Here’s a piece of advice for local and national authorities: If you’re going to introduce a high-minded Poet Laureate program, make sure you can actually hold on to your cultural resource and not lose them to your own ruinous real estate trends. Because that’s what has happened in the case of Emeryville, CA, which has seen Poet Laureate Sarah Kobrinsky driven out of Emeryville by – according to one report – a rent-racking landlord who also happens to be a city planning official.

The report singles out a 38 percent rent increase for Sarah Kobrinsky and her family, courtesy of a landlord who reportedly also happens to sit on the planning commission and is a member of the city’s Housing Advisory and Appeals Board. A statement in the same report from Emeryville Mayor Ruth Atkin sympathized with Sarah Kobrinsky’s position, but said that the city was caught up in macroeconomic conditions that were affecting the entire local housing market.

Sarah Kobrinsky’s own website still lists her as “Poet Laureate of E’ville,” and she has stated that she will continue to write poems for the city – though from her new residence of Point Richmond – until her tenure expires . The city’s Poet Laureate program web page explains that “Sarah Kobrinsky was named the 2013-2015 Emeryville Poet laureate on Oct 15, 2013. She will serve until November 2015. Ms. Kobrinsky has proposed a robust program targeting multiple residential and employment sectors.” The same page also explains that “the selected poet embraces a willingness to engage the community in a discourse about poetry, to present his or her work to the public and Emeryville K-12 students,” but presumably the city has now concluded that the Emeryville public and K-12 students take a back seat to property values and rent hikes.



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