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 Say you ask that Costa Hawkins be repealed, not amended.
People’s Park Anniversary as UC Considers Building, Again April 23 is the anniversary celebration for People’s Park. “In 1968 the University used eminent domain to evict the residents and demolish all the houses on the block. Apparently they talked of plans to build needed student housing but nothing happened. For a year the empty lot was an eyesore, muddy and strewn with garbage. In April 1969 activists put out a call for people to help create a park. Hundreds came and cleared the ground, planted flowers and trees and built a children’s playground. They created a park, a People’s Park, that still lives today.” http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2017-03-31/article/45603?headline=Berkeley-s-People-s-Park-is-in-the-news-again–Lydia-Gans
Report Itself “This influx of capital has increased housing prices in many cities to levels that most residents cannot afford – in some cities by more than 50% in a 5-year period. Housing prices are no longer commensurate with household income levels, and instead are driven by demand for housing assets among global investors. When housing prices skyrocket, low and sometimes even middle-income residents are forced out of their communities by high rent or mortgage costs. When housing prices plummet, residents face mortgage foreclosure and homelessness.” http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21264&LangID=E
Like progressives all over America, Berkeley voters are sad, angry and frightened about the national election results. However, we have a lot to celebrate at home, and can look forward to once again leading these United States in progressive, humane, and innovative solutions, particularly to the problem of ensuring safe and affordable homes for all.
The big landlords who control about 50% of all rental housing in Berkeley spent about a million dollars to defeat the affordable housing tax Measure U1, and promote their deceptive Measure DD. That is well over $15 per voter! Yet Berkeley voters reaffirmed affordable housing as a core Berkeley value with 75% voting for U1 and 71% voting against DD. This tax on large landlords is expected to generate $4 million annually in new revenue for affordable housing and homelessness prevention programs!!
East Palo Alto also passed a similar landlord tax, and it is hoped this will be a model to take back profits being drained out of our communities and use them to build homes.
Additionally, Berkeley supported stronger protections for families being evicted for owners to move in. Measure AA, which passed with an astounding 73% of the vote, was put on the ballot at the request of the Rent Board.
ProRenter candidates also got strong support from Berkeley. Renter Cheryl Davila beat incumbent Darryl Moore in District 2 despite generous spending by the Association of Realtors for Moore. BTU Members Ben Bartlett and Sophie Hahn were also elected to the City Council, and BTU Member Jesse Arreguin was elected as Mayor!
Perhaps the best news of all for tenants is that landlord incumbent Judy Hunt was voted off the Rent Board, with the “CALI Slate” chosen at the 2016 Tenant Convention easily defeating Hunt’s tiny team.
Elsewhere in the Bay Area, California gained its first new rent control in decades, and even in places like Alameda, where the tenant measure was defeated, renters did gain new protections on November 8.
Soon the new City Council will move forward on core BTU issues like Short Term Rentals and mitigations for Demolition of Rent Controlled Units. BTU will work to guide our new leaders, who we hope will be more responsive to what everyday folks need in order to keep Berkeley a place we can all call home.
Landslide for Landlord Tax “Berkeley voters approved a landlord tax that will raise millions for affordable housing. The measure, U1, passed with about 74 percent of the vote. A competing measure, which landlord groups placed on the ballot in an effort to undermine U1, was crushed, with 71 percent voters rejecting it…
Proponents of U1 filed a state Fair Political Practices Commission complaint against the Berkeley Property Owners Association, alleging they broke the law by using anonymous LLCs to finance their opposition campaign and make it appear that a large group of landlords were opposing the measure, when in fact it was just a handful. The FPPC hasn’t ruled on the complaint yet.” http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2016/11/09/berkeley-landlord-tax-easily-passes
Berkeley Gets Activist Renter as Mayor “Arreguin said, “I am a renter. I’m like many people in Berkeley, I’m trapped in this housing crisis.” http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2016/11/11/berkeleys-first-latino-mayor-elect-is-also-its-youngest-ever/
Progressives Take Three of Four Council Seats “Sophie Hahn handily won the District 5 council seat being vacated by Capitelli, defeating another candidate with real estate industry backing, Stephen Murphy, 61.9 percent to 38.1 percent. Hahn is a member of the Zoning Adjustments Board. Capitelli endorsed Murphy, his appointee to the Planning Commission and the panel’s current chairman.
Berkeley for several years has been the scene of a major debate over skyrocketing rents and the shortage of affordable housing, with a six-person council majority backing many controversial development-related issues.” http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/11/09/berkeley-voters-elect-arreguin-mayor/
Details on Rent Control Votes “Measure L in Richmond, which would enact limits on rent increases and landlord evictions, was victorious with 64 percent of the votes cast. In Oakland, with all 279 precincts reporting, 74 percent of voters supported Measure JJ, which requires landlords to get permission from the rent board before increasing rents above the consumer price index and expands eviction protections. In Mountain View, Measure V, which was placed on the ballot by voters, had a slim victory with 53 percent, while W, the council-backed measure fell short with 49 percent.
In Alameda, ground zero for the battle for rent control, Measure M1, the strict tenant rent control measure sponsored by tenants groups, only garnered 34 percent of the vote, well shy of the necessary simple majority. Instead, 56 percent of voters approved L1, a competing, council-backed initiative that did not cap rent increases. Instead landlords must go to mediation in order to increase rents above 5 percent. And in San Mateo County, Measure R in Burlingame mustered just 31 percent of voters, while Measure Q in San Mateo got 38 percent.” http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/11/03/bay-area-rent-control-measures/
Record Spending and Fair Political Practices Complaint “The political action committee for the Berkeley Property Owners Association has steered more than $892,540 in donations to defeat Measure U1 and promote Measure DD, two competing measures that would raise the business tax on rental units… Most of the donors to the “Committee for Real Affordable Housing – Yes on Measure DD, No on Measure U1, Sponsored by the Berkeley Property Owners’ Association,” have not made contributions in their own names. They have used the LLC they created to run various apartment complexes. UC Berkeley’s Progressive Student Alliance filed a complaint about this practice with the Fair Political Practices Commission, which is investigating the situation.” http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/11/07/fight-involving-measure-dd-and-measure-u1-is-costliest-in-election/
A special edition of the Berkeley Property Owners Association newsletter came out in early July, announcing their plans to spend at least half a million dollars each year to fund the Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition. Their announcement begins: “Since the beginning of permanent rent control thirty-five years ago, knowledgeable people have often suggested that Berkeley property owners should establish a legal defense fund and /or a political action committee.”
Apparently, our Mayor, Tom Bates, is one of those people!
In his speech, Bates also called for an end to the elected Rent Board in Berkeley. In recent press articles, the landlords have said the Board is “answerable to no one” – BTU thinks the Board is answerable to the voters, since they are elected.
From the Contra Costa Times: “Introduced by BPOA President Sid Lakireddy as a friend and supporter of the organization, Bates talks about his early days as a real estate salesman, manager and developer, observing wistfully that a former partner later became a billionaire… He touts the Downtown Area Plan; mocks the sponsors of a move to modify it last year; proposes a downtown office building to entice startup companies to stay in Berkeley; and suggests it might be time to bring the Rent Stabilization Board and the Berkeley Housing Authority under direct city control. Late in the video, Bates sounds a warning: “You need to organize yourselves,” he says. “You need to think about the possibility of forming a PAC … because you’re going to be under attack.” http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_28426339/fremont-chastised-destroying-emails-berkeley-mayor-tom-bates
People Power Can Beat Money Every Time! Get Involved! Come to the Potluck July 8th!
Berkeley Still Has It Better “…In Oakland, when a landlord unlawfully raises rents throughout an entire building, the burden falls to each tenant to write a formal petition and present his or her case in a hearing. As a result, many 1565 Madison residents — who chose not to file petitions or missed a hearing, in some cases because they didn’t have the resources to complete paperwork or because they feared retaliation — have to pay the entire rent increase, even though the city deemed a portion of it illegal.” http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/how-oakland-landlords-prevail-in-rent-disputes/Content?oid=4345386
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.
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/
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/
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
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.
Four tenant leaders are asking for the community’s help to pay some of their mounting legal bills. A case stemming from the 2012 election for Rent Board has continued for over a year.
Shortly after the hotly contest 2012 Rent Board election, the president of the Berkeley Property Owners Association, whose family is often identified as one of the largest landlords in Berkeley, brought a lawsuit against the four candidates chosen at the biannual Berkeley Tenant Convention. According to press reports, Sid Lakireddy sued candidates Igor Tregub, Asa Dodsworth, Judy Shelton and Alejandro Soto-Vigil for libel. The initial motions from the tenant leaders in their defense were rejected by a judge last spring, and the defendants appealed.
About the Lawsuit:
Berkeleyside: “The nephew of a notorious landlord who was sent to prison for transporting minors from India for the purpose of illegal sexual activity has filed a defamation lawsuit against four former Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board candidates. Sid Lakireddy, president of the Berkeley Property Owners Association, said that Igor Tregub, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Asa Dodsworth and Judy Shelton libeled him when they sent an email to supporters that overtly suggested Lakireddy was involved in the criminal case brought against his uncle, Lakireddy Bali Reddy.” http://www.berkeleyside.com/2013/05/30/sid-lakireddy-sues-berkeley-rent-board-candidates-for-libel/
Daily Californian: “Four Berkeley city officials filed an appeal on May 16 in response to an Alameda County Superior Court decision in a defamation lawsuit brought against them by Sid Lakireddy, nephew of convicted sex trafficker Lakireddy Bali Reddy….The lawsuit stems from an Oct. 18 email sent by Tregub on behalf of all four slate members to their supporters. According to court documents, Tregub’s email referred to Sid Lakireddy as “the same guy whose family was caught in a human trafficking ring and was complicit in murder” and contained a link to an article that mentioned unnamed family members of the Reddy clan as being involved in the crimes.” http://www.dailycal.org/2013/06/02/berkeley-city-officials-file-an-appeal-in-response-to-decision-in-defamation-lawsuit/
The progressive community has held a gathering to choose a slate for Rent Bord for as long as most folks in Berkeley can remember. Planning for the 2014 convention is underway, and many BTU members report taking an active role. Soon the convention website will be launched so that all organizations and candidates interested in participating can be informed. BTU will post a link on our sidebar when the planning group launches their site.
► This week’s fire at the Nash Hotel should remind us that the tenants from the buildings that burned on Telegraph Avenue and Dwight Way in late 2011 are still fighting to get their due. Replacements for both buildings are winding their way through Berkeley’s permit maze, but the City’s rules exempt these buildings from any affordable housing fees UNLESS the landlord was at fault for the damage. Since it was reported that the fire alarms were disconnected at the Lakireddy-owned building on Dwight, and tenants at the Haste-Telegraph Sequoia building have a lawsuit against the owner, fault is still being investigated. The 2227 Dwight property was at the Zoning Board on Thursday June 13, but there has been no press coverage. The Zoning Board granted the owner’s permit.
► The Berkeley Housing Authority took back 14 rental assistance vouchers they had already given to low-income families, and suspended the list of those who can get Section 8 assistance in the future, due to funding cuts from the federal government:
►As reported earlier, Berkeley Property Owners Association President Sid Lakireddy has filed a lawsuit against the four candidates for Rent Board chosen at the Tenant Convention in 2012. Another article on this lawsuit was published recently:
► Although the City Council considered revision to the Demolition Ordinance again on June 11, and the suggestions just keep getting worse for tenants and advocates of affordable housing, there were no news stories on the latest developments. BTU will post again when the Council calendars the next round of debate – it is expected for July 2nd. Several leaders are calling for Council to send the new draft back to the Planning Comission – since the proposal they approved wasn’t so much amended as replaced!! Video of the latest changes can be viewed on the City website – discussion started just after 9:45 PM on June 11.
► There has also been no news on the State of California investigation of fair election law violations by the faux-tenant slate, Tenants United for Fairness. When Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission issued the landlord-backed candidates the second-largest election fine in Berkeley history last month, FCPC stated that there is an ongoing investigation at the state level.
This just in – SB603, the great bill to protect security deposits that we’ve been telling you about, has failed in the state Senate. Tell your San Francisco pals that their Senator voted against protections for tenants. SF voters and friends of tenants everywhere should give Leland Yee a call and let him know we will remember his vote: 916-651-4008. http://legiscan.com/CA/bill/SB603/2013
Also in the news, Berkeley Property Owners Association President Sid Lakireddy, whose family is one of Berkeley’s largest landlords, has filed a lawsuit against the four candidates for Rent Board chosen at the Tenant Convention in 2012. Lakireddy, who was a key leader in raising over $40,000 from landlords and property managers to try to defeat the Progressive Affordable Housing Slate, claims he isn’t a public figure. Igor Tregub is fundraising to defend the Slate’s first amendment rights. http://www.berkeleyside.com/2013/05/30/sid-lakireddy-sues-berkeley-rent-board-candidates-for-libel/
The lawsuit references the well known 1999 case against Sid Lakireddy’s uncle, who was convicted of transporting minors for illegal sexual activity and other offenses. In case you are new to Berkeley, you can learn about it on these sites: http://www.wassusa.com/ http://www.dianarussell.com/why_did_chanti_die.html