sent to Housing LA, a coalition of nonprofit organizations that fights for affordable housing throughout the city of LA, which POWER is a member of. The mayor’s staff had been pushing the coalition to try to adopt a transit corridor (affordable housing only near major bus and rail lines) approach previous to last Tuesday’s meeting. As many know, not many major bus and no rail lines benefit the Westside. Because of the organizing efforts from People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER), we were able to convince the mayor’s housing staff that a citywide Mixed Income policy would really be beneficial to the Westside, and to all of LA. As you can read from the mayor’s speech, the community’s presences and POWER’s organizing directly contributed to his message to the LA Business Council.

From THURSDAY October 10, 2007 email to Housing LA coalition members:

The Mayor had his final community Housing Forum meeting on the Westside last night (October 9th). I wanted to let you know what happened.

Last night at the Westside Mayor’s Housing Forum, People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER) brought community members from Venice, Marina Del Rey, Mar Vista, and Culver Slauson to speak with the Mayor’s housing staffers. At this meeting of 50 some neighborhood council people, real estate brokers, nonprofit developers, housing advocates, homeless advocates, and community leaders, our goal was to change the dynamic of the discussion. Many of the Housing LA members have been to the 4 other meetings and know that after the power point presentation, the group is made to split into 5 “listening” groups to discuss aspects of what the Mayor feels are important to his housing plan. The different discussion groups (Accommodate Growth, Spur Production, Prevent and end Homelessness, Rebuild the Middle Class, and Strengthen Neighborhoods) do not touch on the Housing LA platform at all. POWER’s organizing brought the Housing LA platform into discussion.

To change the way the meeting was conducted – from being talked to, to having a real dialogue on important housing issues – we at POWER realized that the forum needed to be changed. POWER community leaders lead the way by demanding the meeting be conducted as one large group. Members of the community and neighborhood councils agreed. We began with a discussion on Preservation. This discussion lead to a conversation on the need for a city-wide Mixed-Income (Inclusionary Zoning) policy. This followed with conversations on the need for a homeless housing policy. By the end of the meeting, Larry Frank, the Mayor’s deputy, asked for a show of hands on who wanted a city-wide Inclusionary Zoning policy. The whole room raised their hands!

After the meeting, leaders, organizers, and directors of nonprofit housing organizations met with the different heads of departments and deputies of the Mayor’s office. >From the feedback, the Mayor’s office felt that this meeting was the most effective out of the 5 forums they have had throughout the city.

The meeting put pressure on the Mayor’s office to try to schedule a meeting with POWER community leaders on the housing issue. By the end of the meeting, the Mayor’s office began to rethink city-wide Mixed-Income Housing. It is interesting how the focus of the meeting was changed from what the Mayor felt was important, to a focus on what the community knows is important.

The power of organizing can change the way the city government views issues important to the communities! Si se puede!

I hope this can help you see what we have been doing on the Westside.

I hear that you work hard in Venice to improve and strengthen the community. I look forward to hearing more about your work, and to possibly meet and discuss what we can do together. Have a great day.

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