Candidate Responses Now Available

FREE 2014 Candidate Forum
Sunday, September 21, 3:30-6:30pm
Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar Street

Linda Maio Declined the Tenants Union Invitation

Linda Maio Declined the Tenants Union Invitation

Berkeley Tenants Union, along with Berkeley Citizen Action and the Social Justice Committee of the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, will hold a forum for candidates in the 2014 election on Sunday September 21 – it being at 3:30 SHARP!

Only longstanding Council Person Linda Maio (District 1) and District 8 candidate M. Alvarez Cohen declined to attend the event. Assembly candidates Echols and Thurmond will be there for us to get to know, plus all School Board candidates and all the other Council hopefuls.

Meet the candidates and hear their ideas! After the speeches, BTU and BCA members will remain to discuss ballot initiatives and vote on endorsements (separate ballots).

Here are Responses to the BTU / BCA Joint Questionnaire

School Board 2014 Responses BCA BTU

City Council 2014 Responses BCA BTU

Assembly 2014 Responses BCA BTU

 

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BTU Endorsements September 21

September-2014-Calendar-Printable-132Berkeley Tenants Union, along with Berkeley Citizen Action and the Social Justice Committee of the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, will hold a forum for candidates in the 2014 election on Sunday September 21. Meet the candidates and hear their ideas! After the speeches, BTU and BCA members will remain to vote on endorsements (separate ballots). https://www.facebook.com/events/1491931991054041/

At BTU we’re very excited to get to know newcomers like Lori Droste and Sean Barry – and find out what they plan to do for tenants, or for landlords, or for real estate developers. So we are sending a few questions to the candidates and will be posting replies here on the website from Berkeley City Council, School Board, and candidates for the state Assembly.

2014 Candidate Forum
Sunday, September 21, 3:30-5:30pm
Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar Street
SAVE THE DATE

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Rent Increases in Berkeley

3000 block of College Ave.

Rents in Berkeley are rising dramatically. What’s going on? Two things are creating upward pressure on both rent- and non-rent-controlled units. These phenomena are:

1) The skyrocketing rents in San Francisco, which push people across the Bay, and
2) The ongoing construction of expensive new (thus not rent-controlled) apartment housing in Berkeley.

If you’re a doctor or high-paid techie, no problem. But if you’re a teacher or postal worker, good luck! Berkeley is becoming a bedroom community of upper-middle class professionals.

From $1817 to $3465
1300 block of Euclid Ave

This one-bedroom unit was rented back in 2002 at $1,550 to one tenant. Its 2014 rent ceiling is $1,817.93. Had it remained rent-controlled under pre-Costa-Hawkins rules, the rent ceiling would be $1,353.

The owner recently filed a Vacancy Registration stating that the unit had been rented to a new tenant on July 1 for $3,465. Still listed as one bedroom, still rented to one tenant.

From $1250 to $3380
1200 block of Alcatraz Avenue

This one looks like a flip, and sure enough, some pretty big rent increases have been taken. Here is the history:

All three units were rented out by the previous owner in 2007/2008:
#A was rented out in 2007 at $1,250;
#B was rented out in 2008 at $1,000;
#C was rented out in 2008 at $450 (it is a studio, but this still seems like a below-market rent).

In 2008 #A was claimed exempt because it was rented out to a Section 8 tenant, and #C was claimed exempt as not available for rent. (No change reported for #B.)

In December 2012, the entire property changed hands, and all three units were claimed exempt as owner-occupied as of that date, probably in error.

Then, in May 2013, the property was sold to a new owner. And sure enough, in August of 2013: Rents more than twice those charged in 2007/08!

#A was rented for $3,380;
#B was rented for $2,380,
#C was rented for $1,080.

The new owner has listed the property for sale several times – this is from one recent real estate listing: “Currently Producing $6840 a month from rent. THE HIGHEST RETURN ON THE MARKET IN BERKELEY! Average rent per unit is $2280. Over 200 applicants prior to August 2013 placement of current tenants. There are no substitutes for good quality of life & peace of mind! Maybe that’s why an all cash million dollar offer was dismissed?

From $3090 to $3690
1500 block of Walnut Street

This also seems to represent fairly big rent increases over the years, but it also needs to be said that the rent goes up as the number of tenants goes up.

In 2002, it was rented to 4 people for $2,200.
In 2005, it was rented to 2 people for $1,750.
In 2009, it was rented to 5 people for $3,090.
In 2012, it was rented to 7 people for $3,690.

Thus, not quite apples to apples. Without Costa-Hawkins rent increases, under Berkeley’s old system of rent control, the rent ceiling would be $1,326.

From $1600 to $3200
3000 block of College Ave

Two of the units have turned over and been fixed up. The tenant in the third unit, who had several cases before the Rent Board, recently passed away. We assume that in the near future the Board will receive a revised registration form raising the rent significantly.

While the owner has done substantial work on the property, it was purchased for a bargain price in 2008 and the owner only pays taxes on a value equal to the average single family home bought in Berkeley this year, while soon his rents will total Over $110,000 a Year for this triplex.

Unit 1
Before Costa Hawkins increase — $674.27.
After Costa Hawkins increase — $3,300.00 (8/1/13).

Unit 2
Before Costa Hawkins increase — $581.61.
After Costa Hawkins increase #1 — $1,600.00 (8/1/12).
After Costa Hawkins increase #2 — $3,200.00 (6/1/13).

Unit 3 (long-term rent controlled tenant) — $670.46.

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Too Damn High Indeed!

Average rent in San Francisco jumped 19% this year.

“Priceonomics puts the median price of a San Francisco apartment renting today at $3,600, up from $3,023 last year. Studios are fetching $2,300, one-bedrooms come in at $3,120, the median two-bedroom costs $4,000, and three-bedrooms are going for $4,795.”
http://sf.curbed.com/archives/2014/08/14/colorcoding_san_franciscos_totally_bonkers_rental_market.php

Rent Prices Are Going Up, But Your Income Isn't. Original chart with data source: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/rental-affordability-crisis-hud

Rent Prices Are Going Up, But Your Income Isn’t. Original chart with data source: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/rental-affordability-crisis-hud

The numbers are a good indicator of why any eviction from a rent-controlled unit today is also an eviction from San Francisco entirely: prices are just too damn high to find a new apartment at a comparable rate.
http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2014/08/13/san-francisco-rent-explosion-median-rent-two-bedroom-apartment-tops-4k

It’s a national problem: the foreclosure crisis made former owners into renters, the federal government cut housing assistance, and now more than 28% of Americans pay more than half of their salaries for rent.
Mother Jones: National Data on Rising Rents
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/rental-affordability-crisis-hud

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SF To Stop Speculative Evictions

Recently, San Francisco leaders changed the Ellis relocation payments law: speculators who buy a building to “go out of the rental business” will have to pay tenants the difference between their current rent and the market rent – times 24! Naturally, landlords have filed a lawsuit.

Now, SF activists are fighting the Ellis crisis with a ballot measure they call an “Anti-Speculation Tax.” The tax was first proposed by activist Supervisor Harvey Milk around the time that San Francisco got rent control – over 30 years ago! Today, SF’s Prop G is sponsored by four members of the Board of Supervisors and would impose a tax on buildings sold in the first five years after purchase, but exempt owner-occupied homes.

“Prop G would tax the entire value of the building, beginning at 24 percent if sold within one year of purchase. The rate would be less after each successive year, falling to 14 percent if sold five years out. It would not apply to owner-occupied buildings, so as long as the buyer moved into the property they could sell it within five years and not face the tax.”
http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=69972

“…Additional Transfer Tax on Residential Property Sold Within 5 Years of Purchase seeks to discourage real estate speculators from buying up properties with the aim of flipping them, a process that tends to involve bringing down the hammer of the Ellis Act to evict long-term tenants.”
http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2014/08/12/who-will-san-francisco-dems-back-november

 “The anti-speculation tax — which would be 24 percent of the sale price if resold within the first year of purchase and drop to 14 percent if resold within five years — was the among the final pieces of legislation that Supervisor Harvey Milk pushed before he was assassinated in 1978.”
http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/sf-tenants-rally-for-support-of-proposition-g/Content?oid=2879961

“The law, which went into effect June 1, requires landlords to give tenants in Ellis Act evictions a relocation assistance payment equal to two years’ worth of the difference between the tenant’s current rent and the cost of comparable housing in the city.”
http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/08/22/judge-refuses-to-block-sf-law-increasing-relocation-payments-to-evicted-tenants-trial-put-on-fast-track/

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Special to the Daily Cal

The Daily Californian asked Berkeley Tenants Union to send an editorial!

Here’s what John Selawsky had to say on our behalf:
http://www.dailycal.org/2014/07/28/berkeley-tenants-union-weighs-affordable-housing/

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Tenant Convention Chooses Rent Board Slate

The 2014 Rent Board Slate: (left to right) John Selawsky, Paola LaVerde, Katherine Harr, and James Chang. Not pictured: Jesse Townley

The 2014 Rent Board Slate: (left to right) John Selawsky, Paola LaVerde, Katherine Harr, and James Chang. Not pictured: Jesse Townley

The Berkeley Tenant Convention on Sunday July 13 chose the five candidates most Highly Recommended by the Berkeley Tenants Union screener: incumbents Jesse Townley and Katherine Harr, former School Board Director John Selawsky, and first-time candidates Paola LaVerde and James Chang. Selawsky, Harr, and Chang all serve on the BTU steering committee.

Daily Californian Celebrates Student Candidate
“I’m talking about fighting for the soul of Berkeley,” Chang said at the convention. “In Berkeley, student issues are community issues, and community issues are student issues.” http://www.dailycal.org/2014/07/13/pro-tenant-slate-chosen-berkeley-rent-board-race/

More Information on the Convention:
http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/

In Other News

Berkeley City Council Passes NAACP Recommendations
“Ultimately, these measures will not be enough. They are a set of steps to stop the bleeding of lower-income residents from Berkeley, many of whom are people of color. But in the long run, the only effective way to combat gentrification is through the strict application of rent control.”
http://www.dailycal.org/2014/07/14/berkeley-housing-vote-step-right-direction-miles-still-go/

No Rent Control? No Security Against Displacement!
When one unit in the predominantly artist-occupied complex was put on the market a couple months ago, an attorney who had her eye on the space offered to pay $2,650, or $300 above the rental listing price. The landlord, one of the original developers of the complex in 1990, accepted the offer. Wells’ landlord, who had recently inherited the property, got word of the unprecedented demand, and notified her that her rent would be raised as well, from $2,200 to $2,650 — a 20 percent increase — effective in September. Wells, and another tenant whose rent was also increased, have no choice but to leave.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2014/07/03/is-the-tech-boom-putting-pressure-on-berkeley-rents/

No Dogs Allowed
“Rental search startup Lovely reports that just 17 percent of the rental apartments on their site specifically indicate that dogs are accepted, compared with 40 percent in Los Angeles and 48 percent in Chicago.”
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Pet-owners-struggle-as-fewer-S-F-landlords-allow-5603191.php

Demolition Evictions in SF up 300%
“…evictions for things like owner move-ins, demolitions and withdrawal of units from the rental market rose dramatically last year to 673.”
http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/03/24/rent-board-report-san-francisco-demolition-evictions-up-300-percent/

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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 (click to enlarge)!

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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Ellis Reform Defeated

 

IMG_5216-300hSB1439 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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