St. John
Leaders of the Berkeley Property Owners Association – including owners of Premium Properties, Shaw Properties, Everest, real estate agent Jon Vicars, legal advocate Michael St. John, and the notorious Lakireddy family – have formed a new political coalition. Is their primary purpose to run candidates for the Rent Board? No. Is it to bring lawsuits like the 2012 libel cases, to scare tenants away from running for election? No. We fully expect them to do those things as well, but the Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition is landlords pooling their money mostly to sue the Rent Board over a $19 increase in the registration fee. It was the first increase of the fee, which funds the Rent Board agency, in six years.

“…She was more concerned that lawsuits funded with PAC money could divert the board from its mission. ‘I think (the landlord’s) interest may be more in the board spending time and money to defend it, thus taking away from our core services.’ ”
http://www.insidebayarea.com/breaking-news/ci_28332932/berkeley-landlords-plan-coalition-challenge-rent-board

CA Supreme Court Upholds San Jose Requirements for Developers – But Inclusionary Housing Ordinance Will Not Apply To Rentals!

The state Supreme Court upheld the right of a city to impose affordable housing requirements on developers of for-sale housing, but let stand the 2009 Palmer decision, which said cities cannot limit the rent a developer can charge for newly built rental units because of the state Costa-Hawkins law. The decision also made it clear that a nexus study is not required because cities do not have to prove that the demand for affordable housing was created by the development of new buildings.

The ruling will impact over 170 local governments with similar inclusionary housing requirements and allow Berkeley to move forward with inclusionary laws. It’s good news for anyone who might scrape it together to buy some “affordable” housing, but bad news for folks who are pretty sure they will be renters for the rest of their lives. The decision again shows the need for tenants to come together statewide to change the Costa-Hawkins law.

“The Court noted that many land use regulations result in a reduction in the market value that a property may command in the absence of regulations and this does not constitute a taking of the diminished value of the property. In this regard, the Court reasoned that the affordable housing requirement was no different than limitations on density, unit size, number of bedrooms, required set-backs, or building heights.”
http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/california-supreme-court-upholds-88596/

California Building Industry Association v. San Jose Decision
CA Building Trades Vs San Jose final

Berkeley Student Paper Discusses Inclusionary Case
www.dailycal.org/2015/06/16/california-supreme-court-ruling-sets-precedent-for-inclusionary-housing-in-state/

For More Info on Costa-Hawkins:
“The Costa-Hawkins Act is not only contributing to soaring rent prices, but it’s also creating barriers to new housing construction.”
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/its-time-to-overturn-the-state-ban-on-rent-control/Content?oid=4229744

Another Tenant Screwed By Costa-Hawkins
http://crowandrose.com/2013/12/another-tenant-screwed-by-costa-hawkins/

Berkeley Tenants send huge hugs to the families of all the young people lost or hurt at Library Gardens.

Faulty Construction Likely Cause of Balcony Collapse
“The horrible structural failure of a 5th floor balcony that killed six and injured seven…has brought to the forefront the issue of safety in the frantic construction of apartment buildings mushrooming the city.”
http://dissidentvoice.org/2015/06/berkeley-structural-tragedy/

Deadly Balcony Collapse Tied to Rotted Wooden Beams
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/06/17/collapsed-berkeley-balcony-reportedly-not-intended-for-large-group/

A History Of Housing Safety Complaints
“The apartment complex’s housing code violations included holes in walls, trip hazards from damaged floors, loose metal strips in doorways, inoperable ceiling fans in laundry rooms and missing or inoperable exit signs throughout the building. The majority of violations were found during a random September 2013 city inspection of several low-income and affordable housing units in the complex.”
http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-berkeley-code-violations-20150619-story.html

Berkeleyside Report On Builder Track Record
“As it turns out, however, there was also a $3.5 million settlement in 2013 in Millbrae related to waterproofing and wood rot. And, that same year, Trestle Glen Associates, in Colma, filed a breach of contract lawsuit, still underway, against Segue related to ‘water intrusion causing tangible property damage.’ ”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/06/17/firm-that-built-berkeley-complex-has-been-fined-sued/

Builder Under Scrutiny BEFORE Balcony Collapse
“The building has been the subject of numerous complaints, both through the city and online. The most recent official complaint, submitted in February to the Berkeley Rent Board, listed missing or broken stairwell lights, missing handrails on stairwells, holes in the walls of public spaces, expired fire extinguishers, and peeling floor material that posed a tripping hazard.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/06/17/berkeley-building-under-scrutiny-before-balcony-collapse/

Protest Calls For Investigation, Halt for New Construction
A group of concerned citizens has called for a moratorium on new building construction in Berkeley until the tragedy at Library Gardens can be analyzed. The Berkeley Daily Planet posted an editorial with a similar suggestion.

Protesters’ Letter to Council Linked Here
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/06/19/protesters-demand-a-halt-on-new-construction-in-berkeley/

Daily Planet Suggests Pause for Building Approvals
http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-06-12/article/43421?headline=Ask-Council-to-Analyse-Problems-Before-Scheduling-New-Construction–

IMG_0926-1Landlords Form PAC
The Berkeley Property Owners Association announced this week that they are forming a political action committee. “While the Rent Board uses our money to undermine our rights, the BRHC will use its funds to fight for our rights, bringing balance to matters that have been far out of balance for far too long.” The founding landlords pledge to spend at least $500,000 a year to fight against renters rights in Berkeley.
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-06-12/article/43384?headline=Berkeley-Landlords-Form-Political-Action-Committee-to-Raise-Half-Million-per-Year–

Short-Term Rentals (AirBnB) Discussion Continues June 23
http://www.mercurynews.com/my-town/ci_28289073/berkeley-discussion-short-term-rental-regulations-stalls-city

http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/06/11/berkeley-council-meeting-ends-abruptly-during-testimony/

Students Call for Tight Limits on Vacation Rentals
“Research has shown that short-term and vacation rentals increase the costs of housing by reducing the supply of affordable housing available on the market…. If City Council decides to legalize short-term and vacation rentals, such as those found on Airbnb, then it must adequately regulate them in order to protect the city’s supply of affordable housing. The proposal put forward by Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Lori Droste, while a good start, would fail to adequately regulate short-term and vacation rentals so that they do not reduce the supply of affordable housing in Berkeley.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2015/06/08/protect-housing-costs-increase-regulation-of-short-term-rentals/

Pro-Development, Pro-AirBnb “Renters” Group Gets YELP Donation.
“I believe Sonja represents a massive segment of the population that’s been largely ignored in the discussion on Bay Area housing – renters,” said Stoppelman.”
http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/blog/real-estate/2015/03/pro-density-sfbarf-yelp-jeremy-stoppelman.html

Upcoming Dates:

Wednesday July 8 – BTU Member’s Meeting and Summer Potluck

CITY COUNCIL
Tuesday June 23, 7 PM – Short Term Rentals continues
Thursday June 25 5 PM – Community Benefits from Downtown High-rise Buildings
Tuesday June 30
Tuesday July 14
Tuesday September 15

ZONING BOARD
Thursday 6/11 at 7:00 PM
Thursday 6/25 at 7:00 PM – Demolition of 18-Unit Rent Controlled Building
Thursday 7/09 at 7:00 PM
Thursday 7/23 at 7:00 PM
Thursday 8/27 at 7:00 PM

PLANNING COMMISSION
Wednesday June 17
Wednesday July 1
Wednesday July 15 – possibly Short Term Rentals
Wednesday September 2

The Trouble With AirBnB

The owner of 3100 College lists 11 Berkeley apartments on AirBnB.
The owner of 3100 College lists 11 Berkeley apartments on AirBnB.

The Berkeley City Council will begin the process of legalizing short-term rentals.

Right now, Berkeley law prohibits residential rentals of less than 14 days, according to a March 18 Planning Department staff report. However, over one thousand such rentals are listed on hosting platform Airbnb in Berkeley. The City plans to legalize these rentals in some form, and collect the hotel tax from them.

The Berkeley Rent Board has identified three issues with potential short term rentals regulations in a letter they are sending to the City Council: the loss of rental housing, adequate enforcement of new laws, and preservation of existing rights for tenants. “Allowing unlimited short-term rentals or creating regulations that lack enforcement will contribute to the housing crisis in Berkeley,” they said.

Meanwhile, Berkeley’s code inspectors don’t seem to be enforcing the existing prohibition. Two Berkeley Tenants who have been to code enforcement have been told different things. A few months ago, a tenant who lives beneath a vacation rental was told at the counter that “it’s illegal but there is nothing you can do about it.” Another Berkeley Tenant who lives next door to such a rental spoke to code enforcement last week and was told it is hard to find evidence of the rentals. Meanwhile, San Francisco fined one landlord $276,000 for evicting tenants with the Ellis Act and then renting to tourists on VRBO.

The central question in the local debate seems to be how to limit short-term rentals of rent controlled units, particularly in owner-occupied, smaller buildings. The Rent Board letter says that such rentals could still have a big impact on available rental housing, and cites a chart from the Housing Element which shows 21% of all Berkeley housing is in 2-4 unit buildings. It seems that the Rent Board is discussing rentals of empty units like hotel rooms, not homes where the occupant is away on their own vacation. BTU has identified a handful of large landlords renting five or even ten units to tourists all year round, and is examining Santa Monica’s new law as a model, since that town has rental control rules similar to the Berkeley laws on rental units.

If you are a tenant who has been displaced – and replaced – by a tourist rental, contact BTU. We are also looking for more tenants who can no longer relax at home because the unit next to them has been turned into a hotel.

The City Council is expected to discuss a framework for regulations, then refer the issue to the Housing and Planning Commissions, as early as May 26.

IMPORTANT DATES

Thursday May 21 @ 10 AM
4×4 Committee (Rent Board/City Council)
2001 Center Street
Rent Stabilization Program’s Law Library, 2nd floor
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/Home/4x4_Committee_Homepage.aspx

Tuesday May 26 @ 7 PM
City Council Meeting
2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
ITEMS 19 and 21
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/2015/05_May/City_Council__05-26-2015_-_Regular_Meeting_Agenda.aspx

LINKS

March 18 Staff Report to Planning Commission:
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Planning_Commission_Homepage.aspx

Berkeley Rent Board Letter to City Council (Item 4):
http://www.cityofberkeley.info/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Home/Agenda__RSB_2015_May_11.aspx

San Francisco City Attorney Sues Landlords Over Short-Term Rentals
“Illegal conversions that push long-term tenants out of their homes diminish the availability of residential rental units for San Franciscans, and they’re a significant contributor to our housing affordability crisis,” Herrera said. …The City Attorney’s Office suspects that the Lees aren’t the only landlords flouting state and city laws in that fashion, and is eager to pursue other cases like this one. Folks who want to report violations like the Lees’ are encouraged to contact the City Attorney’s code enforcement hotline.”
http://sfist.com/2015/05/07/landlords_who_evicted_tenants_to_ma_1.php

“Also last year, Herrera filed a similar case against landlords in North Beach. That case settled in January with the landlords paying $115,000 in penalties and agreeing to a similar injunction.”
http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Landlords-fined-for-evicting-tenants-to-make-a-6246550.php

Santa Monica Bans Short Term Rentals of Whole Units
“Santa Monica has taken one of the strongest stances of any city against the practice of professional landlords hoarding all their properties for tourists instead of for actual renters, keeping housing off an already crunched and expensive market. Full-unit rentals account for the overwhelming majority of the listings on Airbnb in Los Angeles, and for nearly all of the listings that actually make money.”
http://la.curbed.com/archives/2015/05/santa_monica_just_banned_airbnbs_biggest_moneymakers.php