North Bay leaders want to cap skyrocketing rents

Posted by: Gordon on 10/7/2015

A local reporter shot this video of NBOP leaders and allies marching for rent stabilization earlier this year. Since door-knocking during a civic engagement campaign last fall uncovered massive gentrification, the group has been working to make the local economy work for everyone in the region. (from YouTube, by ELOÍSA RUANO GONZÁLEZ / The Press Democrat)

While knocking on doors last year, leaders from a North Bay Organizing Project member church met neighbors in a Santa Rosa, CA apartment complex whose rents were about to go up by $500 a month—rats and rodents included.

That turned out to be an important indicator of a potential tidal wave of gentrification and displacement in Sonoma County. Twelve months later, thanks to NBOP, Santa Rosa is drafting a rent stabilization ordinance for consideration later this year.

Santa Rosa has a 1 percent vacancy rent for apartments, and monthly rents have gone up an average of 10 percent a year for the past 4 years, says North Bay president Omar Medina. As an eligibility worker employed by Sonoma County, he’s even seen a few cases of families whose rent increased by 40 percent in a single year.

Gentrification is “creeping up from San Francisco and the Silicon Valley” to Sonoma County, Medina says: “Big money is displacing families and allowing this area to become a playground for the rich. We want to lead the way in preventing it from getting any worse.”

The trend became obvious after that first encounter in Santa Rosa last year, he adds. “The whole crisis became much more visible – people started sharing their stories about what was going on,”

Over the past year thanks to NBOP and other groups – homeless activists who have camped out in the area as well as allies who joined NBOP on a march led by Aztec dancers to city hall this summer -- word about what’s happening has spread.

So far NBOP has gotten Santa Rosa City Council to agree to hire a consultant who will help develop a rent stabilization ordinance and just cause eviction procedures. The ordinance will be voted on later this year.

They also have created a “which side are you on” moment for the community, which is the theme of their upcoming public meeting. The meeting will focus on public services for the public good, advocating rent stabilization as well as a call for continuation of subsidies to cover the cost of busing to and from school for area students.

“We’re trying to focus on two things: share the story of what’s happening here as it pertains to our elected officials, and simultaneously getting people to share their stories,” Medina says. “It’s about how we use our resources and the role that government plays in the lives of our people.”

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