JennyKassanDon't Let Developers Run Fremont
I grew up in Los Angeles, but fell in love with the San Francisco Bay Area when I attended UC Berkeley as an undergraduate. I took a year off after graduating to work for two non-profit policy advocacy organizations in Washington, DC. Then I headed to Yale Law School where I focused my studies on civil rights and the law governing cities.
Unlike most of my classmates, I didn’t go on to work for a corporate law firm. Instead, I applied for and got a National Science Foundation Fellowship to get my masters degree in City Planning from UC Berkeley. After moving back to the Bay Area, I immediately went to work for one of the nation’s oldest community development non-profits, the Unity Council.
I spent the next five years as part of the team that developed the Fruitvale Transit Village, a mixed-use development at the Fruitvale BART station. My responsibilities included negotiating and managing relationships with Union Pacific Railroad, BART, AC Transit, the City of Oakland, and various federal agencies. The project was recently recognized as a model for an attractive, high quality development that did not cause displacement of community residents.
After working on the Transit Village, I switched to a different department at the Unity Council. In my new role, I implemented a new Business Improvement District and provided assistance to the small local businesses. I also helped to start several small nonprofit businesses to create jobs in the community.
After eleven years at the Unity Council, I met a lawyer who was launching a new firm focused on helping mission-driven small businesses to start and grow. I joined the firm and soon became the CEO of both the law firm and a sister consulting business. I began to focus my legal practice on the structure and financing of both nonprofit and for-profit social enterprises.
In 2009, I co-founded a nonprofit organization called the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC). I led SELC’s effort to lobby the federal government to change the law to make it easier for small businesses to raise money from their communities (and not just wealthy professional investors). This resulted in the passage of the 2012 JOBS Act which made the first major amendments to the federal securities laws in 80 years, making it easier for small businesses to raise capital. I attended the White House signing ceremony. I later was invited to serve on the Securities and Exchange Commission small business advisory committee.
In 2015, I decided to leave my law partnership and launch my own firm. I now work from my home office in Fremont. I have four employees and work exclusively with mission-driven small businesses and nonprofit organizations. My business is a certified B Corp and member of 1% for the Planet.
In addition to my work as a small business owner, I’m the president of Community Ventures, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting innovative community economic development projects. I'm also a director at Berrett-Koehler Publishers, member of the Content Advisory Panel of Conscious Company magazine, and a fellow at the Democracy Collaborative.
My book, Raise Capital on Your Own Terms, was published in October 2017.Development and Conflicts of Interest
Any development proposal that comes before the City involves a negotiation. Developers are trying to maximize profits while the City should be trying to make sure that the development is consistent with what the community wants to see in Fremont. Instead, the Council has been approving development after development that doesn’t pay for itself or benefit our City in any way. This has led to overcrowded schools, traffic congestion, and reduced revenue as residential development brings in less to the general fund than commercial development.
Fremont City Council has not been negotiating hard enough on behalf of its residents. Many developments that have been widely disliked by Fremont’s residents get approved anyway.
Is it a surprise that developers get their way when many of the Councilmembers take donations from them?
How would you feel if you were in a negotiation and found out that your lawyer was receiving payments from the party you were negotiating against? That’s what it’s like when Councilmembers take money from developers.
I believe it’s unethical to take campaign donations from developers, or to do business with them, if you are in an elected position to make decisions that could affect their ability to profit in Fremont.
Please make no mistake – I am not “anti-development.” I was a landlord in Oakland for 11 years.
What I am against is development that does nothing to benefit our City and often has negative impacts. When I moved to Fremont almost ten years ago, I was surprised by what I saw. A city that is so perfectly located and so full of well-educated diverse residents was suffering from bad development – ugly deteriorating strip malls, neglected historical commercial districts, and expensive cookie cutter housing developments in areas that are inaccessible to schools, transit, and shopping.
When I am on the Council, I will have absolutely no financial ties to developers. All decisions I make will be based solely on what the community needs and wants.Gerrymandering and Entitlement
Gerrymandering is something that you usually only hear about on a statewide level. Unfortunately, we saw it in action last year. The Fremont City Council approved gerrymandered districts with a 3-2 vote. The City Council should have made the boundary decisions based on what makes the most sense for the City, not on what is needed to give the existing Councilmembers the easiest path to remain on the Council. This sense of entitlement should not be tolerated. The current map was approved by a 3-2 vote with Mayor Lily Mei and Councilmember Vinnie Bacon voting against.
You can contact Jenny at email@example.com