California’s Diverse Communities Need Real Solutions to the Housing Crisis

By Adam Briones
Los Angeles Daily News

California is in the midst of a profound housing crisis. While reasonable people can debate solutions, no one can argue that today’s housing market works for anyone but millionaires. Even before the COVID-19 recession, skyrocketing rents made it difficult for even middle-income Californians to make ends meet, and astronomical home prices have pushed the dream of homeownership almost completely out of reach for people of color.

For too long California has failed to deliver the kind of effective housing reforms our diverse communities need. Rather than reasonable solutions, a stark ideological choice is often presented to voters: you can support more targeted low-income housing or the production of market-rate housing, but not both. If we want to remain a growing state that welcomes everyone, we need to move beyond simplistic narratives and accept that our state needs all kinds of housing for all kinds of Californians. At the same time, we also need to recognize that Black, Asian American, Latino and other communities of color were purposefully blocked from the way in which most American families have built wealth—homeownership.

Beginning in the 1930s, public and private sector leaders prevented diverse families from renting or buying into White neighborhoods, otherwise known as redlining. When courts invalidated explicitly racist laws decades later, cities and towns across the country restricted the construction of multifamily housing — a more legally defensible way to keep out families that might “change the neighborhood character.” Since systemic racism requires systemic solutions, any path out of our housing crisis has to address the wealth that was stolen from our communities and what reparations could look like.

Today’s housing crisis has profoundly impacted people of color, which make up more than 60 percent of our population. Our state has six of the nation’s 11 most expensive large metropolitan rental markets and more than two-thirds of Californians facing unaffordable housing costs are people of color. The average rent in Los Angeles has jumped 65 percent since 2010 and the real estate research firm CoStar noted in April that “the coronavirus outbreak won’t fundamentally alter Southern California’s severe housing shortage, which continually tilts the playing field in favor of landlords and owners.” The result is low-income, often immigrant families across the state living in unsafe, overcrowded homes, with no path to homeownership.

First, we must dramatically increase targeted affordable housing resources to help very low-income families and those experiencing homelessness. The private market will never adequately serve these folks and it’s important we make that explicit.  At the same time, making the process to build quality housing fairer will lead to more affordable rents and home prices for the nine out of ten Californians who live in market-rate housing. For this to happen we need our elected leaders to pass legislation that will support diverse housing types and end “one-size-fits-all” building restrictions. A number of important bills in Senate President Pro Tem Atkins’ housing production package can help. Senate Bill 902 and Senate Bill 1120, among other current bills, will help create more of the small-scale housing development California needs and they should receive strong support. But more needs to be done to address affordable homeownership.

Earlier this month, Assembly Bill 3155, a bill focused on creating more entry-level homeownership opportunities by streamlining the creation of smaller projects, was sidelined in the Assembly. Specifically, it would have made it easier to build developments with 10 or fewer units—the kind of projects corporate builders turn down but that are a good fit for small firms owned by people of color and immigrants. While that bill is dead, the principles can and should still be incorporated by Pro Tem Atkins into existing legislation, including speeding the creation of smaller buildings aimed at working-class homebuyers.

Public policy excluded people of color from neighborhoods and homeownership opportunities for generations, contributing to a wealth gap where Black and Latino families have only ten percent of the wealth white families have. By 2040, our state will be 70 percent people of color and our leaders must ensure greater opportunities for affordable rents and homeownership now and in the future. There is no excuse for further delay.

Adam Briones is the Director of Economic Equity at The Greenlining Institute, a policy, research, organizing, and leadership institute working for racial and economic justice.

Greenlining Applauds Small Business Relief in California Budget

Assistance Marks “Ray of Sunshine in a Rough Year”

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – The new state budget about to be signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom provides important relief for hard-hit small businesses, The Greenlining Institute said today. The help will be especially important for entrepreneurs who are people of color or women.

The budget includes $100 million to support the California Industrial Bank’s loan guarantee program that provides financial assistance to small businesses. It also expands of the first-year exemption from the $800 Minimum Franchise Tax normally required of LLCs, a provision which sunsets in three years. The LLC fee waiver will boost small business creation by low and moderate-income entrepreneurs, who tend to be disproportionately people of color and women, by giving them the same ability as wealthy entrepreneurs to protect their personal assets in case their business fails.

“These provisions represent some small rays of sunshine in a really tough budget year,” said Greenlining Institute Economic Equity Director Adam Briones. “As our state faces one of the worst economic crises we have seen in a decade due to COVID-19, and the racial wealth gap only continues to grow, it’s more important than ever that small businesses owned by low-income people of color have all the help they can get in both building new assets and protecting what they have. Ultimately, this means more jobs and prosperity in communities dealing with unprecedented economic challenges.

“We want to thank Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula, who is a continual champion for California’s vulnerable, diverse small businesses, for his important leadership on these issues.”

To learn more about The Greenlining Institute, visit


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute


Transit Cops Could Lead Police Reforms

By Joann Muller

Urban transit agencies are rethinking how they prevent crime and maintain order following nationwide protests over racial bias and police brutality in the death of George Floyd and others.

Why it matters: Transit police — an often overlooked arm of law enforcement — are the ultimate beat cops. They’re positioned as potential leaders in the effort to defuse anger and rebuild trust in cities where there’s renewed interest in the concept of community policing.

Instead of treating fare evasion or homelessness with arrests and prosecution, some transit agencies are experimenting with more compassionate responses to try to address the root causes of those problems.

  • At the same time, agency officials argue a strong police presence is necessary to prevent serious crime and to boost declining ridership.

Context: Even before COVID-19, public transit ridership was falling, due in part to competition from Uber and Lyft, but also because of safety concerns. Many transit systems have sought to beef up their police presence to soothe passengers’ worries.

  • New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, for example, in December voted to boost the police presence in the subway by 20% over the next four years.
  • But critics say a crackdown on fare-jumpers and homeless individuals looking for shelter in stations often targets people of color and low-income people.
    • One example: In February, Metro Transit Police in Washington, D.C., came under fire for handcuffing and arresting a 13-year-old boy, renewing complaints that they unnecessarily target black passengers for detainment and questioning.
    • “Fare enforcement essentially is criminalizing being low income. And you can say exactly the same thing about transit police who are charged with clearing out homeless passengers,” said Hana Creger of the non-profit Greenlining Institute, which focuses on economic and racial justice.
    • “These are just Band-Aid solutions for much deeper, much more entrenched problems than policing can actually solve.”

    What’s happening: Some transit agencies agree and are taking steps to defund their police budgets or adopt new approaches.

    TriMet, Portland, Oregon’s tri-county regional transit agency, announced this week it is cutting six police officer positions and shifting $1.8 million of its $16.2 million police budget to other community-based public safety efforts.

    • It will launch community-wide listening sessions and create an expert advisory panel on how to provide bias-free transit security.
    • TriMet will also begin piloting nonpolice solutions, such as mobile crisis intervention teams for mental and behavioral health issues.
    • The changes came after an independent review board recently found a lack of accountability by its multi-agency Transit Police and after Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler yanked the city’s officers from the transit agency’s police force.

In Philadelphia, transit police have begun using smartphones to stop fare evaders, a common problem that often leads to more serious offenses, Tom Nestel, chief of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), tells Axios.

  • How it works: When someone jumps a turnstile, the cashier alerts a SEPTA officer, who downloads video footage of the offender and blasts it out to the cell phones of other SEPTA officers waiting at stations downstream for the train to arrive.
  • If the accused gets defensive, the officers show them video proof, which Nestel called “a tremendous de-escalation tool.”
  • Instead of a $300 penalty, fare-jumpers get a $25 fine and another chance. If they’re caught skipping the fare four times, they’re banned from the SEPTA system and funneled into social service agencies to help with underlying problems like poverty or drug addiction.

The bottom line: As with any beat officer, transit cops’ daily engagement with the people who pass through their stations can keep more serious problems at bay, says Nestel.

On Juneteenth, Black Leaders Detail Lingering Obstacles to Change

‘It will take more than a holiday’: Incarceration, environmental degradation, lack of investment highlighted.

On June 19, 1865, over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army arrived in Galveston and issued General Orders, Number 3, which enforced the proclamation that all slaves were free. African Americans have celebrated Juneteenth since 1866, and there is momentum to make it a federal holiday.

The murder of George Floyd is the latest painful reminder that the simple act of ending slavery did not create equal citizenship for African Americans. On major issues of citizenship such as criminal justice, environmental justice, and economic fairness, Black people are still waiting.

In terms of criminal justice, Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts, and, although Black people make up 13% of the population, 30% of blacks in America are on probation or parole. Supervisor Shamann Walton, whose District 10 includes Bayview Hunters Point, experienced the criminal justice system firsthand through juvenile hall. He’s working to create lasting criminal justice and police reform with specific legislation and a plan, announced with Mayor London Breed, to redirect police funds to Black community initiatives.

“It starts with Juvenile Hall,” Walton said. “They are preparing young people for county jail. It’s a feeder into the prison system.”

“Mass incarceration is a continuation of slavery. They tried to keep black people from reproducing. And in the 80s and 90s, the war on drugs kept black people behind bars, which is definitely another form of slavery.”

“Then the prison industrial complex created free labor. It’s to abuse the oppressed for economic gains.”

Dalila Adofo, Bayview Hunters Point Community Air Monitoring Project Coordinator for Greenaction, finds proof of racial injustice in the quality of the air, water and earth that African American communities are born into. The leading indicator for living near waste dumps, toxic sites, and polluting freeways is race. (A recent study showed that climate change and environmental factors put pregnant Black women the most at risk.)

“Balance is key to me,” Adofo said. “When you look at nature you need balance. You need the right amount of soil and water and sunlight for gardening. We need a balanced diet to thrive.”

“There are plenty of resources—the need to be better or look better or be above other people is what messes everything up. The divisiveness has never worked. We have to be brave and strong and willing enough to envision a balance where everyone can thrive.”

Debra Gore-Mann, President and CEO of the Greenlining Institute in Oakland, which has worked on dismantling structural racism through equity-driven policy solutions, coalition-building, and corporate accountability for the past 27 years, believes “this is the moment to demand an end to racism in every corner of society and to hold those who deny us justice accountable.”

“We a need to continue to embrace solutions to transform the ways we invest in housing, education, employment and healthcare within our Black communities,” Gore-Mann said. “And finally, let us acknowledge that America was built on slavery, and the depth of it, and the trauma it caused and the wealth it created.”

When the “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa accumulated wealth fairly, however, the black community was met with fear, violence and the worst race massacre in US history.

“For centuries Black and Brown communities have been ravaged by the devastating impact of racist policies rooted in anti-Blackness,” Gore-Mann said. “The time has come to transform how our country addresses racism.”

Many protests, rallies and educational opportunities will mark Juneteenth in the Bay Area, including a massive shutdown of ports on the West Coast led by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. In terms of what Juneteenth can accomplish if it’s the one day a year the country seriously considers the legacy of slavery, though, the experts were unequivocal.

“The change is going to take more than a holiday,” Walton said. “We need real restructuring. Officers need to be convicted.”

“This should be every day,” Adofo said. “This is not a quick fix. This is generations of pain and hurt and being ignored.”

“My grandpa and I just talked about him being beaten in the Watts riots. These big movements have their place, but the needle won’t move unless people are having dinner conversations or work break conversations. If this is just marches, the needle will not move. If you’re serious about being an ally, it’s every day.”

Gore-Mann said The Greenlining Institute recently visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice as well as the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, both created by the Equal Justice Initiative.

“From the perspective of the memorial and museum, our whole racial past is tied up in and connected to slavery,” Debra Gore-Mann said.  “Juneteenth represents the emancipation from slavery.”

“We hope that the growing popularity of Juneteenth signifies a level of maturity by many Americans that the celebration of black achievement and black contributions is long overdue.”

Let’s Bridge the Digital Divide

By Gissela Moya

As COVID-19 has pushed many Americans online to work and attend school, we hear a lot about Zoom fatigue and other annoyances. But what about the tens of millions of Americans who either have only limited internet access at home, or no access at all?

Lack of internet access in some households and communities has long been a national problem. The pandemic has turned it into a national crisis.

It’s time to close our nation’s digital divide.

Millions of American can access the internet only through smartphones. That’s better than nothing, but plagued by serious limitations: Data caps and slower speeds greatly limit what users can do. And some important tasks — like filling out complex applications for employment or college admission — are much harder, given the limits of a tiny touch screen.

The nonprofit group where I work has been talking to folks here in California and elsewhere about life on the wrong side of the digital divide, which makes everything harder, especially education. We spoke to a high school student taking business classes who struggles to create and upload web design assignments on her smartphone, and an older woman who had to drop out of a professional management course because she had no way to do the course work online.

Fabiola Espitia, a counselor at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., told us about a recent high school graduate she counseled who couldn’t take an Advanced Placement exam due to lack of internet access. Others had their education disrupted when the pandemic forced the closing of a campus library, their only internet connection.

Unsurprisingly, the digital divide mirrors economic and racial ones. Last year, a Pew Research survey found distinct patterns in who lacks internet access at home. While 92% of families with a household income of $75,000 or more have a home broadband connection, that figure drops to 56% for incomes of $30,000 and below. While 79% of white households have a home internet connection, just 66% of black households and 61% of Latino households do.

Lack of internet access is a problem in urban and suburban homes, as well as in rural communities. And it is especially destructive when it comes to education. Overall, approximately 12 million students nationwide are affected by this digital divide, putting their futures at risk.

“Schools have shuttered and more than 50 million students have been told to head online for class,” wrote Jessica Rosenworce, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, while dissenting from the rosy conclusions reached by the FCC’s Republican majority in its annual Broadband Deployment Report. “This pandemic has demonstrated conclusively that broadband is no longer nice-to-have. It’s need-to-have.”

COVID-19 has shown us that the digital divide isn’t sustainable if we want all Americans to have a fair shot at success.

The FCC needs to do more to bridge the digital divide, especially in urban and suburban homes. Congress must act swiftly and decisively by providing federal funding to build a future-proof, all-fiber network that reaches every household in the nation, and eliminating state-level bans on communities building their own networks.

Ensuring that everyone in the United States has access to robust, affordable, high-speed internet access should be a national priority.

Gissela Moya is the Manny Garcia Technology Equity Fellow at The Greenlining Institute and co-author of Greenlining’s recent report, “On the Wrong Side of the Digital Divide.” This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.

Greenlining Institute Hails Wells Fargo Move to Link Executive Pay, Diversity Progress

Urges Other Banks to Follow Suit

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – The Greenlining Institute praised this week’s announcement  by Wells Fargo that it will take a series of concrete steps to boost diversity at decision-making levels, including tying executive pay to progress on diversity goals and creating a new diversity and inclusion position that will report directly to the CEO. The specific goals announced include doubling the percentage of Black leaders in senior management, currently reported to be six percent.

“This is what real leadership looks like, and other banks and large corporations need to follow suit,” said Greenlining Institute Economic Equity Director Adam Briones. “Over the years we’ve heard lots of positive rhetoric about diversity and inclusion, but experience shows that the only way to make real progress is through specific goals and an implementation process that has teeth. This should be a model for all banks and other corporations.”

Over the years, Greenlining’s research has found that while many banks have considerable diversity among relatively low-level employees, that diversity declines sharply at the senior management and board levels, where key decisions are made.

To learn more about The Greenlining Institute, visit


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute


This Urban Planner Has the Keys to a Safe Commute after COVID

By Adrienne Day

Mass transit is in crisis. Ridership has evaporated alongside confidence in a safe commute, and cities like New York are facing billions in transit-budget shortfalls. People who can afford cars are relying on them more than ever, a brewing environmental (and traffic) disaster. The solution is to get people riding again — but how do we do that when public transit still feels risky?

Urban planner, community activist, and 2019 Grist 50 Fixer Alvaro S. Sanchez has long promoted legislation to provide free public transportation for students, seniors, and other marginalized populations. This will be part of the systemic changes required to make transit safe for everyone (fare disputes are the number one reason transit operators call cops, Sanchez says).

“In the context of COVID,” he says, “we should be asking, ‘Who are the most vulnerable people using these services, and how can we make it the most accessible for them?’”

The coronavirus elevated the stakes, but Sanchez’s vision for safe, affordable public transport hasn’t changed. In this conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, he sketched out what that might look like.

Bring confidence to riders

Today, people need to feel a sense of security when taking public transit. I think a clear demonstration that transportation workers, who are often people of color, have access to PPE and are being protected from harmful situations will go a long way toward making riders feel confident that they can ride and not be exposed to the coronavirus. That could also help generate jobs for “attendants,” who could distribute masks and hand sanitizer and keep buses from getting too crowded.

Make the local connection

Then there’s the “first-mile, last-mile” issue, where public transit doesn’t get you exactly where you need to go. Pre-COVID, micro-mobility — such as scooter shares or bike shares — was really starting to play a role in the way that we connect people to mass transit. But there are some really big equity considerations around those technologies. For example, many require a credit card and smartphone to use them.

California is experimenting with both ride- and car-share programs. BlueLA uses electric vehicles and subsidizes its membership fees for low-income individuals. And EV ride-share service Green Raiteros connects mostly Latino and agricultural families in rural parts of the Central Valley to Fresno. Those programs have actually been very successful at replacing the need for those families to buy a car.

Help one, help all

A useful framework here is the idea of “targeted universalism,” something designed to help a subset of people that actually helps everybody. You could think of it as the curb-cut effect. Designing our sidewalks with curb cuts — the small ramps from a sidewalk to the street found at most intersections — allow people with decreased mobility to use streets safely. But it also helps people with strollers or shopping carts. It helps people on skateboards. It helps many people, even though the primary beneficiaries were people using wheelchairs.

These are the types of things to consider when I think what it would look like to develop a transportation system that all members of the black community felt they could use, without being exposed to police violence or discrimination. I would imagine that everybody else is going to feel really safe in that same transportation system. We need this in order to avoid a dystopian future where everybody’s going to just jump in their cars to get where they need to go.

Why diversity and inclusion programs often fall short

By Meghan McCarty Carino

Sephora closed its stores in 2019 to hold diversity and inclusion training for its employees. Following weeks of protests against police brutality, companies have made a renewed commitment to tackling systemic racism. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Major companies, including Apple, Estée Lauder and NBCUniversal made public commitments this week to improve racial equity in their organizations amid a national reckoning over systemic racial injustice. Most large companies already have diversity and inclusion programs, many of them decades old, replete with bias-awareness trainings, listening sessions and working groups.

But these initiatives often fall short of their stated goals and sometimes even make matters worse.

In her decades of work in banking and finance, Debra Gore-Mann has sat through her fair share of racial sensitivity workshops. As a Black woman, she’s often asked to share her experience of racism in the workplace.

“And I’m not going to sit in the room and say, ‘Well, you know, Charlie said this and that,’ and then I’ve got to go back to work, you know?” she said. “So I’m watching every word because you could just cut the tension.”

She’s now the president of the nonprofit Greenlining Institute, which advocates for more diversity in staffs and better inclusion practices to foster an environment where diversity thrives.

Such programs are often hampered, she said, by concerns about making everyone comfortable, which lead to sanitizing the issue.

“The discussion around white privilege and white fragility is too uncomfortable to have,” she said. “So they focus on how to make the workplace more comfortable for people of color, and you’re not really dealing with the underlying issue.”

Discussions about race at work also often end up putting the onus of sharing on the people who have already been hurt.

“It’s very traumatizing,” said Brianna McCullough, a program manager at Google who’s worked as an engineer at various other companies. “When you put that on Black people and people of color who are already at war, I think it’s just completely irresponsible.”

She said diversity and inclusion initiatives often mean a lot of extra emotional labor for people of color — being sent to conferences and recruiting events, often with little reward.

“It’s not valuable when it comes down to your review, but they want you to do that legwork and teaching other people how to treat you,” she said.

She hopes the current moment will inspire more white colleagues to take leadership on this work.

But these initiatives have sometimes been shown to make biases worse, said Kira Hudson Banks, a professor of psychology at Saint Louis University and co-principal of The Elephant and the Mouse, a business consultancy that develops custom diversity and inclusion programs.

“There’s going to be people for whom the mere conversation is going to raise their defensiveness,” she said. “It’s going to be perceived as a threat, and that might even further entrench their stereotypes.”

Banks said sustainable change takes time and commitment, and too often such programs are an afterthought, conceived quickly in a moment of crisis.

“We often think about diversity training as being the intervention, and we perhaps need to think about what comes before that intervention,” she said. “How do we prepare the environment to be able to fully experience the full potential of a diversity training?”

She recommends training programs last at least nine months to a year. After all, she said, the inequities we’re trying to solve are hundreds of years in the making.

Vigil for Black Lives in Downtown Oakland

By Jane Tyska
Mercury News

Several hundred people with masks and signs attended a vigil for black lives in Oakland Tuesday afternoon.

The vigil, which featured Aztec dancers performing a ceremony, took place on 14th Street outside of The Greenlining Institute, which co-hosted the event with Brown Folx for Black Lives. A large colorful community altar with pictures of George Floyd and others killed by police was erected, and community members were encouraged to place photos of their loved ones or other objects in memoriam.

Several people also spoke at the event, which called for the end of anti-black police terror and state-sanctioned violence perpetrated against black people and communities of color.

Greenlining stands in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives in calling for the divestment from police and reinvestment in healthcare, housing, jobs and education in black communities. The nonprofit’s goal is to ensure that race is never a barrier to economic opportunity.

“It is our hope that this vigil will uplift our community and help all of us embrace the power within ourselves so we can continue the steady march of collective action towards transformative change,” said Debra Gore-Mann President & Chief Executive Officer of The Greenlining Institute.

Vigil to Honor Black Victims of Police Violence Tuesday in Downtown Oakland

Brown Folx for Black Lives & The Greenlining Institute to Hold Remembrance in Front of Greenlining 360 Center

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 415-846-7758 (cell)

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – On June 9, on the day George Floyd is laid to rest in Houston, Brown Folx for Black Lives will join with The Greenlining Institute to hold a vigil to honor victims of police violence. The event will begin at 3 p.m. in front of Greenlining’s downtown Oakland headquarters. All who wish to honor a loved one lost to police violence are invited to join and to bring a memorial poster, flower, memento or photo to place on the community altar.

WHAT: Vigil to honor Black lives lost to police violence.

WHO: Speakers are still being finalized, but will include a variety of community voices joined by Olga Talamante, Executive Director Emeritus of the Chicana Latina Foundation, and Greenlining Institute President and CEO Debra Gore-Mann.

WHERE: The Greenlining 360 Center, 360 14th Street, Oakland.

WHEN: Tuesday, June 9, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.

SAFETY NOTE: In order to maintain safety, face masks and hand sanitizer will be available and social distancing is strongly encouraged.

To learn more about The Greenlining Institute, visit


A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute