Youth Skolaz Report: Permit Gangstas


Tiny - Posted on 18 February 2020

Author: 
DeeColonize Academy Youth

Below are the reports from the DeeColonize Academy youth skolaz on the POOR Magazine meetings at City Hall trying to challenge the impact fees being imposed on Homefulness. Here is a petition on our behalf.

Photo: DeeColonize Academy youth skolaz learning about the law for self-advocacy at the Alameda County Law Library

 

Permit Wars

by Akil Carrillo

 

In December 2019 the building process of Homefulness #1 was halted after the Permit Gangstas (City Officials) said that we had taken too long and our permit had expired. When we went to find how to fix this they said that we needed to pay 27,000 in Impact Fees. Now if you don’t know what an Impact fee is, I’ll tell you. An Impact Fee is a fee that people pay so that the money goes to affordable housing, WE ARE BUILDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING! We also have to start from the beginning and start on zoning. 

 

We have always paid their fees without problems but now we could not just let this pass by. After community pressure and Wesearch we were able to get a 30-day extension and with that extension we are trying to finish everything we can in the construction and we are continuing our Wesearch. In this search, we met up with Lia Azul Salaverry who is the Policy Analyst and Community Liaison of Nikki Fortunato Bas. We explained to her our situation and one of the biggest issues is that it took 8 months for the fire sprinkles and the irony of the Impact Fees.

 

In this conversation, Lia Salaverry said something that surprised me. She said “We are also wondering, what is happening with Impact Fees?” Meaning that not even city council employees know where the money of Impact Fees goes. This could end up being a bigger issue. In this conference Leo Stegman who was also there was trying to explain to Lia Salaverry that “This is not a career, is a lifestyle”. He was telling her that we aren’t Berkshire Hathaway building buildings for profit, we are Homefulness building houses for people. We are doing this because of stuff we have experienced not because we want to start a business, it’s because we want to help ourselves and others.

 

Lia Salaverry suggested that we meet up with Bobby Lopez who already knows about us and that she would be there for us in other meetings. Tiny gave an example of what most people think of us. “Ew, you’re the poor people. You must be hiding something.” So Lia will help those judgments leave by supporting us.

 

These last few weeks have been fast-paced and busy. We have all been trying to finish the houses. After everything we’ve done, including a mini protest in front of City Hall, the city still demands us to pay the impact fees. Keep in mind that the Impact Fees are only a small part of the payments. We still have to pay for inspections, construction supplies and the permits themselves. This experience was one of the many that show how disorganized the system is. And this is why Poor Magazine exists. To fight it.

Conference meeting/complaint(protest)

by Ziair Hughes

It feels like a normal day. But First detective Ziair Hughes and his classmates go on an adventure. We go to city hall to get justice for our project. 

Back Story: December 2019. The building process of homefulness has stopped community projects (town houses) that started in 2018. We successfully started but that is not going well mid way. These townhomes are for “low income, no income, low wage, no wage '' homeless people and people that need support. And because the city officials members said that we (poor magazine) were taking too long, and our permit had expired, and they said that we had to pay 27,000 for impact fees and that doesn’t make sense because we are making affordable housing for poor people that can’t afford and that need affordable housing. So we went to the city council to protest and fix the problem that had occurred. At the protest we prayed, did the four directions and spoke about our problems. All of the youth skolarz and adult poverty skolaz spoke and we got our point across to the community. 

 

Quotes

Conference meeting with Lia Salaverry district 2 (policy analyst & community liaison):

“This is not a career this is a lifestyle”  Leo Stegman 

“Ew, you're the poor people.you must be hiding something” Tiny

“I'm really here to listen to what you have to say about homeless” Lia Salaverry

“This is a family run project we don’t roll with the CEO's “ Uncle Mueteado (co builder)

“Built by the people and it’s for the people”  Leroy Moore

”Doesn’t understand the model to unsell mama earth” Tiny

“And how we get this this project moving forward” Lia Salaverry

“They have lived separately but live together as a community” Charles

“Black people and brown people that have land but it was foreclosed” Tiny

(at the protest) “I’m Ziair. Because of these fees and the process to build and try to work with conscious legislators to exempt poor and homeless people from these huge fees and impossible requirements which make it impossible for homeless and poor people to manifest our own solutions and stay in our neighborhood communities and will be kicked out by gentrification.” - Ziair

 

opinion

In conclusion: thanks to the community and poor members /poor/ homefulness was able to get a thirty-day Extension to shut down but in this crisis, the homefulness project realized  we have to speak out but we are still fighting because they want us to pay other fees and they do not care if we are trying to do good by the community. Even when we pay their fees when we don’t have the money we still pay the fees being poor people because they are the government and they don’t give any empathy they just want “bloodstain dollars.” And to say we have to pay permits for our own people doesn't make sense as with apply pressure like the community we will be able to get this house done. But if we were gentrificaters it we would be looked at different but sense we are poor people they treat us different. Story by ziair hughes 

 

Meeting With Lia Azul

by Tiburcia Garcia

 

“The concept is that those fees are pulled then allocated to fund public housing.” Those were the words of Lia Salaverry, the community liaison and policy analyst under Councilwoman  Nikki Fortunato Bass, talking about the impact fees that we were there to discuss that afternoon. She looked as confused as us when we told her the fee that, like she said, was used to fund public housing (i.e below market rate or affordable housing) was charged to us, a poor and homeless people-led building project meant to house other poor and homeless families for way below market rate. After many long years being charged exorbitant fees for every single small thing that has the name “permit” in it in the process of building homefulness, a $27,000 Impact Fee, meant to help poor people who need to be housed, was the final straw for us in Homefulness, who right now barely have enough money to afford the utility bills for our current residents. 

Phase 2 of the Homefulness Project, the 4 townhouses that will be converted into 8 units that will house homeless and low-income families was started in 2016, and us being poor builders with very little experience in the contracting game, had no idea how much it would cost to be allowed to start building things. Yes, we knew about permits, and yes we were aware they were going to be a lot of money, however, as we ventured further and further into this project, and faced more roadblocks and obstacles, we realized how profitable the business of permit licensing really was. Every step along the way was a bill, and we finally, after 4 years, are putting a stop to this. 

“Homefulness makes sense, because it's built by the people, for the people,'' said Leo Stegman in the meeting with Lia. On Tuesday, February 4th, 2020, the students of Deecolonize Academy along with the residents of Homefulness and most of the Homefulness building crew, (which conveniently happens to be Homefulness residents) launched a movement by press conference, in order to prevent poor and low-income builders from being stopped completely by the giant wall which is the Impact Fee, which was designed to help them in the first place. We spoke about how the fee is impacting us, as a grass-roots and government grantless movement, and demanded change within this system that is designed to push aside us poor people with every move. We then asked for support from whoever was watching and listening, because all of us are people from the streets housing people on the streets and the city is shutting us down. 

Lia Salaverry agreed to support in any way possible and also was planning to report back to Councilwoman Bass. In my eyes, she looked like she understood the struggle we were going through, and did want to help in any way. But how much she is going to help is yet to be decided, because before there have been a lot of people with access who claimed they were down and were going to help us yet never returned our calls after the first meeting. I'm only hoping that when Lia reports back to the councilwoman the councilwoman will see the evidence presented in front of her that this is unjust, and this money making scheme has to stop, at least for the people who the supposed fee was designed to help.  

By doing this action we are trying to put in effect a change in the impact fee, saying that it will no longer be charged to the people it is supposed to help, and that there are gray areas in the legislation that put it in place, and there are no accidents in government so those gray areas must mean something, that the gray areas be cleared, and the money from the fees that is taken from the big companies is actually given to fund affordable housing, like Homefulnesses, that are yet to be built.

“We need your office to come to our neighborhood, and see what we are doing.” Leroy cut in, and his sentiment was reflected in everyone's faces. We left the meeting hoping that we would see some changes, and were immediately disappointed because as soon as some of the homefulness building crew went to the permit office, they were slapped in the face with a matter-of-fact statement claiming Homefulness still owes the 27,000 dollar Impact Fee. After all of our fighting, and even though it is too soon to tell whether or not Councilwoman Bass will be on our side and back us up to get the impact fee boot off of our neck, but as well as the Impact Fee we also have continuous smaller fees like a 529 dollar bill allowing us to put water meters, not even covering the expenses for the water meters, just allowing us to put them there, so this fight is still going. We always say here that Homefulness isn't a utopic dream or something we wish to do one day, it is something we are currently doing and struggling with.     

 

 

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