Youth United for Community Action (YUCA), a grassroots community organization created, led, and run by young people of color, majority from low-income communities, provides a safe space for young people to empower ourselves and work on environmental and social justice issues to establish positive systemic change through grassroots community organizing.
HISTORY AND PROGRAMS:
In the Spring of 1994, a small group of young people of color active in their communities came together to form YUCA (Youth United for Community Action). Stemming from our mission, YUCA launched the FIRE Fellowship, a program for young people of color which includes paid internships with community organizations working for environmental and social change in Bay Area. Due to the increased number of high school aged youth involved, we then launched Higher Learning in June of 1997 whose goal is to create a safe space where high school youth can come together to examine and act on issues that impact their communities. In 2005, we refocused the FIRE Program to focus on basebuilding. In 2010, we conducted a strategic planning process that renewed our commitment to environmental and social change, and youth organizing, resulting in the launch of two new campaigns, a leadership and basebuilding network in East Palo Alto, the revamp of our staffing structure to better support youth-to-staff transitions, and a resource development plan aimed to diversify our funding sources. Currently, our work involves leadership development, community organizing, and coalition building.
In the last 22 years, YUCA has successfully:
- Supported and trained over 150 low-income youth of color as core youth organizers and 650 low-income youth of color as members to become actively involved in community campaigns in East Palo Alto and the region;
- Redesigned a strong membership structure that allows for maximum participation of youth in the campaigns given their time and capacity and allows for leadership growth within the structure;
- Expanded the Higher Learning Program structure to be able to regularize collective education sessions on political education and organizing trainings, expand the campaign capacity to include 2 fully-run community campaigns, and provide the individual and holistic support to all the youth organizers committed to YUCA;
- Led over 250 workshops and toxic tours for over 1,200 youth and community members to become aware or involved in YUCA’s campaigns;
- Shut down Romic, a hazardous waste toxic plant in the community of East Palo Alto! After 11 years of continuous pressure on regulatory agencies and the company for accountability, YUCA and community members forced the Department of Toxic Substances Control to issue a shutdown order of Romic after a series of workplace and safety violations that threatened community and workers;
- Protected rent control in East Palo Alto through the creation of policies and practices designed to empower tenants;
- Increased local control over hazardous waste facilities through the passage of an ordinance requiring formal city council approval of any hazardous waste use in the City of East Palo Alto;
- Won the creation of the Community Advisory Committee made of community residents in all redevelopment projects within the Ravenswood Business District redevelopment area;
- Won the roll backs of rents for tenants who have been unfairly increased by Page Mill Properties;
- Completed a community planning process that created a vision of the Ravenswood Business District, the area occupied by the now defunct Romic facility. This community planning process resulted in an additional 30 acres of open space, 4.5 miles of trails; a mixed-use area combining housing and small business development; jobs that would triple the amount of jobs available in East Palo Alto, a proposed 20,000 square foot community center, library expansion, health clinic expansion, and a potential 10,000 square foot recreation center.
- Partnered with the local continuation high school to provide 6 week series per semester of political education workshops to high school aged youth most at risk of dropping out.
- 2013-Present: Won seats in local advisory commissions for youth and staff in East Palo Alto and San Mateo County to actively participate in, including the Rent Stabilization Board, Public Works and Transportation Commission, Planning Commission and Youth Commission of San Mateo County;
- Received local and national recognition for YUCA’s model of youth leadership development.
- In 2014 We won the creation of an Affordable Housing Linkage Fee in EPA
- In 2014 We won the passing of a Tenant Protection Ordinance, the first ordinance of its kind in the entire Bay Area Region.
- In 2015 we hosted four major Know Your Rights Workshops for teens and families with (retired) Hon. Judge LaDoris Cordel in East Palo Alto & Menlo Atherton High School in response to the Police Violence across the Nation.
- Successfully lobbied City Council to put a Landlord Gross Receipts Tax on the 2016 November Ballot (known as Measure O by voters)
- Successfully PASSED Measure O, formally known as East Palo Alto Residential Renter Business License Tax, in conjunction with Tenants for an Affordable EPA
- Successfully passed the East Palo Alto Neighborhood Safety & Vitality City Service Measure (measure P), in conjunction with Tenants for an Affordable EPA. (2016)
- Successfully passed Revisions to the Rent Stabilization and Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance (measure J), in conjunction with Tenants for an Affordable EPA. (2016)
- Won $20 million in Affordable Housing Funds while creating a vanguard in Partnerships between Facebook and the EPA Community!!!!!!!! (2016)
- Hosted #BlackLivesMatter and Affordable Housing Rallies & Actions! (2015-Present)
- Successfully lobbied for the establishing of an off-site YUCA program at MA High School. (2016)