Sonja Trauss organizes pro-density renters in the San Francisco Bay Area. Housing shortage harms renters and benefits owners, yet, until SFBARF, there was no renters' organization agitating for upzoning or entitlement process reform.View the profile
About the talk
A notorious activist, Sonja tells tales of infiltrating the Sierra Club, suing rich towns for housing exclusion and general in-your-face rebel rousing.
Welcome, Sonja. Hi, thank you. I love your boots. So I discovered you through a person that's been showing up at our events in New York a guy that runs the blog. Oh, Nicolai. Yes, Nicolai, he's a total character wonderful kid just pushing the envelope in a whole new way and he told me about you and I started reading up on you. I have been hanging around the Bay Area and I was like, I just got to meet this woman is totally radical in a whole new and different way very refreshing with but I sent you this, this is
April 26th 1992. I wrote an article when I used to write for print. I wrote a column called living in the Bay Area and I wrote about the farmer's market and it's YIMBYs rears its head as Bernal Heights project disrupted. And by the YIMBY means yes in my backyard. So you passionately care about affordable housing. But you actually are out there advocating that the stuff get built that right? Affordability, a lot of times when we say affordable housing we mean subsidized housing, but the vast majority of low and
middle-income Americans do not live in subsidized housing. It is a solution for a very small number of people most of us live in places that are "naturally affordable", you know, either because they were sort of built cheaply and their new or they were built for rich people a hundred years ago. And now they're old. I mean, there's no way to accommodate a lot of people in your metro area without a lot of housing and we just have been under building here for so long that I feel like anything is better than nothing because I saw it and every house or apartment building
condo, whatever that they don't build in the mission is a high-income person moving to West Oakland driving up rents, so and nothing and tell me these people who come from all over and they come to San Francisco to seems very dense and seems overbuilt and the argument that you can possibly find more room to build housing is that a myth? you can always find a room. I mean Tokyo keeps building housing and they have ostensibly even less land than us. It is true. Like if you're going to build something in San Francisco, you can't build on Greenfield and actually Californian's made a
decision that they don't want to build on Greenfield and we made it harder to build a formerly agricultural land open spaces and that's nice. That's probably a good idea. But what it means is that you have to be prepared for one story commercial to be torn down or parking lot or multi-story parking garages, you know, or just used industrial. Places we could I'm the reason why not horses that end with any status flow. There are people that are interested in it, you know everything from
you know, don't build housing there or so. We don't give up a dog run to build a hundred units of housing that seems like we have our priorities screwed up and I know the dog looking for the email me I'm a roach but that that is the trade-off sometimes in San Francisco. I had a friend in Mill Valley who try to convert a garage to a second unit and he had to get an EA dir which is environmental impact review and yet they built the industrial the shoes industrial park in Contra Costa County and there was no eei
Armada, so it's inconsistent as well. Yeah, exactly. I want to get to how you got here. But I also am just so fascinated about your courage. You are suing cities like Lafayette which by the way Lafayette is a very affluent communities to San Francisco. You're you're suing Lafayette and some other high-end cities. So this shows your your your kind of objective you across the board tell us about those things in Berkeley. You're suing them might not be necessary
if we have a very strong state law if you use it called the housing accountability act and it was written in 1982. It says that if you propose a project that's what zoning within the general plan that this city doesn't have the discretion to turn it down now and that's how it works. Basically everywhere else in the United States normally. Danger zone and you just go right to the building inspections. You don't have to ask for permission again in California cities
regularly ignore it and it's really a citizen can sue to enforce the law but normally that never happens what any citizen is going to be invested or you don't care and developers don't Sue to enforce their rights because they're not in the business of filing lawsuits, you know, like you might have a case that you are a million dollars like you don't raise money from investors to sue people you raise money from investors, you know Bill housing until most of the time they just walk away or maybe they'll try to negotiate a smaller project.
Hey, San Francisco ubuildit Lafayette you build if we all build a little and I think it's gets to the heart. It's why I wanted signs your cuz he's issues of income inequality in economics, you know, we talked about ringer hands, but you know, People out there actually trying to do something which is why I like this woman and it may not be perfect. But you're doing something let's talk about another man. I love you infiltrated this Sierra Club. So at the Other Extreme you decided to take the Sierra Club on their hypocrisy
and they're doing it again. So if anybody wants to run just get in touch with they have to sign up to be a member of the Sierra Club. Clear a handheld for Sonia. Yes, local the local San Francisco group their mission statement include support for compact development. Right and it's part of what I was talking about before that. The Sierra Club is interested in maintaining open spaces and you know nature but if you were growing population and you're not going to build on
top of each other you have to build and fill you in on you have to cover up a dog runs and parking lots in your city and issuing resolutions against high limit increases for running also that agree with us who ran this late. I signed up 200 do people normally only They were excited about you. They loved it. They were like, this is great. You guys raised like $6,000 is for us. Yes. So normally turn out for those races is less than 400% inside job because it was so so all our 200 people voted,
but we were destroyed a warm body is 100% qualified to be to participate. It's great. It's all gray. I love what you're doing and you know what I miss about. What year did I wish I was still writing for the local paper so I can write about you all the time. I wish I could go on to but we don't have a lot of time. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for coming in and join in San Francisco. So the Citizens Brigade here can go get out the boat. So the Sierra Club just like everything but the executive team is all white guys like me and I wear for this or
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