J.T. Supports the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) Coming to L.A.

At the same time that calls increase on our public officials to support not luxury, but humane housing in Los Angeles, a growing number of people are also calling for more Community Land Trusts (CLTs). CLTs maintain community ownership–or shared stewardship–over land and housing, committing to permanently affordable housing options for community members.

According to Matthew Vu, a resident of South Central Los Angeles and student at L.A. Trade Tech’s Community Planning and Economic Development department, CLTs require participation from homeowners and tenants, as well as other members of the community in their governing board meetings or governing structure. Vu also notes that renters in areas covered by CLTs can work with local CLTs to acquire a property together, facilitating the process of acquisition for tenants as well as the non-profit stewards..

The first modern Community Land Trust was born in the late 1960s in Southwest Georgia, when Black farmworkers and civil rights leaders, including members of the famed Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, founded New Communities Land Trust, turning nearly 6,000 acres of land into homesteads and agricultural area, as well as providing affordable housing for Black farmers and their families on the land. As of 2019, New Communities turned 50 years old and is still operating in partnership with Black farmers.

There are now up to 225 CLTs in the United States, twelve in California, and five in L.A. County. In June 2020, the city of San Francisco passed the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act, providing local CLTs there the first opportunity to purchase buildings and take them off the market once they’re on sale. At least six buildings in the Bay area at risk of being purchased by speculators have been saved by local CLTs since the law’s passage, keeping them affordable for low-income residents there.

Now, in an effort to create more for Community Land Trusts across Los Angeles County, which at 10 million residents is the largest in the U.S., CLTS in Los Angeles have formed a coalition and are urging communities to learn about the Tenants Opportunity to Purchase Act. The L.A. Community Land Trust Coalition (LACLTC) is an organization of L.A.’s local trusts, “committed to the preservation of low-income communities of color by decommodifying housing, promoting education, community empowerment, the conversion of tenants to owners, and making housing a human right.”

The Tenants Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) is a proposed law that would give tenants in unincorporated areas of L.A. County the first opportunity to buy the building they live in if and when a building’s owner decides to sell the property. The five Community Land Trusts (CLTs) in L.A. County advocating to bring TOPA to L.A. include: Beverly-Vermont CLT (BVCLT) along the East Hollywood and Koreatown areas, El Sereno CLT (ESCLT) in the El Sereno community, T.R.U.S.T. in Historic South Central, Fideicomiso Comuntario Tierra Libre (FCTL) in the Boyle Heights/East Los Angeles area, and Liberty Community Land Trust for the Southwest and Mid-City communities.

Want to learn more? Check out the TOPA Town Hall hosted by the T.R.U.S.T. and Liberty Community Land Trusts this past February.

J.T.

Hollywood Presbyterean Hospital in East Hollywood, Los Angeles

Please sign your name to the petition calling for justice for Andrés Guardado, an 18 year old fatally shot by the L.A. County Sheriff’s department in Gardena

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 93)

This past Thursday, June 19th, an 18 year old youth named Andrés Guardado was shot seven times by the L.A. County Sheriff’s department in the city of Gardena, becoming the 17th civilian killed by law enforcement in Los Angeles this year after another shooting earlier this week by the L.A. Sheriff’s department killed an African-American man in Palmdale.

Immediately after Andrés’ shooting, sheriff officers were seen taking down cameras outside a body shop adjacent to where Andrés ran for his final moments of life. The body shop’s owner also reports seeing officers entering into the body shop to confiscate the digital video recording device on which the footage was recorded, despite having no warrant to enter the building. Over 48 hours later, the department has still not heeded calls from Andrés’ family to release footage of the murder. In an online petition organized by friends and family of Andres, his childhood best friend shares with the community:

He was 18 years old and left behind a loving family, a full time student and a employee of two jobs with no criminal background. He was always helpful around the neighborhood and always cared for his family first. Please sign the petition and share it, we need this publicized. We hope to achieve the video shared to the public of both surveillance and the Sheriffs’ body cameras , a public service announcement by the Mayor Of Gardena and Los Angeles, and also a thorough investigation of the situation and hold accountable and file charges against every single sheriff involved in the murder.”

Please sign your name to the petition calling for the Sheriff’s department to be held accountable HERE.

Additionally, the Youth Justice Coalition and Union del Barrio are organizing a march for Andrés at 2:00 PM this Sunday, June 21st, at 414 W. Redondo Beach Blvd, Gardena, CA.

J.T.

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Virgil Village’s Most Vulnerable Resemble Skid Row’s: They Need Testing, Shelter, Relief

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 55)

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director for the L.A. County Public Health department, noted in her meeting with the L.A. County Board of Supervisors yesterday that the stay-at-home orders for L.A. County would last for at least another three months, which sounded about right considering the prevalence of the virus throughout much of Los Angeles, particularly along class and racial lines.

In a recent article for the L.A. Times, readers can learn about the work of nurses and outreach workers in Skid Row, of downtown Los Angeles, where the public health crisis posed by COVID-19 is only exacerbated due to the sheer density of L.A.’s unhoused population within the area.

Similarly in East Hollywood, along Virgil avenue, on any given day there can be found different clusters of unhoused men, mostly but not exclusively immigrants, the vast majority of whom are struggling with addiction and who are sleeping on the avenue’s surrounding sidewalks, just a few feet away from the area’s local grocery and liquor stores. Several of these men, it’s known, used to pay rent for rooms in the area before falling on hard times or being displaced, from which they have still not recovered.

Not unlike in downtown Los Angeles, where million-dollar lofts are built for the ultra-rich in the same mile radius where people erect their tents atop dirt set aside for street-trees and freeway overpasses, Virgil Village’s most vulnerable community is similarly in need of attention, testing, and an alternative to the dirt. To paraphrase the reverend Martin Luther King Jr., if this public health crisis and L.A. County’s extension of the stay-home orders make one thing clear: it’s that a threat to a community’s health anywhere is a threat to a community’s health everywhere.

As with Skid Row, while local police officers, council-members, and other representatives may be difficult to find during the community’s outreach work for their most vulnerable, it just may be that community’s noise that can inspire these folks into visibility, if not accountability.

How would that sound for a daily neighborhood howl?

J.T.

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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 27

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this Tuesday, April 14th, to approve a program providing $1,000 per month for three months to households in L.A. County where workers have been hit particularly hard by the halting of the economy due to COVID-19. The program is still in early stages and therefore not open to applications yet, and it’s also not clear how many families in L.A. County will be able to benefit from the program, but the bells have been sounded. This is also a separate program from the Angeleno debit cards announced by the mayor’s office earlier, which applies to residents of the city of Los Angeles.

As supervisor Hilda Solis, who co-authored the motion for the program alongside supervisor Janice Han, noted in her introduction of the item:

“About 57% of L.A. county renters are rent-burdened, and 1/3rd of residents are considered severely rent-burdened, meaning that they spend more than 50% of their income on rent (and that they’re only one paycheck away from being evicted and unhoused).”

The Board of Supervisors team oversees many of the less visible cities and communities throughout Los Angeles outside of the city proper, including public parks, libraries, juvenile detention facilities, and the men and women’s jails in the county where Black and Latino inmates over-represent the population of the incarcerated, and more. The job of the supervisors, as servants of the public good, is, at the very least, to voice the concerns of L.A. county residents, and during this time, to be within their reach as they work to commit L.A. county resources to be of service to the public.

The goal of JIMBO TIMES is to provide readers with this type of information regarding the city’s leadership, even if only to inform readers of key numbers for their reference; For instance, in response to supervisors Hahn and Solis’ introduction of the motion to support the county’s renters, supervisor Sheila Kuehl pointed out:

“Los Angeles County has one of the lowest home-owner rates in the entire United States. Over 55% of the people who live in the county are renters.”

This is a number that every one of those 55% of renters in Los Angeles County should be familiar with, if only just to conceptualize exactly how many of us live in such similar straits to one another.

While the board’s meetings aren’t popularized to the same degree as those of those of mayor Garcetti’s or governor Newsom’s, their work is just as crucial to keeping the wheels turning for Los Angeles County, where over 10 million residents depend on someone to access the roads, schools, and other public services that situate our lives here.

I think in the same vein of Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director of L.A. County’s Public Health department, whose daily briefings have frequently shown her to be precisely the type of leader for this moment; one who provides transparency regarding the case’s progress through Los Angeles, and who also urges residents to remain calm despite the hardships presented by the toll of the virus. Dr. Ferrer also understands that racial inequality is an important factor when discussing public health, as well as that deaths related to the virus are not “a small price” for anyone during this time. In her remarks for the meeting, she noted that:

“We see a disproportionality [in cases] across the board…African-American communities, Latinx communities, Native Hawaiian, Native Alaskan, American Indian, the GLBTQ communities. We need to make sure that when we’re addressing the pandemic we’re not allowing the disproportionality to once again inevitably lead to poorer health outcomes among those least able to have the resources needed to protect themselves.”

I sincerely hope that one day, not long from now, we have biopics on people like Dr. Ferrer, Supervisor Hilda Solis, and more of their colleagues, as public faces who made an effort to place themselves on the right side of history through this chapter in our history. Make no mistake about it: there is still a long way to go both during and after this crisis before L.A. County can be considered a truly-forward city in its response: rent forgiveness, a renewed effort on affordable housing, the end to placing any of L.A.’s kids–and residents of all ages–in custody unnecessarily, and so much more. But this work is simply not solely for Solis, Hahn, Garcetti, or any other local leader’s to do on their own. Not in a million years.

The people need to see that this is our work too. That these public servants are our representatives today, but that they can be elsewhere tomorrow. The people can therefore also be of service to our city in this way. We can lead the way for public health and uplifting; I can’t wait to see those biopics.

J.T.

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