2401 Warring
2401 Warring

We at the Berkeley Tenants Union need your support on Tuesday, December 9 at the City Council meeting.

First, Council are considering a suggestion to tax the benefits of rent control on any long time tenant the government decides is earning a living wage. (Item 17)

Also, BTU members have appealed a dangerous decision by the Zoning Board which would set bad precedent and put over 4,000 units in Berkeley at risk. (Item 39)

Both items are expected to be near the beginning of the meeting, as early as 7:30 PM. Council meetings take place in Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

2401 Warring Street Appeal by Harr and Stephens

This is the latest in a series of disputes BTU has fought at the Zoning Board – at the core is the interpretation of the Demolition Ordinance. In this case, a huge building on Warring near Channing has been under rent control for many years because it was used as a boarding house. Now, a new owner has removed all the renters and wants to turn it into a triplex. Rent Board staff and the owner appeared at the Zoning Board in the summertime. BTU was there as well. Everyone – even the owner Nathan George – seemed to agree that it was fair that one of the triplex units would be new construction because the owner is adding a lot of space, but that the other two units needed to stay under rent control.

Yet when the decision was written up by the staff from the Planning department, they chose to word the agreement in a way that would be legally unenforceable. This can get complex, but the gist of it is that Planning wants to give the building a new certificate of occupancy, and state law Costa Hawkins says a new COO means no rent control.

This is not what the Zoning Board intended. So BTU members Katherine Harr and Lisa Stephens filed an appeal.

Once again, the City Attorney is saying the units are empty and therefore not rent controlled units under the Demolition Ordinance. This means any building where the landlord can get the tenants out could easily be torn down with no mitigations for the loss of rent controlled housing.

The City is also saying that although Planning was aware that the building was a boarding house, it was not licensed to be one. This opens up over 4,000 units that have rent control but are not in Planning records as “permitted units” to lose rent control because they, too, could get a new certificate of occupancy.

Means Testing

Yes, you heard us right: the Housing Advisory Commission has asked Council to begin the process of means testing rent controlled tenants. Item 17 on the City Council agenda for Tuesday is the first step toward a plan by certain bitter property owners and the Council majority to tax middle income renters on their low rents.

One approach we believe should be explored is to determine if some of the long term tenants in Berkeley’s rent controlled housing have been enjoying low rents while their incomes have been rising,” they wrote. There are many disturbing things about the proposal: the underlying assumption that rent control is a charity program and only the very poor deserve housing stability; the invasive nature of the proposal wherein longer term renters would be forced to disclose their income while owners do not have to do so; and the idea that measuring only income and rent would give the government any idea who can afford to pay more for housing, without considering medical bills, student tuition or student loans, number of dependents or other factors.

While BTU is pretty sure portions of the plan are actually illegal, and we expect the Rent Board will work to educate Council on that aspect, we need renters to stand together to show that local efforts to whittle away tenant protections and pit lower income folks against teachers, firefighters and small business owners making mid-range salaries will not be tolerated. Means testing would make Berkeley a city of just the very rich and very poor – just what rent stabilization was designed to prevent!

This type of proposal would never have been considered in the progressive Berkeley of the past and is clearly retaliation against tenants for supporting the “Robin Hood” ballot measures to tax owners of multiple rental units on their profits under vacancy decontrol.

JOIN US TUESDAY at CITY COUNCIL – items are early on the agenda

RSVP to info at berkeley tenants dot org to learn the plan!

Council Item 17
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/2014/12_Dec/City_Council__12-09-2014_-_Regular_Meeting_Agenda.aspx

Warring Street Appeal

Council Item 23
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/2014/12_Dec/City_Council__12-09-2014_-_Regular_Meeting_Agenda.aspx

Berkeley Tenants Union had a good turnout at our first endorsements forum in many many years. Please read candidate responses to the joint questionnaire sent by Berkeley Tenants Union and Berkeley Citizen Action to learn more about why the members who voted on Sunday chose these excellent candidates!

Please be sure to support these candidates – they are the best to further the issues that impact Berkeley Tenants. BTU will send you more info on how to get involved alongside other tenants and our friends as the campaign season moves along!

The Pro-Rent Control Slate, chosen at the 2014 Tenant Convention
Chang, Harr, Laverde-Levine, Selawsky and Townley
http://berkeleyrentboard.org/

Tony Thurmond, State Assembly
http://www.tonythurmond.com/

Alejandro Soto-Vigil, District One
http://sotovigil2014.com/

Jesse Arreguin, District Four
http://www.jessearreguin.com/

Kriss Worthington, District 7
http://www.worthingtonworks2014.com/

Jacquelyn McCormick, District 8
http://www.mccormick4council.com/

Ty Alper, School Board
http://tyalper.org/

Karen Hemphill, School Board
http://karenhemphill.home.comcast.net/~karenhemphill/

For Berkeley Citizen Action’s endorsements, please visit their Website:
http://berkeleycitizensaction.org/

Candidate Questionnaires:

School Board 2014 Responses BCA BTU

City Council 2014 Responses BCA BTU

Assembly 2014 Responses BCA BTU

FREE 2014 Candidate Forum
Sunday, September 21, 3:30-6:30pm
Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar Street

Linda Maio Declined the Tenants Union Invitation
Linda Maio Declined the Tenants Union Invitation

Berkeley Tenants Union, along with Berkeley Citizen Action and the Social Justice Committee of the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, will hold a forum for candidates in the 2014 election on Sunday September 21 – it being at 3:30 SHARP!

Only longstanding Council Person Linda Maio (District 1) and District 8 candidate M. Alvarez Cohen declined to attend the event. Assembly candidates Echols and Thurmond will be there for us to get to know, plus all School Board candidates and all the other Council hopefuls.

Meet the candidates and hear their ideas! After the speeches, BTU and BCA members will remain to discuss ballot initiatives and vote on endorsements (separate ballots).

Here are Responses to the BTU / BCA Joint Questionnaire

School Board 2014 Responses BCA BTU

City Council 2014 Responses BCA BTU

Assembly 2014 Responses BCA BTU

 

September-2014-Calendar-Printable-132Berkeley Tenants Union, along with Berkeley Citizen Action and the Social Justice Committee of the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, will hold a forum for candidates in the 2014 election on Sunday September 21. Meet the candidates and hear their ideas! After the speeches, BTU and BCA members will remain to vote on endorsements (separate ballots). https://www.facebook.com/events/1491931991054041/

At BTU we’re very excited to get to know newcomers like Lori Droste and Sean Barry – and find out what they plan to do for tenants, or for landlords, or for real estate developers. So we are sending a few questions to the candidates and will be posting replies here on the website from Berkeley City Council, School Board, and candidates for the state Assembly.

2014 Candidate Forum
Sunday, September 21, 3:30-5:30pm
Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar Street
SAVE THE DATE

JUNE 7 – Berkeley Neighborhoods Council Forum
Art House Gallery
2905 Shattuck Ave. 10 AM to 1 PM

For more info on the Neighborhood Preservation Forum see http://www.berkeleyneighborhoodscouncil.com/index.htm

JUNE 13 – Housing Crisis Conference The SF Public Press sponsors a gathering “to innovate solutions that address the need for affordable housing in San Francisco.” http://sfpublicpress.org/hackthehousingcrisis

JUNE 21 – Robin Hood Committee Party! – CANCELLED
The Committee for Affordable Housing and Robin Hood Initiative host a thank you party – next steps will be announced, but mostly this night will be for having fun and hanging out.

JUNE 24 – Housing at City Council
According to the Berkeley Citizens Action newsletter, the Berkeley City Council will consider several proposals from the Housing Advisory Commission on Tuesday, June 24.

JULY 13 – CALLING ALL PROGRESSIVES!
The bi-annual Convention will be held to choose a progressive slate for the November Rent Board election. The convention starts at 1:30 PM at the South Berkeley Senior Center. See http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/ for updates.

All potential candidates who believe in rent control and will work so that affordable housing remains a priority in Berkeley are invited to seek the nomination and should contact the convention in order to participate in the screening process during June.

Photo courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/andscene/
Photo courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/andscene/

Robin Hood Committee Aims to Tax Landlords and Fund Affordable Housing
The city’s landlords charge high rents and gain free money simply by their Berkeley location. The public makes Berkeley property valuable “by investing in the university, parks, transit, and through all their economic, cultural and social activities,” Barton told the City Council at an April 1 meeting.
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_25580122/berkeley-initiatives-would-tax-landlords-create-redistricting-panel

Volunteer to help Robin Hood fund affordable housing by calling 510-585-FAH1 

Berkeley Rent Board Invites League of Women Voters
…extending this invitation specifically to the League in response to your letter of November 7, 2013. The letter contains a great number of inaccuracies and misconceptions regarding the current functions of the Rent Stabilization Program, our budget and the appropriateness of the current registration fee.
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2014-04-18/article/42024?headline=An-Open-Letter-to-the-League-of-Women-Voters-from-Lisa-Stephens-Chair-of-the-Berkeley-Rent-Stabilization-Board–From-Lisa-Stephens-Chair-Berkeley-Rent-Stabilization-Board

Redistricting Referendum Panics Council Majority, City Sues Itself
The city’s lawsuit, filed April 3, names county registrar Tim Dupuis and city clerk Mark Numainville as defendants, along with nine others who are listed as “real parties of interest”: council members Worthington, Arreguín and Anderson, as well as Stefan Elgstrand, Paul Kealoha Blake, Matthew Lewis, Stephanie Miyashiro, Phoebe Sorgen and Alejandro Soto-Vigil.
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2014/04/09/city-of-berkeley-heads-to-court-over-redistricting-lines/

redistritingbest map2.1Berkeley City Council will continue to discuss redrawing the lines for Council districts. The map chosen by the City Council majority in December was deemed unfair by many student and progressive groups, and the Berkeley Referendum Coalition gathered signatures in the dead of winter to force the City Council to consider other maps. Council also has the option of putting the maps on the ballot. Many progressive say that the costs of putting the issue on the ballot may be high, so Council should work out a compromise acceptable to referendum leaders.

Councilman Jesse Arreguin submits redistricting ballot measures, including compromise map: If the council does put the BSDC map on the ballot, Arreguin plans to move forward with the measure that, in addition to creating the citizens commissions, will add a counterproposal to the suspended map. The counterproposal, Arreguin said, is a cross between two previously proposed maps: one supported by the Berkeley Neighborhoods Council and one designed specifically to include Northside student residences.” http://www.dailycal.org/2014/03/11/city-councilmember-proposes-ballot-measures-reform-redistricting-process/

Council Items Continued from February 25 – now Item 16
https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/2014/03_Mar/City_Council__03-11-2014_-_Regular_Meeting_Agenda.aspx

More on Redistricting:
https://www.cityofberkeley.info/redistricting/

Berkeleyside: Council majority pushes redistricting decisions to March
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2014/02/26/council-majority-pushes-redistricting-decisions-to-march/

Daily Cal: Berkeley Referendum Coalition celebrates success, plans to meet Sunday
http://www.dailycal.org/2014/02/14/berkeley-referendum-coalition-celebrates-success-plans-meet-sunday/

Doorbells

Redistricting Referendum: Tuesday February 25
The referendum passed, with over 150 volunteers collecting 7,500 signatures over the holidays. Now, the Referendum Coalition needs support at the City Council meeting Tuesday February 25. If you can’t attend, please email Clerk@cityofberkeley.info to support ITEM 21b: “Choose an Alternate Redistricting Map, not a Special Election.” (A Special Election is recommended in Item 21a from the City Manager.)
Item 21b:
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/2014/02_Feb/City_Council__02-25-2014_-_Regular_Meeting_Agenda.aspx
Referendum in the news:
http://blog.sfgate.com/stew/2014/02/10/berkeley-voters-overturn-gerrymandering/

Demolition Ordinance
The City Council seems to have put bad changes to the demo ordinance on the back burner. However, some buildings may still have Zoning hearings under the old rules, which include an anti-tenant interpretation by the City Attorney. We will keep you posted.
Berkeley Neighborhoods Council:http://www.berkeleyneighborhoodscouncil.com/Newsletters/2014/Issue5/BNC_eNEWS_5_NHF5.htm
Demolishing older, affordable rentals to replace with luxury apartments is a national trend:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-13/demolitions-dire-for-poor-as-affordable-rent-gap-grows-economy.html

Tenant Sues over Eviction for Air BnB
“…case highlights an ongoing issue of Airbnb and other sites that allow people to rent out spare rooms or entire apartments to temporary visitors. Critics charge that the new sharing-economy services are so lucrative – and so laxly regulated – that they are forcing out residents and driving up rents by reducing the supply of available housing.”
Airbnb profits prompted S.F (PDF)

Rich People Say the Darndest Things
“The problem is that the world and this country should not talk about envy of the 1 percent. It should talk about emulating the 1 percent,” he said. “The 1 percent work harder. The 1 percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society.” –Billionaire Sam Zell, who owns Equity Residential, now Berkeley’s Largest Landlord.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/05/sam-zell-1-percent_n_4733196.html

Consider the Source
“For moderates like Mayor Ed Lee, appearing to get tough on the Ellis Act is an easy way to address voter discontent about affordability without having to wade into more controversial issues like housing density and planning reform.”
http://www.modernluxury.com/san-francisco/story/the-eviction-crisis-wasnt

Class Action Lawsuit Against Central Valley’s Biggest Slumlord
When repairs are made, the complaint alleges, they are merely cosmetic and fail to address the health and safety issues, and JD Homes often retaliates against tenants who complain to authorities.
http://tenantstogether.org/article.php?id=2944

More on Tenant Displacement in San Francisco
“There’s 50,600 proposed units of housing coming to San Francisco. Approximately 27,000 of these housing units have already been approved by officials, with 6,100 currently under construction. Most of the housing being built is “market rate,” meaning that it’s priced for those who can afford to spend roughly $36,000 a year on rent…The tech boom has conspired with rising housing prices to create an incredibly profitable incentive for landlords to push out low-income tenants and replace them with wealthy buyers, in spite of all the new units coming to market.”
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/02/13/san-franciscos-displacement-crisis/

This is an alternate map favored by progressive student groups.
This is an alternate map favored by progressive student groups.

Berkeley Tenants and other supporters rejoiced Tuesday as the Berkeley Referendum Coalition turned in 7,876 signatures, much more than the 5,275 necessary for the referendum. Alameda County has 30 business days to make sure the signatures are legitimate, but volunteers already combed the sign-up sheets to validate the petitions.

City Council reportedly has until April 1 to offer a compromise redistricting plan – otherwise the districts go on the ballot for voters to decide. Stefan Elgstrand, a student leader who worked on the referendum, told City Council on Tuesday night that he and other referendum group leaders are looking forward to working out a plan everyone can support.

Berkeleyside

Rob Wrenn in Comments: Measure R, a poorly thought-out measure, supported by everyone on the Council if I remember right, makes gerrymandering much easier. Whoever has a majority on the Council can more easily create districts that make re-election difficult for their opponents….

Maybe the City should follow the lead of the state of California and create some independent body to set Council districts. Otherwise we may have redistricting referendum petitions every ten years.

http://www.berkeleyside.com/2014/01/22/opponents-of-redistricting-gather-enough-signatures-to-force-vote/

Inside Bay Area

“If the referendum is successful, the city still must equalize its districts. The City Council can choose to place a redistricting ordinance before the voters, or it can write a compromise redistricting plan that won’t face a new referendum.”

http://www.insidebayarea.com/breaking-news/ci_24969713/berkeley-supporters-claim-sufficient-support-redistricting-referendum

Daily Californian

“If the council reaches agreement before April 1, it will still meet the deadline for putting new district lines into effect by the November election. If the council decides not to create a new map, its other option is to put the BSDC map on the June or November ballot.”

http://www.dailycal.org/2014/01/22/redistricting-referendum-claims-success-official-verdict-determined/

Daily Planet

http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2014-01-18/article/41766?headline=Berkeley-Re-Districting-Referendum-Qualifies-for-Ballot–

BTU’s newsletter was also quoted here by the Planet:

http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2014-01-18/article/41764?headline=Amazing-Bedfellows-Endorse-Berkeley-Referendum-br-Signature-Drive-Ends-Tuesday-

Calling All Members! The Berkeley Tenants Union, The Council of Neighborhood Associations and Cal Dems – UC student Democrats – have endorsed the referendum on redistricting. Join us in collecting signatures for the Berkeley Referendum Coalition. We must stop a new map of council districts clearly designed to disenfranchise neighborhood groups and progressive students from the co-ops — in order to unseat Kriss Worthington. Worthington has been a strong supporter of tenants for many years – plus he is a BTU member! 

 

redistritingbest map2.1PICK UP A PETITION THIS WEEKEND
SATURDAY at 10am or 1pm
SUNDAY at 10am or 1pm
Grassroots House (where BTU meets) 2022 Blake Street

The Coalition also needs folks who can’t collect signatures to verify signers and do other office work. Contact berkeleyref (at) gmail.com

Denim Ohmit, vice president of finance for Cal Berkeley Democrats, believes…that more perfect district lines are attainable and worth all the effort of a referendum. ‘Why not get the best district possible?’ Ohmit said at the rally. ‘Redistricting is an opportunity that only comes once every ten years. The Daily Californian also compares the two student district maps, and has a photo of BTU member Judy Shelton collecting signatures. http://www.dailycal.org/2014/01/05/berkeley-referendum-rally-held-new-district-lines/

Daily Planet: Admittedly, it’s a clever ploy. The conservative councilmembers and their advisors managed to capture a movement to re-draw the council district boundaries to guarantee a student-majority district and impose a new map which excludes the students who are most likely to vote for progressive candidates. The obvious target is incumbent Councilmember Kriss Worthington…. http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2014-01-03/article/41745?headline=Without-the-Referendum-Berkeley-is-Doomed-to-Ten-More-Years-of-Hanging-Basket-Planning–By-Becky-O-Malley

Berkeleyside: The council rejected another map that was introduced late in the process known as the United District Student Amendment (UDSA). That one had the co-ops. After the vote, supporters of the UDSA map decided to collect signatures for a referendum to put the issue before voters. http://www.berkeleyside.com/2014/01/03/tight-deadline-to-get-redistricting-referendum-on-ballot/