Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 14, 2016

It’s almost four in the morning

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

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.

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14 Comments »

  1. I think option one is a huge step forward considering what we have now although I agree that 8% is still steep. I heard from a friend who used G&L to manage her property that they pressured her to increase the rent by %10 every year no matter what. (She hasn’t because she felt it was unfair.) Instead of mocking a Frankenordinace, how about embracing the idea of taking the best from each suggestion? Also, try to remember that some landlords have had nightmare tenants in the past. Some of the renters out there are enough to harden anyone’s hearts. I know two people who lost a bundle on tenants who didnt pay, trashed the place, and took months to evict in cities where the law was on their favor. There are even people who give courses on how to use renter’s rights to skirt the system and live rent free. Landlords have no monopoly on ruthlessness.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — January 14, 2016 @ 8:56 am

  2. It never ceases to amaze me that Lauren Do, who isn’t a renter or a landlord, and doesn’t attend any city meetings, has so much to pontificate about, regarding this subject. Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft could probably fit at least 6 units into that Victorian mansion of hers, if she would only subdivide it. Why aren’t you calling her out for not doing her part to make more housing available?

    Comment by vigi — January 14, 2016 @ 9:14 am

  3. Lauren, your analysis is accurate on all points: the 8 per cent limit is exorbitant and might as well not be there. The so-called “protections” agreed to by the City Council offers no substantive help to renters–except on our way out of town, once we have been driven out. And their adherence to the spirit of the Sunshine Ordinance on the morning of January 6 rates an F.

    Not knowing when to go home and go to bed–and stop torturing those of us who want to participate in democracy and monitor our legislative process–does not illustrate the best of judgment, whether they are progressive, conservative, or just thoughtless. (I had to get up at 5:00 a.m. Wednesday, regardless of there City Council’s desire to labor all night long.)

    Perhaps expecting genuine fairness (“equity”) to renters from this City Council when, collectively, it lacks basic thoughtfulness regarding its Sunshine Ordinance, its citizens and its own deliberations, is asking too much…

    Comment by Jon Spangler — January 14, 2016 @ 10:22 am

  4. Denise: There are also teachers who hate kids, lawyers who hate justice, politicians who hate governing, writers who hate writing, and so on. They all have reasons to justify their bitterness and cynicism. My advice to the landlords who hate renters, whatever the reason, is the same as what I’d give to ANYBODY who hates their profession and clients: get out of the business. Stop punishing innocents because of some bad experience you had in the past.

    Comment by Jack Mingo — January 14, 2016 @ 10:37 am

  5. I’m still puzzling over how the whole economic world gets the CPI so wrong and that Tony Daysog is the only one that truly understands it.

    Comment by John K — January 14, 2016 @ 1:16 pm

  6. Whatever the final ordinance is, I have a hard time being too critical of the council working late into the night. When else, as a group, can they debate what are not simple issues and details?

    Comment by MP — January 14, 2016 @ 1:49 pm

  7. So interesting that the two most obnoxious voices of the “I’ve got mine, what are all you poors whining about now?” set are the first two to post.

    Comment by ChangingOfTheGuard — January 14, 2016 @ 6:21 pm

  8. #7 – What a ridiculous thing to post!

    Comment by Nancy Hird — January 14, 2016 @ 9:27 pm

  9. 6. One would expect it to be a simple balance of critical priority ( forging ahead after having ignored the issue for too long), versus coherency. After too many hours people just aren’t sharp anymore.

    Comment by MI — January 15, 2016 @ 9:45 am

  10. We talk about the council staying all night long to do business, which I totally disagree with. What about the staff who came to work at about 8:am on that morning and had to work all day, then work all night, and come back to work the next day. This is not the way to conduct city business.

    Comment by John P. — January 15, 2016 @ 10:09 am

  11. The conditions in the room at Kofman on January 5 were deplorable. The lighting was awful, the room was very cold and the meeting went way too late – most people had already gone home by the time council began its deliberations. That the mayor and council now crow at their ‘accomplishment’ that night just shows how out of touch they are and how little they care about those who actually show up and participate. I hope they think twice about pulling that trick again.

    Comment by John K — January 15, 2016 @ 10:41 am

  12. #11 = “11.The conditions in the room at Kofman on January 5 were deplorable. The lighting was awful, the room was very cold and the meeting went way too late”.

    You might be interested to know that this was where the City Council and Planning Board met for every meeting during the 1990s when City Hall was being rehabilitated to its present splendor and there were no Council Chambers. Those meetings were all televised live, and rebroadcast a second time on the local public access TV channel. {don’t understand why meetings aren’t rebroadcast on Channel 15 today, instead of a blank screen or static picture…could it be that only Don Roberts had the talent to engineer it?} I have them all on VHS tape.

    Comment by vigi — January 15, 2016 @ 11:26 am

  13. 9. — I’m never sharp – going to bed early doesn’t help – so I guess I didn’t think about that. To shorten the public comment part of next meeting, maybe those complaining should encourage others to shorten their comments, not repeat what others have said, or submit written comments (there were very few written comments attached to the agenda for Jan 5).

    None of these are easy issues; all sides have legitimate arguments.

    It was a little cold in there, but I doubt that was part of some design. Looked like most people made do with the jackets they wore. (Whatever the plans are for the old High School, I hope that keeping the auditorium is somehow part of it.)

    Comment by MP — January 15, 2016 @ 12:42 pm

  14. vigi, they did not meet in Kaufman auditorium, they met in the little theater in the West wing of Alameda High. I know because I was there sitting right next to you.

    Comment by John P. — January 15, 2016 @ 3:34 pm


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