Instead of enjoying the live music and culinary delights as thousands of attendees did during this year’s Roseland Cinco de Mayo Festival, Irma García spent hours on her feet collecting signatures to get a rent control and just cause eviction initiative on the November 6 ballot, to remedy a housing crisis that Sonoma County residents have faced before the October wildfires.
As a volunteer for the electoral initiative promoted by North Bay Organizing Project (NBOP), García said she collected 143 signatures during the event, however the organization’s mission is to gather at least 9,000 signatures from local resident voters before the end of June.
While the city lost 5 percent of its homes during the wildfires which generated an automatic increase of housing demand, García acknowledged the extensive impact that it’s caused on the undocumented immigrant community, a population, she said, is detached from local politics and whom greatly resents the lack of housing.
“We are facing a big challenge. While we are currently dealing with outrageous housing payments, things are bound to get worst. Unfortunately when I approach my own people, they immediately show no interest, when this issue should be taken very personally,” García said, while surrounded by a festive atmosphere with women dressed in traditional multicolored blouses, Mexican flags raised in the air and people dancing along to music at the parking lot located between Sebastopol Road and West Ave.
The measure proposed and given to sign to local voters, states it would “prohibit landlords from evicting tenants except for specified reasons, and would limit the increases in residential rents.”
While Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order in April to extend the prohibition to raise the cost of rent by more than 10 percent until December 4, voters in the city of Santa Rosa rejected Measure C in the 2016 elections – a measure that was approved by City Council and later real estate agencies pushed it towards the ballot with the help of external funds, where the voters went against it.
Measure C stated that rent increases for about 11,100 apartments built before February 1, 1995 in Santa Rosa would be limited to 3 percent annually, and would also require owners to give a reason to evict tenants and in some cases, pay for the moving expenses.
Amy Pinto, NBOP volunteer at the Roseland celebration, said it was her first time collecting signatures for an election campaign and explained her reasons why: “I want to live in a city where families can live and not have to send all of their check towards rent. I’m honestly worried about City Council approving this measure and then money from outside made it reach the ballot where we lost.”
Ana Horta, a social worker who also offered her time to collect signatures said she has clients who have been displaced from their homes because of the rent increase, while others have been evicted without a cause. “The impact that this issue has had on families is really atrocious and it does not seem fair,” Horta said.
Despite the fact that the grassroots campaign has no budget and volunteers are promoting the proposition with few resources, Horta keeps a positive attitude: “Because of the fires and the huge lack of housing, the problem has become much more evident and I’m sure people will be willing to support the initiative.”
Volunteers and NBOP members will continue to walk the streets and gather at Santa Rosa’s public spaces as a way to invite the population to sign the petition and to get it to this year’s electoral ballot set for November 6.
Noticias y eventos desde la región vinícola del norte de California para la comunidad latina.
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