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Monday, September 25, 2017

Fremont City Council, except one member, fell under the spell of powerful landlord interests

Fremont Councilmember Vinnie Bacon said last
week that a city rent board ordinance will do
nothing for renters. He supports rent control.
FREMONT CITY COUNCIL
--PUBLIC COMMENT--
Appointed Fremont Councilmember David Bonaccorsi hid behind modest change while striking populist tones. His collegaues on the council meanwhile merely acknowledged the problems associated with rising rents before supporting the creation of five-member Fremont rent board last week. But it was only Fremont Councilmember Vinnie Bacon who called out the ordinance, which, when compared to the more significant rent control discussion last July, is a stark let down for Fremont renters living in the shadow of skyrocketing rents in Silicon Valley.

Bacon, sporting his trademark white suit jacket, called out his colleague, saying their support for the rent board over more stringent rules to protect renters is a "token" gesture. "What we're doing tonight is basically a token effort to look like we're doing something, and as others have said, 'We're not,'" said Bacon. "This not going to make a significant difference in people's lives."

Earlier, Bonaccorsi called for a rent board on steroids. In fact, the end product suggests the steroids had already shrunken the rent board's testicles before it ever convenes its first meeting. Here's the problem with the brand of rent boards popping up in places like Fremont or cosmetically strengthened in cities like Alameda and San Leandro: They are the creation of powerful statewide landlords advocates.

Tom Silva is also the chair of the San Leandro
rent review board.
On Tuesday night in Fremont, three East Bay landlords advocates addressed the Fremont City Council on the rent board issue. Southern Alameda County Rental Housing Association board member Tom Silva, its executive director Bill Mulgrew and David Stark from East Bay Realtors Association all offered conciliatory messages. All expressed reasonable support for the rent board proposal. "Landlords need renters and renters need landlords," said Stark. But there's a reason why they support rent board all over the Bay Area. It's because the public, fearful of rising rents and gentrification, wants rent control. Landlord support for rent boards is actually an incredible admission of defeat, a dramatic bid to cut their losses rather than face the prospects of losing the extreme imbalance they hold over renters.

In fact, the same threesome has shown up recently in San Leandro during its recent debate over landlord-paid tenant relocation payments. The browbeating of city staff and councilmembers by Silva, Stark and Mulgrew, also worked in San Leandro. The council ultimately whittled away tenant-friendly portions of the tenant relocation payments ordinance, including a significant decrease in the maximum amount landlords have to pay renters evicted without cause. Silva, who also chairs San Leandro's own rent review board, famously exhibited the power of landlords over City Hall by literally reading his landlord-friendly amendment in San Leandro directly into a motion.

But it is Alameda that should give Fremont renters pause because while the island city strengthened its Rent Review Advisory Board (RRAC) last year, it still easily usurped by landlords. For instance, in Alameda a threshold for triggering when rent increases are required to be heard by the RRAC can be meaningless. That's because landlord interests in Alameda, for instance, routinely approach potentially problematic rent increases at apartment building by offering to privately settle the disagreement. This method effectively strips away all transparently in the negotiations and shields the public, the city and the RRAC from any knowledge how the rent increase was remedied. This may or may not adversely affect tenants, but it certainly renders any true data about the rent problem useless, or at least, incomplete.

What we do know from places like Alameda and Richmond is that the California Apartment Association is terrified about the prospects of rent control anywhere in the East Bay. Public support for tenant protections at the ballot box have proven successful, but in every case powerful landlord interests have been able to use great pools of money to nullify the efforts. And when landlords succeed on election day its is always the result of a well-financed effort to confuse the electorate. It happened in the past year in Richmond and Alameda.

So, while the Fremont City Council believes a rent board will protect fearful renters it only proves none of them has every witnessed a hearing in action. Nobody wants to air their personal issues at a public meeting. But the inherent weakness in the rent board model and the reason why landlords always favor their creation is people would rather not risk angering the property owner. Taken one step further, it's the same principle why a renter might not, for example, report mold growing in the bathroom. The fear is the landord will either raise your rent or worse, toss you out on the street.

4 comments:

  1. Steve, have you ever considered, if your version of rent control had passed in Alameda (instead of M1 being wiped out at the polls by a 66% no vote), and the most extreme members of the Alameda Renters Coalition had taken over administration of rental housing, how many small owners would have been heading for the hills and selling their properties? Yes!, you say, send those greedy, nasty landlords packing! But what about the many people that would be evicted were that to happen and those properties sold to people that aren’t looking to rent out? Alameda voters – who are really not as ignorant as you imply - have already weighed reasonable, balanced rent control against the extreme Berkeley-style that the ARC continues to demand. They clearly chose the former. Perhaps because the data from the RRAC rent review process bears out the voters’ choice, you are trying to discredit not only the voters, but the data too.

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    Replies
    1. I don't have version of rent control. I'm only unmasking the strategy and the players on the landlords side since the Three Horseman seem to show up everywhere I go.

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  2. Rent control for people 50 and older is a must here in Fremont.
    With the trump/republican administration the very real possibility exist that they may not be able to afford a roof over their heads. We the present senior community desire viable rent control to preserve our dignity and way of life.

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  3. By MW:

    LET ME FIRST PREFACE MY REMARKS BY STATING THAT THE BAY AREA IS THE WORLD's CAPITAL AND HEADQUARTERS FOR COMMITMENT TO DEFENDING, PROTECTING, AND FURTHERING HUMAN RIGHTS, AND RELATED TO THAT, OUR POLITICIANS ARE OF THE VERY HIGHEST QUALTY, AND DEFINITELY NOT JUST A BUNCH OF PHONIES, DEMAGOGUES, PARASITES, AND BIG WINDBAGS.

    1. In regard to the title of this article. I refuse to believe that the any of the wonderful, logical, and highly intelligent creatures that infest Bay area politics, and who are all great independent thinkers, and definitely not stooges and puppets on a string, could be manipulated and made fools of.

    1A. Paragraph number 2. I am sure that none of our local politicians are a bunch of phonies who would substitute token measures for real solutions, and as a gimmick to do little or nothing, and while pretending to be involved in serious problem solving.

    2. Speaking in general. Price controls, and including rent control, are a very appealing concept. And in the short run they do often appear to improve things. However in the long run they are almost always a huge disaster, and except for the bureaucrats who staff the offices administering them, and who are usually useless and brain dead jokers who have no real skills other than: one, ruining other people's lives; and two, being parasites and bloodsucking leeches on the public payroll.

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