Saturday, August 1, 2015

PEP Housing WANTS YOU to pay for THEIR parks Tax

Mary Stompe of PEP Housing objects to the change from a parcel tax to a per unit tax for the assessment for the parks.  Currently a small single family home and a large multiunit property pay the same amount.  Grady Ranch will have 224 units and is expected to house 500 plus people who will be using our parks. 

Marinwood CSD currently has about 1750 living units.  As of July 2015, a potential of 1000 plus non profit housing units may be built as the result of the Marin County Housing element.  Marinwood CSD is filled with retirees on fixed incomes and moderate dual income working families.  The huge influx non profit housing which pays very little in property taxes will place a huge financial burden on the community.  It is especially upsetting that many of our low income homeowners will be forced to subsidize wealthy developers and financiers in the form of higher parcel taxes.  Assessing taxes on a per unit basis is a small way to address the inequity.

It should be noted that Grady Ranch is not currently part of the Marinwood CSD and may opt out of our service district.  We suspect that the HOLLYWOOD PR machine of George Lucas will come out with headlines "Millionaire Neighbors want to tax the poor" or some such rubbish.  We welcome the discussion.  Maybe this time the press will look around to the community that will be shouldering the burden of the Grady Ranch "gift".

We welcome affordable housing that is financially responsible to the community.

Read the story in the Marin IJ HERE

Friday, July 31, 2015

Den$ity: People over profit in Portland

Real estate rage in Portland! Or, ode on a purple shed

Up for rent in Portland, February 2015: a tiny purple structure in someone’s backyard, apparently a converted garden shed. At 165 square feet, it had the same area of 5 sheets of plywood laying side by side. The price was normally $1200/month, said the ad, but could be reduced to $950 for renters interested in helping organize in the main house.
photo of a very small purple shed for rent as a dwelling
Screencap from the craigslist ad, posted on Facebook by Karl Lind.
Pop quiz!  Was this:
a) An outrage, fully worthy of its own often-hilarious Facebook group, “That’s a Goddamned Shed”? ;
b) a classical demonstration of the dynamics of supply and demand? ; or
c) a sign of grassroots creativity in housing?
Don’t answer that right away, because the Portland housing market is absolutely crazed right now. Anyone who tries to rent, buy, or sell here finds themselves in a surreal world where the formerly inconceivable is now, well, the norm. And in my opinion, the path back to sanity goes right by that purple shed.  With a few twists, such dwellings are a solution for urban density that’s radical and reasonable at the same time.
That purple shed ad is not unique.  Other recent craigslist ads have offered garden structures as residences. The competition for rentals has become so frustrating and ridiculous it’s inspired a whole new genre of literature, the satirical housing ad.  For example, as featured on Curbed, one ad offers a place with “Industrial feel with open floorplan,” while it pictures photo of a sidewalk with gray fence and box.
Satires like these have become common on forums like craigslist, reddit Portland, and facebook.  They’re wonderful relief from the real stress and pain of gentrification and densification.
But just beyond the comedy is rage.  There are dozens of examples, but here is the most visual one, a flyer stuck on a “For Rent” sign in the North Mississippi area of Portland:
picture of flyer on
Photo posted by facebook user Danny O’Connor.
Real estate isn’t just a financial topic in Portland, it’s an emotional one.  There’s a sense of betrayal among the kind of creative, idealistic people who helped make Portland desirable.  Rising rents are pushing many further to the fringes.  Portland is getting richer and whiter, according to a city report – does that mean some of its creative blood is leaving too?  On reddit and Facebook, there is talk of moving to Detroit, Chicago, or even, god forbid, Eugene.
In San Francisco, home to even more extreme housing prices, someone posted this clever lament for the old days.
photo of a milk-carton style flyer lamenting the loss of
Photo posted to facebook by Erika Knutson.
Perhaps Portland will have its own milk-carton victim soon — how about a prize winning barista on a tall bike?
Those looking to buy receive their own humiliations. Reports indicate that when bidding on a house, it is no longer enough to simply bid far above the asking price.  To beat out cash-laden investors, you must include a heartfelt letter/selfie combo demonstrating why you are most deserving.  Portland Monthly created a mad lib to help you get started.
a mad-lib style letter begging to be allowed to buy a house
Real estate Mad Lib! It’s just like being a kid again.
Meanwhile, those who already own houses can’t just hunker down and avoid the fray, because the city changes around them. Those in proximity to transit corridors watch one-story houses get demolished and turn into much bigger structures, which occasionally blot out the sun, as this piece of activist filmmaking, “Den$ity,” shows:

There’s a palpable sense of despair in “Den$ity,” among those trying to slow the juggernaut of densification and gentrification.
But from another perspective, this is what success looks like.  Decades ago Oregon and Portland made strategic long-term decisions in the interest of environmental conservation and quality of life, such as the creation of urban growth boundaries to prevent sprawl and save rural land, a commitment to transit, and (one of my favorites :) ) public ownership of the Oregon Coast.
And now it appears to have worked: Portland is a great place to live, and everyone wants to move here.  There is simply a lot of demand for housing and a limited supply.  A city report projects that between 2005 and 2035, the number of households in Portland will grow by more than 100,000.  Those people have to live somewhere.
Because the growth boundaries constrain development geographically, new housing supply in Portland often comes from “going up,” as in multistory apartment blocks, or “filling in,” as in vacant lots.  Projects likethis one, replacing a one-story house with a 3-story apartment building, kinda do both.
From this:
Photo borrowed from Portland Chronicle.
To this:
Photo borrowed from Portland Chronicle.
This is basically the plan.  The city is supposed to get denser, especially near transit.  No one in “Den$ity” seems to say it’s possible or desirable to stop densification.  But its citizens seem desperate for a way to steer Portland’s growth in a gentler direction — in particular, away from looming examples of “going up,” like this one.
Photo borrowed from Portland Chronicle.
“There [has] to be a happy medium,” says a Richmond neighborhood resident in the film.

9 words that shook Seattle: Are our zoning roots really racial?

9 words that shook Seattle: Are our zoning roots really racial?

by Eric Scigliano79 Comments

Homes on Queen Anne (2002) Credit: Carl Alexander/Flickr

UPDATE, 6/20/15, 12:32 p.m.: Following publication of this article, the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project posted a response to the HALA report’s citation of the project, noting that “essentializing all single family zoning as inherently racist is unhelpful for understanding the role of racism in housing markets, past or present.” More on this statement following the article.

Sometimes a few words take on a life of their own, at once transcending and summing up the document that contains them, at least in the public’s mind. The Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) presented last week by a city select committee, and promptly endorsed by Mayor Ed Murray, contains one such zinger: “Seattle’s zoning has roots in racial and class exclusion and remains among the largest obstacles to realizing the City’s goals for equity and affordability.”

That claim quickly flew around the local media and blogosphere. Seattle Globalist quoted it as authoritative. Seattle Times columnist Jon Talton cited it and a few more lines as “a useful jumping-off point” for discussion, and the Times’ Danny Westneat repeated it without comment. It got further play in a Times news story,, the Seattle Bubble real estate blog, the national Next City blog, development lobbyist Roger Valdez’s blog, and Publicola, which then rephrased it more baldly and pointedly inanother piece: “The city’s traditional SFZs [single-family zones] had a racist and exclusionary past.”

This was the sort of carry-though a publicist would kill for. None of these outlets questioned the premise or conclusion. Crosscut’s David Kroman did note thecombustible nature of the language, and Knute Berger (also of Crosscut) told readers the statement was “incomplete and inflammatory” — until the HALA editors fixed it by removing the words “single family” before “zoning” in an earlier draft. The point, he explained, was that “while racial and class inequality have been major factors in shaping the city, it is not a problem in single-family neighborhoods alone.”

That’s not the point. There are a few other problems with that resonant HALA statement, even post-edit. First, it’s still inflammatory, and may still serve as a preemptive silencer for anyone who questions any of the HALA report’s premises or conclusions: Do you want to be called “racist” as well as “NIMBY” and “entitled”? Second, it’s unsupported by the only evidence it cites. And third, judging by the historical evidence and the explanations I’ve received from the report’s authors, it’s not true — just truthy in a Colbert Report kinda way.

The HALA report conflates two trends that were concurrent but distinct in Seattle: public zoning – laws dictating what could be built where – and racially restrictive covenants. These were private conditions, typically written by developers or real estate agents and attached to property deeds, that dictated who could and couldn’t live where. Starting around 1924 and peaking around 1928, no fewer than 414 neighborhoods in and around Seattle instituted covenants excluding what were then called the “Ethiopian and Malay races,” and occasionally “Hebrew persons.” A subdivision in what’s now Clyde Hill allowed only “persons of the Aryan race.” These private covenants extended not just where you’d expect – Broadmoor and Windermere and tracts across the North End, West Seattle, and suburbs – but parts of Capitol Hill and Beacon Hill, Hillman City in the Rainier Valley, and Squire Park on the west side of the Central District.

A footnote to HALA’s “racial and class exclusion” phrase directs readers to a “discussion of racial restrictive covenants in Seattle.” This is a page on theSegregated Seattle site of the University of Washington’s Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project, edited by UW historian James Gregory, a respected authority in the field. Gregory didn’t respond to email or phone messages, and reportedly has declined to discuss the HALA report on the record. But I did speak with Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, a professor in UW’s College of the Built Environment and scholar of Seattle’s urban-design history, and he affirmed my reading: “The footnote refers to something that does not say what the report says. You will not find on that website any place that says Seattle’s zoning is racially based.”

The Segregated Seattle report, written by a student, mentions zoning just once, in this somewhat garbled and tendentious passage: “The use of racial restrictive covenants removed the need for zoning ordinances. In that way, they served to segregate cities without any blame being placed on municipal leaders.”

Perhaps the HALA writers read that quickly and were misled. It actually references an account of residential segregation in St. Louis and its suburbs, Colin Gordon’s Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the Decline of the American City.That book tells a story very different from Seattle’s.

St. Louis had tried to institute de jure residential racial segregation, as did many Southern cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But in 1916 the U.S. Supreme Court declared such laws contrary to the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. That spurred an explosion of private covenants in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, until the court finally found them unconstitutional as well.

Covenants didn’t make zoning obsolete. The Progressive Movement promoted zoning as a way to make cities safer, cleaner and healthier, and, yes, more democratic. Cities embraced it as a way to boost growth, property values and taxes. The U.S. Commerce Department put out model zoning ordinances.

Seattle didn’t enact racial zoning pre-1916. That didn’t necessarily reflect enlightened principles; its black population before the interwar Great Migration was too small to draw such attention. The city adopted its first, nonracial zoning code in 1923. The private covenants came afterward.

So where are the “roots in racial and class exclusion”? I called attorney Faith Li Pettis, the HALA committee’s co-chair. “That passage has been getting a lot of attention,” she said. “I want to be very clear about this – we are not calling single-family homeowners racists.” (My African American and East African neighbors, homeowners all, will no doubt be relieved to hear this.) “We’re saying that the zoning grew out of neighborhoods that the racial covenants defined.”

How could that be when the zoning preceded the covenants? I asked. She backtracked a bit: “We are not saying that zoning grew of racial covenants. Zoning followed the patterns that were established.” Then she redirected me: “I am not the zoning expert. Alan Durning [executive director of the Sightline Institute and a member of the HALA committee] is the person to talk to about this.”

When Durning called me back, he seemed surprised at being designated the zoning expert. “I have no idea who wrote the words, but I strongly support that language,” he explained. He said he was “shocked that you would think it wasn’t about race and class, that separating single-family from multifamily [housing] wasn’t about confining lower-income to certain areas. That’s such a widely held belief – idea in urban planning.”

If so, then as Ochsner and UW historian John Findlay (who does think there’s “some truth” to the race connection) both told me, “the situation’s more complicated” in Seattle. The Central District, where African Americans were consigned by covenants and subsequent redlining, was zoned largely single-family. Just like Wallingford, Hillman City, and Upper Queen Anne (which actually tends to have smaller lots).

The class factor plays a more obvious role in zoning. When Seattle set out to eliminate its old duplex zone in the 1970s, Queen Anne’s resident lawyers, architects, and activists squawked, and duplex lots became single-family lots. Ballard, much more blue-collar then, got rolled; its duplex zones became low-rise multifamily. The results are obvious today.

But again, it’s complicated. The same multifamily zoning governed elegant, exclusive First Hill apartments and humbler flats around the city, including those scattered among older single-family neighborhoods.

Nevertheless, Durning insisted, “the whole process of dividing the city was strongly colored by the existing racial divisions, covenants, redlining, zoning – that was all intermingled together.” When I again pressed the question of what came from what, he said, more broadly, that “it was soil that the plant grew out of – our zoning grew out of a climate of race and class exclusion.”

Well, yeah, but you might say that about just about anything in the early and mid-20th century. You could certainly say it about mass transit, which started as private streetcar lines that enabled commuters to escape the crowding, noise, and those people back in the city for Phinney Ridge, Laurelhurst and other new single-family developments.

But does all this matter? Durning didn’t seem to think so: “We’ve spent considerably more time discussing this sentence than it took to write it.”

“Some people will say it’s a distinction that doesn’t make a difference,” says Ochsner. “I think it does. It’s a very different argument [invoking “racial and class exclusion”] than if you say public-sector zoning had no explicit racial zoning.”

A few words can have an outsized impact. Think, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…” Or “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” Or “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

As Durning describes it, the wording emerged from a turbulent, messy process. “The HALA report should be read as a loose aggregation of intentions and mostly shared beliefs by 28 people who spent months disagreeing about a great many things.”

Cindi Barker, Delridge’s representative on the citywide Neighborhood Council, calls herself “the token neighborhood person” on the HALA committee. She says that the misleading footnote was “a placeholder” in earlier drafts. Then she noticed it was still in the final and followed the link. “I said, ‘Guys, go read the linked document. That’s not what it says.’” But it was too late to get it changed.

Now the meme is out there. I’d like to think it reflects kneejerk reaction and sloppy haste rather than a deliberate attempt to play the race card. But it can still work to chill debate and shade the city’s response to the very real and complex challenge of housing affordability. All the more reason to examine it now – and to consider the assumptions behind HALA’s “loose aggregation of intentions.”

Is Zoning Racist? Debate in Seattle.

UW professors join single-family zoning, segregation debate sparked by mayor’s task force

Originally published July 20, 2015 at 9:03 pm Updated July 29, 2015 at 3:34 pm

The founders of the University of Washington’s Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project chimed in Monday about a Mayor Ed Murray task force saying single-family zoning has roots in racism.

By Daniel Beekman
Seattle Times staff reporter

When Mayor Ed Murray last week unveiled a plan to make housing in Seattle more affordable, he connected the history of the city’s single-family zones with ongoing racial segregation.

“We’re dealing with a pretty horrific history of zoning based on race and economics,” the mayor said, echoing similar statements from a report by his housing-affordability task force, which cited a research paperpublished by the University of Washington’s Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project.

The project’s founders chimed in Monday, saying the link between single-family zones and segregation is complex.

“Essentializing all single-family zoning as inherently racist is unhelpful for understanding the role of racism in housing markets, past or present,” professors James Gregory and Trevor Griffey said in a statement.

A Murray spokesman agreed that the city’s housing history is complicated.

But the spokesman, Viet Shelton, maintained that one consequence of Seattle’s zoning, “intentional or not,” has been an affordability problem “too often preventing low-income workers, immigrants, refugees and people of color from being able to live in the city where they work.”

Murray’s plan includes 65 strategies recommended by his Housing Livability and Affordability Advisory (HALA) Committee, including one that would allow denser housing in single-family zones, which cover much of the city’s buildable land.

The 28-member task force, in its report to the mayor, cited the Project’s research on racially restrictive neighborhood covenants when it said, “Seattle’s zoning has roots in racial and class exclusion and remains among the largest obstacles to realizing the city’s goals for equity and affordability.”

Murray hit a similar note, telling reporters at a news conference last week, “There’s a huge reason part of this city is zoned single-family. One reason is really good. We love our single-family neighborhoods. But if you get into the history of zoning in this city, the other reason isn’t particularly good. It’s who people wanted to live in those neighborhoods based on race and income.”

Gregory and Griffey, responding Monday to what they described as a resulting “public debate in Seattle about whether single-family zoning is inherently racist,” said restrictive covenants and racist practices by real estate agents and lenders that excluded racial minorities from many of the city’s neighborhoods “were not specific to single-family zoned spaces — they covered nearly all residential housing in the region.”

The professors said fair-housing advocates in past decades fought discrimination in both the selling and renting of property and they noted that the Central District had some of the highest black homeownership rates in the country before the 1980s.

“Racism continues to be an issue in housing markets, but it is not restricted to neighborhoods zoned for single family homes,” Gregory and Griffey said.

“Some defenses of single-family zoning and opposition to rental-property construction and public transit are racist in addition to classist,” the professors added. “At the same time … some developers of high-end rental properties praised as ‘transit-oriented development’ have been systematically engaging in racist practices in their rental application processes.”

Shelton, the mayor’s spokesman, acknowledged Monday that many factors have contributed to segregation in Seattle.

But Shelton stressed, “There is significant academic work that has made the case that zoning laws (in addition to covenants, redlining and discriminatory landlord practices) historically were used to support racial and class segregation throughout the country.”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Seattle Mayor holds on for his political life and withdraws proposal to eliminate Single Family Home zoning.

Mayor Murray withdraws proposal to allow more density in single-family zones
Originally published July 29, 2015 at 2:57 pm Updated July 30, 2015 at 9:03 am
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray pauses during his State of the City address in February. Murray said Wednesday he’ll no longer seek to allow more types of housing in the city’s single-family zones. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray made a U-turn Wednesday on a controversial aspect of his new housing-affordability plan.

By Daniel Beekman
Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said Wednesday he’ll no longer seek to allow more types of housing in the city’s single-family zones, after all.

Permitting duplexes, triplexes, stacked flats and other multifamily structures in those zones was perhaps the most controversial of 65 strategies recommended earlier this month by Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory (HALA) Committee.

Murray defended the proposal at a July 13 news conference where he unveiled the recommendations that together make up his new housing-affordability plan.

City Council President Tim Burgess and Councilmember Mike O’Brien, the council’s land-use committee chair, stood with the mayor at that event. But both have since come out against the proposal to change all of Seattle’s single-family zones. Zoning modifications must be approved by the council.

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Now Murray himself has made a U-turn, calling for “renewed public dialogue on how best to increase affordable housing in denser neighborhoods.”

“The Council and I created the HALA process because our city is facing a housing affordability crisis. In the weeks since the HALA recommendations were released, sensationalized reporting by a few media outlets has created a significant distraction and derailed the conversation that we need to have on affordability and equity,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

Some, though not all, of the controversy around the mayor’s proposal for single-family zones focused on him and his 28-member volunteer task force framing the changes in terms of race.

In its report to Murray, the HALA Committee wrote: “Seattle’s zoning has roots in racial and class exclusion and remains among the largest obstacles to realizing the city’s goals for equity and affordability.”

That language and similar remarks by the mayor stirred debate over the relationship between the city’s single-family zones and ongoing racial segregation.

“We also must not be afraid to talk about the painful fact that parts of our city are still impacted by the intersection of income, race and housing,” Murray said in his statement Wednesday.

“Look at a map and take a walk through our neighborhoods. We can move beyond the legacy of the old boundaries of exclusion that have remained largely unchanged since nearly a century ago when neighborhood covenants were used to keep people of color south of Madison Street.”

Murray, the HALA Committee and other proponents of more density argued that allowing more housing types in single-family zones would increase the overall housing supply, a key to making the rapidly growing city more affordable.

They noted height restrictions in those zones would remain the same.

“Fundamentally, this is a conversation about building a Seattle that welcomes people from all walks of life — where working people, low-income families, seniors, young people and the kids of current residents all can live in our city,” the mayor said Wednesday.

But some homeowners raised concerns about the changes encouraging developers to tear down bungalows and thereby alter the character of neighborhoods.

They wondered whether the new homes would actually be affordable.

Toby Thaler, a Fremont Neighborhood Council board member, called Murray’s about-face a good step.

“But the real problem is a failure to have an inclusive process that empowers all stakeholders,” Thaler said.

Alan Durning, executive director of the Sightline Institute and a HALA Committee member, said the mayor is “trying to quell the furor” in some neighborhoods.

“I’m disappointed the mayor has folded so quickly, but I’m not terribly surprised because the political blowback has been so intense,” Durning said.

“Politically, I think what the mayor is trying to do is stop the argument about one of the 65 recommendations so he and the council can get to work on the other 64.”

Faith Pettis, a Seattle lawyer whose work includes housing-financing and who co-chaired the HALA Committee, said she’s disappointed by Murray’s move.

“I believe we’ve lost an opportunity to do something that would really help this city in the long term and that people would ultimately be comfortable with,” she said, pointing out that Portland has much, much less land that is zoned single-family.

“I hope we find the political courage to deal with this in the future.”

Pettis said too much attention was paid to the panel’s recommendations for single-family zones and not enough on proposals the mayor hasn’t abandoned, such as requiring developers in multifamily zones to pay a fee or build affordable housing.

Robert Cruickshank, onetime aide to former Mayor Mike McGinn and senior campaign manager at Democracy for America, said Murray and his allies didn’t line up enough grass-roots support ahead of time.

“The way this was announced I think set it up to fail,” he said, noting the HALA Committee’s work over many months was carried out in private other than a draft report leaked to Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat.

“The claims about the history of single-family zones made a lot of people feel attacked as racist by having different feelings. People felt blindsided, and that’s not a very effective way to build public support for contentious changes.”

Cruickshank described Wednesday’s announcement as “a wake-up call.”

He said: “We have to do a lot more work. You can’t just come out with policy recommendations that you believe to be correct. You have to go out and organize to persuade people that your recommendations are right for them and our future.”

The HALA Committee recommended that officials relax restrictions on mother-in-law units and backyard cottages, which already are allowed in single-family zones.

The mayor also will no longer pursue that goal, according to a spokesman. But O’Brien still supports the idea.

“I remain committed to exploring ways we can encourage more use of mother-in-law apartments and backyard cottages,” O’Brien said, suggesting the council could take up the issue in early 2016.

“That is a reasonable way to provide more housing opportunities in some of our single-family zones.”

Murray said he intends to refocus the discussion on density and added affordability housing in Seattle’s designated Urban Centers and Urban Villages and along transit corridors.

His plan also calls for upzoning 6 percent of the city’s land that’s currently zoned single-family.

You think the 101 is bad, check out this intersection in Ethiopia with no traffic lights!

A rap anthem called 'F*ck Communism' is going viral in Vietnam

A rap anthem called 'F*ck Communism' is going viral in Vietnam

Nah, a 24-year-old rapper from Vietnam, has released a blistering song called "F*ck Communism." It has become a surprise hit among Vietnamese youth.

BANGKOK, Thailand — "Hardcore hip-hop" isn’t releasing yet another rhyme about cocaine and Glocks to titillate the American suburbs. Hardcore hip-hop is a Vietnamese MC rapping about executing corrupt officials and overthrowing the Communist Party.
One of Vietnam’s most subversive new rap songs isn’t about partying, sex or even drugs. It’s simply called “F*ck Communism.” (We added the asterisk.) It’s a six-minute revenge fantasy targeting dirty cops, crooked bureaucrats and the so-called “professional thieves” who run the Communist Party of Vietnam.

Here are a few choice verses:
“All embezzlers will die without burial.”
“The traffic cops will be executed first.”
“I’ll never accept being a slave. F*ck communism.”

This song is dangerously rebellious in Vietnam, an authoritarian state that attempts to crush anti-government dissent. It’s also growing really popular. Since its release in January, the track has racked up 875,000 views on YouTube — and in a country with fewer than 40 million internet users, that’s a huge hit song. 

Going public with a song titled “F*ck Communism” in Vietnam is practically begging to get arrested. It was composed by a well-known rapper named Nah, a self-described “middle-class kid” from Ho Chi Minh City who makes no effort to conceal his real name: Nguyen Vu Son.

“I knew this was risky,” Nah tells GlobalPost. “I’ve thought of the consequences. Going to jail. Getting my family framed for crimes they didn’t do. They might even try to kidnap me or arrange an accident.”

Nah, 24, is currently in the US where he’s studying entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University. His student visa expires in the summer of 2016. That’s when he intends to return despite potential charges of creating “propaganda against the state,” a crime used to imprison hundreds of dissidents in the past decade.

“All of that is definitely going to happen,” he says. His new neck tattoo — which reads “F*ck Communism” — is unlikely to endear him to the Vietnamese authorities.
“But if I go to jail,” he says, “it’ll show the young people not to be afraid.”
If “F*ck Communism” has an American counterpart, it might be NWA’s pioneering gangsta rap song “F*ck Tha Police,” says Trinh Nguyen of Viet Tan, a US-based organization advocating for democracy for Vietnam. 

“It’s this generation’s version of ‘F*ck Tha Police’ because it clearly identifies the problems people are seeing and directly spells them out,” Trinh says. “It’s also really provocative so, of course, it caught on really quickly.” 

The track is not about communism as an ideology, but rather the failings of Vietnam’s all-powerful Communist Party and those too meek to condemn it. Vietnam’s corruption score, as determined by Transparency International, ranks 119th out of 175 countries — worse than fellow communist state China.

“F*ck Communism” is the song’s English-language title. That’s a translation from the actual title — "Địt Mẹ Cộng Sản" — and it doesn’t fully capture the intensity of the original. “The actual curse word he uses is so heavy,” Trinh says. “Try to think of the worst curse word you could ever say.”

Hip-hop fans can interpret the song’s calls to violence as an expression of frustration. Vietnamese police are more likely to perceive it as a death threat with a chorus.
Nah’s viral hit is now doubly dangerous. It’s become the anthem of an anti-communist movement to convince Vietnam’s youth that they’re “zombies” manipulated by the state. “The song was just a kickstart to get this whole movement going,” Nah says.
As in the West, many urban youth in 21st-century Vietnam are more enamored with lattes and Facebook likes than social upheaval. Only recently has Vietnam, a nation devastated by war and colonial plunder in the 20th century, given rise to a young generation that can aspire toward conspicuous consumption.

The song laments that this “whole generation has been brainwashed ... like zombies” and that their apathy is prolonging the Communist Party’s reign. Too many Vietnamese youth “don’t care about social issues,” Nah says. “They just spend their time gossiping and being materialistic.”

The logo of Vietnam's youth "zombie" movement.

Until recently, the movement existed largely online. It urged a simple act of rebellion: posting its logo, a cartoon zombie, on social media. “It’s the same way that, in the US, you see people changing their avatar to promote gay pride or immigration issues,” Trinh says. 

“But Vietnamese youth have more to lose,” she says. “Their employment prospects will be quite low if they’re identified as a dissident.”

Organizers are now beginning to move the campaign into the streets — and police aren’t pleased. On July 11, a small gathering of activists wearing T-shirts with the movement’s zombie logo were detained by police in Ho Chi Minh City.

All were sent home except for the lead organizer: Nguyen Phi, a rapper cooperating with Nah. Police raided Phi’s home and confiscated a stash of zombie T-shirts, according to Viet Tan. He has yet to be released.

“They’re trying to kill off this movement from the beginning,” Nah says. Police in Ho Chi Minh City are also contacting Nah’s family, he says, and his parents have considered disowning him. 

“My parents lived through the war and saw some crazy stuff. They know who they’re up against,” Nah says. “At first, they told me, ‘We’ll just tell the police that we don’t want you as a son anymore.’” But so far, he says, they haven’t abandoned him “even though my dad’s hair, after six months, has turned all white.”

When Nah returns to Vietnam next year, he hopes the zombie movement will have grown into a formidable anti-communist force. He’s even released a manifesto for the crusade, which is inspired by pro-democracy uprisings in Hong Kong and America’s Occupy Wall Street campaign.

“As a Vietnamese kid growing up in Southeast Asia, I’m supposed to be a nobody,” Nah says. “But something’s leading me down this course. I really relate to young, black America ... that whole culture with people like Tupac, Nas, Kanye West. I’ve grown up idolizing these rappers and it’s inspiring me to do something great.”

Nah will almost certainly be detained once he returns to Vietnam, says Nguyen Van Dai, an attorney in Vietnam who specializes in human rights. 

But as a young first offender, Dai says, Nah might actually be released — as long as he “promises to stop making songs about the Communist Party.” If he persists, Nah may be sentenced to anywhere between three and 20 years for spreading “propaganda against the state.”

For now, Nah insists he’s resigned to doing time. In true hip-hop fashion, he plans to be as uncooperative with police as possible. “I’ll just keep silent at all times,” Nah says.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What Plan Bay Area and Social Equity Activists can learn from Africa

International pop star Bono recently remarked that "capitalism has risen more people in Africa out of poverty than any government program and international aid".  In planning for the growth of opportunity for lower income people, we need to look for to private markets and business ownership as a way up.   Why not create public markets in Marin City and the Canal district to help the process along?  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Urban Habitat on Segregation and Displacement in San Francisco (2:01)

Urban Habitat's Bob Allen speaks at Bay Guardian conference June 12, 2013. His solution to displacement of African Americans and Latinos in San Francisco is to force more urban growth in suburban and rural counties like Marin, Sonoma and Napa. He completely misses the irony that his "solution" is to for other communities to deal with it. He claims that community's who call for "local control" are racist, segregationists. Because of this, no money from HUD or MTC should be given unless a growth policy is adapted. A better solution is a regional government which would eliminate local control. He also implies that Marin is filled with Agenda 21 conspiracy theorists whose only motivation in preserving the rural landscape is racially motivated. Urban Habitat receives its funding through public and private donations and income from its litigation

Bob Allen utterly ignores the plight of ethnic communities. Don't they need local control too?     Wouldn't "local control" allow for communities of color to stay intact?   In Chinatown, the Mission, Hunters Point communities suffer while the social engineers cause the disruption and displacement of thousands. Housing activists like Urban Habitat are responsible for spreading vitriol and hate to promote its agenda.  

Who are the real racists?

Marinwood Plaza, Clean up or Cover Up?

Marinwood Plaza STILL has not commenced clean up.  How long must we wait while the Toxic Waste is in the ground?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Is the Chinese autocracy the model for Plan Bay Area?

Plan Bay Area is another central planning scheme using the policies of China of central control and autocracy.  Berkeley educated Eric X. Li makes the case that Democracy is dead and one party rule is the path forward.  Such is the philosophy of Plan Bay Area that eliminates local control of cities and towns to an autocratic regional government.  Eric X. Li is lying of course about the superiority of the "Chinese Meritocracy". Chis Chappell of China Uncensored brilliantly shreds Li's arguments by pointing out vast hypocrisy, lies and human rights abuses that are rampant all over China. I imagine Li's "efficiency" argument has many supporters in the Bay Area Economic Council, MTC, ABAG and a slew of Business and Non Government Organizations in the Bay Area.

Plan Bay Area is much more than housing and public transportation.  It is the achievement of a fascist central autocracy over true legitimate local democracy.  

We will Save Marin Again!

If an Electric Bike Is Ever Going to Hit It Big in the U.S., It's This One

If an Electric Bike Is Ever Going to Hit It Big in the U.S., It's This One

Is the Copenhagen Wheel poised to become the next big thing in alternative urban transportation?

Michael D. Spencer / Superpedestrian

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—On a sunny but brisk spring morning near the Charles River in Cambridge, I took a test ride on the bicycle of the future. No rockets or lasers (alas), the bicycle of the future looks pretty much like the bicycle of the present. But with the first pumps of my feet on the pedals, I felt the difference. The bike wasn't just moving, it was pushing, adding extra propulsion to my own pedaling, giving me a boost with every revolution of the pedals. Faster than expected, I reached the end of a quiet block leaning into a corner. I took a straightaway for a few blocks and pushed 20 miles an hour without hardly trying. My feet were putting out a solid paper-route effort, but the bike had me racing in the Tour de France.
The bike I tested was equipped with the Copenhagen Wheel, an electric pedal-assist motor fully contained in the oversized red hub of an otherwise normal back bicycle wheel. Inside that red hub is a delicately crammed array of computing equipment, sensors, and a three-phase brushless direct current electric motor that can feel the torque of my pedaling and add appropriately scaled assistance.

Replace the back wheel of any bike with the Copenhagen Wheel and it's instantly an electric bike—one that not only assists the rider but senses the surrounding topography and can even collect and share data about environmental, traffic, and road conditions. First developed in 2009, through a partnership between MIT'sSenseable City Lab and the City of Copenhagen, the wheel is now in its

China's Underwater High-Speed Train to America

Bob Dylan Mix. "Its all right Ma, I'm only bleeding" and "Hard rain is gonna Fall"

A musical tribute to all Marinites who are "Free Range Humans"