Saturday, June 27, 2015

Oaklander Sets SF's Activist Housing Agenda: Maria Zamudio

If you've attended any of Plaza 16's meetings or protests at San Francisco's City Hall or at the BART Plaza at 16th and Mission Streets, you've seen paid organizer Maria Zamudio of Causa Justa literally running the show.

No matter when or where Plaza 16 puts on an event, Zamudio is front and center hogging the mic and limelight, and more problematically, setting the San Francisco Mission housing activist agenda, as the above photo montage illustrates.

Many folks are not aware that Zamudio and her girlfriend live in Oakland. There is a lot radically wrong with Plaza 16 allowing an East Bay resident to have so much power over who sets the Mission's course of action to either stop the Maximus Partner's condo project or deciding who gets time to speak at meetings, or even attend "community" meetings.

Recently, Zamudio and her partner were experiencing housing troubles and they launched an online fundraising effort to gain housing security:

"Unfortunately, within a week of signing our new lease our landlords informed us that our home was on the market [...] Because we live in Oakland, there are no requirements for anyone doing an Owner Move-In eviction to provide relocation support for the tenants."

Why has it not been continually disclosed at Plaza 16 events that Zamudio lives in Oakland? Sure, no matter where she resides her right to have an opinion about San Francisco housing issues allow her a say but she dominates the agenda that people who actually live in the Mission don't have influence over.

I wish to also point out that her nonprofit, Causa Justa, and the other charities running Plaza 16 as their front-group, come to the community and position themselves as "the" community's voices. The nonprofit footprint of reps such as Zamudio in Plaza 16 and the Mission is too large and needs curbing.

Not only must there be a challenge made to the dominance of Zamudio and nonprofits, we also need to look at activists attending the board meetings of Causa Justa, PODER, MEDA, the Housing Rights Committee/SF, Dolores Street Community Services and Mission SRO Collaborative. If they can come to our community meetings, they should reciprocate and allow activists to attend theirs.

Related to all this are fascinating quotes HRC/SF executive director Sara Shortt gave to the San Francisco Business Times in March, about the SF Bay Area Renters Federation and its leader Sonja Trauss who, like Zamudio, resides in Oakland:

"'I think they are a sham group that is acting as a shill for market-rate developers and other pro-development groups. I find it offensive that they are purporting to represent the voice of renters.'"

"Shortt said that Trauss has 'no experience or qualification in the field of housing,' lives in Oakland and doesn't speak for San Francisco renters. 'I think it's very deceptive. They haven't proven themselves to be a representation of the community.'"

I'm of the opinion that some aspects of Plaza 16 are a sham, that it shills for nonprofits and purports to be the voice of Mission renters and others, that if we're going to criticize Trauss for living in the East Bay and advocating policies in San Francisco the same standard should be applied to Zamudio, and Plaza 16 has proven themselves to be a restrictive organization where all are not welcomed.

It's time to question who leads Plaza 16 and look at where their steering committee members live.

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