East Palo Alto nonprofit gets $3.1 million from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Grant given to Community Legal Services will help low-income residents with housing and immigration issues

An East Palo Alto nonprofit group that helps thousands of low-income residents with housing and immigration issues will receive a three-year $3.1 million grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the initiative announced on Monday.

David Plouffe, president of policy and advocacy, announced in a Facebook post that the philanthropic Initiative would begin supporting Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto and the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at University of California, Berkeley. Both organizations help affordable housing challenges.

The Initiative was founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan.

"Ensuring that people of all income levels can live and work in our communities is important to advancing human potential and promoting equal opportunity, the mission that guides our work. In the Bay Area, few challenges are greater than the need for affordable housing. It’s an issue affecting many of the local schools we work with, where too many students and their families are struggling to stay in their homes and neighborhoods, and recruiting and retaining top teachers is a challenge," Plouffe said.

Community Legal Services has been working to help people stay in their communities, particularly in East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park, where residents are rapidly becoming displaced by the high cost of housing and market speculation.

The grant will help Community Legal Services serve an additional 2,500 residents in East Palo Alto, Belle Haven, and North Fair Oaks facing threats to community stability by displacement and to continue to work with local organizations such as Faith in Action and Youth United for Community Action (YUCA) to find longer-term regional housing solutions. Community Legal Services will provide funding from the grant to Faith in Action and YUCA to increase grassroots advocacy and to preserve and build affordable housing.

The organization will also work to help residents collect unpaid wages and improve their job prospects, which impact their ability to pay mortgages and rents; keep more families in their homes as rents increase so they won't have to leave good jobs and Bay Area schools; and expand the housing, economic advancement, and immigration programs by hiring five new full-time attorneys and additional paralegal support.

East Palo Alto and Belle Haven in Menlo Park have seen half of their long-term residents leave in the past five years, Plouffe noted.

"This is the kind of on the ground policy work that we will be doing more of in the months and years to come," he said.

The Initiative is also granting The Terner Center $500,000. The center works to increase the supply and lower the cost of housing in high cost regions; expand access to quality rental housing and home ownership; use housing as a tool to achieve sustainability and; assess the impact of major housing policies and programs.

The grant will help fill research gaps and test new ideas to develop long-term solutions.

"Our gift will support their work to continue their strong research to help guide our region towards evidenced-based solutions," Plouffe said.

"While we recognize that there is no single approach to solving the Bay Area’s housing crisis, it’s clear that we need to both increase the availability of affordable housing, and help families stay in their homes and neighborhoods. These grants will support those working to help families in immediate crisis while supporting research into new ideas to find a long-term solution -- a two-step strategy that will guide much of our policy and advocacy work moving forward," he said


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5 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 6, 2017 at 10:28 am

Do these agencies help to increase the supply of affordable housing? Or just squeeze more people into the existing very limited housing market?

12 people like this
Posted by Sue Dremann
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Feb 6, 2017 at 11:13 am

Sue Dremann is a registered user.

CLSEPA works to prevent residents of these communities who are already in housing to remain in their homes, particularly when they have been evicted for unjust causes or lost their homes through fraud. YUCA and Faith in Action also work to keep people in existing homes who face eviction. These last two and other organizations are working to find ways to also increase the supply of affordable housing.

17 people like this
Posted by mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 6, 2017 at 11:48 am

And then there is the big new apartment complex that Facebook just built in the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park. One-bedroom apartments are $3,000+/month. This used to be a low-income area. Not anymore!

14 people like this
Posted by Hal Plotkin
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2017 at 12:23 pm

I hope my neighbors will join me in thanking the Chan Zuckerberg family for their generous support of Community Legal Services. These legal services support tenants who all too often endure horrendous abuses that include violations of health and safety rules, privacy rights, sexual harassment, and access to the courts in addition to unfair evictions. Community Legal Services also provides jobs to public service-oriented lawyers who often have trouble finding paying work that fits their career goals. Fortifying Community Legal Services is a smart and strategic way to build a more humane and inclusive community where equal treatment under the law does not remain forever out of reach of so many. These days, many foundations shy away from causes that provide aid to individual families in crisis. I salute the Chan Zuckerberg family for continuing to move resources to the front lines.

13 people like this
Posted by CW
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 6, 2017 at 12:50 pm

How many times will they announce the awarding of these funds? I think I've read this story 2 or 3 times before. I don't want to sound critical though. I support anything that increases the amount of litigation taking place. We need more lawsuits so that we can sue ourselves to greatness!

23 people like this
Posted by Sad Irony
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2017 at 1:33 pm

Sad Irony is a registered user.

"Community Legal Services has been working to help people stay in their communities, particularly in East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park, where residents are rapidly becoming displaced by the high cost of housing and market speculation."

CLS sounds very noble. With that said, isn't the reason so many of these EPA and EMP residents are becoming displaced and need CLS services is because of FaceBook located smack in that location driving up housing prices? So now FaceBook founder/CEO through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is donating to CLS and playing the white knight to solve a problem FB in large part helped create? Maybe I've missed something here, but it seems sadly ironc.

9 people like this
Posted by CW
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 6, 2017 at 1:44 pm

One more thing -- do you folks at the Weekly realize that the David Plouffe you're quoting is the same David Plouffe who was Obama's campaign manager in 2008? I know you just cut-and-paste news releases over there, but think about it for a moment. This guy got Obama elected in 2008. Then he bounces in an out of the administration, lands at Uber and then at Facebook. Knowing that Plouffe is involved, I'll bet this grant money will go to funding a political organization of some sort. Remember Acorn? At the very least, the Weekly ought to be pointing out this guy's resume. Bad reporting!

7 people like this
Posted by Deep Sigh
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2017 at 2:01 pm

This amount helps only a tiny bit-- not enough to do any real good!

6 people like this
Posted by Michael Levin
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 6, 2017 at 7:01 pm

I don't usually post responses to things other people say that I don't like but I have to give a response to CW of Crescent Park. That's completely unacceptable for you to casually say "Bad reporting!" about someone like Sue Dremann, a veteran reporter who has been covering East Palo Alto with both compassion and critical objectivity for many years. Ms Dremann included a link to David Plouffe's original Facebook post, so anyone who wanted to know more could go to the original source and then to Google if they wanted to know even more. In the era of Donald Trump we should all be careful about casually demean the press and journalists in such a way. Sue Dremann is doing reporting their not opinion

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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