The Social Justice Vision at Stephen S. Wise Temple

Our congregation will see Social Justice as a calling that derives from our sense of God and the imperative of Jewish Tradition. The Stephen S. Wise Temple community will use our influence, power and compassion to be a force for positive, meaningful and effective change in the quality of life on behalf of all the citizens of Los Angeles and the world.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Inclusionary Zoning/Affordable Housing and the Mayor

On Wednesday, April 6 I was part of a delegation to meet with Mayor Villaraigosa to press the cause for work force housing in Los Angeles. The mayor has made this a part of his goals for the city since he took office. For the first time it appears that there is support and mommentum to actually pass an inclusionary zoning ordinance for Los Angeles! Should this happen, Los Angeles will join with great cities throughout the world that have such ordinances including London, Paris, New York, San Francisco and Chicago.

The goal of the ordinance is to enable middle class workers to live nearer to their workplaces, thus reducing traffic, air polution and congestion as well as to make life more liveable for these essential workers. Currently thousands must travel long distances from home to work or are forced to live in substandard housing. I encountered the harsh reality of that first hand when I spoke to one of the members of our delegation. She is a housing activist and also a personal assistant employed with a company that provides services to celebrities. Joanna is a single mom who has worked in that field for 15 years and still must live in a one bedroom apartment that she shares with her 8 year old daughter -- often she's one paycheck away from affording her rent.

Fifteen of us from a variety of organizations heard the mayor say that the time is ripe and he wants to get the legislation passed by the end of June (this legislative session). When he heard about the work that our Affordable Housing Network at Stephen S. Wise is doing, he said that we could quite possibly make the difference between success and failure. Because we have incorporated real estate developers into our network and they are interested in acheiving meaningful solutions the situation is more hopeful than it has been in the past. The state of the economy and the general depression in the building industry also makes meaningful legislation possible.

This Tuesday advocates for the cause will be meeting downtown to discuss strategies for gaining broadbased support for a meaningful change. Hopefully some of our housing advocates will join me for the meeting! In addition, I've asked the Southern California Board of Rabbis to host a session for area rabbis to increase rabbinic awareness of this issue. A number of speakers will address the rabbis and encourage them to advocate in their communities. This is a complex issue and rabbis may not be experts on the financial aspects of real estate development but we can certainly challenge developers, neighborhood groups and regional chambers of commerce to see the moral justification for legislation and minimize opposition they might present. A resolution will be presented to the Board of Rabbis for consideration in support of inclusionary zoning/workforce housing proposals.

For any who might be policy wonks -- see the mayor's plan here.

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