Update: Thursday March 18 is now the day TOPA will be before the City Council’s Land Use, Housing & Economic Development Committee at 10:30AM.
This Thursday, the Berkeley City Council’s Land Use Committee will hold a final hearing on The Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA). Now is the time to get involved!
ACTION: Write to PolicyCommittee@cityofberkeley.info today to express your support. “I stand with the Berkeley Tenants Union in expressing enthusiasm for the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act.”
If all goes as planned, the City Council will vote on this at their April 20th meeting.
Berkeley’s TOPA is the first ordinance of its kind in the state of California, but other places have tried this model – and it works! Washington DC passed a similar law in 2002; that law has preserved over 3500 units of affordable housing in the capital.
The desperate opposition is hyperbolically claiming TOPA will “seize your private property.” While for those without property, that may not seem like a bad idea – it’s just not true! The new law would just give renters AN OPTION to pay market price before their homes are sold to a new landlord. But it also SETS UP HELP for a group of renters to buy, including the opportunity to work with affordable housing groups who may fund some of the cost, and access to special loans.
As BTU member and Berkeley leader Igor Tregub put it, TOPA “reflects core Berkeley values such as cooperative ownership, democratic control, and the empowerment of underserved communities.” It is supported by Mayor Arreguin, and the East Bay Community Law Center has done substantial work shepherding the law through its five-year process to this point – where we almost have it!
The Community Power Slate sponsors a Yes on 10 forum:
SUNDAY OCTOBER 21 – 3 PM South Berkeley Senior Center 2939 Ellis Street at Ashby
Community Power Slate
Elect a Pro-Tenant Rent Board in Berkeley
For over a quarter century, Berkeley progressives have come together to choose a consensus slate for the Rent Board. This spring, the Berkeley Tenant Convention chose local leaders John Selawsky (formerly on the School Board) and Paola Laverde, currently the Rent Board’s Vice Chair and an outspoken advocate for Yes on Prop 10. Also on the Community Power Slate for Berkeley Rent Board are James Chang, UCB junior Soli Alpert, and Maria Poblet, a founder of Causa Justa Oakland.
Berkeley City Council
BTU endorsed Kate Harrison (District 4: Downtown) and Igor Tregub (District 1: Fourth Street, North Berkeley BART). Igor used to be on the Rent Board and has always been a solid advocate for tenants. Kate is the wisest leader in Berkeley, with a lot of behind the scenes experience in San Francisco’s crazier days. She has done amazing work for affordable housing on the City Council in her very short term.
BTU also endorsedRigel Robinson, a newcomer whose website mentions nothing about renters in the housing policy statement. He is currently External Affairs Vice President of the ASUC and will fill the district with the most renters, taking the place of longtime tenant leader Kriss Worthington, who has endorsed Robinson.
“Rigel believes we need to build more housing, for all students, right next to campus, right now. As a City Councilmember, he’ll push for zoning requirements that allow for taller, denser buildings around campus — while fighting for more units that are affordable.” https://rigelrobinson.com/
Finally, BTU endorsedMary Kay Laceyfor District 8. Lacey will fight for renters in the district which has been represented by Lori Droste, who repeatedly voted to eliminate rent controlled units through demolitions and conversions to Air BnB. Lacey became known for her work on the Task Force to Save Alta Bates hospital.
“Protect against displacement by building targeted affordable housing for students, working families and those facing eviction… I am also fully committed to the Pathways Project and a ‘housing first’ solution to our homelessness crisis.” https://lacey2018.com/issues/
State Assembly: Jovanka Beckles
Rent Board: Soli Alpert, James Chang, Paola Laverde, Maria Poblet, John Selawsky (Community Power Slate)
Council District 1: Igor Tregub
Council District 4: Kate Harrison
Council District 7: Rigel Robisnon
Council District 8: Mary Kay Lacey
BTU-Endorsed Housing Measures:
Prop 10 (Costa-Hawkins Repeal): YES!
Measure O (Affordable Housing Bond): Yes
Measure P (Transfer Tax for Homeless Services): Yes
Measure Q (Rent Board Amendments): No Endorsement
Prop 1 (Affordable Housing Bond): Yes
Prop 2 (Homeless Prevention Bond): Yes
Prop 5 (Property Tax Break): No
Now, The Good News
At their 10th anniversary celebration, the statewide renters group Tenants Together chose to honor Berkeley’s own Julia Cato, who has worked hard with several groups – including BTU – to make sure the voices of seniors and tenants are heard by the folks who represent us.
Tenants Together also has a counselor trainingcoming up. I don’t think anyone does counseling for BTU since I left, so someone really should try to get the program up and running again! Tenants could use a peer advocate to help them navigate the bureaucracies that govern, even if California does get some better laws this election day!
More Worried About Trump than Lakireddy?
Get Involved on the National Level!
The Right to the City Alliance / Homes For All held their second national Renter Power Assembly this summer, with over 100 tenant groups coming together from all over the United States. Start by joining their mailing list to give renters a unified voice on national housing policy!
“If the housing crisis has been slow to register at the level of national politics, it’s not for lack of momentum at the grassroots. There is no major city in the United States today without a multitude of tenants’ rights groups, and “gentrification” has, in the span of a decade, crossed from left-wing academic journals into everyday language. From coast to coast, a loosely organized, intersectional, and bottom-up movement is coalescing around housing justice—the idea that housing is inextricable from a range of other issues like racial justice, poverty, the environment, immigration, and the rights of the formerly incarcerated.” https://righttothecity.org/
Tuesday the City Council will vote on a proposed ballot measure updating the rent laws to prepare Berkeley for a world without Costa-Hawkins. One of the major changes is that buildings build after 1980 could be rent controlled! Right now, the state law Costa-Hawkins says that cannot happen. The Berkeley City Council will be discussing how old a building should be before rent increases are limited. They seem to favor setting this period to be between 12-15 years. Maybe you would like all buildings under rent control NOW?
BTU member Paola Laverde sent in the information below:
Berkeley Renters We Need You!
The Rent Is Too Damn High!
Come out to Tuesday’s City Council meeting and make sure your voice is heard as the City Council debates whether to expand rent control.
We need you there to ensure that the City Council does not cave in to developers who want to delay new rent control for 20 YEARS OR MORE!
Where: Council Chambers: 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
When: Tuesday, July 31, 2018 at 6 P. M.
What: The Council will be debating how long rent control should be delayed on newly constructed rental units. The proposal before them is 12 to 15 years. However, property owners and developers are screaming that nothing less than 20 to 30 years is acceptable.
If tenants do not raise their voices loudly, the City Council may cave in to property owners and developers, leaving renters to suffer as already unaffordable rents sky rocket even higher.
The decision reached by the Council on Tuesday night may be put on the November 6, 2018, ballot for Berkeley voters to decide. It will only go into effect if Proposition 10, the Affordable Housing Act, is approved by California voters.
Now is the time to take a stand against big money and the rental housing industry that is responsible for the affordability crisis impacting Berkeley.
BTU Needs You to Push for Rental Assistance! The City Council is beginning to discuss how to spend money from the 2016 landlord tax, Measure U1.
You may have seen emails from our allies asking you to comment on Measure U1 funding for particular affordable housing projects, but we want you to remind the Council that a portion of Measure U1 funding is also designated for homelessness prevention. It was always the intention of the authors of the 2016 ballot measure that some money go to reinstate Berkeley’s rental assistance program and boost the number of low-income renters that can defend themselves against Berkeley’s many bogus eviction attempts.
BTU is calling for you to contact the City Council to ask that renters get their fair share from the new tax on high rents generated by Measure U1 – because rent control is Berkeley’s most effective affordable housing program! With about 20% of Berkeley below the poverty level, keeping folks in their rent controlled units is certainly homelessness prevention! The market rent for a new tenant in an older, rent-controlled two bedroom is already $2,600 and “affordable housing units” in developments like The Avalon (by Aquatic Park) rent for $1,445 for a studio – how is that affordable?
Please Email the Council something like this right away!
Re: Items 37a and 37b; Items 38a and 38b (July 11)
Rent control is Berkeley’s most effective affordable housing program. BTU calls for more local anti-displacement funding, especially more funding for eviction defense and rental assistance (the “Housing Retention Program.”) Berkeley Tenants Union believes that the portion of funding raised by Measure U1 that should be designated, per the measure, for “homelessness prevention” should be spent on programs which stabilize the housing of low-income renters and thereby preserve economic and social diversity. BTU does not support a delay in committing this funding during a housing emergency. Please prioritize more help for low-income tenants struggling to stay in Berkeley!
Also on the Agenda: Soft Story Update Item 43 Soft story means buildings that will kill everyone by collapsing in an earthquake. They were required to retrofit and have been told since 2006 that this would be required. They get really cheap city loans, too! But 24 have not complied and – thanks to pressure from BTU and vocal advocates like Igor Tregub – they are now being fined by the Building Department. “This report also provides an update on the status of mandatory seismic retrofits required by Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 19.39 for buildings with a soft, weak or open front (“Soft Story”) condition and five or more dwelling units. Soft Story building owners had a December 31, 2016 deadline to apply for building permits for seismic retrofits. Of the 86 buildings remaining on the Soft Story inventory, 62 buildings containing 617 dwelling units have now applied for or been issued permits. The Building and Safety Division issued warning letters of administrative citation on March 28, 2017 to owners who had not applied for a building permit and the first citations were issued to ten building owners on May 30.”
IN OTHER NEWS
Tenant Activist Elisa Cooper Berkeley has lost another important voice for housing. Elisa Cooper, who took on a major role representing Friends of Adeline on the 2016 Tenant Convention Planning Committee, was also a strong advocate for people with disabilities and those who have the very least in our community. She strongly opposed BTU charging dues and her voice will be missed when that issue comes up again this fall.
Rent Board Election: Campaign Finance Complaint At the July 20th Fair Campaign Practices Commission (FCPC) meeting, the Commission will hear a complaint registered against the Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition for failing to properly record campaign finances. This is not the first time this has occurred. Because of the blatant repeat offences committed by this organization, the Berkeley Tenants Union feels strongly that in order for the Berkeley Election Reform Act to have any teeth, the maximum penalty should be imposed. Please support BTU’s letter by emailing: FCPC@CityofBerkeley.info BTU letter for FCPC
Is Berkeley Way Project Too Big? “The two-building project, set to take the place of the public parking lot at Berkeley Way and Henry Street, is slated to include 89 affordable apartments in one building and, in the other, 53 studios of permanent supportive housing, 32 shelter beds, 12 transitional units for veterans, and a first-floor services center with a community kitchen. City leaders have long described the $90 million project, a collaboration with the Berkeley Food & Housing Project (BFHP) and Bridge Housing, as “visionary” in scope.” http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/06/15/with-council-all-in-on-berkeley-way-homeless-housing-trust-fund-at-zero/
Another Way to Reach the City Council Our good friends at Berkeley Citizens Action are holding a town hall with (most of) the progressives we elected this fall! The meeting is Sunday July 16 at 3 PM at South Berkeley Senior Center – go tell them we need more funding for rental assistance and access to just cause eviction protections! Arreguin, Worthington and Davila are all renters! “Confirmed: Mayor Jesse Arreguín. Councilmembers: Kate Harrison, Kriss Worthington, Ben Bartlett, Sophie Hahn, waiting confirmation from councilmember Cheryl Davila.” according to BCA
Housing Fee: Rent Control and the Housing Crisis “ A very serious problem confronting the City Council is the limits of what a city can do since rent control was abolished by the California legislature in 1995. Unquestionably, decontrol mainly accounts for the incredibly high rents. Even if we accept the US Census underestimated count of the poor in Berkeley, which is over 24,000 –that’s too many individuals and families who can be accommodated by the relatively few available below market rate units. A Berkeley City Council member pointed out that the projects which have already been approved will meet only 3 percent of the goal for low income housing.” http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2017-06-30/article/45843?headline=The-affordable-housing-crisis-how-Berkeley-should-deal-with-it–Harry-Brill-
Housing Fee: Was It Really a Victory? “On the same night of San Francisco’s OMI victory, Berkeley retreated to its failed anti-housing past. The Berkeley City Council ignored the pleas of housing experts such as Karen Chapple of the UC Berkeley Urban Displacement Project, environmental groups such as the Greenbelt Alliance along with ample public testimony and voted 8-0-1 to impose new housing development fees based on 2015 rather than 2017 cost data. Why would the City Council raise fees based on a 2015 feasibility study? Anyone familiar with rising construction costs since 2015 knows that such data is outdated.” http://www.beyondchron.org/sf-advances-berkeley-retreats/
Repealing Costa Hawkins would solve a lot of problems for Berkeley.
This state law gives landlords the right to jack the rent upon vacancy, bans local laws to regulate rents on any post-1996 construction, and exempts single-family homes and condos from rent control too. To get the state to repeal Costa Hawkins is the first step to making rent control cover all rentals and work for all renters.
California Assembly Members Bloom (Santa Monica), Chiu (San Francisco), and Bonta (Oakland) introduced AB 1506 in February – the bill as currently written would repeal the 1996 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.
The Berkeley Rent Board voted to support this bill in March; City Council votes tonight.
To repeal Costa-Hawkins would also mean Berkeley can have the kind of rent control Berkeley voters wanted: the rent would not go up astronomically when a new tenant moves in. This means landlords have less motive for bogus evictions, tenants can afford to move as their lifestyle changes, and speculators are discouraged from using housing as a short-term investment.
Berkeley Tenants Union leaders considered postponing any support for the bill because too many changes could happen before the state legislature actually votes – two years from now! But upon advice from Tenants Together (we are a member organization of this statewide group) and because we saw a “Red Alert” to members of the mega-landlord group BPOA, we are asking that you TAKE ACTION!
Right now, AB1506 is at the Committee on Housing and Community Development.
No hearing date has been set.
1) Ask the sponsor Bloom to pledge not to amend AB 1506 by calling (916) 319-2050. Say you ask that Costa Hawkins be repealed, not amended.
Short Term Rentals to new City Council January 24th
There are two proposals before the Council tomorrow. One would allow folks who have been breaking the law by renting their “in-law” unit to visitors to continue to do so while continuing to ban others with in-laws (the ones who have been abiding by the current law) from short term rentals. Yes, you heard me. Item 41a would reward some duplex owners who have been breaking the law by “grandfathering” their short term rentals! This item is a carry-over from the previous City Council, and BTU hopes and expects the new Council to see the inherent risk to renters and reject Item 41a.
Instead, BTU is asking the City Council to support proposals by the Rent Stabilization Board (see below) which would make Item 41b into a short term rentals law much closer to what we have all hoped for: one that would protect our housing stock while allowing owners and tenants to rent their own homes out on AirBnB and other platforms now and again for some extra cash.
When is a Kitchen not a Kitchen?
The whole vote on Tuesday will be made extra-confusing by an adjunct proposal; Item 42 changes the definition of kitchen. This may also be an issue renters and those concerned with housing policies will want to weigh in on: can folks rent their converted garage or other “Accessory Building” as a short term rental? Under Item 41b and 42 the answer will be yes, as long as the building does not have a history of being rented for the long term.
There is just one problem with this compromise regarding Accessory Buildings: the new definition of kitchen says a kitchen is not a kitchen if the refrigerator is small! A kitchen would now be defined as “A habitable space used for preparation of food that contains at least a sink, a refrigerator of no less than 10 cubic feet, and either a cooktop and an oven, or a range.” This leads to the questions: if you can put a full kitchen in your garage, then why would we allow it to be a vacation rental but not a permanent home at a time when we need housing? If you put a kitchen in your garage, will it be safe for short or long-term renters? BTU has always said we are fine with folks renting their garage as a short term rental if it does not have a kitchen, and thus could not be used for long-term housing.
Short Term Rentals Enforcement
Last summer the Council also directed staff to take action to enforce the existing ban on rentals of less than 14 days if an owner had more than three units listed for the short term. BTU worked with Councilmember Worthington’s office to provide information about several such owners. So far we have not heard of any action taken. Also last summer, the staff from Berkeley put out an RFP and decided to hire a private firm called Host Compliance to enforce the new rules. The firm also contracts with Oakland, Napa, Los Angeles, Denver, Toronto and many other cities, according to their website.
The Rent Board’s recommendations to Council also include language to make enforcement of the new law more effective.
Rent Board Gives Advice “The Board is requesting that Council consider proposed revisions to language in the definition of Short-Term Rental (23C.22030 –D) and Host Residence (23C.22030 –D). I addition, we believe there should be a definition for Long-Term Rental and have provided possible language. The Board also recommended that Council adopt enforcement language similar to the City of San Francisco to prevent hosting platforms from ignoring local regulations.” RSB to Council: rent-board-strs-2017 Harr / Simon-Weisberg Proposal: harr-simonweisberg-strs-2017
Soto-Vigil Proposal: soto-vigil-strs-2017
Student Groups Support Harrison in District 4 “We have an opportunity in Berkeley today to lead the way on progressive solutions to our nation’s challenges and ensure that the legacy we leave for those who follow in our paths is an equitable, sustainable, affordable and livable community for years to come. Kate will bring the lessons she has learned from her work as a consultant on the global stage to keep our city welcoming and inclusive and make it an even better place to call home.” http://www.dailycal.org/2017/01/20/students-support-kate-harrison-district-4-city-council-special-election/
Permits Bureaucracy Drives Events Underground “Everything about the permitting system is designed to discourage the type of electronic music events that people want to hold, Keenan said, from dropping off special permit applications at the city’s Eastmont police substation on 73rd Avenue, to the applications themselves that say in block-faced letters: “Dancing is not permitted between 1 a.m. and 9 a.m.” Plus, permits have to be filed at least 30 days in advance. And, it can also be incredibly costly, he said. Each permit has its own associated fee, and while special event permits are only $50, extended-hour cabaret licenses can run as high as $2,900, according to the city’s master fee schedule. There’s also the added cost of hiring security for the event if the city deems it necessary, and acquiring insurance, which is also required.” http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/12/09/musicians-artists-costly-permitting-system-forces-events-underground/
Oakland Tries to Shut Down Legit Activist Space David Keenan is a BTU Member. “Omni founding member David Keenan said the experience calls into question public statements from Mayor Libby Schaaf that city officials would not be conducting a “witch hunt” and would be using “compassion” in their handling of fire and code enforcement complaints. Those types of complaints spiked in the two weeks after the deadly Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood earlier this month.” http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/12/28/omni-commons-experience-highlights-oaklands-heavy-handed-approach-for-artist-spaces/
The Berkeley City Council may finally pass some Short Term Rental (STR) laws on Tuesday, May 31. The problem for tenants is that city staff won’t enforce the existing ban on STRs until Council makes the new laws, yet the draft being contemplated by Berkeley repeats the mistakes that have caused problems for San Francisco, Portland and other cities with tight rental markets that are popular tourist destinations.
In May and June of 2015, several activists and tenants impacted by short term rentals in their building filed code enforcement complaints on behalf of BTU against some of the landlords who are listing multiple empty units on AirBnB and other websites.
So far, Berkeley has refused to act on these and other complaints.
A new report from San Francisco on the impact of AirBnB on the rental housing market calls for SF Supervisors to require “hosting platforms” to only advertise rentals that are legally listed with the city. Yet Berkeley’s draft recommended by planning Staff does even require that an advertisement show an identifying license number.
We ask Berkeley Tenants to join BTU in asking the City Council to enact legislation requiring hosting platforms to only list units and hosts that are registered with our City and to fine hosing platforms like HomeAway, FlipKey and Airbnb if they advertise rentals which are not legal here. This would allow less expensive enforcement of the new laws, which will allow regular folks to rent out their own home. We hope the new law will stop large landlords from turning whole apartment buildings into hotels – as several have done already!
We also want to support the Rent Board, Planning Commission and Housing Commission in suggesting that units where tenants have been evicted through OMI or Ellis Act evictions should not be allowed to be short term rentals in Berkeley. Please take a look at the report from the Rent Board, which is an attachment below.
Finally, we suggest you write to the City Council to request that no whole units, not even in-law or accessory units, be converted to hotel rooms when we need every single housing unit to be offered to folks who live and work in Berkeley! Although the original Council referral asked that the law require any short term rental to be someone’s primary home, the Staff draft of the new law would allow some 2nd units on owner-occupied properties to be offered as tourist rentals. As the analysis of the impact of Airbnb in San Francisco shows, losing units to short term rentals does drive up housing costs.
Item 19 Support AB 2502 Inclusionary Housing
Ask the state to allow local requirements for affordable rental housing. Right now, Berkeley can’t require that developers include lower-income units on site if the housing being built will be rental housing. California needs to make a law to allow Berkeley control over local zoning mitigations.
Item 21 – End Discrimination Based on Tenant’s Income Source
Owners would have to accept Section 8 Housing Vouchers.
Item 27– Placing a Measure on the November 8, 2016 Ballot to Increase the Business License Tax on Owners of Five or More Residential Rental Units
Your Berkeley Tenants Union’s quarterly members meeting will be March 30th. It is open to all members, and you can join BTU at the meeting if you are willing to sign our member pledge. Contact us for more information.
The 2016 Rent Board Convention to select a pro-tenant slate for the elected Rent Board will be held on April 24th, a Sunday, at the South Berkeley Senior Center. Potential candidates should contact the convention, which has been held each election year by a coalition of progressive groups for over 20 years. http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/
Hot topics at the March 30th meeting (besides the upcoming Tenant Convention) will be proposed ballot measures to increase owner-eviction relocation funds and to fund affordable housing through a windfall profits tax on larger landlords, as well the upcoming Council consideration of an anti-harassment law known as the Tenant Protection Ordinance. Read the BTU March Newsletter
They are Organizing, Are You?
Oakland Ballot Measure to Make Rent Control Real “The measure would extend protections under the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance to thousands more Oakland rental units, implement the currently un-enforced Tenant Protection Ordinance, and reform the existing Rent Adjustment Program (Oakland’s weak substitute for rent control) to make it much harder for landlords to raise rents above the rate of inflation, place an absolute 5% per year cap on rent increases, cover more rental units under rent control, and ensure a tenant-majority Rent Board, among other improvements.” http://www.oaklandtenantsunion.org/news
Alameda May Be Harassing Tenant Group After filing their ballot measure, Alameda renters were talking outside the clerk’s office when they were approached by police. While that may not seem odd, the same Alameda group found a police officer scrutinizing them at a public meeting the month before.
Richmond Ballot Measure “The Fair and Affordable Richmond Coalition — consisting of elected officials, renters, homeowners and activists — on Tuesday gathered to officially file the petition with the city clerk. The group will have until June to gather 4,198 valid signatures to place the measure on the November ballot. A rent control ordinance was narrowly passed by the City Council in August, but it was repealed in November after a landlord association circulated a petition. Since then, affordable-housing activists have promised to bring the measure to the November ballot. Had the ordinance approved in August been implemented, Richmond would have been the first California city in more than 30 years to pass rent control.” http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29552957/richmond-group-pushes-bring-rent-control-measure-voters
“Claudia Jimenez, a homeowner in Richmond who is a community organizer with the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), said, “The Richmond City Council passed some renter protections including rent control, and just cause eviction protections that were supposed to go into effect last year to protect Richmond renters. However, the California Apartment Association (CAA) spent a lot of money to hire people who gathered enough signatures for a petition that blocked the renter protections from going into effect.” http://www.thestreetspirit.org/the-struggle-for-renter-protections-in-richmond/
Over on the Other Team
Berkeley Landlord PAC Attempts to Seem Reasonable… “We represent the voice of rental housing providers through our political action committee and legal defense fund. We are here to restore fairness, efficiency and objectivity to Berkeley’s rental housing policies.” http://www.thebrhc.org/
…While the BPOA Continues to Seem Odd “And so welcome to the latest arrival on the local scene, the Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition. It cannot be said to represent we, the people nor does it comprise a Declaration of Independence. It does, however, establish and ordain an organization to address our rightful grievances to the government which shackles rental housing in so many ways. And, to quote another revered figure from American history, ‘it is altogether fitting and proper that we do this.’ ” http://bpoa.org/
Berkeley Tenants Union has three important items at the City Council on Tuesday. For more info, see the posts below this one.
About the Demolition (Item 21): If the City Council allows this demolition to go forward, the law prohibiting unmitigated demolition of rent controlled housing means nothing anymore, and all of Berkeley is at risk of being bulldozed to make way for luxury housing.
About changes to the Rental Housing Safety Program (Item 23): One reason developers give to tear down affordable older units is that they are in really bad shape. Never mind that they continue to rent them out while simultaneously making a claim that they are unsafe. In order to preserve our housing, we must make cyclical inspections a reality in Berkeley as they are in most other major cities.
November 17 will also see the Council discuss a Windfall Profits Tax on High Rents. There will be a special workshop at 5:30 PM in order for the Council to consider a ballot measure to increase the business license tax on larger landlords and use the money to building and rehab affordable housing, including the student co-ops.
What you can do:
1) Take a picture of unsafe housing conditions and email it to City Council marked November 17, Item 23. firstname.lastname@example.org They have to get the email by noon on Tuesday.
2) Come to the Demolition Appeal at old City Hall on November 17 around 8 PM and hold a sign to support BTU and the ASUC during the appeal. We demand that the law which says
“Notwithstanding the above, the Board shall approve a Use Permit to eliminate a controlled rental unit only when it finds that…The replacement dwelling unit shall be available for occupancy to Households for Lower Income or Very Low Income Households” must mean that rent controlled housing can only be torn down if replaced unit-for-unit with permanently affordable housing! Look for us in blue BTU T Shirts to get a sign showing support.
3) Come early to support the Windfall Profits Tax at 5:30 PM
Lots of Berkeley folks came out to the City Council meeting on October 27 to support a large list of measures designed to address the housing affordability crisis. Unfortunately, most of the items were postponed to December 1 or November 17.
November 17 is shaping up to be a big day for Berkeley Tenants. BTU’s appeal of the demolition of 18 rent controlled units on Durant will be at the City Council, as well as a 5:30 PM special workshop about funding affordable housing by increasing the business license tax on rental property.
Last night, the Council also voted to postpone review of Jesse Arreguin’s important proposal to re-examine the City’s Rental Housing Safety Program to November 17.
Fixing this City program, which enforces safe and habitable rental housing, has been in the spotlight ever since the balcony collapse at Library Gardens, a building less than 10 years old. Activists and candidates have been talking for years about the need for the common-sense measures in Arreguin’s proposal – measures which most other cities already have!
Under the proposed revamp of the Rental Housing Safety Program, Berkeley inspectors would do proactive, cyclical inspections which would detect problems like the one at Library Gardens. Right now, inspectors only visit rental housing if there is a complaint. Right now, owners also know exactly which tenant made that complaint! This proposal would allow the name to remain confidential, so tenants would have less fear of retaliation.
Besides proactive inspections and confidential complaints, tweaks to the RHSP in Arreguin’s proposal would also make mold and mildew a public nuisance, and require landlords to actually turn in the self-inspection they are supposed to do each year.
Steps to Safe and Secure Housing In Berkeley Will Be Discussed at the BTU MEMBERS MEETING Thursday October 29
Council Voted to Send Letter About Costa-Hawkins
The good news is that the Council voted to send a letter to our State representatives calling for repeal of Costa-Hawkins. Berkeley joined several other rent-controlled California cities in asking for the return of a local city’s right to restrict rents. This would mean recent construction could be under rent control.
If the 1996 state law was repealed, Berkeley could also return to the form of rent control that voters selected and tenants enjoyed – the rent would always be regulated, and not be re-set when a new renter moves in. Repeal would also allow Berkeley to demand that when developers tear down rent controlled units, their new units would also be rent controlled. However, Governor Brown is not likely to sign any such repeal, so this might be a long-term effort and the letter a token gesture.
Worthington’s Measures Postponed to December 1
City Manager Referral: Streamline the Permit Process for Housing Projects with a Majority or More Affordable Units Recommendation: Refer to City Manager to create an ordinance that will streamline the permit process for housing projects with a majority or more affordable units if it includes at least 20 percent of units at 50% AMI. Housing Trust Fund Loan for $1,000,000 Recommendation: Loan $1,000,000 to the Housing Trust Fund. Match All National Housing Trust Fund Grants Awarded to Recipient Projects in Berkeley Recommendation: Adopt a Resolution to match all National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) grants awarded to recipient projects in Berkeley.