Zoning Board to discuss demolition of large, rent-controlled building Thursday June 25

This 18-unit OCCUPIED building on Durant has applied for a demolition permit.

This 18-unit building on Durant has applied for a demolition permit.

The proposed demolition at 2631 Durant includes 18 rent controlled units which have traditionally been 100% occupied by students and were occupied until May 2014. This is the building next door to the Art Museum and across from the dorms near College on Durant.

One of the most sensational aspects of this application is that developer Cliff Orloff claims he cannot get a fair rate of return because of the costs if he rehabilitates the existing building – but Orloff invited the Berkeley Fire Department to conduct trainings in his building, and when they were done there were holes in the roof and very few interior walls, according to a Building Inspector report that is part of the City record.

The other extremely disturbing aspect of tonight’s hearing is public perception that the process may have been manipulated:

1) City packed the Zoning agenda with two controversial issues – demolition of 2631 Durant and the EIR for 2211 Harold Way, the first downtown high-rise. This will limit discussion time for both projects.

2) City scheduled a different public meeting at virtually the same time on another aspect of Harold Way. Many BTU members want to speak at both meetings but cannot endure 4 or more hours of meetings just to have their one or two minutes to comment at each.

3) CITY STAFF SENT AT LEAST ONE LETTER FROM A CONCERNED CITIZEN TO THE DEVELOPER well before this correspondence was available to the public or even to ZAB Commissioners. (see Supplemental Communications Page 5) Having communications before the rest of the public seems to give the developer more time to refute or refine arguments than the time any other member of the public would have to comment on correspondence.

4) This building was 100% student occupied but the hearing is scheduled when students are away – see the letter from ASUC External Affairs linked below.

BTU is asking folks to come tonight, hold signs, and speak against demolition of rent controlled units as well as in favor of increased affordable housing requirements from downtown high-rise builders.

BTU Letter to ZAB About Durant

ASUCMariumZABCommunication

Communication from the Public Forwarded to Developer, Page 5
http://cityofberkeley.info/uploadedFiles/Planning_and_Development/Level_3_-_ZAB/2015-06-25_ZAB_Supplemental%20Item_Rd1_2631%20Durant.pdf

Link to All City Documents Regarding this Application:
http://cityofberkeley.info/Planning_and_Development/Zoning_Adjustment_Board/2631_Durant.aspx

Posted in Issues Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Landlords Pledge Half a Million Each Year to Fight Berkeley Rent Board

St. John
Leaders of the Berkeley Property Owners Association – including owners of Premium Properties, Shaw Properties, Everest, real estate agent Jon Vicars, legal advocate Michael St. John, and the notorious Lakireddy family – have formed a new political coalition. Is their primary purpose to run candidates for the Rent Board? No. Is it to bring lawsuits like the 2012 libel cases, to scare tenants away from running for election? No. We fully expect them to do those things as well, but the Berkeley Rental Housing Coalition is landlords pooling their money mostly to sue the Rent Board over a $19 increase in the registration fee. It was the first increase of the fee, which funds the Rent Board agency, in six years.

“…She was more concerned that lawsuits funded with PAC money could divert the board from its mission. ‘I think (the landlord’s) interest may be more in the board spending time and money to defend it, thus taking away from our core services.’ ”
http://www.insidebayarea.com/breaking-news/ci_28332932/berkeley-landlords-plan-coalition-challenge-rent-board

CA Supreme Court Upholds San Jose Requirements for Developers – But Inclusionary Housing Ordinance Will Not Apply To Rentals!

The state Supreme Court upheld the right of a city to impose affordable housing requirements on developers of for-sale housing, but let stand the 2009 Palmer decision, which said cities cannot limit the rent a developer can charge for newly built rental units because of the state Costa-Hawkins law. The decision also made it clear that a nexus study is not required because cities do not have to prove that the demand for affordable housing was created by the development of new buildings.

The ruling will impact over 170 local governments with similar inclusionary housing requirements and allow Berkeley to move forward with inclusionary laws. It’s good news for anyone who might scrape it together to buy some “affordable” housing, but bad news for folks who are pretty sure they will be renters for the rest of their lives. The decision again shows the need for tenants to come together statewide to change the Costa-Hawkins law.

“The Court noted that many land use regulations result in a reduction in the market value that a property may command in the absence of regulations and this does not constitute a taking of the diminished value of the property. In this regard, the Court reasoned that the affordable housing requirement was no different than limitations on density, unit size, number of bedrooms, required set-backs, or building heights.”
http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/california-supreme-court-upholds-88596/

California Building Industry Association v. San Jose Decision
California-Building-Industry-Assoc_-v_-City-of-San-Jos (PDF)

Berkeley Student Paper Discusses Inclusionary Case
www.dailycal.org/2015/06/16/california-supreme-court-ruling-sets-precedent-for-inclusionary-housing-in-state/

For More Info on Costa-Hawkins:
“The Costa-Hawkins Act is not only contributing to soaring rent prices, but it’s also creating barriers to new housing construction.”
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/its-time-to-overturn-the-state-ban-on-rent-control/Content?oid=4229744

Another Tenant Screwed By Costa-Hawkins
http://crowandrose.com/2013/12/another-tenant-screwed-by-costa-hawkins/

Berkeley Tenants send huge hugs to the families of all the young people lost or hurt at Library Gardens.

Faulty Construction Likely Cause of Balcony Collapse
“The horrible structural failure of a 5th floor balcony that killed six and injured seven…has brought to the forefront the issue of safety in the frantic construction of apartment buildings mushrooming the city.”
http://dissidentvoice.org/2015/06/berkeley-structural-tragedy/

Deadly Balcony Collapse Tied to Rotted Wooden Beams
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/06/17/collapsed-berkeley-balcony-reportedly-not-intended-for-large-group/

A History Of Housing Safety Complaints
“The apartment complex’s housing code violations included holes in walls, trip hazards from damaged floors, loose metal strips in doorways, inoperable ceiling fans in laundry rooms and missing or inoperable exit signs throughout the building. The majority of violations were found during a random September 2013 city inspection of several low-income and affordable housing units in the complex.”
http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-berkeley-code-violations-20150619-story.html

Berkeleyside Report On Builder Track Record
“As it turns out, however, there was also a $3.5 million settlement in 2013 in Millbrae related to waterproofing and wood rot. And, that same year, Trestle Glen Associates, in Colma, filed a breach of contract lawsuit, still underway, against Segue related to ‘water intrusion causing tangible property damage.’ ”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/06/17/firm-that-built-berkeley-complex-has-been-fined-sued/

Builder Under Scrutiny BEFORE Balcony Collapse
“The building has been the subject of numerous complaints, both through the city and online. The most recent official complaint, submitted in February to the Berkeley Rent Board, listed missing or broken stairwell lights, missing handrails on stairwells, holes in the walls of public spaces, expired fire extinguishers, and peeling floor material that posed a tripping hazard.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/06/17/berkeley-building-under-scrutiny-before-balcony-collapse/

Protest Calls For Investigation, Halt for New Construction
A group of concerned citizens has called for a moratorium on new building construction in Berkeley until the tragedy at Library Gardens can be analyzed. The Berkeley Daily Planet posted an editorial with a similar suggestion.

Protesters’ Letter to Council Linked Here
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/06/19/protesters-demand-a-halt-on-new-construction-in-berkeley/

Daily Planet Suggests Pause for Building Approvals
http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-06-12/article/43421?headline=Ask-Council-to-Analyse-Problems-Before-Scheduling-New-Construction–

Posted in Issues Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Upcoming and Updates

IMG_0926-1Landlords Form PAC
The Berkeley Property Owners Association announced this week that they are forming a political action committee. “While the Rent Board uses our money to undermine our rights, the BRHC will use its funds to fight for our rights, bringing balance to matters that have been far out of balance for far too long.” The founding landlords pledge to spend at least $500,000 a year to fight against renters rights in Berkeley.
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-06-12/article/43384?headline=Berkeley-Landlords-Form-Political-Action-Committee-to-Raise-Half-Million-per-Year–

Short-Term Rentals (AirBnB) Discussion Continues June 23
http://www.mercurynews.com/my-town/ci_28289073/berkeley-discussion-short-term-rental-regulations-stalls-city

http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/06/11/berkeley-council-meeting-ends-abruptly-during-testimony/

Students Call for Tight Limits on Vacation Rentals
“Research has shown that short-term and vacation rentals increase the costs of housing by reducing the supply of affordable housing available on the market…. If City Council decides to legalize short-term and vacation rentals, such as those found on Airbnb, then it must adequately regulate them in order to protect the city’s supply of affordable housing. The proposal put forward by Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Lori Droste, while a good start, would fail to adequately regulate short-term and vacation rentals so that they do not reduce the supply of affordable housing in Berkeley.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2015/06/08/protect-housing-costs-increase-regulation-of-short-term-rentals/

Pro-Development, Pro-AirBnb “Renters” Group Gets YELP Donation.
“I believe Sonja represents a massive segment of the population that’s been largely ignored in the discussion on Bay Area housing – renters,” said Stoppelman.”
http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/blog/real-estate/2015/03/pro-density-sfbarf-yelp-jeremy-stoppelman.html

Upcoming Dates:

Wednesday July 8 – BTU Member’s Meeting and Summer Potluck

CITY COUNCIL
Tuesday June 23, 7 PM – Short Term Rentals continues
Thursday June 25 5 PM – Community Benefits from Downtown High-rise Buildings
Tuesday June 30
Tuesday July 14
Tuesday September 15

ZONING BOARD
Thursday 6/11 at 7:00 PM
Thursday 6/25 at 7:00 PM – Demolition of 18-Unit Rent Controlled Building
Thursday 7/09 at 7:00 PM
Thursday 7/23 at 7:00 PM
Thursday 8/27 at 7:00 PM

PLANNING COMMISSION
Wednesday June 17
Wednesday July 1
Wednesday July 15 – possibly Short Term Rentals
Wednesday September 2

Posted in Issues Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Action Tuesday!

Short-term rentals are more lucrative than permanent housing. Image courtesy of http://www.beyondchron.org

Short-term rentals are more lucrative than permanent housing. Image courtesy of http://www.beyondchron.org

Berkeley City Council Continues Discussion of Short Term Rentals Tuesday June 9th
7 PM @ Longfellow Middle School Auditorium, 1500 Derby

  • Please join BTU in supporting Councilmember Arreguin’s amendments to the Mayor’s proposal.
  • Ask that Council does not lift the ban on renting whole, empty units on Airbnb and other vacation platforms.
  • Say that we need rent controlled units and other empty apartments to be offered for Berkeley residents.
  • Ask the law be written so that it can be easily enforced!
  • Ask them to include the Rent Board in the referral so that the new law is in harmony with existing state and local laws on rental units.

Revised Council Item 32: 2015-06-09 Item 32 Short-Term Rental

Berkeleyside: Short Term Rentals
“The conversion of apartments into a short-term rentals, where guests come and go, is part of a trend that is sweeping Berkeley. While renting out apartments to anyone for less than 14 days is prohibited under Berkeley law, hundreds of homeowners are renting out rooms, suites, whole houses, cottages — even a tent and a yurt — according to listings posted on Airbnb, VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner), Home Away and other short-term rental websites… Property owners who rent out for short terms often stand to make a substantial amount of money, certainly more than if they rented month to month.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/05/26/short-term-rentals-are-squeezing-out-berkeley-renters/

Berkeley Tenants Union Public Comment
http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-06-05/article/43372?headline=The-Problem-with-Short-Term-Rentals-Perspective-of-Berkeley-Tenants-Union

State Won’t Force Airbnb to Share Information for Enforcement
Legislation aimed at forcing Airbnb Inc. and other short-term rental sites to ensure collection of local taxes stalled in the state Senate on Thursday.
SB 593 would have required short-term housing platforms to report quarterly to cities and counties the addresses that were rented out on their sites as well as the number of nights those properties were rented and for what prices. Local governments could have used the information to ensure transient occupancy taxes were paid and to ferret out vacation rentals operating in cities that bar them. The bill had the backing of various cities, hotel lobbies and organized labor. But Airbnb fought back against the proposed regulations, hiring its first contract lobbyist in Sacramento and rallying its users with emails and phone calls. The company, along with its allied tech lobbies and the Santa Monica group Consumer Watchdog, framed the debate as a battle over its customers’ privacy.”
http://www.therecorder.com/id=1202728452451/Airbnb-Bill-Halted-By-Lobby-Blitz?slreturn=20150505224830

Should New Backyard Cottages Be Allowed as Short Term Rentals?
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/03/25/officials-to-relax-rules-for-berkeley-granny-flats/

“Airbnb Will Probably Get You Evicted and Priced Out of the City”
“If you look at the economics of it, Airbnb is ruining your life. Or, at least, your chances at a lasting life in the city. In an attempt to make an extra buck, you may be slowly screwing yourself out of the market…Every unit that’s being used for illegal hotel activity is a unit that’s not on the residential housing market.”
https://news.vice.com/article/airbnb-will-probably-get-you-evicted-and-priced-out-of-the-city

In Other News

Fun Protest! Saturday June 6 @ 10 AM
“…To fly large red, black and white balloons, three feet in diameter, to a height of 194 feet, near the planned site of The Residences at Berkeley Plaza, also known by its street address 2211 Harold Way. The building would be 180 feet high — or 194 feet, with the addition of an elevator housing and other infrastructure on top.”
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_28244224/berkeley-activists-plan-visual-protest-downtown-proposal

Berkeley Rents Too Damn High
“The last time rents rose so crazily was 15 years ago during the last technology boom, and history seems to be repeating itself.” In 2000, the dotcom boom market, rents skyrocketed and now we are dealing with some of the same issues,” said Nick Traylor, a manager at the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board. Some landlords are even increasing rents by $400 to $1,000 a month if they have a tenant vacate a unit, said Traylor. He stressed these substantial increases are on top of the already high market rates being charged to the previous tenant. Elaine Perkins, who runs the Cal Rentals office at UC Berkeley, said students are living in cramped conditions to afford decent accommodation.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/05/28/berkeley-rental-rates-skyrocket-causing-problems-for-students-and-those-on-middle-incomes/

German Rent Freeze; Berlin Rent Ceilings
“Berlin is limiting rent increases to 10 percent of average rents in neighborhoods suffering housing shortages. Landlords often jack up rents by as much as 40 percent to take advantage of well-heeled newcomers who are flocking to the city from the around the world, said Reiner Wild, managing director of the Berlin Tenants Association.
“The rent ceiling is very important for Berlin because the difference between the rent paid in existing contracts and new contracts is so high,” Wild told The Guardian.”
https://news.vice.com/article/berlin-imposes-rent-caps-as-worlds-most-desirable-cities-become-gated-communities
Law allowing rent controls on Berlin’s inner-city property prevents landlords charging new tenants more than 10 per cent above the local average
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/news/11645625/berlin-rent-control-law-housing-crisis.html
“Berlin is pioneering the rent cap after the national parliament approved the law, aimed at areas with housing shortages, in March… “We don’t want a situation like in London or Paris,” said Wild. “The reality in Paris or London is that people with low income have to live in the further-out districts of the city.”
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/01/rent-cap-legislation-in-force-berlin-germany

Posted in Actions Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Four Housing Issues at City Council May 26

City Council continues discussion on #1 (Airbnb) on June 9.

 AirBnB in BerkeleyAirBnB in Berkeley

1) CHANGE Council Item 21: Short-Term Rental Regulations:
This Tuesday, Berkeley City Council will outline their directive for legalizing short-term rentals in Berkeley. Right now, rentals of less than 14 days are prohibited, but over 1,000 such illegal rentals are listed online.

Mayor Bates, who co-sponsored the item with new Councilperson Droste, assured Rent Board Commissioners at Thursday’s 4×4 Committee that his proposal will protect rent controlled units by continuing the ban on short-term rentals in unoccupied housing. The Mayor seemed surprised when Rent Board folks told him that about 400 rent controlled units were currently used only for vacation rentals, and that several large landlords are renting multiple units on Airbnb.

However, the Mayor and Councilman Capitelli were noncommittal when the Commissioners asked to be included in the Council referral and pointed out that proposals such as requiring the owner’s permission before a tenant rents their unit on Airbnb may conflict with state and local laws.

Councilman Arreguin and Rent Board Commissioners also raised the importance of enforcing the existing law and considering enforcement when creating the new law.

BTU is still formatting our position on the issue, which must have at least one public hearing at the Planning Commission before it becomes law, but we stand with the Rent Board in believing that short-term rentals are taking away needed housing.

We call for continuation of the ban on renting whole, empty apartments only for short stays. We need those homes for Berkeley students, Berkeley families, and Berkeley workers! We call for the elected Rent Board to be included in the process of making the new laws, and we call for enforcement of the existing laws when large landlords rent multiple units only for short term guests.

2) SUPPORT Council Item 19, State Short-Term Rentals Regulation:
The Council will also vote regarding support for a state bill which would compel hosting platforms like Home Away and Airbnb to share information with local governments. California Senate Bill 593, by McGuire and Leno, is essential to regulating vacation rentals.

3) SUPPORT Council Item 25: Amend the Housing Element
Councilmember Arreguin has introduced changes to the Housing Element that BTU members and friends called for at the Planning Commission in February, but City Council left out of the draft they approved. The proposal returns essential language about Berkeley values that was taken out of the Housing Element, such as, “Ensure rent control and/or other tenant protections for all tenants, including vulnerable populations,” and “All Berkeley residents should have access to decent housing at a range of prices and rents in pleasant neighborhoods that meet standards of quality.”
Most importantly, Arreguin’s amendments put back the priority that we should protect rent controlled housing from demolition and enforce those laws!

4) CHANGE Council Item 35, Community Benefits from Tall Buildings
Downtown developers must contribute more toward affordable housing.

TO LEARN MORE:

City Council Agenda
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/2015/05_May/City_Council__05-26-2015_-_Regular_Meeting_Agenda.aspx

Rent Board on Short Term Rentals, Item 21:
“A summary of our major Rent Board concerns are as follows:
1) Loss of Housing: We hope that any Council policy recommendations to the Housing Advisory Commission and Planning Commission will focus on ensuring that whole units with kitchens that are not occupied by the host most of the year will remain available for permanent residents. Owners of multiple rental units in Berkeley should not be allowed to go into the hotel business.
2) Enforcement: Regulations must provide a workable enforcement mechanism with adequate funding and staffing. Penalties and remedies should be clear.
3) Tenants Rights: Berkeley’s new regulations must preserve rights tenants currently hold, such as the right to quiet enjoyment of their home as well as the right to sublet if they already hold that privilege. Council should include the Rent Board for input in their referral.”
Letter from the Rent Board regarding Short-Term Rentals

Text of the SB593 for Item 19: https://legiscan.com/CA/text/SB593/2015

Also on Item 19, SB 593: “This legislation is simple…It makes online vacation rental businesses follow local laws just like the rest of us.”  With concerns “about loud parties, traffic and other problems,” on the rise, this move could not come at a better time….If passed, Senate Bill 593 will help ensure short-term online rental companies follow some simple rules and regulations to preserve our neighborhoods, ensure consumer safety, and protect the well-being of longtime residents in communities across California.”
http://www.overnightoversight.com/ca-legislation-addresses-short-term-online-rental-concerns/

On Item 25, the Housing Element: http://berkeleytenants.org/?p=1195

On Item 35, Community Benefits from Downtown Buildings:
http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-05-22/article/43322?headline=Significant-Community-Benefits-an-open-letter-to-the-Berkeley-City-Council

In Other News

Thanks to BTU Members Who Sent in Most of These Stories

Windfall Profits Tax On High Rents (Fund Affordable Housing)
The only way off the treadmill is to build or buy housing that will be owned by non-profit organizations, land trusts and limited-equity cooperatives. And that takes money, a lot of money. So let’s tax the rising rents that increase the need for affordable housing in the first place.”
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-05-22/article/43326?headline=Fund-Affordable-Housing-with-Windfall-Profits-Tax-on-Rising-Rents-News-Analysis—Stephen-Barton

Berkeley Development: Call for Moratorium on Luxury Construction
“…while the City is fully caught up and already ahead on its higher income units, we haven’t even made our quota for moderate or lower income units for 2006 yet. This makes the big push to build block after block of high rent homes and apartments unfathomable.”
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-05-15/article/43314?headline=Berkeley-Needs-a-Moratorium-on-High-Rent-Units–Rhiannon 

California: Rents Go Up Fast, Income Goes Up Slow
“Since the end of 2010, rental prices have surged at nearly twice the pace of average hourly wages, according to data from the real estate firm Zillow and the Labor Department.
More than 30 percent of renters in California, Florida, New Jersey and New York state devote at least half their incomes to housing and utilities, according to the analysis.”
http://m.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/1-in-4-us-renters-must-use-half-their-pay-for-housing-costs/Content?oid=2928601

California: Wall Street Invests in Single-Family Home Rentals
“California tenants renting single-family homes from the three biggest Wall Street landlords in the state, Blackstone/Invitation Homes, Waypoint Homes, and Colony American Homes, pay higher rents than their neighbors and face challenges getting repairs,” according to a new research report by Tenants Together.
http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5247/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=9191

SF: Mission Renters in NY Times
“When a family in a rent-controlled apartment leaves or is forced out, the rent is jacked up to market rate, apartments become condominiums or are advertised by the landlord on Airbnb as a good place for short-term visits.”
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/05/23/us/high-rents-elbow-latinos-from-san-franciscos-mission-district.html

City of Alameda Considers Eviction Protections
“Advocates for local renters, who make up about half the Island’s population, have pressed for rent control and other protections. But at least three members of the council have questioned whether rent control would be an effective solution to renters’ woes, or whether the city should get involved in rents issues at all.”
http://thealamedan.org/news/rents-blog-just-cause-eviction

San Jose Renters Hold Rally
http://kron4.com/2015/05/13/activists-hold-rally-in-support-of-san-jose-renter-protections/

Lafayette Considers Rent Control or Rent Freeze May 26
“…City Council acknowledged that high rents are a problem all over the Bay Area, but also expressed sympathy for the renters, saying that 90% increases were “crazy” and “beyond the pale.”   In the end, the Council asked for more information from small towns similar to Lafayette that have adopted rent control or stabilization policies (such as Los Gatos).  It also asked the City Attorney to investigate whether the City could impose a temporary moratorium on rent increases.”
http://lovelafayette.org/Home/Components/News/News/966/18?backlist=%2Fhome

Posted in Actions Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Short-Term Rentals Update

The Trouble With AirBnB

The owner of 3100 College lists 11 Berkeley apartments on AirBnB.

The owner of 3100 College lists 11 Berkeley apartments on AirBnB.

The Berkeley City Council will begin the process of legalizing short-term rentals.

Right now, Berkeley law prohibits residential rentals of less than 14 days, according to a March 18 Planning Department staff report. However, over one thousand such rentals are listed on hosting platform Airbnb in Berkeley. The City plans to legalize these rentals in some form, and collect the hotel tax from them.

The Berkeley Rent Board has identified three issues with potential short term rentals regulations in a letter they are sending to the City Council: the loss of rental housing, adequate enforcement of new laws, and preservation of existing rights for tenants. “Allowing unlimited short-term rentals or creating regulations that lack enforcement will contribute to the housing crisis in Berkeley,” they said.

Meanwhile, Berkeley’s code inspectors don’t seem to be enforcing the existing prohibition. Two Berkeley Tenants who have been to code enforcement have been told different things. A few months ago, a tenant who lives beneath a vacation rental was told at the counter that “it’s illegal but there is nothing you can do about it.” Another Berkeley Tenant who lives next door to such a rental spoke to code enforcement last week and was told it is hard to find evidence of the rentals. Meanwhile, San Francisco fined one landlord $276,000 for evicting tenants with the Ellis Act and then renting to tourists on VRBO.

The central question in the local debate seems to be how to limit short-term rentals of rent controlled units, particularly in owner-occupied, smaller buildings. The Rent Board letter says that such rentals could still have a big impact on available rental housing, and cites a chart from the Housing Element which shows 21% of all Berkeley housing is in 2-4 unit buildings. It seems that the Rent Board is discussing rentals of empty units like hotel rooms, not homes where the occupant is away on their own vacation. BTU has identified a handful of large landlords renting five or even ten units to tourists all year round, and is examining Santa Monica’s new law as a model, since that town has rental control rules similar to the Berkeley laws on rental units.

If you are a tenant who has been displaced – and replaced – by a tourist rental, contact BTU. We are also looking for more tenants who can no longer relax at home because the unit next to them has been turned into a hotel.

The City Council is expected to discuss a framework for regulations, then refer the issue to the Housing and Planning Commissions, as early as May 26.

IMPORTANT DATES

Thursday May 21 @ 10 AM
4×4 Committee (Rent Board/City Council)
2001 Center Street
Rent Stabilization Program’s Law Library, 2nd floor
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/Home/4x4_Committee_Homepage.aspx

Tuesday May 26 @ 7 PM
City Council Meeting
2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
ITEMS 19 and 21
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/2015/05_May/City_Council__05-26-2015_-_Regular_Meeting_Agenda.aspx

LINKS

March 18 Staff Report to Planning Commission:
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Planning_Commission_Homepage.aspx

Berkeley Rent Board Letter to City Council (Item 4):
http://www.cityofberkeley.info/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Home/Agenda__RSB_2015_May_11.aspx

San Francisco City Attorney Sues Landlords Over Short-Term Rentals
“Illegal conversions that push long-term tenants out of their homes diminish the availability of residential rental units for San Franciscans, and they’re a significant contributor to our housing affordability crisis,” Herrera said. …The City Attorney’s Office suspects that the Lees aren’t the only landlords flouting state and city laws in that fashion, and is eager to pursue other cases like this one. Folks who want to report violations like the Lees’ are encouraged to contact the City Attorney’s code enforcement hotline.”
http://sfist.com/2015/05/07/landlords_who_evicted_tenants_to_ma_1.php

“Also last year, Herrera filed a similar case against landlords in North Beach. That case settled in January with the landlords paying $115,000 in penalties and agreeing to a similar injunction.”
http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Landlords-fined-for-evicting-tenants-to-make-a-6246550.php

Santa Monica Bans Short Term Rentals of Whole Units
“Santa Monica has taken one of the strongest stances of any city against the practice of professional landlords hoarding all their properties for tourists instead of for actual renters, keeping housing off an already crunched and expensive market. Full-unit rentals account for the overwhelming majority of the listings on Airbnb in Los Angeles, and for nearly all of the listings that actually make money.”
http://la.curbed.com/archives/2015/05/santa_monica_just_banned_airbnbs_biggest_moneymakers.php

Posted in Issues Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Got Bed Bugs?

1280px-Bed_bug,_Cimex_lectularius

The Berkeley Rent Board awarded two tenants 100% of their rent back after a young couple moved into a room on University Avenue that already had a serious bed bug infestation.

One tenant testified that the very first morning after he slept in his new home he counted more than 80 bites. The couple said they slept in 4-hour shifts, with one staying on guard to fend off the bed bugs, for several weeks. Commissioners described the photos as “horrifying” and voted unanimously to uphold the hearing examiner’s award of a 100% reduction in rent for the time that the bugs were present.

According to documents in the Appeal heard by the Board on Monday night, a Vector Control inspection made just nine days after the renters moved into the living room suggested that the blood-sucking pests were in the unit well before the new renters arrived. According to the Rent Board staff’s legal recommendation in the appeal, the landlord should have known about the bugs. Not only would the owner have seen the “100’s to thousands” of bugs in the living room curtain had he checked the unit before renting it, but he should also have been aware of the pests since other tenants had moved because of bed bugs.

These tenants did everything right: they contacted the owner immediately, made their expectation that he hire a professional clear, contacted the Berkeley Rent Board, and arranged an Environmental Health inspection within days of the first bites. It seems they followed all the difficult steps in cooperation with the exterminator as well, because they got rid of the notoriously challenging bugs within weeks.

Unfortunately the owner initially made the situation worse by spraying some bug spray himself. There is no known over-the-counter treatment for bed bugs, and these bugs are known for spreading to other rooms and other units if disturbed by an ineffectual poison. Someone also said the landlord brought a blow torch into the unit to treat the furniture and dragged an infested mattress onto the roof to lay in the sun.

It is not known why the renters in the other two rooms in the unit did not join in the complaint. The landlord rents each room separately.

Got Bed Bugs?

  1. Contact the Rent Board Agency: rent@cityofberkeley.info
  2. Contact the Health Inspector: envhealth@ci.berkeley.ca.us
  3. Drop us a line at info at berkeley tenants dot org
Posted in Issues Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Berkeley Tenants are urged to join members of the notorious Berkeley Property Owners Association at a Public Hearing this Monday, May 4 at 7 PM

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 1.01.34 PM

The Board must consider raising their registration fees for the first time since 2009.

Tell Them Yes
The Rent Board must maintain or increase their services!

The fee might go up as much as 10%.
Market Rents have gone up at least 10% EACH YEAR, according to several sources. Even rents under rent control have gone up over 8% since the last time the Rent Board raised their fee. But the landlords are going to tell the Board they can’t afford another $19 a year. Even though the entire registration fee is less than 1% of the average rent for a one-bedroom in Berkeley.

Please join BTU on Monday.
Tell your story.  Encourage the Board to maintain staffing, or even increase services.

Landlords Can Afford It: Rents Going Up Up Up!

Rents in the East Bay up 62.5% in five years
http://www.ctbtapartments.com/images/reports/Bay_Area_Multi_Family_Snapshot_Q1_2015.pdf

“Berkeley had the largest change, with a 32.4 percent spike in rents from January 2014 to January 2015.”
http://sf.curbed.com/archives/2015/02/24/yikes_the_bay_area_leads_the_nation_in_annual_rent_growth.php

http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_26733312/bay-area-apartment-rents-at-record-high

http://abc30.com/realestate/san-francisco-bay-area-rents-continue-to-climb/504262/

Where Does the Money Go? Rent Board Info:

7a3_Prelim Mkt Medians Report for Q2 Q3 Q4 2014-1

At BTU, we’ve always found the above chart from the Rent Board a little curious. We never see Berkeley apartments on Craigslist for as low as these “median” rents above. For more info on REAL rent increases in Berkeley, see http://berkeleytenants.org/?p=1085

The Rent Board voted to increase the fee by $19 on May 11, 2015. BTU had three times as many speakers as the landlord association at the May 4 hearing.

Posted in Actions Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Support BTU

Buy a T-Shirt!

IMG_shirt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Send us $20 with your address and size.

Men’s and women’s – locally made, union printed.

Posted in Uncategorized

Important Upcoming Dates

Rented building applying for demolition

Rented building applying for demolition

1) Rent Board Ad Hoc Committee:
Friday April 3rd @ 3 pm
Short-Term Rental Regulations
Side Entrance on Center Street @ Milvia

2) Zoning Hearing on Demolition:
Thursday April 9th @ 7 pm
Rent Controlled Triplex 1920 10th Street, UP #2007-0063
2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way @ Allston

3) Planning Commission:
Wednesday April 15 @ 7 pm
Short-Term Rental Regulations
Edit: vacation rentals not on this agenda
1901 Hearst Ave @ MLK

4) Zoning Board:
Thursday May 14 @ 7 pm
Removing Rent Control at 2332 Channing to add 3 units.
2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way @ Allston

5) Affordable Housing Week: May 8-17, 2015
East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO)
http://ebho.org/our-work/affordable-housing-week#ahw

In Other News

Thanks to BTU Members Who Sent in Most of These Stories

The Windfall Profits Tax on High Rents (Robin Hood)
“In Berkeley, activists are in the early stage of advocating for a so-called “windfall profits tax,” which would increase the business license tax for larger property owners and thus generate revenue that could be invested into affordable housing. “This money is being extracted from tenants for the benefit of people who own real estate, and it’s windfall profits,” explained Stephen Barton, former housing department director for the City of Berkeley, who is pushing for the windfall tax. “We’re going to take some of [the money] that’s being extracted from the community … and use it to mitigate some of the harms of the system.”
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/how-east-bay-tenants-get-displaced/Content?oid=4216802

More Berkeley Seniors Threatened – Oregon Park
“While much of the conflict stems from an ongoing disagreement about the board leadership, housing attorneys said they were especially concerned about the board’s attempts to evict a number of outspoken tenants. Earlier this year, Ibrahim Moss, a management consultant, served eviction notices to at least nine residents — and subsequently filed eviction lawsuits against at least four of them.”
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/an-eviction-nightmare-at-oregon-park-senior-apartments/Content?oid=4229738

San Francisco Can’t Enforce Vacation Rentals Law
“To enforce the Airbnb law, the city needs booking data so the planning department can make sure rentals are registered with the city. It also needs a clear limit on the number of days a unit can be rented out each year. Currently, the law says an owner can rent 90 days if they aren’t home, but that’s difficult to prove.”
http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/morning_call/2015/03/san-francisco-airbnb-law-unenforceable-rentals.html

SF Supervisors Want to Fix Airbnb Law
The legislation would prohibit all tenants or homeowners, regardless of whether or not they live in their house or apartment full-time, from renting out their spare space for more than 90 days a year. If they did, neighbors would have the right to sue them. The legislation would extend the existing 90-day limit from entire homes to smaller spaces.”
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/2-supervisors-want-to-tighten-up-law-regulating-6153957.php

California Considering Statewide Law on Short-Term Rentals
“…
online home-sharing companies would have to make regular reports to cities and counties about which homes in their area are renting rooms, for how many nights and how much money the homeowners are collecting for the short-term rentals.”
http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article15202547.html

New York City Enforcing Vacation Rentals Law
“New York’s investigators have cited over 7,000 fire and building code violations, shut down over 200 short-term apartments and sued several operators — ending an additional 250 short-term rentals — over the last nine years, according to the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement. With Airbnb and other websites sparking a short-term rental boom, some lawmakers now want to triple the illegal-hotel investigation staff and have it go beyond answering complaints to scour the web for suspect listings.”
http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2015/03/28/in-nyc-an-unusual-task-force-fights-home-as-hotel-rentals

SF Collective Living in Commercial Space Avoids Eviction
“Housing activists came out in full force March 2 to support Station 40 at a press conference to denounce gentrification and urge the Jolish family to accept an offer to buy the building from the San Francisco Community Land Trust.
Though the landlords at first denied the offer, which would keep the property available as below-market rate housing, Station 40 says the Jolish family is now willing to consider selling.”
http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/housing-collective-avoids-eviction-from-mission-district-home/Content?oid=2924912

Cooperative Housing
One way to attack escalating property costs is to increase the number of limited equity cooperatives, where people own property collectively, run it democratically and don’t extract profit from it, says Bay Area Community Land Trust Executive Director Rick Lewis.”
http://www.contracostatimes.com/tri-valley-times/ci_27706941/berkeley-runaway-housing-costs-make-co-ops-attractive

SF Rents – Cool Map!
“This map from the folks at Zumper found that we reached an all time high for a 1-bedroom apartment in February, clocking in at an average of $3,460.
On top of that, it’s only going upwards. They reported that San Francisco rents have “continued upwards, increasing 1.5% month over month and 3.3% over the last quarter.”
http://www.upout.com/blog/san-francisco-3/san-francisco-rents-hit-record-high-again-last-month-its-only-getting-worse

Daily Cal Housing Issue
Berkeley has the 10th-highest income inequality in the country, according to a ranking of 300 cities with more than 100,000 people in the United States by Bloomberg.
“Our city is at a crossroads,” Arreguin said. “We’re becoming the city of the haves and the have-nots.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2015/03/13/berkeley-residents-priced-homes-rental-rates-rise/

Posted in Actions Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,