Saturday, March 20, 2010

Why I Joined the San Francisco Community Land Trust

Some of you know me for my obsession with community currencies and my second love coops. Today, I joined the Board of the San Francisco Community Land Trust. Why? It is part of my master plan to take over the Bay Area economy with the people and return it to the collective control of the people.

Currencies by themselves will straggle along without collective public management of banks, credit, investment, land and labor and other resources like energy. Currencies are great for supporting local business, but we need to have local businesses with supply chains less reliant on imports and credit less based in large corporate banks in order for them to work. After all, a business can’t repay its corporate bank mortgage loans or buy its Chilean apples with local currency. People can’t pay their rent usually either in local currency. But they could if the land and buildings were truly locally owned.

San Francisco Land Trust is a very cool model. They take land (and the buildings on them) off the market and turn it into an affordable housing cooperative of the current low income renters that live there. If the cooperative home owners sell their unit, they can make very little profit and the unit remains affordable housing. So the SFCLT plan is to take as much land off the market and keep the city an affordable place to live for the working class (and middle class), stem the tide of gentrification, and keep San Francisco the amazing melting of progressive culture that it is.

It would be great for nonprofit and local business as well not to have to pay the oppressive market rental rates that eventually squeeze their budgets to death by getting space in mixed use housing complexes that are part of cooperative land trusts. Many wonderful nonprofits in the Bay Area, my organization included, can’t afford the rent because challenging the capitalist system doesn’t bring in enough money to survive the San Francisco rental market. So many times I’ve heard, “If we could only get a space…” A place for people to be together face-to-face is key in community organizing and building community in general.

We would also be able to have more urban food production if we were able to take arable city land off the market, into land trusts, and away from housing developers. Right now it is entirely cost inefficient to use land for grown food in an urban setting. It is much cheaper to grow food in rural Chile and ship it to San Francisco, despite the environmental costs of such transportation. If peak oil actually comes, as I believe it already has, we will have to start making the transition towards more local food production, but the land to do it on is rapidly disappearing to development. We need to protect as much good city land as possible and put it into land trusts. It is fine to do guerrilla gardening or get short term leases, but growing food is serious business. Often you have to remediate toxins in the soil, nutrients and humus have to be built up, and sometimes sculpting of land, not to mention pulling weeds and moving rock. It’s a lot of work and community gardens and urban farms rarely have secure land ownership, but it is desperately needed if we are not to be toiling endlessly jumping from one toxic abandoned free lot to the next.

For more info about SFCLT or to become a member see

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