Author, Activist Randy Shaw on Housing Affordability and Social Policy

“I came here, driving up Sepulveda, coming from the airport, and I thought – this could be your Champs Elysees, this should be your Vienna; all you need to do is build some three, four story apartments all along here, plant some trees, and you are there.” Randy Shaw has researched housing issues in cities across the country, and he thinks Los Angeles can solve the problem.

The City of Culver City has been dedicated to getting their citizens educated as the General Plan Update approaches, and the Speaker Series has been a key portion of the curriculum. When author Randy Shaw faced a roomful of Culver City residents to speak about housing at Antioch University on Wednesday June 19, 2019, he had an audience of keen listeners, most of whom had real life consequences in view with the housing crisis.

“Generation Priced Out; Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America” is Shaw’s latest volume, and he kept his remarks closely referential to his written material. As someone who had grown up in Los Angeles and has lived in San Francisco for decades, he has a perspective on California that goes deep.

Citing ‘baby boomer homeowners’ as the true villains of the housing crunch, he offered that his book was broken into chapters focused on cities; Austin, Berkeley, Denver, Seattle and others, talking with tenants, homeowners, activists and developers about their perspectives on the housing problem.  “As soon as you get any suggestion of adding apartments to an area that’s been zoned for single family homes, it’s the homeowners who are up in arms. The huge prejudice that renters will destroy the character of a neighborhood, it’s just not true. Over and over, I can give you all kinds of evidence that renters want just what homeowners want; a safe place to live.”

When a microphone was offered for people to ask questions, Shaw dispatched them with alacrity. The shadow monster of ‘greedy developers,’ the challenge of ‘liberal’ cities with deeply restrictive housing laws, and the speed at which the situation could change for the better (Oregon was offered as an example) were all brought out in to the light.

“Lots of people from California, they go to Europe and they say, oh, Paris is so great, Vienna is so great, we just loved it. Where do people live in Paris and Vienna? Multi-story, multi-unit housing.”

Shaw is a long time housing activist in San Francisco, the founder of Tenderloin Housing Clinic, the biggest provider of housing for homeless adults in SF. The Clinic currently leases, manages, and provides supportive services to over 2000 tenants. He is also the editor of BeyondChron, an online news publication that covers San Francisco.

Judith Martin-Straw



The Actors' Gang

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