This letter is being sent to the Board of Trustees of Fuller requesting that they leave behind a legacy of affordable housing to Pasadena, a city that has been its home for 70 years. The Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group (GPAHG) believes this is a reasonable request because Fuller made an agreement with city to designate 179 units to be permanently affordable. They must be sold with that condition. GPAHG is asking the Board to comply with this agreement by selling part of its property to an affordable housing developer at a reduced rate. This letter provides the moral and theological as well as policy reasons for this request.
Oct. 23, 2019
Dear Fuller Seminary Board of Trustees and Senior Administration,
As Fuller Theological Seminary is preparing to leave Pasadena and build a new campus better-suited to preparing Christian ministers and leaders for the next century, there has been discussion, both within Fuller and the local community, about what legacy you will leave here, that you will “finish well.” What better legacy could there be than a project that would minister to the most vulnerable among us, a project that would remain in the city that has been home to Fuller for the past 70 years?
For this reason, it is the recommendation of the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group (GPAHG) that at least one of Fuller’s sites be sold to an affordable housing developer at a price point that makes it feasible to develop affordable housing.We also ask that you extend the deadline so that affordable housing developers can make bids. We have stated our specific recommendations toward the end of this letter.
GPAHG is a community group that is faith-based and deeply invested in advocating for the poor. Our vision is that all Pasadena residents shall have safe, quality, accessible, and affordable housing; people are not displaced from the community; and our community is racially, ethnically and socially diverse. Our group consists of members throughout the Greater Pasadena area, including business owners, city planners, seminary students, pastors, teachers, and the homeless—all coming together to address one of the greatest crises in Southern California—homelessness, and a lack of affordable housing.
Before we delineate our reasons for this request, we call to remembrance the distinct role and history of Fuller Seminary. We understand that Fuller’s vision is to “form global leaders for kingdom vocations.” Fuller’s Mission Beyond the Mission names as a key purpose: “to work for…the good of human society at home and around the globe.” Considering Fuller’s legacy and purpose, the question at hand is whether Fuller Seminary will conduct the sale of its property by embodying its core values to be faithful, courageous, collaborative, innovative and fruitful leaders that serve “the least of these?” (Matthew 25:40)
Chang Commons has 179 units of affordable units thanks to the City's inclusionary policy
Over the past few years, GPAHG and students of Fuller Seminary have advocated tirelessly for Fuller Seminary to reflect its decision to sell 197 housing units affordable for students, to Carmel Properties. This resulted in zero affordable housing for the community and a displacement of many of Fuller’s students who were no longer able to live there. We write this letter out of deep concern that Fuller Seminary be true to its commitment to affordable housing, as stated in the Fuller Master Plan.
There are a number of reasons for this request. First, it is important that Fuller finish well and leave a legacy for the city (as well as for those of us who have attended Fuller) that we can be proud of, namely, a much needed affordable housing development. There are also deeply theological and spiritual principles at play here.
On a personal note, as the Chair of GPAHG and the Director of Making Housing and Community Happen, and as an Evangelical Christian with a Doctor of Ministry, who has studied at Fuller and has been invited to guest lecture in many classes, I feel a deep love and sense of connection with Fuller Seminary. I therefore feel led to share with you this biblical perspective.
At the end of this letter there’s a list of scriptures that indicate how those who demonstrate a commitment to love the poor by addressing the root causes of poverty will be blessed abundantly. It is my prayer that Fuller be blessed abundantly in its new location. In His wisdom God has bound up the way we love the poor as a way to show our love of God, and receive His blessings.It can be tempting to move forward and “leave the past behind,” but the key theme of Deuteronomy is “remember” for a good reason—we have been given the Bible in part so we might remember the past to inform our future. We must not forget the pain and unintended consequences of hasty decisions lacking transparency and learn from them, so they won’t be repeated.
From Genesis to Revelation the Bible makes it clear God’s priority is to bring the most vulnerable and those on the margins into the center of his care. The poor, the widow and those on the margins of society are the focus of every message directed to pharaoh and the kings, from Moses to Esther. Additionally, Jesus lifted up the poor and disenfranchised in each story and parable. He brings them front and center and so should we.Jesus died for our sins but he also died because he was proclaiming a kingdom of love, mercy and justice, which was contrary to the greed of the leaders of his day.
When God gave us all we need to sustain us in Genesis 1, he never gave us the land. God made it clear that “the land was mine, thus says the Lord.” We are to steward the land according to God’s principles.
The first five books of the Old Testament prepared a people to go into the Promised Land with detailed laws on how to govern in such a way that land would be distributed to every tribe and person to have a place to call home—to live together in peace and security—in a way that would be a light to the nations. Israel lost their land because they didn’t obey God’s laws. The book of Lamentations is all about grieving the loss of land. Many of us have been grieving the devastating loss of Fuller in Pasadena.
God sent prophets to hold kings accountable to make sure such laws and principles were upheld. But as we all know, prophets were killed and stubborn Israel refused to honor God‘s laws. At the time of Jesus, the Pharisees and Sadducees, in collusion with Roman rule, had gobbled up most of the land, leaving the peasants landless. Jubilee land distribution and other anti-poverty laws throughout Leviticus and Deuteronomy had not been upheld. In Luke 4 Jesus came preaching good news for the poor and inaugurating his ministry by proclaiming jubilee—a type of land redistribution. The Early Church lived this message (Acts 4) by sharing all things in common. Many churches across the US are providing affordable housing as a way to emulate the Early Church.
Fuller wisely set aside student housing at 10 to 20% below the market. This commitment within the Fuller Master Plan is something to be admired as a wise steward caring for the students and employees.
Fuller is not alone in its struggle as churches are re-envisioning what it means to be the church, and pastors are not attending seminaries as they once did. A number of seminaries are trying to figure out the best use of their land. Taking the lead by providing a site for affordable housing would be an example to other seminaries and churches seeking to address the housing crisis, one of the major social issues today in the US.It is important that Fuller not only care for its students, but also demonstrate a love for “neighbor as yourself” as commanded by Scripture.
As a faith-rooted organization, we at GPAHG feel that it is not at all unreasonable to request that at least one parcel, large enough to do a sizable affordable housing project, be sold to an affordable housing developer. We are not indicating what we feel would be a reasonable number of units, but wish you to keep in mind that 197 units affordable to students were lost to our city. This impacted the city by causing students to compete with long-time residents for the few affordable units that exist.
Additionally, we understand that the 179 affordable inclusionary units at Chang Commons are required to be kept affordable in perpetuity. Pasadena’s policies make this clear. Yet we understand that Fuller is seeking to get out of this commitment and sell only some of these units as affordable, ignoring the city’s policies.Since Fuller has embraced addressing homelessness in its course offerings and praxis, partnering with Urban Initiatives to assure that each homeless person is counted, we recommend that these units be sold to an organization like Door of Hope, a Christ-centered ministry seeking to help formerly homeless families stay in Pasadena, so they will continue to be nurtured by this excellent ministry located just a few blocks from Fuller. There are a number of highly respected affordable housing developers that could also partner with Door of Hope as a way to keep the 179 units permanently affordable.
Leaving behind a legacy of affordable housing would indicate Fuller’s love for the city of Pasadena, as Jesus loved Jerusalem and other cities. By showing concern for those that Jesus cared deeply about, Fuller will have indeed finished well in the city of Pasadena.
An Open Letter to the Mayor and City Council members of Pasadena,
I am saddened that the Ramada Inn motel conversion is not moving forward. However, we now have a golden opportunity to move forward with the Heritage Square South project, as recommended by Ed Tech. If the Council approves housing 69 homeless seniors at Heritage Square South, as Northwest Pasadena residents have requested, it will send a signal to the rest of the City that housing our homeless neighbors is not only a good idea, it has community support.
Let's move quickly.We lost over $450,000 in funding in May because we didn't approve Heritage Square South by the deadline for using redevelopment funds. We are apparently missing another funding deadline this week. We also lost a great deal of potential funding by not approving an increase in in lieu fees that could have been applied to projects currently in the pipeline like this one and future motel conversions.
Below is a letter to the editor that I have sent to the Star News and to Pasadena Now in response to their coverage of what happened with the proposed conversion of the Ramada Inn:
Thanks for your article on the Ramada Inn motel conversion (10/22/18). While converting old motels to homeless housing is excellent policy, it looks like this particular project may not move forward because of community opposition. Such projects can't be rushed and community input is needed at the onset. Ironically, the residents of Northwest Pasadena made it abundantly clear at a community meeting in March that we want a homeless housing project in our neighborhood--80% of those surveyed said they want city-owned land at Heritage Square South to be used for homeless senior housing. Over 400 neighbors and church members sent letters of support. But the City Council is dragging its heels and missing opportunities to get funding. We are urging them to approve and move forward with housing homeless seniors at Heritage Square South
Tonight during public comment, community leaders will be urging the Pasadena City Council to take action on Heritage Square South and continue to support conversion of motels to homeless housing. The need is urgent, and the number of homeless residents will only increase if no action is taken. Here are our talking points:
Talking Point #1: I am here to speak in favor of permanent
supportive housing for our homeless neighbors. Many residents of our city are
fearful about having homeless housing in their neighborhood. Studies show, and police agree, that providing homeless
people with safe, supportive housing can actually help reduce crime. People in
supportive housing are screened and monitored to make sure they abide by the
rules. This creates safety for the community. Our former Pasadena Police
Chief Philip Sanchez said, “Despite some of the stereotypes, affordable housing
doesn’t impact crime. It doesn’t erode the quality of life. They’re highly
regulated. They are highly monitored. Lieutenant Mark Goodman said, “The safety
level is actually enhanced because you are taking people from off the street
and putting them into a situation that’s stable.”
Our police support permanent supportive housing because it makes our community
safer. That’s why the residents of Northwest Pasadena want the city to move
forward with homeless housing at Heritage Square South. They made their desires
very clear at a meeting in March called by Vice Mayor Kennedy. Over 80% of
those surveyed at this meeting wanted Heritage Square South used for house our
homeless seniors. Ed Tech unanimously approved a recommendation for homeless
housing and commercial development at Heritage Square South. Why is the City
Council not taking action?
Talking point #2: I am speaking in support the
ordinance to convert motels into homeless housing and also on behalf of
approving homeless housing at Heritage Square South in Northwest Pasadena. Some
East Pasadena residents are concerned that their area of the city will be
flooded with homeless housing because of this ordinance. This won’t happen. The
City Council has decided to experiment by permitting only three motels to be
converted and then evaluate the results. They are also committed to making sure
that each district will have homeless housing for its homeless residents. The
ordinance requires public input for each proposed motel conversion.
Other parts of the City have homeless housing, and it hasn’t created problems. Euclid
Villa, Marv’s Place and Centennial Place are located in the central part of the
city, where there are a lot of residences and businesses. This homeless housing
haven’t caused any increase in crime and neighbors haven’t complained. In fact,
homeless housing is such an asset that the residents of Northwest Pasadena are
requesting that homeless housing be built on city-owned property on the corner
of Fair Oaks and Orange Grove, north of the freeway. If these areas with lots
of homes and businesses are comfortable having homeless housing, it seems
reasonable and fair to expect homeless housing also to be built in East
Pasadena since there are a lot of homeless people living there. I am here
tonight to advocate for approving Heritage Square South to be used for homeless
housing, as recommended by Ed Tech. Let’s move this project forward as an
example to the rest of the city.
Talking Point #3:I am here to speak out in favor of
homeless housing, in particular, the motel conversion ordinance and Heritage
Square South. Many are fearful about homeless housing because they think it
will harm neighborhoods. Similar fears were once expressed in the past about
having people of color move into neighbors. These fears were based on
prejudice, not fact. Homeless housing is not a
stigma, it is an asset to a neighborhood, since it will tend to reduce (not
increase) the number of unhoused people in a given area. Well-managed
supportive housing is preferable to poorly managed motels. Paul Little, CEO of
the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, said, “Local businesses don’t feel the impact
of permanent supportive housing. If there is an impact, it’s a positive one
because there are fewer people in doorways, fewer people sleeping on sidewalks,
or under bridges.” Homeless housing and businesses can coexist together in a
mutually beneficial way. Ed Tech recently recommended that the city-owned
property on the corner of Fair Oaks and Orange Grove, be used for commercial
development and homeless housing. I think this is a great idea. This site would
be ideal for medical offices to service our seniors and other residents of this
area. Combining medical offices and housing for homeless seniors makes good
sense. I urge the city council to move forward to this idea.
Talking Point # 4.I am here
to speak out in favor of homeless housing. Some people are understandably fearful
about homeless people who are mentally ill and act out in disturbing ways. It
isn’t a crime to be mentally ill and people can’t be jailed simply because of
their illness. The only way to deal with our mentally ill homeless neighbors is
to find housing for them that they are comfortable with. Homeless people who refuse to go to shelters are sometimes
called “service resistant,” The most common reason that homeless people
resist shelters is that they are afraid they may be robbed or molested. Women
and mentally ill people feel especially at risk in shelters. When offered the
opportunity, most homeless people gladly choose to live in supportive housing
where they have individual rooms and feel safe.
I urge the City Council to pay special attention to the needs of homeless women
and mentally ill people who need supportive services. Our homeless seniors also
need to be housed as soon as possible since they are especially vulnerable.
That’s why I support motel conversion and approving homeless housing for
seniors at Heritage Square South.
This month our Quaker Bible study will focus on John 15. This seems very fitting since John's Gospel is central to our Quaker theology, particularly our doctrine of the Inner Light. For more about Quakers and the Gospel of John, see my blog: http://laquaker.blogspot.com/2012/07/quaker-view-of-johns-gospel.html.This blog entry describes a Bible study which was inspired by Mennonite peace activist Bert Newton’s book The Subversive Wisdom of John’s Gospel.
“John’s Gospel is
known as the Quaker gospel because the universal Light is central, extending
across all worldly barriers of class, gender, and race. Jesus is a model for us
– of humility and obedience.”—David Johnson, Australia YM
pathfinders of early Quakerism were George Fox, Robert Barclay, and William
Penn. All three based their theology on the gospel of John.”—Howard Brinton.
1“I am the true vine, and my Father is
the gardener. 2. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while
every branch that does bear friend he prunes so that it was be even more
fruitful.3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, as I also remain in
you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither
can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches.
If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you
can do nothing. 6If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown
away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words
remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that
you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so have I
loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I
have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy
may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other
as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for
one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants,
because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called
you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to
you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that
you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask
in my name the Father will give you. 17This is my command: Love
Have you ever felt
connected to God/Christ? What was this experience like?
How has this
feeling of connection with Christ/God/your Inner Light helped you to be
"fruitful" in doing acts of loving kindness?
How has God
"pruned" away from you things that are unloving and unproductive of
Jesus says that if
you love others, you are no longer his servant, but his friends. Do you feel as
if you are on friendly terms with Jesus/God? If not, what do you feel is
preventing you from having this intimate and close relationship?
Did you find anything in this passage troubling or problematic? What troubled
Sylvester Williams with our chicken
Checkers, who helped us make
our decision on Prop 12
Last night we had a “Prop Party” to discuss the various CA ballot propositions. Because California is one of the few states to have ballot props, it is worth explaining that "a ballot proposition is a referendum or an initiative measure submitted to the electorate for a direct decision or direct vote (or plebiscite). They are very important because if passed, they can alter one or more of the articles of the Constitution of California, one or more of the 29 California Codes , or another law in the California Statutes by clarifying current or adding statute(s) or removing current statute(s)."
Our prop party has become an annual fun event with people emailing us
asking if we will host it again.Those
who came: Anthony and Jill, and our friends Sylvester, Carolyn and Adrienne,
and our friend and neighbor Patricia. We studied the propositions using the
following guides to help us:the Quaker
Friends Committee on Legislation of California (FCLCA), IMPACT (the California
Council of Churches) and ACT (a progressive political action group in
Pasadena/Altadena).These groups didn’t
always agree, but we had a lively and fun discussion and came up with our own
recommendations. Here is a brief summary of what we came up with:
Proposition 1: YES
Authorizes Bonds to Fund Specified Housing Assistance Programs. Legislative
Statute. Proposition. We strongly support this measure, as did FCLCA,
IMPACT, and ACT. We urgently need affordable housing and we feel this bond
measure will help meet that need. A bond is like a mortgage, a long term
investment on something that will most likely increase in value. No one expects
a home to be paid off in a year, so bonds are spread out over the life time of
the use of the home.
Proposition 2: YES Authorizes Bonds to Fund Existing Housing Program
for Individuals with
Jill and Carolyn Williams
Mental Illness. Legislative Statute. Proposition. This
prop also had the support of FCLCA, IMPACT and ACT. Some concern was expressed
about taking money from mental health care and using it to build permanent
supportive housing for the mentally ill, but we believe the only way to help
mentally ill people on the street is first to get them housed, so we agreed
that this prop is worthy of our support.
Proposition 3: YES, with some reservations. Authorizes Bonds to Fund
Projects for Water Supply and Quality, Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Water
Conveyance, and Groundwater Sustainability and Storage. Initiative Statute.
This prop has the support of IMPACT and ACT, but FCLCA and the Sierra Club are
concerned that “the proponents of this bond have added many wasteful items to
attract rich investors to help support the campaign who will ultimately profit
from the bond at taxpayers’ expense.” IMPACT, on the other hand, says “this is
a comprehensive, thoughtful set of priorities emphasizing conservation,
recycling and the wise use of scarce water resources that should improve the
state’s water supply for years to come.” This prop may be imperfect, but we
felt it’s worth supporting.
Proposition 4: YES Authorizes Bonds Funding Construction at Hospitals
Providing Children’s Health Care. Initiative Statute. Proposition. ACT and
IMPACT support this prop, but FCLCA had some reservations because the Quakers
typically support universal health care, not funding private hospitals. While Jill
and Anthony support “Medicare for all” would be a better policy, all of us last
night felt that children’s hospitals are doing such fantastic and needed work
they deserve our support.
Proposition 5: NO Changes
Requirements for Certain Property Owners to Transfer their Property Tax Base to
Replacement Property. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.
Proposition.FCLCA and ACT both oppose
this prop, and IMPACT didn’t take a stand. We felt this prop is not needed
since Prop 13 already gives homeowners 55 + the chance to sell their home once
and buy a new home at the same or lesser price and pay the same tax they did on
their original home. This prop would give homeowners the right to get this tax
break multiple times and to buy more expensive homes while paying a lower tax
rate. The ploy to support this by including in caps “severely handicapped
homeowners” we felt was a deceptive tactic to get us to vote for this
prop.Prop. 5 will primarily benefit the
wealthy and take billions of much needed dollars from our schools. Compared to
other parts of the US, the CA property taxes are low. Patricia mentioned that
in New Jersey her friends’ property taxes are $35,000 a year!! Due to limited ways
for cities to generate income,which is
causing some cities to go bankrupt and others to resort to higher and higher
fees, we very much felt this this should be
Proposition 6: NO Eliminates Certain
Road Repair and Transportation Funding. Requires Certain Fuel Taxes and Vehicle
Fees be Approved by The Electorate. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.
Proposition. This is opposed by IMPACT, FCLCA and ACT.No one likes taxes, but gasoline taxes are
needed to help pay for roads, bridge repair and other needed infrastructure.
The California gas tax hadn’t been raised since 1994, so in 2017 the state
legislation passed SB 1 which raised the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon. The
tax increase was necessary and long overdue to help improve so many of our
roads in need of repair. We discussed how in the US we subsidize our the oil
industry to keep our gas prices low, but in other countries in Europe or
Australia gas is typically $5-9.00 a gallon. What they have done in Europe is
to require that cars have very high fuel standards, with 50+ miles a gallon, so
that when you buy gas at high prices, you get more for your buck.So why repeal it? This would be a great way
to encourage more cars with better fuel efficiency.Here’s what FCLCA says: “Prop 6 is a cynical
play put on the ballot by the Republican anti-tax crusader Carl De Maio. Proponents
hope its inclusion on the ballot will help drive Republican voter turnout and
keep the House of Representatives in Republican hands.”
Proposition 7: NO RECOMMENDATION. Conforms California Daylight Saving
Time to Federal Law. Allows Legislature to Change Daylight Saving Time Period.
Legislative Statute. Proposition. We liked what IMPACT wrote, with tongue
in cheek: “This proposition has no moral ground upon which to deliberate
acceptance or rejection. It’s a matter of personal or professional choice.
Farmers don’t like it. Recreationists do. While IMPACT takes no position, we do
urge you, regardless of outcome, to remember to change your smoke detector
batteries at least once a year.”
Proposition 8: NO Regulates Amounts Outpatient Kidney Dialysis
Clinics Charge for Dialysis Treatment. Initiative Statute. Proposition.
This had the support of IMPACT and ACT, but was opposed by FCLCA and the League
of Women Voters (LWV). FCLCA expressed our concern that because this prop
limits how much can be charged, “Chronic dialysis clinics could close in
communities of color where they are needed most.” Therefore, until our broken
health care system is fixed and there is universal healthcare, we need ae
voting no to make sure that under-resourced communities get the health care
This measure was stricken from the ballot by the California Supreme Court.
Proposition 10: YESExpands Local
Governments’ Authority to Enact Rent Control on Residential Property. Initiative
Statute. This has the support of IMPACT, FCLCA, ACT and virtually every
affordable housing advocate we know. It’s interesting that the “con” description
suggest that “Affordable housing advocates agree that it’s bad… ” It’s unfair
to suggest that all advocates feel this way. I, Jill, was at a national
affordable housing conference with over 1,000 in attendance, and I don’t think anyone there opposed rent control. There is a lot of misinformation about rent
control and recent research helps to clear this up. See: https://haasinstitute.berkeley.edu/opening-door-rent-controlBut it’s important to disclose here our
bias, that we (Jill and Anthony) supported a campaign in Pasadena to get rent
stabilization passed. We were pleased to see most of our neighbors were eager
to sign the petition. In fact 10,224 signed (we needed 12,800), but this strong
show of support may be why there are so many ads opposing it. In Pasadena we
have landlords increasing rent by $300-$1000 a month. 47% of Pasadena is
spending over 50% of their income on housing cost. Is hard for a city be
economically vibrant with such a high percent of the population little
expendable income. We believe there should be a cap of no more than 2-4%
increase a year, a fair return.Prop 10
allows cities have a choice, until this is passed, cities don’t have a choice
to enact rent control, only stabilization measures. Prop 10 would give municipalities the freedom
the craft rent control ordinances that would meet the particular needs of their
cities, for example an ordinance that would not include any new construction.
Some say that this will prevent development, but Santa Monica and West
Hollywood, with some of the strongest rent stabilization policies in CA, are
developing housing like crazy.
Because Sylvester is a landlord (one who rents many of his places below market rate and is very fair to his tenants), we had an interesting dialogue about how rent control would impact landlords. We explained that rent
control would create a board representing tenants and landlords that would help
determine a fair rent increase, within limits; ensure landlords a fair return
on investment; and provide much needed tenant protection. There is some concern
that this might negatively impact some landlords and have other unintended
consequences depending on how a city decides to have or not to have such an ordinance,
but the trade off to keep long term stable tenants and prevent folks from
falling into homelessness must be balanced with a fair and just policy. Today
the no.1 cause of homelessness is the high cost of housing.
Proposition 11: NO Requires Private-Sector Emergency Ambulance
Employees to Remain On-Call During Work Breaks. Eliminates Certain Employer
Liability. Initiative Statute. Proposition. We felt this a complex labor-management
dispute that shouldn’t be on the ballot, it should be resolved with a mediator,
or in the courts or with the help of the legislator.
Proposition 12: NO. Establishes New Standards for Confinement of
Specified Farm Animals; Bans Sale of Noncomplying Products. Initiative Statute.
This prop was tough to decide on, since it has “bitterly divided the Humane
Society and animal rights activists opposed to factory farming.” In the
interest of full disclosure, Jill and I have a chicken named Checkers that is
around 15 years old and has been coddled all her life. Since Sylvester wants to
have chickens, we invited Checkers to join us during our deliberation. Checkers
took no position on this prop, but her presence reminded us that we need to
treat our feathered friends with compassion. We were shocked to learn that Prop
12 would give chickens only one square foot to live in, less than they
currently have. The current standards says that chickens must have enough space
to spread their wings, turn around and lie down, all without disturbing other
chickens. We finally decided to agree with IMPACT, which said: “In 2008
California Council of Churches IMPACT supported Proposition 2 that would
improve the quality of confinement for farm animals. Federal standards and
legal findings affected most animals but not chickens. Our concern for the
humane treatment of chickens rested on two issues: chickens are aggressive
toward one another and will kill or maim one another when overcrowded. Highly
crowded cages made attacks commonplace. This led to the egg industry’s practice
of debeaking – cutting part of the beaks off – to prevent chickens from
seriously harming one another. Proposition 2 called for changes in cage sizes
that would stop overcrowding and thereby reduce the need for debeaking. Space
requirements for each chicken were based on animal behavior: be able to spread
wings, turn around, lie down, all without interfering with other chickens. This
set a decent standard of care. Proposition 12 reverses that legal standard.
While it calls for “cage free” as a goal, it permits vastly reduced space per
chicken and still does not outlaw debeaking and other inhumane practices.
Rather than basing the standard on chicken behavior, it requires 1 foot square
of space per bird, far too small a space even in “cage free” settings. This is
a setback in the humane treatment of chickens As in the earlier Proposition 2,
standards for other farm animals are not seriously at issue in Prop 12. To
regress on the standards for chickens and undermine what we already passed in
compassion is totally unacceptable.”