Housing Note from First Sunday of Advent

161127 Press Democrat pages

The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, CA on Sunday November 27, 2016 had a group of articles which I would like to tie together in this post.

Starting with the historian Gaye LeBaron (T1),  she reviews the housing picture over the years in Sonoma County.  The most notable thing for me is her afterthought in which she says,
Much of this ‘looking at the past’ business of mine is celebrating progress, marveling and how we ever get along without so many things … We celebrate progress on so many fronts.”    “Not so with housing. The broad question of shelter.  We have so much left to learn.”
The second article entitled “Seeking to Aid an Aging populace” (A3) highlights the number of residents over the age of 60. There are significant activities going on to identify and support our elders.    My observation is that these efforts are not new because I know I helped in them in the 1980s. I appreciate all of the people today who are still concerned and active in helping the elders of our community.  I am rapidly becoming one.
One of the highlights in the county right now is SHARE Sonoma County, a program affiliated with Petaluma People Services Center which serves the entire County.  SHARE provides home screening, matching, and support.
In response to this article the director of SHARE Sonoma County, Amy Appleton, wrote the following:
“I’m passionate about providing services for our aging population here in Sonoma County, which includes creating affordable housing through home sharing as indicated in your article with Ms. Kaljian.  I’m very grateful for your article and attention to this incredibly vulnerable and growing population.”  
“Ms. Kaljian and Ms. McBride, more than most, know the isolation and vulnerability that exists for many of our aging population. SHARE Sonoma County has created a robust housing solution and our SHARE community continues to grow rapidly (we are in ten cities thus far and expanding). It’s a beautiful process to bring a carefully screened person in need of housing into an aging person’s home, who can help provide support for the owner who otherwise might not be able to remain home safely and thrive.”
The 3rd article, on the front page of the paper, is entitled, “Vacation rentals both a boon and a nuisance”.   On the one hand, after citing and articulating the problem, the article quotes Daniel Sanchez, the government affairs director of the North Bay Association of Realtors. He does not see this is a problem.   He talks about what a good thing it is. This is from a person who is very strongly against  rent control.  He would have individual landlords raise rent as much as they want, and, take inventory off the market for local citizens at the same time.
Below I summarize the county data for the number of rentals, and notably for the taxes lost to these activities if the owners paid their fair share. [Based on the Article.]
” flouted the rules for years by not registering with the county and paying the tax.”
“Supervisors this month approved an agreement with Airbnb requiring the guest-hosting site to collect bed taxes beginning and hand the revenue over to the county.”  [What about the back taxes?]
Number of vacation rental units
Taxes foregone
Sonoma County 2015
Sonoma County 2016
1,333 [+54%]
County including Coastal region
Lodging inventory
Vacation rental houses
3,355 (24%)
$5,300,000 (43%)
$500,000 0 $1,300,000
(or up to $2,800,000 by one estimate)
Petaluma 2015
21 permitted, 100 operating
$19,000 [12%]
$143,000 [88% foregone]
Sonoma extended a ban
47 warnings and 9 citations in 2014;  Kevin Burke, “Rentals can produce up to $4,800 a week in income and there is often a cat-and-mouse game on websites that makes it difficult to pinpoint the owners.”
I cannot understand the County position that identifying and holding accountable the owners, is so hard, since the owners are listed in the County tax rolls. 
The fourth article of notes (A3) is entitled “Building Hope for homeless”.  It describes Harold’s Utilitarian Transitional Shelters (HUTS) project of Homeless Action!.  It is a practical and very specific means to help individuals have a space of their own and get out of the weather.
Not included in the article is a description of the survey recently conducted by the Community Development commission which shows that the people of Sonoma County are strongly in favor of helping individual homeless people and they have a very good sense of what the actual cause of homelessness is. (CDC Homeless Survey conducted September 2016; link when available)
I appreciate the journalism which went into developing all of these stories I hoped for an opinion piece, no wait I just wrote one, which describes how these are all related.
As a community of people we have the knowledge and the energy and the money to address all of these issues if we work together in transparency and in democracy and in community.
A key shortcoming I see in the Press Democrat reporting, on this and other things, is that they don’t include links to key government source documents and web sites which would help us all be more informed.  Similarly, they could add better visual summaries and charts.  I look forward to when they do that.  Positive regards nonetheless.
Credit due to:
Gaye LeBaron, Press Democrat columnist
Staff Writer Clark Mason at 707-521-5214 or clark. mason@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter@clarkmas
Staff Writer Paul Payne at 707-568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ppayne.
 Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 707-521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @srcitybeat.
Gerry La Londe-Berg, poet, MSW 1983
[Transparency note: I am a member of the board of Shared Housing and Resource Exchange (SHARE) California]

Quotes from: Tribe, On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger

Quotes from Tribe, On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger, 12 Hachette Book Group, New York, NY, May 2016.
<><><> My reflections:
There is something fundamentally appealing and reasonable about the premise of Tribe, which is that we have much to learn from the community life of American Indians, as we understand it.  It was egalitarian, and it was non acquisitive as modern society has become. (Unfortunately, the actual traditions of many tribal peoples were lost to the ravages of the newcomers.)
Junger pays particular attention to the American Indian history of the upper northeast area of the United States, although he makes other less detailed references.
In the second part of the book he described the experiences of military veterans of U.S. wars.  His thoughts and observations are valuable in considering how we all support each other.
(I keep wanting to say “Go Local” because power derives from personal contact and commitment to shared values.  But that is for a different post.  )
I extracted quotes as I read.  I find them to be useful.  For me, Junger convolutes masculine roles and leadership.  He spends little time of analysis on female leadership roles.  In the mid section the discussion of types of leadership in a mine disaster also is used to argue that strong leaders early in the disaster cited were the masculine roles and  compassionate collegial leadership later on was the feminine side. I think we sell ourselves short by relegating compassion and collaboration to the feminine.  Feminine and masculine aspects are fundamentally different and we would do well to appreciate them rather than compare them.
There are other writers concerning community whom I may address at another time, such as Henri Nouwen and Jean Vanier.  Nevertheless, in the face of a national and international politics as we have them today, there is something to be said for recreating the community spirit in which humans have developed for hundreds of thousands and perhaps a million years.
<><><> Quotes
  • How do you become an adult in a society that doesn’t ask for sacrifice? How do you become a man in a world that doesn’t require courage?
  •  A tribe would be defined as the people you feel compelled to share the last of your food with.
  • Humans don’t mind hardship. In fact they thrive on it.  What they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.  It is time for that to end.
  • Indians almost never ran away to White Society but many of the early Europeans moved to Indian Society.
  • Out on the fringes people tended to do what they wanted.
  • One of the women said, We had no master to oversee or drive us.  So we could work as we pleased, as leisurely as we pleased.
  • Cruelty in other words was very much the norm for that era and the native tribes of North America were no exception.
  • It’s possible that many people feel affluence and safety simply are not a good trade for freedom.
  • In a nomadic cultures surplus accumulation is kept to a minimum.
  • Early humans would most likely have lived in a nomadic bands of around 50 people. And they would have done almost everything in the company of others. They would have almost never been alone.
  • First Agriculture, and then industry, changed two fundamental things about the human experience. The accumulation of personal property allowed people to make more and more individualistic choices about their lives and those choices unavoidably diminished group efforts toward a common good.   And as a society modernized people found themselves able to live independently from any communal group.  A person living in a modern city or suburb can for the first time in history go through an entire day, or an entire life, mostly encountering complete strangers.  They can be surrounded by others and yet feel deeply dangerously alone.
  • A wealthy person who has never had to rely on help and resources from his community is leading a privileged life that falls way outside more than a million years of human experience.
  • Self-determination Theory holds that human beings need three basic things in order to be content:
    • they need to feel competent at what they do;
    • they need to feel authentic in their lives; and
    • they need to feel connected to others.
  • These values are considered intrinsic to human happiness and far outweigh extrinsic values such as beauty, money, and status.
  • As modern society reduced the role of community it simultaneously elevated the role of authority. The two are uneasy companions and as one goes up the other tends to go down.
  • In foraging communities one of the most common traits was the absence of major wealth disparities between individuals; another was the absence of arbitrary authority.
  • Authority is almost impossible to impose on the unwilling.
  • In current day foraging groups, group execution (killing the offender) is one of the most common ways of punishing males who try to claim a disproportionate amount of the group’s resources.
  • Boehms research led him to believe that much of the evolutionary basis for moral development moral behavior stems from group pressure.
  • Oxytocin creates a feedback loop of good feeling and group loyalty that ultimately leads members to self sacrifice to promote group welfare.
  • Most travel and subsistence level societies would inflict severe punishments on anyone who caused the kind of damage which the financial institutions inflicted upon the world. The fact that there was so little consequence shows how completely detribalized the country has become.
  • Democratic revolutions are just a formalized version of the sort of group action that coalitions of senior males have used throughout the ages to confront greed and abuse.
  • The beauty and the tragedy of the modern world is that it eliminates many situations that require people to demonstrate a commitment to the collective good.
  • What would you risk dying for and for whom is perhaps the most profound question a person can ask themselves.