The 2016 Rent Board Convention to select a pro-tenant slate for the elected Rent Board will be held on April 24th – THIS SUNDAY! – at the South Berkeley Senior Center on Ellis at Ashby. The gathering is sponsored this year by BTU, Friends of Adeline, the Berkeley NAACP, Berkeley Green Party, Berkeley Progressive Alliance, Berkeley Citizens Action, Socialist Alliance, the Peace and Freedom Party, CalSERVE, and UC Berkeley Students for Bernie Sanders.
The convention has been held each election year by a coalition of progressive groups for over 20 years in order to present a unified slate for the November Rent Board election. This year, there are 11 candidates for four seats. Because Rent Board Commissioner is the only elected office in Berkeley with term limits, there are only two protenant incumbents: Asa Dodsworth and Alejandro Soto-Vigil.
Candidate statements are on the convention website. Asa Dodsworth and Marcia Levinson did not send written responses. Sponsoring groups also send representatives to rate the candidates, interview them, and get more information about specific concerns of their membership. The convention site will also host the ratings and comments from community screeners, as well as the rules of the convention.
Asa Dodsworth, Marcia Levenson, Matthew Lewis, Thomas Lord, Christina Murphy, Poki Namkung, Christine Schwartz, Leah Simon-Weisberg, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Igor Tregub, Eleanor Walden. Dodsworth, Simon-Weisberg, Lewis, and Tregub have served on the BTU steering committee.
BEWARE! You must be inside for all candidate statements in order to vote. Folks not in by 2 PM may not get ballots. Convention starts Sunday at 1:30 PM!
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
“Before vacancy decontrol modified rent control in California, 42 percent of tenants in rent-controlled units in Berkeley were 55 or older. But since 1999, because of California’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, landlords can charge market rates each time new tenants move into a rent-controlled unit. (Apartments built after 1980 are not under rent control.) Today, just 6 percent of people in regulated units are 55 or older, Harr said, adding that the situation is getting worse due to skyrocketing rents.”
Actually, what I said was rent controlled units with people who moved in before 1999 – before vacancy decontrol – CURRENTLY have 42% over 65 but only 6% of post-1999 tenancies have seniors. I also pointed out that senior housing is identified as a growing need throughout Berkeley’s Draft Housing Element, but there are few programs in the plan to actually address that need.
With me on the Gray Panthers panel was former Rent Board Commissioner Eleanor Walden, who spoke of senior and disabled residents feeling harassed by management at Redwood Gardens. That’s a 169-unit, HUD-subsidized senior housing complex on the Clark-Kerr part of campus, at the top of Derby. It’s a problem BTU has been getting a lot of mail about: affordable housing now managed by for-profit corporations, and Boards at “cooperative” senior housing that are not responsive to residents. We’ve heard from seniors in two places just this month!