Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 19, 2015

#AlamedansFirst to learn about the free market

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:09 am

It’s never too early to learn about the wonders of the Free Market or about how shit just happens because this is America.  And in Alameda we coo over kids appearing before the City Council and ask them to perform the Pledge of Allegiance but the best that can be offered to them are platitudes and — if lucky — a pittance of a relocation stipend and displacement of at least 13 students from their homes and schools.

Because protecting the investment of a “housing provider” is more important than protecting the homes of the disenfranchised and poor of Alameda.  Because “market rate rents” are sacrosanct but providing housing security for elementary, middle, and high school students is interfering with a property owners right to turn a profit.

I suppose when these kids are forced to move from their homes and their schools, they can take cold comfort in knowing that it was just the Free Market doing its job.  It’s a bit sad that some of these kids even know how scarce the housing opportunities are out there for their families.  That based on the income coming into their households they might need to move far far away in order to afford a home.

And even if someone is able to temporarily intervene on behalf of these families, imagine the insecurity of living with the possibility of losing your home based on the whims of a balance sheet and the desire of a housing provider to maximize their earnings while the time is ripe.

Those faces are the reason why something must be done and why this advocate that spoke on behalf of these families is exactly right:

We need to find a solution for them to be able to stay where they’re living; in their home and the community that they’ve made.  We all know that this is going to disproportionately affect these folks.  It’s going to disproportionately affect immigrants, people of color, women, families, children, elders, these are the people who are most vulnerable in our society.  And they’re the ones who have been pushed and forced out of their homes.  We need to choose people over profits and protect and invest in these families.

I think it’s somewhat ironic that we will be honoring Filipino labor leaders like Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong while at the same time pushing out the people — who they would have fought for — from their homes.  We all need to continue that fight, continue to make sure there is justice in the society and that these folks are allowed to be in the communities that they have made over years and decades.  And I hope that you will stand with them. [emphasis added]

But in this case, it’s not just standing with these families. The people on that dais have the ability to actually enact legislation to protect these families. The call for action should not simply be to  stand with these families. Standing with them, holding their hands in solidarity won’t be of any help when that eviction day comes and the moving trucks arrive.  What needs to happen is that the City Council must proactively protect these families which they have the power to do. It’s just about whether they have the will or the desire.

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42 Comments

  1. If housing is to be provided by private enterprise, such enterprises need the ability to operate like a business, because that is what they are.

    If housing is to be provided by society, ie government, paid for with taxes, that is another matter. If that’s what you want, advocate for it. But don’t expect a private enterprise to act like a public one, that’s simply unrealistic.

    Comment by dave — November 19, 2015 @ 6:25 am

  2. It is unrealistic to expect a private enterprise to act like a public one. And that is why we have laws and regulations to set ground rules and keep the private ones from acting irresponsibly, immorally, and like complete opportunistic jerks, preying opportunistically on those less powerful than them.

    In the same way we can decide that corporations can’t buy up the oxygen rights of a community and force them to buy bottled air from the sole providers, in the same way we can require that retailers not sell contaminated food or defective products, we can require that the price of doing business in our community means following certain rules and guidelines that don’t allow opportunistic providers of a necessity — shelter — to prey on the weak and poor.

    Sure, landlords should be allowed to make a profit. But that doesn’t mean that they should collude in making a killing at the expense of the rest of us. There’s a reason why no country in the world has a completely unfettered “free market” — because it doesn’t really work. There are already limits to what providers of a necessity can do, thank god; now we’re just trying to decide what will bring the fairest result all around.

    Comment by Jack Mingo — November 19, 2015 @ 6:57 am

  3. We have laws against monopolies, and we should. No one has a monopoly on housing, there are hundreds if not thousands of landlords in Alameda.

    We have laws against selling contaminated products, and we should, but those laws do not state the price at which uncontaminated products sell.

    Collusion is illegal. Do you have evidence of this crime being committed in Alameda?

    Comment by dave — November 19, 2015 @ 7:12 am

  4. As you are probably aware, Dave, the law recognizes both “overt” collusion and “tacit” collusion. Whether the latter is of the illegal sort, its effect on the renter is all-but-indistinguishable from the former.

    Comment by Jack Mingo — November 19, 2015 @ 8:01 am

  5. Do you have evidence of either form of collusion?

    Comment by dave — November 19, 2015 @ 8:02 am

  6. Of course, Dave. And so do you: a uniform upward movement of rents far above the cost of living. “Tacit collusion” is not even necessarily illegal — it can be a group of providers who see what others are getting away with and join in.

    It is a legitimate concern of a community and its leaders to determine whether even nominally legal tacit collusion is unduly destructive to it.

    Comment by Jack Mingo — November 19, 2015 @ 8:15 am

  7. Was there collusion went rents fell in two recent periods? Of course not, they fell because demand fell.

    If there is any collusion now, it’s among buyers rather than sellers. Rents are rising now because demand is rising, primarily because of a booming local economy. That used to be considered a good thing…

    Comment by dave — November 19, 2015 @ 8:22 am

  8. If housing is to be provided by private enterprise, such enterprises need the ability to operate like a business, because that is what they are.

    Except for the fact that government doesn’t allow the construction of housing — a business — to act unfettered. We have land use regulations, zoning laws, etc. to control that business. Some of those laws are heavily supported by the same folks who ask that “housing providers” be allowed to operate without any strings attached and without regulation. If the argument is that laws regulating housing construction are for “quality of life” purposes. Then laws regulating rental housing markets are — by far — a much more important protection of the “quality of life” for families.

    Comment by Lauren Do — November 19, 2015 @ 8:28 am

  9. #1 Dave, thank you for saying what many of us reading this blog silently are thinking. Kudos!

    Comment by Jason — November 19, 2015 @ 8:53 am

  10. If Trader Joe’s prices went through the roof nobody would go there. All retail is supply and demand but it is also competitive, so even though the price of iceberg lettuce may go over $3 suppliers will still be fighting for customers by keeping prices as low as possible. But not housing of which there is a very real limit on supply. With climate change we may eventually have soup lines and bread riots, but until such time as we have total anarchy, let’s be humane when it comes to basics like shelter. Nobody is out to deprive landLORDS of a profit, just tamp down rampant opportunism. People who tout the basics of econ 101 should understand moral bankruptcy.

    Comment by MI — November 19, 2015 @ 9:09 am

  11. So dave….just how much are they paying you? I mean, you insist you’re not a landlord. But you’ve gotta be the best little paid troll I’ve ever seen. Too bad you’re on the wrong side.

    Comment by StartOver — November 19, 2015 @ 9:29 am

  12. This might be a very simplistic view but the only answer I see is Gov’t Housing….Down in Santa Monica they have moderate income housing….all based on income….it needs to be renewed each year to make sure people are not taking advantage….they are small efficient apartments that are kept up by a management company…all the housing we are building does not help the rental crisis…..

    Comment by J.E.A. — November 19, 2015 @ 9:30 am

  13. dave, look to Medicare as an example. Private enterprise provides the service, but the government pays the bills and exerts influence on prices.
    Every private enterprise in America has some degree of government controls. Specifying constraints on how private actors may behave in a given market is nothing new. There is no magic line that is being crossed here. You either think the behavior should be legal, or you don’t. It isn’t complicated.

    Comment by BMac — November 19, 2015 @ 10:45 am

  14. “The people on that dais have the ability to actually enact legislation to protect these families.”

    So how much are they paying you? I mean, you’ve gotta be the best little paid troll I’ve ever seen. Too bad you’re on the wrong side.

    Comment by jack — November 19, 2015 @ 10:45 am

  15. Gee, Jack…doesn’t take cash to make people with hearts, souls, empathy and human decency to stand up and say what needs to be said.

    Comment by StartOver — November 19, 2015 @ 11:13 am

  16. @14 The City Council should immediately exercise its ability to enact legislation to strip evil abusive property owners of their real estate titles and re-distribute those properties either as (1) tenant collectives or (2) to local Alameda resident landlords who have demonstrated a track record of good tenant stewardship.

    Oh…the people on the dais don’t have that ability? Whoops..Someone forgot [the People’s Republic of] Alameda is located in the US of A…

    Comment by vigi — November 19, 2015 @ 11:41 am

  17. I really hope people rally this hard next year when ACI, Comcast (or AT&T), PGE, EBMUD, State Farm (or insert your homeowner’s insurance company here), the Bay Bridge Authority, BART, and the Alameda County Assessor’s Office all raise their rates on the poor homeowners and housing providers in Alameda. The “moral bankruptcy” of those entries for raising our rates is outlandish.

    Comment by Jason — November 19, 2015 @ 11:47 am

  18. 17. Nice try, but the rates PG&E sets are regulated by the PUC. And the government stopped Comcast buying its principal rival. But I do get your point. I don’t see this as a question of evil landlords versus saintly tenants. And it doesn’t matter much that some landlords are nice and some nasty. That’s just a sideshow. This is driven by economic forces, not personal ones. And the big forces at work are artificially limited supply and increased demand (which, I have a strong hunch is artificial in that it’s driven by an employment bubble based on wildly unrealistic expectations of the future profitability of the tech industry). The people squeezed by this are the tenants, and first-time buyers of Bay Area homes. Landlords and homeowners are faring rather nicely.

    Comment by BC — November 19, 2015 @ 12:00 pm

  19. 18. Nice try, indeed. Re: CPUC “regulation” of PGE. LMFAO! Can you say PEEVEY? http://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/PUC-member-Florio-knew-of-ex-chief-Peevey-s-6238336.php

    You must not have Comcast, because nothing stops Comcast from perpetually raising its prices by inventing new charges to stick on your bill. Now its Broadcast TV Fees http://forums.xfinity.com/t5/Billing/broadcast-tv-fee/td-p/2457405 [I thought Broadcast TV fees were included in the Comcast base fee. Silly me]

    So just what is your point about “government regulation” of anything? That it makes unavoidable daily expenses more affordable? Not in the examples you cited. Try again.

    Comment by vigi — November 19, 2015 @ 12:41 pm

  20. What price do you think a natural monopoly like PG&E would charge if unregulated? That regulation is imperfect doesn’t weaken my point. And Comcast does exploit its market position. My point was that the government stopped it getting even worse on the east coast. I don’t have cable TV, for what it’s worth. I therefore can’t watch Fox News.

    Comment by BC — November 19, 2015 @ 1:01 pm

  21. So what’s Do suffering from, some kind of yellow guilt? All those multi million dollar properties in Alameda being bought up by Asians rubbing off on her so she’s trying to prove she’s got her heart in the right place by shouting, moaning and bitching post after post about how unfair life is for the downtrodden while cloistered in her million dollar enclave carefully protected from the real world and market economy.

    Instead of posting videos of ‘other people’ in front of the dais, why doesn’t she put her mouth where her mealy pen is and mount the stage in person and shout up like she’s at Mizzou raging against the system instead of wimping along on a blog that’s outlived any interest it once had.

    Comment by jack — November 19, 2015 @ 1:36 pm

  22. Wow Jack, nice trifecta of unvarnished racism there: demeaning someone based on color of their skin (check!), lumping all people of Asian ancestry into one homogeneous group (check!), and dismissing the concerns of anyone not lucky enough to be born white (check!). Welcome back!

    Comment by david burton — November 19, 2015 @ 1:50 pm

  23. dude.

    Comment by BMac — November 19, 2015 @ 2:04 pm

  24. Usually, I admire Lauren for not blocking people despite how far down they sink but gotta say, post #21 was a new low even for this group. For a post like that – I would support an exception to her rule. That is not even trolling- that is a picture of Alameda at it’s finest right there- nice job, Jack.

    Comment by librarycat — November 19, 2015 @ 2:13 pm

  25. In case there’s any confusion, I am completely unrelated to the scumbag calling himself “Jack.” Hey “Jack,” why not use your full, real name, or a better pseudonym? I think Adolf is open.

    Comment by Jack Mingo — November 19, 2015 @ 2:46 pm

  26. Jack must be suffering from a shriveled heart, and earned Alameda the reputation of being the most racist city in America. I am glad Lauren Do speaks for us.

    Comment by Cindy — November 19, 2015 @ 2:52 pm

  27. Is there any data points of how many single family houses (the Mayor is a SFH renter) are being rented out? The turnover of these rentals would lead to significant rent increases. While only single family being affected unlike the 470 Central tenants I wonder how many families have been impacted with the hot housing market.

    Comment by Mike McMahon — November 19, 2015 @ 5:31 pm

  28. May have to put a temporary partial damper on free market in order to save it long term. Question is how to address the extreme cases in the news without buying into a long term and inefficient privilege a la B-town and SFO for those in apartments now, because that is clearly what some want

    Comment by MP — November 19, 2015 @ 6:01 pm

  29. 22
    David, your third check is racist.

    Comment by jack — November 19, 2015 @ 6:48 pm

  30. 24
    Glad you liked my painting. Now go back to sleep like your monicker suggests.

    Comment by jack — November 19, 2015 @ 7:20 pm

  31. 25
    Don’t disparige my good name.

    Comment by Adolf — November 19, 2015 @ 7:27 pm

  32. Every so often, someone accuses Lauren of being overly sensitive on racial issues, seeing race where their own perspective doesn’t register it.

    “Thank you” Jack, for proving yet again for all to see that racism is alive and well in Alameda and for helping remind us that a person’s criticism can sometimes hide a deeper, more sinister underpinning. It’s a good reminder that people who have to endure such pathetic dehumanizing interactions may just be more attuned to it than others.

    Comment by jkw — November 19, 2015 @ 8:08 pm

  33. Well put jkw. You and Jack Mingo express exactly what I tried to express, but what was so misrepresented during my attempts to place my plan to bring National Socialism on a national scale into fruition. But for the misrepresentations by such troglodytes as this ‘jack’ who seems to have some misguided sway, my plan would have succeeded.

    Perhaps some of my methods will succeed on a smaller scale like on this small Island then move outward when the peasant masses understand that it’s all for their own good.

    Comment by Adolf — November 19, 2015 @ 8:30 pm

  34. #1 dave: thank you for making the most excellent case possible for the need for rent control and rent stabilization, just cause, etc. It is precisely because of believing in the primacy of markets in such a single-minded manner as you do that make the need for government regulation necessary.

    It is the duty of government to secure the rights of all members of society and to act reasonably when others do not. In this case, the market is not acting reasonably. This is the exact reason that the city council adopted the Urgency Ordinance on Nov. 5, finding that “certain aspects of public peace, safety or health are not adequately protected by the lack of rent control or other rent stabilization measures, such as the lack of just cause evictions, in the City of Alameda.”

    Where ever did you learn that markets are more important than people? I’d ask for a refund if I were you.

    Comment by John K — November 19, 2015 @ 9:57 pm

  35. #21 Jack. A friend and I did exactly what you suggested. She got beat up for it and we both got thrown in jail. Now what?

    Comment by John K — November 19, 2015 @ 10:12 pm

  36. #35 Get to a meeting early. Submit a speaker slip for any item you want to address. Sit and wait to be called.

    Or go to any city council mtg, fill out a speaker slip and speak during the public comment time at the very start of the meeting.

    Dozens of people have done this–probably thousands have done this, resulting in no violence and no jail time.

    Comment by A Neighbor — November 19, 2015 @ 10:38 pm

  37. I looked up the definition of profiteering today: “a person who makes excessive profits, esp by charging exorbitant prices for goods in short supply”. I also considered “price gouging” but I guess it’s the same thing. If rents still bore any kind of relationship to incomes, and any kind of normalcy, we wouldn’t be seeing heated meetings at city hall and we wouldn’t be seeing tenants forced out of their homes either. It’s the unwillingness to recognize the full extent of this crisis that really bothers me, if as owning rental property were no different from running a Chinese restaurant. This is not a market issue, it’s a moral issue. It’s not just homes that are lost, people are being forced out of their community, to who knows where. And as for the landlords, the reality is that they’re owners of million dollar properties who have benefited from rapid appreciation. How is it that they’re so hard up?

    Comment by oldlady — November 19, 2015 @ 11:36 pm

  38. #36 AN: I understand there’s a lot of Alamedans who want everything to be civil and reasonable. That approach got renters nowhere for over a year. The renters got what they came for on Nov. 4 but now you want to lecture them on what works. I don’t think so.

    Comment by John K — November 20, 2015 @ 6:58 am

  39. Found the answer to my question about the composition of the Alameda rental market:

    An October 2015 Urban Economics Rent Study for Alameda.

    There are about 16,000 rental units in Alameda today. 4,000 of them are single family dwellings. Another 4,600 are duplexes. The next 3,000 are apartment buildings between 5 and 19 units, with the balance, 4,700 made up of 20+ unit apartment complexes.

    Comment by Mike McMahon — November 20, 2015 @ 7:58 am

  40. #38. The renters did not exactly get what they came for on November 4th. A temporary moratorium was put in place. Rent control was not, and will never be, put in place in Alameda. Sorry to burst your bubble.

    Comment by Jason — November 20, 2015 @ 8:50 am

  41. Mike, those figures were quoted recently, I think in first of two part op ed in the Sun by Chris Hanson Esq.. Percentages are O.K. but real numbers are better. In my opinion the 4,700 units in 20+ are the ones we can expect to really be squeezing tenants for rents, like 407. A metal fabricator I use who keeps a shop in Oakland has leased an apartment on Shoreline for a few years and he complained two years ago about huge jumps in rent even though their elevator was broken. If they fix it he should really beware. What do you make of the figures? There are five SFH directly across the street from me which were all rental in 1991, but four are now owned. The last was just months ago when the owner died and her daughter decided to sell. The indigent elderly tenant with Parkinsons had a decent enough relationship with managing agent that he was able to place her in a place of comparable price which is a miracle in this market. She is now in a multi unit building. Some claim rent controls would cause SFH to turn to ownership more rapidly, but the fact is it has progressed like that without rent control as the young folks with $$$ have come here for schools and I doubt the rate would change much. It beceomes like the lottery where you can take the lumps um now or wait and get more.

    470 Central has a pool and it’s on the water, but it is funky. When our kids were in Paden ( in 1990s) they had friends who living there who had divorced parents or single parents. It seemed the reasonable rents allowed one parent to be stationed near the school and the other took a SFH somewhere in the west end. As kids got older families situations stabalized and they moved on. Those were the days.

    I have a friend who bought a 4 unit place in South West Berkeley 30 years ago. It was a tough neighborhood, but ironically rent control allowed him to own property because speculators were dumping units because of rent control. His was an inherited rental property the heir was unloading. He lived in one unit and later used the equity to buy a SFH with a cottage in the rear where he lived. He has moved family into a couple units as they have vacated and kept the others empty so he can do major repairs and unload the place. He said realtors are in hog heaven and he has no real complaint about having made a long term investment under rent control. His pl;an for retiring has proceeded like clock work, but it’s been long term strategy.

    I don’t favor radical rent controls held to cost of living index, but people like Chris Hanson ESq. who go on about rent control reducing the quality and quantity of rentals are blowing a fair amount of smoke. Under extreme controls landlords won’t do repairs if they don’t have the income, but the flip side is there have always been plenty of landlords who push that line to maximize profits. ( see my friend’s units on Shoreline). If tenants stay for years under rent control those units are not taken off the market, they simply don’t turn over. I’ve pointed out the units on Encinal which are vacant, not because of rent control but apparently because the owners are holding out to get top dollar. I assume the units in the building which are rented somewhat subsidize the strategic loss during vacancy. This issue is not black and white, text book 101. Seeing a group of lower income residents thrown out on their asses in the middle of a school year near the holiday is really depressing and right out of Dickens.

    Comment by MI — November 20, 2015 @ 10:25 am

  42. Oh Dave, let me try to offer you a bit of help on how to blend in with actual human beings. When it’s something about children being thrown out of their homes, even if you think that’s OK because you think that somebody else’s right to make maximum returns on their investment is more important than keeping a roof over the head of children and families, maybe you should just for once in your life just shut the fuck up.

    And Jack, thanks for making Dave not look like the biggest dick here for once. He needed that.

    Comment by jason — November 23, 2015 @ 6:41 am


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