2016-RSB-convention-flyer-IMAGE-1200x1200FNLThe 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.

Candidate statements, screener feedback, convention rules:
http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/

Candidates are:

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!

A new law requires balconies be inspected and repaired.
A new law requires balconies be inspected and repaired.

Your Berkeley Tenants Union’s quarterly members meeting will be March 30th. It is open to all members, and you can join BTU at the meeting if you are willing to sign our member pledge. Contact us for more information.

The 2016 Rent Board Convention to select a pro-tenant slate for the elected Rent Board will be held on April 24th, a Sunday, at the South Berkeley Senior Center. Potential candidates should contact the convention, which has been held each election year by a coalition of progressive groups for over 20 years.
http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/

Hot topics at the March 30th meeting (besides the upcoming Tenant Convention) will be proposed ballot measures to increase owner-eviction relocation funds and to fund affordable housing through a windfall profits tax on larger landlords, as well the upcoming Council consideration of an anti-harassment law known as the Tenant Protection Ordinance.
Read the BTU March Newsletter

They are Organizing, Are You?

Oakland Ballot Measure to Make Rent Control Real
“The measure would extend protections under the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance to thousands more Oakland rental units, implement the currently un-enforced Tenant Protection Ordinance, and reform the existing Rent Adjustment Program (Oakland’s weak substitute for rent control) to make it much harder for landlords to raise rents above the rate of inflation, place an absolute 5% per year cap on rent increases, cover more rental units under rent control, and ensure a tenant-majority Rent Board, among other improvements.”
http://www.oaklandtenantsunion.org/news

“Currently, apartment units built after 1983 do not fall under Oakland’s just cause eviction protections, therefore landlords can evict tenants for almost any reason in those buildings when their lease is up. According to sponsors of the Renters Upgrade initiative, this change would bring 45 percent more of Oakland’s rental housing under just cause protection. The Renters Upgrade ballot measure would also set a cap on rent increases at 5 percent.
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2016/03/03/oakland-tenant-advocates-file-initiative-to-strengthen-rent-control-and-eviction-protections

“If approved by voters, the initiative would cap rent increases at 5 percent a year, down from the 10 percent landlords can raise rents annually; create a rent board with mostly tenants as members; and expand eviction protections to units built after 1983 that are not protected under the city’s Just Cause Eviction Ordinance. The so-called “Renters Upgrade” measure would require city leaders to prioritize enforcement and implementation.”
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29596130/oakland-tenants-groups-pushing-rent-control-ballot-measure

Alameda Renters Gathering Signatures
http://www.ebcitizen.com/2016/02/alameda-group-seeks-to-place-rent.html

Read the Proposed Alameda Ordinance here:
http://www.thealamedarenterscoalition.org/

Alameda May Be Harassing Tenant Group
After filing their ballot measure, Alameda renters were talking outside the clerk’s office when they were approached by police. While that may not seem odd, the same Alameda group found a police officer scrutinizing them at a public meeting the month before.

“Warmerdam <the Interim City Manager> was the Alameda official, according to city emails,  who asked that plainclothes officers monitor renters at a council meeting last Jan. 5. The officer’s identity became known after a renter saw one of them accidentally drop his handcuffs.
http://www.publicceo.com/2016/03/alameda-city-hall-called-cops-on-renters-group-filing-rent-control-ballot-measure/

Richmond Ballot Measure
The Fair and Affordable Richmond Coalition — consisting of elected officials, renters, homeowners and activists — on Tuesday gathered to officially file the petition with the city clerk. The group will have until June to gather 4,198 valid signatures to place the measure on the November ballot. A rent control ordinance was narrowly passed by the City Council in August, but it was repealed in November after a landlord association circulated a petition. Since then, affordable-housing activists have promised to bring the measure to the November ballot. Had the ordinance approved in August been implemented, Richmond would have been the first California city in more than 30 years to pass rent control.”
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29552957/richmond-group-pushes-bring-rent-control-measure-voters

“Claudia Jimenez, a homeowner in Richmond who is a community organizer with the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), said, “The Richmond City Council passed some renter protections including rent control, and just cause eviction protections that were supposed to go into effect last year to protect Richmond renters. However, the California Apartment Association (CAA) spent a lot of money to hire people who gathered enough signatures for a petition that blocked the renter protections from going into effect.”
http://www.thestreetspirit.org/the-struggle-for-renter-protections-in-richmond/

Over on the Other Team

Berkeley Landlord PAC Attempts to Seem Reasonable…
We represent the voice of rental housing providers through our political action committee and legal defense fund. We are here to restore fairness, efficiency and objectivity to Berkeley’s rental housing policies.”
http://www.thebrhc.org/

…While the BPOA Continues to Seem Odd
And so welcome to the latest arrival on the local scene, the Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition. It cannot be said to represent we, the people nor does it comprise a Declaration of Independence. It does, however, establish and ordain an organization to address our rightful grievances to the government which shackles rental housing in so many ways. And, to quote another revered figure from American history, ‘it is altogether fitting and proper that we do this.’ ”
http://bpoa.org/

California Apartment Association Just Won’t Quit
http://www.preservetheellisact.org/

IMG_8492

The Berkeley Tenants Union Quarterly Members Meeting Will Be Wednesday March 30th.

Why The November Election Matters
The Berkeley City Council rejected a perfectly fine option to fund affordable housing through real estate transfer taxes. Councilman Jesse Arreguin, the progressive leader running for mayor, explains why we need to win back City Council in this election: http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2016-03-11/article/44234?headline=Council-Action-Needed-to-Prevent-Berkeley-Displacement–Councilmember-Jesse-Arreguin

The Berkeley Tenant Convention Will Be Sunday April 24th.

Housing For the Rest of Us – Success!
HousingRest-2
On Sunday March 6th, about 200 Berkeley voters turned up to hear solutions to the housing emergency. The Berkeley Progressive Alliance discussed their housing platform and upcoming elections for Mayor and City Council. Berkeley Tenants Union discussed the Rent Board elections and the ballot measure to fund affordable housing via a windfall profits tax on larger landlords. Outgoing Councilman Max Anderson and District 3 candidate Ben Bartlett discussed changes and challenges in South Berkeley, and Zoning Commissioner Sophie Hahn – who is also running for City Council – discussed simple steps to bring sustainable, green buildings to Berkeley.

The Berkeley Progressive Alliance is bringing folks together to support candidates for City Council who share the ideals of economic and racial justice, campaign finance reform, and a green, sustainable city. Read their Affordable Housing Platform here:
http://berkeleyprogressivealliance.org/2016/02/26/affordable-housing-platform/

BTU co-sponsored the forum and discussed the April 24th Tenant Convention:
http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/

BTU’s John Selawsky also discussed the Safe and Affordable Homes ballot measure:
http://www.fundaffordablehousing.org/

HousingRest-1

Max Anderson at the Forum
“Increasingly, wealth and income have become a surrogate for race, providing camouflage for those who want to reshape the city and invite only those who look like them and have the kind of wealth that they have,” contended Anderson, noting the decrease in African American residents from around 25 to approximately 8 percent of the Berkeley population. “What you’re participating in today is an effort to recapture and reassert the rights and realities we face as working people and people of color in this city,” he said, arguing that if people do nothing, “We will become a gated community without gates.”
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29606700/berkeley-progressives-call-affordable-housing-new-leadership

BPA Platform to Fund New Affordable Units
In order to increase funding, the BPA suggested increasing the Housing Impact Fee — a sum that developers can pay as an alternative to including affordable housing units in their properties — to at least $34,000. Additionally, the plan intends to increase funds for the Housing Trust Fund through taxing short-term rentals, as well as raising the business license tax on influential landlords in Berkeley. “We want the people who have benefited from this incredible increase in property value to help pay for affordable housing,” said BPA member Kate Harrison at the meeting.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/03/06/berkeley-progressive-alliance-presents-affordable-housing-platform/

Nifty Berkeley Video https://youtu.be/97bt87Xm4FU
Click the photo to play nifty Berkeley video (YouTube)

2016 Tenant Convention
Your tenants union has convened other progressive leaders to begin planning the 2016 convention to elected a pro-tenant slate for Rent Board. If you are interesting in running for election to the Board, or in helping to plan the annual gathering, drop us a line or keep an eye on the tenant convention webpage: http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/

Developers Forum Shows Possible Bias from Zoning Commissioner
Housing policy wonks in Berkeley were all abuzz after a Berkeleyside article about a forum on development – because none of them heard about this forum until the article. The Urban Land Institute, one of those nonprofits that pays their top executives $300,000 – $400,000 a year, sponsored the forum. The institute’s website proudly displays their “corporate partners”: developers, real estate firms, and the banks that lend them money. One Zoning Commissioner was a presenter:
Cities also have a financial bias against housing; they prefer retail and office buildings that generate taxes, rather than housing that demands schools and services, she said. One of the biggest issues are the legal challenges to large projects, said Pinkston. Environmental reviews are used to delay development rather than to actually consider the impact of a project on a community, she said. Extra litigation adds to the cost of building housing, which pushes up rents, she said. Every time a housing project is delayed because of litigation, it contributes to climate change, said Pinkston.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/01/25/housing-forum-a-good-development-climate-in-berkeley/

Affordable Housing Worksession February 16
On December 1st the Berkeley City Council held a special session to discuss affordable housing, but ran out of time before having any substantial discussion. Their next session about affordable housing will be Tuesday, February 16th. They invited the Berkeley landlord political action committee, BRHA, to make a presentation in December, and while we never expected them to invite Berkeley Tenants, we are wondering why the Rent Board is not presenting at this session.
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29194783/berkeley-studies-affordable-housing-options
see also
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-11-28/article/43948?headline=Recommendations-for-Special-Berkeley-City-Council-Work-Session-on-Affordable-Housing-December-1-2015–Rob-Wrenn

Kriss Worthington Helps Stop Eviction
Councilman Kriss Worthington said Monday that the CEO of The John Stewart Company, which manages the government-subsidized William Byron Rumford Sr. Plaza residential complex in South Berkeley, has agreed to drop eviction proceedings. In exchange, tenant Michael Pachovas must promise to file his annual recertification papers, along with some income and medical documentation.”
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29464781/berkeley-deal-works-stave-off-eviction-disabled-senior

Artists Warehouse Shut Down By Oakland
The building was previously managed by Madison Park Financial, a real estate company owned by John Protopappas, a close friend of Mayor Libby Schaaf. Madison Park Financial withdrew from managing 1919 Market Street last year and was replaced by a company called 1919 Bayside, which is run by San Francisco real estate entrepreneur Danny Haber. …last year another company run by Haber, The Negev, was sued in San Francisco over alleged wrongful evictions to push out rent-controlled tenants and use their apartments for tech bunk houses.”
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2016/01/28/dozens-of-renters-lose-homes-as-city-closes-1919-market-street-warehouse-in-oakland

Residents Get 72 Hours to Move
Singer said the company will abide by all the laws in regards to tenants’ rights to return to the complex upon completion of the renovation and units will be priced at whatever market rate the law allows.”
http://www.ktvu.com/news/83415325-story

…And It’s Already for Lease?
http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/16491858/1919-Market-Street-Oakland-CA/

When Landlords Lie
“A landlord can continue to serve you with sixty-day notices, even if they’re bogus, take you trial, bleed you of money, and there’s nothing you can do,” he said. “We need to fix this system.”
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/when-landlords-lie/Content?oid=4665115

Alameda Landlord In the Hot Seat
Don Lindsey, who is one of Alameda’s most powerful landlords and is a leader among property owners strongly opposed to rent control on the Island, is under investigation by the California Bureau of Real Estate for alleged financial improprieties. A state investigator is accusing Lindsey of failing to provide proper accounting for various tenants’ fees”
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2016/01/07/alamedas-landlord-in-chief-accused-of-wrongdoing

Everyone Really Wants Rent Control!
“Renter protections are being considered in three cities within days.”
https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2016/01/23/18782155.php

By Which Time All the Poor People Will Be Gone?
The council members did approve setting up an advisory committee to hash out the landlord-tenant issues that brought this issue to the forefront. That committee will report back to City Council in one year.”
http://www.pacificatribune.com/news/city-votes-against-rent-control-plan/article_7e8b57ea-c9df-11e5-854c-df2627484ca4.htm