Wednesday night’s City Council meeting was a cluster of epic proportions. First, it was clear that the City Council did not realize the magnitude of the issue in front of them. Despite the number of people that had written about their rent issues and all the information and data about housing the City Council didn’t think to plan out the process of this single issue hearing a little better. Perhaps they were complacent from the last single issue special meeting about the Harbor Bay Club where everything moved along smoothly. The vast difference was that while that was emotionally charged, there is a level of desperation to the renters community after hearing story after story of evictions and rent hikes.
Add to that the stories of landlords hiring seat fillers to stack the chambers prior to the start of the meeting which left very few renters able to get access into the room to turn in their speakers slips and you pretty much have a recipe for disaster. After landlord…I mean “housing provider” after “housing provider” testified in the chambers the renters in the overflow room had enough and started protesting from the hallway, and some tried to storm the chambers. Here’s how the it looked from inside the chambers and the direction from Mayor Trish Spencer to keep the door closed, lest it disrupt the public comment.
A broken hip, bloody nose, and two arrests later the meeting reconvened with renters moved into the main room, speaker slips completely abandoned, and people told to line up against the wall if they wanted to speak. Trish Spencer decided to interrupt renter after renter to grill them about whether their rent was “current” after they spoke of receiving an eviction notice. But I could go on and on about some of the truly strange interactions and statements made. But let me get to the actual result of the night.
On Wednesday night/Thursday morning the Council decided on some policy items that staff will come back to the Council for more discussion. Based on the discussion some of these policy points will not be supported by individual members of the City Council. Right now, there should be no assumptions based on someone’s housing situation (renter vs. homeowner) how they will vote. At this point the only person that came out strongly right out of the gate to support renters was Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft. Everyone else had much much more measured and qualified support. If you were to design a spectrum of support with going from most supportive to least supportive, based only on their comments that night, I would have to list it as: Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, Frank Matarrese, Jim Oddie, Trish Spencer, and Tony Daysog.
My sense is that Frank Matarrese will not be as supportive of actual protections, but he sounded really good that night and was full barrel supportive of the moratorium. Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, I believe, can be counted to attempt to make rental protections work. Only she and Jim Oddie were open to the idea of landlord registration fees in order to help pay for whatever the costs to the City would be to enact these protections. Jim Oddie failed to impress though with his conflation of high rents in Oakland and San Francisco with rent control. Frank Matarrese didn’t really commit to much that night either so he, as usual, will be a wild card when actually policy needs to be made. Trish Spencer didn’t appear to understand much about just cause evictions or how putting teeth into the RRAC would impact the liabilities of the City of Alameda, which, considering that she is a lawyer and she attempted to unilaterally truncate City Staff’s presentation on the policy implication was deeply unimpressive.
And Tony Daysog. Oh Tony Daysog, you deserve a special paragraph all to yourself. Tony Daysog decided to read from a prepared speech that he had pulled off his laptop. Even if he had been actively listening to all the testimony the optics of that are really bad because it appears that nothing that was said that night swayed him and that he had already decided what he wanted to do before he walked into the chambers that night. When off script Tony Daysog unfortunately decided to pull out the “This is America, shit happens” excuse to explain to the rest of us that bad things happen to people every day and that there’s very little that can be done about it except maybe throwing some money at people to go away quietly in the form of “relocation assistance.” Tony Daysog is the living embodiment of this ascii art:
If the anger and frustration continues Tony Daysog is on the front lines of the wrath of renters. I’m not sure if he realized that was the direction he was heading in the other night, but the next morning a quick look at social media should have learned him real quickly.
So anyway these are the policy items that will return to the City Council:
Policy 1: Tenant protections on rising rents:
- Mandatory landlord initiation of mediation at RRAC if rent hike is 8% or more [Enhanced RRAC], or
- Binding Arbitration if rent increase is not recommended by RRAC after RRAC process [Rent Control]
- Just cause eviction ordinance
- Relocation benefits
- Extended noticing
I’ll point out that the Council punted on the issue of supply and creating more housing to tackle to supply issue with regard to housing, but I’ll give them a limited pass because it was a very late night.
The Council did agree, after much haggling back and forth as well as informal “polls” taken by Trish Spencer in lieu of, you know, actual motions and voting and stuff to pass the urgency moratorium with a nod to Tony Daysog’s first pass which only capped rent increases above 8% in a 12 month period, but included no eviction notices served during the moratorium. It’s a step, but renters and their allies should not be appeased by what really is something that should have been an easy vote that night.