Good News on Ellis Reform!

Image courtesy of Tenants Together

Image courtesy of Tenants Together

The Berkeley Rent Board voted at their March meeting to ask Senator Hancock and Representative Skinner to work on our behalf to allow cities like Berkeley to be a part of the statewide Ellis Reform. Meanwhile, the current bill from Mark Leno (SB 1439) – which will only protect San Francisco – narrowly passed the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. Now it heads to the Judiciary. Although BTU wants protections against these speculative evictions to be open to Berkeley renters, we are still excited to see help for San Francisco may be on the way!

Tenants Together has published a fascinating report called The Speculator Loophole with help from the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. The report shows that more than half of the owners who want to “go out of the rental business” bought the property within one year of deciding to evict everyone. The Leno bill calls for owners to hold rental property for five years before they can “go out of business” with the Ellis Act – San Francisco hopes this will stop speculative evictions.

http://tenantstogether.org/downloads/Ellis%20Act%20Report.pdf

San Francisco also voted this week to increase relocation assistance for Ellis evictions: “On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 to approve legislation that requires property owners in such eviction situations to pay the difference between the tenant’s current rent and what the tenant would have to pay for a similar apartment under current market conditions for two years…a tenant who moved into a two-bedroom apartment in the Mission district in 1987 at a monthly rent of $909, a relocation payment of $44,832 would be required.”
http://www.sfexaminer.com/PoliticsBlog/archives/2014/04/09/sf-boosts-compensation-for-ellis-act-evictees

SF Gate on Relocation Payment Increase:
http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/S-F-supervisors-OK-bigger-Ellis-Act-payouts-5386872.php

San Francisco Starts Pilot Program to Legitimize In-Law Apartments:
http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=69627

SF Tech Companies Support Ellis Reform:
http://www.beyondchron.org/articles/SF_Tech_Companies_Formally_Back_Ellis_Act_Reform_12534.html

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Security Deposits

Mattress & CouchBerkeley is a college town, and that means May and June bring free furniture to the streets as the student population moves into new digs. On Wednesday April 16, the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board will offer a special workshop on Security Deposit law at their office on Milvia at Center Street, downtown.

Landlord/Tenant – Rights/Responsibilities on Security Deposit Law Seminar
Wednesday, April 16th, 5:15 p.m. - 6:15 p.m. @ the Rent Stabilization Board Office

Most rules about deposits are state law, so they apply to all renters, even those who are not under the rent control portion of Berkeley’s tenant protection ordinance.

Another good resource for planning to move in or move out is provided by the University of California campus group Renters Legal Assistance:
Getting Your Security Deposit Back

Tenants Together, the statewide renters organization (BTU is a member group) also offers some good information here:
http://tenantstogether.org/article.php?id=571

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Ellis Reform at Berkeley Rent Board

ACTION: Statewide Ellis Reform
The Berkeley Rent Board agenda for Monday March 17 contains a report on landlord and tenant bills at the state legislature. BTU is asking the Board to take action to support and broaden the two bills to reform the Ellis Act, a law that allows speculators to buy an apartment building and immediately get rid of all the tenants. We hope the Board will ask Nancy Skinner and Loni Hancock to persuade San Francisco’s Tom Ammiano and Mark Leno to change their bills so they could apply in Berkeley if use of the Ellis act rises dramatically here.

Santa Monica’s Rent Board, and then Santa Monica’s City Council, have taken a similar position, stating that they are hopeful that any Ellis reform will allow all jurisdictions with rent control to be given a chance to opt in.
Santa Monica Rent Board Annual Report: “…entering 2013, there are signs that the economy may be improving—foreclosures are down in California along with unemployment—and there is a sense in the state that our economy may finally be headed in the right direction. Along with that recovery is the likelihood of increased Ellis activity, bringing with it the inevitable loss of accessible, competitive, controlled housing.”

The Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board meets Monday at 7 PM — 2134 Martin Luther King. The report on housing legislation and discussion on Ellis reform are early on their agenda.

Berkeley Rent Board Legislative Report, Item 5 http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Home/Agenda__RSB_2014_Mar_17.aspx

Also on the Agenda, Banks as Landlords, Item 7(a)8 and Wall Street Securitizing Rents 7(a)11

Ellis Reform from the San Francisco Appeal: “Speculators are buying properties and posing as new landlords, then evicting the tenants within a matter of months to “flip” the building and convert it into a high-cost home or luxury condominiums, the senator said.”
http://sfappeal.com/2014/02/local-landlords-demonstrate-against-announcement-of-legislation-to-close-ellis-act-loopholes/

Ellis Reform from 48 Hills Blog: “The presence of the mayor and the tech industry is just the latest indication of how serious the eviction crisis has become – and how much of a force the tenant movement has become in local politics. When you get a crowd like this for an anti-eviction bill, it’s clear that 2014 is, indeed, the Year of the Tenant in San Francisco.
http://48hillsonline.org/2014/02/24/everyone-in-town-except-a-few-landlords-is-supporting-lenos-ellis-act-bill/

San Francisco To Raise Ellis Relocation Benefits?
“The Campos legislation will pay tenants 2 years’ worth of the “rent differential” between their current rent and the market rent they will have to pay. For example, if a tenants being evicted is paying $1,500 a month in rent and the current market rent for a similar apartment is $3,000, they will received $72,000 in relocation benefits (the $1,500 difference their current rent and the new rent, times 48)”–  according to Eviction Free SF. Berkeley’s Ellis relocation benefits are currently between $8,700 and $16,200 per household, San Francisco has a $15,632.69 maximum, and Santa Monica and West Hollywood base their benefits on the size of the unit, with relocation payments of up to $17,000 (West Hollywood) and $19,000 (Santa Monica.)

Student Perspectives on Housing
This week was UC Berkeley’s annual Tenants Rights Week, so BTU tabled on campus alongside Renters Legal Assistance and other services. The Daily Californian has their annual housing special issue, with articles discussing gentrification, types of housing in Berkeley, vacancy decontrol and landlord profits, and the role of the Rent Board.
http://www.dailycal.org/section/special/housing-issue-2014/

Tuesday Exchange on Berkeley’s Downtown
There are 1,400 units of rental housing in development for the Downtown area, and none of it will be rent controlled. Unfortunately, this talk will happen while you are at work.
The Berkeley Historical Society asked LWVBAE to partner with them in an exploration of how development activities may potentially impact the cultural and physical characteristics of the Downtown area. Panelists, including Michael Caplan, Lisa Stephens and Jim Novosel, will open a discussion on this important topic, which will be followed by a question-and-answer period. The talk will be moderated by Steven Finacom and introduced by Sherry Smith.”
Conversation about the Downtown Development Plan
Tuesday, March 18 :: Noon to 1:30 pm
Berkeley History Center, 1931 Center Street
Admission free. Donations welcome. Wheelchair accessible.

Oakland City Council To Review Capital Improvement Rent Increases Tuesday
A staff recommendation this week calls for the number of years landlords can amortize capital improvement costs to be extended from 5 years to 20 and caps the rent increase at 10 percent. In addition, landlords would be asked to petition the city for rent increases. Currently, the only way for the city to track rent increases triggered by capital improvement projects is only when renters issue a complaint. Most tenants, however, may be unaware of their rights regarding the complaint system, says Oakland tenants’ rights advocate James Vann”.
http://oaklandlocal.com/2014/03/tenants-rights-resolution-heads-to-oakland-city-council-as-talks-continue/

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Support the Berkeley Tenants Union

Tshirt2Represent Berkeley Tenants. Buy a BTU T-shirt by emailing info [at] berkeleytenants (dot) org today!

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Redistricting Discussion Continues Tuesday

redistritingbest map2.1Berkeley City Council will continue to discuss redrawing the lines for Council districts. The map chosen by the City Council majority in December was deemed unfair by many student and progressive groups, and the Berkeley Referendum Coalition gathered signatures in the dead of winter to force the City Council to consider other maps. Council also has the option of putting the maps on the ballot. Many progressive say that the costs of putting the issue on the ballot may be high, so Council should work out a compromise acceptable to referendum leaders.

Councilman Jesse Arreguin submits redistricting ballot measures, including compromise map: If the council does put the BSDC map on the ballot, Arreguin plans to move forward with the measure that, in addition to creating the citizens commissions, will add a counterproposal to the suspended map. The counterproposal, Arreguin said, is a cross between two previously proposed maps: one supported by the Berkeley Neighborhoods Council and one designed specifically to include Northside student residences.” http://www.dailycal.org/2014/03/11/city-councilmember-proposes-ballot-measures-reform-redistricting-process/

Council Items Continued from February 25 – now Item 16
https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/2014/03_Mar/City_Council__03-11-2014_-_Regular_Meeting_Agenda.aspx

More on Redistricting:
https://www.cityofberkeley.info/redistricting/

Berkeleyside: Council majority pushes redistricting decisions to March
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2014/02/26/council-majority-pushes-redistricting-decisions-to-march/

Daily Cal: Berkeley Referendum Coalition celebrates success, plans to meet Sunday
http://www.dailycal.org/2014/02/14/berkeley-referendum-coalition-celebrates-success-plans-meet-sunday/

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First Amendment Defense Fund
Benefit March 14 for Shelton, Tregub, Dodsworth and Soto-Vigil

Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Igor Tregub, Judy Shelton, and Asa Dodsworth

Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Igor Tregub, Judy Shelton, and Asa Dodsworth

Four tenant leaders are asking for the community’s help to pay some of their mounting legal bills. A case stemming from the 2012 election for Rent Board has continued for over a year.

Shortly after the hotly contest 2012 Rent Board election, the president of the Berkeley Property Owners Association, whose family is often identified as one of the largest landlords in Berkeley, brought a lawsuit against the four candidates chosen at the biannual Berkeley Tenant Convention. According to press reports, Sid Lakireddy sued candidates Igor Tregub, Asa Dodsworth, Judy Shelton and Alejandro Soto-Vigil for libel. The initial motions from the tenant leaders in their defense were rejected by a judge last spring, and the defendants appealed.

About the Lawsuit:

Berkeleyside: “The nephew of a notorious landlord who was sent to prison for transporting minors from India for the purpose of illegal sexual activity has filed a defamation lawsuit against four former Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board candidates. Sid Lakireddy, president of the Berkeley Property Owners Association, said that Igor Tregub, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Asa Dodsworth and Judy Shelton libeled him when they sent an email to supporters that overtly suggested Lakireddy was involved in the criminal case brought against his uncle, Lakireddy Bali Reddy.” http://www.berkeleyside.com/2013/05/30/sid-lakireddy-sues-berkeley-rent-board-candidates-for-libel/

Daily Californian: Four Berkeley city officials filed an appeal on May 16 in response to an Alameda County Superior Court decision in a defamation lawsuit brought against them by Sid Lakireddy, nephew of convicted sex trafficker Lakireddy Bali Reddy….The lawsuit stems from an Oct. 18 email sent by Tregub on behalf of all four slate members to their supporters. According to court documents, Tregub’s email referred to Sid Lakireddy as “the same guy whose family was caught in a human trafficking ring and was complicit in murder” and contained a link to an article that mentioned unnamed family members of the Reddy clan as being involved in the crimes.” http://www.dailycal.org/2013/06/02/berkeley-city-officials-file-an-appeal-in-response-to-decision-in-defamation-lawsuit/

About the Fundraiser:

Friday March 14 at 7 PM
900 Murray St. in Berkeley
https://www.facebook.com/events/224026114467546

About the Tenant Convention:

The progressive community has held a gathering to choose a slate for Rent Bord for as long as most folks in Berkeley can remember. Planning for the 2014 convention is underway, and many BTU members report taking an active role. Soon the convention website will be launched so that all organizations and candidates interested in participating can be informed. BTU will post a link on our sidebar when the planning group launches their site.

2012:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJfuMFmTp0E
http://www.dailycal.org/2012/07/08/four-rent-board-commissioners-chosen-at-the-tenant-convention/

2010:
http://metcouncilonhousing.org/news_and_issues/tenant_newspaper/2010/november/berkeley%E2%80%99s_pro_tenant_rent_board
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2010-07-27/article/35937?headline=Tenants-Convention-Nominates-Rent-Board-Candidates–By-Steven-Finacom

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BTU to the Rescue!

T-shirt 1

 

Activist Newspaper Names BTU “Best T-Shirt” in Report on Renters’ Day of Action in Sacramento
http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=12357

Order your T-shirt today!
Contact leah (at) berkeleytenants.org

 

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Upcoming and Updates

Doorbells

Redistricting Referendum: Tuesday February 25
The referendum passed, with over 150 volunteers collecting 7,500 signatures over the holidays. Now, the Referendum Coalition needs support at the City Council meeting Tuesday February 25. If you can’t attend, please email Clerk@cityofberkeley.info to support ITEM 21b: “Choose an Alternate Redistricting Map, not a Special Election.” (A Special Election is recommended in Item 21a from the City Manager.)
Item 21b:
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/2014/02_Feb/City_Council__02-25-2014_-_Regular_Meeting_Agenda.aspx
Referendum in the news:
http://blog.sfgate.com/stew/2014/02/10/berkeley-voters-overturn-gerrymandering/

Demolition Ordinance
The City Council seems to have put bad changes to the demo ordinance on the back burner. However, some buildings may still have Zoning hearings under the old rules, which include an anti-tenant interpretation by the City Attorney. We will keep you posted.
Berkeley Neighborhoods Council:http://www.berkeleyneighborhoodscouncil.com/Newsletters/2014/Issue5/BNC_eNEWS_5_NHF5.htm
Demolishing older, affordable rentals to replace with luxury apartments is a national trend:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-13/demolitions-dire-for-poor-as-affordable-rent-gap-grows-economy.html

Tenant Sues over Eviction for Air BnB
“…case highlights an ongoing issue of Airbnb and other sites that allow people to rent out spare rooms or entire apartments to temporary visitors. Critics charge that the new sharing-economy services are so lucrative – and so laxly regulated – that they are forcing out residents and driving up rents by reducing the supply of available housing.”
Airbnb profits prompted S.F (PDF)

Rich People Say the Darndest Things
“The problem is that the world and this country should not talk about envy of the 1 percent. It should talk about emulating the 1 percent,” he said. “The 1 percent work harder. The 1 percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society.” –Billionaire Sam Zell, who owns Equity Residential, now Berkeley’s Largest Landlord.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/05/sam-zell-1-percent_n_4733196.html

Consider the Source
“For moderates like Mayor Ed Lee, appearing to get tough on the Ellis Act is an easy way to address voter discontent about affordability without having to wade into more controversial issues like housing density and planning reform.”
http://www.modernluxury.com/san-francisco/story/the-eviction-crisis-wasnt

Class Action Lawsuit Against Central Valley’s Biggest Slumlord
When repairs are made, the complaint alleges, they are merely cosmetic and fail to address the health and safety issues, and JD Homes often retaliates against tenants who complain to authorities.
http://tenantstogether.org/article.php?id=2944

More on Tenant Displacement in San Francisco
“There’s 50,600 proposed units of housing coming to San Francisco. Approximately 27,000 of these housing units have already been approved by officials, with 6,100 currently under construction. Most of the housing being built is “market rate,” meaning that it’s priced for those who can afford to spend roughly $36,000 a year on rent…The tech boom has conspired with rising housing prices to create an incredibly profitable incentive for landlords to push out low-income tenants and replace them with wealthy buyers, in spite of all the new units coming to market.”
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/02/13/san-franciscos-displacement-crisis/

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Renters March in Sacramento

Renters' Day of Action

Renters’ Day of Action

Rally in Sacramento

Rally in Sacramento

Tenants-to-be on the State Capital Steps

Tenants-to-be on the State Capital Steps

Renters March in Sacramento

Renters March in Sacramento

Berkeley Tenants

Berkeley Tenants Union

BTU to the Rescue

BTU to the Rescue

BTU visits legislators

BTU visits legislators

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BTU is Going to Sacramento!

day-of-action-2014-flyer-image_Page_1

Renters’ Day of Action
Tuesday February 18
Click to download a PDF

Berkeley Tenants Union members will join with tenants from around the state in the first tenant March and Rally in Sacramento in many years.

On Tuesday February 18, Tenants Together is leading member organizations like BTU to the capital. BTU members and friends are invited to hop on a bus in the morning and return by about 1 PM to the East Bay. If you live in Berkeley, please email us for more information. Sign up directly on the Tenants Together website if you are not a Berkeley tenant.

With evictions in California’s larger cities creating panic among long-term renters, it is time for solidarity. State cuts to affordable housing threaten to have long-term impacts unless restored, and elimination of the renters’ rebate in state income taxes has left low-income senior and disabled tenants with less food on the table. These are the issues we will march to support on the Renters’ Day of Action.

Signing an online petition is not enough. Even writing to your state representatives is not enough. It’s time to take to the streets!

◘ Restore the Renter’s Rebate For Seniors and Disabled

In 2008 the Governor cut the Senior Citizens Renters Tax Assistance Program from the California budget. The program allowed disabled and senior tenants making less than $44,096 a tax rebate of about $300. Fixed income renters relied on this rebate.

http://www.tenantstogether.org/section.php?id=136

◘ Support the Homes and Jobs Act

State Bill 391 puts a fee on recording of real estate transactions – except home sales – which would generate $500 million a year to fund construction of housing for working people. California could use this money to leverage another $2.78 billion in federal assistance and bank loans to boost construction and create 29,000 jobs.

Homes and Jobs PDF

◘ Reform the Ellis Act

Speculators are misusing the state law to get around local tenant protections. In San Francisco, over 3,700 families have lost their homes through this type of eviction. This reform asks that local governments have more control over how Ellis evictions are carried out.

http://www.antievictionmappingproject.net/ellis.html

If you have not, please sign the ELLIS REFORM PETITION:

http://bit.ly/reformellis

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