On Tuesday night the City Council voted to close the loophole in the moratorium ordinance and — unlike the night of November 4 — the rhetoric was vastly different from the City Councilmembers who dismissively attempted tell us that the problems of the renters were simply a question of bad things happening because bad things happen in America. After some heartbreaking testimony (and no opposition by the way) the Council quickly moved to uphold the “status quo” to prior to time prior to their vote on November 4 and eliminate the language that allowed for just cause evictions due to substantial renovation.
Gone was the mincing around “elegant” and “clean” legislation while muddying the waters with an 8% trigger for disallowing rent increases during the moratorium. This time around Councilmember Tony Daysog (channeling his inner Jedi) proclaimed that the a “force had been awakened” within this Council, not once but twice. He declared that everything was on the table when it came to rent stabilization and that there needed to be some sort of just cause ordinance.
While Tony Daysog’s change of heart is certainly convenient and timely considering that he will be facing down re-election in less than a year there was a reminder from one of the speakers that Tony Daysog — and Frank Matarrese for that matter — had the opportunity to do something about rent stabilization, or at least mass evictions, the last time they were on the Council but ended up doing very little for the residents of Harbor Island (now Summerhouse).
Jim Oddie also sounded a lot more open to stronger rent stabilization than he had previously and asked that staff present them with a comprehensive package and not a menu of items. He feared that a menu of items would slowly be picked away at until a stabilization ordinance was rendered useless from too much tinkering. Frank Matarrese kept things pretty close to the vest, not saying too much other than recommitting that this period was supposed to maintain the status quo. The only one who went one step further was Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft who pointed out that the solution to the problem of the housing crisis would have to be multi-pronged. That while rent stabilization is necessary what is also required is to address the housing shortage with a corresponding supply to meet the demand.
After Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft spoke referencing that Tony Daysog and Trish Spencer to a lesser degree mentioned that everything would be on the table in response to what happened to the families of 470 Central, Trish Spencer balked at the characterization that “everything” was on the table meaning that her support, still, will need to be closely monitored.
Of course while this, technically, is a win it’s only one battle and it’s time limited. As I mentioned before, this moratorium should have been a no-brainer for the City Council. That it was so difficult for some of them to come around to this state and that it took an egregious act by a “housing provider” for the City Council to act decisively should be red flags.
Finally, given the frustrating discussion around the container project (more on that tomorrow) I leave you with this quote, which is important in context to the speed at which the City Council handled this complaints against one development project as opposed to rent stabilization which affects 50% of the Alameda population. This was from a renter who mentioned that he used to own an old home that he renovated, the City wouldn’t allow him to put in cheaper windows because of historic standards. While the City seems to value maintaining protections for physical buildings it has done less of a good job protecting the people within those buildings:
I ask that you give the people who live in the buildings the same kind of protections that we give the actual buildings in this town.