The Berkeley Tenant Convention is a decades-old biennial event in which all Berkeley residents who fully support rent control are invited to nominate the progressive, pro-tenant slate for the Berkeley Rent Board. The sponsors of the 2020 Convention included the Berkeley Tenants Union, Berkeley Citizens Action, the Berkeley Democrats (NOT the Berkeley Democratic Club), the Cal Berkeley Democrats, the East Bay Democratic Socialists of America, Friends of Adeline, the Gray Panthers, the Green Party, the NAACP, Our Revolution East Bay, SEIU 1021, UAW 2865 (the UC student-workers union), the Young Democratic Socialists of America – UC Berkeley, and Young Democrats for Justice in Palestine – East Bay.
ABOUT THE CANDIDATES
The candidates chosen at this year’s convention are Dominique Walker, who works at the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment; Mari Mendonca, a lifelong Berkeley resident who was appointed to the Rent Board recently; Xavier Johnson, who is a legal fellow at Centro Legal de la Raza; incumbent attorney Leah Simon-Weisberg, who has worked for San Francisco’s Eviction Defense Collaborative and Tenants Together; and Andy Kelley, Communications Director at the California League of Conservation Voters.
They are calling their campaign the Right2Housing Slate.
You can watch the whole 2020 Tenant Convention on video at BTU’s Facebook page, and keep up with the priorities and activities of our candidates at their website: https://berkeleyrentboard.org
FOR MORE INFO
Tenant Convention Slate for Berkeley Rent Board “About 615 electronic ballots and 95 paper ballots were cast, this is an unprecedented turnout. Because of the pandemic, most efforts were done online.” http://berkeleycitizensaction.org/?p=1193
Affordable Housing Forum January 21
BTU, in conjunction with Berkeley Citizens Action, Progressive Student Association, and CalSERVE, are hosting an event on affordable housing, with guest speakers including Mayor Jesse Arreguin, Councilmember Kate Harrison, and Rent Board Commissioner Leah Simon-Weisberg. Topics include rent control expansions, student housing, and the newly proposed state law, SB827, which would take away more local control over large for-profit housing developments. At the library Sunday the 21st, from 2pm-4pm. https://www.facebook.com/events/213062839239569/
Counselor Training February 7 and 8th
Our friends at Tenants Together are offering a Tenants Rights Counselor Training. They cover state law, and refer renters with Berkeley-specific problems to us or the Rent Board. Taking their training or volunteering on their hotline is a great first step toward counseling for BTU. Right now, BTU has only one person answering questions from renters. Help us help Berkeley tenants!
Contact Sara (415) 495-8100
BTU on Campus Thursday February 8th
Cal Dems and the Progressive Student Association have invited BTU to discuss housing issues at 8pm. The location on campus is TBD, so check the Facebook event. This meeting is open to both students and non-students. https://www.facebook.com/events/213062839239569/
Tenants Endorsement MeetingFebruary 11 Meet all nine candidates for the open Assembly race for District 15. Pamela Price, challenger for Alameda County District Attorney, will also be present. While this event is open to all, you must be a member of BTU who has attended at least one other meeting in the past year and have paid dues in order to vote. Sunday February 11, 2 to 6 pm at South Berkeley Senior Center.
2018 Tenant Convention
Planning has begun for largest tenant gathering in Berkeley, the biannual convention to choose a united team to run for Berkeley Rent Board. Contact BTU if you are interested in being a candidate, and follow developments about this year’s meeting on the tcon website: http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/
Your Name Here I moved away from Berkeley but so far no one at BTU has stepped up to manage the website, and no one is really sending me any content. Does someone in Berkeley want to take on this task for BTU?
BTU Needs You to Push for Rental Assistance! The City Council is beginning to discuss how to spend money from the 2016 landlord tax, Measure U1.
You may have seen emails from our allies asking you to comment on Measure U1 funding for particular affordable housing projects, but we want you to remind the Council that a portion of Measure U1 funding is also designated for homelessness prevention. It was always the intention of the authors of the 2016 ballot measure that some money go to reinstate Berkeley’s rental assistance program and boost the number of low-income renters that can defend themselves against Berkeley’s many bogus eviction attempts.
BTU is calling for you to contact the City Council to ask that renters get their fair share from the new tax on high rents generated by Measure U1 – because rent control is Berkeley’s most effective affordable housing program! With about 20% of Berkeley below the poverty level, keeping folks in their rent controlled units is certainly homelessness prevention! The market rent for a new tenant in an older, rent-controlled two bedroom is already $2,600 and “affordable housing units” in developments like The Avalon (by Aquatic Park) rent for $1,445 for a studio – how is that affordable?
Please Email the Council something like this right away!
Re: Items 37a and 37b; Items 38a and 38b (July 11)
Rent control is Berkeley’s most effective affordable housing program. BTU calls for more local anti-displacement funding, especially more funding for eviction defense and rental assistance (the “Housing Retention Program.”) Berkeley Tenants Union believes that the portion of funding raised by Measure U1 that should be designated, per the measure, for “homelessness prevention” should be spent on programs which stabilize the housing of low-income renters and thereby preserve economic and social diversity. BTU does not support a delay in committing this funding during a housing emergency. Please prioritize more help for low-income tenants struggling to stay in Berkeley!
Also on the Agenda: Soft Story Update Item 43 Soft story means buildings that will kill everyone by collapsing in an earthquake. They were required to retrofit and have been told since 2006 that this would be required. They get really cheap city loans, too! But 24 have not complied and – thanks to pressure from BTU and vocal advocates like Igor Tregub – they are now being fined by the Building Department. “This report also provides an update on the status of mandatory seismic retrofits required by Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 19.39 for buildings with a soft, weak or open front (“Soft Story”) condition and five or more dwelling units. Soft Story building owners had a December 31, 2016 deadline to apply for building permits for seismic retrofits. Of the 86 buildings remaining on the Soft Story inventory, 62 buildings containing 617 dwelling units have now applied for or been issued permits. The Building and Safety Division issued warning letters of administrative citation on March 28, 2017 to owners who had not applied for a building permit and the first citations were issued to ten building owners on May 30.”
IN OTHER NEWS
Tenant Activist Elisa Cooper Berkeley has lost another important voice for housing. Elisa Cooper, who took on a major role representing Friends of Adeline on the 2016 Tenant Convention Planning Committee, was also a strong advocate for people with disabilities and those who have the very least in our community. She strongly opposed BTU charging dues and her voice will be missed when that issue comes up again this fall.
Rent Board Election: Campaign Finance Complaint At the July 20th Fair Campaign Practices Commission (FCPC) meeting, the Commission will hear a complaint registered against the Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition for failing to properly record campaign finances. This is not the first time this has occurred. Because of the blatant repeat offences committed by this organization, the Berkeley Tenants Union feels strongly that in order for the Berkeley Election Reform Act to have any teeth, the maximum penalty should be imposed. Please support BTU’s letter by emailing: FCPC@CityofBerkeley.info BTU letter for FCPC
Is Berkeley Way Project Too Big? “The two-building project, set to take the place of the public parking lot at Berkeley Way and Henry Street, is slated to include 89 affordable apartments in one building and, in the other, 53 studios of permanent supportive housing, 32 shelter beds, 12 transitional units for veterans, and a first-floor services center with a community kitchen. City leaders have long described the $90 million project, a collaboration with the Berkeley Food & Housing Project (BFHP) and Bridge Housing, as “visionary” in scope.” http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/06/15/with-council-all-in-on-berkeley-way-homeless-housing-trust-fund-at-zero/
Another Way to Reach the City Council Our good friends at Berkeley Citizens Action are holding a town hall with (most of) the progressives we elected this fall! The meeting is Sunday July 16 at 3 PM at South Berkeley Senior Center – go tell them we need more funding for rental assistance and access to just cause eviction protections! Arreguin, Worthington and Davila are all renters! “Confirmed: Mayor Jesse Arreguín. Councilmembers: Kate Harrison, Kriss Worthington, Ben Bartlett, Sophie Hahn, waiting confirmation from councilmember Cheryl Davila.” according to BCA
Housing Fee: Rent Control and the Housing Crisis “ A very serious problem confronting the City Council is the limits of what a city can do since rent control was abolished by the California legislature in 1995. Unquestionably, decontrol mainly accounts for the incredibly high rents. Even if we accept the US Census underestimated count of the poor in Berkeley, which is over 24,000 –that’s too many individuals and families who can be accommodated by the relatively few available below market rate units. A Berkeley City Council member pointed out that the projects which have already been approved will meet only 3 percent of the goal for low income housing.” http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2017-06-30/article/45843?headline=The-affordable-housing-crisis-how-Berkeley-should-deal-with-it–Harry-Brill-
Housing Fee: Was It Really a Victory? “On the same night of San Francisco’s OMI victory, Berkeley retreated to its failed anti-housing past. The Berkeley City Council ignored the pleas of housing experts such as Karen Chapple of the UC Berkeley Urban Displacement Project, environmental groups such as the Greenbelt Alliance along with ample public testimony and voted 8-0-1 to impose new housing development fees based on 2015 rather than 2017 cost data. Why would the City Council raise fees based on a 2015 feasibility study? Anyone familiar with rising construction costs since 2015 knows that such data is outdated.” http://www.beyondchron.org/sf-advances-berkeley-retreats/
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.” http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2017-03-31/article/45603?headline=Berkeley-s-People-s-Park-is-in-the-news-again–Lydia-Gans
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.” http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21264&LangID=E
Like progressives all over America, Berkeley voters are sad, angry and frightened about the national election results. However, we have a lot to celebrate at home, and can look forward to once again leading these United States in progressive, humane, and innovative solutions, particularly to the problem of ensuring safe and affordable homes for all.
The big landlords who control about 50% of all rental housing in Berkeley spent about a million dollars to defeat the affordable housing tax Measure U1, and promote their deceptive Measure DD. That is well over $15 per voter! Yet Berkeley voters reaffirmed affordable housing as a core Berkeley value with 75% voting for U1 and 71% voting against DD. This tax on large landlords is expected to generate $4 million annually in new revenue for affordable housing and homelessness prevention programs!!
East Palo Alto also passed a similar landlord tax, and it is hoped this will be a model to take back profits being drained out of our communities and use them to build homes.
Additionally, Berkeley supported stronger protections for families being evicted for owners to move in. Measure AA, which passed with an astounding 73% of the vote, was put on the ballot at the request of the Rent Board.
ProRenter candidates also got strong support from Berkeley. Renter Cheryl Davila beat incumbent Darryl Moore in District 2 despite generous spending by the Association of Realtors for Moore. BTU Members Ben Bartlett and Sophie Hahn were also elected to the City Council, and BTU Member Jesse Arreguin was elected as Mayor!
Perhaps the best news of all for tenants is that landlord incumbent Judy Hunt was voted off the Rent Board, with the “CALI Slate” chosen at the 2016 Tenant Convention easily defeating Hunt’s tiny team.
Elsewhere in the Bay Area, California gained its first new rent control in decades, and even in places like Alameda, where the tenant measure was defeated, renters did gain new protections on November 8.
Soon the new City Council will move forward on core BTU issues like Short Term Rentals and mitigations for Demolition of Rent Controlled Units. BTU will work to guide our new leaders, who we hope will be more responsive to what everyday folks need in order to keep Berkeley a place we can all call home.
Landslide for Landlord Tax “Berkeley voters approved a landlord tax that will raise millions for affordable housing. The measure, U1, passed with about 74 percent of the vote. A competing measure, which landlord groups placed on the ballot in an effort to undermine U1, was crushed, with 71 percent voters rejecting it…
Proponents of U1 filed a state Fair Political Practices Commission complaint against the Berkeley Property Owners Association, alleging they broke the law by using anonymous LLCs to finance their opposition campaign and make it appear that a large group of landlords were opposing the measure, when in fact it was just a handful. The FPPC hasn’t ruled on the complaint yet.” http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2016/11/09/berkeley-landlord-tax-easily-passes
Berkeley Gets Activist Renter as Mayor “Arreguin said, “I am a renter. I’m like many people in Berkeley, I’m trapped in this housing crisis.” http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2016/11/11/berkeleys-first-latino-mayor-elect-is-also-its-youngest-ever/
Progressives Take Three of Four Council Seats “Sophie Hahn handily won the District 5 council seat being vacated by Capitelli, defeating another candidate with real estate industry backing, Stephen Murphy, 61.9 percent to 38.1 percent. Hahn is a member of the Zoning Adjustments Board. Capitelli endorsed Murphy, his appointee to the Planning Commission and the panel’s current chairman.
Berkeley for several years has been the scene of a major debate over skyrocketing rents and the shortage of affordable housing, with a six-person council majority backing many controversial development-related issues.” http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/11/09/berkeley-voters-elect-arreguin-mayor/
Details on Rent Control Votes “Measure L in Richmond, which would enact limits on rent increases and landlord evictions, was victorious with 64 percent of the votes cast. In Oakland, with all 279 precincts reporting, 74 percent of voters supported Measure JJ, which requires landlords to get permission from the rent board before increasing rents above the consumer price index and expands eviction protections. In Mountain View, Measure V, which was placed on the ballot by voters, had a slim victory with 53 percent, while W, the council-backed measure fell short with 49 percent.
In Alameda, ground zero for the battle for rent control, Measure M1, the strict tenant rent control measure sponsored by tenants groups, only garnered 34 percent of the vote, well shy of the necessary simple majority. Instead, 56 percent of voters approved L1, a competing, council-backed initiative that did not cap rent increases. Instead landlords must go to mediation in order to increase rents above 5 percent. And in San Mateo County, Measure R in Burlingame mustered just 31 percent of voters, while Measure Q in San Mateo got 38 percent.” http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/11/03/bay-area-rent-control-measures/
Record Spending and Fair Political Practices Complaint “The political action committee for the Berkeley Property Owners Association has steered more than $892,540 in donations to defeat Measure U1 and promote Measure DD, two competing measures that would raise the business tax on rental units… Most of the donors to the “Committee for Real Affordable Housing – Yes on Measure DD, No on Measure U1, Sponsored by the Berkeley Property Owners’ Association,” have not made contributions in their own names. They have used the LLC they created to run various apartment complexes. UC Berkeley’s Progressive Student Alliance filed a complaint about this practice with the Fair Political Practices Commission, which is investigating the situation.” http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/11/07/fight-involving-measure-dd-and-measure-u1-is-costliest-in-election/
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 year, Berkeley Tenants Union held two endorsement events. In the spring, we shared a meeting with Berkeley Progressive Alliance and Berkeley Citizens Action to select candidates, and in the fall we shared a meeting with BCA to make endorsements on measures.
This is the first year the reconstituted BTU has done endorsements on measures, because this year there are several measures important to renters – particularly Measure AA (relocation funds for evicted renters) and Measure U1 (tax big landlords to fund affordable housing). Results of our ballot measures vote will be posted tomorrow.
Vote for four. Vote for only four — no ranked choice in this race. Vote for the CALI Slate chosen at the Berkeley Tenant Convention!! All are BTU Members: Christina Murphy, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Leah Simon-Weisberg, Igor Tregub http://berkeleyrentboard.org/
Mayor: Jesse Arreguin
Jesse used to chair the Rent Board, was chosen at the Tenant Convention multiple times, and help pass recent rules for renters, including:
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/
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!