It’s a funny thing law makers have to deal with: the people! Anything approved by the voters can only be changed by the voters. We out-rank the City Council, the Rent Board, even the state legislature. However, this also ties the hands of elected officials.
That is why Measure AA on the November 8th ballot in Berkeley is a much-needed fix. In November 2000, voters approved relocation funds and eviction protections for elderly and disabled tenants when Berkeley experienced the first big wave of owner-move-in evictions (OMI). But now the only way to update the 16-year-old relocation amounts is to go to the ballot box with Measure AA.
The Good News?
The City Council just raised the relocation funds for tenants thrown out for the other common no-fault eviction, the Ellis Act. Eviction restrictions and relocation funds for the Ellis Act were not decided by the voters, so City Council was permitted to update Ellis relocation assistance following a request by the Rent Board.
Berkeley Measure AA
“Measure AA is endorsed by many different groups, because it supports education, preserves diversity, and by slowing displacement it also helps the environment.” http://www.berkeleymeasureaa.org/
In Other News
Election Complaint Against Measure DD A UC student association filed a complaint to the California Fair Political Practices Commission regarding campaign law violations by the landlord group “Committee for Real Affordable Housing Yes on Measure DD, No on Measure U1, Sponsored By Berkeley Property Owners Association.”
According to the press release, the list of violations “…includes multiple advertisements and literature that does not include the mandatory disclosure requirements. In one case, a mailed document was sent without proper disclosure, and was deceptively designed to look like an official government document.” pressreleasereaffordablehousingproponentsslambiglandlordsoncampaignviolations
At the April 2016 Tenant Convention – sponsored by BTU and many other community organizations – a record turnout of Berkeley progressives selected a team of four candidates for Rent Board. Christina Murphy, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Leah Simon-Weisberg and Igor Tregub are your team – vote CALI!
However, the Pro-Tenant CALI team has opposition! Sitting landlord Commissioner Judy Hunt only managed to recruit one young property manager to run for election as part of her slate.
One of the major differences between the two groups is their positions on the ballot measures that most impact renters: Measure AA and Measures U1/DD. The team chosen at the Tenant Convention all support Measure AA and Measure U1 and consider the landlords’ measure DD a dangerous deception. Hunt was the only vote on the Rent Board not supporting U1. She repeatedly refused to vote for Measure AA as a Commissioner, though it was put on the ballot at the request of the Rent Board to update parts of the Rent Ordinance which got behind the times. (Measure AA is non-controversial, has no official opposition except Hunt and Wollman, and is endorsed by the School Board and Berkeley Federation of Teachers.)
Property Manager Wollman is one of the main critics of Measure U1’s exemption of new construction from the tax to encourage building of more housing, although he strongly supports more development in his Rent Board platform. “We have a lot of so called progressives that harp on the ideals of making this city more inclusive, more affordable, more accessible to students and low income renters and then go an protest at zoning board meetings about proposed developments,” Wollman told Berkeleyside.
Learn More About CALI:
The schedule shows the CALI team is out talking to voters with their supporters every Saturday and Sunday. They also plan to hold phone banks. http://berkeleyrentboard.org/
This is a big election for renters since the housing crisis has morphed into a housing emergency that has seen a record number of Cal students homeless while in school, the rapid displacement of longtime South Berkeley families, and a dramatic increase in both legal but pretextual evictions and general tenant harassment.
BTU shared our ballot measure endorsements meeting with our allies at Berkeley Citizens Action — the full endorsement list for Measures is at the bottom of this post.
Berkeley: More Eviction Protections So far, Berkeley’s Measure AA has no declared opposition, and is endorsed by the Alameda County Democratic Party, Green Party of Alameda County, Berkeley School Board, East Bay Young Dems, Berkeley Tenants Union and Wellstone Democratic Club.
The measure, put on the ballot by the City Council at the request of the Berkeley Rent Board, delays “no fault” owner-move-in evictions (OMIs) of families with school-age children until end of school year and increases relocation funds. Voters have required landlords in OMIs to provide relocation help of $4,500 to low-income tenants, but not other tenants, since 2000. Measure AA would update this amount to $15,000, and require that it be paid to all tenant households, plus an additional $5,000 for low-income, disabled, age 60 or older, or long-term (since 1998) tenants.
Relocation funds help evicted renters stay in the area, which is good for the community and the environment.
Berkeley v. Big Landlords
Of course, the big news this year is the controversy generated by competing ballot measures based on the failed 2014 volunteer signature drive called Robin Hood. The Daily Planet reported that the Berkeley Property Owners Association has spent over $500,000 – that’s half a million dollars – to stop Measure U1. The Planet says that is the second most money spent in Berkeley history!
The grassroots campaign needs each and every renter in Berkeley to get up to speed and talk to their friends and neighbors – U1 can’t afford to compete with glossy mailers or pay students $15 an hour to hang something on your door! Renters should study up on the differences between U1 and DD and help Berkeley get the most affordable housing!
Who Supports Yes on U1 and No on DD?
The League of Women Voters: Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville
Alameda County Democratic Party, Wellstone, John George
East Bay Housing Organizations, Berkeley Food and Housing Project, BOSS
California Alliance for Retired Americans, ASUC, Berkeley Student Coop, Cal Dems
Sierra Club, Green Party, Greenbelt Alliance
Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy
Alameda County Housing Bond Measure A1 “The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to place a $580 million housing bond on the November ballot. This measure is a much needed investment in affordable homes for low-income renters, homeownership, and an Innovation Fund to seek new solutions to our housing crisis. It will require that 20% of the rental housing units be reserved for extremely low-income households at or below 20% Area Median Income, provide homeownership opportunities, and provide support to help keep residents in their homes.” http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/07/28/op-ed-confronting-the-causes-and-solutions-of-mass-homelessness/comment-page-1/
Short Term Rentals held over by Berkeley City Council until Thursday July 7. BTU will post an update in a couple of days regarding the Mayor’s last-minute introduction of a proposed contract with Airbnb.
Durant Demolition approved under new demolition law which calls for mitigation of the loss of rent controlled housing through a fee to fund new low-income housing – however, the fee has not been set yet! Also, that developer has filed a lawsuit against the new version of the law.
Two Competing Landlord Taxes on Berkeley Ballot
“Depending on the business license tax rate increase, the CSAH measure would fund 40 to 70 units annually, while BRHC’s would pay for just 12, Barton added. The measures also differ on exemptions. The apartment owners’ measure raises taxes on every rental housing unit currently taxed.
“The additional tax would raise an additional $5 million a year from landlords over the current $3.5 million, for a total of $8.5 million a year, according to estimates by the Committee for Safe and Affordable Housing, which supports the measure. Apartments rented to Section 8 tenants, apartments with tenants in occupancy since before 1999, and certain other properties, would be exempt from the tax increase; there also would be a hardship exemption. The measure would prohibit passing the business tax increase along to most tenants. Proceeds of the tax increase would facilitate 45 affordable housing units per year.” http://www.eastbaytimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29974957/berkeley-council-oks-funding-measures-november-ballot
A draft of the ballot measure BTU supports will be reviewed by City Council on May 31.
The Berkeley landlords submitted their ballot measure petition to the City Clerk today. Now the Clerk will check a sample number of the signers – it could be some time before we hear if the petition was validated. They submitted 3,326 signatures; because it is a tax measure it requires 1,932 valid signatures.
The Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition was formed last summer by leaders of the Berkeley Property Owners Association as a 501(c)6 for lobbying, lawsuits, and other political activities. According to their website, they elect their Board of Directors by allowing each landlord one vote per unit, so the largest property owners control the group.
Daily Cal on the Tenant Convention “In 2012, a similar pro-landlord slate — Tenants United for Fairness — ran one candidate in order to combat allegations of a pro-tenant bias within the rent board. The following year, the slate allegedly did not submit campaign finance statements from prohibited organizations — including Premium Properties — to the city. Tenants United for Fairness agreed to pay a $4,000 fine to the city and has not run a candidate since Judy Hunt was elected in 2012.” http://www.dailycal.org/2016/04/24/pro-tenant-convention-elects-slate-candidates-november-election-sunday/
While the Tenant Convention had 267 voters, BTU’s endorsements meeting for Council and Mayor had a lower, but still impressive, turnout of 109 voters. Although Kriss Worthington announced he was also running for mayor, organizers of the event from BTU and our progressive allies would not change the rules at the start of the meeting, so only one candidate can use our endorsement in each race, although voters in the November election can rank their choices.
BTU / BPA / BCA Endorsements Meeting in Daily Cal “Registered members of any of the three groups who had paid their dues were eligible to cast a ballot. Approximately 100 ballots were cast for each position. Voters were allowed to either cast a ballot for any of the candidates who spoke at the meeting or write in candidates….Worthington, who was seeking mayoral endorsement but has not yet registered for candidacy, asked for the groups to endorse two candidates for each position. Worthington said he is running for mayor in a formal political partnership with Arreguin.” http://www.dailycal.org/2016/05/02/progressive-voters-meet-endorse-mayoral-city-council-candidates/
Remember Robin Hood? Berkeley tenants tried to put a measure on the 2014 ballot to tax the rich and build homes for the poor. It didn’t work out. But in 2016, Berkeley progressives of various stripes all joined together in a coalition to fight the housing emergency with good public policy. We expect the City Council to place a balanced measure on the ballot which will fund affordable housing by increasing fees to Berkeley’s largest landlords.
The Committee for Safe and Affordable Housing is led by Berkeley’s two leading candidates for mayor. That’s right, Councilmembers Jesse Arreguin and Laurie Capitelli agree – to get more money for affordable housing we need to tax the real estate investors whose rent increases create the need for more affordable housing. We need the money to help non-profit organizations, land trusts and limited-equity cooperatives to build or buy housing and keep it affordable for everyone from teachers and childcare workers to cooks and secretaries. And our measure won’t pass on these increased fees to renters.
Great News, right? Until…
The Berkeley Property Owners Association saw a way to stop this new ballot measure by creating a competing measure. It is well known that two measures on a ballot usually mean both measures fail.
The landlords have already succeeded in confusing the voters – so members have been asking us for more information on The Petition You Should Not Sign. Here it is:
► This landlord trick is the only “affordable housing” petition being circulated. Our measure will be placed on the ballot by the City Council if we can keep the pressure on our leaders. Do not sign any “affordable housing” petitions.
► The City Council measure supported by BTU will raise about $5 million annually. The BPOA measure will raise about $1 million annually, saving Berkeley’s larger landlords $4 million a year.
► The Safe and Affordable Homes City Council measure will finance construction or acquisition & rehabilitation of one project with 40 to 50 affordable homes everyyear. The BPOA measure on the petition will only raise enough money to do one project every five years.
► The BPOA measure can be passed through to over 1,200 Berkeley tenants who are not protected by rent control. The Council/BTU measure uses carefully targeted exemptions to protect almost all renters from an increase.
► The BPOA measure on the petition being circulated is unfair because
It taxes income from “inclusionary” units where the rent is restricted and the unit is rented to lower income tenants.
It taxes smaller, moderate-income landlords instead of focusing on larger professional real estate investors like the owners who control BPOA.
It taxes income from apartments rented to tenants receiving assistance from the Section 8 and Shelter + Care programs, while the Safe and Affordable Homes measure exempts these owners to encourage renting to Section 8.
Have Your Signature Invalidated – use the form below. You can fax, scan and send as an email attachment, or drop it off in person to the Berkeley Clerk at 2180 Milvia Street. They must be able to see your signature, so you can’t just email (unless it’s a scan, in which case send to clerk @ city of berkeley dot info). REQUEST FOR WITHDRAWAL OF SIGNATURE
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/
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.