Here is what Board of Supervisors President Damon Connolly thinks about Senator Wieners SB827 and other housing laws.
Damon's full January 9, 2018 address
Friday, January 19, 2018
Thursday, January 18, 2018
CASEY MADDREN 08 JANUARY 2018
PERSPECTIVE--Over the past year or so our legislators in Sacramento have let it be known that they aren't happy with the pace of development in California's cities. As housing prices continue to rise, traffic continues to worsen, and the reality of climate change becomes ever more apparent, the Senate and Assembly have decided that local jurisdictions aren't doing their job and that the State needs to intervene.
In 2017 the Legislature worked feverishly to pass bills that would restrict local authority over land use. Now they're starting off 2018 with SB 827, a radical effort to override local planning, claiming it will ease the housing crisis and get more people riding public transit. In reality, it will do neither.
SB 827 is the brainchild of State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). It would exempt residential projects that include a percentage of low-income housing from local zoning restrictions if the project is within 1/2 mile of a major transit stop or 1/4 mile of a high-quality transit corridor. This means that local requirements regarding height, density, floor area ratio, and design review would no longer apply. The idea is to promote high-density residential construction along transit corridors. Wiener and many others argue that this would not only ease the housing crisis by producing new units but would also encourage transit ridership, thereby reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
SB 827 is meant to further Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), a policy that state agencies and local jurisdictions have been pushing for years. In theory, TOD seems like a great idea, and the fundamental principle is sound. If you focus residential development along transit corridors it makes access to trains and busses easier, thereby taking cars off the road and cutting GHG emissions. What's not to like?
But there's a big difference between theoretical outcomes and cold, hard reality. The Los Angeles Department of City Planning (DCP) embraced TOD long ago, and invokes it frequently when arguing for high-rise projects anywhere near a transit corridor. So how has that worked out? Not so good. Despite the fact that thousands of new units have been built along LA's transit corridors over the past decade, transit ridership is lower than it was 30 years ago, and it has declined for the past three years running. This is especially disturbing when you realize that LA County (the area served by the MTA) has added over one million residents during that same period. It's not just that transit ridership hasn't increased, it hasn't even kept pace with population growth.
Don't take my word for it. Check out the recent report released by UCLA's Institute of Transportation Studies, "Transit Ridership Trends in the SCAG Region.” (SCAG stands for Southern California Association of Governments.)
While the report covers all of Southern California, the data show that LA is leading the region in lost transit ridership. So as City Hall approves one skyscraper after another, making the claim that TOD will save us all, the number of people actually taking busses and trains has plummeted.
The report provides much valuable insight into what's happening on the transit landscape. While local and regional officials have enthusiastically promoted large scale development, claiming that these projects are transit friendly and will reduce traffic, in reality, per capita vehicle ownership in the SCAG region has risen dramatically since 2000. During the 1990s the region added 1.8 million people and 456,000 household vehicles, or 0.25 vehicles for every new resident. But from 2000 to 2015 the region added 2.3 million people and 2.1 million household vehicles, or 0.95 vehicles per new resident.
But that's just Southern California. Maybe things are going better up north? Not really. With the fervent support of Bay Area officials, developers have been having a field day in San Francisco and beyond, building thousands of new units and claiming the increased density will boost transit ridership. But here's a quote from Vital Signs, a web site maintained by regional agencies which provides info on Bay Area transit:
"While featuring one of the nation’s most extensive public transit systems, the Bay Area has not experienced significant growth in transit ridership over the past few decades – with residents primarily shifting between bus and rail modes. This has resulted in crowded conditions on BART and Caltrain, while suburban buses have lower utilization than in years past."
The site highlights the fact that per capita transit ridership in the Bay Area has declined by 11% since 1991. And while many have touted the fact that an increasing number of San Francisco households are car free, that doesn't mean people aren't using cars. A recent report from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority showed that people are making 170,000 trips via Uber and Lyft on weekdays. This amounts to 570,000 vehicle miles driven by Uber and Lyft cars on a typical weekday. Bottom line, in spite of all the TOD boosterism by San Francisco officials, lots of people are still using cars to get around.
So while state and local officials have been telling us for years that that high-density development will get people out of cars and onto transit, that hasn't happened. But what about housing? Even if SB 827 might not deliver on transit ridership, wouldn't it still ease the housing crisis by generating lots of new units?
We do need to build housing, but creating new units isn't going to ease the crisis unless they're accessible to middle-income and low-income Californians. While SB 827 makes the inclusion of affordable units one of the criteria for removing restrictions, the percentage of affordable units isn't likely to make a significant difference. Generally, density bonus incentives are offered on projects that include between 10% and 20% affordable housing. This means that the rest of the units are "market rate" (i.e. really expensive) and most likely to attract the demographic that owns and drives cars.
To make things even worse, research is showing that new development along transit corridors has been causing gentrification and displacement. The Urban Displacement Project, a joint effort by UCLA and UC Berkeley, recently released a gentrification map of LA. This research shows that high-density development near transit lines has pushed housing costs up and pushed low-income residents out of Chinatown, Highland Park, East LA and Hollywood. And anyone following the LA real estate scene knows that as soon as the MTA's Crenshaw/LAX Line was approved investors started diving into communities like Leimert Park and Inglewood. The result? More gentrification and displacement.
Putting all this together, it's hard to see how SB 827 will deliver any benefits either in terms of housing or transit ridership. And it's important to be specific about the reason why. It's not that TOD is a bad idea in itself. The problem is that despite all the talk, state and local policy has not been geared towards producing new housing that will increase transit ridership. In reality, what local governments have been doing is using the TOD argument to promote unchecked development.
In LA, City Hall has been shredding local zoning and offering developers generous entitlements while arguing that this will ease the housing crisis and promote transit ridership. The DCP has been telling us that they're planning for a new TOD era where people won't need cars. But what they've actually produced is a tangle of new planning initiatives, none of which mean anything because the City Council will sweep aside any zoning regulations in place for developers that have enough clout at City Hall. And the bottom line is that housing costs continue to rise while transit ridership continues to fall.
SB 827 will only exacerbate the situation. In cities across California we're seeing high housing costs, homelessness, worsening congestion, and declining transit ridership. The only way to solve these problems is through real planning. Creating plans that truly serve the needs of our urban communities is difficult, complex work. It means starting with hard facts rather than wishful thinking. It means doing neighborhood outreach instead of backroom deals. And it means engaging with communities in long, difficult discussions where all stakeholders have a chance to be heard.
The folks in Sacramento want us to believe we can forget about doing the hard work that planning demands and solve our problems with a quick and easy shortcut. Don't believe it. SB 827 will not solve the housing crisis or get more people on transit. It will only continue to fuel the speculative development binge that's crippling California's cities.
If you have a problem with Sacramento overriding local planning control, better contact your representatives in the State Senate and Assembly quickly. If last year's legislative session is any indication, developers and their lobbyists will be pushing hard for the passage of this bill. And it couldn't hurt to also call your local city officials to tell them you oppose SB 827. There's only one way for California to solve its problems, and that's through real planning. There are no shortcuts.
(Casey Maddren is a native Angeleno, and currently serves as president of United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles (www.un4la.com). He also blogs about the city at The Horizon and the Skyline.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
The “Build More Market Housing” Quack Miracle Cure for Los Angeles
DICK PLATKIN 11 JANUARY 2018
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Los Angeles is heading toward a perfect storm of gentrification, well-camouflaged behind spurious claims of boosting transit ridership and addressing LA’s housing crisis through zoning and environmental deregulation.
This perfect storm is propelled by huge tail winds from the State Legislature in Sacramento, with big city Democrats fronting for the real estate interests that fund and mentor them. San Francisco State Senator Scott Wiener and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti are their current favorites, but many more are lining up at the trough.
To begin, there is a treasure trove of successful programs that they could turn to if they really wanted to increase transit ridership and address the housing crisis, but they are totally mute on these options. As for their cheerleaders, their silence is also deafening since the following public programs are at odds with their “build more market housing” miracle mantra for LA’s urban ills.
Increasing Transit Ridership through the following is not on their to-do list:
Reduce fares, such the UK’s program to allow those over 60 to ride subways and busses for free, is a perfect model for LA. For that matter, the pols could look closer to home. Between 1982-85 METRO used Proposition A funds to reduce bus fares to 50 cents. As a result, ridership quickly rose. But neither politician nor their kindred spirits ever calls for fare reductions. Apparently, they cannot be used to promote real estate speculation.
Shorten headways. In cities like New York and London, some riders use mass transit apps, but it is seldom necessary because they know the next bus or subway car will arrive within minutes. Unlike LA, long headways and unreliable bus schedules are not an issue in those cities.
Make stations appealing. In transit-oriented cities like New York and Tokyo, subway stops have stores and amenities, unlike LA, where passengers cannot even find a bathroom or a newspaper vending machine.
Make bus stops comfortable. In LA, most bus stops only offer a sign or a “bum-proofed” bench. But, if every stop had a bus shelter, the bus riding experience would be vastly improved, especially during rains and heat waves.
Transform the neighborhoods around transit stations into Transit Oriented Districts/Communities. These include comprehensive planning and municipally funded public improvements for mini-parks and play grounds, enhanced street and pedestrian lights, bicycle lanes, boulevard trees, sidewalk repairs, zebra-striped cross walks, intersection punch-outs, and ADA curb cuts.
At subway stations and adjacent neighborhoods METRO and LADOT could add facilitiesfor buses, cars, vans, taxis and ubers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
Los Angeles could carefully monitor the transportation-related behavior of local residents and the demographics of transit passengers to determine which programs work and which do not.
Programs to address LA’s housing crisis:
The programs for fixing LA’s housing crisis are also well known, but are predictably ignored by the build-more-market-housing growth machine of real estate investors, building industry lobbyists, neo-liberal academics, Democratic politicians, and groupies. Their goal is to sweep away zoning and environmental laws that developers don’t like, not spend public money on unprofitable affordable housing projects. This is why they never call for the following:
Restore discontinued Federal housing programs, such as public housing projects, as well as 236 and 221d(3) subsidized apartments.
Vastly increase the funding for Section 8 housing. In Los Angeles, over 600,000 people want Section 8 housing, but only 400 people per year mange to get vouchers and move into affordable units.
Restore the Community Redevelopment Agency’s funding for affordable housing programs.
Transform LA’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance into a Rent Control This requires ending vacancy decontrol; applying rent control to all housing, not just rental apartments built before 1978; and restricting rent increases to the real cost of living.
Restore and establish public social service programs that treat homeless people afflicted by drug addiction and mental illness.
Increase wages in order to reduce economic inequality, a leading factor responsible for homelessness, overcrowding, and rent gouging.
Carefully monitor changing housing conditions, as mandated by the General Plan Framework, to determine which housing programs are effective and which are not.
But, instead of these obvious programs, Sacramento and LA’s City Hall have only provided us with real estate-related programs. hey may have different names, but they are united by a single purpose. Their goal is to sweep aside zoning and environmental laws disliked by real estate developers, so they can build what they want, where they want, regardless of the consequences. These ordinances include the following, with more on the way from the build-more-market-housing crowd’s current Wunderkind, Scott Wiener.
Pay-to-Play is still a reliable way for developers to build what they want because City Hall approves 90 percent of their applications for zoning waivers and General Plan amendments
Community Plan Updates are appended with lengthy land use ordinances that up-zone and up-plan hundreds to thousands of parcels at one time.
Density Bonuses are the local application of Senate Bill (SB) 1818, which allows, with no effective right of appeal, the waiver of many zoning provisions if developers promise to include a small percentage of low income units in their buildings. This ordinance is now being supplemented by a draft Value Capture Ordinance that would expand the zoning waiver options. Since neither ordinance contains any on-site inspection requirements, there is no way for the public or the City to verify that any of the new units are affordable and that their tenants are officially registered low income Angelinos.
Transit Priority Areas (TPAs) implement SB 743 in Los Angeles. This State law and its local implementation ordinance applies to nearly all of Los Angeles west, south, east of the downtown because all local parcels are located within a half-mile from an existing or proposed rail or bus stop. In those areas residential, mixed-use, and employment centers are exempted from two California Environmental Quality Act’s impact categories: parking and esthetics.
Transit Oriented Communities, the implementation of Measure JJJ, allows increases of up to 80 percent in the number of permitted units in exchange for an undefined inclusion of affordable housing units. Like similar programs, it, too, does not require any on-site inspections to confirm the presence of dedicated affordable units or qualified low-income tenants. Like Transit Priority Areas and the proposed Senate Bill 827, described below, this Los Angeles ordinance also applies to neighborhoods that are up to a half-mile from a subway and light-rail station or a quarter-mile from an Express bus line.
Transit Neighborhood Plans are intended to reduce zoning requirements at light and heavy rail stations, such as the Expo Line. While they are supplemented by streetscape plans, these off-site improvements are only unfunded guidelines. They are not backed up by any public funds covering the design, construction, operations, or maintenance of any streetscape features.
Re:code LA will eventually expand the list of permitted uses on most private parcels by eliminating the need for a variance to build non-permitted uses. Furthermore, even though re:code LA is billed as a zoning simplification program, it has already replaced the existing R-1 zone, which applies to about three-quarters of all single family homes in Los Angeles, with 12 alternate zones.
The Pitfalls of Scott Wiener’s Perfect Storm: The perfect storm headed toward Los Angeles is based on proposed legislation sponsored by State Senator Scott Wiener. His draft SB 827 bill grants a cost free and highly lucrative zone variance to private parcels up to a half-mile from a subway station and a quarter-mile from an express bus line. Any parcel in these “transit rich” areas that has received a “housing opportunity grant” will then qualify for the elimination of zoning provisions for design, building mass (Floor Area Ratio), some building height, and parking.
More specifically, in practice Wiener’s bill allows apartment projects that apply for an on-menu or off-menu density bonus -- as low as 5 percent -- to evade most zoning requirements in perpetuity. Since the City of Los Angeles automatically grants all density bonus applications, rejects all appeals, and never dispatches an on on-site inspector, this legislation will become a cornucopia for those who own private parcels zoned for apartment buildings. The value of their properties will soar. They can then sell them at an enormous financial gain, dodging new property taxes because of Proposition 13. As for new housing construction, most flippers could care less. What a deal!
While no one yet knows SB 827’s final provisions, we can already foresee its other major pitfalls:
Pitfall #1: Senator Wiener and his fan clubs have not given the slightest thought to the additional public infrastructure and public services that new transit-adjacent buildings and residents require. When the number of residents increases in areas near subway station and bus stops, these neighborhoods will need more garbage pick-ups, street sweeping, schools, parks, recreation centers, senior centers, libraries, emergency services, and so forth. The water mains, gas and sewage lines, and storm drains also need upgrading, as well as infrastructure for electricity and telecommunications. But since no planning or public funds are allocated through SB 827 for these many categories, we can expect a dramatic decline in the quality of life if/when the bill becomes a catalyst for new market-driven apartment buildings.
Pitfall #2: SB 827 does not include any on-site inspection programs. Angelinos will have no way to verify that the pledged affordable units that trigger de facto zone variances and a resulting real estate bubble are based on actual affordable units and low-income tenants.
Pitfall #3: We will also have no way to know, if as claimed by Senator Wiener, his financial backers, and his disciples, that people who move into new, transit-adjacent market and luxury housing will routinely abandon their cars to walk up to a half mile to catch a train station or bus. Furthermore, if this behavioral information is eventually collected, I predict that most well-off tenants will continue to drive their fancy cars for most trips. If so, SB 827 contains no repercussions if the new tenants seldom use transit or if the affordable units are soon rented out at market rates.
Pitfall #4: SB 827 would gut many transit corridor Specific Plans in Los Angeles, such as those on Ventura/Cahuenga Boulevard, Crenshaw Boulevard, and Colorado Boulevard, as well as the Vermont/Western Transit Oriented District Specific Plan. Years of planning that went into these transit corridor plans, that involved local communities and that integrate transportation and land use planning, would be summarily dumped. Since this legislation automatically purges Specific Plan provisions for height, FAR, design, and parking, it moves LA in exactly the wrong direction. These transit corridor Specific Plans should be the model for future planning in Los Angeles, not discarded by a real estate industry bill in Sacramento.
Pitfall #5: Because SB 827 treats transit corridors as accessories to real estate speculation, it will heavily politicize transit planning. Developers will heavily lobby transit agencies to ensure that the corridors they want to gentrify will be upgraded to express bus service or rail. At the same time, some communities interested in protecting low-rise apartment buildings already housing frequent transit users would be forced to bizarrely lobby for downgraded transit service. After all, if their bus service falls below 15-minute headways, then SB 827 would not apply, as well as Transit Priority Areas and Transit Oriented Communities.
Pitfall #6: SB 827 ignores the many proven public programs -- described above -- that would actually boost transit ridership and address LA’s housing crisis.
My conclusion about SB 827, by itself, and in combination with the land use ordinances I reviewed above, is that it is one of the dumbest pieces of planning legislation I have encountered in over three decades of city planning. Like all miracle cures, it won’t work. It might make some landowners and landlords rich, but it will not increase transit ridership or reduce the cost of housing.
(Dick Platkin is a former Los Angele city planner who reports on planning controversies in Los Angeles. Please send any comments or corrections to firstname.lastname@example.org.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
|Time to re think the micro apartment idea.|
Editor's Note: In Marin County the new standard for micro apartments is 220 square feet or roughly the size of a one car parking spot. See Can we build cities out of apartments the size of a parking space?
I remember in my college days, there was a guy in the dormitory that we called, "Socks". He was so named because his room stank of dirty socks. His personal hygiene was less than optimal and his diet consisted of Domino Pizzas and beer. Though he was friendly, he lived alone because no one could stand to live with him. He never dated. His room was the standard size but "Socks" room seemed impossibly small and cramped.
When I see articles about "micro apartments", I often think of "Socks". How would you like to move in to your expensive eco-friendly apartment only to find "Socks" as your next door neighbor? Even if you were a ultra neat, germaphobe, your next door neighbor, "Socks" would foul your air, imposing his slovenliness into your life.
No micro apartments for me, thank you. I will deal with the longer commutes and enjoy a little sunshine. My Prius gets me to work just fine with less hassle and faster than a bus.
Now, fresh from the hearing on Public Nudity, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors are considering a 150 square foot minimum apartment size. They are capping occupancy to two people per apartment.
Sounds like an interesting way to get rich. Subdivide small apartments into tiny micro apartments. Furnish with Ikea cabinets, granite countertops, sleek european style fixtures and a flatscreen and murphy bed and Voila! Triple your money.
Not good public policy, though. More people in smaller places mean more stress on the public infrastructure-water, sewer, police, fire, traffic, garbage. More people=more pollution.
More photos and story SF Supervisors Back Micro Apartments
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement
of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent
encroachments of those in power than by
violent and sudden usurpations."
— James Madison,
of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent
encroachments of those in power than by
violent and sudden usurpations."
— James Madison,
address to the
Virginia Convention, June 16, 1788.
Come to the Plan Bay Area meeting from 6-9 PM at the Marin Civic Center Veterans Auditorium and Exhibit Hall on Monday, April 29th.
|Jimmy "Fishbob" Geraghty, famous troll on the Marin IJ is proud of his 2013 video.|
Since Fishbob produced this video, Governor Moonbeam Jerry Brown has passed a law on Cow Farts. see more HERE
Marinwood Priority Development Areas are back under SB827 with 55'-85' apartment buildings on Las Gallinas
Although the above Map is a crude overlay, the real zone for high density housing is all Land East of Las Gallinas in Marinwood. Developers will have THE LEGAL RIGHT TO BUILD HIGH DENSITY HOUSING EVERYWHERE in this area under SB827 and the public will have no right to stop them. What will this do to school enrollments, water, police and fire ? Who will pay for infrastructure improvements?
The genius who cooked this up is Senator Scott Wiener, a housing industry sponsored politician from San Francisco.
|Senator Scott Wiener at the Folsom Street (S & M) Fair. He sure plans to give suburbs a beating.|
Monday, January 15, 2018
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY
Martin Luther King, Jr. is an unparalleled figure in the civil rights movement, but less well-known are the civil liberties lessons of his life and activism.
As King came to national prominence half a century ago, the pre-digital technology of the era did not stop the federal government from prying into his private life with the goal of undermining his civil rights work.
King’s heroic advocacy of equality and opposition to the war in Vietnam put him on all kinds of government watchlists. The FBI called him the “most dangerous Negro of the future of this nation,” assessing him in terms that sound more reminiscent of a terror threat than a pastor leading nonviolent protests against institutionalized racism.
That “most dangerous” phrase is from an FBI memo penned immediately after King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. That memo also concluded that “it may be unrealistic to limit ourselves as we have been doing to legalistic proof or definitely conclusive evidence.” In other words, the FBI had decided that King was a dangerous communist, and it was determined to proceed with illegal efforts to discredit his movement regardless of the fact that there was no actual proof to justify its actions.
The agency discussed “how best to carry on our investigation [of King] to produce the desired results without embarrassment to the Bureau,” including “the avenues of approach aimed at neutralizing King as an effective Negro leader.”
And a few months after the dream speech, the FBI began, in Director J. Edgar Hoover’s words, to “intensify our coverage of communist influence on the Negro.” That took the form of wiretapping King’s phones and bugging his hotel rooms. The agency further disgraced itself by sending King a letter trying to badger him into suicide and harassing King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, in an attempt push her towards divorce.
The NSA spied on King, too, under a program called Minaret. Originally introduced as a way to keep track of terrorists and drug traffickers, Minaret evolved into a project for monitoring Vietnam War critics like King.
This appalling civil liberties history demands attention today more than ever. Indeed, as Alvaro M. Bedoya argues inan excellent piece at Slate today, “We now find ourselves in a new surveillance debate—and the lessons of the King scandal should weigh heavy on our minds.”
Bedoya documents a pattern of federal surveillance being unequally applied to racial and ideological minorities in America—Japanese Americans during World War II, for example, and Muslim Americans in the wake of 9/11. Mass spying is an affront to all Americans’ right to privacy, but as King’s story demonstrates, it’s far more likely to victimize some types of people:
There is a myth in this country that in a world where everyone is watched, everyone is watched equally. It’s as if an old and racist J. Edgar Hoover has been replaced by the race-blind magic of computers, mathematicians, and Big Data. The truth is more uncomfortable. Across our history and to this day, people of color have been the disproportionate victims of unjust surveillance; Hoover was no aberration. And while racism has played its ugly part, the justification for this monitoring was the same we hear today: national security.
The way our government spied on MLK and other civil rights leaders must not be forgotten as we continue the modern surveillance debate.