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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Alameda city staff floats placing recently approved rent ordinance on the ballot

ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | Could there possibly be a fourth rent-related Alameda ballot measure posturing for the fall ballot? This one backed by the Alameda City Council?

As it stands, word on whether a rent control ballot measure backed by local tenants will qualify for the November ballot should come this week, while another backed by landlords may follow later this month. A third, backed by Councilmember Tony Daysog, is still in the signature phase.

A discussion on a fourth ballot measure on rents is now being urged Tuesday night by Alameda city staff that could place the rent stabilization ordinance passed by the City Council last March on the November ballot.

Placing the existing rent ordinance on the ballot has one major drawback, says city staff. "If it prevails, it can only be amended by a vote of the people, removing one of the key elements that ensures an effective, responsive, and sustainable program -- the ability for the Council to respond relatively quickly to changing circumstances in the economy, public opinion, and having the ability to refine the regulations as the program is implemented over time."

Supporters of the rent stabilization ordinance--many who hold a pragmatic pro-landlord view of Alameda's rent problem--often urge patience for allowing the relatively young ordinance to prove its worth before making any changes. Placing the ordinance on the ballot might force it to be less nimble as the rent issue progresses in Alameda.

Meanwhile, the likelihood of the tenant's rent control measure and the landlord's measure, which seeks to ban it, proceeding to the November ballot is not a formality. City Hall insiders say they would not be surprised if neither is certified by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters because of insufficient numbers of valid signatures.

Both proposed measures turned in lower than expected total signatures and putting them in an uncertain gray area when it comes to the registrar's sample of valid signatures. Typically, ballot measure campaigns aim for gathering an additional 25 percent of requisite signatures to account for invalid entries such as, for instance, those who do not live in Alameda or are unregistered. In both cases the petitions fell short of this threshold. The tenant's petition gathered 7,882, while the landlords turned in 7,491. The number of valid signatures needed for the ballot is 6,461.

However, if successful, the tenant's measure could be certified this week. But, if the random sample of signatures comes up short this week, the registrar could take another 30 business days to perform a more exhaustive count, Conversely, the landlord's measure was turned in only last month. A determination on its certification could come later this month.

Other factors are also making the city and county registrar's job more difficult. The annual August recess means after Tuesday there is only one regularly scheduled council meeting remaining until September. Furthermore, the City Council must approve placing any measure on the ballot, that includes another city measure to make changes to its Utility Users Tax.

The deadline for all races to be included on the November ballot is Aug. 12. While the tenant's measure could be set for November, the landlord's proposal could force the city to scramble for approval.

Tuesday night's discussion might also of supporters of either measure and voters a hint to where specific council members stand on rent control since the city staff is asking for direction on how to proceed on potential arguments--for or against--each measure.

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