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Renters Coalition to Submit Signatures Today

The Alameda Renters Coalition said it would file signatures for its rent control ballot measure with Alameda city hall today. (File photo)

The Alameda Renters Coalition said it would file signatures for its rent control ballot measure with Alameda city hall today. (File photo)

The Alameda Renters Coalition announced last night that it would file with the city clerk today signatures in support of its rent control petition for the November ballot.

The charter amendment would introduce strict rent control and just cause eviction regulations, including an annual cap on rent increases of 65 percent of the Consumer Price Index.

The coalition initially filed the initiative with the city clerk on February 29th and trained volunteers to collect signatures. The group says it is now shifting gears to a get-out-the-vote effort for the November general election.

In a prepared statement, coalition spokesperson Catherine Pauling said their initiative provides protections that Alameda city hall has been reluctant to provide.

Councilmember Tony Daysog told Action Alameda News that he has almost 400 signatures for his petition that would put a measure on the ballot intended to soften for small landlords a renters protection ordinance enacted by city council earlier this year.

He said that he had been collecting signatures on his own to date but has people who have offered to help to accelerate the process.

Daysog is running up against an early June deadline to get the required signatures to submit it to the city clerk for the November ballot; Petitioners have 180 days to collect signatures.

Marilyn Schumacher, sponsor of a counter “property rights” petition did not respond to an e-mail inquiry on her progress by press time.

Doug Smith, the president of Fuller Enterprises which owns 63 rental units in Alameda and other units throughout the East Bay, totaling about 1,500 units, said that tenants are looking at a short term solution that inevitably creates a bigger problem in the long term.

“Apartments just don’t turn over under rent control. What it does is make all the other apartments go through the roof,” he said.

Smith said that tenants don’t see the side of the issue that rent control causes rents to ultimately go up for the next set of tenants. Existing tenants are protected, he said, but they get locked into their unit, and they can never afford to leave them.

He said that rents appear to have peaked in December and are on a downswing.

Addendum: Action Alameda News was contacted by Farhad Matin after this story was originally published. He is a co-sponsor along with Marilyn Schumacher of the “property rights” petition that is circulating.

Matin told Action Alameda News, “We are still collecting signatures. It’s raising an awareness among single family homeowners. We are still collecting signatures.” He described the renters coalition initiative as one-sided, and punitive for landlords and homeowners.

He said he lives in Alameda with his family, went to Encinal High School and believes local residents can discuss issues like rent control civilly.

17 comments to Renters Coalition to Submit Signatures Today

  • Thanks for the mention. The whole point is that rents are already going through the roof and the vacancy rate is already at 2% or less. If rents were really reasonable and not rising at outrageous rates, why would there be renter revolt going on? I hope that single family homeowners, like myself, will see the disruption to our community that skyrocketing rents (42% in four years according to a study by the County of Alameda) and mass evictions are causing. Their kids are losing classmates, local businesses are losing customers and their remaining ones have less money to spend, and our relaxed Island lifestyle is being lost.

    This rental gold rush has brought in all manner of out of town speculators and it is time we put a stop to it! Vote for rent control in November! Stabilize Alameda!

  • Eric – do you have supporting data for the claim that local businesses are losing customers? The quarterly sales tax report just came out and looks consistent with past reports. Thx.

  • MontyJ

    At the root of this growing nation-wide rent crisis are two things: a) the Sub-prime Mortgage Crisis, which shrank mortgage avalability because of tighter lending standards and b) the evaporating middle class.

    Incomes have been stagnant. People simply can’t qualify for a home loan. So affordable housing construction hasn’t kept up with population growth. The housing that does get built tends toward the higher end, where people have no trouble qualifying..

    The fundamental issue is the income divide. Lack of housing is merely a symptom, not the root cause.

    Then there are hot spots like the Bay Area, where a tech job bubble outpaced all expectation, far outpacing housing construction. People are leaving California like they did in 1993.

    Without Rent Control, the problem will get much much worse.

  • No, no data on sales. The impact would be diluted by out of town shoppers. I learned, gathering signatures day after day, that many people come here from Oakland to shop. I did here from a pre-school teacher that half of her class this year left due to rent increases. And we know that had the 470 Central eviction gone through 19 kids would have been removed from Alameda classrooms. This not only costs their remaining classmates their friends, but also would have cost the AUSD 19X4 months of daily attendance funding. The harm of runaway property investor greed is real.

    Would you please ask Farhad Martin how many of his petitioners are paid and where his money is coming from? The reports we get is that he has paid gatherers going door to door. That’s expensive! Who is funding him? Needless to say, ARC’s drive was 100% volunteer. A true community effort!

  • Eric,
    I spoke at length with Matt Srihdar, of Srihdar Equities, the owner of 470 Central Ave. He told me a few things that generally bear out from other sources, but which I don’t think I’ve seen ARC acknowledge.

    The first item is the condition of the apartments. They are in poor condition, owning to deferred maintenance. Hence his intent to rehabilitate the entire building. This was borne out when I read the RRAC complaints from 470 Central Ave. tenants – all of them – through last year. Tenants filed rent review requests re: the prior landlord trying to raise rents, and noted the deferred maintenance that Srihdar mentioned. One picture appeared – and I know everyone has their own picture depending on their perspective – is that of the prior landlord not consistently increasing the rent by moderate amounts to generate income to re-invest in the property.

    Or perhaps even the prior landlord was a slumlord, that still managed to make a profit despite not making those steady moderate increases, and kept as profit the revenue he should have invested in deferred maintenance. In that case, Srihdar would, and did, in my conversations with him, consider himself as someone doing a good thing for the community by investing in and rehabilitating the property, and fixing all the maintenance problems.

    Second, Srihdar said that he was cognizant of the issue of displacing the tenants, and reached out to the City of Alameda to work collaboratively on the issue, but they wouldn’t/couldn’t do anything until someone filed an RRAC complaint. He also offered financial compensation/incentives to the tenants to vacate their units. I never learned the specifics of the financial compensation, but all of this was basically borne out in my discussions with other sources, reviewing the documents that circulated and so on.

    Regarding the Matin/Schumacher petition, since I spoke with Farhad, I have separately received information that confirms that the California Apartment Association is affiliated with that petition, and working with local consultants and real estate offices. I have also talked to other local business owners, property owners and real estate professionals who oppose or question the ARC petition. And the Matin petition is garnering local signatures.

    I don’t have information confirming that the apartment association is paying for signature gathering, but certainly the practice is a component of our ‘democracy’ that’s open to question.

    If you were here in 2009/2010, you may recall the concern over SunCal’s use of paid signature gatherers to get their measure, Measure B, on the ballot in February 2010. Using paid signature gatherers, they got it on the ballot. Many local housing advocates were supportive of the petition and the paid signature gathering. The measure would have essentially authorized 8,000 to 10,000 housing units at Alameda Point – housing units that some ARC supporters say we need to moderate rent increases. I suspect that whether one considers paid signature gathering an acceptable practice or not depends on where one stands on the issue at hand.

    Here are my full typed notes from my discussion with Farhad. I didn’t include all of it in the story for the sake of balance:

    “It’s raising an awareness among single family homeowners. We are still collecting signatures. The other effect it’s having is engaging people in conversation in this community who all of a sudden are concerned. They are concerned about their community, their investment, the punitive nature of the ARC initiative. It’s easy to win somebody over when you dissect the 14 sections, 13 of which are punitive to landlords and property owners. It’s punative and one-sided. For most moderates who are willing to look at both sides of the pendulum, it’s hard to swallow that bill. I don’t know that most people will agree to an $18,000 renter buyout or sub-leasing portion of the ARC initiative that will essentially change the fabric of this community. I don’t know that they are going to agree in this small town with the punitive nature of the petition. It’s not sustainable. It seems like they’re using Alameda as a petri dish for regulation in order set a precedence for other communities.”

  • Rachael

    ” Smith said that tenants don’t see the side of the issue that rent control causes rents to ultimately go up for the next set of tenants. Existing tenants are protected, he said, but they get locked into their unit, and they can never afford to leave them.”

    Speaking as a renter of a rent controlled apt in Oakland, I am much happier staying in my cheaper apt knowing that i can’t afford to move to market rate apt, than living with the fear, constant anxiety and uncertainty that I could be evicted at any time or my rent could suddenly go through the roof with no advanced warning. I like my neighborhood that I chose and the security of knowing that my home will not be pulled out from under me.

  • Rachael – I spoke at length with Doug Smith. For the sake of balance and brevity, I didn’t include everything in the article. He said that rent control reduces the housing stock, for just the reason you explain – people stay in their rent controlled apartment forever, and don’t move. The units don’t turnover to become available for other people. It’s a common criticism of rent control that it shrinks the rental stock.

    We talk a lot in Alameda about NIMBYism, and how much entitlement/right people who already live here have to impede new developments that cause traffic etc. The sarcastic accusations are “I got mine!”

    If it’s true that rent control protects existing tenants, who are probably going to get a chance to vote on it, at the expense of other tenants in non rent-controlled units, who may see rents rise more dramatically as a result, might some people see it as another case of “I got mine!”

  • Ed Hirshberg

    If you think that price control, of which rent control is a subset, take a look at what is going on in Venezuela. The shelves in the grocery stores are empty. There is now rationing of drinking water. There are even reports of swimming pool water being stolen. This is bound to end badly if one party to the contract does not even get a place at the negotiating table.

  • Rachael

    Ed, Oh yes I am quite sure that implementing rent control is the equivalent of what is happening in Venezuela..come on it is a far cry from that. People deserve the security to know they won’t be thrown out on the street with little warning and nowhere to go. Basic human rights people. The reality is we will never agree on this issue because we value different things.

    David – building more affordable housing would help alleviate the lack of stock. When you remove greed from the equation it is a solvable problem.

  • Little of what is being proposed is affordable. Personally, I have done a lot of work to raise awareness and visibility of the density bonus mechanism to facilitate the creation of more lower-cost market rate units when the requisite number of units that meet ‘affordable’ criteria are included.

    I’ve observed that some people in Alameda who decry landlord greed/profit say that the answer is to build more housing, which, by definition, puts profits in the pockets of a different set of corporations. (Perhaps sometimes even the same pockets.) It strikes me as ironic.

  • Eric Strimling

    I guess my question to him would be, “We had completely unregulated prices and no eviction controls, and that is what lead to the current crisis. Alameda citizens so angry that we literally had blood on the City Hall floor, not to mention month after month of marathon City Council meetings. Why was that better? And what would he do to stabilize Alameda.

  • Eric,

    Doug Smith did say that from his perspective, the market peaked in December, and prices are receding. Previously, he publicly shared historical data from an independent firm that specializes in this sector, showing that prices rose then declined in the past. ARC members refused to accept the data.

    He has previously said that prices cycle from high to low, and that it’s bad policy to implement rent control in response to a relatively short-term high.

    CORRECTION: It was Matt Srihdar who made the comment about making long-term policy based on short term price activity, not Doug Smith. I suspect however that Smith would agree.

    Re: Blood on the floor at City Hall

    First thing… The DA’s office confirmed for me recently that no charges were filed against Bob Davis or John Klein in that November 2015 incident.

    Second…from talking to various sources in-the-know, and watching the video, here’s what I understand happened

    -The council meeting had already started, and was in session
    -Staffer Bob Haun moved to close the doors to council chambers, encountering Bob Davis
    -Words were exchanged between Haun and Davis, and perhaps some pushing back and forth on the door
    -Davis allegedly literally pulled Haun’s legs from under him, bringing him down (There is a news video where you can see Haun go down)
    -The one police officer in council chambers witnessed this, and called for backup
    -When backup officers arrived, the first officer identified to the other officers Davis for arrest, based on what he saw with Haun
    -Davis was working his way back from council chambers through the crowd with the other officers arrived, possibly moving to get away from the first officer
    -They tried to arrest him, and he didn’t co-operate with the arrest
    -The officers took him to the ground to effect an arrest – it was Davis’ blood on the floor

    Before you call me a police apologist, find my articles critical of APD on this site, and locate the link to in this story,

    and read this one:

  • Ed Hirshberg

    Our housing market is surely because of price control, it is just happening slower because the price control is not as severe. I lived in Berkeley in the early seventies when apartments were plentiful and cheap. I paid $150 per month on the South side 2 blocks from campus. One morning over breakfast a political science student said we needed rent control. The Econ student at the table said it was a terrible idea that he had studied it in class and that it always led to shortages caused by market distortions. I gradually watched a real life example of market distortions unfold.

    Builders build and investors invest in anticipation of a profit. With no profit, these activities don’t happen. There is no such person as the landlord slave. If there is no hope for profit, owners will abandon their property as they did in the Bronx or in parts of the Bay Area in 2008. The result isn’t pretty. This proposition has rents climbing at only 20% of the rate of expenses. With that disparity some owners will be in trouble pretty quickly. There is no housing faerie that can make nice units suddenly appear. You need the free market. Perhaps you would like to try your hand at it. You can take an advance on your credit card and wheel and deal yourself into a rental property. That’s how most of us got started. I dare say that after a few years you might have a different opinion.

  • Ed Hirshberg

    Of course the causes are more than just rent control. The cost of a building permit for a unit of housing now routinely exceeds $100,000. This translates into $600-700 per month rent. Years of planning commission meetings to get a project entitled also contribute to the shortage. As well as the tendency to reduce the number of units in the project. But consider that the Bay Area needs more landlords not fewer because more landlords offering more apartments for rent is the only way to actually get better pricing. Scaring investors away from the business is counter productive.

  • David- I wasn’t blaming anyone in particular for the blood on the floor, I am just pointing out that the situation has gotten very very bad as a result of an unregulated market during a critical shortage.

    When it comes to human needs, it doesn’t get much more basic than food and shelter. Food is heavily regulated, including price, why not housing? According to the County of Alameda rents went up 42% across all of Alameda over the last four years. Now, if the price of apples went up by 42% you would switch to oranges. If Safeway increased all of its prices by 42% people would switch to Lucky’s. But if the person who has the deed to your home raises the price to stay there, to stay in your home town, to keep your kids in their schools, you pay it. And that is why landlords can raise prices at will. The demand curve is artificially inflexible. In my previous example, if there were nothing but apples to eat, you would pay 42% more for apples.

    Ed- I know that being a landlord is a really good deal. You are basically getting someone else to buy a house for you! Assume you only managed to get enough rent to cover costs, no profit at all. Each month that you pay the mortgage the interest goes to the bank, but the principle goes into your pocket as equity. Further, California real estate generally matches or beats the stock market in long term gains. So, you leverage a small down payment, have the tenants pay off the debt, and reap the equity gains. Pretty good business model! To also want to make a monthly profit on top of that? Just seems gauche, doesn’t it? And then, and then, the investors want unlimited monthly profit on top of the debt payments and equity gains. Really?

  • Dave Jackson

    All us parents that have children that will be moving out on their own will never be able to live in Alameda near us because no one will leave their rent controlled unit. The lack of supply will cause the units that turn to be double what they would be without rent control like in Oakland, San Francisco and Berkley.
    Moving is a part of life and no one is entitled to live in a “rental” forever. I keep hearing that “housing is a basic human right”. I agree but that doesn’t mean they can live where ever they want for as long as they want. Why do you think seniors move to Florida when they retire.
    Is food a basic human right? Do you see the government telling Safeway how much to charge? We have programs to help the needy, why is it fair to make one industry subsidize every renter in the City, even ones that make more than the property owner? Shouldn’t all businesses who hire employees in the city help, they are the ones bringing the people to the City. Let’s also put the money to better use and only give the subsidy to those who need it. The ARC measure forces the property owners to subsidize many very high income renters. Why not have means testing to quality who gets it.
    This is a simple taking from ownes who invested in Alameda despite the high risk of losing it all to an earthquake. Let’s ask the City to buy EQ insurance for all property owners who rent? Let’s just be fair, asking people to vote for lower rent when the majority are renters is self serving. Take a vote and ask if Apple should sell iPhones
    for $50 and every one would support it. Only difference is apple can say no and just stop making them. That’s what’s going to happen in Alameda, no one will build more housing with tenants groups demanding a reversal of Costa Hawkins so ALL units are rent control.
    Bottom line, this is a socialism adjenda and it doesn’t work. Renter will be hurt and so will the Cith. San Franciso has tired every trick in the book yet they still have the highest rent in the nation. Give it 10 years and you will see. Why do think it’s been 30 years since the last city approved rent control. We never learn from history, that is man kinds biggest fault.

  • Eric – you seem to be asserting that there are price controls on food products at the retail level. I think that would come as a surprise to many – do you have a source for that?

    Certainly, further back in the supply chain, there are some regulations, such as on raw milk prices – see the paper below as an example. But that comes with a raft of subsidies and other regulations designed to sustain the industry. I don’t think it’s quite the same as limiting retail prices to benefit consumers.

    And, to be clear, rent control is a specific type of price control.

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