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Fri Mar 20, 2015, 01:38 PM

Privatizing Public Housing: The "Genocide of Poor People"

Last edited Fri Mar 20, 2015, 03:45 PM - Edit history (3)

I thought the racial profile of Berkeley's gentrification was bad (black population reduced from 30% to 10%). Apparently the "white-washing" of urban renewal in San Francisco was even more drastic - from 13% to 6%.


The statistics:


"...urban renewal . . . means Negro removal." - James Baldwin. But today that means privatization means "cleaning up" the poor people so the rich white people will want to buy condos from rich big property developers.

In Berkeley our local City Council is totally in the pocket of these big property developers already. One of the infamous ones, Panoramic Interests, repeatedly offers to partner with some "public" or historic site such Gaia books (classic feminist bookstore), the Fine Arts Cinema (once run by Pauline Kael, famous film critic for The New Yorker), or the old Center for Independent Living building (ground zero for an important aspect of the Disability Rights Movement that includes a neglected but historic mural). In each case Panoramic Interest uses this "civic preservation" aspect to get the City Council vote (or at least to help make the City Council vote look good), but then they buy out the public/historic partner once they've cut the deal.

I attended a City Council meeting this week where one of the members had literally sifted through books of old obscure city laws to see if she could patch together a resurrection of a "criminalization of poverty" laws that the voters of Berkeley have REPEATEDLY rejected. By finding similar laws already in existence, she could just pass them on to the city manager to look at how to more "effectively implement" the existing laws at the BEHEST OF THE BIG PROPERTY DEVELOPERS instead of bothering with what those pesky citizens wanted. The measures were not referred to any city commissions, including the recently set up (for show only?) taskforce on homelessness. The measures were not referred to any experts on the matter such as the numerous nonprofits that provide for the needs of the homeless and indigent poor and the world class University of California at Berkeley that has whole thinktanks dedicated to the matter just 5 blocks away.

Despite the stealthy way they City Council attempted to get these repeatedly rejected gentrification measures enforced, word got out and an outraged citizenry showed up for the next City Council meeting, armed with legal and academic testimony, video of targeted police abuse, and articles about how such laws had failed in other cities. At the end of the night the City Council simply ignored the feedback from their citizens and passed the "already existing" obscure laws on to the City Manager for review anyway.

Who does the City Council represent? Obviously not the people of Berkeley who are being displaced from their housing right and left, and swept out of the way if they happen to rest on a planter - getting in the way of an aesthetic sales pitch of a condo huckster.

Last month I went to the Mayor's State of the City Address practically across the street from where I live. Rather I spied on it from outside - I couldn't get one of the "free" tickets that were ostensibly offered online. The few people who left the supposedly sold-out talk were dressed to the nines and did not seem like the same people who attended the City Council meetings I had been to before. I wonder if the State of the City Address had more of the tone of a "Shareholders Meeting" for some of those Big Property Developers. This is just speculation since I didn't recognize anyone at all except for the Council Members and some of the city commissioners.

Sorry to go on about Berkeley again - I have lived here for over 25 years, and it is the only "case study" I have direct experience of. However, I think what I'm witnessing is a City government that has been captured by Big Property Developers and the interests of "privatization" - and the experience of Berkeley (decline in black population, displacement of the disabled and the elderly because of chaos in the low income housing market, indifference about the evaporation of programs and services that meant survival to the poor and now create crazy and tortured living conditions) should give an example of why the path of privatization is the undemocratic path and the inhumane path.

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Reply Privatizing Public Housing: The "Genocide of Poor People" (Original post)
daredtowork Mar 2015 OP
daredtowork Mar 2015 #1

Response to daredtowork (Original post)

Fri Mar 20, 2015, 03:29 PM

1. Kick - people should at least check out the eviction map. nt

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