Over the course of the Bay Area League Day on February 19th, 2022, presentations and panels, including State Senator Dave Cortese, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, and more, helped facilitate an engaging discussion about both housing and climate issues.
“It is far too easy, especially in the state of California, to become homeless,” Richmond Councilmember Melvin Willis, the keynote speaker. said as he opened the discussion by naming the historic bills AB14 and AB2, while calling attention to the current eviction loopholes that exist in these housing bills that make it easier for tenants to be evicted. Willis also brought up the Housing is Key program, which works to “support folks with rental assistance or utility assistance” and for which over 650,000 people in California have applied.
• The first panel, The Latest in Land Use – from Federal, State, to Local, included: Thomas Silverstein, Associate Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Ken Kirky, ‘All Home‘ Chief Partnership Officer; City of El Cerrito Councilmember Janet Ableson.
Silverstein spoke about the impact of recent housing legislation. He explained that, “now that a lot of Bay Area jurisdictions are doing their first housing elements since AB686 passed in 2018, we’re starting to see assessments of fair housing being produced as a requirement of state law.” He also mentioned that the Biden administration has a process of “reinvigorating affirmatively furthering fair housing” after the Trump administration’s attack on it. The idea of affirmatively furthering fair housing “really focuses on dismantling segregation and other barriers to housing for protected groups,” Silverstein said.
The Regional Impact Council (RIC), led by Kirky, consists of elected officials from around the region, experts on affordable housing and related issues, members of the business community, and people from the public, philanthropic, and nonprofit sectors. Together, they came up with the Regional Action Plan, the goal of which is to reduce unsheltered homelessness by 75% by 2024.
• The second panel, Save the Planet with Land Use!, included: Melissa Breach, YIMBY Senior VP and COO; Sarah Karlinsky, ‘Housing as Infrastructure’ author; Amanda Brown-Stevens, Executive Director. Greenbelt Alliance; Graciela Castillo Krings, Sacramento Advocates.
During the panel led by Breach, attendees heard a lot about the intersectionality of climate and housing issues. As Brown-Stevens put it, “if you look at our greenhouse gas emissions, even at a national level, transportation is about a third of these emissions.” She explained that a huge reason why these emission levels are so high is because people can’t afford to live near where they work. Everyone on the panel agreed that infill housing is one of the best things we can do that addresses both housing and climate issues, and also gives people living in communities a better quality of life.
Additionally, Graciela Castillo Krings spoke to the issue of how race and socio-econmonic status impact the housing crisis. She pointed out that, during COVID, low-income, as well as Black and Latinx communities were hit the hardest, and as a result, struggled with housing the most.
After the Lunch Break, Amanda Brown-Stevens discussed the ‘Resilience Playbook and Wild Fire Mapping’
• The third panel, Calculating Carbon Footprints and CoolClimate Network, included: Dr. Chris Jones, Director of CoolClimate Network; Ben Gould. Co-founder and President of EcoDataLab.
• The Closing Panel, Housing Landscape in 2022-23, included: Moderator Micheal Lane, SPUR State Legislative Director; State Senator Dave Cortese and State Assemblymember Buffy Wicks.
During this event, several important and relevant issues were brought up during the discussion and everyone who spoke shared perspectives that pointed to what we would like to see happen in the future.
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