I don’t have a ton of time to sit around to watch public meetings so it should come as no surprise that I haven’t finished the marathon rent meeting yet. A few high level thoughts.
This council should have listened to the City Attorney and continued the discussion to another day. I’m not quite sure why the Council decided that, at 1:00 a.m., it was a good time to consider, deliberate, and attempt to craft an ordinance that — under the best circumstances — requires great skill and finesse. A fair number on this Council barely have enough good sense on a good day, let alone after hours of public testimony, to make good and sound decisions.
Also, if folks didn’t realize this before, know this: this is not a majority progressive City Council. Period. And I don’t even mean “progressive” in the sense of a heavily tilted San Francisco level of progressive. The majority on this Board: Frank Matarrese, Tony Daysog, and Trish Spencer sway conservatively. Essentially anyone who endorsed the first option, the landlord preferred option, was not necessarily looking out for the best interests of the renters. All three indicated a preference for the first ordinance with slight tweaks that really didn’t go much further to protecting renters.
When Trish Spencer talks about protecting renters by not wanting to pass along the cost of rental unit registrations to renters but was perfectly willing to saddle renters with the cost of paying for a third party mediator in the case that the renter was unhappy with the non binding resolution from the RRAC. As both Jim Oddie and Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft pointed out those costs in the $5000 range would be prohibitively expensive for most renters and would be an insurmountable barrier for renters who are already in an inferior negotiating position to the landlord.
Just to recap, a $200ish registration fee for landlords to both (1) pay for the renter protection monitoring and (2) capture data about rents in Alameda was too high to Trish Spencer to pass along to renters but a possible bill of $5000 to fight a rent increase that was validated by a non elected citizen body is perfectly acceptable. I wish I could blame this on 2 am deliberations but I’m pretty sure that Trish Spencer would have come to the same conclusion at 10 am.
Then when Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft insisted that the registration process would be helpful in order to collect data about rents and rent increases, Trish Spencer declared that she didn’t feel like she needed to pay to collect information if she could get it for free. The problem with the awful awful logic is that there is no standardized way to collect this free data even if you go through the RRAC. Without considerable changes to the RRAC, even one with “teeth”, some people simply will not avail themselves of the RRAC process because they fear retaliation due to that inferior negotiating position I mentioned already. If you only have a snapshot of the data then there’s not way to spot trends, like refuting the “it’s only the big out of town companies that do awful things to tenants and not the mom and pop landlords” memes. I’ll point out that the most recent RRAC case that was brought to the City Council was a mom and pop landlord, albeit one from out of town, but a mom and pop operation no less.
In fact there were a lot of “I” statements uttered by Mayor Trish as though everyone else on the City Council didn’t really matter as long as she got her way.
Tony Daysog seemed so puzzled by the 8% number and seemed to think it was too high early in the deliberations even though he was the one brought up the whole 8% thing in the first place. He also wanted to create two classes of landlords: the “mom and pop” class and the “big corporation” class. Of course this would be fine if we lived in Tony Daysog’s super simplistic world where it’s the big bad corporations against the noble mom and pop landlord operations, but we don’t live in that black and white world and based on some of the comments from the “mom and pop” representatives there was a strong sense that they lacked serious empathy for tenants.
Frank Matarrese was gung ho about case by case mediation even though plenty of renters spoke that night about case by case mediation being a bad idea.
And that pretty much sums where I have reached in the Council deliberation and discussion. It had to be defeating for the renters in the audience that night see how much the Council wanted to “balance” things to make everyone happy even though the tenants, particularly economically disadvantaged tenants, are at such an imbalance compared to their housing providers. It’s not the Council’s job to make things equal, it’s their job to make things equitable.