J Street Co-op and SCHA controversy

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This page concerns events which came to a a head in 2009 and 2010. It was removed from the J Street Co-op and SCHA pages because the people concerned are no longer at the Co-op or on the organization's Board. Links to the Davis Voice do not work, so the full text of the SCHA Board of Director's reply is no longer available.

Controversy (from SCHA page)

In late September 2009, the SCHA Board of Directors offered one of J St Co-op's members, pxl, who lived there for 4 and a half years, $600 to move out by October 1st, or threatened him with a 3 day eviction notice, for supposedly being "too confrontational." They did this at a secret meeting, with a false meeting agenda, at an unusual venue for the meeting, and without taking minutes, All of which is in violation of SCHA bylaws. The board members most responsible for forcing this decision through are still the oldest active board members.

An open letter about the issues written by pxl was published in the The Davis Voice, and [WWW]can be read there.

"I have no respect for the SCHA board of directors, their commitment to non-hierarchical cooperative housing, environmental sustainability or openness and honesty. I was never given an opportunity to defend myself, or face my accusers and the directors completely ignored all of the SCHA grievance policy in our lease. I could have sued them if I had any interest in the US court system, which I do not. The SCHA board of Directors (circa 2004-2009 especially) is a bunch of two-faced faschistaucrats and self-centered, jet-set, Amerikans focusing on their careers and personal housing investments, not hippies, yippies, anarchists or otherwise community minded people." —PxlAted

"The nonprofit is run by a volunteer board of 7 members from its two houses and 3 from the community. We make all decisions by consensus. Holding select members responsible for these decisions is unjustified and defamatory. The open letter of Ron Stivers (Pxl) contains factually inaccurate claims and misrepresentations of the bylaws, actions taken, and opinions expressed by SCHA members. Asking a member to leave is a stressful event in any community; we feel it would be unjust to list our grievances in a public forum. Those concerned with these decisions are welcome to contact us. We pursued legal counsel to ensure our compliance with all written policy. We also pursued discussion that reached mutual agreement, avoided eviction, and allowed Mr. Stivers to leave in good standing. The board is evaluating how our bylaws could be reformed to ensure a clearer process, as well as pursuing training activities to facilitate more effective communication within our community. We’re a small and imperfect organization that passes its ownership down to each new set of residents, who learn from their own mistakes and bring their own vision and skills. We invite your feedback and your criticisms to help us become a better organization. Contact scha.davis@gmail.com or join us for a community meal." — Excerpts from SCHA's reply letter on The Davis Voice

Controversy (from J Street Co-op page)

Former co-op member pxl has published the following letter of grievance with the SCHA. In it, he claims that the SCHA board of directors have violated the bylaws of their organization, are ecologically ignorant, and lack concern for the planet. He cites instances of alleged misconduct to support these contentions. He claims that a certain director unsuccessfully attempted to remove income limits on members in an interested manner, to ensure that his girlfriend could continue to live in the community. He claims that certain renovation contracts were awarded to a sitting director in an improper manner. He claims that the directors approved transportation to a community housing convention by air transit, which was an ecologically burdensome and unsustainable form of transportation. He also finds grievance with the meeting of the board and some current and former residents where it was decided that he should be evicted from the community complex. He complains that the organization does not adhere to its own bylaws, and that proper procedure is not followed as a matter of routine in both the case of his eviction and in the day to day running of the organization. He feels the manner in which he was evicted was improper, and urges readers of this article to ask that the current board members adhere to their own bylaws, that violations of proper procedure should be met with reprimand, and that certain board members should step down.

Open Letter

Written January 20th, 2010 by Pxl, a former member of SCHA

From 2005 to 2010, I lived at the J st. co-op, which is one of two co-operative homes owned by Solar Community Housing Association. In the past two years, a series of events has unfolded that leaves me with no respect for the SCHA board of directors or their collective commitment to non-hierarchical cooperative housing and environmental sustainability. In my opinion, the SCHA board of directors is desperately in need of reform and restructuring.

The SCHA board of directors has repeatedly ignored or violated their own bylaws and values and demonstrated their ecological ignorance or lack of concern for the planet. In housing cooperatives, there is often high turnover, including on a board of directors. My hope is that the board will soon get back on track, but I fear this is not the case. Several of the best board members have left this year, with some frustration over faulty board process and I think the most detrimental board members are now the “old hats” the new board members are learning from.

In order for SCHA to stay true to their core values of affordable cooperative housing and environmental sustainability and to put some recent wrongdoings in the organization’s past, I am calling for a general return to core values by the board and the resignation and removal of SCHA director Max Stevenson specifically for many reasons. There has been such high turnover on the board this year already, and I do not know some of the current board members so I do not think it necessary for the entire board to step down.

The not-for-profit SCHA was formed with the stated goal of “reducing the burden of affordable housing from the state.” In order to ensure this, there are income limits in place for all non-student SCHA members (80% of local median family income or currently about $38,000). In 2006 or 2007, SCHA Community Director Max Stevenson pushed a several month process of trying to remove the income limits from our housing. This was a huge time drain, detracted from the very core of the organization, and could have jeopardized our tax-exempt status had he succeeded. I opposed this action.

From 2007-2009, the SCHA board approved thousands of dollars in airline ticket purchases to send members to a national weekend co-op conference in Michigan, while, in the same period they completely ignored a similar West Coast conference. They purchased these tickets over the repeated objections of members who did not want their money to go towards one of the most polluting and damaging means of transportation possible. With these actions, The Board of Directors has increased the carbon footprint for this 16 room Co-op to an absurdly large and completely unsustainable size. I went to this conference once, but I rode the train.

In 2009, SCHA Community Director Max Stevenson attempted to get SCHA to co-invest in some property with him in an expansion project. This was in direct violation of SCHA’s governing bylaws. I opposed this attempt as well.

In September 2009, the Board awarded SCHA Community Director Ben Pearl almost $40,000 to be project manager for a new SCHA expansion project. They did this without creating a job description or seeking ANY outside applicants for the position. While not a violation of SCHA bylaws, I don’t think this conforms to common not for profit etiquette. Ben abstained from the vote to “avoid” conflict of interest but I would like to see him resign from the board OR step down as project manager for the new co-op.

On September 21st, 2009, the board held a secret meeting with a small group of mostly former co-op and board members. That night, the board decided that I should be forced out for being “too confrontational”. They offered me $600 to not sign a new lease and move out by October 1st. If I refused, they threatened to serve a three-day eviction notice… after living there for almost five years. As soon as I became aware of the board's action against me I initiated a mediation process with the City of Davis' Community Mediation Services, which is one of the first steps in SCHA’s grievance process. The board declined mediation.

I negotiated with the board personally. At this point, I no longer wished to reside in the midst of a negative situation. We agreed that I would have 30 days to vacate, I left in “good standing”, and I signed a small book-size-document they’d paid a lawyer to draft, saying I would agree not to sue SCHA. I have not financially recovered, am still homeless and I still have no desire to sue the organization. I just don’t want the current board to ruin this great organization.

According to SCHA’s bylaws, there are very specific ways to be forced out, such as 2/3’s of current housemates petitioning the board for a member’s removal. In my case, none of the criteria was met and more of my housemates opposed my eviction than supported it. The board violated many of its bylaws, established process, our written lease, and completely ignored the written grievance policy (a legal attachment to our lease). When I asked why they were not following procedure, the board told me “no one has followed process from the beginning, so we’re not going to start now” and “it’s easier for everyone this way.” Everyone except for me that is, whose rights were being trampled.

This secretive action caused me immense emotional damage and severely impacted SCHA’s reputation in the community.
Good organizational process is so essential for transparency, openness and accountability, which I feel the board is lacking right now. Many current and former members have said they do not feel the board is responsive to them. I have been asked to join the board many times and I always declined, as I’m not fond of meetings and stay pretty busy with my work and gardening for Food Not Bombs, Whole Earth Festival, Yolo County Food Bank, and J St. co-op.

I hope that you’ll let the board know what you think about their actions, demand that the SCHA board of directors adhere to their bylaws and that directors are reprimanded or step down when they don’t. The future of truly co-operative housing is at stake... email the board at: SCHA.Davis@gmail.com

Media

Additional comments by PxlAted

2010-03-31 03:13:08   Here is a list of the bylaws the board of mis-directors violated in kicking me out, not to mention California Law, which gives me 30 days, not 3. Because they hadn’t let me sign the new lease, they tried to treat me like a non-member, while treating members who had left 8 months earlier, as members still. Be warned co-opers, only be critical of the board AFTER you sign the new lease.

ARTICLE VI MEMBERSHIP

SECTION 1. CLASSES OF MEMBERS
The corporation shall have one class of members only, and the rights and privileges of all members shall be equal. No member shall hold more than one membership in the organization. No member shall have any voting, property, or other interest in the affairs of this corporation except as expressly provided in these bylaws.

SECTION 2. QUALIFICATIONS OF MEMBERS
The membership of this corporation shall be comprised of persons who are residents of housing owned or leased by the corporation or have signed a contract to do so.

SECTION 4.
RIGHTS OF MEMBERS
Each member shall have the following rights in addition to other rights specified by law, the Articles of Incorporation, and these Bylaws:
(a) Right to attend, speak, make and second motions or approvals, and vote at membership meetings.
(b) Right to attend and speak at all meetings of Board of Directors.
(c) All rights expressed in a written lease agreement between the member and the corporation.

SECTION 10. EXPULSION FROM MEMBERSHIP
Upon petition by two-thirds of all members of the tenants cooperative to which a member of the corporation belongs, the Board of Directors shall commence the following procedures in regards to that member:

(a) A notice shall be sent by mail to the most recent address of the member as shown on the corporation's records, setting forth the expulsion and the reasons therefor. Such notice shall be sent at least 30 days before the proposed effective date of the expulsion.

(b) The member being expelled shall be given an opportunity to be heard, either orally, or in writing, at a hearing to be held not fewer than five days before the effective date of the proposed expulsion. The hearing will be held by a special member expulsion committee composed of not fewer than three Directors appointed by the President. The notice to the member of his or her proposed expulsion shall state the date, time, and place of the hearing.

(c) Following the hearing, the expulsion committee shall decide whether or not the member should in fact be expelled, suspended, or sanctioned in some other way. The decision of the committee shall be final.
(d) Any person expelled from the corporation shall not have his or her lease renewed.

ARTICLE VII MEETINGS OF MEMBERS

SECTION 4. NOTICE OF MEMBERS' MEETINGS
(a) General notice contents. All notices of meetings of members shall be sent or otherwise given in accordance with Subsection (b) of this section of this Article VII not less than 10 nor more than 90 days before the date of the meeting. The notice shall specify the place, date, and hour of the meeting and (i) in the case of a special meeting, the general nature of the business to be transacted and no other business may in that case be transacted, or (ii) in the case of the annual meeting, those matters which the Board of Directors, at the time of giving notice, intends to present for action by the members.

ARTICLE IX DIRECTORS' MEETINGS

SECTION 3. NOTICE
Notice of any regular meeting need not be given if the time and place of such meetings has been fixed by the Board. If the time and place of regular meetings has not been fixed, and for all special meetings, four days' notice shall be given by mail or 48 hours notice shall be given personally or by telephone.

ARTICLE XI OFFICERS

SECTION 3. DUTIES OF SECRETARY
The Secretary shall attend to the following:
(a) Book of Minutes. The Secretary shall keep or cause to be kept, at the principal executive office or such other place as the Board of Directors may direct, a book of minutes of all meetings and actions of Directors, committees of Directors, and members, with the time and place of holding, whether regular or special, and, if special, how authorized, the notice given, the names of those present at such meetings, the number of members present or represented at members' meetings, and the proceedings of such meetings —PxlAted

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