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:

Demolition Ordinance to Housing Commission ThursdayBerkeley’s Housing Advisory Commission (HAC) will consider several hot issues at their meeting on Thursday September 12, including mandatory retrofits of seismically unsafe apartment buildings and alarming changes to the demolition ordinance which would threaten rent control and lead to evictions.

The HAC will also hear an update about the exciting new program that offers energy efficient upgrades to tenants and landlords, a proposed ordinance declaring mold unhealthy in rental units, and changes to the affordable housing fees developers of new buildings must pay to offset the impact of unaffordable units on the community.

TENANTS, Come Out and Have Your Say!

South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street, at 7 PM Thursday

Demolition Ordinance
The Berkeley NAACP joined with other organizations like BTU and the Sierra Club in opposing new drafts of the Demolition Ordinance which don’t require rent controlled apartments be replaced with units affordable to low-income residents.

The Berkeley NAACP top priority recommendation in the Housing category for the report from their summer Town Hall meeting was, “Demolition Ordinance will include the replacement of all affordable housing that is demolished.” Unfortunately, there is a new draft of the demo ordinance that came out on August 30 which would allow developers to tear down rent controlled units, even those which are occupied or in good condition, and not replace them. The new draft allows developers to pay an unspecified fee which could be changed by City Council at any time.

BTU is standing by our request that Council approve the June 4th compromise draft, and we are still collecting signatures for our petition, which we will also present to the HAC.

NAACP Town Hall report:

Seismic Retrofits
BTU is determined that tenants should not be forced to pay a rent increase just because their building will stand up for 3-5 more seconds in a major earthquake.

Right now, Berkeley Housing Code Enforcement can’t cite for mold in apartment buildings because even severe mold, which causes asthma and other health problems, is not defined in our city codes as a hazard. This new law is based on one that has protected San Francisco tenants for years.

If you can’t come to the Housing Commission meeting Thursday, write to them care of

Your home could be next!
Your home could be next!

The Berkeley City Council is considering revisions to the Demolition Ordinance which would make it easy to tear down rent controlled apartments – if they are empty! This will lead to evictions and tenant harassment.

Suddenly on June 11, the Council voted to consider last-minute amendments to revisions of the Ordinance which are so substantial, they amount to a re-write of the draft.  If these changes are approved on July 2, the resulting ordinance will undermine rent control.

The proposed changes come directly from requests by developer Equity Residential – Berkeley’s largest landlord – and other speculators. Council will consider them despite the strong support from tenants, the Rent Board and the Planning Commission for the June 4 draft, which provided permanently affordable housing to replace empty units.

The most important thing you can do right now is get friends to


We also advise tenants to write to Council, and attend the meeting July 2. There is much at stake.

  • Say you support the Berkeley Tenants Union position on Item 17, the Demolition Ordinance.
  • State that no occupied units should be eliminated for any reason.
  • Emphasize that units emptied via the Ellis Act cannot be eliminated.
  • Ask that demolished empty units be replaced with permanently affordable housing.
  • Point out that a mitigation fee will not meet our housing needs soon enough.
  • Argue that this new draft will violate the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance.

Contact Berkeley City Council – please cc

Item 17 July 2, 2013 (bad amendments):

June 4 draft changes (good compromise):

1973 Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance (still the law of the land)

► This week’s fire at the Nash Hotel should remind us that the tenants from the buildings that burned on Telegraph Avenue and Dwight Way in late 2011 are still fighting to get their due. Replacements for both buildings are winding their way through Berkeley’s permit maze, but the City’s rules exempt these buildings from any affordable housing fees UNLESS the landlord was at fault for the damage. Since it was reported that the fire alarms were disconnected at the Lakireddy-owned building on Dwight, and tenants at the Haste-Telegraph Sequoia building have a lawsuit against the owner, fault is still being investigated. The 2227 Dwight property was at the Zoning Board on Thursday June 13, but there has been no press coverage. The Zoning Board granted the owner’s permit.

► The Berkeley Housing Authority took back 14 rental assistance vouchers they had already given to low-income families, and suspended the list of those who can get Section 8 assistance in the future, due to funding cuts from the federal government:

►As reported earlier, Berkeley Property Owners Association President Sid Lakireddy has filed a lawsuit against the four candidates for Rent Board chosen at the Tenant Convention in 2012. Another article on this lawsuit was published recently:

Everest Properties Vandalizes Its Own City Landmark
Everest Properties Vandalizes Its Own City Landmark

►A Lakireddy family property on Haste was also in the news:–By-Daniella-Thompson

► Although the City Council considered revision to the Demolition Ordinance again on June 11, and the suggestions just keep getting worse for tenants and advocates of affordable housing, there were no news stories on the latest developments. BTU will post again when the Council calendars the next round of debate – it is expected for July 2nd. Several leaders are calling for Council to send the new draft back to the Planning Comission – since the proposal they approved wasn’t so much amended as replaced!! Video of the latest changes can be viewed on the City website – discussion started just after 9:45 PM on June 11.

► There has also been no news on the State of California investigation of fair election law violations by the faux-tenant slate, Tenants United for Fairness. When Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission issued the landlord-backed candidates the second-largest election fine in Berkeley history last month, FCPC stated that there is an ongoing investigation at the state level.

DemolitionThe Berkeley City Council is moving forward with changes to the demolition ordinance. The good news is that the Planning Department and the Rent Board have agreed on changes that almost make tenant activists happy. The bad news? Judging by comments made by Maio and Wengraf at the May 21 hearing on 2517 Regent Street, the pro-development Council majority plans to reject or water down the tenant protections the Rent Board and Planning negotiated.

BTU NEEDS YOU TO WRITE to the whole Council immediately!

We also hope you will come and speak on Tuesday June 4. Sometimes it seems it is harder for the Council to vote against the public when we are looking them in the eye.

  • Say you support the Berkeley Tenants Union position on Item 24, the Demo Ord.
  • State that no occupied units should be eliminated for any reason.
  • Emphasize that units emptied via the Ellis Act cannot be eliminated.
  • Ask that demolished units be replaced with permanently affordable housing.
  • Remind them that converting a duplex to a single family is still an elimination of a unit of affordable housing because of rent control. Ask that this type of demolition also be regulated and their impact on affordable housing stock mitigated.

If the Clerk gets letters or emails on Thursday the 30th, the correspondence will actually get delivered to Council before the meeting. If he gets them later than that, they get handed to our elected leaders at 7 PM, just before the meeting begins. If you write on Friday or Monday, please send them directly to each Council member as well as the address for the Clerk (see link below).

Contact Berkeley City Council:

Council Item 24:

No More Shit From LandlordsIn 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.

Berkeley Daily Planet:–By-Dave-Blake

Contra Costa Times (link doesn’t work on phones, only computers):



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.

Read the entire article here:—By-Dave-Blake-and-Dean-Metzger