Over the weekend there were some cryptic messages on the Alameda Renters Coalition Facebook page about meeting at the Carl’s Jr in Marina Village and that the target of their next action being close by. My first thought was that they were going to protest at the Panomar Apartment building given that they are a recent example of a mass eviction for capital improvements. Then I remembered something that was tweeted from the founder of the Alameda Renters Coalition, something along the lines of protesting the people with the ability to enact change as opposed to the bad actors.
And then I remembered, hey, Frank Matarrese lives near the Carl’s Jr at Marina Village and sure enough:
There was a video of a protestor being Council-splained by Frank Matarrese but what I quite enjoyed was her pointing out that they have listened to Frank Matarrese and the others on the City Council for hours at a time when Frank Matarrese insisted that she allow him to talk. What was revealing about that video was the logic behind Frank Matarrese’s approach to Alameda’s rental ordinance. He cited San Francisco rent control as the reason why teachers and low wage working families are being pushed out of San Francisco which is why he wanted to do the complete opposite of what other rent control cities have structured. What Frank Matarrese, and others on the City Council (coughjimoddiecough), fail to understand is that rent control is not the cause of loss of shelter it is an attempt to inoculate some residents from the consequences of insufficient supply to meet the demand.
I am guessing that Tony Daysog should be preparing some remarks for when his turn is up.
Anyway, I wanted to start discussing the rental housing ordinance in pieces now that it is up for review on the City’s website. I think the most important message is: this is not rent control.
This ordinance is not rent control.
I know people want to call it rent control because it simplifies the discussion, but this ordinance is no where near rent control, at best it is rent stabilization.
There is no rent cap. There is not a limitation on how much a landlord can raise the rent on any unit. There is, however, a trigger to have a quasi-public airing of why you want to raise the rent more than 5%. From the staff report:
Even though there is no cap on rent increases, if a housing provider seeks a rent increase above 5%, the housing provider must initiate a rent mediation process using the RRAC. If the rent increase is 5% or less, a tenant may initiate the RRAC process. If the rent increase is resolved prior to the RRAC hearing, the parties must inform staff of the terms of the resolution of the rent increase. This last step ensures transparency once a City process has been initiated and allows tracking of the agreed upon rent increases.
At the RRAC hearing, a person with an ownership interest in the rental property (or a person from the ownership entity who can legally bind the owner) must attend if the rent increase is above 5%. The property owner, or representative with the authority to agree to a mediated resolution, must attend the RRAC hearing for rent increases of 5% or less. Regardless of the amount of the rent increase being mediated, if a person with ownership interest (or a representative in some cases) does not attend the hearing, the rent increase is void and the housing provider is prohibited from noticing another rent increase for one year.
Of course if a landlord’s unit is exempt from Costa Hawkins (built after 1995, a single family home, or a condo) then the RRAC process is non binding. So essentially one could go through the process, take the recommendation and just say “thanks but no thanks” and do whatever they want with regards to that unit.
For those units that are not exempt from Costa Hawkins this is when it becomes very important about the composition of the RRAC. If the RRAC as a whole continues to decide that 10% is an acceptable percentage to raise annual rents then the tenant will be on the hook to appeal to the binding mediation process, which could also not go in the tenant’s favor. The next step for the tenant would be to go to court for relief, but again it’s hard to predict if that would go in the tenant’s favor as well.
Units built after 1995, a single family home, or a condo would also be able to circumvent the relocation fee if they simply raise rents to a level that is just not affordable for the tenant, forcing the tenant to vacate as opposed to initiating an eviction. The only negative would be the quasi-public RRAC process which may be a deterrent for some landlords. I say “quasi-public” because barely anyone pays much attention to the RRAC.
As you can see this is only one part of the rent ordinance and there are already loopholes that exist. However, given that only 29% of the rental housing units in Alameda would be exempt perhaps this loophole is one that won’t be exercised often.