Local Iranian-Americans React To Soleimani’s Death, Lawmakers Reintroduce Controversial Housing Bill, And Meet San Diego's Kitten Lady
KPBS Midday Edition / January 7, 2020
San Diego is home to about 60,000 Iranian-Americans. Zohreh Ghahremani, with the Persian Cultural Center in San Diego and author of “Sky of Red Poppies,” a 2012 One Book One San Diego selection, says the community is concerned last week’s killing of General Qassem Soleimani will lead to further violence in the Middle East. As state lawmakers return from the holiday recess, supporters of a controversial housing bill designed to boost housing along transit corridors, hope third time's the charm for SB 50. Plus, the public radio program, “Reveal,” is suing the Treasury Department to uncover the secret landlords buying up America's cities. And, meet San Diego’s Kitten Lady, an animal lover whose mission is to teach others how to rescue vulnerable kittens and nurse them to health.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Reaction from the Iranian American community as tensions rise in the middle East and a controversial housing bill is re-introduced in Sacramento. I'm Maureen Cavanagh and I'm Jade Hindman. This is KPBS midday edition.
Speaker 1: 00:23 It's Tuesday, January 7th tensions between the United States and Iran seem to have reached a tipping point following the assassination of a top Iranian general who was killed last week in a drone attack ordered by president Trump this morning. Secretary of state, Mike Pompeo defended the administration's actions against major general COSAM Amani, but did not provide details to support his assertion about looming attacks. Meanwhile, local U S bases remain under heightened alert due to rising tensions in the middle East. San Diego is home to around 60,000 Iranian Americans. Joining us is [inaudible] Mani, a member of San Diego's Iranian American community. She's also the author of sky of red poppies, a 2012 one book, one San Diego selection. So Ryan, welcome. Thank you very much. Iran's foreign minister was on NPR this morning and called the U S strike on general costumes. Solani an act of terrorism and war. How do you see it
Speaker 2: 01:22 when you hear the news? As much as I have heard, and uh, when you have been among the immigrants whose nation of origin has been demonized for four decades, uh, you take everything with a grain of salt. And so I think this question of terrorism has been brought up many times. I would like you as a reporter to name one terrorist act that directly was executive by Iranians. Not only, you can't find that, you cannot find any place in the world in the past 300 years that Iran has attacked this. I'm saying as someone who does not necessarily support what's going on in Iran, somebody who has lived outside of Iran since two decades before all of this happened, and I have been an American citizen for four decades, so I can't be supportive of a government that has separated me from my original culture. But at the same time, whenever the word terrorist comes up, I ask myself, where is the proof?
Speaker 1: 02:47 Do you think the U S has strike on Iran was an act of terrorism at war.
Speaker 2: 02:52 I don't know enough about what is the correct time and place to call something, but what I can say, whether or not it was a terrorist act, it has spread seeds of further terrorism. I can just see somebody becoming so emotional that they will be the first one to commit that act of terrorism that I'm so proud we have not committed. To me, it looks like somebody gave those people a green light. I dare you to do something.
Speaker 1: 03:31 You're involved with the Iranian American community in San Diego through the Persian cultural center. What can you tell us about the local community and how they're reacting to the U S killing general Soleimani?
Speaker 2: 03:43 I think many of those people, I'm afraid, myself included, did not know him. I did. I had never heard his name and I'm not political and I don't watch the Iranian news as closely as some people do. So I would say that many of the people who are Iranian American may not even have known him before. Wow. They react. The primary reaction, the human reaction is fear and concern because until now, there hasn't been any division for, for these people. But now traveling is going to be difficult. People are being questioned at the border. People holding American passports are being harassed and in general, public may believe everything they hear in the news and all of a sudden we become the scary people.
Speaker 1: 04:47 Yeah. Your sister still lives in Iran. Um, have you been able to speak with her? What, what was her reaction?
Speaker 2: 04:53 I actually did speak to one of the two sisters who lives in Iran. Funny enough, like myself, she did not know anything about this general, but she too is not political. Her concern was that this will provide stronger support within Iran for the present government. People used to be divided. Um, some were pro government and some were anti government. But when it comes to national safety, everybody supports whoever defense them. So this in fact is, um, in support of the Islamic government, they're going to use it to their benefit and gain more popularity.
Speaker 1: 05:42 There. There are different perspectives. Um, in the Iranian American community, some are celebrating Solomanis death because they blame him for a lot of the suffering they endured back home. Uh, one Iranian American from Los Angeles said Soleimani was than Osama bin Laden.
Speaker 2: 05:58 But what do you say to people who share that sentiment? I think he was not even in the category of [inaudible]. He was public. He was an official, he was not hiding from anybody. And I'm learning all of this from KPBS and BBC. I didn't know as I said anything about him, but I think that because he was very powerful, he is going to stare the nation against the U S something that travelers to Iran from us had not experienced before. Just go to Rick Steve's program and see his experience. I don't think he'd be welcome today in Tehran. He'd be in grave danger if, uh, he walked as an American along the streets. So that is what worries me that okay, he, he has done wrong, whatever they say. I believe it that he was involved in the Wars and he was supporting Iraq and and so on and so forth.
Speaker 2: 07:07 Which first of all, I can't see anybody supporting Iraq from Iran because of the millions that they killed in the war of Iran, Iraq. But let's say that he was supporting them. Let's say that he was, there are ways to deal with the enemy. There are ways to proceed. I think the way he was killed. To me, it sounds out of line. Do you think that the killing of general Soleimani can result in a full out war between Iran and the United States? I hope not, but I'm the optimist. I think Iran is in such a strong strategic point in that part of the world that if United States attacked it, a bigger war may break, especially if they attacked any of the religious cities because then the Islamic world would be outraged. But also I think that a war like that may be more damaging to the U S than Iran. They have seen the worst. They've been through another war. They have seen sanctions, they have seen being cut off from the world. How much more can they lose? Whereas we send our young soldiers to a place they know nothing about, to a place where they have no inside support and I feel worried not just for the run ins. I feel worried for both.
Speaker 3: 08:56 I've been speaking with Zariah Yermani, a member of San Diego's Iranian American community and author of the book sky of red poppies. Sir, I thank you so much for joining us. My pleasure.
Speaker 4: 09:10 [inaudible]
Speaker 3: 09:13 the battle over SB 50 begins again as the bill to increase housing density across California is re-introduced in Sacramento. That proposal from Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco would require cities to build more housing near transit and work centers to ease the state's housing crisis and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But in the process, the bill threatens to remove land use control from local governments since it was tabled in committee last year. SB 50 has been modified, but it's still expected to generate lots of controversy as it moves through the state legislature this year. Germany may is KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew. Hi. Hi. Now does this new version of SB 50 still require cities to build denser and taller housing? Even if it violates local land use zoning measures. It doesn't require them to build it but it requires them to zone for it. And this is precisely the point of the law, which is that um, California for a very long time has given local governments very broad authority over land use issues.
Speaker 3: 10:16 And the argument from the supporters of SB 50 is that cities have largely failed to plan for enough housing to match population growth and economic growth. So this has happened really in pretty much all Metro areas in California. But let's take the Bay area for example. You saw an explosion of high paying tech jobs, no corresponding increase in the supply of housing. And with that scarcity of housing, you get higher prices, you get displacement of longtime residents in the poor and communities of color. And you also get super commuters who are driving very long distances, hours on end from the excerpts to get to their jobs in the cities. And that creates bad traffic and bad air quality. And so a SB 50 is an effort to really set a statewide standard for growth. It is saying it should be near public transit, it should be near job centers.
Speaker 3: 11:04 And this era of the state leaving land use and zoning issues up to almost entirely up to cities has to end. What are some of the changes and this new version of the bill? Well for start is it's dramatically different than when it was first introduced a year ago. And then there was an earlier version of it in 2018. Um, last year the amendments included some lighter treatment for counties with lower populations, populations of 600,000 people or less. I'm also an exemption for the coastal zone in very small cities and an exemption for wildfire prone areas. Um, developers also have to set aside a portion of their homes as affordable for low income households. And uh, the most notable change that was unveiled yesterday when the bill was reintroduced is a two year delay in implementation. And this is a pretty big change. So if cities can craft their own alternative plan that would result in the same goals being met of more housing, near public transit, et cetera, then the city will be able to approve that plan instead of the baseline more brute force upzoning.
Speaker 3: 12:07 Uh, we call it, um, that SB 50 would require. Um, but the local plan cannot result in less housing than otherwise would be required under the law and it can't result in more sprawl and car travel. So Wiener, uh, Senator Wiener in a conference call yesterday described this as just allowing cities and counties to make pretty small tweaks to what would otherwise be required by the law. Let's say shifting density or building Heights over by a block or two, but not a wholesale reorientation of, of what the bill would require. Andrew, what are some of the major arguments against SBA 50? We've seen opposition from, I think you could distill it to two different camps. So on the one side you have more well-off homeowners and neighborhood groups and they see, um, they say that their, their neighborhoods, they like them the way they are.
Speaker 3: 12:51 They don't want them to change. They fear that more density will bring in more traffic on the infrastructure will be strained. And also just the look and feel of the low density sort of single family home neighborhoods that, um, you know, that we can picture in our minds right now I'm sure will be lost. On the other side, you have groups that are representing low income communities and communities at risk of gentrification and they see this risk of developers coming into poor neighborhoods where land is cheaper. I'm building up luxury housing, turbocharging, gentrification and ultimately displacing the residents there. Um, I will say though, the opposition from those groups has been quieter, uh, since some of the amendments that we know is put into this bill. Um, uh, I mentioned the affordable housing set aside. Um, developers also can't use the builds who demolish buildings that are currently occupied by renters or have been in recent years.
Speaker 3: 13:44 But it is interesting to see opposition from this coming from two completely different places. There is however widespread support for SB 50 with lots of big city mayors supporting it. But not mayor Faulkner, mayor Faulconer. It's interesting. So he has passed or is proposing many different housing policies that are very similar to SB 50. He already got the council city council to agree to eliminate minimum parking requirements for new apartment and condo buildings that are near public transit. SB 50 would do the same. He also has approved a number of zoning changes in neighborhoods across the city that add density, that raised building height limits near public transit. So he sort of philosophically is in line with the, the intent of the SB 50, but he has not explicitly, uh, said yes, this is a bill that I support and we have seen support from the mayors of San Francisco, from Sacramento, from San Jose and Oakland.
Speaker 3: 14:39 Um, but mayor Faulkner appears to be a holdout at least so far. He also, his office didn't respond to a request for comment. Uh, yesterday, there was some controversy last year when Senate pro tem president Tony Atkins, of course, of San refuse to try to revive SB 50 when it failed to get out of committee. Does Atkins support this bill? Well, she's not a coauthor. Um, and typically she, she doesn't take positions on other senators bills until she has to vote on them. Um, but last year she did say she would have voted for SB 50 if it had reached the full Senate. Um, she also said in an interview with me, uh, in September of last year that she would be more involved in SB 50 this year in amending the bill or helping get it passed or, or what have you. And so we don't really know what her involvement with this bill will be like at this point.
Speaker 3: 15:26 That's kind of a wait and see. Can think what about governor Newsome? Would he sign it if it passes in the legislature? He also hasn't said or taken a, you know, hard position on this bill. The bill appears to be in line with his philosophy about housing. You know, that we need to build a lot more housing. And he made this big pronouncement in the campaign that he wanted to build 3.5 million homes in California by 2025. Um, which were falling woefully short of. Um, but, uh, we haven't gotten a position from him yet. Finally, what's the timeframe for this new SB 50 to move through the legislature? It has to go back to the Senate appropriations committee, uh, where it got stalled last time and then it has to pass out to the full Senate by January 31st to stay alive. Okay, thank you. I've been speaking with KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Wuhan.
Speaker 3: 16:10 Andrew, thanks. You're welcome. This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Cavanagh and I'm Jade Hindman. Yesterday we talked about how a lack of home construction is partly to blame for the housing shortage, but a large share of the buildings that are getting built are being bought by what are known is shell companies that public radio program reveal has found that 30% of California's residential real estate purchases in major cities, including right here in San Diego, are being made by these companies in cash. So who exactly is buying up all the real estate senior reporter Aaron glance with reveal is here with more on how the show is suing to get the answer to that very question. Aaron, welcome. It's good to be with you. So why has it been so difficult to find out who is behind these shell companies? You'd think this information would be available via property records? Is that not the case?
Speaker 5: 17:03 Well, this is historically, if you wanted to know who owned a house, you could go to the County courthouse and find out, right? You go to the County courthouse in San Francisco where I live, you look at the record from my house and you find out that I own it with my wife open and shut. Right? Same thing if it's a mom and pop landlord owned by a human, uh, if you have a problem with the landlord, you call up the human who owns the building. Uh, but what we've seen, you know, since the housing bust is a massive increase in the number of homes that are bought, not by human beings, but by LLC, LLP and LP shell companies. And so there's a lot of rumors going around, you know, these homes are being bought up by, uh, international oligarchs from China or from Russia.
Speaker 5: 17:49 One thing that people suspect or homes were being built, bought up as second homes for tech barons, right? Or maybe they're being turned into Airbnbs or, um, you know, all the theories that abound. But it's really difficult to answer which of those is the most prevalent because we don't know who is behind many of these corporate shells. And so what are the legal arguments reveal is making in court to get this information public? Well, the treasury department knows who is behind many of these shell companies because the financial crimes unit of the treasury department is concerned about money laundering through real estate in San Diego and elsewhere. And so we filed a freedom of information act request to get the information that the treasury police have. Uh, when we did that, the treasury police said, um, we will not give you this information because of this law called the bank secrecy act.
Speaker 5: 18:45 And what we're contending in our lawsuit is that under the freedom of information act, they have to provide this information and they can use the bank secrecy act to shield, you know, legitimately private information from the public. Like, for example, the social security numbers that people have in their bank accounts or other personal financial information, but they can't a shield from us, this information that we have historically had as a public, which is who owns the building next door? If all these units are being bought by these companies, how much of an impact is this having on the housing crisis? It's huge. Absolutely huge. You know, you have a debate in San Diego, do we have enough housing? Uh, do we have a housing shortage? Uh, do we need more housing? But it's not only about how much housing you have, it's also about who owns the housing.
Speaker 5: 19:39 And when you have 3 million homes and more than 10 million apartment units across this country that are owned by shell companies, uh, then that has a major impact. If you want to go out and buy a house with a traditional mortgage, uh, by the time you go house shopping, that house has already been gobbled up by a speculator. And what about tenants? How are they affected by having a landlord that's a shell company as opposed to an individual. Yet you're looking at a disconnected landlord who has no relationship at all with their tenants. And so, uh, what you see is more and more responsibility being pushed off the landlord and onto the tenants. Uh, I've seen lease agreements that tens have signed with these shell companies that put them in charge of, uh, virtually all the maintenance, fixing the plumbing, fixing windows, uh, things of that nature. Uh, the rent increases tend to be much more frequent and much steeper, uh, because the landlord does not know the tenants and research from the federal reserve bank of Atlanta has found that corporate landlords are far more likely to mom and pop landlords to file eviction notices against their tenants. And in Atlanta, the fed found that those, um, those eviction notices tend to particularly hit African Americans even when they are similarly, uh, financially situated to their white counterparts.
Speaker 6: 21:03 Are you aware of specific properties here in San Diego that are owned by these LLCs?
Speaker 5: 21:09 I mean, there are many homes all across San Diego that are owned by these LLC, uh, shell companies. Uh, there is a sittin in Oakland, which is near my office in San Francisco in, uh, Emeryville of this group, moms for housing. And they're sitting in on a property that is owned by an LLC called Catamount properties 2018 LLC. And it's vacant. So they're sitting in a, in a area of West Oakland where rents are going up, where housing for purchases virtually unavailable. And there's this house used to be owned by a family now owned by a shell company, uh, that was sitting vacant and they took it over. Well, this same shell company owns dozens of homes in the San Diego area and also in San Bernardino County and also in Los Angeles County, uh, all over. And the same is true for some of our biggest corporate landlords, like invitation homes, uh, which was created by Blackstone, which was one of America's largest private equity firms.
Speaker 5: 22:10 And this company, um, uh, Blackstone owns more than 80,000 homes all across America. And so we have right now an unprecedented concentration of ownership in real estate, which is blocking families, uh, from living the American dream. And what we're trying to find out in our lawsuit is, you know, I listed some of these players, but who's behind those corporate names? Hmm. So what's the next step in this lawsuit? What we, uh, you know, when we filed our freedom of information act request last year we were denied and then we appealed. We were denied again. Uh, then we filed a new freedom of information act request and now we're suing. Uh, so now we're in court and we're waiting to see if uh, now faced with a federal judge if the treasury department again tells us that we cannot have this basic information about who is buying up America's cities. And if they do, then ultimately it will be up to a judge to the side. I have
Speaker 6: 23:10 speaking with Aaron gland, senior reporter at reveal. Aaron, thank you very much for joining us. Thank you. The number of non white teachers in California isn't keeping pace with the number of black and Brown students in our classrooms. One problem is that too many of these teachers leave the profession as part of our California dream collaboration cake. QEDs Vanessa run Canio takes us to meet a group of men trying to find a solution. Darryl McKellar makes teaching look easy over 20 years in the classroom. The Los Angeles
Speaker 7: 23:46 English teacher has mastered some of the jobs, trickiest tasks, title, story, lottery, and what I'm asking you guys how to get students to connect to the texts he teaches.
Speaker 8: 23:55 Sabrina would end up, when you say, when I say lottery, what do you think? Automatic money. Brown. What do you think? Drama. Why drama? More money. More problems. Who said it is a rapper
Speaker 7: 24:06 and how to crack his students up.
Speaker 8: 24:07 More money. More problem. Wait. [inaudible] baby. Baby. Notorious. B. I. G. but he also says, uh, we can't expect the changes to word until we do what? Change who change itself.
Speaker 7: 24:23 The records showed us don't inspiring. Just 1% of teachers in California are black men like McKellar. That's why he works with a local teacher's college to help train others. But just preparing them for the classroom isn't enough to keep them there. A lot of teachers don't stay, especially young black, young Brown teachers don't choose to stay because they don't feel supported. Poor working conditions are the thing most likely to drive any teacher from the profession, but teachers of color are concentrated in schools with the most challenging conditions. That's a big part of the reason they leave at higher rates and black and Brown men are especially likely to quit. Long-time Compton unified teacher, Marco Godinez has some thoughts on why. The only time I ever seem to get a phone call is, Hey, we've got these kids misbehaving in this class. Can you come over and help them calm down and we're not respected at the same level as other teachers.
Speaker 7: 25:22 We're just seen as discipline experts. A few school districts around the country are creating support networks specifically for male teachers of color, places to learn from peers and share expertise. But at Godinez school in Compton, they're trying something a little different. School leadership is working side by side with its male teachers of color the morning of morning, welcome back to our Compton male teacher of color network meeting on a Saturday at Domingo's high school in Compton. A dozen teachers are gathered in the library. The principal is here, the assistant principal, even the district superintendent laptops are out around the table. One teacher is busy trying to wrangle his toddlers. There are bagels and coffee, Google docs and a projector. The teacher's paired up and visited each other's classrooms recently,
Speaker 8: 26:14 Janey, he's saying, don't worry about the mistakes. It's okay to make mistakes.
Speaker 7: 26:17 They spent some time sharing strategies. They discovered,
Speaker 8: 26:20 I think I kind of put the kids a little bit more defensive. I need to emphasize with the students more.
Speaker 7: 26:26 Then they turned to something else. There'd been a lockdown on campus a day earlier after a student made a violent threat. Our kids don't know how to react to that trauma because they're kids. They're kids. It's like we have to model that and principal Blaine Watson is listening intently. He chimes in literally up in the middle of the night thinking about kids here at school like, are they okay for the teachers seeing their principal be so vulnerable? Humanizes him, helps them trust him. I don't know how to deal with that. This is also a place where he seeks their advice. It's changed the power dynamic on campus. Watson has given teachers more space to shape decisions in turn Godinez and other teachers have stepped into leadership roles.
Speaker 9: 27:09 For me, this is the first time that I've felt like we're getting down to the actual issues that are plaguing this school and we're finally getting down to real solutions.
Speaker 7: 27:20 The teachers in this room feel listened to and needed and that could be the thing that keeps them in the classroom. In Compton, I'm Vanessa Ranconyo.
Speaker 4: 27:35 [inaudible].
Speaker 10: 27:37 How someone is lumped into categories on paper can really shape a person's life. For reporter Christina Kim, she spent her life wondering whether she's Korean enough or Spanish enough. Here's her personal essay about growing up with a Korean dad and a Spanish mom. I have always been to Spanish for my Korean side to Korean. For my Spanish side and a little too Brown for everyone. When I was little, I dreamed of going somewhere and having someone be like, Hey, you're one of us. I would've killed for that feeling of belonging without conditions or questions. When you're like me of two worlds, living in a third new world, the U S language is your calling card. It's your currency. It can feel like the thing, the thing that makes you real and makes you belong. I know this because whenever I get to speak Spanish with someone in the middle of an otherwise English only day, I feel so connected to them. We always share that smile of recognition. That makes me feel so whole, even if it's just for one moment.
Speaker 4: 28:43 [inaudible]
Speaker 10: 28:43 so not being able to speak Korean made me feel not Korean enough, not Asian American enough, but also more painfully. It made me feel less. My father's daughter,
Speaker 10: 28:54 my father Kim dong Jew, was born in Quanzhou South Korea in 1946 a year after Hiroshima and four years before the Korean war, a war. He still remembers in the fragmented flashbacks of the child that he was, he was going to have to fight a whole other war. The Vietnam war, which because South Korea was a U S ally sent around 300,000 troops. My grandfather didn't want his firstborn son to fight a war that had nothing to do with them and to possibly die. Luckily they knew a Jesuit priest who knew some people who knew some other people and the next thing my dad knows he has a visa and is all set to get his undergraduate and master's degrees all the way in Spain. He got on a plane in 1967 to Madrid and he never went back to live in Korea ever again. When my dad gets to Spain, he's one of the very few Koreans or Asian people of any kind there because in true dramatic fashion, he escapes the Vietnam war to live under the Franco dictatorship, but that's a story for another time.
Speaker 10: 29:56 My dad makes the best of things though. He makes some friends, gets into fast cars, good clothes, and writes long letters to his mom late at night and poetry about a Homeland that's increasingly becoming more foreign to him. A few years into his life in Spain, he meets my mom on a blind date and they fall in love, get engaged and my mother's family is like, you're Catholic now. My dad is baptized and he becomes who I've always known him as. Have you had Kim? They have my two sisters in Madrid, but my dad had a dream and part of that dream was giving my sisters a chance to thrive and to possibly belong. He had what still felt tangible. Then in 1983 the American dream,
Speaker 10: 30:41 fast forward to 1986 after nearly a whole lifetime together and my now teenage sisters and toe, my parents have their first and only American born baby in California. Me, [inaudible] Kim growing up being Korean, something we really didn't talk about. It wasn't like Spain and my Spanish family, which shaped every aspect of my life or like the only on news my whole family would watch at night. It was quiet secret. It was my dad talking in hushed tones and not knowing what he said. It was my dad's Korean newspaper that only he knew how to read. It was my dad ordering for all of us and laughing with the Korean waitress and Oakland's K-Town while we all just smiled. It was hearing my dad sing it down, a Korean folk song quietly in his room and me walking in and seeing him cry as he listened and hummed along and me crying with him, but not really knowing why. Just crying. I had never even been to Korea. So at the age of 25 I negotiated with my dad who had resisted taking me there, that if I got into a doctoral program, he would take me. I got in and so we went on the plane to Korea. Armed with my tiny crappy recorder. I asked my dad what he wanted to show me the most [inaudible]
Speaker 11: 31:59 nothing [inaudible] come on, you know, a baby be born.
Speaker 10: 32:05 He told me he didn't know because he hadn't lived there in so long, but that he wanted me to meet the people there. And most of all [inaudible] there was a part of me that hoped that I would get there and instantly feel claimed, seen home. I was sad that first night because of course that didn't happen. No one even thought I was Korean. Still. My dad took pride explaining the origins of Hungle, showing me the Buddhist temple. We laugh while we ate that bookie. He helped me navigate this whole fish market and ate the live baby squid with me. He showed me the school he had gone to told me about the he made there that would go on to die in Quanzhou. During the 1980 uprising, we took quiet walks and I learned more about my family. Daddy [inaudible]
Speaker 12: 32:49 [inaudible] had two Lovis [inaudible], mass master Felker
Speaker 10: 32:56 Korea. The more I learned about it and one day in the middle of a busy food market, when I asked my dad for kimchi Lavado, which means washed kimchi in Spanish, which is what our family has always called moody kimchi, I realized that we hadn't stopped speaking Spanish the whole time in Korea. I was learning all about Korea, not in Korean, but in Spanish.
Speaker 13: 33:19 [inaudible].
Speaker 10: 33:19 In fact, speaking Spanish with my dad while in Korea was the most authentically me I could ever be and that telling me all about Korea and Spanish was actually my dad being his most authentic self. We hadn't talked a lot about Korea growing up, not because he didn't want to share it with me, but because he too was trying to figure out what it meant to be Korean, to be Korean in Spain and now Korean and also Spanish in the U S speaking Spanish at home, English at work and Korean. Rarely for him, kimchi Lavato was also his way of saying, what are you kimchi [inaudible] the Korean immigrants that went around the world and ended up in California was just like me. He was Asian American, Korean, Spanish, and even a little American too. He was something in between all three. It brought me back to that song.
Speaker 10: 34:16 My dad always listens to the inexplicably makes us both cry. Addie dung, the unofficial Anthem of Korea, both Koreas and resistance song during Japanese occupation tells a story of two lovers indefinitely separated on different mountaintops that are forever longing for each other. The song perfectly encapsulates the division of Korea that it also speaks to the beautiful sadness of being an immigrant like my dad of longing for a Homeland you once knew, that's forever out of reach that you long for, even as you make new homes elsewhere and in turn, it captures my experience too. The beauty of being mixed, of being Korean and also Spanish in America of belonging to the borderlands. That space in between the two lovers and added-on, that space where both my dad and I belong and are always enough
Speaker 13: 35:11 [inaudible].
Speaker 10: 35:18 Oh,
Speaker 13: 35:19 gotcha. Pardon me.
Speaker 10: 35:26 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman. I'm Maureen Cavanagh. Getting a brand new kitten from the shelter is a joyful experience. It's amazing to see something so young,
Speaker 6: 35:38 small and cute settled into a new home, but the eight week old kittens adopted at the shelter are mature compared to the kittens taken care of by my next guest. Hannah Shah rescues the tiniest newborns in San Diego. Kittens so young, they can't see or eat anything but milk and baby food from a chance encounter with a stranded kitten. Rescuing the smallest and most vulnerable has become Hannah's life's work. She's out with a book with tips on how all of us can save these tiny newborns. It's called tiny but mighty, the kitten ladies guide to saving the most vulnerable felines and Hannah Shah, thanks for joining us. Thank you so much for having me. You brought two of your rescued kittens with you today. Who are they and can they talk to us at all? Hi Gordon,
Speaker 14: 36:33 this is Gordon's first outing. Yeah, so this is Gordon and pepita. They are just under three weeks old and this is actually their first outing into the world. And these guys were unfortunately dropped off in a box at an animal shelter and so we don't know where they're from. Um, but we can very much assume that they were found outdoors as most kittens are. Um, can you tell us the story of how this obsession with kittens started for you? Sure. Well, I think like many rescuers I kind of fell into it. Um, I didn't find kittens. They found me a little over a decade ago. I found my first kitten outside and I had to make a decision, am I going to be someone who's dropping off a kitten at the animal shelter potentially to be euthanized or am I going to be somebody who's taking action and raising that kitten and doing whatever I need to do to make sure they have a good life? Obviously I chose to do whatever I could to keep that kitten alive, but I found very quickly that there weren't a lot of resources to teach me how to do that. So that kitten is my cat Coco. She's 10 years old now. She still lives with me. And since that time I've raised hundreds of kittens. I have created hundreds of instructional videos. I've taught workshops all over the country and I've really just aimed to create the resources that I wish I had had when I found my first kitten.
Speaker 6: 37:53 Can you describe for us how young these kittens army, what they can and can do, how big they are? Uh, how, how tiny they are really?
Speaker 14: 38:03 Yeah. So most of the kittens that I take in are just days old when I get them. Um, these kittens may have their eyes closed, still their umbilical cord attached. They can't, uh, Thermo regulate at all, so they can't keep themselves warm. I raised them in an incubator, but any foster parent can raise them even just with a nice heat pad. Uh, but these little guys for the first weeks of life, they're really just resting, incubating and you know, being fed every couple of hours. And if they're an orphan, like the kittens that I raise, they have to be raised on a bottle with kitten. Where do you find these kittens? These terribly young kittens? Well, the majority of kittens born every year are born outdoors. So I would say I could count on one hand the kittens I've rescued that didn't come from outside. Um, most of my kittens are found by people either in their yards or in an alley.
Speaker 14: 38:55 You know, those kittens can either come directly to us or they might end up at the local animal shelter. So I run a nonprofit called orphan kitten club and we partner with local shelters to take on the youngest kittens that they have and you know, raise them in our home nursery. Well, what, what's the process you go through with these cats? Well, when a kitten first comes to me, of course I'm assessing them, trying to understand how old they are. If they have any health conditions, you know, it's getting them, getting them to a proper temperature so that their body can handle the care that they need to receive. And then everything starts to change around four to five weeks of age. Suddenly their eyesight improves, their coordination improves, they become playful. And at that point it's all behavior and weaning, teaching them what it is to be a baby cat.
Speaker 14: 39:45 How to, how to do that. Do you have to evaluate their chances for survival while we will take on a kitten in any condition? And uh, you know, I, I really like taking on kittens who, uh, have medical conditions or are going through some kind of struggle. I love disproving people and showing that actually when you have a little bit of creativity and stubbornness and hope you can do a lot for these little guys. Um, of course there are kittens who may be in such critical condition that they cannot survive. Um, but we've been able to do some pretty amazing things. So what happens after eight weeks and they're a sort of viable kittens? Yeah. So we have an adoption program through our nonprofit orphan kitten club and at eight weeks our kittens are spayed or neutered, they're vaccinated, they're obviously dewormed, they're microchipped. These guys are fully ready to go to their new home once they reach two pounds. And so we look for loving adopters throughout San Diego and even outside of San Diego, uh, who are ready to bring a new friend or two into their home. Um, we definitely love adopting out in pairs.
Speaker 6: 40:53 Now we just ran a report on the damage that some environmentalists are saying is done to the bird population and other species by having feral and outdoor cats in the environment. And of course the San Diego U Maine society has a sort of trap and release program. Will they bring in feral cats and they'll neuter or spay them and then they will release them back out into the, into the wild, so to speak. How do you respond to that argument that these cats are in danger?
Speaker 14: 41:23 Cats are already outside. The really important thing to understand about trap, neuter return is that we're not talking about putting cats outside. We're talking about the populations of cats who already exist in abundance on our streets, making sure that they are the last ones born there. So, um, I'm a major advocate for trap, neuter, return. In fact, every kitten I rescue, we go out to the community that that kid is from and we seek out their family and we make sure they're all spayed and neutered. Um, so I think trap, neuter return is something absolutely everyone can agree on because it reduces the number of kittens born outdoors. That's good for wildlife. That's good for the animal shelter. That's good for taxpayers because of course it's expensive to be taking in kitten after kitten after kitten. And what we see is without trap, neuter, return, these kittens will keep appearing in the bushes, keep appearing in the alleyways.
Speaker 14: 42:12 And you know, I can tell you from personal experience, I spend a lot of time going out to the sites where these kittens are from and knocking on doors and saying, Hey, we have kittens from your neighborhood. Are there cats here? And the people are so very grateful that we are there to help them. Um, sometimes they've had just cycle after cycle of litters born in their neighborhood and they're so grateful to put an end to that through TNR. Your book is called a tiny but mighty. We know how tiny these creatures are. We can all envision that, but how are they mighty while I call it tiny but mighty? Because when I see these little guys, you know, you might think they're very frail and very fragile, but I see all of the potential that they have. They really have everything inside of them that it takes to be a mighty micro Panther some day.
Speaker 14: 42:57 It's just that we have to help them, you know, bring that out. But the other reason that I called my book tiny but mighty is really kind of a mantra for animal rescuers to remember that these mighty movements, these huge things that we need to do for animals, they're really made up of tiny components. Whether it's, you know, a person signing up to foster their first kitten or somebody trapping that cat that's in their backyard and getting them neutered. All of these small things that we do, these tiny acts of compassion add up to a mighty movement that really is going to move the needle for animal welfare. I've been speaking with Hannah Shaw, the kitten lady, author of the book, tiny but mighty and Hannah, thank you. Thank you so much.