Press Release: No Closed-door Meetings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, February 21 at 4 pm at the Commons (7900 Mack) Charlevoix Village Association (CVA) and neighbors will challenge the City of Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD) to open up the process of selecting developers to revitalize the Islandview neighborhood to the public. Selection committee members in CVA have put out a call for all of their neighbors and supporters to attend the invitation-only meeting in order to increase accessibility and transparency in the planning process.

CVA, a long-standing neighborhood association representing long-term and new residents on the lower east side, has a track record of holding the City accountable in their revitalization plans. Throughout the duration of the planning process for Islandview and Greater Villages (IVGV), CVA has demanded that the planned development be equitable. This past year, CVA and supporters delayed the development at Kercheval & Van Dyke by demanding higher standards of affordability and community engagement of developers Roxbury Group and Invest Detroit. Because of CVA’s activism, the developers were under more scrutiny, which resulted in the Kercheval and Van Dyke development offering 50 to 60% AMI for 30 years instead of the original 10 years, and ensuring that none of the units would be market rate for 10 years. The City now highlights this precedent as a high achievement in equitable development.

CVA’s insistence upon representation secured their presence on two Selection Committees formed to choose the next developers who will implement redevelopment in Islandview. However, the CVA members who sit on the committees have identified serious problems with the process and want to allow all residents to be a part of the selection process for developers, not just a hand-picked few.  Making these meetings public is the only way to ensure accountability and transparency of the City and developers operating in their community.

To ensure that the changes we need happen, CVA has done two things: 1) We have sent a public letter to HRD outlining the problems with the Selection Committees’ current operations, as well as practical suggestions for remedies (see attached); and 2) we decided to publicly advertise for the Selection Committee meeting Thursday to ensure that the concerns highlighted in the letter are not simply swept under the rug.  CVA’s experience pushing for equitable development over two years of IVGV planning proves that our physical presence and vocal opposition is the only thing that get results.

Originally presented to the community as an attempt by Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD) to improve community input and inclusion in the process of redevelopment, community members have found the Selection Committee to be more bark than bite when it comes to meaningful inclusion.  Far from ensuring that community voices help shape development projects, the Selection Committee operates as if such information and deliberation should not be public. Not only are the Selection Committee members hand-picked by HRD, but their deliberations and meetings have proceeded swiftly and without public input.  When one of the committee members asked for the meeting to be made public so that engaged residents in the area could be aware of what is happening in their neighborhood, HRD representatives said that it would have public meetings later, by which time the developer, and hence the specifics of the development, would already be decided.  

Other Selection Committee members have not been able to attend any meetings at all.  Many residents work and are only available in the evenings. However, instead of scheduling meeting times that work for all committee members, HRD representatives have only scheduled meetings during business hours.  

Community members, especially long-term, working-class, black residents, are fed up with this process and feel that it is deeply disrespectful.  Because they care for their community, they decided to act. They insist that this meeting be a public meeting, and furthermore that a discussion about how to fix this broken process happen. City officials must prioritize the voices and interests of long-term residents. After all, the City’s job is to serve the people of the community, not developers or monied interests.  

For any questions, contact CVA Volunteer Organizer Tristan Taylor at 313.445.1479 or tristan.taylor@ueaa.net

City sets up closed-room developer selection committees for Islandview

CALL TO ACTION
Thursday February 21st, 4pm – 6:30pm
The Commons, 7900 Mack Ave.


The City of Detroit recently created special selection committees to choose developers for planned projects in the neighborhood, including new apartments on Townsend near Vernor and eight rehabbed duplexes throughout Islandview. Community members invited to sit on the committees have had serious concerns with the transparency and accessibility of these committees.  

The City scheduled these meetings on weekdays during business hours when most people can’t attend and and didn’t publicize them beyond the people on the committees. That’s not transparent or inclusive!

We think that these meetings should be open to the public, scheduled in the evenings, and held once a month rather than every other week. 

This is an important process that affects all of us. To make sure our voices are heard, the community members who sit on these committees have invited the whole community to join the meetings. The next meeting to discuss the new Townsend apartments is this Thursday, February 21st at 4 PM at The Commons

We need as many people as possible to show up on Thursday so that everyone can find out about these developers who are seeking to do business in our community, and make sure the City does a better job of being accountable to us and including our voices in the decisions they make.
View the open letter here.

Update: January 29 meeting and review of Kercheval & Van Dyke development

CVA Monthly Meeting

Tuesday January 29th, 5:30pm-7pm
Butzel Family Center, 7737 Kerchevel

Happy New Year, CVA! We hope you all had a wonderful holiday! We’re looking forward to seeing you at our January meeting on Tuesday the 29th at Butzel.

Since we didn’t have a general meeting last month, we wanted to follow up with y’all about our campaign to get your voices heard about Invest Detroit and Roxbury Group’s 94-unit luxury apartment building at Kercheval and Van Dyke. In November, City Council voted to rezone the property, allowing the development to move ahead.

For full details about this development, check out our factsheet and the letter CVA submitted to City Council.

They’re building this in our backyard and it could cause rising rents and property taxes, while at the same time benefiting from our tax dollars. Lots of folks turned out to the community engagement meetings and made trips down to City Hall in the fight for a Community Benefits Agreement.

Our accomplishments organizing around this development:

  • Slowed down a rushed process so that the community could make their voices heard. Roxbury Group/Invest Detroit wanted to break ground in October 2018. Now the project is planned to begin construction in Spring 2019.
  • Increased the length of time that some subsidized apartments in the development will be kept at a lower prices ($665/mo and $798/mo for a 1bd), from 10 years to 30 years.
  • Capped the price of all market rate units for 10 years.
  • Drafted a Community Benefits document and delivered it to Roxbury Group/Invest Detroit to begin the negotiation process.
  • Got a verbal commitment from the developers for community benefits and a community advisory board.

It’s because of you that we’ve gotten this far! A lot of changes are coming and we need your help in the New Year to hold these developers accountable and make sure the community has a say!

We look forward to seeing everyone at Butzel on the 29th!

Tell City Council to Hold Developers Accountable and Stand Up For Long-term Residents in Detroit!

Attend City Council Committe of the Whole Session 

Tuesday, November 20th, 10am | Coleman A. Young Municipal Building, 13th Floor

On Tuesday, City Council will vote on whether or not to approve the rezoning request needed by Invest Detroit and Roxbury Group to do their 94 unit mixed-use development on the corner of Van Dyke and Kercheval.  While the community’s input encouraged Invest Detroit and Roxbury Group to make some changes to the development( the 19 units at 50% to 60% AMI was for ten years, but now it is 30 years, and the units are priced capped at 120%AMI for ten years) it still has far to go to be a truly inclusive and equitable development.

We need people to call City Council members and attend Tuesday’s City Council meeting to ask that they delay the rezoning until the community’s needs are addressed:

AFFORDABILITY

  • While Invest Detroit and Roxbury Group have taken out units that are market-rate, putting a cap on rent at 120% AMI for 10 years, the cap is still too high and the time frame too short.

  • 120% AMI is well above the means of incoming teachers, police officers, and firefighters, who are at 75% AMI, at salaries between $36,000 and $38,500.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
  • On too many occasions, Invest Detroit and the Roxbury Group have failed to communicate with the community about changes made to the development project.

  • The developers have had no meaningful engagement since Oct 10th, which was the community meeting called by the Planning Commission and held at Butzel Community Center.

    • They have not responded to a request by the community concerning a set of community benefits people would like to see attached to this development.

    • Community members who expressed interest in being a part of the Community Advisory Board that was suggested by the Planning Commission have not heard back from Invest Detroit or the Roxbury Group

Because of our insistence on speaking up and making sure development that happens in our community actually benefits us, we have forced some significant changes to this development and the City’s process of “engagement”.  Our voices matter. That is why we have to remain vocal and active. Please reach out to City Council and come speak out Tuesday to urge City Council to hold these developers accountable.

Brenda Jones, 313.224.1245, Bjones_mb@detroitmi.gov
Janeé Ayers, 313.224.4248, councilmemberayers@detroitmi.gov
Mary Sheffield, 313.224.4505, councilmembersheffield@detroitmi.gov
James Tate, 313.224.1027, councilmembertate@detroitmi.gov
Roy McCalister, 313.224.4535, councilmemberMcCalister@detroitmi.gov
Scott Benson, 313.224.1198, BensonS@detroitmi.gov
André Spivey, 313.224.4841, councilmanspivey@detroitmi.gov
Raquel Castañeda-López, 313.224.2450, councilmemberraquel@detroitmi.gov
Gabe Leland, 313.224.2151, LelandG@detroitmi.gov

 

Support the Poverty Tax Exemption Ordinance

City Council will be voting on an ordinance that could help keep families and long-term residents in their homes by breaking down barriers to the Poverty Tax Exemption.  The exemption helps stop unjust tax foreclosures on those living in poverty.  We need people to tell Council members to remove these roadblocks to the much-needed exemption.

Please contact City Council officials and express your support for the Poverty Tax Exemption Ordinance.  For more information on the ordinance go to www.illegalforeclosures.org

URGENT: PROGRAM TO HELP DETROITERS STAY IN THEIR HOMES ENDS FRIDAY, JULY 13TH

The City of Detroit reached a settlement with the ACLU that allows for people who live in homes facing tax foreclosure to stay in their homes.  As part of the settlement the City of Detroit will use the Right of First Refusal (ROR) to take homes off the tax foreclosure auction for owners or occupants whose income is below or near the federal poverty guideline.  These homes will be sold to the United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC), where they can be purchased for $1,000 by the owner or occupant. If the owner or occupant does not have $1,000 they may enter into a zero interest payment plan with UCHC.  The deadline for the program is July 13th, so people must act now to see if they qualify. Please call UCHC to see if you qualify at 313-963-3310 x339 or email register@uchcdetroit.org.  We need to spread the word and help anyone we can to stay in their homes.  If you know of someone in tax foreclosure please forward them this info.

ATTEND THE CVA ORGANIZING MEETING
THURSDAY, JULY 12TH, 6:30PM AT MACK ALIVE (3746 FISCHER)

This settlement proves what we have known all along – that the City has the power to do more to combat the housing crisis in Detroit.  It also makes clear that if we organize ourselves and fight that we can force the City to do right the right thing.  If we are going to win more, than means being more organized and fighting for more.

Since 2013, The City of Detroit has given over $410 million in tax abatements to developers (averaging $3.7 million per project).  Instead of giving this money to rich developers the City should be prioritizing their resources to help long-term, poor, and working-class residents stay in their homes.

This settlement is possible because of the work of progressive organizations in Detroit standing up to the City.  CVA’s organizing for equitable development and affordable housing should be seen as part of the organizing taking place all across the City that made this settlement possible.  It may be hard to feel it at times, but our actions really do have an impact! 

We need to keep the fight against racist displacement and resegregation moving forward.  This means putting more pressure on developers to enter into a community benefits agreement with the us, building a united movement in Detroit, and forcing the City to act in the interest of its residents, and not rich developers.  Please attend CVA’s Organizing Meeting Thursday, July 12 at 6:30pm at Mack Alive (3746 Fischer) and help us get organized so that we can win what our communities need and deserve.

Tell City Council Not To Give Dan Gilbert Detroiters’ Money!

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Call Detroit City Council Members Scott Benson, Mary Sheffield, and Gabe Leland And Tell Them To Prioritize Detroiters Over Billionares and VOTE NO on Bedrock’s Brownsfield Development!

UPDATE: The vote has been moved to Monday at noon. The Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee will consider whether to give Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Group even more of our money. This billionaire is asking for more than $250 million to build four developments that will have no positive or beneficial impact to Detroiters.

The notion of a billionaire getting money as Detroiters are struggling day to day to survive is outrageous. Detroiters need the attention of City Council, not a billionaire. We deserve more guarantees that Detroiters will benefit equitably from this development, including more affordable units that are not segregated from the market rate and luxury housing being built. Committee members Benson, Sheffield, and Leland should table the request and make Bedrock strike a better deal with the community.

Last week members of CVA spoke out last week against this proposal in order to represent the real interest of Detroiters. Our presence made an impact. So we are planning on showing up again, and are calling for everyone to SPEAK UP FOR DETROIT! Let Benson and Sheffield know that they need to continue to do right by Detroit. Table the vote, like they did last week. The billionaires can wait. Detroit residents cannot.

Join Us! Call Benson, Sheffield, and Leland and tell them to VOTE NO on the Brownsfield Development. Come and attend the Hearing MONDAY 11/20 starting at 12noon at the Coleman A Young Municiple Building on the 13th floor. Let us know if you are interested in coming and need a ride!

Scott Benson – District 3, BensonS@detroitmi.gov, 313-224-1198

Mary Sheffield – District 5, CouncilMemberSheffield@detroitmi.gov, 313-224-4505

Gabe Leland – District 7, LelandG@detroitmi.gov, 313-224-2151