NOVEMBER 19 – D-Day for Tenants

This 18-unit OCCUPIED building on Durant has applied for a demolition permit.
This 18-unit OCCUPIED building on Durant has applied for a demolition permit.

Berkeley City Council is supposed to discuss three major policy changes concerning tenants THIS TUESDAY. There is a move to require owners of unsafe buildings to retrofit for earthquakes and another to allow tenants to be evicted for smoking cigarettes — but by far the most alarming issue is the Demolition Ordinance.

Last week, the Planning Commission was to consider changes to the law that have been in the works, and in the news, for months. But city staff said a California Supreme Court decision called Sterling Park, and a pending decision on a case involving the City of San Jose, mean that the city should do a “nexus study” before they change the existing law on demolition.

Since most of the changes weren’t very good for tenants, you might think that is good news — but it’s not! For one thing, a nexus study is about a fee, not about requiring one-for-one replacement of demolished rent controlled units with permanently affordable housing. For another, the City Attorney says the current law means any EMPTY rent controlled unit can be bulldozed with no mitigation whatsoever.

BTU needs you to stand with us during public comment on Tuesday at 7 PM!

We were told the demolition law would be on the Council agenda this week, but it isn’t, so we want folks to come during comment for off-agenda items, to restate the message in our petition – which now has over 270 signatures.

BTU member and Rent Board Commissioner Judy Shelton said it best at the Planning Commission:

“The various considerations of how to proceed with the Demolition Ordinance are confusing and difficult to parse, but for tenants this is a really simple issue: We want one-for-one replacement on demolitions of rent-controlled units, and we want these replacement units to be permanently affordable.

We don’t care what studies the City needs to conduct to make this happen. We don’t want a financial mitigation of $20,000, or even $34,000. We want the units.

We don’t care about the Sterling Park court decision. All we care about is that no affordable units be lost.

And if the City can’t do that, the City shouldn’t tear down rent-controlled housing.”

Demolition: Sterling Park Court decision – City Council Item 21
Seismic Safety: Item 24
Smoking in MultiFamily Housing: Item 27