Blogging Bayport Alameda

December 3, 2015

The Force groggily rubs its eyes

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

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.

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23 Comments

  1. That is a profound thought provocative concept, that the occupants of a house are more important than the actual containment structure. In the early days of automobile design, the manufacturers would sell the industructiblity of their car, without a thought if the passengers would survive a crash.

    Comment by ChrisD — December 3, 2015 @ 7:22 am

  2. “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.”

    AMEN!

    Comment by Jon Spangler — December 3, 2015 @ 8:20 am

  3. It should be noted that our previous Mayor and City Council of Gilmore, Daysog, Chen and Ashcraft also had the same opportunity to address this in 2013 with the mass evictions at Marina View Towers. http://thealamedan.org/tags/marina-view-towers

    Comment by frank m — December 3, 2015 @ 9:12 am

  4. I believe Marina Towers did seismic retrofits. The Harbor Island evictions were designed to sweep out Section 8 tenants.

    Comment by Lauren Do — December 3, 2015 @ 9:15 am

  5. Actually the City withdrew Section 8 Certification prior to the Evictions due to the poor condition of the Property. Here is an old link I found there are two pages . http://www.alamedareport.org/local/citycouncil040803/index.html

    Comment by frank m — December 3, 2015 @ 9:40 am

  6. According to Rasheed Shabazz who used to live there, the owners allowed the property to deteriorate since their purchase in 1996. At some point the Section 8 rules wouldn’t allow for certification because Section 8 requires a basic standard for Section 8 holders.

    Comment by Lauren Do — December 3, 2015 @ 9:49 am

  7. I know this has been brought up somewhere but I can’t remember where. The council should have in this ordinance a provision that if a landlord wants to evict tenants to do substantial work on their building they be required to have all plans and permits in hand to prove that is what they intend to do, this would take away using that issue as a smokescreen to evict people. Question to city staff, do the owners of 470 Central Ave. have all their plans submitted and approved for the work they say is going to be done?.

    Comment by John P. — December 3, 2015 @ 9:54 am

  8. #6 I agree. That is pretty much what I said.

    Comment by frank m — December 3, 2015 @ 9:57 am

  9. I think the fact that the City didn’t do anything to avoid the clear trajectory is a failure and then failed to even make any sort of changes after what happened was even worse.

    Comment by Lauren Do — December 3, 2015 @ 10:00 am

  10. #7 Most Cities that have existing Rent Control Ordinances do have this requirement. In San Francisco this type of Eviction requires Permits to be on file. At the same time in SF these Evictions are listed under ‘just cause’ vs ‘no fault’. https://www.sftu.org/merger/

    Comment by frank m — December 3, 2015 @ 10:04 am

  11. 4

    Harbor Island was significantly remodeled after the evictions, no?

    Comment by dave — December 3, 2015 @ 10:21 am

  12. 11. By the owners that purchased the property after the evictions.

    Comment by Lauren Do — December 3, 2015 @ 10:25 am

  13. 7

    That would be a perfectly reasonable requirement, John, but the new owners really didn’t have time. The moratorium came only about a week after purchase. They really didn’t have much choice but to act as they did.

    Comment by dave — December 3, 2015 @ 10:26 am

  14. #13 Any reasonable person would think: The new owners knew the finances and the condition of the property when they bought it.
    Or did they buy it blindly?

    With an ounce of compassion they could have forseen the hardships of the residents if they were evicted enmasse, especially over the holidays.

    They did have a choice. Buy the building. or Don’t buy the building.

    Comment by A Neighbor — December 3, 2015 @ 12:15 pm

  15. I saw some where in the all the conversations that the realtor actually used “no rent control” as a big selling point for the property?
    I can only presume that the new owner know full well what he could get away with (evict, then get around to permits, business as usual in Alameda, etc) and the timing worked out not quite right. Quite a slap in the face for the council though.
    Also to all the landlords (forgive me , housing providers) claiming that nothing like that ever happens here in Mayberry, quite an embarrassment and caused even the good small providers (ie not greedy, renters are people too, value community over money types ) to look bad also. All tarred with the same brush.

    Comment by librarycat — December 3, 2015 @ 1:14 pm

  16. dave, maybe I’m missing something but the eviction date was postponed a week because of the moratorium but otherwise how did they have no choice? This was obviously the plan of these purchasers regardless. They might have waited until June to allow the tenants reasonable time to find new digs. Remember, these folks are not just being kicked out during the mid-winter holiday and in the middle of the school year, but they are for the most part of the least means of any renters in Alameda, so it will be much harder for them to relocate within Alameda if that is possible at all. They are also right next to Paden and a stones throw from Encinal, so I’m sure that there are latch key kids with working parents who benefit from the proximity. It’s one thing to be consistent with a set of economic principals, but using that to justify turning a blind eye to the total lack of compassion by these property owners is sort of raw.

    Comment by MI — December 3, 2015 @ 1:59 pm

  17. sorry *principle* not principal.

    Comment by MI — December 3, 2015 @ 1:59 pm

  18. The following contains a few assumptions and educated guesses about Sridhar’s plans and motivations. I do not know these things, just thoughts and intuitions:

    They bought the building with the intention of remodeling and re-renting at higher rates. The higher rates would be partly to finance the remodel and partly for increasing the cash flow off the building.

    They know they will need building,permits and they know those take time. They know they will need to interview and hire contractors etc and that takes time They know they will need to evict the tenants and that takes time and often money, in the form of cash in exchange for no damage, etc.

    There’s every chance the evictions wouldn’t have happened for several more months but when the moratorium was enacted they were forced to evict immediately. It was very clear after Nov. 4 that some form of rent control was coming. If the tenants were still in the building when the new law came down they could very likely be forced to scrap the plan, as new law could very likely inhibit their ability to raise the rents to finance the remodel.

    If that happened, then the 6MM value if the building takes an immediate haircut. When failure to act costs you millions, then you act even if you don’t want to.

    In any event, the evictions were going to happen, but they happened much more suddenly and painfully than they could have otherwise. It is easy to conclude that the moratorium had the unintended consequence of accelerating these evictions.

    Comment by dave — December 4, 2015 @ 4:43 am

  19. 18. “The following contains a few assumptions” “I do not know these things” — you got that part right.

    Comment by BMac — December 4, 2015 @ 6:50 pm

  20. What of it is erroneous or specious or just off base? It stands to reason and follows a logical path.

    How do you suppose it went down?

    Comment by dave — December 4, 2015 @ 7:50 pm

  21. 15: “Also to all the landlords (forgive me , housing providers) claiming that nothing like that ever happens here in Mayberry, quite an embarrassment and caused even the good small providers (ie not greedy, renters are people too, value community over money types ) to look bad also. All tarred with the same brush.”

    I have a problem with characterizing all of our local landlords as “good” when, for two years or more, none of them have been willing to even sit down and discuss with renters what specifics of rent stabilization measures might actually work in Alameda. ALL of their efforts–as seen in the November City Council meeting where the moratorium was passed–have gone into opposing any and all forms of rent stabilization, rather than being willing to sit down with us to discuss what kinds of rent stabilization *might* work here.

    For being unwilling to sit down with renters to discuss the specifics (with a goal of finding some sort of common ground), I am sad to say that all of the “housing providers”–the good, the bad, and the outrageously greedy–all get a “do not pass” grade for their anti-democratic behaviors.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — December 5, 2015 @ 1:14 am

  22. Nice broad-brushing, 21. Argument-by-label (all landlords = “anti-democratic”) is really what this debate needs.

    Comment by MP — December 6, 2015 @ 8:24 am

  23. 21
    “Lettuce head” has a problem…”

    Jon Spangler truly does have a problem and he’s not alone. He and many others, me included, on this blog believe that some “grocery providers” are anti-democratic because they will not sit down with eaters to discus what specifics measures can be taken to stabilize the price of head lettuce in Alameda. How can Lucky Store charge over two dollars for a head of lettuce, yet Trader Joe’s only charges 99 cents? Does Lucky Store not realize that that price differential contributes to global warming by necessitating cross Island West end lettuce eaters to travel all the way to South Shore for a reasonably priced head of lettuce. All Alamedan lettuce eaters have a right to a reasonable stabilized price for head lettuce. Many low and very low West income Alameda lettuce eaters (me included) have appealed to the Lucky Store to sit down with Trader Joe’s and work a reasonable solution out, but alas, to no avail. It’s just too sad, in this day and age that the many have to suffer the outrageously greedy mind-set of the few.

    Comment by jack — December 6, 2015 @ 10:26 am


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