Damien Goodmon is the Founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit Crenshaw Subway Coalition (“CSC”). CSC and its successor organization the Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line seeks to empower stakeholder groups in the area of Crenshaw-Leimert Park-Hyde Park and highlight the issues of equitable and community-centered transportation planning in the pursuit of racial and economic justice for South Los Angeles.
Mr. Goodmon is a fourth-generation Angelino who currently lives in Leimert Park, where he is a past Co-Chair of the community's neighborhood council. His family has lived in South Central Los Angeles for over 100 years.
He was honored by LA Weekly in their 2009 LA People issue, received the Issues Advocate of the Year award in 2010 by the Urban Issues Forum, and was recognized as one of L.A.s’ 100 Most Influential African-Americans by the Los Angeles Wave Newspapers in 2013.
To put it simply, Damien Goodmon is no NIMBY.
He recently stated,
You'll be hard pressed to find a bill in the state legislature proposed by a Democrat that is a bigger threat to the stability of our community than SB 827, authored by the State Senator from San Francisco - Scott Weiner.
Not since the "Urban Renewal" projects of the 1960s (most appropriately characterized as "Negro removal" by James Baldwin) has something so radical and detrimental to the stability of urban communities of color in California been proposed. It will undoubtedly lead to the massive demolition of the limited affordable housing stock we still have in L.A.
The Crenshaw Subway Coalition is vehemently opposed to Wiener's newly proposed legislation, which they've laid out in detail on their organizations web site and their recent publication, SB 827 is a Declaration of War on South LA.
In that piece Mr. Goodmon opines,
SB 827 would usurp all of the recent South LA's community plan updates - those years of conversations, workshops and hearings that we engaged in - to replace it with a vision concocted by a pro-gentrification, pro-displacement, real estate industry puppet in Sacramento who goes by the name of Scott Weiner.
The bill [SB 827] is backed by a group that calls themselves YIMBYs, which stands for "Yes in my backyard." Like the colonizers whose agenda they seek to replicate, it takes a certain entitlement / supremacist mindset to call a community they didn't grow up in, don't live in or are new to as "theirs." It's NOT their backyard - it's ours.
Although Mr. Goodmon's comments are specific to South LA, they apply to everyone living in a cohesive community in California and to every community whose residents, rich or poor, gain strength from the character and local control of the place they call home and the place they have invested their lives in helping create.
His comments also put a fine point on how little regard Scott Wiener and his YIMBY supporters have for the fundamental concept of "community" and all the social stability and positives it brings with it. Goodmon's example illuminates the time proven truth that ideologues, whether on the left or right, endanger the social fabric that holds our society together.
Like it nor not property rights, a sense of ownership and local control have been the cornerstone of the creation of the middle class in democratic societies dating back to the Magna Carta. History has shown that cavalier disregard for those dynamic tenets and the benefits they produce, in favor of central planning and top down governmental control, has eventually always resulted in economic collapse and even greater social injustice and suffering.
Of course, the challenges and impacts that deeply concern Mr. Goodmon are in many ways the opposite of the challenges and impacts faced by small cities in Marin as a result of proposals such as SB 827. I don't mean to proffer some false equivalency, though his challenges are identical to the tragedies that are now unfolding for the residents of Golden Gate Village in Marin City.
However, in principle, Mr. Goodmon understands too well that what is needed to address those impacts (and our impacts here in Marin) is ironically, more local control and local empowerment, not less. Give local government some real financial support and legislative tools then let each community craft its own solutions.
If our shared concerns really include addressing social injustice, social equity and providing affordable housing for those most in need, why aren't our legislators, including Mr. Wiener, focusing on that and creating incentives and opportunities for that?
Bob Silvestri is president of Community Venture Partners, which is presently in the pre-development phase on several affordable housing projects in Marin and Richmond.