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City Changes Course on Rental Cost Task Force

Alameda City Council asked former city council candidate Jeff Cambra to facilitate a community discussion about rental cost issues in Alameda.

Alameda City Council asked former city council candidate Jeff Cambra to facilitate a community discussion about rental cost issues in Alameda.

Alameda City Council swerved in the road Tuesday evening enroute to launching a task force to study rental costs in Alameda.

Jeff Cambra, a candidate for city council in 2012 offered to lead and facilitate a community discussion on the topic instead.

“I’m a professional mediator and facilitator,” he told City Council, “and I don’t get to that as often as I’d like to.”

Cambra runs Festival Productions, which organizes the annual Neptune Beach Community Celebration event on Webster Street, and last year, he was contracted with the Alameda Unified School District to run a similar series of forums on the future of the historic Alameda High School Forum, although he conceded Tuesday that effort did not actually produce a recommendation back to the school board.

The chief difference between the community discussion model proposed by Cambra, and staunchly advocated for by Councilmember Stewart Chen, is that the stakeholders in Cambra’s discussion model would be more organic, and more self-organizing than the seven-stakeholder task force proposed by city staff.

Bill Smith, speaking on behalf of Renewed Hope Housing Advocates, which promotes affordable housing, said that his organization “didn’t think the task force was balanced.”

City Manager John Russo said that he was “floored” at the suggestion that, for example, any representative on the task force from the City of Alameda Social Services and Human Relations Board might not adequately represent tenant interests, as the board is comprised of people who work for agencies serving people in need.

The task force, as proposed by staff, would have included the President of the Planning Board or his designee, a representative of the Alameda Chamber of Commerce, a representative of the Alameda Association of Realtors, the President of the Social Services Human Relations Board or his designee, the Chair of the Rent Review Advisory Committee or her designee, a representative of Renewed Hope Housing Advocates, and a representative of the East Bay Rental Housing Association.

Likewise, Russo said, nobody should assume that the Alameda Chamber of Commerce represents only landlord interests, as local restaurant owners are chamber members, and they have an interest in keeping housing affordable in Alameda lest housing costs drive demands by workers for increased wages.

Councilmember Tony Daysog and Vice-Mayor Marilyn Ashcraft pressed for the task force approach, with Daysog saying, “this community group approach is too vague,” and Ashcraft proposing the addition of a representative from East Bay Housing Organizations advocacy group, to round out tenant representation.

Nobody in the discussion could say if the community group approach could produce hard numbers that quantify the state of the residential rental market in Alameda, such as rental rates, vacancy rates, tenant tenure and so on.

Ultimately, after much back-and-forth on the dais, Mayor Marie Gilmore said, “I think we need to give the community group a shot,” and sided with Chen and Councilmember Lena Tam on a 3-2 vote that launched Cambra’s discussion forum model rather than the task force.

Council did ask Cambra, however, to report back on December 2nd.

4 comments to City Changes Course on Rental Cost Task Force

  • Alison Greene

    It is misleading to portray Chen as a “staunch advocate of The People” in his advocating for the “community conversation instead of the task force. Chen was adamant that there is “no hurry” in getting information, and that a “series of several community meetings” could take its time and find out what the problem is. After several tenants spoke passionately about their experiences with evictions, 50% rent hikes and 60-day notices, Chen changed his tune. He decided that the “community conversation” was “better” because it would be able to report back “faster than a City Task Force full of political appointees,” etc. Vice Mayor Ezzy-Ashcroft called him on it and he tried to explain away what he meant by “no hurry.” It was cynical, arrogant political pandering at its finest.

  • You’re using quotation marks, but I didn’t write “staunch advocate of The People” – I wrote “The chief difference between the community discussion model proposed by Cambra, and staunchly advocated for by Councilmember Stewart Chen…”

    I watched the tape. Chen advocated forcefully for Cambra’s community discussion model, citing his conversations over past months with Cambra about the issue.

    Chen insisted that Cambra’s model can begin work today, while the task force model would be slow.

    And you’re right, Ashcraft did call him out – was in a hurry or not?

    Frankly, I don’t see much difference between the two approaches, other than Cambra’s brings in an element of self-organizing, and may have an actual tenant, rather than a representative, from a tenant organization, as an officially designated stakeholder.

    And by December 2nd, it’s very unlikely that Cambra’s model is going to produce any of the hard data that more than one council member asked for.

  • Alison Greene

    Fair enough on the quotes around “The People.” But, I too, watched it live. My issue is with his initial “what’s the hurry” before the public comments and subsequent scramble to emphasize that he sees the “urgency” to start “tomorrow” (my quotes of Chen) after hearing the personal stories. Maybe he had a bad night; but he left the very clear impression that his interest in the “community” format was that it would drag out the issue. Ezzy Ashcraft’s “calling out” was asking him about his move from “no urgency” to “urgency.” I also don’t think that anyone should expect Cambra to produce the type of data (numbers & stats) that Council asked for (and, bizarrely, Chen ended up questioning whether Cambra, his own guy, was capable of collecting that data). Cambra’s intent & apparent skill set is in fostering communication. Council should not judge him by his ability to do that research; expecting him to will be a distraction from what he stated that he could do.

  • The concept of hearing is what any task force is regarding how that weighs to preponderance case in how only a model created to show the exact profile of property owners renting in Alameda produces the correct thinking processes to then solve the equation of how compression works with different physical concepts and how deep is the rental gouging concept a concept at all and just an overlap of not properly ranking how prices have to be apportioned to properly account for the compression and the oppression and then the suppressions. For the conductor of the swift take over of the agenda refer to ‘American Law 101’ which says any decision about a hearing is a hearing too and must conform to how due process duly processes that with one important measure to confound all in how grandfather clause might suggest that only people qualified and then able to rationally think out the rental problem are people born in California say before 1964. When anyone comes to California to live and work there might be a concept called how invited they must be to be a real decider of everyone else’s rights to be free which is about how containment on one’s living day by day is about how steep the price is to pay and how that might be inordinately too much for anyone born a U.S.citizen in California having to pay a landlord from another state originally or from another country too or a real estate property investment trust controlled from out of state or from another country too or by those who came to the United States of America in a ‘Coming To America’ theme. (Note to myself. Does this show up in the public on my website? I want it to)

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