Berkeley Tenants Union Membership Meeting
Monday June 17th @ 6 PM
The meeting will be held at 2727 Milvia Street, in the Sports Basement Community Room.
This relaunch meeting BTU scheduled for June 3 has been moved to June 17 because a meeting regarding housing at the Ashby BART location was recently scheduled for June 3.
Our meeting is open to members and other renters interested in accessing or strengthening their rights. For more information, please see our previous post, check our facebook page, or email BTU.
April 19, 2019
Chair, Senate Committee on Judiciary
State Capitol, Room 2187
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax: (916) 403-7394
RE: Support – SB 529 (Durazo)
Dear Chair Jackson & Committee Members:
On behalf of the Berkeley Tenants Union, I write in support of SB 529 (Durazo), a bill that would provide crucial protections for vulnerable tenants.
The Berkeley Tenants Union advocates for tenants legislatively, both in the City Council and the State Legislature. We also work with tenants directly to address their issues.
Much as a labor union is key to winning fair treatment of workers, a tenant association is a crucial part of balancing power between landlord and tenants. Acting together, tenants can gain bargaining power, but too often tenants who organize with their neighbors frequently face retaliation and eviction.
SB 529 recognizes the right to form a tenant association and extends crucial protections to tenant association members. Specifically, the bill provides that any tenant who forms or joins a tenant association shall have the following rights:
1. No eviction of the tenants in the tenant association except for cause
2. A right to engage in rent strike – landlord must bargain in good faith about grievances and may not evict for nonpayment during the negotiation period
3. Five times current penalties for retaliation or violation of this law
The bill provides essential protections for tenants to prevent retaliation for organizing activities. We request your support for this bill. Thank you for your consideration.
Berkeley Tenants Union, Chair of Steering Committee
For more information on the bill, consult our friends at Tenants Together:
You could also read the bill, or check its status, here:
“This bill would declare that tenants have the right to form, join, and participate in the activities of a tenant association, subject to any restrictions as may be imposed by law, or to refuse to join or participate in the activities of a tenant association. The bill would define “tenant association” for these purposes and require a tenant association under these provisions to adopt bylaws or an operating agreement for purposes of its internal governance.”
In Berkeley, tenants have a right to live in safe housing and landlords are required to certify that the housing they are renting out meets safety standards. That’s why, every July 1st, owners of rental housing in Berkeley must certify that their units meet those safety standards. They do this by utilizing the Rental Housing Safety Program (RHSP) Self Certification Safety Checklist known as Schedule A. All owners of rental property, even those with only one or two units, are required to fill out the form every year. The Schedule A form, which was revised in September 2018, requires the owner to certify that the structural elements of the building, both inside and out, are functioning properly and safely.
For instance, the form asks that owners certify that doors have working deadbolts; that windows are fully operable with no cracked or broken panes; and that the heating system, plumbing and gas lines are in good working order. Landlords must also certify that elevated, exposed decks, balconies or walkways show no visible signs of sagging, leaning, or cracking and that they have no other defects that permit moisture to seep in and possibly deteriorate the structure. In 2015, a balcony at the apartment complex formerly known as Library Gardens collapsed because moisture had seeped into the base of the balcony, resulting in the death of six Irish students.
The City does not require owners to provide it with the certified checklist, instead, the owner must provide the Schedule A checklist to each tenant; this informs the tenant that the unit is certified as safe. The owner must also keep a copy of the form. In order to completely fill out all elements of the Schedule A form, a tenant must allow the owner access to the unit once every year. If a tenant does not allow an owner into the unit to self-certify, the owner must then inform the City by submitting Schedule A to the RHSP office indicating that certification was not possible.
The RHSP is part of the City’s existing program of conducting proactive inspections to randomly selected properties as well as inspections in response to complaints. During an inspection of a rental unit or room, the property owner is required to produce a copy of the completed ScheduleA form. If the owner fails to produce a copy of the form, the inspector may issue the owner a citation and a $200 fine, for not being in compliance with Berkeley Municipal Code (BMC) 12.48.050.
There are, however, exceptions to the owner self-certification requirement: newly constructed rental units are exempt for five years after the issuance of a certification of occupancy; additionally, once a unit or room has been inspected by the City, and the owner receives a Notice of Compliance, the unit or room does not need to be certified again for a period of three years.
Tenants living in units that have safety issues, such as broken windows or leaky roofs may make an inspection request to the City’s Housing Code Enforcement unit.
Berkeley Tenants Union Membership Meeting/Relaunch
When: Monday, June 3, 6-8:30PM
Where: Sports Basement (2727 Milvia St., Berkeley, California 94703; located in South Berkeley)
Join the Berkeley Tenants Union on June 3 (6-8:30PM) at Sports Basement in South Berkeley (2727 Milvia St, Berkeley, CA 94703) for a general membership meeting/relaunch of BTU! Whether you were previously a member of BTU or are interested in joining for the first time, you won’t want to miss this great meeting.
A formal agenda will be announced closer to the meeting date, but topics will include:
An introduction to the Berkeley Tenants Union
California Senate Bill 529 (Tenant Right to Organize/Protecting Tenant Voices Advocacy) and forming building associations
Information about the Berkeley Rent Board, including what protections and services it offers for tenants in both rent controlled and non-rent controlled in building, as well as your rights as a tenant in general
Information about counseling services
A question and answer period (e.g. “What happens if my landlord does X?”)
How to get more involved with BTU
If you want to help us get the word out to tenants about this important meeting, please email info at berkeleytenants dot org. We are especially looking for volunteers to hand out our flyers and talk to tenants about this meeting. The Berkeley Tenants Union is volunteer led and membership supported. We are only as strong as our members.
Anti-Displacement Workshop for Berkeley Residents:
What can you do if you are being priced out of Berkeley?
When: Saturday, March 30, 4-5:30PM
Where: Berkeley Public Library West Branch (1125 University Avenue)
Hosted by: Bay Area Community Land Trust (BACLT)
The Bay Area Community Land Trust (BACLT) will host a workshop on preventing displacement of Berkeley residents. BACLT is particularly interested in meeting with current Berkeley residents who are under threat of being displaced or are worried about eventual displacement due to the rising costs of housing.
Prop 10 is the most important ballot measure renters in California have voted on in decades!
If y’all want to save what is left of Berkeley, or San Francisco, or Oakland or even LA, y’all better get out there and do something for Yes on 10!
Yes on 10
Learn to Talk About Prop 10
PROP 10 is about LOCAL CONTROL
Comprehensive Research Report from UC Berkeley
The Community Power Slate sponsors a Yes on 10 forum:
SUNDAY OCTOBER 21 – 3 PM
South Berkeley Senior Center
2939 Ellis Street at Ashby
For over a quarter century, Berkeley progressives have come together to choose a consensus slate for the Rent Board. This spring, the Berkeley Tenant Convention chose local leaders John Selawsky (formerly on the School Board) and Paola Laverde, currently the Rent Board’s Vice Chair and an outspoken advocate for Yes on Prop 10. Also on the Community Power Slate for Berkeley Rent Board are James Chang, UCB junior Soli Alpert, and Maria Poblet, a founder of Causa Justa Oakland.
The landlords are running an opposition slate, so pay attention when voting!
Berkeley City Council
BTU endorsed Kate Harrison (District 4: Downtown) and Igor Tregub (District 1: Fourth Street, North Berkeley BART). Igor used to be on the Rent Board and has always been a solid advocate for tenants. Kate is the wisest leader in Berkeley, with a lot of behind the scenes experience in San Francisco’s crazier days. She has done amazing work for affordable housing on the City Council in her very short term.
BTU also endorsed Rigel Robinson, a newcomer whose website mentions nothing about renters in the housing policy statement. He is currently External Affairs Vice President of the ASUC and will fill the district with the most renters, taking the place of longtime tenant leader Kriss Worthington, who has endorsed Robinson.
“Rigel believes we need to build more housing, for all students, right next to campus, right now. As a City Councilmember, he’ll push for zoning requirements that allow for taller, denser buildings around campus — while fighting for more units that are affordable.”
Finally, BTU endorsed Mary Kay Lacey for District 8. Lacey will fight for renters in the district which has been represented by Lori Droste, who repeatedly voted to eliminate rent controlled units through demolitions and conversions to Air BnB. Lacey became known for her work on the Task Force to Save Alta Bates hospital.
“Protect against displacement by building targeted affordable housing for students, working families and those facing eviction… I am also fully committed to the Pathways Project and a ‘housing first’ solution to our homelessness crisis.”
State Assembly: Jovanka Beckles
Rent Board: Soli Alpert, James Chang, Paola Laverde, Maria Poblet, John Selawsky (Community Power Slate)
Council District 1: Igor Tregub
Council District 4: Kate Harrison
Council District 7: Rigel Robisnon
Council District 8: Mary Kay Lacey
BTU-Endorsed Housing Measures:
Prop 10 (Costa-Hawkins Repeal): YES!
Measure O (Affordable Housing Bond): Yes
Measure P (Transfer Tax for Homeless Services): Yes
Measure Q (Rent Board Amendments): No Endorsement
Prop 1 (Affordable Housing Bond): Yes
Prop 2 (Homeless Prevention Bond): Yes
Prop 5 (Property Tax Break): No
At their 10th anniversary celebration, the statewide renters group Tenants Together chose to honor Berkeley’s own Julia Cato, who has worked hard with several groups – including BTU – to make sure the voices of seniors and tenants are heard by the folks who represent us.
Tenants Together also has a counselor training coming up. I don’t think anyone does counseling for BTU since I left, so someone really should try to get the program up and running again! Tenants could use a peer advocate to help them navigate the bureaucracies that govern, even if California does get some better laws this election day!
The Right to the City Alliance / Homes For All held their second national Renter Power Assembly this summer, with over 100 tenant groups coming together from all over the United States. Start by joining their mailing list to give renters a unified voice on national housing policy!
“If the housing crisis has been slow to register at the level of national politics, it’s not for lack of momentum at the grassroots. There is no major city in the United States today without a multitude of tenants’ rights groups, and “gentrification” has, in the span of a decade, crossed from left-wing academic journals into everyday language. From coast to coast, a loosely organized, intersectional, and bottom-up movement is coalescing around housing justice—the idea that housing is inextricable from a range of other issues like racial justice, poverty, the environment, immigration, and the rights of the formerly incarcerated.”
LEARN MORE SUNDAY:
KEEP UP WITH BTU ON FACEBOOK
Tuesday the City Council will vote on a proposed ballot measure updating the rent laws to prepare Berkeley for a world without Costa-Hawkins. One of the major changes is that buildings build after 1980 could be rent controlled! Right now, the state law Costa-Hawkins says that cannot happen. The Berkeley City Council will be discussing how old a building should be before rent increases are limited. They seem to favor setting this period to be between 12-15 years. Maybe you would like all buildings under rent control NOW?
BTU member Paola Laverde sent in the information below:
Berkeley Renters We Need You!
The Rent Is Too Damn High!
Come out to Tuesday’s City Council meeting and make sure your voice is heard as the City Council debates whether to expand rent control.
We need you there to ensure that the City Council does not cave in to developers who want to delay new rent control for 20 YEARS OR MORE!
Where: Council Chambers: 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
When: Tuesday, July 31, 2018 at 6 P. M.
What: The Council will be debating how long rent control should be delayed on newly constructed rental units. The proposal before them is 12 to 15 years. However, property owners and developers are screaming that nothing less than 20 to 30 years is acceptable.
If tenants do not raise their voices loudly, the City Council may cave in to property owners and developers, leaving renters to suffer as already unaffordable rents sky rocket even higher.
The decision reached by the Council on Tuesday night may be put on the November 6, 2018, ballot for Berkeley voters to decide. It will only go into effect if Proposition 10, the Affordable Housing Act, is approved by California voters.
Now is the time to take a stand against big money and the rental housing industry that is responsible for the affordability crisis impacting Berkeley.
THE RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH!
For More Information:
Berkeley Ordinance Amendments
see Item #6
California Prop 10 Would Allow Berkeley to Expand Coverage
The Statewide Movement
The 2018 convention to choose a Pro-Tenant Slate for the November Rent Board election will be held Sunday April 22nd at 2727 Milvia Street.
Affordable Housing Forum January 21
BTU, in conjunction with Berkeley Citizens Action, Progressive Student Association, and CalSERVE, are hosting an event on affordable housing, with guest speakers including Mayor Jesse Arreguin, Councilmember Kate Harrison, and Rent Board Commissioner Leah Simon-Weisberg. Topics include rent control expansions, student housing, and the newly proposed state law, SB827, which would take away more local control over large for-profit housing developments. At the library Sunday the 21st, from 2pm-4pm.
Counselor Training February 7 and 8th
Our friends at Tenants Together are offering a Tenants Rights Counselor Training. They cover state law, and refer renters with Berkeley-specific problems to us or the Rent Board. Taking their training or volunteering on their hotline is a great first step toward counseling for BTU. Right now, BTU has only one person answering questions from renters. Help us help Berkeley tenants!
Contact Sara (415) 495-8100
BTU on Campus Thursday February 8th
Cal Dems and the Progressive Student Association have invited BTU to discuss housing issues at 8pm. The location on campus is TBD, so check the Facebook event. This meeting is open to both students and non-students.
Tenants Endorsement Meeting February 11
Meet all nine candidates for the open Assembly race for District 15. Pamela Price, challenger for Alameda County District Attorney, will also be present. While this event is open to all, you must be a member of BTU who has attended at least one other meeting in the past year and have paid dues in order to vote. Sunday February 11, 2 to 6 pm at South Berkeley Senior Center.
2018 Tenant Convention
Planning has begun for largest tenant gathering in Berkeley, the biannual convention to choose a united team to run for Berkeley Rent Board. Contact BTU if you are interested in being a candidate, and follow developments about this year’s meeting on the tcon website:
Your Name Here
I moved away from Berkeley but so far no one at BTU has stepped up to manage the website, and no one is really sending me any content. Does someone in Berkeley want to take on this task for BTU?