Somebody please turn this into a rock opera

As I recently posted, Alex Ezorsky made this great educational animated video about how a Community Benefits Agreement could help prevent housing displacement in Union Square, Somerville.

As I mentioned, it reminds me of the Home Movies’ episode where they make a Franz Kafka Rock Opera:

So — Alex sent me the lyrics. And he’s made the video and lyrics copyleft — Creative Commons Attribution!

This is TOTALLY a rock opera in disguise. If you can shred, PLEASE rescore this video and post it! Email me at, too!

Here goes — just read these lines while listening to the rock opera above:

You love your neighborhood

But things are changing. Some changes are good for everyone

but others aren’t

The rent’s are rising so quickly many people can no longer afford to
live or work in the town they love.

You’re neighborhood is facing re-development and as a result the
current population risks displacement. 

So who is responsible? And how can you ensure that development
benefits the residents instead of replacing them?

Lets start with the basics. Re-development is when a private
development company buys property and turns it into something they can
make a profit from.

Re-development operations can vary in size, from a single lot, to an
entire “neighborhood development plan”

Ah good thought, why not voice your concerns to the city?

They might even offer you meetings with the developer or a city
appointed planning authority who will “listen to your concerns”.

The city will look out for you right???

Developers need city approval to build their projects, and here’s
where you’d want them to leverage a deal to benefit the residents. 

But developers have lots to offer a city,  with campaign donations,
project funding and the fact that new development can bring increased
tax revenue, new jobs, and amenities to attract new residents. 

It’s not hard to see how a City might do everything it can to please
 the developers…often at the expense of the residents.

Sometimes a small group is able to voice their needs. 

But what about everyone else? 

And how can you tell whether your concerns will be taken into account,
or dumped in the trash?

When you get a new apartment; do you just trust that the landlord will
respect your needs as a tenant?

No! You need a lease, or a legal agreement, to guarantee your needs
are met and both sides do what they say they will do.

A contract between the concerned residents and the developer is called

A CBA gives decision-making power to the community.

A CBA is the only contract that can guarantee that the needs of the
residents, represented in community groups, are included in plans for
development.  Because in a CBA the community groups are signing and
enforcing the agreement.

Developers might not want to sign the CBA because it can restrict
their profits or because they are already working out a deal with the

But development should benefit YOU, the people who live and work here
now, and YOU deserve to have power and influence over development.

Your power grows with increased participation.

With larger more organized and more diligent coalitions, with more
active members, and through protests, petitions, and participation in
public elections the residents CAN demand the proper attention and
leverage needed to get a CBA..

An unhappy public can be a huge threat to both the City and

In contrast addressing the needs of the residents with a CBA will
ensure Developers benefit from a happy community in support of the
development to their city. 

Here in Somerville, US2 is the developer contracted by the city for a
neighborhood-wide re-development in Union Square.

We are, Union United, a rapidly growing coalition of Somerville
residents, businesses, churches, unions, and community organizaions,
joined in the effort to create development without displacement
through specific goals outlined in a legally binding CBA with US2 and
the City.

Time is running out and we need YOU to join us, participate in our
meetings, spread the word, and make sure Union Square in Somerville is
added to the growing list of communities across the Nation who’ve
developed with  a Community Benefits Agreement..

1 thought on “Somebody please turn this into a rock opera”

  1. We do have something like this in Sweden where redevelopment is a norm, but you still get lots of displacement of the resourceless/weak, and it really does affect the neighbourhood. I call Redevelopment something that is done to 60 year old houses, that has an effect on the standard of the house not just the wallpaper and floors, might be insulation, new pipes, denser neighbourhoods etc..

    In Stockholm redevelopment means an increase of 20%-70% in rental costs, and with newly built houses you can pay upto 300% more than an older house that has not been redeveloped. This almost always means displacement of people the local drunks etc.

    The CBA is a very good thing in Sweden, the developer at least have to make a show of investing in the local community. This does not always work out because many areas do not have those community organisations you are talking about, this can lead to a very top-down type of investment. I’m guessing that isn’t that much of a problem where you choose to live.

    We might be talking about different things, the devil is in the details and different countries differ a lot in legal responsibilities.

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