It’s a funny thing law makers have to deal with: the people! Anything approved by the voters can only be changed by the voters. We out-rank the City Council, the Rent Board, even the state legislature. However, this also ties the hands of elected officials.
That is why Measure AA on the November 8th ballot in Berkeley is a much-needed fix. In November 2000, voters approved relocation funds and eviction protections for elderly and disabled tenants when Berkeley experienced the first big wave of owner-move-in evictions (OMI). But now the only way to update the 16-year-old relocation amounts is to go to the ballot box with Measure AA.
The Good News?
The City Council just raised the relocation funds for tenants thrown out for the other common no-fault eviction, the Ellis Act. Eviction restrictions and relocation funds for the Ellis Act were not decided by the voters, so City Council was permitted to update Ellis relocation assistance following a request by the Rent Board.
Berkeley Measure AA
“Measure AA is endorsed by many different groups, because it supports education, preserves diversity, and by slowing displacement it also helps the environment.” http://www.berkeleymeasureaa.org/
In Other News
Election Complaint Against Measure DD A UC student association filed a complaint to the California Fair Political Practices Commission regarding campaign law violations by the landlord group “Committee for Real Affordable Housing Yes on Measure DD, No on Measure U1, Sponsored By Berkeley Property Owners Association.”
According to the press release, the list of violations “…includes multiple advertisements and literature that does not include the mandatory disclosure requirements. In one case, a mailed document was sent without proper disclosure, and was deceptively designed to look like an official government document.” pressreleasereaffordablehousingproponentsslambiglandlordsoncampaignviolations
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/
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
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/
Remember Robin Hood? Berkeley tenants tried to put a measure on the 2014 ballot to tax the rich and build homes for the poor. It didn’t work out. But in 2016, Berkeley progressives of various stripes all joined together in a coalition to fight the housing emergency with good public policy. We expect the City Council to place a balanced measure on the ballot which will fund affordable housing by increasing fees to Berkeley’s largest landlords.
The Committee for Safe and Affordable Housing is led by Berkeley’s two leading candidates for mayor. That’s right, Councilmembers Jesse Arreguin and Laurie Capitelli agree – to get more money for affordable housing we need to tax the real estate investors whose rent increases create the need for more affordable housing. We need the money to help non-profit organizations, land trusts and limited-equity cooperatives to build or buy housing and keep it affordable for everyone from teachers and childcare workers to cooks and secretaries. And our measure won’t pass on these increased fees to renters.
Great News, right? Until…
The Berkeley Property Owners Association saw a way to stop this new ballot measure by creating a competing measure. It is well known that two measures on a ballot usually mean both measures fail.
The landlords have already succeeded in confusing the voters – so members have been asking us for more information on The Petition You Should Not Sign. Here it is:
► This landlord trick is the only “affordable housing” petition being circulated. Our measure will be placed on the ballot by the City Council if we can keep the pressure on our leaders. Do not sign any “affordable housing” petitions.
► The City Council measure supported by BTU will raise about $5 million annually. The BPOA measure will raise about $1 million annually, saving Berkeley’s larger landlords $4 million a year.
► The Safe and Affordable Homes City Council measure will finance construction or acquisition & rehabilitation of one project with 40 to 50 affordable homes everyyear. The BPOA measure on the petition will only raise enough money to do one project every five years.
► The BPOA measure can be passed through to over 1,200 Berkeley tenants who are not protected by rent control. The Council/BTU measure uses carefully targeted exemptions to protect almost all renters from an increase.
► The BPOA measure on the petition being circulated is unfair because
It taxes income from “inclusionary” units where the rent is restricted and the unit is rented to lower income tenants.
It taxes smaller, moderate-income landlords instead of focusing on larger professional real estate investors like the owners who control BPOA.
It taxes income from apartments rented to tenants receiving assistance from the Section 8 and Shelter + Care programs, while the Safe and Affordable Homes measure exempts these owners to encourage renting to Section 8.
Have Your Signature Invalidated – use the form below. You can fax, scan and send as an email attachment, or drop it off in person to the Berkeley Clerk at 2180 Milvia Street. They must be able to see your signature, so you can’t just email (unless it’s a scan, in which case send to clerk @ city of berkeley dot info). REQUEST FOR WITHDRAWAL OF SIGNATURE
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
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.
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/
Saturday May 10 will be the last day to sign the citizens initiatives from the Robin Hood Committee at the Berkeley Tenants Union table at the Center Street Farmers Market.
The Windfall Profits Tax on High Rents will increase the business license tax on landlord investors and speculators by 1.9% – the ballot measure will not raise the tax on single family homes, duplexes, and landlords who live in the building and own less than ten units. The increase will not apply to units rented under Section 8 and the measure would eliminate the existing tax on rents from long-term rent-controlled units. This is a tax designed to capture a small portion of the $100 Million a Year in excessprofits that investors take from Berkeley renters, and put that 1.9% to use for our most vulnerable citizens.
The Affordable Housing measure addresses the top concern on the recent Community Survey: Berkeley needs to build more affordable housing. This companion measure takes $3.5 million of the Windfall Profits Tax and dedicates it to the Housing Trust Fund. The fund is used by the city, housing developers like Satellite and RCD, limited equity co-ops and student co-ops. The portion of the money from the Windfall Profits Tax dedicated to affordable housing is expect to generate 40 units of Affordable Housing a year for Berkeley.
The Robin Hood measures have been endorsed by BTU Steering, as well as The Green Party of Alameda County, Berkeley Citizen Action (BCA), East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), Satellite Affordable Housing, Resources for Community Development (RCD), Bay Area Community Land Trust (BACLT), Democratic Socialists of America, Council Members Jesse Arreguin, Kriss Worthington and Max Anderson, Rent Board Chair Lisa Stephens, Vice Chair Harr, Rent Board Commissioners Soto-Vigil, Webster, Shelton, Blake, Dodsworth and Townley, Housing Advisory Commissioners Darrow and Tregub, former School Board leader John T. Selawsky and many more.
ACTION: Statewide Ellis Reform The Berkeley Rent Board agenda for Monday March 17 contains a report on landlord and tenant bills at the state legislature. BTU is asking the Board to take action to support and broaden the two bills to reform the Ellis Act, a law that allows speculators to buy an apartment building and immediately get rid of all the tenants. We hope the Board will ask Nancy Skinner and Loni Hancock to persuade San Francisco’s Tom Ammiano and Mark Leno to change their bills so they could apply in Berkeley if use of the Ellis act rises dramatically here.
Santa Monica’s Rent Board, and then Santa Monica’s City Council, have taken a similar position, stating that they are hopeful that any Ellis reform will allow all jurisdictions with rent control to be given a chance to opt in. Santa Monica Rent Board Annual Report: “…entering 2013, there are signs that the economy may be improving—foreclosures are down in Californiaalong with unemployment—and there is a sense in the state that our economy may finally be headed in the right direction. Along with that recovery is the likelihood of increased Ellis activity, bringing with it the inevitable loss of accessible, competitive, controlled housing.”
The Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board meets Monday at 7 PM — 2134 Martin Luther King. The report on housing legislation and discussion on Ellis reform are early on their agenda.
San Francisco To Raise Ellis Relocation Benefits? “The Campos legislation will pay tenants 2 years’ worth of the “rent differential” between their current rent and the market rent they will have to pay. For example, if a tenants being evicted is paying $1,500 a month in rent and the current market rent for a similar apartment is $3,000, they will received $72,000 in relocation benefits (the $1,500 difference their current rent and the new rent, times 48)”– according to Eviction Free SF. Berkeley’s Ellis relocation benefits are currently between $8,700 and $16,200 per household, San Francisco has a $15,632.69 maximum, and Santa Monica and West Hollywood base their benefits on the size of the unit, with relocation payments of up to $17,000 (West Hollywood) and $19,000 (Santa Monica.)
Student Perspectives on Housing This week was UC Berkeley’s annual Tenants Rights Week, so BTU tabled on campus alongside Renters Legal Assistance and other services. The Daily Californian has their annual housing special issue, with articles discussing gentrification, types of housing in Berkeley, vacancy decontrol and landlord profits, and the role of the Rent Board. http://www.dailycal.org/section/special/housing-issue-2014/
Tuesday Exchange on Berkeley’s Downtown There are 1,400 units of rental housing in development for the Downtown area, and none of it will be rent controlled. Unfortunately, this talk will happen while you are at work. “The Berkeley Historical Society asked LWVBAE to partner with them in an exploration of how development activities may potentially impact the cultural and physical characteristics of the Downtown area. Panelists, including Michael Caplan, Lisa Stephens and Jim Novosel, will open a discussion on this important topic, which will be followed by a question-and-answer period. The talk will be moderated by Steven Finacom and introduced by Sherry Smith.” Conversation about the Downtown Development Plan Tuesday, March 18 :: Noon to 1:30 pm Berkeley History Center, 1931 Center Street Admission free. Donations welcome. Wheelchair accessible.
Oakland City Council To Review Capital Improvement Rent Increases Tuesday “A staff recommendation this week calls for the number of years landlords can amortize capital improvement costs to be extended from 5 years to 20 and caps the rent increase at 10 percent. In addition, landlords would be asked to petition the city for rent increases. Currently, the only way for the city to track rent increases triggered by capital improvement projects is only when renters issue a complaint. Most tenants, however, may be unaware of their rights regarding the complaint system, says Oakland tenants’ rights advocate James Vann”. http://oaklandlocal.com/2014/03/tenants-rights-resolution-heads-to-oakland-city-council-as-talks-continue/