Based on an email by Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) Steering Committee Co-chairs Marcos Banales and Malia Everette, which is in turn based on a letter from RPA Committee Member Marilyn Langlois (copied below), the RPA has crafted a very clever position whereby it appears to support annexation if the residents want it but demand a process that is contrary to state law and impossible to implement. Essentially, their position is, if the people of North Richmond want to annex, let them deal with it.
RPA members constitute a supermajority of the City Council, and the RPA has its office conveniently located across the street from City Hall, making its domination of City government both convenient and effective. It is ironic that the RPA bases its success on its social justice agenda, but the annexation of North Richmond, which would right a 70-plus year social justice wrong seems to have little appeal.
State law outlines the process for annexation, and it is inconsistent with a vote prior to any LAFCO process. The role of LAFCO is to provide the community input that the RPA appears to advocate, but the RPA is opposed to even initiating that process.
Here is how the law prescribes the process:
- After the City Council votes to proceed, the first mailing announcing the first LAFCO meeting will be advertised in a newspaper, but if the City requests it, announcements will also be mailed to every affected registered voter (about 1,350 of them) and property owner at the City’s expense. For the first hearing, if we’re doing a mailing, we also have to mail to all registered voters and landowners within 300 feet of the annexation area.
- The City can request that the hearing be held in Richmond. Subject to the Commission’s approval.
- Affected registered voters or landowners can object by appearing at the meeting, mailing a letter or emailing. If even one affected registered voter or landowner protests, there will be a subsequent protest hearing.
- Before the second hearing, announcements will be mailed to every affected registered voter (about 1,350 of them) and property owner at the City’s expense, with instructions on how to file a written protest.
- Every protest must be in writing and can be mailed or hand delivered at the protest hearing at the meeting. It can simply say “I protest.”
- If at least 25% of either affected registered voters or property owners protest, an election of registered voters will be held. If 50% or more of registered voters protest, the annexation is terminated.
- If an election is held, annexation will occur only if a majority of voters support it.
There is no way the City of Richmond can order an election in an unincorporated area prior to initiating LAFCO action. The LAFCO process is designed to provide multiple opportunities for either property owners or residents to derail or terminate annexation.
Regarding the “town hall meetings must be used to inform North Richmond residents,” that the RPA demands, there have already been five of them held at different locations in North Richmond.
I agree with the RPA that North Richmond should not be annexed if the residents don’t want it. I would hope, however, that the RPA is willing to be a part of allowing the process to go forward so that the steps to gauge the receptiveness of North Richmonders can proceed as prescribed by law.
From: Malia Everette [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, October 12, 2017 12:59 PM
To: Butt, Tom <email@example.com>; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Cc: Banales, Marcos <Marcosbanales@yahoo.com>
Subject: Sharing the RPA Position on North Richmond Annexation
Dear Mayor and City Councilmembers,
The Richmond Progressive Alliance has taken the following position on the question of annexing unincorporated North Richmond. We ask you to steer your actions within this framework, honoring the right of North Richmond residents to self-determination.
The RPA Steering Committee recommends that the Richmond City Council pass a resolution:
- Recognizing that North Richmond was excluded from Richmond due to racist housing policies of the past, the City of Richmond is willing to annex unincorporated North Richmond, if that's what North Richmond residents want to do.
- Initiating a process whereby North Richmond residents are asked if they want to be annexed.
- Respecting, under all circumstances, that the will of North Richmond residents must be determined by a vote. The City of Richmond should not initiate the annexation process with LAFCO unless and until North Richmond votes in favor of it.
- Additionally, prior to the vote, mailings and town hall meetings must be used to inform North Richmond residents, including non-voters, on all aspects of annexation and get their feedback.
For additional information and background, the article below by one of our steering committee members was published 10/9/17 in the RPA's e-newsletter. Please let us know if you have any questions.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Malia Everette and Marcos Bañales, RPA co-coordinators
North Richmond: To annex or not to annex?
By Marilyn Langlois, RPA Steering Committee member
The RPA is currently discussing the question about annexation of North Richmond, which was brought to the City Council on 9/26/17. As an RPA member who has participated in many community activities in North Richmond over the past 15 years, I offer here some thoughts on this issue.
The Richmond city council should express its willin
gness in principle to annex unincorporated North Richmond, but only IF that's what the residents want.
The LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) annexation process can be initiated either by a petition of the unincorporated North Richmond voters, or by the City of Richmond. If the residents themselves initiation the process, the City should cooperate with them and not stand in the way.
Since a City initiated process with LAFCO would not guarantee a vote of the residents, the City should not initiate this process at this time. It should first work with the County (which currently governs unincorporated North Richmond) to place an advisory measure on the June Ballot, to better ascertain the will of the residents, especially since annexation would result in tax increases. This vote should include a ballot pamphlet listing all pertinent information and consequences of annexation (i.e. increases in property, sales, utility users taxes and business license fees, addition of rent control and just cause for eviction, addition of regulations allowing for cannabis businesses, potentially streamlined municipal services) and be preceded by an extensive community outreach and engagement campaign.
The history of North Richmond is based on overtly racist housing policies and practices of the past. Both North Richmond and Parchester Village were designated in the '40's and '50's as acceptable locations for African Americans, who were barred from living in most other parts of Richmond. Both areas are isolated by train tracks, far from services and business districts, and downwind from industrial pollution.
Since then, Parchester Village has become part of the City of Richmond and over a third of North Richmond's residential areas are also in the City of Richmond (Shields Reid Neighborhood). Both areas are home to many very low income people of color to this day. The residents in both areas have actively and successfully advocated for improvements, via the North Richmond Municipal Advisory Council, or MAC, (for unincorporated areas), the Shields Reid Neighborhood Council, the North Richmond Mitigation Fund (a City/County run effort at blight removal and community engagement funded by the solid waste transfer station), and the Parchester Village Neighborhood Council. The North Richmond MAC and West County Toxics Coalition successfully advocated for bringing the County Health Clinic in North Richmond after a toxic release incident at General Chemical in the '90's.
Ongoing issues plaguing the community of North Richmond, both City side and County side are poverty, environmental injustice, and economic racism. Annexation by itself won't necessarily address these big issues, which should be cause for concern and action at all levels, city, county, state and federal. And North Richmond residents need to be partners in any decisions aimed at improving their conditions.
According to local and regional ordinances, the primary stakeholder is the body of registered voters in unincorporated North Richmond, who should be primary decision makers in this process. Additional stakeholders who would be impacted by any change in status and whose input should be sought include: residents of unincorporated North Richmond who are not registered voters (i.e., non-US citizens, parolees and youth), non-residents who work in unincorporated North Richmond (incl. business, non-profit and government employees), non-resident property owners, and non-resident business owners. It's not clear from the very skimpy report on community meetings to what extent any of these additional stakeholders have been reached out to.
Two more key stakeholders are Contra Costa County via its elected Board of Supervisors, that currently governs this area and provides all municipal services, and the City of Richmond via its elected City Council, that would be proposing to assume the responsibility for governing this area and providing municipal services. Oddly, the fiscal impact report done for the City by Willdan Financial Services fails to analyze the impacts to the County (positive and negative) of annexing North Richmond to the City of Richmond, which would be helpful to have for comparison purposes.
The residents of unincorporated North Richmond should have a primary say in any decision about annexation to Richmond. At the 9/26/17 city council meeting, in spite of Mayor Butt's extensive work on promoting this concept, not a single resident of unincorporated North Richmond came to speak in favor of annexation. And none of the three speakers on this item currently live in unincorporated North Richmond.
Additional questions to ask: Of the 10-35 attendees at each of the 5 community meetings held thus far, as indicated in the fiscal impact report, how many current residents of unincorporated North Richmond? Of the seven MAC members (appointed by Supervisor Gioia), how many are current residents of unincorporated North Richmond? If the people Gioia has appointed to the MAC are seen as representing the views of residents, the vote of the MAC on annexation--3 against, 2 abstain, 1 in favor and 1 absent (allegedly having expressed views in favor)--is one indication of the community being unwilling to be annexed to Richmond at this time. An advisory ballot measure preceded by extensive community engagement and information sharing could provide a more broader and deeper picture of the community’s views. If the community clearly desires annexation, we should move forward with it. If not, we should hold off.
I have additional questions and concerns about some aspects of the fiscal impact report regarding how the annexation would actually be implemented, but that can wait until after the primary question is resolved of how resident input will be achieved.
The Richmond City Council should pass a resolution expressing the following:
· Recognizing that North Richmond was excluded from Richmond due to racist housing policies of the past, the City of Richmond is willing to annex unincorporated North Richmond, if that's what North Richmond residents want to do.
· The City will initiate a process whereby North Richmond residents are asked if they want to be annexed.
· Under all circumstances, the will of North Richmond residents must be determined by a vote. The City of Richmond should not initiate the annexation process with LAFCO unless and until North Richmond votes in favor of it.
Prior to the vote, mailings and town hall meetings must be used to info