Thursday, September 6, 2018

Rapid response team to help convince the City to build homeless housing

There are two projects being considered by the Pasadena City Council that could
Some of the young people who gathered
at Heritage Square South to pray for homeless housing
 to be built on this city-owned site
create up to 150 units of permanent supportive housing. The first is Heritage Square South, city-owned property on the corner of Fair Oaks and Orange Grove, and the second is a motel on Colorado Blvd that could be converted to homeless housing. Both of these projects are excellent, but to convince the City to make them happen, we need community support. 

If you are willing to come to the Pasadena City Council on Sept 17 or 24, when these projects may come up for a vote, please contact me at interfaithquaker@aol.com or message me via Facebook with your email address.

If you are willing, I'll make sure you get on our "rapid response team" list. To make sure you are kept informed, our monitor will check the City Council agenda on Thursday night, Sept 13 and 20, to see if either of these items is on the agenda. If either is agendized, she will send out an email by Friday urging you to come to the City Council meeting to speak out.

Meanwhile, please send out emails to individuals you know, urging them to be ready to come to the City Council for this crucial vote. If you can call or text a friend, that’s even better. People respond to individual texts or emails than to mass emails. We want to get 20-40 people at the City Council, just as we did at Ed Tech this summer. Numbers make a difference, and your presence is needed! 

You will receive an email on the Friday before City Council decides to put Heritage Square South or Motel Conversion on the agenda. Please contact us to let us know which of these talking point you’d like to speak about. Feel free to briefly share your story and speak from your heart or religious tradition about the importance of housing our homeless neighbors. Remember that you will have only 3 minutes, max.
1)    We are urging the City Council to support Model A, not Model C, at Heritage Square South.  Model C (which Ed Tech recommended) calls for some affordable housing and a lot of commercial space that requires underground parking. This sounds good but may be not economically feasible since it costs over $30,000 per parking space. Model C would probably require a feasibility study and could take years to develop since there is nothing like it in NW Pasadena. We are advocating for Model A since it definitely specifies 69 units of permanent supportive housing and surface parking for a modest amount of retail space (preferably medical offices, for which there is a need and interest). In addition to showing up on either Sept 17 or 24, it is also a good idea to individual City members to let them know that you support Model A and the other points in this letter. Write to the city clerk: mjomsky@cityofpasadena.net,
2)    Ordinance to facilitate motel conversion to permanent supportive housing needs our support. As you may have read in the Star News, the Planning Committee and the City Council are considering an ordinance that would make it easier for the City to convert motels into permanent supportive housing. This is a very good policy, In order for this to happen, however, it is important that the city ordinance makes approval of these conversions "by right" or "ministerial," thereby avoiding a lengthy and time-consuming process involving environmental impact studies and community input that invites NYMBYism.  Pease let us know if you are willing to go to the Planning Committee meeting on Sept 12 at 6:30 pm to advocate for this policy.
Here are more detailed talking points based on a letter that we sent to the City Council a few weeks ago:

Talking Point #1: We want to commend Mr. Gordo and the Ed Tech Committee for recommending “mixed use” for Heritage Square South—affordable housing and commercial use. Ed Tech's approval of Model C is a step in the right direction, but we want to be sure that "housing" means "permanent supportive housing" (PSH) and not market rate housing. Market rate housing would require that the City forfeit $2.3 million to HUD and the state, and lose a golden opportunity to build PSH on a site ideal for housing homeless seniors. There is county, state and federal funding for PSH, not so much for affordable housing.  Your constituents have made it very clear that we want permanent supportive housing on this site. 

Talking Point #2: Many of us have practical concerns about Model C. It calls for 15-20 K of retail space with underground parking. Is this realistic? The cost of underground parking is approximately $30,000 or more per car. This would add considerable cost to retail rental. Is there a market for upscale retail development on this corner? The site of Blaze Pizza was vacant for 4 years. Rents on a site with underground parking would be much higher than one with surface parking.  There would need to be a feasibility study to determine if Model C is economically viable. That would delay development of homeless housing that we urgently need now. 

Talking Point #3: We feel that Model A is more realistic. It calls for 69 units of affordable housing and 15-30 spaces for surface parking and a modest amount of commercial development. If we house 69 homeless seniors and have medical offices on the first floor, that number of parking spaces would probably suffice. We could move forward with Model A without a lengthy and time-consuming feasibility study. 

Talking Point #4: It is important for the city to come up with a realistic plan expeditiously so this project doesn't drag on for years, as has happened in the past. Permanent supportive housing is fundable now and we can access millions in non-city funds that would provide an immediate economic boost to our area since affordable housing requires that 20% of those hired are local, 20% are local contracts and 20% local materials. The number of homeless seniors is increasing at an alarming rate so we need this housing as soon as possible. The latest figures for San Gabriel Valley show that the number of homeless seniors 62 years old and older has gone up 116% in the past year. Pasadena's homeless senior rate has gone up 58% in the last three years. Housing homeless seniors is a crisis that needs to be addressed now. That's why we recommend that the City Council approve Model A. 

Talking Point #5:  As you know, there is widespread community support for permanent supportive housing at Heritage Square South. Over forty people showed up at the Ed Tech meeting this summer, and 23 spoke out in favor of homeless housing at Heritage Square SouthDuring a community meeting in March, 80% of the community supported using this site for affordable housing and 80% opposed using this site only for commercial development. See Kennedy’s survey results: https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-25G2T2Y68/  Religious leaders and churches have signed over 400 letters in support of homeless housing for seniors, and two prayers vigil on the property attracted 20 and 60 people, many from the nearby neighborhood. The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, which comprises most of the African American churches in this area, supports using Heritage Square South for homeless housing.   We have gone door to door surveying businesses and neighbors and most were willing to sign petitions of support, which were sent to the City Council. 
Talking Point #6: Supportive housing for seniors is the best option for this site because it is located on a busy commercial intersection, which is not ideal for families. Furthermore, families need more parking than do seniors and that would reduce the number of individuals who could be served, and also limit mixed use commercial development (restaurants require lots of parking). This site is better suited for seniors because it is close to already existing senior housing, a CVS, grocery stores and restaurants, and medical facilities (easily accessible by bus). Supportive housing for homeless seniors is fundable because of Measure H and other sources. Finally, the need is urgent, with the number of homeless seniors (those over 50 years of age) increasing 65% in three years, from 153 in 2016 to 253 in 2018. (Of these, 174 are unsheltered.)
Talking Point #7: The North and South Heritage Square property was originally purchased in different parcels over a period of time by the City with HUD, inclusionary, Redevelopment, and other funding for affordable housing, starting in 2004. For political reasons, it was bifurcated in 2011 with the understanding that Heritage Square North would be used for affordable senior housing, and the southern part primarily for commercial use. When the state ended Redevelopment, however, the City changed its tune. The state wanted the City to sell the property and give them the proceeds, but the City argued that the property was an affordable housing asset and would be used for affordable housing. The state allowed the City to keep the property for this purpose. The City’s intention for this property has shifted over time, but it is currently designated for affordable housing. If it is sold for commercial use, the City must use the proceeds for affordable housing and will forfeit over a million dollars in HUD funding.
Talking Point #8: South Heritage Square will help reduce the growing homeless population in our city because we can give preference to Pasadena residents and to homeless seniors, of which there are 174 living on the streets of our city. It is likely that the vast majority of those housed will be homeless Pasadena seniors, many of whom will likely be from District 3. Almost all the current residents of Heritage Square North are from Northwest Pasadena. 30% are African American, 25% are Hispanic, 22% are Caucasians, and 18% are Asian.
Talking Point #9  Building homeless housing at Heritage Square South will create local jobs and revenue for our city.  The City can require local hires for the supportive housing portion of the project. For Heritage Square North, 20% were local hires, and 60% of materials used were purchased locally.  Supportive housing would provide economic benefits to the local community in ways that commercial development could not guarantee. Heritage Square left $ 6 million in the City because of its policy to provide local contracts and supplies. The beauty of Heritage Square North is not a stigma, but an asset to the community.
Talking Point # 10 The need for supportive housing for Pasadena’s homeless residents is growing rapidly. As you know, the number of unsheltered homeless residents in our City increased 33% in the past year. The number of homeless seniors has increased 65% in the past three years.  Since there is no supportive housing in the city pipeline, this number of homeless residents will undoubtedly increase over the next few years. I’m glad that the City is looking a multiple sites, including motel conversion.  Reducing our homeless population by providing housing will make our community safer and better for business.
Talking Point # 11 Housing homeless seniors is not only a moral mandate, it also makes good economic sense. Homeless seniors are likely to cost society more money in health care than younger and healthier homeless residents. Given the City’s budget crunch, it makes more economic sense to house homeless seniors in facilities with services provided by the County’s Measure H funding than to let them sicken and die on the streets, with various agencies in the City footing enormous medical bills. A Rand study showed that housing homeless residents has saved the county $1.20  for every dollar spent on housing and supportive services.

Talking Point # 12. Housing our homeless seniors could  save Pasadena a lot of moneyAccording to an Economic Roundtable study, the cost of dealing with a homeless individual in LA County is around $5038 per month, vs $605 per month when they are provided with supportive housing. These costs increase with the age of homeless individuals. Based on this study, we can estimate the cost to Pasadena of having 69 homeless seniors living on the street to be around $4,171,464 per year. Housing them in supportive housing would run around $500,940, a savings of $3,670,524. This would be a huge financial benefit to our City.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Launch of Making Housing and Community Happen, a new nonprofit devoted to housing justice and community development


temple city homeless coalitonI am thrilled that Jill and I are launching a new nonprofit called Making Housing and Community Happen. We now have a fiscal sponsor called Social Good, which gives us 501 (c) 3 status as well as the support we need to do our work. Our first Board of Directors meeting is taking place this week and we plan to have an official launch party on Saturday, Oct 27, at Throop Church (stay tuned for more details). 

You are invited to take part in a free webinar about her new One-Year Housing
 Justice Institute:




Tuesday, Sept 4, at 11 AM PST, 12 PM Mountain, 1 PM Central, 2 PM EST

The link is: https://zoom.us/j/877799528


The One-Year Institute will be comprised of a cohort of no more than 14 passionate and committed people of faith who will learn ways to address housing/homeless crisis in their communities through local churches, partnerships and policy. Participants will practice within their own community a theology of advocacy, land use, and housing as part of God’s mission and the human right to housing.

Here is some background about our new project's activities, goals, and history.

What Making Housing and Community Happen does:

Making Housing and Community Happen equips congregations, community leaders, and neighbors with practical tools needed to transform their communities, to end homelessness, and stabilize the cost of housing through education, advocacy and organizing.  This is done in a three-pronged approach:

Education: One-day housing justice institutes and a one-year housing justice cohort along with other initiatives that are educational in nature such as bus tours, workshops, course work, and speaking engagements.

Advocacy: Nurturing the N. Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative and Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group (GPAHG), thereby equipping advocates with the strategies and tools needed to do research, reflection, and action on behalf of housing justice and community transformation.

 Organizing:  Listening to and organizing around the community’s stories, dreams and concerns; developing leaders able to equip other leaders, leaders who see and feel the pain, visualize the community and church assets, and who are able to establish appropriate partnerships, such as affordable housing developers, and other nonprofits like LA Voice.

·   Our target population

Compassionate leaders within their communities wanting to be equipped to learn how to transform their community and address homelessness and affordable housing.  These include pastors, religious leaders, congregation members, homeless service providers, educators, city council members and staff, developers, and city planners.

The geographic community we serve

Each separate project focuses on a specific geographic area. In the case of the North Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative it focuses on North Fair Oaks Avenue between Howard Street in Pasadena, California and Figueroa, in Altadena.   This target area has 18 businesses, 10 churches, and many apartments, nonprofits, and nursing homes.  

Housing Justice One-day institutes are less site-specific and focus on broader communities and cities where it is being held. The year-long cohort institutes which will train leaders throughout the country how to zero in their own communities.  

·    The number of people we will serve

Ultimately, we are serving those who cannot afford housing and those who are disenfranchised. We focus on empowerment and advocacy rather than on service. Our institutes range from 20-120 leaders being trained.  Generally, all of the institutes, the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group (GPAHG) and the North Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative benefit those experiencing homelessness and lower income populations.  For example, we empower advocates to move our local city council in Pasadena to seek to house the 677 homeless persons and 19,000 households in need of affordable housing.  Success in our local work, informs the work we do outside of Pasadena. We also work with other cities that request our services, such as Monrovia and Temple City, CA, and Denver and Broomfield, CO, where housing justice initiative have been held.

 Activities

The Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group (GPAHG) is chaired by Jill Shook and currently has 10-15 members. We have monthly general meetings, subcommittees and meetings with decision makers in coffee shops, homes, churches and the Quaker Meetinghouse. The three subcommittees we presently have focus on Inclusionary housing, permanent supportive housing and accessory dwelling units. In addition to meetings, we have hosted tours of best practice examples of affordable housing and candidates forums. We do research on specific housing policies, decide our positions, then plan and execute our strategy on how to pass these policies.

The mission of the North Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative is to build a solid relational network of local indigenous leaders empowered and equipped to transform their N. Fair Oaks corridor from Howard in Pasadena to Figueroa in Altadena with and by their own community.  Goals emerge from listening to the dreams and concerns of the community and coming together to transform the community with and by the people. We hold simi-regular meetings in a community room of a senior affordable housing complex (Rosewood Courts), in a church community center, in a local coffee shop inside a Rio Meat Market or the Boy’s a Girl’s Club. We discern and decide together our goals, strategies, partnerships and next steps.  This initiative currently employs one staff person very part time, Janet Randolph, who guides the ongoing process and future planning of the initiative.

The Housing Justice one-day institutes are led by Jill Shook and serve to connect key people within congregations and their community to local housing justice leaders. Participants are equipped with an overview of biblical principles on land use, historical background of US housing policy as well as current best practices and practical tools needed to end homelessness and address the cost of housing.  There is a focus on church assets and advocacy.  Various players in the community where the institute is being led are invited to speak and teams are encouraged to be formed from among the attendees.  The goal is to instill agency with their passion for helping their community. The first institute was in Broomfield, CO. Either other institutes have been conducted for the Habitat for Humanity staff of Colorado; in Denver, CO, for faith leaders throughout the city; Temple City, CA; Pasadena, CA; and Monrovia, CA.

Project History

In 1991 Jill Shook saw a need for Lake Avenue Church, a 5,000 member congregation, to reach out to the low income community surrounding it in a way that would transform the educated and affluent church members by having genuine relationship with the community.  She formed a team to look at best practices for afterschool programs throughout the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley, asking  both the students and the directors, “What is working or not working about your program?” and “What would you do differently if you started your program today?”  From this survey they developed their best practices and goals and started in the fall of the 1997 tutoring one night a week, with 10 tutors and 20 kids.  STARS has now grown to a full-blown program that runs every night with hundreds of tutors, hundreds of children, and is run by former students of the program.  As the director, Jill Shook was always conducting informal evaluations of the program as she picked students up to attend the program. As she listened, she realized many of the students were dropping out and asked them why.  The majority said that they had to work or babysit so their parents could pay rent.  That’s when she realized that she needed to find housing that they could afford in order to break that cycle of poverty.  She learned about Agape Court, a faith-based HUD project that had 44 units of affordable housing right in their neighborhood.  They had openings so she started moving families in and their lives were transformed.  Parents did not have to work 3 or 4 jobs, they were not over-crowded with 3 to 10 families in a home as she had seen in the community, and all of the students that moved to Agape Court ended up going to college.  That’s when she realized that she needed to promote an amazing model like this.  When she was researching ways to improve the STARS program, she traveled across the US to visit church-based afterschool programs and noticed that many had built affordable housing available to community members.  That’s when she decided to gather up all the stories of how these churches built affordable housing and create a book.  Making Housing Happen was first published in 2006 and a revised edition was published in 2012 after the 2008 mortgage meltdown in order to include how churches are addressing the foreclosure crisis.  
 In 2000, Jill Shook left STARS and immersed herself in local housing advocacy.  She joined a group called AHA, Affordable Housing Action, which is today called the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group.  This group has a long list of successfully winning campaigns and getting policies passed to help address today’s housing crisis.  In 2001 GPAHG helped to pass the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance where 15 percent of all new housing is set aside as affordable. To date, this one policy has produced over 533 affordable housing units within high-end housing and provided over $20 million for Pasadena’s afford housing trust fund. That fund has been leveraged to create an additional 691 units, many of these affordable to Pasadena’s homeless population.  This kind of policy fosters development at its finest which serves to undo years of segregated housing and more.  
Some have described Pasadena as two cities, the Northwest and then the rest.  Jill Shook chose to purchase a home in the Northwest in 1994 in an African American community which has become gentrified.  A host of federal policies served to segregate communities across the US and that has been true for Northwest Pasadena.  Despite good intentions about moving in to be a good neighbor, as she improved her property and the value of her home increased, many of her lower-income neighbors had to move. She realized she had become part of the problem and was motivated to research and implement policies to address the cost of housing and gentrification and how to create mixed income communities.
                In 2000, Jill Shook became a member of the IMA, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, which is the oldest association of African American pastors in the greater Pasadena area.  To address unemployment in the African American community they put on a employment resource fairs.  In 2015 Jill was voted to lead the job resource fair for that year.  Instead of doing it for the community, the goal was to do it with and by the community, using the planning of the fair as a tool to empower leadership to transform their own community.  To find the leaders for the fair her team surveyed 150 residents, nonprofits, churches and business leaders within the target area of about five blocks.  The survey questions asked what the hopes and dream were for the community and if they wanted to a part of the planning team.  Once the team planned and implemented the fair, about 500 people attended.  Since then they have continued other listening events to clarify goals.  The surveys indicated the primary concern was the street itself, North Fair Oaks:  The speed of traffic, safety, crime, accidents and appearance were all a concern.  A partnership with the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition help to zero in on specific requests that could made to public bodies, including the city council.  The first people surveyed who said that nothing would ever change, after years of neglect on the part of the city, were now speaking at the city council asking for traffic lights, crosswalks and other traffic slowing measures.  Seven of the 15 requests, including a $268,000 traffic light have been granted. Once concerns about the street and safety are finalized, the goal of the group is to address the cost of housing and other concerns from the survey results. Presently the N. Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative is needing additional leadership.
                Jill Shook has attended the CCDA, Christian Community Development Association, for the past 20 years, with over 4,000 people of faith coming together each year for conferences to discover ways to develop under-resourced communities.  In 2016 she planned an affordable housing bus tours for 65 CCDA practitioners.  Since 2000 she has typically done one or two workshops on affordable housing at the CCDA annual conference which attracted 75-100 in attendance.  Deb Meyers attended most of these workshops and invited Jill to her town to do all the workshops in one day.  In 2014 this became the first Housing Justice Institute.  With eight one-day institutes now finished, many are requesting a one-year cohort where they can go deeper.  Azusa Pacific University invited Jill to develop a course on housing justice for their masters of social work department.  She developed and taught the course in 2016 and 2017.  She plans to teach the same course over a year using in-person and other online tools for an in-depth plunge into how to do housing justice in their communities.

·    Needs that this project addresses

The North Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative was started to help overcome the feeling of disenfranchisement and hopelessness in the North Fair Oaks area where many felt that nothing would ever change.  This initiative has helped to instill hope for change. In the process of transforming their own community hope has been resurrected in the community and individual lives.

In terms of GPAHG, the need being addressed is a dire lack of affordable housing in Pasadena.  47% of the residents of this affluent city spend over 50% of their income on housing, which is a major cause of poverty. Unaffordable housing creates stress, limited time for families and little expendable income to keep a healthy and vibrant city.  GPAHG wants to curb the exodus of those unable to afford housing near their places work and worship—forcing people to drive long distances to afford housing therefore creating traffic. Pasadena has lost over 24% of its African American population—displaced over the last ten years in large part due to the cost of housing.  Pasadena is losing its diversity both economically and racially.

4

Significant accomplishments to date

Housing Justice Institutes:

Since the first housing justice institute in Broomfield,
  •           two churches have broken ground to build affordable housing,
  •          the city council didn’t think there was a need for affordable housing until the they were shown research that none of the city staff could afford to live there,
  •          one city council member who attended a workshop was planning to get her PhD and leave the Council until she heard Jill speak and she decided to stay on the council and be a champion for affordable housing
  •          the city was in denial that there were any homeless in the community and are now out of denial and taking steps to address this need
  •          staff member over the Housing Authority was finally given housing vouchers and the tools she needed to do her work.
  •           a neglected very low income trailer park that has been blocked off from access to the city, as if it didn’t belong to the city, is now perceived as part of the city that needs the deserves attention. 


It is hard to say if there is correlation between the Housing Justice Institute for 100 faith leaders in Denver and how today Denver is one of the leaders in the nation on innovative housing financing and policy, some which we studied at the Institute.
In Monrovia, Mountainside Communion Church, which hosted an Institute in April has since taken the lead with the city to address homelessness, with a gift of $25,000 from the city.  They now have a partnership with LA Voice (whom I invited to speak the end of the Monrovia One-Day Institute) where they organizing a team that is looking at building a network to create an inclusionary housing policy, safe parking and more.

The North Fair Oaks Initiative:

This initiative has effectively created more connectivity and engagement for the surrounding community and has resurrected hope for those who felt nothing would ever change. They community has won a $268,000 traffic signal and 7 of the 15 traffic-slowing items we requested from the city. Today they are doing the traffic studies and analysis needed and planning the meetings that we attend.

Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group:

GPAHG has experienced numerous victories and accomplishments over the last twenty years.  To name a few, we have strengthened Pasadena’s Tenant Protection Ordinance, prevented criminalization of our homeless neighbors, increased production of affordable housing by 533 units by advocating for an inclusionary housing ordinance-like to biblical tithe with 15% of all new units set aside as affordable housing. We have even influenced state policy around Accessory Dwelling Units. We have also fostered significant structural changes, such as the creation of a Pasadena Housing Department. As mentioned earlier, a complete list can be found at:  https://makinghousinghappen.net/2018/06/23/overview-of-gpahg-greater-pasadena-affordable-housing-group/
oks forward to support of having, Board insurance, and fiscal accountability, and on line tools for fund raising.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Stop bombing children in Yemen!

Today I took part in a demo at the LA Federal Building, sponsored by Code Pink and ICUJP. We called on our elected officials to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia until they cease bombing children and other civilians in Yemen,

Please let your elected officials know where you stand. Here's what I wrote to my elected officials today:

The U.S. government is supposed to follow the Arms Export Control Act, which requires that U.S. arms transfers be used only for self-defense, internal security, and in United Nations sanctioned operations; the Foreign Assistance Act, which bars military aid and arms sales to countries with poor human rights records; and the Export Administration Act, which regulates the sale of items with both civilian and military uses.

Clearly the Saudis are in violation of these Acts and weapon sales should be curtailed until they are in compliance. 


Call your Congressperson (202-224-3121) urging them to invoke War Powers Act to force congressional vote ending US participation in Saudi war crimes in Yemen

Image may contain: 5 people, including Anthony Manousos and Grace R. Dyrness, people smiling, crowd and outdoor

Why Are U.S. Bombs Killing Civilians in Yemen?

The United States, by providing weapons and support to the Saudi-led coalition waging indiscriminate war in Yemen, shares in the blame.
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.
  • Aug. 28, 2018
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Image
CreditCreditIllustration by Alex Merto; photograph by Fayez Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The top American air commander in the Middle East voiced frustration in an interview last week over the murderously incompetent Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen. Though welcome, his sentiment was far too mild. It should have been more like horror — and shame over American complicity in what a new United Nations report views as criminal carnage.

Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies intervened in Yemen more than three years ago to rout Iran-backed Shiite rebels who had driven the internationally recognized government out of the capital and into Saudi exile. As the conflict has dragged on, the rebels have also been accused of atrocities, but the United Nations body and human rights groups say it is the Saudi-led air war that has done the most to turn an already impoverished country into a humanitarian nightmare and an indiscriminate killing field.

Again and again, Saudi-led airstrikes have struck civilian targets, slaughtering innumerable innocents. Last Friday, the United Nations said the coalition killed at least 22 children and four women as they fled a battle zone. Two weeks earlier, on Aug. 9, a coalition air assault struck a school bus, killing dozens of children. Countless more civilians have been killed by bombs at markets, weddings, funerals — more than 6,500 by the official count, but certainly many, many more. Millions more civilians are suffering from shortages of food and medical care.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Peace is a group effort: report on my current peace and justice activism

I've been reflecting on the truism that peace and justice work is not a solo act. I am able to do what I do because I have the support of various communities and groups to which I belong, namely, FCNL, ICUJP, Orange Grove (Quaker) Meeting, and the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group (GPAHG). From time to time I send reports to my Quaker meeting because I am their liaison to ICUJP. This is my August report. 
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I feel that the work I am doing is deeply faith-rooted and Spirit-led,  I am grateful to God that I have the health and means to do work that brings me a sense of joy and inner peace. To stay spiritually grounded, I meet once a month with my spiritual director, a Benedictine Episcopal monk named Dennis Gibbs, and we often talk about the spiritual aspects of my activism. Jill and I also have two weekly Bible studies and prayer in which we seek to be open to how Spirit is guiding us in our work.  I have a daily practice of prayer three times daily--when I get up, around noon (just before my nap) and in the evening before bedtime.


In addition to the activism described below, I was invited to speak about Quakerism at a UCC Church in Manhattan Beach on July 29, which is why I missed Meeting last Sunday. My talk was entitled: "Everything you wanted to know about Quakerism and aren't afraid to ask." People were very interested and weren't afraid to ask questions so a good time was had by all. They even bought some of my books. I had a blast being an "ambassador of Quakerism."

Here's my monthly report on my peace-related work. In addition to this work, I am also active with the Social Change Ministry led by Arthur Kagerreis, a member of Orange Grove Meeting. We're collaborating with Neighborhood Unitarian Church on immigration issues and visiting detainees at Adelanto Detention Center. We just crafted a minute on immigration that we plan to present to business meeting this month.



1) ICUJP and FCNL. ICUJP, FCNL and half a dozen other peace groups are working together to promote peace on the Korean peninsula and denuclearization there and here at home. We are supporting  the "Back from the Brink" anti-nuke campaign of Physicians for Social Responsibility in addition to FCNL's campaign.  Our next lobby visit will take place at the office of Kamala Harris on Aug 17 at 1:30 pm. You are welcome to join us! For more details about recent visits, see  https://laquaker.blogspot.com/2018/07/quakers-and-their-allies-work-to-reduce.html


This Sunday, Aug 5th, ICUJP is co-sponsoring this Hiroshima Day event in Santa Monica to which you are warmly invited.
73 years ago, the nuclear bombs dropped on the cities of Hiroshima & Nagasaki, shocked the world and birthed a movement with the mantra “Never Again.”  This Sunday, August 5th, Peace Action is co-sponsoring a public peace vigil in Santa Monica to remember the victims of the atomic bombings and reflect on the ways we are working to prevent history repeating itself.  I hope you’ll join us from 3:30 pm until 5:00 pm at the landmarked public art peace sculpture 'Chain Reaction' located in the Santa Monica Civic Center on the 1800 block of Main Street just north of Pico Blvd. Last year, I had the privilege of representing Peace Action at the 2017 World Conference to Abolish the A & H Bombs. There, I had the honor of hearing directly from Hibakusha, survivors of the blasts, and from peace activists from across the globe. In addition to other speakers, I will be sharing a bit about my experience there and some of the reasons I have hope for our movement.  Please join us if you are available – and invite your friends!  You can find the complete details, including parking information here on the event’s facebook page.Thanks for all you do for peace! In Solidarity, Frances Yasmeen Motiwalla Peace Action 
ICUJP is also co-sponsoring the upcoming events of the Parliament of the World's Religion
next week, Aug 11-12.  Saturday's event will focus on Eco-Justice and Sunday's event will focus on "Sharing Our Stories: Celebrating Harmony in our Broken World." Both events take place in the afternoon and evening at the Baha'i Center in LA.  I will be giving a workshop on the Poor People's Campaign on Sunday's event.

I organize the weekly program of speakers for ICUJP. I thought you might like to know our program for this month. I'm pleased that my friend Liza Diniakis (who organizes visits to the Adelanto Detention Center, where I visit detainees) will be speaking about Freedom for Immigrants.  "Pray the Devil Back to Hell" is a documentary about the women in Liberian who received the Nobel Prize for their nonviolent efforts to get rid an oppressive regime. Marium is a young Muslim who is deeply involved in interfaith work, especially building bridges between Muslims and Jews through a program called "New Ground." "Valentino's Ghost" is about how Muslims are portrayed in the media. As you can see, we have an engaging program every week dealing with social justice issues from an interfaith perspective. We also have coffee and bagels.


3-AugParliament of World's ReligionsDebra Van Zyl et al
10-AugMuslim JourneyMarium
17-AugFreedom for ImmigrantsLiza Diniakis
24-Aug"Pray the Devil Back to Hell"Anthony
31-Aug"Valentino's Ghost"Michael Singh

2) Housing Justice:  We had a very successful action at the Ed Tech Committee of the Pasadean City Council, where they decided to recommend affordable housing and commercial development at Heritage Square South. This seemed like a big win for us, but the battle isn't over. Ed Tech did not recommend permanent supportive housing for seniors, so we still must rally the community for a crucial meeting of the full Council where the final decision will be made, perhaps as soon as Aug 20. Below is a letter we're sending to the Council.

In addition to these campaigns, we are making good progress on our nonprofit called "Making Housing and Community Happen." God willing, we'll have nonprofit status by the end of this month. We hope that this new organization will be supported by our Meeting.
Here's a letter we sent out this week regarding our current housing justice efforts:

 Dear Friends, The battle to provide homeless housing is far from over. We need to take action on the following items:

1) Advocate for Model A, not Model C, at Heritage Square South. We had a meeting with Pasadena Housing Director Bill Huang in which he told us that housing homeless seniors on Heritage Square South is far from a done deal. The devil is in the details. Model C (which Ed Tech recommended) says "housing," but that could mean market rate, or affordable, or permanent supportive housing or a combination of these—what was recommended does not spell out that it would specifically be for Permanent Supportive Housing( PSH). It calls for underground parking, which sounds good but may be not economically feasible since it costs over $30,000 per parking space. Model C would require a feasibility study and could take years to develop since there is nothing like it in NW Pasadena. Therefore, we need a big turnout again when Heritage Square South comes up for consideration by the whole City Council so we can advocate for Model A, which definitely specifies permanent supportive housing and surface parking for a modest amount of retail space (preferably medical offices). We also need to contact individual City members to let them know our talking points. Please review the letter below before it is sent to the CC. And please contact the City Council and let them know that you support Model A and the other points in this letter. Write to the city clerk: mjomsky@cityofpasadena.net,

1) Ordinance to facilitate motel conversion to permanent supportive housing needs our support. As you may have read in Monday's Star News, the Planning Committee and the City Council are considering an ordinance that would make it easier for the City to convert motels into permanent supportive housing. This is a very good policy, In order for this to happen, however, it is important that the city ordinance makes approval of these conversions "by right" or "ministerial," thereby avoiding a lengthy and time-consuming process involving environmental impact studies and community input that invites NYMBYism.  Pease let us know if you are willing to go to the Planning Committee meeting on Aug 8th at 6:30pm to advocate for this policy.

2) Oppose over-concentration policy that will stifle city-funded affordable housing in NW Pasadena. Mr. Gordo wants the City Council to adopt a very bad policy that would curtail city-funded affordable housing in NW Pasadena due to "overconcentration," based on State Code Section 34176 1(c) (2).. As the data clearly shows, NW Pasadena has become gentrified and therefore needs more, not less, affordable housing to prevent increasing homelessness and displacement of long-term residents. Bill Huang (along with many other experts) points out: "Affordable housing in all its forms is the best way to combat gentrification." We need to convince the City Council to study the gentrification issue carefully before adopting a misguided and obsolete policy that would hurt the long-term low-income residents of NW Pasadena.

Here is a letter we are sending to the City Council on Aug 2:

Dear Honorable Mayor and City Councilmembers:

Ed Tech's approval of Model C--housing and commercial development--is a step in the right direction, but we want to be sure that "housing" means "permanent supportive housing" (PSH) and not market rate housing. Market rate housing would require that the City forfeit $2.3 million to HUD and the state, and lose a golden opportunity to build PSH on a site ideal for housing homeless seniors. There is county, state and federal funding for PSH, not so much for affordable housing.  Your constituents have made it very clear that we want permanent supportive housing on this site.
We have other practical concerns about Model C. It calls for 15-20 K of retail space with underground parking. Is this realistic? The cost of underground parking is approximately $30,000 or more per car. This would add considerable cost to retail rental. Is there a market for more retail development on this corner? The site of Blaze Pizza was vacant for 4 years. Rents on a site with underground parking would be much higher than one with surface parking.  There would need to be a feasibility study to determine if Model C is economically viable.
We feel that Model A is more realistic. It calls for 69 units of affordable housing and 15-30 spaces for surface parking and a modest amount of commercial development. If we house 69 homeless seniors and have medical offices on the first floor, that number of parking spaces would probably suffice. We could move forward with Model A without a lengthy and time-consuming feasibility study.
It is important for the city to come up with a realistic plan expeditiously so this project doesn't drag on for years, as has happened in the past. Permanent supportive housing is fundable now and we can access millions in non-city funds that would provide an immediate economic boost to our area since affordable housing requires that 20% of those hired are local, 20% are local contracts and 20% local materials.. The number of homeless seniors is increasing at an alarming rate so we need this housing as soon as possible. The latest figures for San Gabriel Valley show that the number of homeless seniors 62 years old and older has gone up 116% in the past year. Pasadena's homeless senior rate has gone up 58% in the last three years. Housing homeless seniors is a crisis that needs to be addressed now. That's why we recommend that the City Council approve Model A. 
We also strongly urge the City Council not to adopt a policy based on Code Section 34176 1(c) (2) that would greatly restrict building affordable housing in Northwest Pasadena due to "overconcentration." This is not what your constituents want and it is not good policy. As the data clearly shows, NW Pasadena has become gentrified and therefore needs more, not less, affordable housing to prevent increasing homelessness and displacement of long-term residents.  
Before adopting any policy changes like this, we need input from the Northwest Commission and from residents. We are quite certain that the residents of NW Pasadena do not want you to stop building affordable housing in this area where rents are skyrocketing and the African American community and others are being priced out.