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.
http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_29928806/berkeley-voters-could-face-dueling-robin-hood-tax

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.”
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/berkeley-city-council-approves-ballot-measure-to-tax-landlords-and-create-affordable-housing-fund/Content?oid=4818958

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.
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29974957/berkeley-council-oks-funding-measures-november-ballot

Rent Board Candidate Igor Tregub
Igor is also a member of the BTU Steering Committee.
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/05/26/igor-tregub-files-run-rent-stabilization-board/

UCB Report: Market Rate Housing Doesn’t Prevent Gentrification
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2016/05/27/uc-berkeley-report-lao-wrong-about-market-rate-housing-panacea
see also
https://news.berkeley.edu/2016/05/23/researchers-stress-role-of-subsidized-housing-in-easing-affordability-crisis/

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.
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29919572/berkeley-backs-package-steps-address-housing

Jesse Arreguin Discusses Housing Policy
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/05/31/berkeley-city-must-take-comprehensive-approach-to-housing-crisis/

UC Students Have Trouble Accessing Rights
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/06/20/housing-struggles/

San Francisco Tenant Takes On Costa Hawkins in the Media
http://mediaoneservices.com/mary-catherine-wiederhold-and-neil-hutchinson-62816/

Affordable Housing Bond on Alameda County Ballot
http://www.ebho.org/2012-02-07-00-50-21/regional-policy-a-land-use/alameda-county-housing-bond

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.”
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/concord/ci_30066419/rent-control-hot-topic-concord

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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: council@cityofberkeley.info

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.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/06/09/berkeley-city-council-okays-spare-bedrooms-but-not-backyard-cottages-for-short-term-rentals/comment-page-1/

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).”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/06/20/op-ed-why-airbnb-is-so-popular-among-berkeley-homeowners-a-cautionary-tale-on-renting-space-in-your-home/#disqus_thread

Airbnb Berkeley Form Letter
Airbnb Letter (PDF)

City Council Item Under Consideration
see http://berkeleytenants.org/?p=1681

San Francisco Starts $1,000 Penalties
http://www.sfexaminer.com/sf-legislators-approve-tougher-rules-airbnb/

Surprise! Corporation Fights New Regulations
https://techcrunch.com/2016/06/16/airbnb-launches-campaign-to-ease-registration-requirements-for-sf-hosts/

Harvard Study: Unregulated Airbnb Allows Racial Profiling
http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=46073

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Owner Move-In Evictions

More Evictions in West Berkeley

More Evictions in West Berkeley

On Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council will consider a request from the Rent Board to place a measure on the November 2016 ballot to update the Rent Ordinance. Because that law was passed by the voters, it can only be changed at the ballot box. This will be Item 48 on the June 14th agenda.

Update: This Will Be On The November Ballot

Summary of the Changes
The main request is to revise the amount of assistance tenants receive when they lose their homes to an owner move-in eviction (OMI). Berkeley’s relocation funds have not been updated since 2000. The changes would also expand relocation assistance to all tenants; currently only low-income Berkeley tenants get any recompense at all after such no fault evictions. Berkeley is the only rent controlled jurisdiction in California which restricts help by income. Since rents have gone up over 40% in five years, all tenants need help with moving costs and new security deposits.

The other important change to the Rent Ordinance would be to protect families with children from owner move-in evictions during the school year. An owner could still evict a family, but the family would not have to disrupt their children’s education and could wait until the summer to relocate. San Francisco has had such protections for renter families for many years.

OMI evictions in Berkeley doubled between 2013 and 2014.
When Berkeley voters passed “Measure Y” in November 2000, they also voted to have the Rent Board monitor such evictions. Recently, the Rent Board won an important court victory (see http://berkeleytenants.org/?p=1386) which upheld the agency’s ability to reset the rent to the previous tenant’s rent-controlled rent when a landlord evicts a tenant but does not actually move in.

The Rent Board reports on owner move-in evictions every six months. The reports show that most owners who evict buy the building and then evict within two years. The reports also show that most “fake” OMIs happen in larger buildings, and that recent OMIs are concentrated west of Sacramento. Yet the Rent Board only tracks evictions which follow the law. If tenants leave simply because they are threatened with an OMI, the Rent Board cannot track the eviction or enforce the law. Tenants who accept a buyout also have new protections passed by the City Council a few months ago, but typically waive their rights under the Rent Ordinance for some cash.
Relocation funds would increase to about $15,000 per household.
BTU hopes increasing the relocation payment a landlord is required to give might cut down on false evictions.

Read Item 48 here: RSO Changes Ballot Measure Final
“The law currently requires landlords who evict for the purpose of moving into the rental unit to pay $4,500 only to tenant households who qualify as low income. Tenants who are evicted for owner move in but do not qualify as low income receive nothing. Berkeley is one of the only major rent control jurisdictions in the state that does not provide relocation assistance to all tenants, regardless of income. Also, the relocation assistance amount set forth in Measure Y has not been adjusted since it was passed almost 16 years ago. The amount of the assistance is nearly four times lower than that required by the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood – each of which have periodically adjusted relocation payments over the years in response to rising rents, moving costs, and inflation.”

Report on Owner Move In Evictions:
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Level_3_-_General/Measure%20Y%20report_9-18-15(1).pdf

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Final Vote on AirBnB May 31

The Berkeley City Council may finally pass some Short Term Rental (STR) laws on Tuesday, May 31. The problem for tenants is that city staff won’t enforce the existing ban on STRs until Council makes the new laws, yet the draft being contemplated by Berkeley repeats the mistakes that have caused problems for San Francisco, Portland and other cities with tight rental markets that are popular tourist destinations.

In May and June of 2015, several activists and tenants impacted by short term rentals in their building filed code enforcement complaints on behalf of BTU against some of the landlords who are listing multiple empty units on AirBnB and other websites.

So far, Berkeley has refused to act on these and other complaints.

Some Landlords List Many Units

Some Landlords List Many Units

A new report from San Francisco on the impact of AirBnB on the rental housing market calls for SF Supervisors to require “hosting platforms” to only advertise rentals that are legally listed with the city. Yet Berkeley’s draft recommended by planning Staff does even require that an advertisement show an identifying license number.

We ask Berkeley Tenants to join BTU in asking the City Council to enact legislation requiring hosting platforms to only list units and hosts that are registered with our City and to fine hosing platforms like HomeAway, FlipKey and Airbnb if they advertise rentals which are not legal here. This would allow less expensive enforcement of the new laws, which will allow regular folks to rent out their own home. We hope the new law will stop large landlords from turning whole apartment buildings into hotels – as several have done already!
We also want to support the Rent Board, Planning Commission and Housing Commission in suggesting that units where tenants have been evicted through OMI or Ellis Act evictions should not be allowed to be short term rentals in Berkeley. Please take a look at the report from the Rent Board, which is an attachment below.
Finally, we suggest you write to the City Council to request that no whole units, not even in-law or accessory units, be converted to hotel rooms when we need every single housing unit to be offered to folks who live and work in Berkeley! Although the original Council referral asked that the law require any short term rental to be someone’s primary home, the Staff draft of the new law would allow some 2nd units on owner-occupied properties to be offered as tourist rentals. As the analysis of the impact of Airbnb in San Francisco shows, losing units to short term rentals does drive up housing costs.

More Information:

Kathy’s Letter on Enforcement
STRS Council May 2016 from KH

Handy Chart on Different Versions from Jesse Townley
http://www.cityofberkeley.info/uploadedFiles/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Level_3_-_General/7a2.pdf

Council Item 30 for May 31
This item has six attachments, including two versions of the ordinance. BTU favors the Planning Commission draft, but even that’s not ready to be law as written. The best place to access the item is in the full agenda packet on page 285.
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/35320626/2016-05-31%20Agenda%20Packet%20-%20WEB.pdf

Rent Board Report on No-Fault Evictions
https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Committee_Meetings/2016/16_May_12_FULL_Agenda_Packet_4x4_Committee.aspx

Berkeley’s Housing Commission on Vacation Rentals
http://www.dailycal.org/2015/10/04/housing-advisory-commission-makes-short-term-rent-recommendations/

SF Report on Enforcement
http://www.sfbos.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=55575

SF Analysis of STR Impact 2016
http://www.sfbos.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=52601

Also on the May 31 Agenda:

Item 19 Support AB 2502 Inclusionary Housing
Ask the state to allow local requirements for affordable rental housing. Right now, Berkeley can’t require that developers include lower-income units on site if the housing being built will be rental housing. California needs to make a law to allow Berkeley control over local zoning mitigations.

Item 21 – End Discrimination Based on Tenant’s Income Source
Owners would have to accept Section 8 Housing Vouchers.

Item 27 Placing a Measure on the November 8, 2016 Ballot to Increase the Business License Tax on Owners of Five or More Residential Rental Units

Item 31 Tenant Protection Ordinance Read more ›

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News Roundup

 

houses

Berkeley Top Rental Market
Berkeley rentals are usually listed for an average of six days before they are rented.
http://sf.curbed.com/2016/5/11/11659084/berkeley-el-cerrito-rent-onerent

Lawsuits Following Berkeley Balcony Collapse
They are suing 11 named defendants who fall under the umbrella of two companies: Blackrock – the owners of the Library Gardens development, and Greystar – the property managers…
The three are alleging that the wooden deck of the balcony was already water damaged before the water-proof coating was applied in 2006, during the construction of the Library Gardens complex, and that the owners and managers knew it was dangerous.”
http://www.rte.ie/news/2016/0412/781151-berkeley-balcony-legal/

A Californian judge denied applications by the main defendants in the suits, who had been seeking to have claims for punitive damages struck out. These are additional damages paid on top of basic compensation, designed to punish offenders and to discourage similar conduct in future.”
http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/court-rejects-bid-to-limit-damages-in-berkeley-case-34663214.html

Five Library Gardens Contractors Broke Law
Contractors State License Board, or CSLB, found Segue Construction, Etter and Sons Construction, R. Brothers Waterproofing, Northstate Plastering and the Energy Store of California “willfully departed from accepted trade standards for good and workmanlike construction.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/04/14/license-board-alleges-contractor-violations-contributed-berkeley-balcony-collapse/

“Investigators said the balcony supports failed because the incorrect application of waterproofing resulted in “water incursion that caused dry rot.” The Alameda County (CA) district attorney said that workers waterproofed the balcony supports while they were wet, leaving the water trapped underneath to rot the wood.”
http://www.constructiondive.com/news/ca-investigators-cite-contractors-in-berkeley-balcony-collapse-for-poor-wo-1/417241/

Oakland Converting Residential Hotel to Luxury Tourist Spot
One of the last single room occupancy hotels in Oakland will be converted to a boutique hotel, according to the East Bay Express. Losing the 102 rooms will likely increase the number of homeless in Oakland. Several other low-income hotels are already being converted, because Oakland has no protections for SROs.
The potential sale of the Sutter — which serves very-low income people, many of them on the verge of homelessness — follows the recent sale of two other downtown Oakland SROs to investors, who plan to push out existing tenants and turn the properties into market-rate apartments or upscale tourist hostels.”
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/affordable-no-more/Content?oid=4791392

Evictions in Alameda County
Dejected renters sat on benches along the walls, fiddling with their cell phones. Seniors leaned on canes. Other tenants pushed walkers. One man told his attorney he’d kill himself if he lost his home in Berkeley, where he’d lived for 18 years.”
http://www.mercurynews.com/crime-courts/ci_29831195/evictions-soar-alameda-county-rents-rise

San Jose Considers Relocation Funds for Renters
Berkeley already provides relocation for tenants displaced through no fault of their own, and the Rent Board has requested a ballot measure this year to raise the relocation funds for owner-move-in evictions, since Berkeley has not increased the allowance since 2001.
https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/san-jose-landlords-pay-displaced-tenants

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Election Update

BALLOT MEASURE CONTROVERSY

A draft of the ballot measure BTU supports will be reviewed by City Council on May 31.

The Berkeley landlords submitted their ballot measure petition to the City Clerk today. Now the Clerk will check a sample number of the signers – it could be some time before we hear if the petition was validated. They submitted 3,326 signatures; because it is a tax measure it requires 1,932 valid signatures.

BTU’s Selawsky Sounds Warning
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2016-05-13/article/44490?headline=Deceptive-housing-petition-now-circulating–John-T.-Selawsky-jwebsky-earthlink.net

Committee for Safe and Affordable Homes:
www.fundaffordablehousing.org

The Landlords’ Petition:
http://www.thebrhc.org/ballot-measure.html

BACKGROUND ON BRHC and BPOA

The Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition was formed last summer by leaders of the Berkeley Property Owners Association as a 501(c)6 for lobbying, lawsuits, and other political activities. According to their website, they elect their Board of Directors by allowing each landlord one vote per unit, so the largest property owners control the group.

Daily Cal: http://www.dailycal.org/2015/06/25/berkeley-landlord-coalition-raises-money-to-seek-greater-political-influence/
Daily Planet: http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-06-12/article/43384?headline=Berkeley-Landlords-Form-Political-Action-Committee-to-Raise-Half-Million-per-Year–
Daily Cal: http://www.dailycal.org/2015/07/08/berkeley-mayor-tom-bates-criticized-for-encouraging-landlords-to-form-pac/
Mayor Bates Urges Landlords to Form PAC: https://youtu.be/vzvHaSP3LJ4 (see 24 minutes in)

RENT BOARD ELECTION

267 voters at the 2016 Tenant Convention (photo Christine Schwartz)

267 voters at the 2016 Tenant Convention (photo Christine Schwartz)

Daily Cal article focusing on Christina Murphy and Leah Simon-Weisberg

Leah Simon-Weisberg (photo C. Schwartz)

Leah Simon-Weisberg (photo C. Schwartz)

Tenant leader and current Rent Board Commissioner Judy Shelton is quoted in the article as saying, ““These are progressive people who are all very passionate about supporting

Christina Murphy (photo C. Schwartz)

Christina Murphy (photo C. Schwartz)

tenants,” said Shelton, whose term is ending this election season. “They’re supporting each other, and we in the progressive community support them too.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/05/13/christina-murphy-leah-simon-weisberg-run-rent-stabilization-board/

Daily Cal on the Tenant Convention
In 2012, a similar pro-landlord slate — Tenants United for Fairness — ran one candidate in order to combat allegations of a pro-tenant bias within the rent board. The following year, the slate allegedly did not submit campaign finance statements from prohibited organizations — including Premium Properties — to the city. Tenants United for Fairness agreed to pay a $4,000 fine to the city and has not run a candidate since Judy Hunt was elected in 2012.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/04/24/pro-tenant-convention-elects-slate-candidates-november-election-sunday/

Leah Simon-Weisberg Launches Website for Rent Board Election
http://www.leahsimon-weisberg.com/

BTU ENDORSEMENTS

While the Tenant Convention had 267 voters, BTU’s endorsements meeting for Council and Mayor had a lower, but still impressive, turnout of 109 voters. Although Kriss Worthington announced he was also running for mayor, organizers of the event from BTU and our progressive allies would not change the rules at the start of the meeting, so only one candidate can use our endorsement in each race, although voters in the November election can rank their choices.

Mayor: BTU Member Jesse Arreguin

District 2: Nanci Armstrong-Temple

District 3: Ben Bartlett

District 5: Sophie Hahn

District 6: BTU Member Fred Dodsworth

BTU / BPA / BCA Endorsements Meeting in East Bay Times
“Building affordable housing, blunting gentrification and finding compassionate solutions to homelessness were central issues addressed April 30 by mayoral and council candidates seeking joint endorsement by the left-leaning Berkeley Progressive Alliance, Berkeley Citizen’s Action and Berkeley Tenants Union.”
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29845596/berkeley-progressive-groups-back-arreguin-mayor

BTU / BPA / BCA Endorsements Meeting in Daily Cal
Registered members of any of the three groups who had paid their dues were eligible to cast a ballot. Approximately 100 ballots were cast for each position. Voters were allowed to either cast a ballot for any of the candidates who spoke at the meeting or write in candidates….Worthington, who was seeking mayoral endorsement but has not yet registered for candidacy, asked for the groups to endorse two candidates for each position. Worthington said he is running for mayor in a formal political partnership with Arreguin.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/05/02/progressive-voters-meet-endorse-mayoral-city-council-candidates/

Berkeley Progressive Alliance Op-Ed
These organizations are part of a network of progressive Berkeley citizens working to curb the influence of special interests and make local government accountable to the residents of Berkeley. They include a campaign in to increase funding for affordable housing in Berkeley.”
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2016-04-22/article/44418?headline=It-s-Time-to-Make-Berkeley-Truly-Progressive–From-Margot-Smith-for-BPA

Jesse Arreguin For Mayor Op-Ed on Housing
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2016-04-15/article/44389?headline=Housing-Costs-Major-Topic-for-Berkeleyans–Councilmember-Jesse-Arreguin

Nanci Armstrong-Temple, District 2: South and West Berkeley
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/05/11/berkeley-resident-files-to-run-for-district-2-city-council-election/

Ben Bartlett, District 3: South Berkeley
http://benbartlett.vote/

Sophie Hahn, District 5: North Berkeley
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2016-01-29/article/44128?headline=Sophie-Hahn-Announces-Run-for-Berkeley-City-Council-District-5–From-the-Sophie-Hahn-Campaign-Committee

Fred Dodsworth, District 6: Berkeley Hills
http://www.dailycal.org/2016/03/09/berkeley-resident-fred-dodsworth-files-to-run-for-district-6-council-seat/

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Do Not Sign!

Landlords Are Circulating This Petition

Landlords Are Circulating This Petition

Remember Robin Hood? Berkeley tenants tried to put a measure on the 2014 ballot to tax the rich and build homes for the poor. It didn’t work out. But in 2016, Berkeley progressives of various stripes all joined together in a coalition to fight the housing emergency with good public policy. We expect the City Council to place a balanced measure on the ballot which will fund affordable housing by increasing fees to Berkeley’s largest landlords.

The Committee for Safe and Affordable Housing is led by Berkeley’s two leading candidates for mayor. That’s right, Councilmembers Jesse Arreguin and Laurie Capitelli agree – to get more money for affordable housing we need to tax the real estate investors whose rent increases create the need for more affordable housing. We need the money to help non-profit organizations, land trusts and limited-equity cooperatives to build or buy housing and keep it affordable for everyone from teachers and childcare workers to cooks and secretaries. And our measure won’t pass on these increased fees to renters.

Great News, right? Until…

The Berkeley Property Owners Association saw a way to stop this new ballot measure by creating a competing measure. It is well known that two measures on a ballot usually mean both measures fail.

The landlords have already succeeded in confusing the voters – so members have been asking us for more information on The Petition You Should Not Sign. Here it is:

► This landlord trick is the only “affordable housing” petition being circulated. Our measure will be placed on the ballot by the City Council if we can keep the pressure on our leaders. Do not sign any “affordable housing” petitions.

► The City Council measure supported by BTU will raise about $5 million annually. The BPOA measure will raise about $1 million annually, saving Berkeley’s larger landlords $4 million a year.

► The Safe and Affordable Homes City Council measure will finance construction or acquisition & rehabilitation of one project with 40 to 50 affordable homes every year. The BPOA measure on the petition will only raise enough money to do one project every five years.

► The BPOA measure can be passed through to over 1,200 Berkeley tenants who are not protected by rent control. The Council/BTU measure uses carefully targeted exemptions to protect almost all renters from an increase.

► The BPOA measure on the petition being circulated is unfair because

  • It taxes income from “inclusionary” units where the rent is restricted and the unit is rented to lower income tenants.
  • It taxes smaller, moderate-income landlords instead of focusing on larger professional real estate investors like the owners who control BPOA.
  • It taxes income from apartments rented to tenants receiving assistance from the Section 8 and Shelter + Care programs, while the Safe and Affordable Homes measure exempts these owners to encourage renting to Section 8.

Have Your Signature Invalidated – use the form below. You can fax, scan and send as an email attachment, or drop it off in person to the Berkeley Clerk at 2180 Milvia Street. They must be able to see your signature, so you can’t just email (unless it’s a scan, in which case send to clerk @ city of berkeley dot info).
REQUEST FOR WITHDRAWAL OF SIGNATURE

Help Spread The Word with Our Fliers:
BTU-Do-Not-Sign
BTU flier 2-up NEW

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Tenant Convention Sunday!

2016-RSB-convention-flyer-IMAGE-1200x1200FNLThe 2016 Rent Board Convention to select a pro-tenant slate for the elected Rent Board will be held on April 24th – THIS SUNDAY! – at the South Berkeley Senior Center on Ellis at Ashby. The gathering is sponsored this year by BTU, Friends of Adeline, the Berkeley NAACP, Berkeley Green Party, Berkeley Progressive Alliance, Berkeley Citizens Action, Socialist Alliance, the Peace and Freedom Party, CalSERVE, and UC Berkeley Students for Bernie Sanders.

The convention has been held each election year by a coalition of progressive groups for over 20 years in order to present a unified slate for the November Rent Board election. This year, there are 11 candidates for four seats. Because Rent Board Commissioner is the only elected office in Berkeley with term limits, there are only two protenant incumbents: Asa Dodsworth and Alejandro Soto-Vigil.
Candidate statements are on the convention website. Asa Dodsworth and Marcia Levinson did not send written responses. Sponsoring groups also send representatives to rate the candidates, interview them, and get more information about specific concerns of their membership. The convention site will also host the ratings and comments from community screeners, as well as the rules of the convention.

Candidate statements, screener feedback, convention rules:
http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/

Candidates are:

Asa Dodsworth, Marcia Levenson, Matthew Lewis, Thomas Lord, Christina Murphy, Poki Namkung, Christine Schwartz, Leah Simon-Weisberg, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Igor Tregub, Eleanor Walden. Dodsworth, Simon-Weisberg, Lewis, and Tregub have served on the BTU steering committee.

BEWARE! You must be inside for all candidate statements in order to vote. Folks not in by 2 PM may not get ballots. Convention starts Sunday at 1:30 PM!

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Good News: Community Survey

by guest author Rob Wrenn

The City of Berkeley’s March 2016 Community Survey has now been released and it contains good news for advocates for increased funding for affordable housing.

Given a choice of 12 issues, “Building affordable housing” was ranked number 1 by survey respondents with 22%, followed by the related issue of “Addressing  homelessness” with 17% .

37% answered that “providing affordable housing” was “extremely important”, while 41% said it was “very important”.  As far as actions considered extremely important, “providing homeless services” was number 2, with 33%.

Increasing the Business License Tax on Landlords
Four questions were asked about increasing the Business License Tax on landlords of residential buildings, an action supported by BTU, BCA, the Berkeley Progressive Alliance and affordable housing advocates generally. The survey shows strong support for the tax, which need not be written to require more than a 50% vote.

When asked whether they would vote for a measure to increase the tax on landlords with five or more units by an average of $30 a month per rental unit, with revenues going to providing new affordable housing and homelessness prevention efforts, 60% said Yes, and 13% were undecided or didn’t know.

The same question, but applied to landlords of buildings with 10 or more units, received 55% yes; 20% undecided.

When told that the increase in the tax could not be passed on to tenants and would bring in a about $4 million every year, enough to create 300 affordable units over ten years and would also fund emergency rental assistance to help Berkeley families avoid homelessness, the yes vote jumped to 67%

Finally  if the tax were $45 a month per unit and would bring in about $6 million a year, enough to create 450 affordable units,  53% said they would be more likely to vote for it; 23% said less likely.

Housing Bond Measure
61% said they would vote for a $500 million Alameda County bond measure to fund construction, development, acquisition, and preservation of affordable housing affordable to low and middle income individuals and families that would prioritize vulnerable populations and would provide down payment assistance for middle income households. Tax after bonds were issued would be $12 per $100,000 in assessed value. 18% said no and 21 were undecided or replied that they didn’t know. Such a bond would require a two-thirds vote countywide and would have to be strongly supported in Berkeley to pass countywide.

Demographic info:

  • 48% of respondents were home owners; 47% were tenants
  • Only 11% were full-time students; 20% were retired
  • 62% of respondents were white; 10% black; 10% Asian
  • Only 14% were 18-24.
  • 72% were reached on a cell phone.
  • 43% lived in Council districts 5, 6 and 8 where turnout tends to be high in local elections; 30% from the progressive districts 3, 4 and 7 that have large tenant populations.
  • On the whole, students, who are likely to support such a measure, were underrepresented in the sample and white people were slightly overrepresented relative to the population.
  • 34% consider themselves “progressive” “in terms of local politics”, while 34% consider themselves “liberal” and 21% “moderate”; with only 5% for “conservative”.
  • Only 3% were Republicans.

Public Financing
38% said they would support an amendment to the City Charter for public financing of local elections. 32% were opposed; 30%, a sizable number, undecided.

You can find the entire survey here:
http://www.berkeleyside.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Community-Survey-032116.pdf

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ORGANIZE!

A new law requires balconies be inspected and repaired.

A new law requires balconies be inspected and repaired.

Your Berkeley Tenants Union’s quarterly members meeting will be March 30th. It is open to all members, and you can join BTU at the meeting if you are willing to sign our member pledge. Contact us for more information.

The 2016 Rent Board Convention to select a pro-tenant slate for the elected Rent Board will be held on April 24th, a Sunday, at the South Berkeley Senior Center. Potential candidates should contact the convention, which has been held each election year by a coalition of progressive groups for over 20 years.
http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/

Hot topics at the March 30th meeting (besides the upcoming Tenant Convention) will be proposed ballot measures to increase owner-eviction relocation funds and to fund affordable housing through a windfall profits tax on larger landlords, as well the upcoming Council consideration of an anti-harassment law known as the Tenant Protection Ordinance.
Read the BTU March Newsletter

They are Organizing, Are You?

Oakland Ballot Measure to Make Rent Control Real
“The measure would extend protections under the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance to thousands more Oakland rental units, implement the currently un-enforced Tenant Protection Ordinance, and reform the existing Rent Adjustment Program (Oakland’s weak substitute for rent control) to make it much harder for landlords to raise rents above the rate of inflation, place an absolute 5% per year cap on rent increases, cover more rental units under rent control, and ensure a tenant-majority Rent Board, among other improvements.”
http://www.oaklandtenantsunion.org/news

“Currently, apartment units built after 1983 do not fall under Oakland’s just cause eviction protections, therefore landlords can evict tenants for almost any reason in those buildings when their lease is up. According to sponsors of the Renters Upgrade initiative, this change would bring 45 percent more of Oakland’s rental housing under just cause protection. The Renters Upgrade ballot measure would also set a cap on rent increases at 5 percent.
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2016/03/03/oakland-tenant-advocates-file-initiative-to-strengthen-rent-control-and-eviction-protections

“If approved by voters, the initiative would cap rent increases at 5 percent a year, down from the 10 percent landlords can raise rents annually; create a rent board with mostly tenants as members; and expand eviction protections to units built after 1983 that are not protected under the city’s Just Cause Eviction Ordinance. The so-called “Renters Upgrade” measure would require city leaders to prioritize enforcement and implementation.”
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29596130/oakland-tenants-groups-pushing-rent-control-ballot-measure

Alameda Renters Gathering Signatures
http://www.ebcitizen.com/2016/02/alameda-group-seeks-to-place-rent.html

Read the Proposed Alameda Ordinance here:
http://www.thealamedarenterscoalition.org/

Alameda May Be Harassing Tenant Group
After filing their ballot measure, Alameda renters were talking outside the clerk’s office when they were approached by police. While that may not seem odd, the same Alameda group found a police officer scrutinizing them at a public meeting the month before.

“Warmerdam <the Interim City Manager> was the Alameda official, according to city emails,  who asked that plainclothes officers monitor renters at a council meeting last Jan. 5. The officer’s identity became known after a renter saw one of them accidentally drop his handcuffs.
http://www.publicceo.com/2016/03/alameda-city-hall-called-cops-on-renters-group-filing-rent-control-ballot-measure/

Richmond Ballot Measure
The Fair and Affordable Richmond Coalition — consisting of elected officials, renters, homeowners and activists — on Tuesday gathered to officially file the petition with the city clerk. The group will have until June to gather 4,198 valid signatures to place the measure on the November ballot. A rent control ordinance was narrowly passed by the City Council in August, but it was repealed in November after a landlord association circulated a petition. Since then, affordable-housing activists have promised to bring the measure to the November ballot. Had the ordinance approved in August been implemented, Richmond would have been the first California city in more than 30 years to pass rent control.”
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29552957/richmond-group-pushes-bring-rent-control-measure-voters

“Claudia Jimenez, a homeowner in Richmond who is a community organizer with the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), said, “The Richmond City Council passed some renter protections including rent control, and just cause eviction protections that were supposed to go into effect last year to protect Richmond renters. However, the California Apartment Association (CAA) spent a lot of money to hire people who gathered enough signatures for a petition that blocked the renter protections from going into effect.”
http://www.thestreetspirit.org/the-struggle-for-renter-protections-in-richmond/

Over on the Other Team

Berkeley Landlord PAC Attempts to Seem Reasonable…
We represent the voice of rental housing providers through our political action committee and legal defense fund. We are here to restore fairness, efficiency and objectivity to Berkeley’s rental housing policies.”
http://www.thebrhc.org/

…While the BPOA Continues to Seem Odd
And so welcome to the latest arrival on the local scene, the Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition. It cannot be said to represent we, the people nor does it comprise a Declaration of Independence. It does, however, establish and ordain an organization to address our rightful grievances to the government which shackles rental housing in so many ways. And, to quote another revered figure from American history, ‘it is altogether fitting and proper that we do this.’ ”
http://bpoa.org/

California Apartment Association Just Won’t Quit
http://www.preservetheellisact.org/

IMG_8492

The Berkeley Tenants Union Quarterly Members Meeting Will Be Wednesday March 30th.

Why The November Election Matters
The Berkeley City Council rejected a perfectly fine option to fund affordable housing through real estate transfer taxes. Councilman Jesse Arreguin, the progressive leader running for mayor, explains why we need to win back City Council in this election: http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2016-03-11/article/44234?headline=Council-Action-Needed-to-Prevent-Berkeley-Displacement–Councilmember-Jesse-Arreguin

The Berkeley Tenant Convention Will Be Sunday April 24th.

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