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/
Thanks to California Senator Diane Feinstein, there is a national movement to call for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate how commercial landlords using short term rental platformsare impacting housing shortages and contributing to high rents nationwide.
Now you can join their calls for a national investigation.
Congressional Black Caucus On Airbnb Racism “Members of the CBC are deeply concerned about recent reports of exclusion of African-Americans on the Airbnb platform, and we sincerely hope the leadership of Airbnb will take the issue of discrimination seriously and implement common sense measures to prevent such discrimination and ill-treatment of its customers in the future.” http://blackamericaweb.com/2016/06/27/airbnb-racism-allegations-head-to-capitol-hill/
More on Warren’s Call for Investigation: “Opponents argue that Airbnb, a platform that allows users to rent out their homes to strangers, is aggravating housing crises in cities across the country by flooding markets with short-term rentals and, as a result, reducing much-needed affordable housing. While Airbnb claims that many of its users are occasionally renting out rooms to make extra cash, some experts who have studied the limited data available argue that the platform is allowing people to operate sophisticated hotel businesses while dodging taxes and other key regulations.” https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jul/13/elizabeth-warren-airbnb-government-investigation
We have one step forward and two steps back:
The good news is that the City Council voted July 7th to demand enforcement of the existing law prohibiting short term rentals if an owner has three or more units offered as vacation rentals in Berkeley. BTU is sending updated info about the owners we complained about last summer – and we would like you to send any information about big landlords breaking the law to the City Council, and to us, too!
The bad news is that the Council majority may be selling tenants out for some tax revenue so they can cut a deal with megacorps like AirBnB. After promises from Bates and Capitelli to continue the ban on short term rentals of units that are not someone’s home, they voted to “have staff consider the possibility of grandfathering in permits for accessory dwelling units currently being rented out on a short-term basis.” In other words, if you own a duplex and are following the law, you are screwed, but people who have been breaking it might be allowed to legalize their small business.
Durant Demolition Granted
(with Unknown Mitigation)
We have mostly a success story on our continuing opposition to the demolition of 18 rent controlled units on Durant. This is because while the BTU/ASUC appeal was going through a ridiculous year-long city process, the Council passed a new version of the demolition ordinance which requires a mitigation fee for the loss of rent control.
However, the Council did not set the fee. State law says you have to show a direct relationship between the level of a mitigation fee and the damage to society that the money is meant to offset. Council first commissioned a “nexus study” on demolition of rent controlled units several years ago, but they say they still don’t have it back. Some activists think they are waiting until after the election to make an unpopular vote.
BTU plans to demand that the fee be as high as the study says it needs to be to provide for one-for-one replacement of rent controlled units with real affordable housing.
Lawsuit on Durant Demolition Developer Orloff claims there is an inherent “right to develop.”
“…plaintiffs fault Berkeley for “its enactment of legislation that illegally and unconstitutionally requires property owners to transfer massive sums of money to the City and tenants in order to exercise an essential right of property ownership: the right to develop property.” They seek, among other relief, a declaration from the court that the ordinance violates the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution and its Due Process Clause, and is therefore invalid….The city, in its motion to dismiss, argues that there is a definite nexus between mitigation fees and the public purpose of mitigating the loss of affordable housing…” http://www.eastbaytimes.com/breaking-news/ci_30145194/berkeley-landlord-sues-city-over-demolition-fees
Evictions from Unpermitted Units in SF “Though S.F. has proven to be an inhospitable place for renters the last several years, the circumstances surrounding this eviction are particularly startling. It seems that Malliett’s new landlords—Mathieu Verbeeck, a VP of product development at Mubi, and Catherine Crevels, a marketing manager at Intuit—are testing out a novel strategy for ejecting tenants. They contend that Malliett and her daughter are causing a “nuisance” by living in a unit that lacks the proper permits. The Board of Supervisors has…” http://www.modernluxury.com/san-francisco/story/tech-workers-evict-kindergarten-teacher-mission-apartment-using-appliances
After a year of public hearings and debate, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates is proposing to change the Short Term Rentals law which Berkeley City Council passed on May 31. Every law in Berkeley must be voted on twice, and in between vote one and vote two, Berkeley leaders are appearing to waiver.
Berkeley City Council votes Thursday, July 7th at a special 5:30pm meeting.
Bates has introduced a proposed contract with Airbnb to collect tax for Berkeley if Berkeley does not compel Airbnb to share any data that might allow our city to enforce the law and protect our housing supply. This contract comes at the same time that Oakland has cut a similar deal, but while San Francisco is increasing fines and being sued by the corporate platform.
The new law is already a compromise which allows residents to rent their homes, or rooms in their homes, while continuing the (as yet unenforced) ban on rentals of empty homes. The reason that rentals of less than 14 days have been against the law in Berkeley is because such rentals allow an owner to get around tenant protections and rent control.
It is important that Berkeley Tenants who have not written to Council since May 31 send them a letter asking that they approve the second reading of the law which has gone through a long public process already. It is important that everyone read this ridiculous contract with Airbnb and let the Mayor know that he can’t give away our hard-won tenants rights as one of his last acts in office!
WE CANNOT ALLOW HOUSING TO BE CONVERTED TO HOTEL ROOMS
WE MUST REQUIRE LICENSE NUMBERS ON ADVERTISING
BERKELEY SHOULD NEVER SIGN A CONTRACT WITH AUDIT RESTRICTIONS
The Contract Offer: – Stays over 29 days in duration will not be subject to tax
– Berkeley waives all taxes not paid before contract date
– The Department of Finance will not directly or indirectly audit any Host
– Airbnb will not provide personally identifiable information regarding its Hosts
– Berkeley can audit Airbnb no more frequently than every four years 2016 STRs air bnb contract
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
On Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council will consider a request from the Rent Board to place a measure on the November 2016 ballot to update the Rent Ordinance. Because that law was passed by the voters, it can only be changed at the ballot box. This will be Item 48 on the June 14th agenda.
Update: This Will Be On The November Ballot
Summary of the Changes The main request is to revise the amount of assistance tenants receive when they lose their homes to an owner move-in eviction (OMI). Berkeley’s relocation funds have not been updated since 2000. The changes would also expand relocation assistance to all tenants; currently only low-income Berkeley tenants get any recompense at all after such no fault evictions. Berkeley is the only rent controlled jurisdiction in California which restricts help by income. Since rents have gone up over 40% in five years, all tenants need help with moving costs and new security deposits.
The other important change to the Rent Ordinance would be to protect families with children from owner move-in evictions during the school year. An owner could still evict a family, but the family would not have to disrupt their children’s education and could wait until the summer to relocate. San Francisco has had such protections for renter families for many years.
OMI evictions in Berkeley doubled between 2013 and 2014. When Berkeley voters passed “Measure Y” in November 2000, they also voted to have the Rent Board monitor such evictions. Recently, the Rent Board won an important court victory (see https://www.berkeleytenants.org/?p=1386) which upheld the agency’s ability to reset the rent to the previous tenant’s rent-controlled rent when a landlord evicts a tenant but does not actually move in.
The Rent Board reports on owner move-in evictions every six months. The reports show that most owners who evict buy the building and then evict within two years. The reports also show that most “fake” OMIs happen in larger buildings, and that recent OMIs are concentrated west of Sacramento Street. Yet the Rent Board only tracks evictions which follow the law. If tenants leave simply because they are threatened with an OMI, the Rent Board cannot track the eviction or enforce the law. Tenants who accept a buyout also have new protections passed by the City Council a few months ago, but typically waive their rights under the Rent Ordinance for some cash.
Relocation funds would increase to about $15,000 per household. BTU hopes increasing the relocation payment a landlord is required to give might cut down on false evictions.
Read Item 48 here: RSO Changes Ballot Measure Final “The law currently requires landlords who evict for the purpose of moving into the rental unit to pay $4,500 only to tenant households who qualify as low income. Tenants who are evicted for owner move in but do not qualify as low income receive nothing. Berkeley is one of the only major rent control jurisdictions in the state that does not provide relocation assistance to all tenants, regardless of income. Also, the relocation assistance amount set forth in Measure Y has not been adjusted since it was passed almost 16 years ago. The amount of the assistance is nearly four times lower than that required by the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood – each of which have periodically adjusted relocation payments over the years in response to rising rents, moving costs, and inflation.”
The Berkeley City Council may finally pass some Short Term Rental (STR) laws on Tuesday, May 31. The problem for tenants is that city staff won’t enforce the existing ban on STRs until Council makes the new laws, yet the draft being contemplated by Berkeley repeats the mistakes that have caused problems for San Francisco, Portland and other cities with tight rental markets that are popular tourist destinations.
In May and June of 2015, several activists and tenants impacted by short term rentals in their building filed code enforcement complaints on behalf of BTU against some of the landlords who are listing multiple empty units on AirBnB and other websites.
So far, Berkeley has refused to act on these and other complaints.
A new report from San Francisco on the impact of AirBnB on the rental housing market calls for SF Supervisors to require “hosting platforms” to only advertise rentals that are legally listed with the city. Yet Berkeley’s draft recommended by planning Staff does even require that an advertisement show an identifying license number.
We ask Berkeley Tenants to join BTU in asking the City Council to enact legislation requiring hosting platforms to only list units and hosts that are registered with our City and to fine hosing platforms like HomeAway, FlipKey and Airbnb if they advertise rentals which are not legal here. This would allow less expensive enforcement of the new laws, which will allow regular folks to rent out their own home. We hope the new law will stop large landlords from turning whole apartment buildings into hotels – as several have done already!
We also want to support the Rent Board, Planning Commission and Housing Commission in suggesting that units where tenants have been evicted through OMI or Ellis Act evictions should not be allowed to be short term rentals in Berkeley. Please take a look at the report from the Rent Board, which is an attachment below.
Finally, we suggest you write to the City Council to request that no whole units, not even in-law or accessory units, be converted to hotel rooms when we need every single housing unit to be offered to folks who live and work in Berkeley! Although the original Council referral asked that the law require any short term rental to be someone’s primary home, the Staff draft of the new law would allow some 2nd units on owner-occupied properties to be offered as tourist rentals. As the analysis of the impact of Airbnb in San Francisco shows, losing units to short term rentals does drive up housing costs.
Item 19 Support AB 2502 Inclusionary Housing
Ask the state to allow local requirements for affordable rental housing. Right now, Berkeley can’t require that developers include lower-income units on site if the housing being built will be rental housing. California needs to make a law to allow Berkeley control over local zoning mitigations.
Item 21 – End Discrimination Based on Tenant’s Income Source
Owners would have to accept Section 8 Housing Vouchers.
Item 27– Placing a Measure on the November 8, 2016 Ballot to Increase the Business License Tax on Owners of Five or More Residential Rental Units
Lawsuits Following Berkeley Balcony Collapse “They are suing 11 named defendants who fall under the umbrella of two companies: Blackrock – the owners of the Library Gardens development, and Greystar – the property managers…
The three are alleging that the wooden deck of the balcony was already water damaged before the water-proof coating was applied in 2006, during the construction of the Library Gardens complex, and that the owners and managers knew it was dangerous.” http://www.rte.ie/news/2016/0412/781151-berkeley-balcony-legal/
Oakland Converting Residential Hotel to Luxury Tourist Spot One of the last single room occupancy hotels in Oakland will be converted to a boutique hotel, according to the East Bay Express. Losing the 102 rooms will likely increase the number of homeless in Oakland. Several other low-income hotels are already being converted, because Oakland has no protections for SROs. “The potential sale of the Sutter — which serves very-low income people, many of them on the verge of homelessness — follows the recent sale of two other downtown Oakland SROs to investors, who plan to push out existing tenants and turn the properties into market-rate apartments or upscale tourist hostels.” http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/affordable-no-more/Content?oid=4791392
San Jose Considers Relocation Funds for Renters
Berkeley already provides relocation for tenants displaced through no fault of their own, and the Rent Board has requested a ballot measure this year to raise the relocation funds for owner-move-in evictions, since Berkeley has not increased the allowance since 2001. https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/san-jose-landlords-pay-displaced-tenants
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/