CALLING ALL BERKELEY RENTERS!

This Sunday the 2014 Rent Board Convention will choose the pro-tenant slate for the fall election.

BTU joined community groups like the Peace and Freedom Party, Berkeley Citizen Action, and Grey Panthers in sending someone to interview the candidates and rank them according to their responses to the interview and the questionnaires. Here are the BTU screener’s ratings!

2014rentboardscreen

JOIN US SUNDAY at 1:30 PM at 2939 Ellis (corner of Ashby)

The World Cup will be on in the lounge at the Center starting at noon!
Childcare provided during the convention.

See candidate questionnaires on the convention website:
http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/?page_id=38

Daily Californian on the upcoming convention:
Sid Lakireddy, president of the Berkeley Property Owners Association… ‘There is a sentiment amongst board members that all property owners and landowners should not be in business and property should be free,’ he said.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2014/07/08/6-candidates-compete-berkeleys-dominant-rent-board-slate/

Posted in Actions

Hancock Vote Hurts Renters

Like her husband Mayor Bates, Berkeley’s representative in the California Senate is starting to vote against tenants. BTU needs you to stand with us, and tenants across the state, to stop a very real threat.

We are asking you to take two actions:

  1. Call Loni Hancock right now, and tell her you are ashamed of her vote on AB1513.
    Call (510) 286-1333
  2. Sign Tenants Together’s message to our Senator and ask your friends to do so too!
    http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5247/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=17893

The proposed law Hancock voted in favor of at the Senate Rules Committee is sponsored by the Association of Realtors. The wording allows any owner to ask the police to evict a tenant without going to court if the landlord claims the tenant is trespassing. That means any renter who can’t produce a written lease when the cops come to the door is at risk.

Banks claim they want this extra- judicial eviction option because there are squatters, but banks have a long history of trying to evict legitimate tenants. Even though the bill has been amended to impact “only” three cities, it sets a dangerous precedent, it could be expanded and it leaves tenants in Palmdale, Lancaster and Ukiah at risk of being thrown on the street without having their day in court. Regular eviction proceedings are already fast tracked. There are laws against trespassers, too. This law is unnecessary!

Additionally, the bill has no penalties for landlords who lie. So if the tenant later shows they were legit, they would have to convince the District Attorney to prosecute the owner for perjury, or nothing at all will happen to those who try to harass renters this way. This is what the Berkeley Rent Board was told by the legislative advocate the Board has instructed to try to stop the bill.

This bill just is not fair! Let the judge decide!

Update:

Current law allows police to arrest trespassers, and when it isn’t clear if someone’s a trespasser, the matter gets resolved in court where a tenant has the right to trial in an expedited proceeding. The bill’s author and its sponsor, the California Association of Realtors, have not explained why existing law is not sufficient to deal with trespassers. Legislators have not even asked the author or sponsors to come forward with a single case in which a new “eviction by declaration” law is needed. Yet the bill continues to advance. This contrasts sharply with how tenant protection bills are treated in the Capitol.” http://beyondchron.org/eviction-by-declaration-bill-advances-exposing-sacramento-double-standard-on-tenants/

Analysis:

Not simply a bill to address tenants living in foreclosed homes, AB 1513 could seriously jeopardize tenants who have no protection of a written lease agreement. AB 1513 could allow slumlords to evict their tenants simply by stating to the police department of their local jurisdiction that their tenant was an “unlawful occupant,” nullifying the tenant’s constitutionally protected due process.” http://sandiegofreepress.org/2014/04/california-state-assembly-bill-ab-1513-will-take-away-tenants-rights/#.U7NwCGS9Kc0

“AB 1513 is also unclear regarding a resident’s rights if a property owner improperly evicts. It appears that the property owner’s only liability is based upon perjury. Accordingly, even a resident improperly evicted by a property owner making a false statement would have no recourse if the property owner’s false statement was made due to a mistake, lack of knowledge, or even lack of understanding regarding the law. Because of this, AB 1513 places a premium on the ignorance of property owners who can evict residents at will as long as they subjectively believe they have the right to do so.” http://oaklandwiki.org/AB-1513

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Posted in Actions

Ellis Reform Defeated

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SB1439 was amended so only San Francisco tenants would be protected, but it failed in committee at the California State Assembly because many Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the eviction protections.

This from Tenants Together:

Despite our best efforts and a broad-based coalition of support from tenants and allies, our bill for Ellis Act reform, SB1439 (Leno), failed to pass out of the California Assembly Housing & Community Development Committee. Democratic Assembly Members Sharon Quirk-Silva (D – Fullerton) and Cheryl Brown (D- San Bernardino) teamed up with Republicans Brian Maienschein (R – San Diego) and Beth Gaines (R – Roseville) to defeat SB 1439 (Leno), a modest bill to stop speculators from misusing California’s Ellis Act to evict long-term tenants. The bill failed on a 3-4 vote, with Assembly Members Ed Chau (D – Monterey Park), Tom Ammiano (D – San Francisco) and Mariko Yamada (D –Davis) voting to support the bill. The bill would have plugged a loophole that has allowed speculators to purchase apartment buildings and immediately evict long-term San Francisco tenants who are disproportionately elderly and disabled. With no real arguments against the bill, the real estate lobby relied on a strategy of misrepresentations and campaign donations to prevail.

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Posted in Issues

News from Sacramento

billEllis Act Update

Mark Leno’s Ellis Act reform bill (SB1439) was amended so only San Francisco tenants will be protected if the law passes. Yet tenants all over California are rallying to support long-time renters who face a dire situation in San Francisco, so the bill passed the state Senate and is now in the Assembly. It goes to the Housing and Community Development Committee on Wednesday.

The Berkeley Rent Board voted in March to ask Loni Hancock and Nancy Skinner to work to amend the bill so it  protects East Bay renters. The Board will get an update from the legislative advocates on Monday June 16 on this and other state legislation.

There were no Ellis evictions filed in Berkeley from 2011 through 2013. The Rent Board gives a report once a year, but tenant advocates have told the Tenants Union that there are many renters in Berkeley threatened with Ellis evictions. When tenants leave without an official eviction, there is no statistical record.

http://www.sfgate.com/realestate/article/S-F-Ellis-Act-reform-bill-passes-in-state-Senate-5514880.php

http://www.thebolditalic.com/articles/5123-woohoo-ellis-act-reform-bill-passes-in-state-senate

Amended “Squatters Bill” Remains Threat to Renters

A bill in the state assembly intended to allow cities to evict squatters without going through a full eviction process in court could put any tenant without a written lease at risk of losing her or his access to the justice system. BTU worked to discourage our representatives in Sacramento to support the bill.

Recently, AB1513 was amended to only cover a couple places in Southern California, but if it is made law, it could set a dangerous precedent to allow the police to remove renters without the owner going to court. 

http://beyondchron.org/szetso-piece-ab-1513-update/

Berkeley Supports Renters Tax Assistance 

On June 3, Berkeley City Council approved a recommendation from the Housing Advisory Commission to support AB 2175 (Daly). The bill calls for restoration and expansion of State Tax Assistance to Renters, particularly seniors, the disabled, and low-income folks. Council voted to send letters to State Senator Hancock, Assembly member Skinner, and Governor Brown to communicate the City of Berkeley’s support for AB 2175. 

The Rent Board also voted in March to go on record supporting the bill, and will get an update on Monday June 16 from the legislative advocate.

Expanding Seismic Retrofit Requirements to Other Types of Buildings

In March, the Rent Board also voted to advise the City Council to review AB 2181, which would authorize cities to implement retrofit requirements on non-ductile concrete residential buildings by adding those structures to existing law regarding soft story buildings.

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Posted in Issues

Save the Dates

July-2014-CalendarJUNE 7 – Berkeley Neighborhoods Council Forum
Art House Gallery
2905 Shattuck Ave. 10 AM to 1 PM

For more info on the Neighborhood Preservation Forum see http://www.berkeleyneighborhoodscouncil.com/index.htm

JUNE 13 – Housing Crisis Conference The SF Public Press sponsors a gathering “to innovate solutions that address the need for affordable housing in San Francisco.” http://sfpublicpress.org/hackthehousingcrisis

JUNE 21 – Robin Hood Committee Party! – CANCELLED
The Committee for Affordable Housing and Robin Hood Initiative host a thank you party – next steps will be announced, but mostly this night will be for having fun and hanging out.

JUNE 24 – Housing at City Council
According to the Berkeley Citizens Action newsletter, the Berkeley City Council will consider several proposals from the Housing Advisory Commission on Tuesday, June 24.

JULY 13 – CALLING ALL PROGRESSIVES!
The bi-annual Convention will be held to choose a progressive slate for the November Rent Board election. The convention starts at 1:30 PM at the South Berkeley Senior Center. See http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/ for updates.

All potential candidates who believe in rent control and will work so that affordable housing remains a priority in Berkeley are invited to seek the nomination and should contact the convention in order to participate in the screening process during June.

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Posted in Actions

News and Updates

Berkeley Referendum Ends in Tears
“At issue was the redistricting map the council approved in December, with Worthington, Anderson and Arreguin dissenting. The city must adjust council boundary lines after each decennial census to equalize the population among council districts.The ordinance approving those boundaries was set aside after opponents collected some 7,800 signatures supporting the referendum. The city sued to have the judge temporarily lift the stay, in order to use the council district boundaries approved in December for the November election.”
http://www.contracostatimes.com/west-county-times/ci_25677403/berkeley-judge-rules-city-council-redistricting-suit

Daily Planet: Mayor Used Public Resources
“These two public statements using government resources appear to violate the state law around misuse of public resources for political purposes…”
http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2014-05-02/article/42084?headline=Berkeley-Mayor-Uses-Official-Newsletter-and-Public-Resources-to-Oppose-Green-Downtown-Petitions-Arreguin-Protests

Robin Hood Initiatives Miss 2014 Ballot, Continue for 2016
Our friends at FundAffordableHousing.org tell us that Robin Hood was unable to make the deadline for the 2014 ballot, so signature gathering will continue later in the summer, and these measures will be on the 2016 ballot.

BTU 1970

BTU 1970

Robin Hood in the Daily Planet
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2014-05-09/article/42090?headline=Tax-the-Rich-to-House-the-Poor–By-Katherine-Harr-Jesse-Townley-from-the-Robin-Hood-Committee

Judges own Banks?
East Bay Express: Are Foreclosure Cases Rigged?
Forty-two of California’s 105 appellate court judges (or 40 percent of the bench) own significant amounts of stock in at least one financial company. Seventeen justices disclosed owning stock or bonds in Bank of America in 2012, the most of any bank, followed by Citibank with ten judges owning at least $2,000 in securities.
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/are-foreclosure-cases-rigged/Content?oid=3922254

Oakland Tenants Gain Small Victory
The Oakland City Council voted last night to tighten the city’s rent control law after landlords and tenants’ groups reached a compromise deal… The new rules, which take effect this summer, cap rent hikes to a total of 10 percent a year for upgrades to buildings. They also prohibit landlords from passing on all the costs of capital improvements to tenants, capping the total at 70 percent. Oakland’s rent control laws, however, are still weaker than other cities, including San Francisco and Berkeley.
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2014/03/19/wednesday-must-reads-oakland-council-approves-new-rent-control-rules-richmond-council-raises-citys-minimum-wage-to-1230-an-hour

San Francisco Cracks Down on Vacation Rentals
“Illegal short-term rental conversions of our scarce residential housing stock” are contributing to “a housing crisis of historic proportions,” City Attorney Herrera said in a statement.
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/S-F-city-attorney-sues-2-landlords-over-5425826.php

Landlord Comments on Robin Hood Initiatives (April 29)
As you can tell, I don’t like this ‘windfall profits tax’, which I think is a cruel voter hoax; however, there is one good thing about it. I will be exempt from paying it! Yes, this ‘windfall profits tax’ ballot initiative specifically states that landlords who own single family houses and duplexes will not have to pay the new tax, and the only rentals I own in Berkeley are single family houses and duplexes. So even though I think this tax is a bad idea, I don’t plan to get involved in this campaign.
http://www.tarses.com/blog/

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Posted in Issues

Look for The Hat!

BTU at the Farmers Market

BTU at the Farmers Market

Saturday May 10 will be the last day to sign the citizens initiatives from the Robin Hood Committee at the Berkeley Tenants Union table at the Center Street Farmers Market.

The Windfall Profits Tax on High Rents will increase the business license tax on landlord investors and speculators by 1.9% – the ballot measure will not raise the tax on single family homes, duplexes, and landlords who live in the building and own less than ten units. The increase will not apply to units rented under Section 8 and the measure would eliminate the existing tax on rents from long-term rent-controlled units. This is a tax designed to capture a small portion of the $100 Million a Year in excess profits that investors take from Berkeley renters, and put that 1.9% to use for our most vulnerable citizens.

The Affordable Housing measure addresses the top concern on the recent Community Survey: Berkeley needs to build more affordable housing. This companion measure takes $3.5 million of the Windfall Profits Tax and dedicates it to the Housing Trust Fund. The fund is used by the city, housing developers like Satellite and RCD, limited equity co-ops and student co-ops. The portion of the money from the Windfall Profits Tax dedicated to affordable housing is expect to generate 40 units of Affordable Housing a year for Berkeley.

The Robin Hood measures have been endorsed by BTU Steering, as well as The Green Party of Alameda County, Berkeley Citizen Action (BCA), East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), Satellite Affordable Housing, Resources for Community Development (RCD), Bay Area Community Land Trust (BACLT), Democratic Socialists of America, Council Members Jesse Arreguin, Kriss Worthington and Max Anderson, Rent Board Chair Lisa Stephens, Vice Chair Harr, Rent Board Commissioners Soto-Vigil, Webster, Shelton, Blake, Dodsworth and Townley, Housing Advisory Commissioners Darrow and Tregub, former School Board leader John T. Selawsky and many more.

Full text of the measures: http://www.fundaffordablehousing.org/

Transfer of wealth from tenants to investors: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/uploadedFiles/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Level_3_-_General/Economic%20Effects%20of%20Rent%20Stabilization%20in%20Berkeley_Cleancopy.pdf

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Posted in Actions

Berkeley Tenants in the News

Photo courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/andscene/

Photo courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/andscene/

Robin Hood Committee Aims to Tax Landlords and Fund Affordable Housing
The city’s landlords charge high rents and gain free money simply by their Berkeley location. The public makes Berkeley property valuable “by investing in the university, parks, transit, and through all their economic, cultural and social activities,” Barton told the City Council at an April 1 meeting.
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_25580122/berkeley-initiatives-would-tax-landlords-create-redistricting-panel

Volunteer to help Robin Hood fund affordable housing by calling 510-585-FAH1 

Berkeley Rent Board Invites League of Women Voters
…extending this invitation specifically to the League in response to your letter of November 7, 2013. The letter contains a great number of inaccuracies and misconceptions regarding the current functions of the Rent Stabilization Program, our budget and the appropriateness of the current registration fee.
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2014-04-18/article/42024?headline=An-Open-Letter-to-the-League-of-Women-Voters-from-Lisa-Stephens-Chair-of-the-Berkeley-Rent-Stabilization-Board–From-Lisa-Stephens-Chair-Berkeley-Rent-Stabilization-Board

Redistricting Referendum Panics Council Majority, City Sues Itself
The city’s lawsuit, filed April 3, names county registrar Tim Dupuis and city clerk Mark Numainville as defendants, along with nine others who are listed as “real parties of interest”: council members Worthington, Arreguín and Anderson, as well as Stefan Elgstrand, Paul Kealoha Blake, Matthew Lewis, Stephanie Miyashiro, Phoebe Sorgen and Alejandro Soto-Vigil.
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2014/04/09/city-of-berkeley-heads-to-court-over-redistricting-lines/

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Posted in Issues

Good News on Ellis Reform!

Image courtesy of Tenants Together

Image courtesy of Tenants Together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Issues

Security Deposits

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Issues

Berkeley Tenant Convention
Sunday July 13 @ 1:30 PM
South Berkeley Senior Center
2939 Ellis Street @ Ashby
Childcare Provided
World Cup in Lounge
http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/
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Demolition Ordinance Page