Christmas is bittersweet for Maria Marroquin this year. Only fifteen percent of the workers who show up at the Day Worker Center of Mountain View have been matched with jobs on any given day. Gifts from the community supplement the meager incomes earned by those who come seeking jobs every morning...and wait. As Executive Director of the Center, Maria looks back at the financially bleak 2009 with high hopes for the promise 2010 holds.
Having received a $465 million low-interest loan from the US Department of Energy, Tesla Motors will soon be deciding on a site to locate their electric car manufacturing plant. On December 10th worker safety activists visited Tesla's world headquarters in San Carlos to report on the continuing contamination and dangerous working conditions at a site in southern California under consideration. They asked that Tesla not choose the site in Downey for their new plant.
East Palo Alto residents surrounded city council members as they entered City Hall on December 1st. Residents of Page Mill Properties and their supporters rallied in front of the building to attempt to secure the support of council members in the tenants' long battle against the mega-landlord. Page Mill, East Palo Alto's largest landlord, has been in dispute for years with tenants. In September, Page Mill failed to make a $50 million payment and a judge appointed Ward Realty Advisors to take control of their 1,800 rental units in the city.
On November 4th, tenants and community members gathered in front of East Palo Alto's West Park Apartments to hold the first in a series of actions to demand the roll back of rents that have seen drastic increases in the last few years. In 2006, Page Mill Properties began gobbling up rent-controlled housing and illegally raising rents with the nation's biggest public employee pension fund CalPERS as a principal investment partner. Tenants Together, California's statewide organization for renters' rights, is calling on CalPERS to adopt predator-free real estate investment policies that will prevent it from ever committing funds to Page Mill type schemes again.
It was the Raging Grannies versus Billionaires for Wealthcare outside the Stanford Park Hotel where Congressman John Boehner spoke to a $1,000 per plate Republican crowd in Menlo Park on October 12. The Grannies went on the offensive and tried to give the Billionaires a "shot of reality" as the two street theater groups protested the House Minority leader's event.
On September 9, the San Mateo County Superior Court appointed a receiver for Page Mill Properties 1800-unit East Palo Alto apartment portfolio after the giant landlord abandoned their property management duties and offices last week. East Palo Alto's biggest landlord missed a $50 million balloon payment to their bank last month prompting Wells Fargo to seek a temporary restraining order barring Page Mill from collecting further rents and destroying any books relating to the properties.
More than 1,000 people came to hear Congresswoman Anna Eshoo speak about health care reform at a town hall meeting in Palo Alto on September 2nd. They filled the theatre to capacity and dozens were left standing outside. The Congresswoman, who is one of the authors of the health care reform bill spearheaded by President Obama, struggled to maintain decorum as right-wing protesters heckled her. A rally outside the auditorium lasting for over an hour ahead of the event included demonstrators on both sides of the issue.