Blogging Bayport Alameda

August 27, 2015

Blast from the past: fair housing rights

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

In 1988, the City attempted to, once again, address some form of renter protection in Alameda via a resolution that would encourage landlords to give tenants a justification as to why they were being evicted.  This resolution died from lack of a second, here’s the entire thing, it appears only one City Council member Joe Camicia was pushing for the adoption of this resolution but his conservative colleagues were having none of it.  Fun fact: Joe Camicia is the City Council member that had his file cabinet looted through by another City Councilmember at that time.

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  1. I am not yet convinced that our current City Council is *significantly* more supportive of renter’s rights overall than the 1988 or earlier Alameda City Councils, based on the legal and other objections raised this year when a minimal strengthening of our “toothless” Rent Review Advisory Committee was proposed.

    If our City Council sincerely believed in supporting renters during this housing crisis–especially those on fixed and limited incomes, they would be formulating a comprehensive, Alameda-friendly rent stabilization program to protect both renters and the family-oriented local resident landlords who provide housing at reasonable rates.

    Historically speaking, though, our local legislators–like generations of politicians across the planet–line up on the side of those who own (and sell and manage) property: it is those owners who have the economic and political power because they control the supposedly “free” market.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — August 27, 2015 @ 7:14 am

  2. Did property owners “control the supposedly ‘free’ market” when rents fell sharply after the dotcom bust? Or when they fell after the last downturn? Why did so many (mostly small) landlords go bust in the ’08/’09 meltdown? What about all the years in which rents were basically static? Why didn’t they exercise their control then?

    Comment by dave — August 27, 2015 @ 8:23 am

  3. 2. can you post some references to landlords going bust in ’08/’09 ? I saw a lot of foreclosures but don’t recall an epidemic of landlords going bust. Soft rental markets seldom mean rents drop like a stone, just fail to rise.

    I did some work for a property investor in 2006 who had owned rental buildings in several cities around the bay for about twenty five years. Many were built as apartments and in Alameda his buildings were Victorian vintage, mostly apartments as opposed to SFR which were hacked up. He was trying to sell them off and was doing improvements before he sold them. I asked him who was buying and how it was they could pay his prices without having to double the rents. He said that the buyers were playing the long game as he had and mostly paid a lot of cash. I imagined that the folks who bought some of his properties did struggle for a while, but I didn’t notice a lot of rental signs when they exchanged hands or that any were foreclosed when 2007 rolled around. Real estate is supposed to be one of the best and most stable long term investments one can make. But being a landlord does not come with zero responsibility to tenants. When a person signs a lease there is a contract. A landlord is not responsible for the free market, but they are agreeing to supply shelter and most leases are not month to month for a reason. A friend of mine was having physical problems and ended up seeing a psychologist who told him that after loosing a parent or child, moving is actually one of the most traumatic . My pal was downsizing his shop space and moving his living space and trying to keep working all at the same time, a process that lasted months. The stress may have caused him to pass out at the wheel of his vehicle. He was losing sleep for sure. It was by his choice with no landlord putting a gun to his head. Imagine getting a sixty day notice to vacate the home you own and have been living in here in Alameda.

    Comment by MI — August 27, 2015 @ 8:55 am

  4. A friend just sent me this. It was an interesting time in Alameda. Folks like Clayton Guyton were starting to push for the same change that was happening in other parts of the Bay Area. Alameda was at the tail-end of that change and the old guard was fighting it every step of the way. I like to think Alameda is where it is today because people like Guyton raised their voices in the late ’80s/early ’90s.

    And BTW, I’m still looking for the stuff stolen from my file cabinet… just kidding. > Joe Camicia

    Comment by Joe Camicia — August 27, 2015 @ 9:01 am

  5. If we had a truly “progressive” City Council, they would vote for:

    1) Cable TV and internet rate controls, so that no coaxil could enter town if the carrier charges an unreasonable rate. Also, no more cell towers unless the carrier commits to reasonable charges.
    2) Doctor and dental fee control: no more unreasonable consultation fees and the price menu must be placed in the window.
    3) Grocery price control – we all need to eat and prices have been going way up.
    4) Pizza control: $10 max for a pie. It’s all flour and canned tomatoes anyway.
    5) Book price control: books cost way too much. I am forced to wait a year or two to get them second hand, no doubt the cause of my outdated views.
    6) Pass a resolution to encourage Alameda’s hometown Assemblyman to introduce a bill changing state law to permit rent control on new units.
    7) Pass a progressive city income tax to support rent payments for either low income tenants or all tenants as an alternative to rent control – if it’s really important we can all ship in – or to pay for unexpected (reasonable or unreasonable) medical bills not covered by Medicare incurred by retirees whose major investment is a single home or a second unit that was rented out below market prior to rent control. Or we could appoint a rent control judiciary to set a double exception reasonable rate in that and similar circumstances where the tenant has means to pay a larger portion of a market rate rent and set up an escrow to make sure the additional money goes straight to the hip replacement doctor.
    8) Appoint a subcommittee to set reasonable prices. According to commentators here, CPI is not a good measure. Maybe it should be particularized so that a renter with valuable skills has to offer them back to the owner at a stabilized price also to be determined by the committee.
    9) In addition to hiring a full crew to enforce the rent control, with full benefits, we’ll need a lot more building code enforcement personnel. Landlords are sure to cut back on maintenance if they are no longer able to gouge tenants, so we’ll need the coercion of the City to make that happen. Or maybe we could institute a maintenance fund derived from all the new sales tax rolling in. That might be cheaper, but then we would need investigators to make sure the money is not misspent.
    10) Back to new construction, we really need to get those units under a hard rent control. I’m suspicious of the low to moderate income set asides. I think they too often go to well-informed rather than the needy. A progressive condition of new construction should be an enforceable commitment to submit all rent control measures, irrespective of state law.
    11) I’m sure some of this will have unintended consequences. I’ll get to those later. My mind is somewhat at ease knowing that if my policies result in making it harder to find available units in Alameda, there’s always Oakland and, happily, there is rent control there too.

    Comment by MP — August 27, 2015 @ 9:05 am

  6. Hey Joe. A procedural question- discussion between speakers and members of Council seemed to be permitted back then, as evidenced by the exchanges recorded here. Wonder when that changed, why it changed, and if the change is a good thing? Certainly having a dialogue with interested parties is the republican way (small ‘r’), and could allow Council members to gain additional information and be persuaded by the public. OTOH, certainly could make for longer and more disruptive (more interesting?) Council meetings. See ya on the freeway, Joe!

    Comment by Not A. Alamedan — August 27, 2015 @ 9:27 am

  7. Dear Not A Alamedan: I remember we had a 3 minute rule for speakers but could always ask questions of the speakers or get clarification from anyone at the podium. That’s no longer allowed? Local government everywhere has become more formal it seems but if you can’t interact with the speakers… I live in Sacramento now and there are two “Mayors pro tem” since the actual mayor rarely makes the meetings. Go figure.

    Comment by Joe Camicia — August 27, 2015 @ 9:41 am

  8. 3 – good points. I would hope that in the last situation you describe that the owner would have allowed extra time for him to find another place. Probably more likely with a small landlord rather that a larger real estate holder.

    Comment by MP — August 27, 2015 @ 9:46 am

  9. re #3:

    Here’s one that quotes 77,000 during ’09.

    Rents fell pretty sharply in SF & SV after the dot com bust. They fell a bit around here in ’08 but not as steeply, because there was much less out-migration than there had been in ’01 or ’02.

    Comment by dave — August 27, 2015 @ 4:35 pm

  10. There are only two mechanisms to actually lower rent. A bad economy or competition, and who wants a bad economy. If you think it can be done by legislative fiat, look at what is going on in Venezuela. More projects need to make it through the pipeline.

    Comment by Ed Hirshberg — August 27, 2015 @ 5:28 pm

  11. Right, Ed, cos there’s only unfettered capitalism and command-control socialism. Nothing in between. Must be nice to have so binary a view of the world.

    What do you think about planning regulations and their effect on competition, by the way?

    Comment by BC — August 28, 2015 @ 9:13 am

  12. BC, I have fought regulation my whole life. The penultimate house that I built took 15 years to secure the permit. And the permit with all associated fees and taxes cost $50 per square foot. Fortunately, the water district was privately owned, or there would have been another 30K for the water meter. Still, even with the morass of regulation, nothing produces like the free market.

    Comment by Ed Hirshberg — August 28, 2015 @ 10:43 am

  13. 9. 77,000 landlords lost their holdings? In the bay area? got a link?

    Ed, you had $50 a sq foot for permits and we’re supposed to sympathize you feel squeezed by Measure H? What jurisdiction was that? It sounds like bullshit.

    Comment by MI — August 28, 2015 @ 11:24 am

  14. 13:

    Here’s the link, sorry, I thought it had pasted before

    Comment by dave — August 28, 2015 @ 12:45 pm

  15. MI That was Placer County. I am including all county costs: School, roads, fire, sewer, plan ck, etc. The only relationship between this and measure H is that they both get passed on to the consumer. We recently completed a house in Contra Costa County that ran $60 per s.f. It included such charges as $8000 for permission to cut some Eucalyptus trees, 4 hours at over $100 per hour to locate the mailbox by the newly hired intern, planning commission meetings where the neighbors argued that the bedrooms shouldn’t have windows. This is some of the reason housing is so outrageously expensive.

    Comment by Ed Hirshberg — August 28, 2015 @ 3:24 pm

  16. Just to be clear, Ed. You’re opposed to Measure A and indeed any restrictions on private development? If so, I’ll grant that you’re coherent unlike a lot of people in town.

    Comment by BC — August 28, 2015 @ 4:23 pm

  17. Fees and Permits

    We did a Room Addition and Added a Master Bedroom in 1983.

    We got all Building Permits, Electrical Permits, New Gas Meter from PGE, New Electrical Box and Rewiring of whole house, New Sewer Line Extension, New Shower, New Basin, New Roof, and all permits and plan checks for a 336 foot addition.

    Total Cost was 139.00 for all.

    What would this cost today for all fees and permits ?

    Using the CPI Inflation Calculator that 139.00 in 1983 would be 333.04 in 2015.

    Local Government Services and Fees and Permits are part of the CPI index and many residents pay and income are tied to this Index.

    Using your 50.00 a square foot charge for all fees and permits that would equate to 16,800.00 in 2015.

    Thats a 12,000 percent Increase in fees and services.

    Some on here say it has no bearing on housing and rental costs.

    Ed …..Just to be clear here what would this cost today in Alameda be so this doesn’t look so ridiculous.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — August 28, 2015 @ 6:36 pm

  18. To put those numbers in Context. We paid the Contractor 25.00 an hour in 1983, and if that Wage increased at the same rate of City Permits and Fees it would be 3000.00 an hour for the the work performed in 2015.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — August 28, 2015 @ 7:02 pm

  19. 18. You’re unwittingly making my point.

    Comment by BC — August 29, 2015 @ 4:24 pm

  20. BC

    “6 (& 7): “Haven’t all these Fees, Building Permits, Taxes , Transfer fees been large factor in Rent Increases since 1985?” No.”

    Your Answer was No

    We have a Transfer Tax when selling a Property that is 2200 % higher than 95% of Cities in California.

    We Have City Fees and Permits That are up 12,000 percent or maybe higher and out pacing the the CPI inflation by 5000 to 6000%.

    I stated that these fees have been a large contributor to rising rents as the Landlords and Homeowners pass these on to the renters.

    Glad We agree..LOL

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — August 29, 2015 @ 7:27 pm

  21. If Those People on Fixed income that own homes and receiving Social Security and their Checks increased at the same rate City Taxes and Fees Increased they would be Receiving about 3,000,000 a year on Social Security. Rounding error 3 mil + or minus 50k,

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — August 29, 2015 @ 7:35 pm

  22. 9. so 77,000 rental properties were foreclosed state wide in the same period many home owners lost their primary residency because they were in over their heads. It was the fault of the subprime mortgage brokers who nearly took the whole economy down, the so called free market at work. It’s collective madness and ultimately they lost their property because their tenants couldn’t afford the rent, probably due to a ripple of unemployment. A lot of people lost a lot and nobody on Wall Street has gone to jail. I imagine that a purchaser of one of the properties sold by the long time landlord I mentioned in 3. could have lost their property, but apparently they didn’t but that long time realtor was not able to sell off the building I worked on, though I’m certain he has increased the rents. Wouldn’t surprise me to see it back on the market.

    Comment by MI — August 31, 2015 @ 8:12 am

  23. 14. dave, numbers and stats are not my strong suit. 77,000 is a big number but all information is meaningless without context. I Googled and found this site

    I went to the chart showing state distribution of apartments and the number is over 63 million. If my math is right, 77,000 is .0012222%. I can’t answer your question in #2 “Why did so many (mostly small) landlords go bust in the ’08/’09 meltdown? “, even if that question is legitimate. But I don’t think I’m overwhelmed by the foreclosure of .0012222% of rental units in the larger context of both down turns you site with all the mitigating factors. If I’ve blown the math, please correct me.

    Comment by MI — August 31, 2015 @ 6:09 pm

  24. A state of less than 40 million people has 63 million apartments?

    Comment by dave — August 31, 2015 @ 8:02 pm

  25. o.k. There you go. just one silly decimal. so it’s .012119, a tenth, correct? 77,000 was probably units, and the chart is individual renters so the math still is probably off, but in your mind is that a huge amount? My point is that ’07 to ’09 were anomalies caused by massive fraud and a tenth of one percent is not catastrophic , or a normal condition of risk for landlords.

    Comment by MI — September 1, 2015 @ 10:35 am

  26. The 77k was state figure. I don’t know what the 68 million is, but there’s no way it’s CA. It’s probably a national figure.

    The point though, was that Jon’s conspiracy theory of a controlled market is ridiculous on its face. With a large number of buyers and sellers and significant price transparency, it’s actually pretty close to the Econ 101 of Perfect Competition.

    Comment by dave — September 1, 2015 @ 11:19 am

  27. no dave, I corrected 63 million to 6.3 million. But never mind. I originally asked for stats because it seemed like you were talking from gut ( ” so many (mostly small) landlords go bust”) without having just read something specific. Seems like you had to do a search and came up with 77,000 from a tenants rights site, no less. So my secondary point was what is significance of 77,000, especially without context?

    I don’t think Jon was claiming conspiracy, just Econ 101 also, supply and demand. But I’m still not getting that huge proportions of landlords take huge risks every year and loose their shirts. IF they do, then I guess they are greedy fools, where as tenants are at the mercy of the market which for them is not free. Home purchasers who were over extended during the mortgage crisis were not being greedy, just induced to take on more debt than they could repay by unscrupulous loan officers by having American Dream dangled like a carrot. Rental property owners who fell pray to same thing would be no different other than proportionally there would seem to be far fewer of them, and rather than striving to own a primary residence, they were motivated by deriving income from other people’s need for shelter. Profiting from providing shelter is legit business, but it has strings, or should. Circling back to sixty days notice, you never responded to how you would react if the bank yanked your shelter on 60 days notice? Human Condition 101.

    Comment by MI — September 2, 2015 @ 9:42 am

  28. This is what Jon posted:

    Historically speaking, though, our local legislators–like generations of politicians across the planet–line up on the side of those who own (and sell and manage) property: it is those owners who have the economic and political power because they control the supposedly “free” market


    Stating that one side of a transaction controls the market in said transactions acting in cahoots with the political establishment sounds an awful lot like a conspiracy theory to me, as it does to just about any rational person.

    Your next points about who is at the mercy of the free market are just plain confusing. Are you saying the market is free for owners but not for renters? If that is your point, it’s a fallacy. Or is your point something different from that?

    As for over extended homeowners vis. over extended rental property owners, why do you side with one over the other? The former’s greed is exempt from your judgment but the latter’s is not. I fail to see how someone who lied on a no-doc loan application to buy a larger house than they needed, hoping to profit from future appreciation should be exempt from the moralizing aspersion you cast at the apartment owners. One could make a solid case for the opposite, that the former was driven by personal avarice and the latter driven by altruism to provide shelter for others at a low single-digit return.

    As for my own situation, the only scenario in which I can envision a lender yanking my shelter on 60 days notice would be for protracted non-payment. While I certainly wouldn’t be happy in that event, I’d have no one to blame but myself.

    Comment by dave — September 2, 2015 @ 12:05 pm

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