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District Attorney’s Office Finds No Actionable Wrongdoing in Landlord Group’s Petition Drive

Rather than chance it at the ballot, Alameda City Council reversed course on a just cause eviction ordinance they approved just months ago. (File Photo)

The City of Alameda announced this week that the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has determined that no actionable wrongdoing was found in connection with signature gathering for just cause evictions ballot petition that caused City Council to reverse course on Tuesday night.

On June 6th, Alameda City Council adopted Ordinance No. 3180, amending Ordinance No. 3148, Alameda’s Rent Review, Rent Stabilization and Limitations on Evictions Ordinance.

Ordinance 3180 eliminated “no cause” as a ground for eviction, requiring “just cause” for landlords to terminate a rental tenancy.

It also required relocation fees be paid to a tenant vacating a rental unit at the end of a subsequent fixed term lease, and made other clarifying changes.

Landlords fought back, and began a signature petition drive to put a reversal measure on the ballot. Both landlords and tenants accused the other side of illegal activities during the signature gathering campaign, and the matter was referred to the Alameda County District Attorney’s office.

The landlords submitted their signatures to the Alameda City Clerk on June 26, which delayed Ordinance 3180 from taking effect.

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters certified the petition on July 17th finding that, by statistical random sample, the landlords had collected 129.88 percent of the 4,808 signatures need to qualify the measure for the ballot.

The District Attorney’s office has now reported that it has reviewed several dozen declarations alleging violations of Section 18600 of the California Elections Code, and, specifically, has found that twenty-five out of thirty-seven (25 of 37) declarations contained no allegation of fraud or misconduct and the remaining twelve (12) declarations were unlikely to be proven.

According to a City of Alameda media release, the District Attorney’s office concluded that all of the relevant discussion of this issue falls under the general topic of rent control. The paid signature gatherers were specifically instructed by their employer to say the issue was regarding rent control, which was technically true, and the law provides protections to the individuals who were merely doing what they were instructed to do (meaning they were not intentionally misleading or misrepresenting the topic).

On Tuesday, city council and city officials confirmed that there were enough signatures on the petition against Ordinance 3180, and that city council could either put the matter on the ballot or have a first reading to rescind the ordinance.

City council voted 4-1, with Councilmember Ashcraft as the holdout, to rescind Ordinance 3180.

Once Ordinance 3180 has been rescinded, the amendments to Ordinance 3148 reflected in Ordinance 3180 will be permanently set aside, and the same or substantially same amendments cannot be enacted for a period of one year after repeal.

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