This note about our future is personal - and long. In 2020 a handful of renters in Palo Alto were fed up and formed Palo Alto Renters' Association. Despite half of the residents in our city being tenants, there was a huge gap between the lives of people on boards and commissions and the experience we were having in the community. While our forming slogan was "Make Palo Alto a better home for renters!"; The thought behind it was really, "Nothing about us without us." We were tired of watching folks who weren't impacted by the high cost of housing make decisions for us.
Since then we have celebrated several tenants joining appointed and elected bodies; including our former staff and board member Katie Causey who is now on the Human Relations Commission and recently wrote this op-ed. We've brought together tenants for picnics and resource fairs, meetings with Council members and public comment, and we've counseled hundreds of neighbors to help bring down their base rents and negotiate with landlords. At the core, we have shifted the narrative on renters in our community. We've made every single policy priority named by our forming body a reality, except one.
The Rent Registry goes before City Council on November 27th (read the article here).
The City has strengthened many of our local tenant protection policies and now maintains its own a resource page, making it easier to know your rights and push back on bad actors.
And although these new policies are a deterrent to tenant harassment, we know that it will continue to occur until there are serious measures in place that lower the burden of proof for tenants experiencing harassment and that make the consequences more felt by bad actors.
We have formed a community of WE, where our actions are collective and the effort is shared. And to borrow from Saul Alinsky, while we have not been perfect, we've worked to the best of our capacity to make the world as it should be closer to the world as it is.
Our final priority, which we didn't focus on enough, was to make Palo Alto a more affordable place for all of us to live. That's why I'm thrilled to share that Palo Alto Renter's Association is moving back under the umbrella of our fiscal sponsor, Palo Alto Forward. This will allow shared resources, preventing both of us from working in siloed ways that faction our movement and make it harder to work together. Because there are so few homes, a handful of landlords get to make up the rules and we want tenants to have an opportunity to weigh in on the policies around new housing, implementation of our Housing Element, and local land use and zoning. Here are the next steps you'll see in the coming weeks and months:
We'll be slowly taking our website down and redirecting to Palo Alto Forward's Tenant resources page
We'll be combining our email lists so we invite you to unsubscribe if you'd prefer not to be included in this merger.
We'd like to invite everyone on PARA's list to join us at the holiday party in downtown Palo Alto on December 1st. RSVP here.
If you'd like to meet with Palo Alto Forward's Executive Director before deciding how to get involved, please send us an email so we can setup a group coffee: email@example.com! We'd love to see a few of you as leaders on their policy committees. We're paying for the coffee so you just need to bring curiosity
We'll send one more email out when we get the group coffee setup. See you on December 1st! And please don't hesitate to email if you have questions: firstname.lastname@example.org! I'll be checking the emails personally and make sure they are responded to within 24-48 hours.