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
Balcony Lawsuit Says Owners Knew About Problems If we had the proactive inspections program the City Council will discuss on December 1, then this tragedy may have been prevented. “The lawsuit claims that Segue used cheaper materials to construct the balcony, making it more susceptible to water damage, and left it exposed to rain during construction in 2005…. Previous tenants reported seeing mushrooms – a clear sign of rot.” http://theindianrepublic.com/lawsuits-filed-in-deadly-berkeley-balcony-collapse-reveal-3892.html
Rent Wars Excellent overview of California’s housing crisis and current tenant’s movement. “Activists in cities that have long had rent control laws are pushing for stronger measures. In Los Angeles, activists like Larry Gross, Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, want the city to stop allowing tenants to be evicted so that speculators can demolish their rent-controlled buildings.” http://www.beyondchron.org/the-new-rent-control-wars/
Berkeley Fair Election Initiative “But when elections are determined by fundraising alone, communities pay the price. And when the perception is that only money matters in campaigns, it erodes public faith in government. With voter turnout at historic lows, we need to do everything we can to increase participation.
What if I told you there was a proposal to encourage local candidates to spend more time talking to voters and less time dialing for dollars? What if this proposal could diversify the local donor pool, encourage more voters to participate and make City Council more responsive to the citizens they are elected to serve?” http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/11/06/lets-amplify-local-voices-in-berkeley-city-hall/
Evictions and Air BnB “Data analysis of Airbnb usage in San Francisco tells a decidedly different story about who is benefiting. Although Airbnb refuses to share its numbers, a 2014 report commissioned by the San Francisco Chronicle found that of the (at the time) nearly 5,000 homes, apartments, and private or shared rooms for rent via Airbnb, two-thirds were entire houses or apartments with no owner present during the rental period, and almost a third of Airbnb rentals were controlled by people with two or more listings. Some of the “whole house” or “whole apartment” rentals are from hosts who happen to be away. But many others are being rented out by professional property managers who are handling multiple Airbnb rentals on behalf of absentee home- and condo owners. A separate study conducted by data analyst Tom Slee found similar results. He calculated that about 70 percent of Airbnb revenue comes from hosts who are renting out an entire home or apartment, and 40 percent comes from Airbnb hosts with multiple listings.” http://prospect.org/article/evictions-and-conversions-dark-side-airbnb
Is Berkeley Like Disneyland?
“More than 40% of the homes that have permits to rent in Anaheim are owned by real estate companies, investment firms or the owners of multiple properties, according to city records.
“These are basically unsupervised mini hotels in our neighborhoods,” said Cornejo, who has called the police on his neighbors several times for late-night noise.
With so many strangers visiting their communities, some residents recently urged Anaheim council members to consider safety and security issues. Renter safety too has become a growing concern in the wake of some well-publicized reports of sexual assault, injuries and deaths at short-term lodgings in other towns.” http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-anaheim-short-term-rentals-20151111-story.html
In general, activists’ response led to deeper discussion of the issues but we need ALL members to respond to these action requests if we are to impact policy and decisions!
Four Berkeley Fair Campaign Committee members – appointed by TUFF Slate endorsers from the City Council – voted for a slap on the wrist. A dozen citizens made public comment asking for a real investigation and meaningful penalties. The commission also got four letters from BTU members, but voted 4-3 to approve the settlement agreement with low fines and no formal investigation of the faux tenant slate, and no investigation of the nearly $50,000 they accepted from landlords and property management firms. At least our public pressure led to them taking out the part of the agreement that said Rent Board Commissioner Judy Hunt and the other candidates didn’t do it on purpose! It would have been shameful to make such a declaration when there was no investigation or hearing.
There is still an ongoing investigation of the violations at the state level.
Tonight the Fair Campaign Practices Commission meets (7 pm, North Berkeley Senior Center) to consider the stipulation offered by members of Tenants United for Fairness (TUFF)—a slate that ran for Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board in the November election—and the landlords who illegally funded their campaign.
The proposed stipulation would fine the TUFF slate members $300 each, and their backers under $3000 total.
In comparison, at the same meeting the people who raised money to defeat the street-sitting prohibiting Measure S and who failed to properly report $500 in late contributions in a timely manner are proposed to pay a penalty of that amount—$500, the amount they received. Nothing illegal about the contributions, they’re just paying the amount of the contribution for failing to report it on time.
TUFF raised and spent over $50,000 from landlords, over $30,000 from one PAC alone. Berkeley has a $250 per candidate donation limit and bars business donations, the vast bulk of those donations.