We’re excited to announce that the Berkeley Tenants Unions membership has overwhelmingly voted to make the following endorsements:

  • People Powered Progressives Slate (Avery Arbaugh, Alfred Twu, Paola Laverde, Michael Cheng, Carol Coyote Cook, Sadia Khan, and John “Chip” Moore) for Alameda County Democratic Central Committee
  • YES on Berkeley Measure H (parcel tax renewal to fund schools)
  • YES on Alameda County Measure A (civil service)
  • YES on Alameda County Measure B (recalls)
  • OPPOSE recalling District Attorney Pamela Price

Additionally, the BTU membership previously voted to endorse:

  • Cecilia Lunaparra for Berkeley City Council District 7 (special election)
  • Nikki Bas for Alameda County Supervisor District 5
  • Margot Smith for State Assembly District 14
  • Jovanka Beckles for State Senate District 7
  • Barbara Lee for US Senate
  • YES on the Proposed Berkeley Measure to Strengthen the City’s Rent Control Ordinance
  • YES on the ballot measure to repeal Article XXXIV of the California Constitution (November)

A big thank you to everyone who voted on all of our endorsements.

We’re excited to announce that the Berkeley Tenants Unions membership has overwhelmingly voted to make the following endorsements:

  • Cecilia Lunaparra for Berkeley City Council District 7 (special election)
  • Nikki Bas for Alameda County Supervisor District 5
  • Margot Smith for State Assembly District 14
  • YES on the Proposed Berkeley Measure to Strengthen the City’s Rent Control Ordinance

Additionally, the BTU membership previously voted to endorse:

  • Barbara Lee for US Senate
  • Jovanka Beckles for State Senate District 7
  • YES on the ballot measure to repeal Article XXXIV of the California Constitution (November)

A big thank you to everyone who voted in this election. Additionally, members-in-good-standing should be on the look out for another membership ballot that will go out shortly.

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!

ACTION: Give public comment at the March 4th hearing via Zoom!
When: Thursday, March 4, 10:30am
Where: Land Use, Housing & Economic Development Meeting – The Zoom link will be posted on this web page.

Read the draft of the law by opening the agenda when it is posted tonight: https://tinyurl.com/1myw6260

Talking Points, and More:
https://yes2topa.org/
https://ebclc.org/topa/

You can also let your neighbors know that you support TOPA by requesting a window or lawn sign, just email yes2topa@gmail.com to request your signs today.

The next meeting will be Saturday, February 13 at 5:00 PM on the Zoom platform, online. Members will be sent an email about the meeting. Agenda items will be sent out soon, but the major topic of this meeting will be the status of the local eviction moratorium.

To become a member, contact Berkeley Tenants Union by email. Dues are on a sliding scale and can be paid in a number of different ways. Members are eligible for our monthly counseling sessions as well as a strong say about what issues the organization chooses for action. Ask to see the BTU by-laws for more information.

These days, BTU communicates about actions via emails and Facebook. Be sure to like the Facebook page you see displayed on the sidebar to the right!

Be sure that you are on the mailing list too.

Also, please share this Facebook link to our meeting, or a link to this post – let’s build our numbers and bring more power to the people!
https://fb.me/e/3KLr3BzA5

Berkeley Tenants Are Organizing!
“The current city moratorium has “weak” penalties for property owners who institute late fees, lock out tenants or threaten renters, according to (a Berkeley Tenants Union leader) Lewis. He said crucial parts of the measure, such as amendments to include renters’ rights on eviction notices, were removed Nov. 17. If the stricter moratorium passes, it will not take effect until February 2021 due to restrictions in a statewide moratorium that prevents property owners from taking tenants to court, according to Lewis.”
https://www.dailycal.org/2020/12/08/berkeley-city-council-votes-on-measure-to-strengthen-eviction-moratorium/

Berkeley Landlords Are Organizing Too!
“There are multiple Eviction Moratoriums in effect during this pandemic. Berkeley’s Eviction Moratorium currently prohibits any type of eviction during the local state of emergency and dictates how rent not paid during the pandemic is to be handled. The state’s Eviction Moratorium (AB 3088 effective Sept 1 to Jan 31) is currently being modified at the legislature. We expect the moratorium will be extended through June of 2021, as well as continue to defer the 25% payment of rent until then. BPOA is working to provide guidance as to how the state’s extension will interact with our local Eviction Moratorium.”
https://www.bpoa.org/

City of Berkeley’s COVID-19 Eviction Moratorium Factsheet
https://berkeleytenants.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Covid-19-Tenant-Factsheet_4-07-2020-1.pdf

Rent Board Info on Local Protections
https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Home/Can_t_Pay_Rent_Due_to_COVID-19_.aspx

Apartment Owners’ Thoughts on the Moratorium
https://caanet.org/kb/berkeley-eviction-moratorium-caa-summary/

Your Rights Under the State Law
https://www.law.berkeley.edu/research/consumer-law-economic-justice/projects/consumer-protection-guides-covid-19/issue-i-tenants-rights-covid-19/

Weak Federal Protections Extended by Biden
“At President Biden’s direction, the eviction moratorium from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been extended to March 31. But tens of millions of people owing back rent may be forced out of their homes even with the extension. After months of wrangling, Congress allocated $25 billion in rental assistance.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/28/opinion/eviction-crisis-moratorium.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

July 2020 Summary of Local Law
https://patch.com/california/berkeley/berkeley-eviction-protections-renters-struggling-due-coronavirus-1

Other News
The East Bay Community Law Center is working with City of Berkeley leaders to establish a housing policy called the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act. Learn more about TOPA here:
https://ebclc.org/topa/

Photos of the Candidates
Pro-Tenant Slate

Your Berkeley Tenants Union is getting busy this election season!

Members must pay their dues if you want to vote on endorsements. Dues are a sliding scale. Contact “info at berkeleytenants dot org” to learn more.

These days, BTU communicates about actions via emails and Facebook. Be sure to like the Facebook page you see displayed on the sidebar to the right!

Be sure that you are on the mailing list too!

BTU has monthly clinics for free counseling if you are in trouble. We are also working on several ballot measures, and of course we urge you to support the Pro-Tenant Slate for Rent Board. If you want to volunteer to help get activists from BTU and like-minded organizations elected to the Berkeley Rent Board, you can sign up here to assist the Right2Housing Slate:
https://berkeleytenants.us13.list-manage.com/track/click?u=d3053fd94934e92d237a8b9e8&id=c69a08e63a&e=469b9ffc9e

ABOUT THE TENANT CONVENTION

The Berkeley Tenant Convention is a decades-old biennial event in which all Berkeley residents who fully support rent control are invited to nominate the progressive, pro-tenant slate for the Berkeley Rent Board. The sponsors of the 2020 Convention included the Berkeley Tenants Union, Berkeley Citizens Action, the Berkeley Democrats (NOT the Berkeley Democratic Club), the Cal Berkeley Democrats, the East Bay Democratic Socialists of America, Friends of Adeline, the Gray Panthers, the Green Party, the NAACP, Our Revolution East Bay, SEIU 1021, UAW 2865 (the UC student-workers union), the Young Democratic Socialists of America – UC Berkeley, and Young Democrats for Justice in Palestine – East Bay.

ABOUT THE CANDIDATES

Photo of 2020 Pro-TenantSlate
2020 Pro-Tenant Slate

The candidates chosen at this year’s convention are Dominique Walker, who works at the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment; Mari Mendonca, a lifelong Berkeley resident who was appointed to the Rent Board recently; Xavier Johnson, who is a legal fellow at Centro Legal de la Raza; incumbent attorney Leah Simon-Weisberg, who has worked for San Francisco’s Eviction Defense Collaborative and Tenants Together; and Andy Kelley, Communications Director at the California League of Conservation Voters.

They are calling their campaign the Right2Housing Slate.

You can watch the whole 2020 Tenant Convention on video at BTU’s Facebook page, and keep up with the priorities and activities of our candidates at their website: https://berkeleyrentboard.org

FOR MORE INFO

Tenant Convention Slate for Berkeley Rent Board
“About 615 electronic ballots and 95 paper ballots were cast, this is an unprecedented turnout. Because of the pandemic, most efforts were done online.”
http://berkeleycitizensaction.org/?p=1193

About Mari
“She is City Councilmember Ben Bartlett’s appointee on the city’s Housing Advisory Commission. She is a member of Friends of Adeline, a neighborhood group that is working to stop gentrification in south Berkeley and to help shape the area’s future as it undergoes new planning. She has also been involved with unions.”
https://www.berkeleyside.com/2019/10/29/mari-mendonca-community-activist-appointed-to-fill-rent-board-vacancy#:~:text=Mari%20Mendonca%2C%20a%20Berkeley%20native,17%20to%20appoint%20Mendonca.

About Leah
“As current vice chair of the rent board, Simon-Weisberg’s legal and policymaking experience is part of what makes her an important member of the board, according to Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín.”
https://www.dailycal.org/2020/07/05/a-valued-partner-leah-simon-weisberg-runs-for-reelection-on-berkeley-rent-board/

Help Right2Housing Slate in the Election
https://berkeleyrentboard.org

FREE monthly legal counseling for tenants!

BTU is resuming our clinics and workshops for renters. This month, counseling will take place from 6 to 8:30 PM on Thursday, July 25. Sessions will be scheduled in advance and take place at BTU’s headquarters in the Grassroots House on Blake near Shattuck.

Renters can sign up for a chance to speak with tenant attorneys about your situation by clicking the link below.

http://tinyurl.com/yxwzzw6f

For information on future counseling dates, workshops, or other places to get help, email us at info at berkeleytenants dot org or visit our resources page on this website. You can also like our facebook and sign up for the mailing list by using the links right here >>>>>

In Berkeley, tenants have a right to live in safe housing and landlords are required to certify that the housing they are renting out meets safety standards. That’s why, every July 1st, owners of rental housing in Berkeley must certify that their units meet those safety standards. They do this by utilizing the Rental Housing Safety Program (RHSP) Self Certification Safety Checklist known as Schedule A.  All owners of rental property, even those with only one or two units, are required to fill out the form every year. The Schedule A form, which was revised in September 2018, requires the owner to certify that the structural elements of the building, both inside and out, are functioning properly and safely.  

For instance, the form asks that owners certify that doors have working deadbolts; that windows are fully operable with no cracked or broken panes; and that the heating system, plumbing and gas lines are in good working order. Landlords must also certify that elevated, exposed decks, balconies or walkways show no visible signs of sagging, leaning, or cracking and that they have no other defects that permit moisture to seep in and possibly deteriorate the structure.  In 2015, a balcony at the apartment complex formerly known as Library Gardens collapsed because moisture had seeped into the base of the balcony, resulting in the death of six Irish students.  

The City does not require owners to provide it with the certified checklist, instead, the owner must provide the Schedule A checklist to each tenant; this informs the tenant that the unit is certified as safe. The owner must also keep a copy of the form.  In order to completely fill out all elements of the Schedule A form, a tenant must allow the owner access to the unit once every year. If a tenant does not allow an owner into the unit to self-certify, the owner must then inform the City by submitting Schedule A to the RHSP office indicating that certification was not possible.  

The RHSP is part of the City’s existing program of conducting proactive inspections to randomly selected properties as well as inspections in response to complaints. During an inspection of a rental unit or room, the property owner is required to produce a copy of the completed ScheduleA form. If the owner fails to produce a copy of the form, the inspector may issue the owner a citation and a $200 fine, for not being in compliance with Berkeley Municipal Code (BMC) 12.48.050.

There are, however, exceptions to the owner self-certification requirement: newly constructed rental units are exempt for five years after the issuance of a certification of occupancy; additionally, once a unit or room has been inspected by the City, and the owner receives a Notice of Compliance, the unit or room does not need to be certified again for a period of three years.

Tenants living in units that have safety issues, such as broken windows or leaky roofs may make an inspection request to the City’s Housing Code Enforcement unit.

Berkeley Tenants Union Membership Meeting/Relaunch
When: Monday, June 3, 6-8:30PM
Where: Sports Basement (2727 Milvia St., Berkeley, California 94703; located in South Berkeley)
Facebook event:www.facebook.com/events/1656290374677685/

Join the Berkeley Tenants Union on June 3 (6-8:30PM) at Sports Basement in South Berkeley (2727 Milvia St, Berkeley, CA 94703) for a general membership meeting/relaunch of BTU! Whether you were previously a member of BTU or are interested in joining for the first time, you won’t want to miss this great meeting.

A formal agenda will be announced closer to the meeting date, but topics will include:

An introduction to the Berkeley Tenants Union
California Senate Bill 529 (Tenant Right to Organize/Protecting Tenant Voices Advocacy) and forming building associations
Information about the Berkeley Rent Board, including what protections and services it offers for tenants in both rent controlled and non-rent controlled in building, as well as your rights as a tenant in general
Information about counseling services
A question and answer period (e.g. “What happens if my landlord does X?”)
How to get more involved with BTU

If you want to help us get the word out to tenants about this important meeting, please email info at berkeleytenants dot org. We are especially looking for volunteers to hand out our flyers and talk to tenants about this meeting. The Berkeley Tenants Union is volunteer led and membership supported. We are only as strong as our members.

Anti-Displacement Workshop for Berkeley Residents:
What can you do if you are being priced out of Berkeley?

When: Saturday, March 30, 4-5:30PM
Where: Berkeley Public Library West Branch (1125 University Avenue)
Hosted by: Bay Area Community Land Trust (BACLT)

The Bay Area Community Land Trust (BACLT) will host a workshop on preventing displacement of Berkeley residents.  BACLT is particularly interested in meeting with current Berkeley residents who are under threat of being displaced or are worried about eventual displacement due to the rising costs of housing.

facebook event:
https://www.facebook.com/events/668606143556993/

Yes on Prop 10
Repeal Costa-Hawkins

Prop 10 is the most important ballot measure renters in California have voted on in decades!

If y’all want to save what is left of Berkeley, or San Francisco, or Oakland or even LA, y’all better get out there and do something for Yes on 10!

Get Involved:
Yes on 10
https://voteyesonprop10.org/

Learn to Talk About Prop 10
http://www.tenantstogether.org/campaigns/repeal-costa-hawkins-rental-housing-act

PROP 10 is about LOCAL CONTROL
https://www.sacbee.com/opinion/election-endorsements/article218278780.html

Comprehensive Research Report from UC Berkeley
https://haasinstitute.berkeley.edu/opening-door-rent-control

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.

The landlords are running an opposition slate, so pay attention when voting!
https://www.facebook.com/CommunityPowerSlate/

MORE ELECTION NEWS

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.

Both of these leaders are reasonable people with good hearts who look at facts when making decisions.
Send them money!
http://electkateharrison.com/
https://www.igortregub.com/

BTU also endorsed Rigel 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 endorsed Mary Kay Lacey for 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/

BTU-Endorsed Candidates:
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 training coming 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/

LEARN MORE SUNDAY:
https://www.facebook.com/events/315079089075676/

KEEP UP WITH BTU ON FACEBOOK
https://www.facebook.com/berkeleytenants/

ELECT RENTERS
https://www.facebook.com/CommunityPowerSlate/

SAVE CALIFORNIA 
https://www.facebook.com/yesonprop10/