Thursday, October 13, 2016

Renters' groups file FPPC complaint against landlord lobby's deceptive mailers

Tenant activists from Alameda, Richmond, and
Oakland speak in front of the East Bay Rental 
Housing Association offices in Hayward.
Renters' groups representing the six Bay Area cities slated to vote on various forms of rent control this November filed a complaint with the state Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) Thursday claiming a mailer sent earlier this month by an opposing landlords' lobby is misleading and deceptive.

Advocates for rent control measures this fall in Alameda, Oakland and Richmond attempted to deliver the FPPC complaint to the East Bay Rental Housing Association of Alameda County in Hayward, an affiliate office for the California Apartment Association, whose independent expenditure committee paid for the mailer.

Alameda voters received the mailer in question
nearly two weeks ago.
However, the Rental Housing Association's office was closed for the day. A sign posted near the front door read, "Office closed Oct. 13 for offsite training."

A separate action was taken Thursday afternoon in San Mateo by renters' groups in that city, Burlingame and Mountain View.

Variations of the mailer in question was sent earlier this month to voters in each of the six communities and features text from the state's non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office. The document is real, but makes no specific reference to any of the proposed rent control measures in the Bay Area.

The California Apartment Associations Issues Committee, one of several IEs belonging to the powerful statewide property owners lobby, paid for the mailer.

In the FPPC filing, the renters' groups says the California Apartment Association's mailer "misleads any reasonable reader to believe that it is sent by the California State Legislature's Legislative Analyst's Office." The mailer, the complaints continue, is "deceptive as it claims the LAO has taken a position on a local ballot measure."

Leah Simon-Weisberg of Tenants Together said, "All of the mailers have things that are untrue, but what they did here is sent out a mailer so that the reader believes the government has taken a specific position on rent control and clearly they didn't" In addition, said Simon-Weisberg, the analysis used in the mailer is dated Feb. 6--months before any rent control ballot measure language was finalized.

Voters in Alameda, Oakland, Richmond, Burlingame, Mountain View and San Mateo will all decide rent control measures on Nov. 8.

VIDEO (BELOW): Advocate explains impacts on renters in Alameda.

Alameda has two competing measures on the ballot. Measure M1, backed by the grassroots Alameda Renters Association, would cap annual rent increases to 65 percent of the Consumer Price Index, enact Just cause protections and create an elected rent board. Measure L1, backed by the Alameda City Council, would reaffirm a rent stabilization ordinance passed in March that refers annual rent increases above five percent to a non-binding mediation board and provides some tenant relocation fees paid by the landlord.

In Oakland, which already has strong rent control laws, Measure JJ would expand the number of units covered by Just Cause rules. It also seeks to require landlords, not tenants, to petition the city if they desire to raise rents above the existing five percent threshold.

Last year renters in Richmond celebrated the City Council's passing of the first rent control ordinance in the state in 30 years. But the California Apartment Association was able to repeal the ordinance soon after. Richmond's Measure L limits annual rent increases to between 1-3 percent, along with relocation fees for those evicted.