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Response to Dick Spotswood’s Opinion Column in the Marin IJ

Dick Spotswood has lowered the bar for local journalism with his December 17th, 2022 opinion piece in the Marin IJ covering Fairfax’s new rent stabilization and just cause eviction ordinances. The column is rife with sensationalist claims, arrogant remarks, and arguments made either in bad faith or ignorance, all while attempting to revive a kind of red scare McCarthyism in Marin. County residents should demand far more from its local paper of record than poorly-researched fear-mongering dressed up as reasonable journalism. 

The article begins: “​​Just when local candidates promoted by the right-leaning anti-vaccine promoting Marin Freedom Rising were crushed at the ballot box, along came the Marin chapter of the far-left Democratic Socialists of America.”

Implying a false equivalency between a conspiratorial, anti-vax, and anti-LGBTQ organization and one that is fighting to keep working people in their homes is morally reprehensible and deeply misleading. One can’t help but remember the corporate media pieces that compared democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, who campaigned on healthcare for all, living wages, and a Green New Deal with Donald Trump, who campaigned on building a border wall, creating a Muslim registry, and shredding environmental regulations. The idea was that because Sanders and Trump were both challenging the political establishment with populist appeals, they somehow had a great deal in common. Comparing Marin DSA to Marin Freedom Rising is equally absurd and offensive.

The next paragraph reads: “The latter [Marin DSA] is pushing a draconian version of rent control across Marin. DSA scored its first victory when Fairfax by unanimous council vote adopted their suggested rent control ordinance and, with only Councilmember Barbara Coler dissenting, a punishing (to landlords) “just cause” eviction law.”

Characterizing Fairfax’s rent control and just cause eviction ordinances as “draconian” and “punishing” is ridiculous and quickly reveals the class sympathies of the author. In reality, Fairfax’s ordinances were modeled after provisions that already exist across the state, many of which have been in effect for decades. These ordinances bring Fairfax up to speed with the dozens of other cities and towns across California that have seen their housing costs skyrocket and have taken action to keep ordinary people in their homes, rather than getting forced out.

Let’s briefly review what these ordinances actually do:

  1. They place an annual cap on how much landlords can raise the rent, pegged to 60% of the change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or 5%, whichever is lower.
  2. They prevent arbitrary evictions by requiring landlords to have a just cause in order to evict or displace their tenant.
  3. They provide support and protections for tenants who face eviction due to no fault of their own, with additional protections granted to teachers, students, children, seniors, people with disabilities, and people who are terminally-ill. 

The idea that requiring such basic tenant protections amounts to punishing landlords reveals an enormous bias in favor of landlords being able to do whatever they’d like with their rental units, regardless of the suffering, stress, and insecurity that may be endured by tenants as a consequence of their actions. If critics like Spotswood want to argue that landlords’ ability to maximize profits and maintain total control over their units is more important that granting the one-third of Fairfax residents who are renters the safety and security of knowing they won’t get thrown out of their homes at a moment’s notice, they should go ahead and say so. Hiding behind sensationalist terms like, “draconian” simply avoids the moral stakes and obscures the divergent class interests at play. 

Skipping ahead, Spotswoods, referencing the radical idea that housing is a first and foremost a human right and not an investment vehicle, knowingly proclaims: “This isn’t the social democracy as practiced in Scandinavian nations. The last time I was in Norway, I asked a museum lecturer about capitalism versus socialism in his land. His reply, “Norway is a capitalist country. That’s how we pay for our (social) benefits.” Social democracy is a combination of relatively high taxes, and a broad social safety net based on private enterprise and capitalism.”

While we’re glad Spotswood took the time to ask a single Norwegian museum employee about his country’s political economy, citing this conversation as an authoritative summary of why capitalism is good and necessary for social democracy is patently absurd. The robust social benefits enjoyed in western Europe and Scandinavia were the result of decades of class struggle between organized labor and associated labor/left political parties on the one hand and economic and political elites on the other. Wealthy capitalists did not voluntarily sign up to pay high taxes for universal high-quality healthcare, education, childcare, etc. They were forced to make these concessions by a powerful labor movement and a robust political left that included both socialists and social democrats. Social democracy was the compromise hammered out between capital and labor, not an enlightened feature of capitalism itself.

It’s also important to note that the vast majority of western European countries have some form of national rent control, with countries like France, Germany, Ireland and Sweden not only limiting how much rents can be raised over time, but also limiting how much can be charged in the first place. State law prohibits those kinds of limitations in California, meaning landlords are able to charge as much as they’d like at the beginning of each new tenancy. Thus, suggesting that Fairfax’s rent control law—or any California rent control law—is somehow radical or extreme by European or international standards is simply nonsensical.

Spotswood continues, “Fairfax’s version of rent control and “just eviction” ordinances was a step too far. Why would anyone create so much as a second unit if their investment violated the nonexistent “right” of a tenant to live there indefinitely at a rent less than the cost of providing the space.”

First of all, the policy is called “just cause eviction,” not “just eviction.” Second, the hypothetical question posed here is not a relevant one. In California, landlords are guaranteed a reasonable return on their investment. Fairfax’s rent stabilization ordinance provides a mechanism for this by enabling landlords to petition for a higher annual rent increase in order to ensure that they receive a reasonable return. The claim that rent control will force landlords to rent their units at a financial loss makes no sense, as they are permitted to raise rents enough to ensure that this doesn’t happen, provided that they can document and demonstrate that they actually qualify for this provision. 

Third, the rejection of housing as a human right is truly baffling and grotesque. The United Nations codified the right to adequate housing in 1948 as part of the right to an adequate standard of living. But it shouldn’t take a UN declaration to prove what common sense already makes obvious: that housing is a basic human necessity. It provides us with shelter from the elements and a safe and secure place to rest, prepare meals, raise our families, and simply live our lives. Our housing also embeds us in our community, which we all need as inherently social creatures. In other words, we all require housing to lead decent and dignified lives. 

Do critics like Spotswood who say the right to housing is “nonexistent” actually believe otherwise? What do they believe? That the abstract demands of a mythical free market are more important than satisfying basic human needs? That profits are more important than people? We hope not, but if so, we reject this kind of reasoning utterly and entirely. As democratic socialists, we believe that our economy should work to deliver a decent standard of living for all people and that includes, fundamentally, the right to decent housing. 

Fairfax, like all of Marin County, has some of the highest housing costs in the entire country. Single-family homes routinely sell for over a million dollars (often far more) and modest one- or two-bedroom apartments can easily cost two-three thousand dollars per month. Ordinary working people and seniors on fixed incomes cannot afford a house and their wages and social security benefits are not even close to keeping up with the dramatic rent increases.

The struggle to stabilize rents and prevent displacement in Fairfax and throughout Marin is not a hypothetical one. In Fairfax, a third of renters pay more than half of their income on rent. And nearly half of all renters spend at least a third of their income paying the landlord. Working families are struggling simply to keep a roof over their heads and stay in our communities. 

Critics like Spotswood will inevitably continue to spread hysteria as Fairfax’s ordinances are fully implemented and as other cities and towns across Marin follow their lead and adopt their own laws to stabilize rents and prevent arbitrary evictions. We will not let their smears keep us from winning real housing security for Marin’s working-class renters.

The Marin DSA Coordinating Committee
– Maegan Mattock, Fairfax 
– Christopher Perrando, Fairfax
– Kyle Amsler, San Anselmo
– Curt Ries, San Anselmo
– Sonia Parecadan, San Rafael

PRESS RELEASE: Fairfax Adopts Rent Control

CONTACT: Curt Ries, Marin DSA Co-Chair
[email protected] | [email protected] 


First Town in Marin County and Smallest in California to Cap Rents

FAIRFAX, CA — On Wednesday, November 2nd, the Fairfax Town Council voted 5-0 in favor of adopting an ordinance to establish rent stabilization and 4-1 in favor of adopting an ordinance to strengthen just cause eviction protections. Fairfax is the first town in Marin County and the smallest jurisdiction in California to pass rent control. Fairfax has about 7,500 residents and 37% of Fairfax households rent their homes. 

The votes followed nearly two hours of heated public comments, with tenants and supportive homeowners speaking in favor of the policies and landlords and realtors speaking in opposition. The town council has been considering rent stabilization and just cause eviction policies for the last eight months, since March 2022. It has held eight public agendized meetings on the topic.

The rent stabilization ordinance will cap annual rent increases at 60% of the Consumer Price Index or 5%, whichever is lower, making it one of the strongest rent control provisions in the state. The just cause eviction ordinance will strengthen existing protections by establishing a right of return and relocation payments for displaced tenants, closing Ellis Act eviction loopholes, and providing additional protections against eviction for tenants who are elderly, disabled, or terminally-ill and for teachers and students during the school year. Both ordinances will go into effect on December 3rd, 2022.

The landmark ordinances were passed after a year of grassroots campaigning led by local residents and by the Marin Democratic Socialists of America (Marin DSA), who launched a campaign to establish rent control in Marin County during the fall of 2021. Marin DSA has gathered over 3,000 petition signatures from Marin County residents in support of rent control and just cause eviction protections, including over 650 petition signatures from Fairfax residents, about 9% of the town’s population. They are also working to pass rent control in nearby San Anselmo and Larkspur, where they are partnering with the Skylark Tenants Association.

Other organizations who support the campaign include: Sierra Club Marin Group, Legal Aid of Marin, North Bay Labor Council, North Bay Jobs with Justice, California Alliance for Retired Americans Marin CAT, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, Teamsters Local 665, Unite Here 2850, National Union of Healthcare Workers, Showing up for Racial Justice Marin, Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California, Marin Environmental Housing Collaborative, Disability Justice Marin, and Tenants Together.


Marin DSA Statement of Support for Amazon Workers in Bessemer, AL

Marin DSA stands in solidarity with Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama and the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), who are engaged in a historic organizing drive to form the first-ever union for Amazon warehouse workers in the United States. 

All workers deserve a union. Jeff Bezos is the wealthiest person in the world and Amazon has made record profits throughout the pandemic, all while refusing to pay their workers a living wage, failing to provide proper safety standards, and subjecting them to dehumanizing working conditions. 

Capitalism runs on exploiting workers to maximize profits for the wealthy few. Workers organizing together in a union is how we fight back to build a more just, free, and equal world. We stand with RWDSU and the Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama!

Resolution to Support Camp Ambition and Camp Compassion

Whereas Marin DSA believes that safe and secure housing and shelter are basic human rights

Whereas Marin DSA is committed to housing and tenant struggles throughout Marin and has been since our local’s inception

Whereas the commodification of housing is at the root of the Bay Area’s and Marin’s housing crisis

Whereas our unhoused comrades lead the struggle for housing in Novato manifested in their work at Camp Ambition and Camp Compassion

Whereas the residents of Camp Ambition aim to take land out of the private housing market and put it under direct control of the people who live on it through the use of a community land trust

Whereas the residents of Camp Ambition have been harassed by the Novato police department, and had their tents and tires slashed by vigilantes

Let it therefore be resolved that Marin DSA stands in solidarity with our unhoused comrades, and will give all possible support to our neighbors living in Camp Ambition and Camp Compassion

Passed in our January General Assembly, Date: 2021-01-02

A Radical Strategy for Marin

Note: this post is written by our members to generate debate and discussion and is not an official branch statement. Want to be part of the conversation? Join our mailing list.

By Simon V

Marin is a unique site of struggle for those looking to build a liberated world. It has the highest wealth gap in the state of California: some of the United States’ richest people own vacation homes here, while some of our country’s most disenfranchised live in what are little better than slums owned by corporate landlords headquartered far away. This all plays out along very clear race lines. 

Our county’s progressives focus on issues outside of Marin – in the American “south” – or are tied by foundation funding or liberal norms. Marin has an incredible quantity of not-for-profits dedicated to all sorts of causes, yet these have not been able to affect real meaningful change. Some institutions do amazing work, scraping by with barely enough funding to make their services available, often kept running by volunteers. Changes like the just-cause eviction and minimum wage clauses – pushed through electorally – have been piecemeal and crumbs, largely superseded by state-wide laws. Supervisors, the sheriff, and city councilors are happy to sit through 11 hour public comment sessions and ignore everything that was said by the public because they know that when elections roll around, they can rely on the status quo to keep their seats, or appoint their replacements.

Why is that? What is it about not-for-profits and the legislative strategy that has been incapable of affecting real long-lasting systemic change in our county, towns, and cities? Must we continue to wait on the state of California to enact laws that our county’s landlords and business owners can continue to ignore? Why do we let our housing prices soar, pushing those of us who mow the lawns, make the coffees, and staff our hospitals further and further out of the county?

For too long Marinites have focused on liberal technocratic solutions. Knowing the right things and the right people will get things done. A committee or a task force will come up with the right fix. If we just make them hear and understand, they’ll do what we ask. They see the county’s poor and working class as victims of a system without agency to create their own solutions. This is reflected in the Housing Authority’s attitude towards residents of public housing, advocacy group’s attitudes towards building actual tenant power, in actions that mobilize already convinced people for one-off events, and calls to the police and sheriff’s department to “deal with” someone who looks out of place in our neighborhood. 

This model of activism is appealing because it supposes a “quick fix”. It avoids the hard work of actually organizing a base, of building engaged and empowered citizens who can confront power in their homes, in their workplaces, and in their public life.

There is no quick fix to the multiple systems that oppress us. We need a strategy.

What is to be done?

We must confront patriarchy, colonialism, racism, and ableism wherever we find them. We must bring those struggles together to demand an end to all institutions that oppress us. While we can press forward with short term demands, we must do more. We must build our base. 

We must do the hard work. We must learn how to organize in our workplaces. We must learn how to confront our landlords and make demands as groups of tenants. We must focus on our block, our neighborhood, and our town. Talk to our neighbors and find out what is important to them. Talk to our co-workers and find the shared oppressions we can organize around.

We must look to models of organizing – theory and praxis – that are rooted in feminism, communities of color, and working class resistance to white supremacy and colonialism. We must build our own directly-democratic spaces and institutions that we can leverage against the capitalist and ruling classes when the time is right.

Industrial and workplace struggles

In Marin service workers can organize to demand a larger share of the corporate profits. Day labourers can organize for a living wage and better work days. They can organize for more time off and better working conditions. Care workers can organize around their work hours and their pay, as well as their patients’ health. Office workers must organize in their own workspaces while organizing in solidarity with the service workers that cater to their work environments. Teachers can organize to demand better funding for our schools, and students can organize for a better curriculum and liberated learning environments.

We must learn that we are the ones doing the work, and together we are the ones who have power over how it gets done, when it gets done, and how much we get paid for it.

We must learn that our bosses and those that oppress us are already organized. They have wealthy associations and meetings that argue for their needs. They operate within the halls of power, which is what keeps us out of them.

Solidarity economy

We must start building the institutions that lift each other up. We can look to networks of worker-owned cooperatives like Arizmendi here in San Rafael and Cooperation Jackson in Mississippi that provide good working class jobs while building housing and liberated spaces for their employees and their neighbours. These cooperatives are unique because they support each other, funding the creation of new cooperatives in a network that challenges capitalist and patriarchal notions of hierarchy and agency. 

Cooperatives on their own are not enough. We must bring education into these spaces to ensure that they continue to strive against oppression and towards liberation. As Fred Hampton said – without education, you just have neo-colonialism. But cooperatives can provide good paying jobs where the workers retain control over their work environment, while giving them the breathing space to build the communities that they want to see.

But we don’t have to focus on just workplaces. A solidarity economy relies on community gardening efforts to supply us with food, it relies on rapid response and mutual aid to build resilient communities. All these efforts have long histories of being rooted in the struggles of people of color. 

Tenant and neighborhood councils

Forty percent of Marin’s residents are tenants, while a large chunk of the remainder pay off mortgages on homes they can barely afford.

We must fight rising rents, evictions, and harassment at the hands of landlords. We must fight the system that gives some of us no option but to live unsheltered and at constant risk of police harassment. We need to confront landlords, developers, and cops when they loot our communities on the path to gentrification.

Housing communities in Marin are already organized and we must join in their struggle against corrupt public housing agencies, while initiating tenant councils in our own buildings and rental units. 

We must come together in block and neighborhood assemblies. We can look to the block organizations in Detroit for models of organizing around hyper local issues, while looking just across the bay in Oakland for models of organizing tenants in corporate buildings.

A liberated press

Marin’s news sources are beholden to liberal politics at best and corporate coffers at worst. We need news outlets that don’t hide behind curtains of apoliticallness and reporting on the status quo. We need space that gives voice to citizens, controlled by citizens. We need a forum of debate and conversation that moves beyond the norms set by Marin’s elites.

Solidarity is how we win

This is not the first crisis that has been dumped upon us by a system that thrives off of crises, and as the climate disaster deepens, it will not be the last. If we do the hard work of real organizing now, we will be better prepared to handle the next one. 

When we all contribute to the hard work, we give voice to struggles of marginalized people.

Let’s build the new world in the shell of the old.

Systemic Change

Note: this post is written by our members to generate debate and discussion and is not an official branch statement. Want to be part of the conversation? Join our mailing list.

Over the past few months we’ve noticed that some folks are using the phrase “systemic change” to talk about the changes they want to see, and, well

Spurred to debate, the Marin DSA branch had a good conversation about how we understood systemic change. 

Folks pointed out it can be understood both as “changes to the system” as well as “changing the system at the root”. In the first sense, the phrase gets used by liberals to signal they want to change the laws to be fairer. The second sense calls into question the system itself, and asks what would be required for the system to be completely different. Both definitions are technically correct, but our intent with the phrase is important.

One member used the metaphor of seats at a table to explore systemic change. If your system has a certain amount of seats at a table for decision making, reforms can change the amount of seats at the table, who gets to sit in the seats, even the shape of the table, but ultimately, without a change of system, it’s only the people who have seats at the table that make decisions. 

Systemic change wouldn’t just affect our economy, but transform our work and groups as well – how do we value time and the labor that gets done? Do we acknowledge the need for rest and relationship building? Is the growth of our group more important than the health and personal values of our group? Members brought up the parallels to conversations about decolonization. That just saying “decolonization” doesn’t make it so.

We are democratic socialists because we realize that reforming capitalism (redistributing capitalist wealth while keeping the capitalist for-profit value system) does not ensure actual freedom. These reforms can make space for exploring alternate systems, but because they depend on capitalism to generate the wealth needed to implement them, they do not inherently pose a threat to it. 

If we want to make sure that everyone’s voice gets heard, we have to get rid of the table, and come up with something new.


Our electoral working group spent two months researching propositions, designing questions to ask candidates, and corresponding directly with candidates about their positions on various issues.

The endorsement proposals were presented at our General Meeting on October 11th.

Members present at the General Meeting discussed and approved the endorsements presented in this voting guide.

If you are interested in seeking our

endorsement please email: [email protected]

State Propositions

No Endorsement-Prop 14

Yes-Prop 15

Yes-Prop 16

Yes-Prop 17

Yes-Prop 18

No Endorsement-Prop 19

No-Prop 20

Yes-Prop 21

No- Prop 22

Yes-Prop 23

No-Prop 24

Yes-Prop 25

Local Propositions

Yes-Measure L: Approved

Yes-Measure M: Approved

Yes-Measure P: Approved

No Endorsement-Measure Q: Approved

No-Measure R: Approved


No Endorsement-President: Approved

No Endorsement-U.S. House District 2: Approved

CA State Assembly District 10

Veronica Roni Jacobi: Approved

Marin County Office of Education, Trustee Area 4

Felicia “Fel” Agrelius: Approved

Marin Community College District Governing Board Member: 

Robbie Powelson: Approved

Paul De Silva: Approved

Philip Kranenburg: Approved

Petaluma Joint Union School District Governing Board

Linda Judah: Approved

San Rafael Board of Education Governing Board Member, Trustee Area 1: 

Endorse: Samantha Ramirez: Approved (pending okay). 

Tamalpais Union High School District Governing Board Member: Endorse: Leslie J Harlander: Approved
Endorse: Brandon Johnson: Approved

Board of Supervisors Meeting: Sanctuary Resolution

In response to consistent pressure from activist groups like ICE Out of Marin, the Marin County Board of Supervisors will discuss a resolution to “Reaffirm Support for Immigrant Community” tomorrow at 2 PM. As the name (and its nature as a resolution instead of legislation), this resolution is not legally binding, incremental, and vague. While making a public statement can help shift public opinion, we do not believe this action is nearly enough for what is needed to bring real equality to our undocumented neighbors.

Call To Action!

ICE Out of Marin is encouraging those affected as well as immigrant allies to make their voices heard during the public comment section of this upcoming meeting. We want to make sure the Board knows that this non-binding resolution will not satisfy our calls for justice.

How Can I Help?

The Board of Supervisors meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 15th at 2 PM Pacific. There will be an opportunity for public comment during which you can speak up on this topic. The meeting will be held over Zoom.

Meeting ID: 947 4251 8384
Password: 352533
DSA Calendar Event

Night School: Philantrocapitalism

Here’s what we are reading, and what we’ll be talking about. See you then!

Who’s Afraid of Philanthrocapitalism? (Introduction & 3B: Transforming nonprofit institutions) 

The philanthropic state: market–state hybrids in the philanthrocapitalist turn

How does the Gates Foundation spend its money to feed the world?

Have the Rich Become “Super Citizens”?

Plutocrats at Work: How Big Philanthropy Undermines Democracy

Dark cloud over good works of Gates Foundation

The Gates Foundation’s Hypocritical Investments