Housing Issues at City Council

Although February 16th will be the Berkeley City Council’s special work session on Housing Policy, several issues are going to City Council on Tuesday February 9th as well.

The Relocation Ordinance was revised a few years ago to make sure that when renters are displaced because of substantial habitability issues, the property owner must help them afford a temporary relocation. When the law was revised, discussions centered on seismic retrofits, so the law contemplates mostly planned relocations for substantial rehabilitation of apartments.

However, there have been many large apartment buildings which have had fires in the last several years, and renters found accessing their rights to relocation funding to be challenging.

Now, the City Manager has brought revisions to the law to the City Council. That’s good news – 2/3rds of the amendments are common-sense clean-up issues.

However, there is one pesky change: Instead of requiring landlords to carry insurance which would fund the relocation payments Berkeley requires, the new law will require displaced tenants, many of whom have lost everything in a fire, to use their insurance money for relocation before they get funding from the owner.

BTU’s Letter to Council on Relocation: Relocation Ordinance Letter

Changes to the Demolition Ordinance are also on the agenda for the 9th, but BTU thinks our burdened City leaders will probably not have time to discuss this important issue at this meeting. We expect the issue to be held over. But just in case, we sent this to the Council regarding changes which would allow developers to tear down rent controlled units:

demolition-letter

City Council Relocation Ordinance Item #3: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/2016/02_Feb/Documents/2016-02-09_Item_03_Amending_the_Relocation.aspx

City Council Demolition Ordinance Item #28: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/2016/02_Feb/Documents/2016-02-09_Item_28_Zoning_Amendments.aspx

There are also several Affordable Housing Items from Kriss Worthington which have been held over at meeting after meeting since October of last year that may actually be discussed on Tuesday.
see: http://berkeleytenants.org/?p=1434

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News and Updates

Nifty Berkeley Video https://youtu.be/97bt87Xm4FU

Click the photo to play nifty Berkeley video (YouTube)

2016 Tenant Convention
Your tenants union has convened other progressive leaders to begin planning the 2016 convention to elected a pro-tenant slate for Rent Board. If you are interesting in running for election to the Board, or in helping to plan the annual gathering, drop us a line or keep an eye on the tenant convention webpage: http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/

Developers Forum Shows Possible Bias from Zoning Commissioner
Housing policy wonks in Berkeley were all abuzz after a Berkeleyside article about a forum on development – because none of them heard about this forum until the article. The Urban Land Institute, one of those nonprofits that pays their top executives $300,000 – $400,000 a year, sponsored the forum. The institute’s website proudly displays their “corporate partners”: developers, real estate firms, and the banks that lend them money. One Zoning Commissioner was a presenter:
Cities also have a financial bias against housing; they prefer retail and office buildings that generate taxes, rather than housing that demands schools and services, she said. One of the biggest issues are the legal challenges to large projects, said Pinkston. Environmental reviews are used to delay development rather than to actually consider the impact of a project on a community, she said. Extra litigation adds to the cost of building housing, which pushes up rents, she said. Every time a housing project is delayed because of litigation, it contributes to climate change, said Pinkston.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/01/25/housing-forum-a-good-development-climate-in-berkeley/

Affordable Housing Worksession February 16
On December 1st the Berkeley City Council held a special session to discuss affordable housing, but ran out of time before having any substantial discussion. Their next session about affordable housing will be Tuesday, February 16th. They invited the Berkeley landlord political action committee, BRHA, to make a presentation in December, and while we never expected them to invite Berkeley Tenants, we are wondering why the Rent Board is not presenting at this session.
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29194783/berkeley-studies-affordable-housing-options
see also
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-11-28/article/43948?headline=Recommendations-for-Special-Berkeley-City-Council-Work-Session-on-Affordable-Housing-December-1-2015–Rob-Wrenn

Kriss Worthington Helps Stop Eviction
Councilman Kriss Worthington said Monday that the CEO of The John Stewart Company, which manages the government-subsidized William Byron Rumford Sr. Plaza residential complex in South Berkeley, has agreed to drop eviction proceedings. In exchange, tenant Michael Pachovas must promise to file his annual recertification papers, along with some income and medical documentation.”
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29464781/berkeley-deal-works-stave-off-eviction-disabled-senior

Artists Warehouse Shut Down By Oakland
The building was previously managed by Madison Park Financial, a real estate company owned by John Protopappas, a close friend of Mayor Libby Schaaf. Madison Park Financial withdrew from managing 1919 Market Street last year and was replaced by a company called 1919 Bayside, which is run by San Francisco real estate entrepreneur Danny Haber. …last year another company run by Haber, The Negev, was sued in San Francisco over alleged wrongful evictions to push out rent-controlled tenants and use their apartments for tech bunk houses.”
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2016/01/28/dozens-of-renters-lose-homes-as-city-closes-1919-market-street-warehouse-in-oakland

Residents Get 72 Hours to Move
Singer said the company will abide by all the laws in regards to tenants’ rights to return to the complex upon completion of the renovation and units will be priced at whatever market rate the law allows.”
http://www.ktvu.com/news/83415325-story

…And It’s Already for Lease?
http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/16491858/1919-Market-Street-Oakland-CA/

When Landlords Lie
“A landlord can continue to serve you with sixty-day notices, even if they’re bogus, take you trial, bleed you of money, and there’s nothing you can do,” he said. “We need to fix this system.”
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/when-landlords-lie/Content?oid=4665115

Alameda Landlord In the Hot Seat
Don Lindsey, who is one of Alameda’s most powerful landlords and is a leader among property owners strongly opposed to rent control on the Island, is under investigation by the California Bureau of Real Estate for alleged financial improprieties. A state investigator is accusing Lindsey of failing to provide proper accounting for various tenants’ fees”
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2016/01/07/alamedas-landlord-in-chief-accused-of-wrongdoing

Everyone Really Wants Rent Control!
“Renter protections are being considered in three cities within days.”
https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2016/01/23/18782155.php

By Which Time All the Poor People Will Be Gone?
The council members did approve setting up an advisory committee to hash out the landlord-tenant issues that brought this issue to the forefront. That committee will report back to City Council in one year.”
http://www.pacificatribune.com/news/city-votes-against-rent-control-plan/article_7e8b57ea-c9df-11e5-854c-df2627484ca4.htm

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Rent Report

Berkeley rents are up at least 50% in five years!

The Berkeley Rent Board gets quarterly reports on market rents for new tenancies in rent controlled apartments. Since rents are rising so quickly, they recently voted to send their latest reports to the City Council. Keep in mind, these are not controlled rents, nor are they inclusive of the whole market. Because of the 1996 state law Costa-Hawkins, owners can set a new rent at anything they want when a new tenant moves in. Those new rents are the numbers recorded in this report. Berkeley’s Housing Element report shows these rents tend to be lower than the total market rent in Berkeley because rent controlled buildings are older and don’t have fancy amenities like gyms or even WiFi.

report-2016

From the Rent Board Market Median Report January 2016

The whole report is here: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Rent_Stabilization_Board/Level_3_-_General/6a6_16%20Jan%2019_Transmittal%20to%20Council_MedianRents_Q2%20to%20Q3_2015.pdf

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Update: Short-Term Rentals

Owners appear to move into this airstream when they rent their home in West Berkeley on AirBnb.

Owners appear to move into this airstream when they rent their home in West Berkeley on AirBnb.

EDIT: Planning Commission final public hearing 1/20
Housing Commission Strengthens Recommendations for Local Law
Berkeley’s Housing Advisory Commission sent a follow-up to their earlier short-term rentals recommendations. The HAC did this both because the draft ordinance does not seem to reflect their recommendations and because there were additional issues to address.
“During the meeting, Darrow expressed concerns that current regulations could allow owners to turn rent-controlled housing units into short-term rentals by evicting all tenants in a building under the Ellis Act, a state law that allows property owners to evict tenants in order to “go out of business.”
According to the new language approved by the commission at the meeting, if an owner evicts a tenant from a unit through no fault of the tenant, the owner must wait five years before the property can be turned into a short-term rental. Additionally, owners must obtain a business license through the city and list their license number in their rental listings.”

http://www.dailycal.org/2015/12/06/citys-housing-advisory-commission-approves-short-term-rental-recommendations/

Draft Law Making Final Rounds
The draft of Berkeley’s Short Term Rental (STRs) ordinance is now available to the public. The next step is for the Planning Commission to hold a final public hearing, then the law will go back to the City Council, which last discussed the matter in July. Unfortunately, the staff report specifically says they did not address concerns from the Housing Commission in the draft.
It is also unfortunate that the draft law seems to contravene two Council referrals (one on ADUs and one on STRs) by allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on the same property in which an owner occupies another unit as her primary residence to be used as hotel rooms. As usual, the language in the draft law is unclear:
“Host present” means the host is living at the premises of the dwelling unit that is being used for STRs during the short-term rental period or living in the Primary Residence or the Accessory Dwelling Unit.”
Read the Draft: 2015-12-16_Information_Item_Draft Short Term Rental Ordinance-Combined
The Planning Commission is expected to hold a public hearing on January 20 or February 3rd.

Berkeley Owners Sent Warning Letters
At the 4×4 Committee meeting in December, Planning Director Eric Angstadt told Council leaders and Rent Board Commissioners that the City Manager’s office sent warning letters to several STR operators who are violating Berkeley’s current ban on rentals of less than 14 days. BTU has done a public records request to see if letters were sent to the 4 owners BTU filed complaints about in May and June of 2015.

STRs in the News

Ousted Tenants Sue In Los Angeles
“Their rent-controlled building allowed them to enjoy below-market rents of less than $2,000 a month for their two-bedroom pads in the upscale neighborhood. That came to an end in late 2013 when the owners evicted them under the Ellis Act, a state law that allows landlords to get out of the rental business….Within weeks, their apartments began appearing on Airbnb — a short-term rental site geared at tourists — for nightly rates that could total $15,000 a month, they said.”
http://www.latimes.com/local/westside/la-me-1217-ellis-suit-20151217-story.html

Airbnb Fined for Offering Lodgings Without Permits in Barcelona
With the aid of a software programme, the town hall detected listings for 1,891 lodgings that did not have proper permits on Airbnb, and another 3,929 on HomeAway, it said in a statement. Each have been issued a fine of €60,000 ($65,000).
Since taking office in June, Barcelona mayor Ada Colau, a former anti-eviction activist, has kept her pledge to try to curb a boom in visitor numbers that she fears could drive out poor residents and spoil the charm of Spain’s second largest city.”
http://www.thelocal.es/20151222/barcelona-city-hall-fines-airbnb

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Good News!

File Dec 24, 2 04 50 PMCode Enforcement Item Passes at City Council
Jesse Arreguin’s item asking for changes to Berkeley’s Rental Housing Safety Program passed on the consent calendar after being postponed for several meetings. Of course, the item doesn’t yet set policy, it just asks for a report back from the City Manager regarding costs for proactive rental housing inspections and other proposed improvements.
Berkeley City Council also passed Arreguin’s item to have Berkeley staff look into the feasibility of creating a “small sites program” to help nonprofits – such as student co-ops – purchase small multi-family buildings.
District 7 Council Member Kriss Worthington’s item requesting our state representatives to work to increase the California housing tax credit for low income residents also passed on consent, but several other housing items Worthington had introduced for an October meeting were held over for a fourth time and will be heard January 12th.

Rental Housing Safety Program Item:
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/2015/12_Dec/Documents/2015-12-01_Item_28_Revising_the_Rental.aspx
more info:
http://berkeleytenants.org/?p=1456

Related: More Library Gardens Balcony Lawsuits
As well as blaming contractors involved in the construction, lawyers claim the company which managed the Library Gardens apartment complex did not want to spend money on remedial work or investigations as it was motivated to maximise profits.”
http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/berkeley-tragedy/berkeley-lawsuit-claims-red-flag-warning-ignored-34300516.html
“Some of the Irish students who witnessed the Berkeley balcony collapse but who were not injured are expected to file lawsuits over their emotional distress, according to a new court filing in California.”
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/berkeley-witnesses-expected-to-file-lawsuits-over-incident-1.2459187

Students Getting Involved!
BTU has added many student members this year, including two recent graduates and one current student who now serve on the steering committee of your Berkeley Tenants Union. The Associated Students of the University of California joined with BTU in appealing the demolition on Durant, and the ASUC has also formed a Student Housing Committee to create a Housing Action Plan to address how the housing emergency is impacting students.
“The committee is considering several potential solutions to address the campus’s housing shortage, such as constructing additional buildings in the courtyards of Unit 1 and Unit 2 and earmarking parts of the university budget to building more affordable housing…The committee also discussed plans for a Housing and Tenants’ Rights Week, tentatively scheduled from Feb. 8-13, and a possible large public event to bring awareness to student-housing issues.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2015/12/11/asuc-student-housing-committee-discusses-housing-tenant-rights/

In Other News 

Fire Highlights Problems With Relocation Law
At issue was Berkeley’s Relocation Ordinance, written in 2011 and designed to support tenants who are temporarily forced out of their rental units. It applies most often to planned renovations that displace tenants — as well as to relocation due to fire or code enforcement, except in the case of an earthquake or other natural disaster. Under the ordinance, tenants are entitled to “relocation payments from the property owner to mitigate the costs associated with a temporary move,” until they can move back into the unit.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/12/10/tenants-scramble-to-relocate-after-dwight-way-fire/

Oakland Ellis Evictions
With no-fault evictions on the rise, Oakland is considering a relocation fee that will be higher than San Francisco’s or Berkeley’s.
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2015/12/07/ellis-act-evictions-on-the-rise-in-oakland

Lafayette Wants Rent Control
This summer, the Bay Area suburb of Lafayette backed down on a city moratorium on rent increases when controversial landlord Sack Properties agreed to limit increases to 10%. However, tenants say the owner added on new charges and fees instead of raising the rents. Now renters are back before the City Council asking for protections.
“He outlined the many charges and fees: water charges, marked-up garbage costs, pet rent, parking rent, mandatory renters insurance, questionable language in new leases that give the landlord the right to evict tenants for anything deemed to be an excessive mess, and a $3,000 charge for an early break of the lease.
A parade of concerned tenants spoke to the council about all of these issues, emphasizing the serious inconsistencies in utility charges, and lack of transparency.”
http://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue0920/Tenants-Criticize-Landlord-Practices-Again.html

Redwood City Wants Rent Control
Across Redwood City, the median rent price for two-bedroom apartments increased from $2,500 to $3,800 since 2012, according to the real estate website Zillow. Minimum wage and other full time workers are unable to afford those rents. They end up having to move out of the area and in sometimes quitting their local jobs.”
http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2015/12/21/redwood-city-renters-officials-face-off-as-housing-crisis-intensifies

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No Decision on Demolition Appeal

Zoning Board remand will be February 25th

Zoning Board remand will be February 25th

Berkeley Tenants and the students of the ASUC filed an appeal last summer to stop the demolition of 18 rent-controlled units on Durant. Berkeley’s City Council finally heard the appeal on December 1st, but just sent the decision back to the Zoning Board with instructions for the volunteer board to pay close attention to several issues in the appeal as well as a lengthy economic report submitted by the Rent Board.
Both the ASUC and BTU had dozens of speakers present to highlight various aspects of the problem, and emphasize that this would be a far-reaching policy decision for the Council, not just about this one project. The Council seemed particularly swayed by a letter from a former student tenant. But in the end, there wasn’t even that much deliberation, and no decision, just a remand.

On the one hand, BTU is pleased that the Council did not uphold approval of the project, because this would be the first time in history that our city would agree that a developer can’t make a profit by rehabilitating an older building instead of tearing it down. On the other hand, it would be nice to see our elected leaders stand up for affordable student housing. BTU had hoped the Council might chastise the developer for encouraging damage to his own building in order to claim he could not afford to fix it.

It is not yet known when the ZAB (Zoning Board) will hear the appeal. In the meantime, the 4×4 Committee, which is where the Rent Board meets with the City Council, discussed changes to allow more demolitions while protecting tenants and creating affordable housing.

“In approving the demolition permit, the ZAB agreed with the owner’s financial projections that it could not make a fair rate of return on its investment if it were to rehabilitate the building in its existing configuration — a notion contested by Pamela Webster, Lisa Stephens and Matthew Lewis in an appeal on behalf of the Associated Students of the University of California. The trio noted, moreover, that the owner allowed the building to deteriorate by keeping it vacant and inviting the Berkeley Fire Department to do training exercises there in late 2014, which involved cutting holes in the roof.…
Dozens of speakers warned that upholding the demolition permit would set a dangerous precedent. They warned that it would encourage landlords to pay exorbitant prices for rent-controlled buildings and let them go to waste while expecting the city to guarantee them a good return by allowing them to tear down the buildings and build larger ones with market-rate apartments.”
http://www.contracostatimescom/breaking-news/ci_29192392/berkeley-council-sends-permit-demolish-rent-controlled-building

For More About the Demolition Ordinance:
http://berkeleytenants.org/?page_id=773

Zoning Board Approved Kennedy Bait-and-Switch
A while ago, infamous Berkeley developer Patrick Kennedy (Panoramic) got approval for a residential hotel which was to house folks making less than 120% of area median. The other day, Zoning allowed him to change the project to tiny studio apartments (300 square feet) with no parking. Kennedy will make two of the 22 units at 2711 Shattuck affordable to 120% AMI, and two affordable to folks making 50% of Area Median Income. The other 18 will be market rate. Commissioner Denise Pinkerton was particularly vocal, condemning other ZAB members for calling for more affordable units.
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/12/14/berkeley-zoning-board-approves-new-units-on-telegraph-shattuck/

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Successful Teach-In (and Other News)

Videos From the November 22 Housing Teach-In:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLS2O9Gttsg5cwvAjJi-VMccKBLLu3-Iun

teach-In

Media Estimates 180-plus Attended Teach-In November 22

“Audience members lined the walls, balcony and sat on the floor for the “teach-in,” organized by the Ad Hoc Committee for a Progressive Berkeley in conjunction with eight other advocacy and tenants’ rights organizations.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/11/24/20k-a-month-for-berkeley-house-skyrocketing-rental-prices-draw-crowd-to-housing-affordability-teach-in/comment-page-1/

“Among the ideas discussed, Stephen Barton, panelist and former deputy director of the city’s Rent Stabilization Program, proposed an affordable housing tax that taps into the excess profits landlords receive from rent. Revenue from the tax would be used to aid the development of below-market-price housing.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2015/11/23/community-members-meet-affordable-housing-teach/

“Areas included housing for teachers and firefighters; those sleeping in doorways; workers who can’t pay escalating rents; seniors whose fixed income is less than even small rent increases allowed under rent control; students stuffed five or more into two-bedroom apartments; and very low income tenants with federal housing vouchers that no local landlord will accept.”
http://www.insidebayarea.com/breaking-news/ci_29160259/berkeley-panel-urges-community-activism-address-housing-crisis

“The city is an increasingly unaffordable place for low- and moderate-income households and for students, which is threatening the city’s valued diversity,” according to the Berkeley Progressive Alliance, which is sponsoring the event. Co-sponsors include Sustainable Berkeley Coalition, Berkeley Citizens Action, Berkeley Tenants Union, California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG), the Berkeley NAACP, Black Student Union of Berkeley City College and the Better Berkeley Working Group.There will be a panel composed of former Berkeley Housing Director Stephen Barton; affordable housing activist Moni Law; Rick Lewis, executive director at Bay Area Community Land Trust; Berkeley Student Cooperative President Austin Pritzkat; and Katherine Harr of the Berkeley Tenants Union.”
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29145519/berkeley-affordable-housing-teach-explore-solutions-skyrocketing-rents

A Similar Message at City-Sponsored Panel
“Christina Murphy, with the Friends of Adeline Corridor, spoke from the audience, saying in her work as housing case manager at the Berkeley Drop-in Center, she sees a growing number of seniors and people working three jobs without housing.” People going to Cal live in their cars,” she said, arguing the solution is a windfall profit tax on landlords, a proposal the city council will address.” People are building in our town and not putting in the money they should,” she said.”
http://www.contracostatimes.com/bay-area-news/ci_29124916/berkeley-few-prospects-affordable-housing-panel-says

Public Finds City-Sponsored Panel Lacking Solutions
“No mechanism was described whereby the people would gain a seat at the planning tables, at which they could actually shape the course of things to come. But still, it was called “participation.” The issues involved, from the neighborhood’s perspective, in these prior meetings, were clear. Affordable housing, no dislocation, no evictions; at several meetings, that was summed up as a call for a moratorium on market rate housing until the need for affordable had been satisfied. Somehow, none of that appeared in this A-H 101 session.”
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-11-20/article/43940?headline=State-of-Emergency-101—Steve-Martinot

Broken Elevator Illustrates Need for Code Enforcement
The elevator at Acton Courtyard – owned by Equity Residential and exempt from the Rent Ordinance because it is recent construction – was broken for 14 days, despite Berkeley codes which require repair within 24 hours. Disabled residents were trapped in their homes or unable to access their units.
Changes to Berkeley’s code enforcement will be discussed at Council December 1.
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/11/24/broken-elevator-strands-disabled-berkeley-tenants/comment-page-1/

No Place for Students
The UC system is adding 10,000 students and Mayor Bates says Berkeley might get 4,000 of those. Currently, UCB houses only 8,244 of their 37,581 students. Now, students say a proposed city law regarding Group Living Accomodations will make it harder for student co-ops to provide affordable housing and build community. Meanwhile, private dorms like Casa Cedar and The Berk are charging students $1000-$1400 a month TO SHARE a room.
http://m.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/where-are-students-supposed-to-go/Content?oid=4588970

Oakland to Increase Rent Board Fee
“The city needs to triple the existing fee that funds the program, from $30 to $110 per every rental unit, or it will be unable to enforce its rent adjustment rules and resolve tenant landlord disputes. However, both landlord and tenant advocates are opposing the proposed fee increase, on the grounds that it’s excessive.”
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/eviction-and-rent-hike-complaints-skyrocket-in-oakland/Content?oid=4580708

Tony Thurmond’s Housing Town Hall
“Some solutions proposed, such as increasing the impact fees levied on building developers, were quite popular among the audience. Acknowledging others that were not, such as adding an annual tax to cable subscriptions to fund affordable housing, Thurmond requested at the onset that the audience members ‘boo quietly’ if they wished to.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2015/11/15/assembly-member-holds-town-hall-on-affordable-housing-shortages-talks-solutions/

SF Mission Home For Sale at Discount
It’s kind of sad that selling your house for only $650K makes the news, but what this woman did for her Mission District community is still cool.
http://sfist.com/2015/11/25/woman_sells_mission_apartment_for_2.php

History Lesson
This good tenant attorney blog gives a little etymology.
http://crowandrose.com/2009/06/they-dont-call-em-landlords-for-nothing-2/

…And the Fun Never Ends
Councilman Arreguin may bring back necessary changes to the demolition ordinance at the December 15 City Council meeting.

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Housing Emergency!

Durant-Project

Other apartment buildings will be at risk if the Durant demolition is permitted.

Mayor Bates would like to us to give up, and stay out of important City business. Berkeley City Council has two meetings on Tuesday December 1st, and both agendas are packed with issues concerning housing, renters, and poverty. The meetings will be held at Longfellow instead of old City Hall: 1500 Derby, at Sacramento Street.
The already burdensome agendas now also include items held-over and postponed from the last couple of meetings, including several issues which tenants have already waited hours to see discussed:

Demolition Appeal (7 pm) Item 24
SUMMARY: Allowing the demolition presents dangerous precedents: This would be the first time Berkeley has allowed an owner to claim he can’t make a fair return on a rehabilitated building. The developer invited the Berkeley Fire Department to tear out walls and cut holes in the roof!! To grant this project as requested is to condone willful destruction of housing.
ACTION: Come to the hearing on December 1st and hold signs showing support.
More Info: http://berkeleytenants.org/?p=1477
Berkeley Citizens Action: BCA-letter-111715

Rental Housing Safety (7 pm) Item 28
SUMMARY: Landlords are letting their housing fall apart. Besides proactive inspections and confidential complaints, this would also make mold and mildew a public nuisance, and require landlords to actually turn in the self-inspection they are supposed to do each year.
ACTION: Take a photo of unsafe conditions and send to Council by November 30.
More Info: http://berkeleytenants.org/?p=1456
Wellstone Democratic Club: Wellstone-letter-111715

Affordable Housing (5:30 pm) Items 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d, 2e
SUMMARY: Common-sense measures to make city funding for affordable housing easier.
ACTION: You already signed the petition, but did you ask your friends?
http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/fund-affordable-housing-2.fb48?source=c.fb&r_by=9240326
More Info:
Sierra Club Letter: Sierra Club 10-27 Berkeley City Council Items on Affordable Housing
Daily Cal: http://www.dailycal.org/2015/11/08/housing-advisory-commission-talks-assessment-of-affordable-housing-mitigation-fee-predevelopment-funding/
Cool Map: http://ww2.kqed.org/pop/map-where-can-you-find-an-affordable-one-bedroom-near-bart-san-francisco-bay-area-oakland

See You Tuesday December 1!
Longfellow Middle School, 1500 Derby

Also on the 5:30pm Agenda:
Below Market Rate Housing Report; Housing Trust Fund Status Update; Use of Predevelopment Funds by Nonprofit Housing Builders; Report from Berkeley Housing Authority.
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/2015/12_Dec/City_Council__12-01-2015_-_Special_Meeting_Agenda.aspx

Also on the 7:00pm Agenda:
Accessory Dwelling Units; Appointment to Human Welfare Commission; Police Crowd Management Policies; Lien for Noncompliance with Seismic Mitigations 1734 University; 2nd Reading of Anti-Homeless Laws.
http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Clerk/City_Council/2015/12_Dec/City_Council__12-01-2015_-_Regular_Meeting_Agenda.aspx

 

Update from the Windfall Profits Tax Special Workshop November 17:

FundAffordableHoudingThe City Council gave the new landlord PAC, the Berkeley Rental Housing Association, a seat at the table for their very own PowerPoint on how it must be somebody else’s job to fund affordable housing. However, the Council seemed receptive at the workshop since the measure has what passes for bipartisan support, Berkeley-style: both Arreguin and Capitelli want to fund affordable housing through a reasonable increase in the business license fee. Only Mayor Bates asked aggressive questions which betrayed his ignorance of the process of crafting Council ballot measures.

Contra Costa Times Covers Landlord Tax
Satellite Affordable Housing Associates Executive Director Susan Friedland said $4 million annually would mean construction of 40-to-50 affordable units every year given that nonprofit housing developers must get about 25 percent of their funding from local sources to leverage other funds….Barton proposed a number of exemptions, including one- and two-unit and nonprofit-owned properties; rent-controlled properties with pre-1999 tenants (before vacancy decontrol allowed landlords to set rents of rent-controlled units as high as the market will bear when units are vacated); low-and-moderate income landlords; and units with federally subsidized tenants.”
http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29134727/berkeley-tax-proposed-fund-low-income-housing

Affordable Housing Panel November 14
Amy Davidson, community project coordinator for the City of Berkeley, said it takes $500,000 to develop one unit of affordable housing and then discussed the city’s $28,000 fee for developers with a complete lack of irony.
http://www.contracostatimes.com/bay-area-news/ci_29124916/berkeley-few-prospects-affordable-housing-panel-says

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In the News

Why don’t City inspectors notice these problems?

Why don’t City inspectors notice problems like this balcony on San Pablo?

Balcony Lawsuit Says Owners Knew About Problems
If we had the proactive inspections program the City Council will discuss on December 1, then this tragedy may have been prevented.
The lawsuit claims that Segue used cheaper materials to construct the balcony, making it more susceptible to water damage, and left it exposed to rain during construction in 2005…. Previous tenants reported seeing mushrooms – a clear sign of rot.”
http://theindianrepublic.com/lawsuits-filed-in-deadly-berkeley-balcony-collapse-reveal-3892.html

Tenants Reported Signs of Rot Weeks Before Deadly Balcony Collapse
http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_29110467/
“Library Gardens was only 8 years old when the balcony collapsed, leading many to wonder how such a new building could have such a catastrophic structural failure. The city of Berkeley released a report that identified dry rot as the only contributing factor to the structural failure of the balcony, but the city said determining the reason for that failure was beyond the scope of its analysis. The lawsuit claims to have identified the reason.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/11/13/berkeley-balcony-collapse-contractor-used-inferior-wood-and-owner-ignored-signs-of-rot-including-mushrooms-sprouting-from-the-surface-lawsuits-allege/

Berkeley Tenant Fights for Garden
Berkeleyside: Gorell moved into the rent-controlled, one-bedroom apartment in 1979 and began to add plants to the front and side of the building soon after that. Gene Anderson, the son of the original owners, and his wife used to visit annually and would compliment Gorell on how he had turned the space into an alluring swath of green, according to Gorell. Gorell also wrote to the Andersons in 1992 to describe his plans for the garden. There were no complaints, he said.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/11/11/lush-berkeley-garden-at-center-of-tenant-landlord-dispute/
Daily Cal: http://www.dailycal.org/2015/11/11/berkeley-tenant-fights-to-preserve-garden-in-ongoing-dispute-with-landlords-property-managers/ 

Activists Say They Are Targeted for Eviction at Redwood Gardens
https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2015/11/11/18779862.php

Berkeley’s Largest Landlord Leaving Town
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/11/16/equity-residential-to-sell-8-berkeley-apartment-buildings/

Rent Wars
Excellent overview of California’s housing crisis and current tenant’s movement.
“Activists in cities that have long had rent control laws are pushing for stronger measures. In Los Angeles, activists like Larry Gross, Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, want the city to stop allowing tenants to be evicted so that speculators can demolish their rent-controlled buildings.”
http://www.beyondchron.org/the-new-rent-control-wars/

Alameda Tenants Get Moratorium
Something is better than nothing!
The Alameda City Council on Wednesday approved a 65-day moratorium on rent increases above 8 percent and no-fault evictions. Tenant advocates were hoping for an outright moratorium as the city considers various permanent tenant protections, including banning evictions without cause.”
http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_29078395/bloody-alameda-meeting-highlights-tenants-growing-ire

Berkeley Fair Election Initiative
But when elections are determined by fundraising alone, communities pay the price. And when the perception is that only money matters in campaigns, it erodes public faith in government. With voter turnout at historic lows, we need to do everything we can to increase participation.
What if I told you there was a proposal to encourage local candidates to spend more time talking to voters and less time dialing for dollars? What if this proposal could diversify the local donor pool, encourage more voters to participate and make City Council more responsive to the citizens they are elected to serve?”

http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/11/06/lets-amplify-local-voices-in-berkeley-city-hall/

Evictions and Air BnB
“Data analysis of Airbnb usage in San Francisco tells a decidedly different story about who is benefiting. Although Airbnb refuses to share its numbers, a 2014 report commissioned by the San Francisco Chronicle found that of the (at the time) nearly 5,000 homes, apartments, and private or shared rooms for rent via Airbnb, two-thirds were entire houses or apartments with no owner present during the rental period, and almost a third of Airbnb rentals were controlled by people with two or more listings. Some of the “whole house” or “whole apartment” rentals are from hosts who happen to be away. But many others are being rented out by professional property managers who are handling multiple Airbnb rentals on behalf of absentee home- and condo owners. A separate study conducted by data analyst Tom Slee found similar results. He calculated that about 70 percent of Airbnb revenue comes from hosts who are renting out an entire home or apartment, and 40 percent comes from Airbnb hosts with multiple listings.”
http://prospect.org/article/evictions-and-conversions-dark-side-airbnb

Is Berkeley Like Disneyland?
More than 40% of the homes that have permits to rent in Anaheim are owned by real estate companies, investment firms or the owners of multiple properties, according to city records.
“These are basically unsupervised mini hotels in our neighborhoods,” said Cornejo, who has called the police on his neighbors several times for late-night noise.
With so many strangers visiting their communities, some residents recently urged Anaheim council members to consider safety and security issues. Renter safety too has become a growing concern in the wake of some well-publicized reports of sexual assault, injuries and deaths at short-term lodgings in other towns.”
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-anaheim-short-term-rentals-20151111-story.html

Evictions and Rent Hikes Skyrocket In Oakland
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/eviction-and-rent-hike-complaints-skyrocket-in-oakland/Content?oid=4580708

NY Attorney General Disregards Airbnb Promises
It is a transparent ploy by Airbnb to act like a good corporate citizen when it is anything but,” Schneiderman told Re/code in an emailed statement. “The company has all of the information and tools it needs to clean up its act. Until it does, no one should take this press release seriously.”
http://recode.net/2015/11/11/new-york-attorney-general-activists-call-bullshit-on-airbnbs-promises/

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Defend Affordable Housing Tuesday

Berkeley Tenants Union has three important items at the City Council on Tuesday.
For more info, see the posts below this one. 

About the Demolition (Item 21):
If the City Council allows this demolition to go forward, the law prohibiting unmitigated demolition of rent controlled housing means nothing anymore, and all of Berkeley is at risk of being bulldozed to make way for luxury housing.

About changes to the Rental Housing Safety Program (Item 23):
One reason developers give to tear down affordable older units is that they are in really bad shape. Never mind that they continue to rent them out while simultaneously making a claim that they are unsafe. In order to preserve our housing, we must make cyclical inspections a reality in Berkeley as they are in most other major cities.

November 17 will also see the Council discuss a Windfall Profits Tax on High Rents. There will be a special workshop at 5:30 PM in order for the Council to consider a ballot measure to increase the business license tax on larger landlords and use the money to building and rehab affordable housing, including the student co-ops.

What you can do:

1) Take a picture of unsafe housing conditions and email it to City Council marked November 17, Item 23.  clerk@cityofberkeley.info  They have to get the email by noon on Tuesday.

2) Come to the Demolition Appeal at old City Hall on November 17 around 8 PM and hold a sign to support BTU and the ASUC during the appeal. We demand that the law which says

“Notwithstanding the above, the Board shall approve a Use Permit to eliminate a controlled rental unit only when it finds that…The replacement dwelling unit shall be available for occupancy to Households for Lower Income or Very Low Income Households” must mean that rent controlled housing can only be torn down if replaced unit-for-unit with permanently affordable housing! Look for us in blue BTU T Shirts to get a sign showing support. 

3) Come early to support the Windfall Profits Tax at 5:30 PM

If you can’t make the meetings, please send an email NOW
to Council marked Item 21 c/o  clerk@cityofberkeley.info

Rent Controlled housing should be torn down only if it is replaced one-for-one with permanently affordable housing. Developers should not be rewarded for allowing their buildings to fall apart.

For more information about the proposed demolition at 2631 Durant:

Letter From Student Tenants:
DurantTenantsLetter

Berkeley Tenants Union Op-Eds:
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/11/16/op-ed-stop-developers-from-demolishing-rent-controlled-buildings-without-replacing-them/

http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2015-11-06/article/43881?headline=Demolition-of-Rent-Controlled-Units-Sets-Bad-Precedent–Berkeley-Tenants-Union

News Articles:
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2015/06/25/berkeley-zoning-board-to-consider-demolition-on-durant/

http://www.dailycal.org/2014/08/24/56-unit-student-housing-complex-may-coming-durant-avenue/

City Documents:
http://cityofberkeley.info/Planning_and_Development/Zoning_Adjustment_Board/2631_Durant.aspx

Letter from Berkeley Neighborhoods Council:
2631 Durant Demolition Letter to City Council

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