Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Alameda: Three ballot measures on a collision course for November

Members of the Alameda Renters Coalition file 
a proposed rent control ballot measure Feb. 29
at Alameda City Hall.
ALAMEDA | RENTAL CRISIS | Standing on the corner of Central Avenue and Park Street on an unseasonably warm April afternoon, Charlie Edwards saw a group of pedestrians poised to cross the street. Edwards, 77, clipboard in hand, was gathering signatures to place a tenant-backed measure on the November ballot. “Look, here comes four,” he said. “I bet I get one of them; I bet you 25 cents.” The group passed Edwards and politely declined his overture.

Wrangling potential petition signers is always difficult. Edwards had corralled just six signatures in the prior 20 minutes, a small dent in the 9,000 signatures that the proponents of his measure, by the Alameda Renters Coalition, hoped to secure by the end of April. Some people were not registered to vote, others did not live in Alameda, and most simply had other things to do.

You can expect to see similar scenes over the next few months because signature gatherers from the Alameda Renters Coalition could soon be joined by supporters of at least two other potential rent-related ballot measures vying for your attention and support.

A group led by Alameda Councilmember Tony Daysog filed a ballot measure seeking to roll back certain elements of the rent stabilization ordinance adopted March 1 by the City Council. Daysog’s proposal is a riff on his core criticism of the ordinance: its inclusion of relocation fees for evicted tenants of up to four month’s rent and an additional $1,500. “The relocation benefit is such a hammer that is going to fall heavily on these smaller landlords,” Daysog said.

Daysog’s ballot measure focuses on lowering the amount paid by local small-time property owners for relocation fees and exempts Alameda-based landlords who want to move family members or licensed caregivers into their units. That measure’s petition, not yet approved for circulation as of this writing, will not likely draw support from renters, and some Alameda landlords see it as divisive because it creates unfair benefits for local property owners over out-of-towners.

Soon after Daysog’s proposal surfaced, a third potential measure was filed by Alameda property owners Farhad Matin and Marilyn Schumacher. This one, a charter amendment measure that would ostensibly make rent control illegal in Alameda, is likely to collide with the Alameda Renters Coalition’s more robust set of proposed protections for renters, who make up roughly 55 percent of island residents.

“Obviously the voters are going to have some real choices this November,” said Catherine Pauling, the chief spokesperson for the Alameda Renters Coalition. The coalition filed its proposal with a Feb. 29 press conference on the steps of City Hall that preceded Pauling and others presenting the filing to the city clerk’s office. Shortly thereafter, the city manager’s office summoned police to engage the tenants milling around outside its offices without incident.

The coalition’s proposal seeks to stabilize rents by tying annual increases to a percentage of the Consumer Price Index, roughly around or below 2 percent. The proposal would also prohibit landlords from evicting tenants except with just cause. No such protections currently exist.

But while tenants abound in Alameda, their measure lacks financial support. An online crowdsourcing effort has raised almost $2,000 to cover fees and expenses, but it has mainly relied on volunteers and old-fashioned retail politics in an attempt to gather the requisite number of valid signatures to qualify for the November general election. Other efforts for ballot measures in Alameda this fall, such as the landlord’s proposal, are likely to be far better funded. “They have the bucks to do it,” Pauling said. “We don’t.”

Alameda resident and landlord Farhad Matin say the renters’ plan is more than rent control; it’s a “hostile takeover” of landlord property rights. Matin owns bold and ornately-painted houses that have been turned into apartments, and the buildings have proven to be popular attractions around town. He says the island’s character will suffer if the Renters Coalition proposal is approved by a majority of voters. “ARC is not offering a sustainable housing plan,” Matin said. “It’s purely punitive and it forces rental owners to subsidize their tenants.” [READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE IN ALAMEDA MAGAZINE]


The local paper said several weeks ago that the deadline for the renters coalition petition to gather signatures was April 23rd. And yet, they are still out trolling for signatures... clearly having a hard time getting the target number. And many vacant time slots on their duty roster for signature trolling.

Thanks for the article -- I'm out there pounding the pavement for signatures. Let's see! Wish me luck!

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