Renters Must VOTE!

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-4-10-23-pmThis is a big election for renters since the housing crisis has morphed into a housing emergency that has seen a record number of Cal students homeless while in school, the rapid displacement of longtime South Berkeley families, and a dramatic increase in both legal but pretextual evictions and general tenant harassment.

Berkeley Tenants endorsements for ballot measures can be found here:

Berkeley Tenants endorsements for candidates can be found here:


Posted in Issues

News Roundup: Renters on the Ballot

At the April 2016 Tenant Convention – sponsored by BTU and many other community organizations – a record turnout of Berkeley progressives selected a team of four candidates for Rent Board. Christina Murphy, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Leah Simon-Weisberg and Igor Tregub are your team – vote CALI!

However, the Pro-Tenant CALI team has opposition! Sitting landlord Commissioner Judy Hunt only managed to recruit one young property manager to run for election as part of her slate.

Property Manager Nate Wollman

Property Manager Nate Wollman

One of the major differences between the two groups is their positions on the ballot measures that most impact renters: Measure AA and Measures U1/DD. The team chosen at the Tenant Convention all support Measure AA and Measure U1 and consider the landlords’ measure DD a dangerous deception. Hunt was the only vote on the Rent Board not supporting U1. She repeatedly refused to vote for Measure AA as a Commissioner, though it was put on the ballot at the request of the Rent Board to update parts of the Rent Ordinance which got behind the times. (Measure AA is non-controversial, has no official opposition except Hunt and Wollman, and is endorsed by the School Board and Berkeley Federation of Teachers.)
Property Manager Wollman is one of the main critics of Measure U1’s exemption of new construction from the tax to encourage building of more housing, although he strongly supports more development in his Rent Board platform. “We have a lot of so called progressives that harp on the ideals of making this city more inclusive, more affordable, more accessible to students and low income renters and then go an protest at zoning board meetings about proposed developments,” Wollman told Berkeleyside.

Learn More About CALI:
The schedule shows the CALI team is out talking to voters with their supporters every Saturday and Sunday. They also plan to hold phone banks.

Rent Board Candidates on Video:
League of Women Voters held a forum for all six candidates.

Bernie Sanders Endorses Pro-Tenant Slate!

Daily Planet Endorsements for Berkeley

Berkeleyside Coverage

Hunt and Wollman have few endorsements

Hunt and Wollman have few endorsements

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Everyone Wants Rent Control!

Six Bay Area Cities Have Ballot Measures

Getting Renters to Vote Might Be the Heart

Tenants Are Really Getting Together

Landlords Tell the Same Old Lies

Alameda Arguments on CPI – Truth

Santa Rosa Gets Rent Control

..But Will It Be Undone?

Rent Control on the Ballot in Mountain View

More on Mountain View

Rent Control on the Ballot in San Mateo

Rent Control on the Ballot in Burlingame

Richmond Sees Wave of Evictions Before Vote

Oakland Wants Real Rent Control November 8th

Richmond Landlords Jack Rents Before Vote too

Concord Wants Rent Control

Property Owners Spend to Save

Owners Spend to Save in Berkeley Too

Want to Keep Your Rent Control?

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Election 2016: Tenant Endorsements – Measures

This is a big election for renters since the housing crisis has morphed into a housing emergency that has seen a record number of Cal students homeless while in school, the rapid displacement of longtime South Berkeley families, and a dramatic increase in both legal but pretextual evictions and general tenant harassment.

BTU shared our ballot measure endorsements meeting with our allies at Berkeley Citizens Action — the full endorsement list for Measures is at the bottom of this post.


Berkeley: More Eviction Protections
So far, Berkeley’s Measure AA has no declared opposition, and is endorsed by the Alameda County Democratic Party, Green Party of Alameda County, Berkeley School Board, East Bay Young Dems, Berkeley Tenants Union and Wellstone Democratic Club.
The measure, put on the ballot by the City Council at the request of the Berkeley Rent Board, delays “no fault” owner-move-in evictions (OMIs) of families with school-age children until end of school year and increases relocation funds. Voters have required landlords in OMIs to provide relocation help of $4,500 to low-income tenants, but not other tenants, since 2000. Measure AA would update this amount to $15,000, and require that it be paid to all tenant households, plus an additional $5,000 for low-income, disabled, age 60 or older, or long-term (since 1998) tenants.
Relocation funds help evicted renters stay in the area, which is good for the community and the environment.

Berkeley v. Big Landlords
Of course, the big news this year is the controversy generated by competing ballot measures based on the failed 2014 volunteer signature drive called Robin Hood. The Daily Planet reported that the Berkeley Property Owners Association has spent over $500,000 – that’s half a million dollars – to stop Measure U1. The Planet says that is the second most money spent in Berkeley history!
The grassroots campaign needs each and every renter in Berkeley to get up to speed and talk to their friends and neighbors – U1 can’t afford to compete with glossy mailers or pay students $15 an hour to hang something on your door! Renters should study up on the differences between U1 and DD and help Berkeley get the most affordable housing!

Who Supports Yes on U1 and No on DD?

The League of Women Voters: Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville
Alameda County Democratic Party, Wellstone, John George
East Bay Housing Organizations, Berkeley Food and Housing Project, BOSS
California Alliance for Retired Americans, ASUC, Berkeley Student Coop, Cal Dems
Sierra Club, Green Party, Greenbelt Alliance
Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy
Berkeley Tenants Union, Berkeley Progressive Alliance, Berkeley Citizens Action




Student Leaders Op-Ed – No on Deceptive DD.

Alameda County Housing Bond Measure A1
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to place a $580 million housing bond on the November ballot. This measure is a much needed investment in affordable homes for low-income renters, homeownership, and an Innovation Fund to seek new solutions to our housing crisis. It will require that 20% of the rental housing units be reserved for extremely low-income households at or below 20% Area Median Income, provide homeownership opportunities, and provide support to help keep residents in their homes.”

More on Measure A1 from East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO)

More Info

Berkeley AA
Berkeley U1
Berkeley DD
Alameda A1

Nice Collection of Many Progressive Endorsements–Margot-Smith

Rent Board Endorsements of Ballot Measures

BTU / BCA 2016 Endorsements As Voted By Memberships



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Election 2016: Tenant Endorsements – Candidates


This year, Berkeley Tenants Union held two endorsement events. In the spring, we shared a meeting with Berkeley Progressive Alliance and Berkeley Citizens Action to select candidates, and in the fall we shared a meeting with BCA to make endorsements on measures.

This is the first year the reconstituted BTU has done endorsements on measures, because this year there are several measures important to renters – particularly Measure AA (relocation funds for evicted renters) and Measure U1 (tax big landlords to fund affordable housing). Results of our ballot measures vote will be posted tomorrow.

Rent Board

opt3cali2Vote for four. Vote for only four — no ranked choice in this race.
Vote for the CALI Slate chosen at the Berkeley Tenant Convention!!
All are BTU Members:
Christina Murphy, Alejandro Soto-Vigil,
Leah Simon-Weisberg, Igor Tregub


Mayor: Jesse Arreguin

Jesse used to chair the Rent Board, was chosen at the Tenant Convention multiple times, and help pass recent rules for renters, including:

City Council:

Ending the Bates hold on City Council could really help make Berkeley’s housing policies into housing realities. Electing a realtor as mayor probably won’t.

District 2 West Berkeley: Nanci Armstrong-Temple
An activist with strong ties to the community and Black Lives Matter.

District 3 South Berkeley: Ben Bartlett
Chosen by Max Anderson to take his place.

District 5 North Berkeley: Sophie Hahn
Voice of reason on the Zoning Board. Leader at Sierra Club.

District 6 Northeast Berkeley: Fred Dodsworth
Longtime advocate who has helped with Tenant Convention. BTU Member.

electionHere is a link to the responses to our questionnaire from all local candidates who chose to answer (BPA led the questionnaire, in collaboration with BTU and BCA).





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National Petition on Short Term Rentals

Thanks to California Senator Diane Feinstein, there is a national movement to call for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate how commercial landlords using short term rental platforms are impacting housing shortages and contributing to high rents nationwide.

Now you can join their calls for a national investigation.


“Senators Dianne Feinstein of California, Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts wrote a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez requesting the agency “study and quantify” the prevalence of commercial renters using Airbnb, HomeAway Inc., VRBO and other short-term rental services. The letter said activity on those sites can result in housing shortages and drive up prices.”

Feinstein, Elizabeth Warren and other US Senators are also calling for investigation into charges of race discrimination on sites like Airbnb:

Democrats Discuss Airbnb Problems…

…But Party Leaders Boost Short Term Rentals Use During Convention
Like Grucella, one-quarter of all Philadelphia-area hosts for this week’s DNC were new to the role. And their homes were in demand. Airbnb estimated its Philadelphia partners would welcome over 5,000 guests for the convention, a 250 percent jump from a typical week.”
About 40,000 people are in Philadelphia for the convention, and Airbnb says 7,000 of them are using its home rental services, staying in spaces rented out by 3,000 hosts.”

Berkeley has passed up another opportunity to be a leader of policies that protect affordable housing by delaying any vote on short term rentals, even after a year of debate. 

Berkeley’s next hearing on Short Term Rentals is expected to be Wednesday September 7th at the Planning Commission.

Video about Airbnb Race Discrimination:

Congressional Black Caucus On Airbnb Racism
“Members of the CBC are deeply concerned about recent reports of exclusion of African-Americans on the Airbnb platform, and we sincerely hope the leadership of Airbnb will take the issue of discrimination seriously and implement common sense measures to prevent such discrimination and ill-treatment of its customers in the future.”

More on Warren’s Call for Investigation:
“Opponents argue that Airbnb, a platform that allows users to rent out their homes to strangers, is aggravating housing crises in cities across the country by flooding markets with short-term rentals and, as a result, reducing much-needed affordable housing. While Airbnb claims that many of its users are occasionally renting out rooms to make extra cash, some experts who have studied the limited data available argue that the platform is allowing people to operate sophisticated hotel businesses while dodging taxes and other key regulations.”

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Not So Rosy In Berkeley


Short Term Rentals

We have one step forward and two steps back:
The good news is that the City Council voted July 7th to demand enforcement of the existing law prohibiting short term rentals if an owner has three or more units offered as vacation rentals in Berkeley. BTU is sending updated info about the owners we complained about last summer – and we would like you to send any information about big landlords breaking the law to the City Council, and to us, too!
The bad news is that the Council majority may be selling tenants out for some tax revenue so they can cut a deal with megacorps like AirBnB. After promises from Bates and Capitelli to continue the ban on short term rentals of units that are not someone’s home, they voted to “have staff consider the possibility of grandfathering in permits for accessory dwelling units currently being rented out on a short-term basis.” In other words, if you own a duplex and are following the law, you are screwed, but people who have been breaking it might be allowed to legalize their small business.

“After debating some of the finer points about what the city’s ordinance should look like — particularly after a preliminary vote in June — officials agreed to have staff do further research before ratifying the overall law. In the meantime, however, officials want to begin immediately to address the issue of owners with multiple units who are flouting the rules. “It’s currently against the law and it will continue to be against the law,” Worthington said. “Therefore there’s no reason to delay.”

Durant Demolition Granted
(with Unknown Mitigation)

We have mostly a success story on our continuing opposition to the demolition of 18 rent controlled units on Durant. This is because while the BTU/ASUC appeal was going through a ridiculous year-long city process, the Council passed a new version of the demolition ordinance which requires a mitigation fee for the loss of rent control.

However, the Council did not set the fee. State law says you have to show a direct relationship between the level of a mitigation fee and the damage to society that the money is meant to offset. Council first commissioned a “nexus study” on demolition of rent controlled units several years ago, but they say they still don’t have it back. Some activists think they are waiting until after the election to make an unpopular vote.
BTU plans to demand that the fee be as high as the study says it needs to be to provide for one-for-one replacement of rent controlled units with real affordable housing.

2631 Durant In Daily Cal
“We don’t inherently oppose tearing-down and replacing the building,” Lewis said in an email of the project that would add 38 housing units to the city of Berkeley. “However, we do oppose incentivizing landlords to destroy habitable, low-cost housing in order to try to make a profit.”

Berkeley Demolition Appeal in SF Chronicle
Berkeley’s approval of demolition increases worries over rent – San Francisco Chronicle

Lawsuit on Durant Demolition
Developer Orloff claims there is an inherent “right to develop.”
“…plaintiffs fault Berkeley for “its enactment of legislation that illegally and unconstitutionally requires property owners to transfer massive sums of money to the City and tenants in order to exercise an essential right of property ownership: the right to develop property.” They seek, among other relief, a declaration from the court that the ordinance violates the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution and its Due Process Clause, and is therefore invalid.The city, in its motion to dismiss, argues that there is a definite nexus between mitigation fees and the public purpose of mitigating the loss of affordable housing…”

In Other News

2017 Berkeley Budget Cuts Homeless Services
The City took money from long-established programs to pay for a new “hub” for homeless intake.

Evictions from Unpermitted Units in SF
“Though S.F. has proven to be an inhospitable place for renters the last several years, the circumstances surrounding this eviction are particularly startling. It seems that Malliett’s new landlords—Mathieu Verbeeck, a VP of product development at Mubi, and Catherine Crevels, a marketing manager at Intuit—are testing out a novel strategy for ejecting tenants. They contend that Malliett and her daughter are causing a “nuisance” by living in a unit that lacks the proper permits. The Board of Supervisors has…”

Where Do Renters Evicted from SF Move?

San Jose Needs a Demolition Mitigation

First Time Buyers Screwed Too
The only cities that fared worse than Oakland and Berkeley were Miami Beach, Florida (299) and Newark, New Jersey (300).”

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Mayor Adds Last-Minute Twist

After a year of public hearings and debate, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates is proposing to change the Short Term Rentals law which Berkeley City Council passed on May 31. Every law in Berkeley must be voted on twice, and in between vote one and vote two, Berkeley leaders are appearing to waiver.

Berkeley City Council votes Thursday, July 7th at a special 5:30pm meeting.

Bates has introduced a proposed contract with Airbnb to collect tax for Berkeley if Berkeley does not compel Airbnb to share any data that might allow our city to enforce the law and protect our housing supply. This contract comes at the same time that Oakland has cut a similar deal, but while San Francisco is increasing fines and being sued by the corporate platform.

The new law is already a compromise which allows residents to rent their homes, or rooms in their homes, while continuing the (as yet unenforced) ban on rentals of empty homes. The reason that rentals of less than 14 days have been against the law in Berkeley is because such rentals allow an owner to get around tenant protections and rent control.

It is important that Berkeley Tenants who have not written to Council since May 31 send them a letter asking that they approve the second reading of the law which has gone through a long public process already. It is important that everyone read this ridiculous contract with Airbnb and let the Mayor know that he can’t give away our hard-won tenants rights as one of his last acts in office!




Proposed Berkeley Contract With Airbnb

The Contract Offer:
– Stays over 29 days in duration will not be subject to tax
– Berkeley waives all taxes not paid before contract date
– The Department of Finance will not directly or indirectly audit any Host
– Airbnb will not provide personally identifiable information regarding its Hosts
– Berkeley can audit Airbnb no more frequently than every four years
2016 STRs air bnb contract

NY TIMES: SF and NYC Crack Down on Illegal Hotels
Airbnb sued San Francisco over a unanimous decision on June 7 by the city’s Board of Supervisors to fine the company $1,000 a day for every unregistered host on its service. If Airbnb does not comply, it could face misdemeanor charges. The suit follows a bipartisan move by New York lawmakers who voted this month to heavily fine anyone who uses Airbnb to rent a whole apartment for fewer than 30 days, a practice that has been illegal in the state since 2010.”

Airbnb Sues San Francisco
The largest corporation making money off illegal hotels is suing the City of SF over their new policy of fining the hosting platform for listing illegal rentals.

SF WANTED Posters for Illegal Hotel Operators

LA City Attorney Files Suit Over Illegal Hotels
“Given that shortage of affordable housing, illegally converting rental units to hotels or short-rentals has got to stop,” City Atty. Mike Feuer said at a news conference Monday. “My office is going to intervene to preserve rent-stabilized units and restore those units when we allege they’ve been unlawfully taken off the market.”

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Updates and News

Short Term Rentals held over by Berkeley City Council until Thursday July 7. BTU will post an update in a couple of days regarding the Mayor’s last-minute introduction of a proposed contract with Airbnb.

Durant Demolition approved under new demolition law which calls for mitigation of the loss of rent controlled housing through a fee to fund new low-income housing – however, the fee has not been set yet! Also, that developer has filed a lawsuit against the new version of the law.

Two Competing Landlord Taxes on Berkeley Ballot
Depending on the business license tax rate increase, the CSAH measure would fund 40 to 70 units annually, while BRHC’s would pay for just 12, Barton added. The measures also differ on exemptions. The apartment owners’ measure raises taxes on every rental housing unit currently taxed.

Gulbransen says the lack of exemptions makes their measure more equitable. The CSAH measure exempts tax increases on low-rent units housing tenants living under rent control since 1998, units rented under federally subsidized programs and permanently affordable inclusionary units in newer buildings.

But in California, the profits from ever-increasing land values aren’t shared for the public good. They’re collected by landlords in the form of higher rents…. But a broad-based coalition of Berkeley renters, affordable-housing activists, political leaders, and even some landlords are trying to revive the idea of a land tax. And they want to dedicate the millions it could raise to affordable housing.”

The additional tax would raise an additional $5 million a year from landlords over the current $3.5 million, for a total of $8.5 million a year, according to estimates by the Committee for Safe and Affordable Housing, which supports the measure. Apartments rented to Section 8 tenants, apartments with tenants in occupancy since before 1999, and certain other properties, would be exempt from the tax increase; there also would be a hardship exemption. The measure would prohibit passing the business tax increase along to most tenants. Proceeds of the tax increase would facilitate 45 affordable housing units per year.

Rent Board Candidate Igor Tregub
Igor is also a member of the BTU Steering Committee.

UCB Report: Market Rate Housing Doesn’t Prevent Gentrification
see also

Council Talks About Housing Plan
Proposals approved for implementation or further study ran the gamut from financial incentives and taxes, to rezoning, red tape-cutting, beefing up the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and protections against eviction. Many will be the subject of a larger council discussion on housing tentatively scheduled for early fall.

Jesse Arreguin Discusses Housing Policy

UC Students Have Trouble Accessing Rights

San Francisco Tenant Takes On Costa Hawkins in the Media

Affordable Housing Bond on Alameda County Ballot

Concord Wants Rent Control!
The full City Council is scheduled to discuss the rental situation in Concord and the policy options available to the council on July 26.”

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Action Alert: Airbnb Can’t Take Our Homes!

This Tuesday, Berkeley’s City Council indicated they might backtrack on the decent short term rentals law they passed on May 31st. The second reading of the new law was held over at Councilman Capitelli’s request, and will be heard June 28th. Councilman Capitelli is also running for Mayor.

Basically, Berkeley Tenants have until next week to get as many letters to the City Council as AirBnB hosts already sent, or we will continue to see our rent controlled housing converted to hotel rooms. Air BnB got at least 200 Berkeley users to send our elected leaders form letters last week, and that’s all it took for Council to start wavering from the strong referral they made last summer.

1701 Oxford Has Every Unit on Airbnb

1701 Oxford Has Every Unit on Airbnb


ACTION: Send to:

Thank you for passing a fair short term rentals law.
I support allowing people to rent their homes when they are on vacation, but I stand with the Berkeley Tenants Union in asking for strict enforcement of a ban on converting empty units into tourist rentals. It’s important that “hosts” be required to have a business license just like any other small business in Berkeley, pay their fair share of taxes, and display that license on their listings so it will be easier to enforce the law.

So far, the Rent Board, Planning Commission, and Housing Advisory Commission agreed about most provisions of the new law – The same provisions the Council itself asked for after a long public process last summer! But because a couple folks who are already breaking the law by renting their second unit as a short term rental pleaded that they will lose their homes if they are not allowed to continue to break the law, Council is wavering on a decades-old policy of not letting folks circumvent rent control by renting for less than 14 days. Also, because of pressure from corporations like HomeAway and Airbnb, Council is wavering on the only enforcement mechanism in the new law: requiring the business license on advertising.

This late first step toward dealing with the problems caused by short-term rentals in Berkeley comes at the same moment that San Francisco is revising their law to fine corporations like Airbnb $1000 per day if they advertise places that are not registered with that city, because so far only 25% of hosts in San Francisco are legal. San Francisco collected over half a million dollars in fines in the first six months of its new program.

City Council has asked staff to come back with more information on the 28th:
Info on the business license process, What is a Zoning Certificate? Why is displaying the license number on the ads is key to enforcement? What is the new San Francisco law? What is the difference between the staff and planning commission drafts? What is an ADU? What about in-laws with no separate kitchen? What are penalties for non-compliance? How will enforcement occur?

About Berkeley’s Draft Law
“We’ve gone years letting large landlords take entire buildings and a sizable number of rental units off the market,” said City Councilman Kriss Worthington.… “We need to start enforcement on large landowners who are constantly breaking the law and raking in lots of money… We need to stop that as fast as we can.”

Short Term Rentals Are a Way to Circumvent Rent Control
“For these reasons and more, it should come as no surprise that so many Berkeley homeowners are choosing to rent via Airbnb (where any commitment is limited to a matter of days), rather than leasing to a local (who may overstay their welcome by decades).”

Airbnb Berkeley Form Letter
Airbnb Letter (PDF)

City Council Item Under Consideration

San Francisco Starts $1,000 Penalties

Surprise! Corporation Fights New Regulations

Harvard Study: Unregulated Airbnb Allows Racial Profiling

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Yes on AA, Ballot Measure to Update Eviction Protections

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