June 10, 2012 (San Diego) -- The San Diego Housing Federation Board of Directors has selected Richard Lawrence as the recipient of the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award. The award will be presented at the Federation’s Ruby Awards…There’s No Place Like Home event Thursday, June 14.
Lawrence, 75, is being recognized for a career that spans nearly 50 years and includes community development, affordable housing advocacy and public service. He came to San Diego in 1998 to retire and spend time with his three grandkids. Instead, he wound up launching the Affordable Housing Coalition and dozens of advocacy efforts in support of low-income households and their need for affordable and accessible homes.
His passion for what he does is easily recognized. He has worked for economic and social justice his entire life and understands the issues from personal experience. He’s known for his persistent, articulate, and fiery presentations both in the council chambers and on the streets in support of “housing that hard-working people here can afford and still have a little left over for themselves and their families.”
He is the tenth of 15 children which helped him understand how to work with others. “I am fortunate to have always had strong allies, friends and supporters in the struggle. Lots of folks have inspired me, contributed to my success, and picked me up when I was dragging.”
He considers himself “determined” and says his mother imbued in him a sense that if it’s worth fighting for, you fight for it and if you lose, you go back and figure out what to do next.
Lawrence, who is a retired Methodist minister, is especially known for his civil rights activism. During the racially charged 1960s in Chicago, he corralled other ministers to join him in organizing a housing movement and bank boycott to combat segregation on the city’s South Side. He was joined by Dr. Martin Luther King who participated in the local action.
Here in San Diego, his efforts have included opposing an agreement that allowed the developer of the Maryland Hotel to avoid replacing the hotel’s SRO units contrary to an existing city ordinance; organizing the first Housing Day in 2003 that resulted in a special housing bond and the declaration of the first housing state of emergency in San Diego; and participating in negotiations through A Community Coalition for Responsible Development (ACCORD) around Petco Park’s development. St. Vincent de Paul Village’s affordable homes at 16th and Market were developed under this agreement.
Other issues where Lawrence has been out front in support of affordable housing include the City of San Diego’s inclusionary housing ordinance, condo conversions, and home foreclosures. He’s served on numerous task forces in San Diego dedicated to affordable housing.
In 2007, he was a founding member of the San Diego Community Land Trust (CLT) in the midst of the foreclosure crisis. Community land trusts are community-based membership organizations that make it possible for lower-income households to own homes on land that is leased from the CLT.
Lawrence serves on the Southeastern Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) Board as its Treasurer and on the board of the Center for Policy Initiatives (CPI). He is an adjunct faculty member at Springfield College (San Diego Campus) and the Western Institute for Social Research in Berkeley.
He received his BA degree from Albion College, holds a Masters Degree in Social Ethics from the University of Chicago, and completed the Post Graduate Program for Management Development at the Harvard Business School. He and his wife Nancy live in San Diego.
The award will be presented at the Ruby Awards event Thursday, June 14 at the Corky McMillin Events Center at NTC. The event begins with a reception at 5 p.m. For more information and tickets, go to http://www.housingsandiego.org/sdhfwebsite/RubyInvite2012.pdf .