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

Learn to Talk About Prop 10


Comprehensive Research Report from UC Berkeley

The Community Power Slate sponsors a Yes on 10 forum:

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!


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!

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.”

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.”

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.”







BPOA employee says U1 funds being misdirected.
“Tuesday night, they approved an “emergency” ordinance to buy the old Premier Cru building complex on University Avenue for $6.65 million. They want to use the site for future City Council chambers and maybe later, for affordable housing.”

More on Council Item
It will repay the funds from money generated from excess property taxes and Measure U1, the new business tax on rental properties that voters approved in November. The funds will be repaid with interest, said city spokesman Matthai Chakko.”

Council Item Itself
“$4.650 million (70% of the purchase price) from Measure U1 revenue”

Other News

Rent Board Delays Appointing Commissioner
The Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board honored outgoing Commissioner Harr but decided to delay appointment of a new Commissioner until May. They chose to delay because Commissioner Murphy was absent due to a family emergency.
Here is the report that ranks contenders for the position, including several candidates who did not make the slate at the 2016 Tenant Convention. BTU is not taking a position yet, because most candidates are BTU members, including Stefan Elgstrand, Tim Kingston, and Christine Schwartz.

People’s Park Anniversary as UC Considers Building, Again
April 23 is the anniversary celebration for People’s Park.
“In 1968 the University used eminent domain to evict the residents and demolish all the houses on the block. Apparently they talked of plans to build needed student housing but nothing happened. For a year the empty lot was an eyesore, muddy and strewn with garbage. In April 1969 activists put out a call for people to help create a park. Hundreds came and cleared the ground, planted flowers and trees and built a children’s playground. They created a park, a People’s Park, that still lives today.”–Lydia-Gans

BARF Lawsuit Could End Neighborhood Preservation
The Bay Area Renter’s Federation, (SF BARF) known as a tool for developers and not a tenants group, is suing over a Council decision to deny permits at 1310 Haskell.
“The law states that a city or county cannot deny the approval of a housing project that complies with its general plan and zoning ordinance without substantial evidence that it will negatively impact public health or safety.”

Low Income Tenants Ousted By Oakland Fire
“The residents even obtained a restraining order against the building’s landlord. And, now, their lawyer is calling for an arson investigation.”

Harsh Laws Drive Artists to Unsafe Warehouses
The father of one artist who died in Oakland’s Ghost Ship Fire is speaking out about how impossible permitting processes and costly complex rules make it impossible for artists and musicians to make their spaces safe and legal and leave those without resources prey to slumlords.

UN Report on Housing as Commodity
It details the shift in recent years that has seen massive amounts of global capital invested in housing as a commodity, particularly as security for financial instruments that are traded on global markets and as a means of accumulating wealth. As a result, she says, homes are often left empty – even in areas where housing is scarce.”

 Report Itself
“This influx of capital has increased housing prices in many cities to levels that most residents cannot afford – in some cities by more than 50% in a 5-year period. Housing prices are no longer commensurate with household income levels, and instead are driven by demand for housing assets among global investors. When housing prices skyrocket, low and sometimes even middle-income residents are forced out of their communities by high rent or mortgage costs. When housing prices plummet, residents face mortgage foreclosure and homelessness.”

CL-aptsDespite the bad news from Richmond, folks all over the Bay, the State – even the World – are clamoring for an end to extreme profits and astronomical rent increases. The owners have kept us on the defensive for three decades — how many fronts can they fight on, even with all their money?


The CA Apartment Association – the landlord statewide group – applied all their massive resources to suspend the new Richmond laws, the first new rent control in California in 30 years. Berkeley Property Owners Association put out a “Red Alert” just days before the law was to go into effect, asking Berkeley landlords to support this effort, which reportedly paid gathers over $20 per signature.


Efforts in San Mateo to create just cause eviction protections for renters have also been stalled through efforts from the California Apartment Association.
“Dozens of property owners, real estate agents and representatives from trade associations spoke in opposition noting there are already existing laws governing tenant-landlord contracts. Many noted it can be very difficult to evict a bad tenant — one told an anecdote of it costing nearly $8,000 in legal fees — and requested the city focus on constructing new housing units. Others also feared there would be unintended consequences of such an ordinance, including harming good tenants.”
“Additionally, the CAA is urging it’s members to appear and bring other members from the rental housing industry to the council meeting/s to oppose renter protections. This is the same thing they do when other cities in California consider renter protections…. Painting the working class as possible criminals in the effort to conceal their real activities, such as raking in billions of dollars hand over fist, the CAA knows how to stir up wealthy property owners and the rental housing industry, when humane solutions such as renter protections are being proposed.”


Alameda is the only place I know of with a rent board but no rent control. City officials are discussing changing some of the rent regulations, but tenants are discussing a ballot measure to get some real protections!


Nine of the eleven City Council members voted to “look into” just cause eviction protections, expanding rent control to cover duplexes, eliminating rules that new owners can pass their mortgage costs on to renters, and lowering the annual rent increase from the current eight percent. Berkeley tenants already enjoy these protections.
San Jose’s rent control only covers about 43,000 units built before 1979 and excludes duplexes. Housing built after 1995 is exempt from rent control under the state’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, so that leaves apartments built from 1979 to 1995 and all duplexes with no protections.”
Approval of the staff report and work plan would create a timeline where the Council would consider potential changes to the ARO (apartment-rent ordinance) in December 2015.


Tenants in Silicon Valley march for rent control – three times!
“Most of the affected residents make $12-$18 per hour, far below what it takes to afford local rents that have in some cases doubled over the past few years.”
Mountain View Tenants Coalition


Council members who opposed rent control said the city just needs to build more housing. All over the world, landlords and developers – often the same people – claim that allowing unbridled development will lower rents. Sound familiar, Berkeley?
“We spent $800,000 on a fish fountain. We can spend some money to help renters in Santa Rosa.”


Owners in Healdsburg pledged to limit rent increases to “only” 10 percent in order to stop the city from discussing rent control.
“It’s nonbinding. It’s pointless,” said Christine Webster, a disabled woman facing a 65 percent increase in rent for the one-bedroom duplex close to downtown that she’s lived in for the past decade.”


Santa Monica is the California city with a tenant protection ordinance most like Berkeley’s own. Ellis Act evictions are on the rise in Berkeley, with landlord advocate Michael St. John actively encouraging them in a recent BPOA newsletter, but in Santa Monica, there are so many that the City Council is discussing a moratorium.


Seattle City Council is discussing asking the state of Washington to end the state ban on rent control. Washington is one of at least 30 states in the US which do not allow any municipalities to create rent control laws.


Burlington citizens debate rent control, supply-and-demand, in the press.
“Of course, as long as the city is run by developers and landlords, rent control will not even be discussed.”


Jersey City tenants call for changes to preserve their rent control.
“Real estate investors… are aggressively using the vacancy capital improvement provision in Chapter 260 of the rent control ordnance to increase the rent of vacated apartments by over 30 percent.”


Tenants Together has been warning about the securitization of rents here in California, but Singapore is way ahead of us, with leaders not only calling for rent control but also a limit to land holdings by REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts).


Scotland had rent control until the Thatcher years; leaders are preparing to introduce laws which would allow rent regulation in places where the rents are rising most rapidly.
“Rent controls enjoy broad popular support, with a Survation poll conducted in January this year finding that only 6.8 per cent of the public are “somewhat” or “strongly” against the controls. 59 per cent of those polls said they somewhat or strongly supported the state being able to control what landlords take from tenants each month.”


Berlin got rent control on June 1st. Rents dropped immediately.
“The average cost of new Berlin rental contracts has dropped 3.1 percent within a month. This can’t be written off as an example of a general countrywide downward trend. In other German cities where such laws haven’t yet been introduced, rents have remained more or less static.”

Berkeley City Council may finalize the law making it illegal to smoke in any multi-unit building in Berkeley on Tuesday December 3. Councilman Arreguin is making one more attempt to ensure the new law treats owners and renters equally. His suggestions also include more information to guide new renters, such as a registry of rental units and their smoking history, requiring owners to post signs, and that smokers receive warnings before they are fined.

Arreguin’s proposal – Council Item 28 – includes the radical suggestion that Berkeley actually allocate city staff to enforce the law!

You can see both smoking items on the Council agenda here (#28 and #30)

Here is a summary of Arreguin’s item:

28.  Referral to City Manager: Amendments to Tobacco-Free Multi-Unit Housing Ordinance (Continued from November 19, 2013)
From: Councilmember Arreguin
Refer to the City Manager for incorporation in a draft Tobacco-Free Multi-Unit Housing Ordinance the following proposals: 1. Delay the effective date of the ordinance to May 1, 2014, rather than March 1, 2014 as previously directed by the City Council, so that staff has adequate time to draft amendments based on this referral and bring back a final ordinance for Council adoption. Also delay the requirement that landlords notify tenants effective January 1, 2014. A delayed implementation date would also provide enough time for the city to conduct outreach to owners and tenants of the new requirements and increase smoking cessation resources before the ordinance goes into effect. 2. All initial leases or rental agreements signed on or after May 1, 2014 shall include language expressly prohibiting smoking in the units or in any common areas of a multi-unit residence. 3. That all initial leases or rental agreements signed after May 1, 2014, also notify tenants which units in the building do not have leases which expressly prohibit smoking. 4. Failure to provide either of the lease provisions noted above will allow the new tenant to break the lease without penalty.  (the language proposed by the Manager on October 1st along with the modifications proposed by the Rent Board on October 1st suffices). 5. That the City or Rent Board actively encourage and try to get tenants to sign voluntary lease addendums which prohibit smoking. Any voluntary lease addendum should be on a City/Rent Board developed form. 6. That the Rent Board establish and maintain a registry of all rental units in multi-unit housing indicating which units have leases that expressly prohibit smoking & require owners to notify the Rent Stabilization Board of lease provisions prohibiting smoking, and that the city require that owners of units registered with the Rent Board and those that aren’t registered provide information on which units have no-smoking lease clauses. 7. That owners be required to post signs in common areas of all multi-unit housing indicating smoking is prohibited. 8. That the City allocate staff to enforce violations of this ordinance through an initial investigation, written warning and followed by progressively increasing fines of $250, $500, $1000 and $1,500 for each infraction. Consistent with the previous staff drafted ordinance, there should be a cap on the number of private right of actions that any individual resident may file in a year against another smoking resident. 9. Includes the private right of action but strengthen it by allowing each resident to collect no more than $1,000 in a calendar year through private right of action. Doing this allows us to show that we are not tolerating or condoning smoking but believe that real financial penalties (rather than an unequal risk of lost housing) should be an appropriate penalty that can be applied in a more uniform way. Also making a violation the ordinance an infraction does not give an owner automatic grounds to evict a tenant. Also include the mandatory mediation provisions included in the ordinance proposed by the Manager on October 1, 10. Warnings be required by landlords and by the City before any enforcement action can be taken. The City Council should authorize sufficient staff and a funding source for proper enforcement and outreach. Previously, the City Manager indicated such a program would cost in the neighborhood of $120,000 annually to implement. Councilmember Maio indicated that the inspectors associated with the Rental Housing Safety Program be charged with implementing the Ordinance. If the RHSP fee were increased by $5 per unit, there would be sufficient resources to fund the necessary staff to implement the provisions of the Tobacco-Free Multi-Family Housing Ordinance I am proposing. If there needs to be a specific nexus between a no smoking ordinance and the RHSP program, City staff should explore amending the housing code so that smoking is a violation that can be cited and enforced by RHSP Housing code inspectors.

Berkeley Patch:

SF Gate Blog:

San Francisco Chronicle:

On October 1, City Council rejected the long process between the Rent Board and the Health Commission and decided to draft new antismoking legislation on the fly. Staff has to come back with actual language, but it is very likely that Berkeley will make it legal to evict tenants for smoking cigarettes, even if the lease has allowed smoking for years.

The new laws will also apply to owners who live in multiunit buildings, for example an owner-occupied unit in a building which also has rental units, or a condominium. However, owners can’t be evicted, and tenants can!!  The City Council keeps saying they want a law that can be enforced, but this latest plan puts the obligation to enforce the law onto landlords. Who will enforce the law against owners who smoke?

QUOTE_100813BTU hasn’t taken an official position, in part because the draft that was going to Council last week balanced concerns about protecting housing with the needs of those who are impacted by secondhand smoke. Now one big concern might be that the phase-in period for the law hardly gives long-term addicts the time to successfully quit. Also, landlords are far more likely to enforce the smoking ban against long-term tenants with controlled rents, while not acting to protect other residents from second-hand smoke if the smoker is paying a high price for his or her unit.

If you are concerned one way or the other, contacting Linda Maio would be a good place to start. It sounded like she is very in favor of the new rules to define smoking as a nuisance. Email her: 

Councilman Arreguin’s Explanation of His Concerns for Tenants:–By-Councilmember-Jesse-Arreguin

Daily Californian Report on Council Meeting:

100113The Berkeley Tenants Union has no position on the emerging legislation to make cigarette smoking illegal in all multiunit buildings in Berkeley. This hot issue pits neighbor against neighbor, especially since the City Council’s draft only has one enforcement mechanism: take your neighbor to small claims court!

Requests from the Rent Board and other constituents for the city to require mediation have not been included in the rules, which would make smoking in or around their buildings illegal for tenants and condominium owners, even if smoking is allowed in the lease or homeowner’s agreement. Smoking will be prohibited in all new leases.

Possible changes to the current draft of the law which are discussed in the Council report:

  • Mandating mediation
  • More aggressively enforcing the Ordinance
  • Defining smoking in multi-unit housing as a nuisance to allow evictions
  • Requiring a registry of units with non-smoking clauses in their leases
  • Including medical cannabis smoking

The Berkeley City Council will finally vote on the controversial law at their meeting Tuesday, which begins at 7 PM at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way and will be broadcast on the web, cable TV and 89.3 FM. The current draft does include some increased support for smokers trying to quit.

Our elected Rent Board has been under fire from at least one antismoking advocate. The Commissioners expressed concerns that defining smoking as a nuisance would lead to evictions, pushed for mediation to be mandatory before law suits are filed, and also requested that the city enable their department to provide tracking so prospective tenants would know if they are applying for a unit next door to a smoker and/or if smoking happened during the previous tenancy:
May 7 Smoke-free Housing Council final

Health advocates say the law doesn’t go far enough to protect renters from second hand smoke:–By-Carol-Denney

Council materials, see Item 10: