Save the Vulcan! 200 working-class Oakland artists are crowfunding to save their homes and fight the-rent-is-too-damned-high

#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/03/03/tenants-unions-ftw.html

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#2

If there are 200 tenants and the building is for sale for $16 million, then that’s only $80,000 each. That’s a $450/month 30 year mortgage payment per person if they can coordinate the purchase.

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#3

“working class.” heh.

#4

Oh, that’s it?

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#5

Plus the millions needed to bring the building up to code…

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#6

Would you mind elaborating on that?

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#7

Law of unintended consequences can be a bitch. Say the tenants win here. Is that going to encourage or discourage other property owners to allow the creation of new live-work communities?

As themule suggested, having the tenants buy the place, even if they have to pay for upgrades, could affordably secure the property forever. Avoiding a bad rep for artists would be a bonus.

#8

What are the arguments for protecting people in this situation, stopping gentrification in general?

I certainly have sympathy for people being priced out of their homes, but I’m struggling to connect the dots from “The rent is too damned high!” all of the way to “Government, intervene on my behalf, prevent the building owner from reaping the rewards of their investment”

What are the legal arguments here that make sense in our capitalist framework?

The quoted text, frankly, nudges me in the direction of dismissing the residents. Hearing “Artists! Creative types! Circus Performers!” makes me less sympathetic on the whole. Why is the residents occupation relevant? Does it strengthen their argument in some way I haven’t detected? Does the occupation of these residents make them more worthy of legislative intervention than fast food workers, janitors, teachers and the rest who are also facing this sort of pressure?

#9

Is the Vulcan in the same state of disrepair as was the Ghost Ship? I really don’t want to donate towards a bad thing waiting to happen…

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#10

The Vulcan is in NO WAY similar to Ghost Ship. We are zoned live/work, have a multi-milllion dollar sprinkler system, fire alarms (with very regular tests) and have regular inspections. The Vulcan (like a lot of East Bay warehouses) has been above board for decades.

The costs associated with purchase will mostly be the roof/drainage/water damage related.

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#11

The govenment already intervenes in the housing market in huge ways. Housing is far from a legit free market. There is a rent control ordinance in Oakland that covers a lot of people, our basic argument is that the Vulcan was given an exemption to the ordinance incorrectly.

I don’t think that occupations matter and if there were a community of 200 janitors, teachers or fast food workers living in the same building and facing a 50% rent hike or flat out eviction from homes they’ve had for decades, I’d give them donations and encourage you to do so as well.

If we can get rent control, the building will still be profitable, rents can still get raised (but only by a percentage based on economic growth in the area). It’s just that developers typically don’t want modest profit, they want maximal profit with no consideration for peoples’ homes and families.

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#12

Care to expand on any of these points? I’ve been procuring housing (apartments, homes) for myself and my family for ~3 decades, don’t think I’ve ever benefitted from[1] (or even encountered!) such a program. It’s certainly felt like a free market in my experience.

Well… Doesn’t everybody want that? I don’t price my services with consideration for people’s homes and families in mind. Nor do any of the services I consume. Whether it’s my cable bill, groceries or landscape service, they all seem to have figured out what the market will bear and then charge that amount (more or less). Waggling your finger at developers specifically seems a strange choice to me.

Don’t get me wrong… I’d love to live in an actual socialist commune, maybe even more than you would. But that’s not the framework we live in. Asking the legislature to give you millions of dollars in value (at a cost to somebody else) with the wave of a gavel definitely causes me to raise an eyebrow.

[1] The major exception that occurs to me is the mortgage interest deduction. While it definitely doesn’t split evenly across class lines, it’s without question governmental interference in the market. And, for the record, it makes no sense to me and I think it should be abolished. Why should the government be in the business of incentivizing home purchases anyway? Look where that got us a decade ago.

#13

Government intervenes by incentivizing home purchases, providing laws about when/how/who can be evicted, zoning, inspecting for building code/fire code… etc… prosecuting landlords who take advantage of disabled people, providing streets and parking enforcement around housing… it goes on. This is the specific thing we’re looking for: https://www.oaklandca.gov/topics/rent-adjustment-program

When did I suggest I wanted to live under socialism? We aren’t a socialist commune and don’t want to be one. If we can ideally buy the place ourselves it just means that we have some stability and a home for the foreseeable future.

No, not everyone wants to maximize profit at the expense of peoples’ homes. I wouldn’t want to be a millionaire if it meant that I had to treat people like garbage. Not every decision you make in life has to be about maximizing profit. While it makes a very simple decision making process, it is not the same thing as ethics. I’m sure this libertarian argument is played out on all sorts of other sites. No one is forcing you to donate, we’re doing fine without your support.

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#14

Uh, so people can afford to buy a home instead of renting.

#15

Rich-ish people can. That’s not going to make any difference for the people who need help the most, and it is downright counterproductive in a housing bubble.

From my perspective, it’s a tax break that I get, but the folks in this story don’t get. Why should that be?

#16

. . . which is exactly why the residents of the Vulcan want to place the building under rent control.

#17

That’s a mighty targeted response to the problem though, don’t you think?

These 200 individuals get an advantage by wiping out millions in value from their landlord. Doesn’t strike me as a solution that scales.

#18

Maybe.

These 200 individuals get an advantage by wiping out millions in value from their landlord.

Boohoo. The building has been used for residential purposes prior to the laws allowing landlords to claim an exemption to rent control regulations, and all the Vulcan’s artists are doing is seeking to eliminate that exemption. If the building’s been used as a residence, and zoned as such, and the owner has advertised as such, well, it’s hard to claim it isn’t.

Doesn’t strike me as a solution that scales.

I don’t care. Perfect is the enemy of the good, and we neither need nor have time to wait for a perfect solution to this very real, immediate problem.

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#19

Well, yeah, it is targeted. That’s why the fundraiser is Save The Vulcan, not Save the World. And, as I mentioned, the rent ordinance has been on the books for decades and according to our contention, the Vulcan should have had it applied to it from the beginning. We’re not destroying capitalism, just asking for a hearing on a law that already applies to thousands of other homes in Oakland.

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#20

This is a critical and new detail/explanation to the conversation (I wasn’t able to parse any meaning out of a prior comment using the term exemption)

If there’s an existing framework that supports the position, then I’d have found an argument leading with that to be much more compelling. I don’t have the least interest in what these people do for a living, or how much cultural value they’re adding to the community.

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