The April 11 meeting of the Committee For Racial Justice (CRJ) will be focused on housing issues. Members of our panel include Santa Monica’s mayor, Sue Himmelrich, an attorney who serves as Special Counsel litigating cases at Western Center on Law and Poverty. Her involvement in Santa Monica politics began in 2012, working with the Legal Aid Foundation of LA to protect long-time residents in Santa Monica’s Village Tailer Park who were threatened with evictions to make way for a massive development project. She helped residents fight the evictions and enhance relocation benefits for 30 tenants, some of whom had lived there for more than a quarter century. That work eventually led to her becoming part of the Santa Monica Planning Commission. Mayor Himmelrich attended Harvard University and received her juris doctorate from Columbia Law School. As a lifelong democrat, she has traveled across the country doing voter protection for President Barack Obama, Senators John Kerry, Harry Reid, and many others.

Another panel member is Michael Soloff, the current Chair of the Santa Monica Housing Commission, who has served as a member for the past six years. Soloff also is a Co-Chair of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, and the Vice President for Membership of the Santa Monica Democratic Club. He is a business litigation partner in the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, and for the past 15 years has devoted about 20% of his time to providing free legal representation to low income tenants and tenants’ rights organizations. Soloff has received awards for his tenants’ rights work from the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, the Legal Services Corporation, the California State Bar, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, Public Counsel and the Daily Journal Corporation. While serving on the Housing Commission, Soloff has advocated for increased funding for affordable housing programs, increased affordable housing requirements in new developments, dedication of City-owned land to affordable housing, creation and expansion of the Preserve Our Diversity rent subsidy program, greater transparency in the expenditure of affordable housing funds, a public planning process for the expenditure of affordable housing funds, greater emphasis on cost-effectiveness in the expenditure of affordable housing funds, and full implementation of the City’s affordable housing preferences for those who live or work in Santa Monica. He also played a leading role in the successful campaign to pass Measures GS and GSH, which increased the local sales tax to fund both affordable housing and the public schools.

They will be joined on the panel by Elena Popp, an attorney and the Executive Director of the Eviction Defense Network, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization at the forefront of the fight against gentrification in Los Angeles County. The Eviction Defense Network (EDN) is part of the LA County Right to Counsel Coalition and its StayHousedLA.org program. EDN is also part of the Healthy LA Coalition, fighting for strong policy solutions in the City and County of Los Angeles during the pandemic. EDN is also proud to be a member of the Housing Now! Coalition, fighting for laws that protect tenants at the State level. Elena has nearly 40-years’ experience in legal services focused primarily in the areas of Housing and Community Economic Development.

Among other issues, CRJ will also look to explore the following:

How the city is addressing the needs of its most vulnerable residents, especially those who hold Section 8 vouchers, but are unable to find housing?

What is the city doing to give incentives to landlords to encourage accepting Section 8 vouchers?

What is the city doing to work with Community Corp and other property owners to assist low-income residents to find housing?

How is the LA area dealing with federal monies to aid people who are in need of help with back rent coming due? What is the outreach into communities of color?

How can tenants access the services of the StayHoused LA agencies and the Eviction Defense Network?

There will be time for Q & A. Come join this important discussion.

Sunday, April 11, 2021 from 6:30 -8 p.m. zoom meeting

Register first at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYkceyoqzkrGdfq3u0JIZfxfhNkF01pjg8v and then you will be sent a link for entry to the 4/11 meeting.

For more information, call Joanne at 310-422-5431.

Submitted by Joanne Berlin