Homeless Action! of Sonoma County announced today that it will support the Stop All Government Evictions (SAGE) campaign in its effort to urge the Board of Supervisors to pass a moratorium on Permit Sonoma evictions of low income renters. This would not apply in cases when there is an immediate threat to renters’ health and safety demonstrably greater than the health and safety risk of homelessness. Sonoma County government has stealthily become the greatest source of the removal of affordable safe housing in the North Bay and its code enforcement agency is responsible for more evictions of low income renters and homelessness than any given corporate landlord in Sonoma County.
“This kind of activity on the part of the county is salt in the wounds of county residents in the lowest income brackets because they’re housed and the county is forcing them into homelessness,” says Gail Simons, a member of the dynamic grassroots Homeless Action! organization. “In the midst of the devastating Covid-19 pandemic on top of the already existing monumental housing shortage, this is cruelty that could have and should have been avoided.”
Thousands of unpermitted renters live with the constant fear that one call from an anonymous neighbor to Permit Sonoma could all too well result in a dreaded 30-day eviction order, standard operating procedure whenever a code inspector shows up to look at a trailer, yurt, tent or tiny home, regardless of how safe they are.
This is often because antiquated housing code law requires the use of septic systems rather than modern alternatives such as composting toilets and trailer bathrooms, which are more affordable, conserve water and help to preserve the environment. Such solutions are legal throughout California but not in Sonoma County. Instead, Permit Sonoma takes the uncompromising position that any unpermitted dwelling must be removed or destroyed within 30 days or residents will face hefty fines of up to $100 a day.
That’s exactly what has happened to a West County family who provide land and utilities for $625 a month to Copperwoman Saso, a beloved 70-year-old local singer/songwriter, healer and grandmother who lives in a charming tiny home on their property. Refusing to acquiesce to homelessness, Copperwoman is fighting to save her home and those of other unpermitted folks by seeking justice from the Board of Supervisors. Tennis Wick, director of Permit Sonoma, did not respond to several requests from a member of the county’s Human Rights Commission to discuss this issue.
Here is an excerpt of the lyrics that Copperwoman wrote to describe her plight:
Please don’t take my home away from me,
I’m happy and I’m healthy and I’m 70.
Home is where my heart is and hundreds just like me,
the unpermitted people living safely.
I think you would agree that it’s time
to make changes to the eviction paradigm.
Make change! Change the Law!
Cuz everybody needs a home!
Copperwoman can be seen singing her song and you’ll get a tour of her tiny home HERE. Her website has more information: copperwoman.com And you’ll find more about the SAGE campaign and have an opportunity to sign and share their petition HERE.
Lynda Hopkins, Chair of the Board of Supervisors, has long supported the law change being sought. In August 2018, she declared, “We welcome community input as the County revises its septic policies. Policies which could impact many of our rural residents. We are exploring creative solutions and some alternative technologies, along with permitting composting toilets at long last – which might help mitigate the stringent environmental regulations coming from our state regulators.”
Jonathan Greenberg started the SAGE campaign for the public interest advocacy and solutions website, The Sonoma Independent, with an expose of the impact of Permit Sonoma’s relentless vacate orders. “I have never seen a starker example of a disconnect between the stated objectives of our elected officials and the government they oversee,” says Greenberg. “The very county that says that their top priorities are ending homeless and the creation of affordable housing is the number one perpetrator of evictions of low income people from safe, affordable housing, hypocritically in the name of their own health and safety.”
Media contact: Kathleen Finigan