U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders at CCSF Diego Rivera Theater (video by Peter Menchini)

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders at CCSF Diego Rivera Theater. City College of San Francisco

Δημοσιεύτηκε από Peter Menchini στις Παρασκευή, 22 Σεπτεμβρίου 2017

Sen. Bernie Sanders rallies for Medicare-for-All, lauds McCain opposition to GOP health bill

Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at the annual convention of the California Nurses Association at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Sanders, who introduced a single-payer health care legislation, is trying to bring more attention to and gather support for his bill. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)
Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at the annual convention of the California Nurses Association at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Sanders, who introduced a single-payer health care legislation, is trying to bring more attention to and gather support for his bill. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)

“Bernie Sanders praises CCSF’s free tuition program amid ‘pivotal’ moment for country” by Laura Waxmann

Bernie speaking to overflow crowd at CCSF celebrating Free City! on September 22, 2017 (Photo by Mike Zonta)

September 22, 2017 (SFExaminer.com)

In sharing his vision of universal health care and free higher education for all Americans, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday praised City College of San Francisco’s move to make tuition free for San Francisco residents as “a model for the United States of America.”

“Because [don’t] you think that young people and working class people all over this country are not asking their local leaders, ‘How come in San Francisco they are making college tuition free, why don’t you it in our community?’” said Sanders, addressing students, faculty and CCSF leaders who embarked on their first semester of tuition-free courses in August.

Enrollment at the community college has soared since the Free City College program rolled out in its pilot stage, attracting at least 6,450 new students this fall who have signed up for credit courses. The program is funded by a real-estate transfer tax passed last November — an effort led by San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim.

“CSSF has shown that when people get involved politically, it makes a difference,” said Sanders. “Our job is to put together an agenda that speaks to needs of working people [and] to elect officials that have the guts to fight and implement that agenda. You have increased participant enrollment for San Francisco residents by 51 percent.”

Students and teachers at CCSF say that they are already feeling that difference.

SEE RELATED: ‘Huge’ enrollment boost evident in first semester of free CCSF

“I’ve been here for two years and just the energy is different, in the classroom and behind the scenes,” said 30-year-old CCSF sophomore Lauren Haggins.

Following an accreditation crisis in 2012 that contributed to major cuts in classes and a plummet in enrollment, an English teacher who declined to give her name but stood in line to hear “the political legend” speak, said that teachers at the college feel that their “jobs make sense again.”

The Vermont senator and former presidential hopeful visited San Francisco on Friday to promote his recently introduced single-payer Medicare for all plan at a nurses’ rally at Yerba Buena Gardens.

Hours later, at CCSF’s Ocean Campus at 50 Phelan Ave., Sanders was met by an enthused crowd.

“I’m really excited to hear him speak on what CCSF is doing locally in response to what could be a nationwide effort — investing in education,” said 25-year-old CCSF freshman Shirley Acuna.

Some 1,500 initially signed up to hear Sanders speak, exceeding the college’s seating capacity. CCSF spokesperson Jeff Hamilton said that 750 people received tickets to the event and watched Sanders from within the Diego Rivera Theater, two overflow rooms and a courtyard where speakers had been set up.

Following speeches by CCSF, San Francisco and student leaders, Sanders addressed federal cuts by President Donald Trump in health care, education, environmental protections and legal protections afforded to undocumented immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“We are in a very pivotal moment in American history,” Sanders said. “If there is anything positive we can say about Donald Trump — and there is not much — it is that he has made it very clear what the stakes are when we talk about the future of this country.”

Deeming it an “international embarrassment” that students “who want a higher education and are unable to get it” because “their family lacks the money,” Sanders praised CCSF. “Instead of denying people what they are entitled to, you are giving people exactly what they need,” he said.

GOP Leaders Confident They’ll Have Cruelty Necessary To Pass Healthcare Bill (theonion.com)

WASHINGTON—Increasingly optimistic that the callousness they required would be locked down by the September 30 deadline, GOP leaders were confident Wednesday that they will have the cruelty necessary to pass their new healthcare bill. “While we were nearly there on our previous attempts, with this go-around we’re all but certain we have the savagery we need for this measure to move forward,” said bill coauthor Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), adding that the utter contempt for the lives of middle class and poor Americans appeared to be “falling into place nicely.” “I’m not saying that lining up the wanton disregard for human suffering will be easy, but I’m more and more persuaded that it will be there when this bill ultimately comes to the floor.” At press time, Graham was meeting with several key undecideds, confident they just needed a bit more coaxing before fully pledging their inhumanity.

California high-speed rail: Everything you need to know (sf.curbed.com)

The $64 billion plan to bring 800 miles of track up and down the Golden State

Transbay Terminal in San Francisco.

 Photo by Patricia Chang

The proposed timeline on the later extensions of the project are foggier, but the state plans to add a 110-mile Sacramento extension, connecting to Modesto and Stockton on its way, and a 167-mile segment that snakes east from Los Angeles through the San Gabriel Valley to the Inland Empire, and eventually down south to San Diego.

Altogether, the train’s proponents envision the HSR as a much-needed boost to the state’s aging and overcapacity infrastructure. Though the state’s population continues to grow, our freeways and our airports cannot. And, aside from creating an alternative for long-distance travel, HSR will also provide funds for cities to better develop their own local transportation systems and integrate the HSR station into local transit networks.

 Union Station in Los Angeles.

Union Station in Los Angeles.

Photo by Benjamin Page | Curbed LA Flickr Pool

The train also figures into California’s aggressive goal to cut carbon emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, given the electric train is significantly less carbon-intensive than either driving or flying.

By 2040, the state estimates the HSR will eliminate up to 10 million miles of vehicle travel daily, as well as up to 180 short-haul flights.

Has construction already started?

Yes, it has. The High Speed Rail Authority officially broke ground on the project in Fresno back in early 2015. Since then, construction crews have have been working on a 119-mile segment of track in the Central Valley. For now, this means building out the track’s right of way and its necessary bridges, trenches, and undercrossings. The (sluggish) progress can be tracked online. But a drive along Highway 99, itself being realigned to accommodate the train, yields some encouraging views of the project’s future viaduct.

Individual cities across California have started preparing for HSR’s arrival. Notably, Fresno has rezoned the area around the city’s future station to accommodate buildings up to 15-stories tall, and has begun work on a pair of Bus Rapid Transit lines to connect the city’s northern and eastern flanks.

Los Angeles and Anaheim are moving forward upgrades to their one-day high-speed rail stations, and Caltrans is close to releasing its assessment of how to best integrate the HSR into the state’s transportation grid.

Closer to home, Caltrain’s electrification upgrade is being built with the expectation that the corridor will one day serve the HSR. And the Transbay Terminal is being built with the expectation (err, legal mandate) that the bullet train will one day arrive, though exactly how and when is one of the bullet train’s (many) unresolved sticking points.

Conceptual renderings of the California High-Speed Rail in Burbank.

Rendering of the California High-Speed Rail in Burbank.

 Rendering via California High Speed Rail

Rendering of the California High-Speed Rail project in San Jose.

Rendering of the California High-Speed Rail project in San Jose.

 Rendering via California High Speed Rail

I’ve heard it’s not going well. Is that true?

Funny you should ask. The California High-Speed Rail project is arguably state’s most controversial big public-infrastructure project. The fact that the train’s projected cost has mushroomed from approximately $40 billion when voters first approved the project in 2008 to about $64 billion in 2016 means a lot of people feel ripped off.

Doubly so for the fact that construction seems to be progressing at a painstakingly slow rate. An unreleased Federal Rail Administration risk analysis from earlier this year said the project was running significantly over budget and behind schedule, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Thanks to the deadly combination of California’s strict environmental laws, under which any individual or organization may file a lawsuit saying a project is violating the California Environmental Quality Act, and lots of very ticked-off people, the bullet train has been a magnet for litigation.

California Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature on the track at the 2015 groundbreaking.

Photo via California High Speed Rail

About six suits have been filed relating to the Central Valley portion of the route, and it’s only natural to expect more will come as plans for exactly how the train will snake through the Bay Area and Southern California materialize over the next year or so. In July, the state Supreme Court affirmed that state environmental law definitely applies to the train, despite an argument made that more lax federal law should usurp state environmental regulation for state-owned projects.

Also, the train has fallen victim to abjectly political attacks. Earlier this year, a cabal of California Republicans lead by Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy penned a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, asking her to withhold roughly $650 million of federal grant money allocated for Caltrain’s electrification because of the corridor’s eventual intended use with the HSR.

In McCarthy’s words, “We think providing additional funding at this time to the [California High Speed Rail] Authority would be an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars.”

Aside from that, the train is a frequent target for more sweeping legislative change on the state level. A statewide ballot proposition last November not-so-subtly targeted the train by proposing a constitutional amendment to require voter approval for “megaprojects” costing more than $2 billion. Another potential amendment on the ballot next June could derail the one of the train’s funding mechanisms.

Should we be hopeful?

If there’s one certain thing about the bullet train, it’s that its future has been clouded in uncertainty from almost the very beginning—at least judging by its treatment by the state’s press.

It’s important to remember, however, that voters approved the project by a comfortable 600,000-vote margin. And an opinion poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California in May of 2016 found that 63 percent of Californians still considered the bullet train “important” for the “future quality of life and economic vitality of California,” compared with just 35 percent who did not think it is important.

The biggest question for the train, however, is money. Litigation, aside from being costly in its own right, leads to construction cost increases from contract change orders and the prevailing cost increase of labor and materials. Add in the combination of lower-than-expected revenue from California’s cap-and-trade program and a presidential administration that, at times, seems hostile to California’s very existence, and things start looking grim for the bullet train.

The state ultimately hopes the high-speed rail project will generate enough revenue to cover operating costs once construction is complete. Once the plan moves closer to completion, they anticipate funds from private donors.

Let’s be optimistic.

Public Bank feasibility study money approved!


September 19, 2017

Berkeley Matches Oakland’s Request!

Tuesday September 12th, the Berkeley City Council voted by consent to provide the $25,000 that the City of Oakland requested to match their $75,000 toward funding a public bank feasibility study. The feasibility study is the first step toward establishing a public bank.

Tonight, September 19th, the Oakland City Council Meets. Fingers crossed that the Council will authorize the study.

There is more good news. The City of Richmond may later help fund this feasibility study, making this a three-city effort.


Public Bank feasibility study money approved

September 20, 2017

It only took about year after it was proposed for the City Council to
approve the money for a feasibility study, and they did it last night without debate and
unanimously. This after Berkeley coughed up $25K to fund a portion of the study (a bit more
than their per capita share would suggest, but close enough).

So hurray!

Now we will see what further roadblocks the City staff and City
Treasurer will throw in the way of actually signing the contract and getting the study underway…

–JP Massar

“What Role Do Artists Play in Gentrification?” by Peter Moskowitz

  • Bushwick Avenue in Brooklyn, 2017.
    Bushwick Avenue in Brooklyn, 2017.

SEP 11TH, 2017 (artsy.net)

In 2015, Los Angeles-born artist London Kaye hung a large, crochet depiction of three children inspired by Wes Anderson’s movie Moonrise Kingdom and the twins from the 1980s thriller The Shining on a building in Bushwick next to the popular Bushwick Flea (an upscale flea market). She captioned the corresponding Instagram post with the hashtags #yarnbomb, #streetart, and #bushwick.

A few weeks later, Will Giron, a lifelong New Yorker and tenants’ rights activist, came to visit his aunt in the neighborhood. It was her building that had been yarn-bombed, and Giron was angry. Kaye had not asked permission to hang her work and when Giron complained to her and the head of Bushwick Flea, Rob Abner, he was met with a strong response: Abner threatened to call the Department of Health on his aunt, who sells Salvadorian food outside of her building, and said Giron should be grateful, because the crochet art would likely increase the value of his aunt’s property.

To Giron, it wasn’t only about the art. He felt like his family’s neighborhood was being overtaken by white outsiders, lured in part by Bushwick’s new creative scene, which didn’t care about the desires of those there before them.

“It was really about agency,” Giron told me recently. “People come in and act like they can do whatever they want. Kaye wouldn’t have done the same thing on Long Island or in a white neighborhood.”

Giron’s aunt can afford to stay in Bushwick because she owns the building she lives in, but Giron has watched as his friends have moved on, priced out as average rents increased by 44 percent in 20 years (the only thing preventing them from increasing beyond that is the relatively large stock of rent-controlled housing). In their place has come a flood of outsiders, most of whom are white; dozens of art galleries; hundreds of artist studios; and everything else associated with gentrification—fancy bars, restaurants, and clothing shops.

Giron said he would have less of a problem with gentrification if it brought rewards for the neighborhood’s long-time residents, but if you look in the galleries of Bushwick today, it’s clear that “the voices they amplify are the upper-middle class people,” he said. “You have artists coming in, they use Bushwick as their portfolio, and then force us out.”

Giron’s story went viral in New York media because it encapsulated a seemingly new problem: artists in the city being vectors for massive rent increases and widespread displacement. Some Bushwick activists have even called gentrification a new form of colonization.

In 2015, Bushwick was indeed in the midst of an influx of gentrifiers, but the trope of artist-as-gentrifier goes back much further. In 1984, an essay called “The Fine Art of Gentrification” was published initially in the journal October, and covered many of the same issues in the East Village that Giron later experienced in Bushwick: galleries as white-majority spaces that gave developers reasons to buy up land; the fear of original residents being priced out; a local press fawning over the new “revitalization” of the neighborhood; and insensitive artists benefitting from it all. “Who cares” about gentrification, art critic Kim Levin is quoted saying in the article, “as long as they’re trying to show good art.”

The idea of the artist-as-gentrifier has staying power because it carries truth: Artists do often move into low-income communities of color, and bring with them gentrified aesthetics and commodities like $4 coffee. But the trope also hides nuance. Artists indeed participate in gentrification, but they are not its sole cause. To understand how art influences gentrification, and how artists can help fight against gentrification, we need to see a fuller picture.

The first piece of the puzzle to understand how art became so linked to gentrification is acknowledging that there were artists before gentrification: People of color and lower-income white people were living in cities and making art well before the term gentrification was coined by sociologist Ruth Glass in 1964. New York and San Francisco were seen as bastions of progressive and avant-garde art throughout the 1950s and ’60s, without much fuss being made about art’s effect on real estate values.

Two things changed that. Different kinds of people began moving into cities, and the art market grew tremendously, becoming increasingly professionalized and linked with global finance.

After World War II, the U.S. federal government essentially created suburbs out of thin air by subsidizing the mortgages of millions of Americans. But the mortgages came with conditions. Houses had to be single-family, and the mortgage owners in many cases had to be white: The federal government would draw maps of cities with red lines around neighborhoods with too many people of color to be eligible for mortgages. This process came to be known as redlining.

Redlining not only depressed the economies of inner cities, it created an entirely new kind of people in the suburbs—the white middle and upper-middle classes. For the first time in American history, the majority of white people were living largely privatized lives in single-family homes, without many community spaces or diversity, a lifestyle that reinforced the ideal of the nuclear family, with a stay-at-home mom and a working father. When the children of that economic and cultural experiment we now call “white flight” looked around, and decided they didn’t like what they saw, they began moving back to cities. In the 1970s, New York, San Francisco, and every other major urban center began experiencing an influx of a new kind of white person—one raised with the aesthetic, economic, and spatial values of the suburbs.

“Pre-gentrification cities were places people came to get away from the constricting values of American life,” Sarah Schulman, the author of Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination (2013), told me over the phone. “The suburbs produced a different kind of person that brought a completely different ethic and value system to cities. You used to get the rejects and the resisters. Now you’d get the products of an unnatural environment of hetero- and racial supremacy.”

In the view of Schulman and others, suburbanization unleashed on cities a deluge of artists who cared more about marketable aesthetics than about art that could create social change.

Simultaneously, between the 1970s and today, art itself became further entrenched within capitalism. The art market is now worth $45 billion a year, dozens of times its size a few decades ago. And big-ticket MFA programs have become seen as near-necessities for success in the art world.

According to Schulman, MFA programs essentially sort artists by race, class, and aesthetic, determining “who will be allowed into the reward system.” When (mostly white) art graduates move to cities, they come with a mentality of needing to win in the art market.

“A young, white artist could move to New York and decide not to move to a gentrifying neighborhood, or decide not to move to New York at all, but instead they decide to impose themselves on a place like Bed-Stuy,” Schulman said. “It’s a currency move—they see it as a way to access power, because other white artists, and people who run the art market, live there.”

Rising real-estate values also create a feedback loop for the art market: You have to be wealthier to live in places like New York these days, so artists in gentrifying cities create art that sells for more money, which creates an art market less concerned with the social value of art and more concerned with aesthetics that appeal to the wealthy, which feeds into an MFA system that creates more market-oriented artists, who then move to cities and produce aesthetically pleasing but conceptually vacuous art.

Writer Rebecca Solnit calculated in her book Hollow City: The Siege of San Francisco and The Crisis of American Urbanism (2000) that someone would only have to work 65 hours a month at minimum wage to afford an apartment in San Francisco in the 1960s. That means people had a lot of free time to make unprofitable art. Today, it’s nearly impossible to find an apartment in San Francisco for less than $3,500, which equals about 350 hours of minimum wage work. That forces people who want to be artists to either rely on other forms of support (e.g. family wealth), or produce art that could potentially bring in a lot of money.

Chris Myers, 29, is a black playwright, filmmaker, and actor who grew up in New York, and is currently working on a comedy series about gentrification. He’s said seeing the gentrification of the uptown Manhattan neighborhoods he was raised in fills him with a profound sadness. But he said he’s not as angry at gentrifying artists as he is at the system that brought them to New York.

“They’re part of this education-industrial complex,” he said. “They get a BFA or an MFA, and move to New York. But most of these schools are mediocre and don’t prepare people to actually succeed in the arts or acting. They’re here taking up valuable space because they’ve been led, almost criminally, to believe they can succeed when they can’t. Their parents float them rent for a couple of years, and then they leave, or they end up working in a non-creative field. Meanwhile they’re taking up the housing of families that were here before them.”

But artists cannot gentrify on their own. While white artists from MFA programs are often in a relatively privileged position compared to the working class populations of U.S. cities, they do not have the power to build condos, change zoning laws, and give tax breaks to corporations. State intervention is the often-forgotten part of the artist-as-gentrifier puzzle.

  • Janet Delaney, 10th at Folsom Street, 1982. Courtesy of ClampArt. San Francisco over three decades later is a very different place, with apartments under $3,500 a rarity.
    Janet Delaney, 10th at Folsom Street, 1982. Courtesy of ClampArt. San Francisco over three decades later is a very different place, with apartments under $3,500 a rarity.

Researchers have long identified four distinct stages of gentrification. The first is when the artists, so-called hipsters, and other individuals move into a low-income neighborhood and start repairing its often vacant structures. The fourth is when gentrification is mostly carried out by developer conversions and an influx of business or managerial middle class. But in my recent bookHow to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood (2017), I argued there’s nearly always a stage 0, when a city opens itself up to gentrification. The authors of “The Fine Art of Gentrification” found that government grants and tax breaks to developers were a necessary component of the East Village’s gentrification-by-art in the 1980s. The artists wanted to be there, but they needed government assistance for permanent change to really take hold.

“There’s an unconscious collaboration between artists interested in living in gentrifying cities, and the market forces and developers who benefit from them,” Becky Amato associate director of Civic Engagement Initiatives at the Gallatin School at NYU said.

Similarly, the conversion of SoHo from factories to artists lofts (and now high-end retail space) was not a natural progression. Sharon Zukin, the author of Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change (1982), a landmark study on artists and gentrification published in the 1980s, found that most manufacturers would have stayed in SoHo were it not for city-sponsored rezonings and law tweaks that allowed artists to create live/work spaces, and the tax breaks that incentivized the conversion of industrial spaces into residential ones. And Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn could not have gentrified to the same degree as they did if it weren’t for Mayor Bloomberg’s 2005 rezoning of 170 blocks of the neighborhoods, which allowed high-density luxury housing to rise across both. That rezoning pushed up prices in the area, and pushed a lot of artists to neighboring Bushwick, where some end up yarn-bombing the houses of long-time locals.

Artists in 2017 are still so closely associated with gentrification because they often participate in it. But gentrification is so common, so widespread these days, that artists—once the first-wave “pioneers” of neighborhoods—are often no longer needed. Cities are skipping the first few phases of gentrification, and going straight to the top-down development part, plunking new condos in abandoned parts of Detroit, Cleveland, New Orleans, and virtually every other mid-sized American city. Often these projects come with some of the aesthetics that hark back to artist-led gentrification. Developers will hire street artists to cover a new condo in depoliticized, decontextualized graffitiKara Walker was hired by Creative Time, whose co-chair is also the head of multi-billion dollar development company, Two Trees, to create a work of art at the former Domino sugar factory in Williamsburg, a real-estate project that had become a focal point of anti-gentrification activism.

But while art can be used to help gentrify a community, artists as a group are no longer a necessary part of the process—they’re no longer the “pioneers” that signal to other, richer people that a neighborhood is now okay to move into.

  • Kara Walker, A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, 2014. Photo by gigi_nyc via Flickr.
    Kara Walker, A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, 2014. Photo by gigi_nyc via Flickr.

“There’s been such a widespread culturalization and aestheticization of urban lifestyles that artists no longer have to show the middle and upper-class gentrifiers how to live,” Sharon Zukin said. In other words, we’ve gotten so used to gentrification, so accustomed to its look, its feel, its violence, that artists no longer have to lead other gentrifiers by the hand into the process; yuppies, developers, and everyone else feel comfortable doing it on their own.

Still, anti-gentrification activists say artists can work against the process that turns their lives and work into policies and projects that lead to displacement. A group of activists working on an anti-gentrification project in Boyle Heights, in Los Angeles, where an art gallery is currently embroiled in a development controversy, suggest that artists participate in housing activism, get involved with their local communities and refuse to use their art to promote spaces of gentrification—e.g. white-owned galleries and art spaces in majority-black or Latino neighborhoods. Sarah Schulman suggested that artists fight for rent control laws and more affordable housing, which would benefit both artists and the low-income people they threaten to displace.

Those interested in concrete ways to fight gentrification can start by reaching out to a local group, like the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network, San Francisco’s Causa Justa :: Just Cause, the Los Angeles Tenants Union, or the nationally focused Right To The City Alliance. Artists often work insularly and socialize mostly with others in the field. Combating gentrification may mean getting out of that bubble, and linking up with resistance movements which may have little in common with the art world, but which are in desperate need of help.

—Peter Moskowitz

(Contributed by Gwyllm Llwydd.)