Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 11, 2016

Bigger government

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

As mentioned by commenter BMac even though the rent ordinance that is being presented on Tuesday night was designed by consensus or majority vote with, surprisingly, Mayor Trish Spencer providing the third vote on some of the individual issues there may be one large sticking point that Trish Spencer may not be able to get past: creation of a new bureaucracy.

Not that it’s going to be a huge bureaucracy but this is a woman that voted, alone, at the Alameda County Transportation Commission to not vote for staff salaries.

Anyway, here is the budget that staff believes will be necessary to implement and monitor the rent ordinance, it adds about $2 million to the City budget but the cost will be extracted via a per unit fee on rental housing.

From one of the attachments to the staff report:

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The ordinance does allow a passthrough of the fee to the tenant, but only 50% of the cost.  It looks like the City will be the entity to pick up the cost of the binding mediator (“hearing officer”).   It looks like there will be several new staff that will need to be hired for this program alone.

Here’s the narrative of what staff believes they will need to oversee the passed ordinance:

Program administration-The initial estimate is that the Program Administrator will need 6.75 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) staff positions It is anticipated that hiring will be phased in as the program is established.  Administration includes collecting data and tracking for certain rent increases, coordinating and conducting public education (which will be substantial in the initial implementation phase), scheduling and conducting the RRAC hearings, coordinating with the City Attorney’s office on binding hearing cases, collecting data and tracking for certain “no cause” and “no fault” evictions, following up with tenants and property owners regarding compliance with the Ordinance requirements for notices of termination, and preparing the annual review.  Exhibit 3 is a detailed flow chart outlining the administration of both the rent increase process and processing of notices of termination.

Costs related to the hearing officer process-When a housing provider with, or tenant in, a rental unit subject to rent stabilization does not agree with the decision of the RRAC, the party who does not agree with the decision may request a hearing officer to decide the rent increase, which decision will be binding (but subject to judicial review).  As done in other jurisdictions with rent stabilization, the City will contract with hearing officers (e.g., attorneys who have expertise in this area of the law) to preside over the hearings. Staff estimates the hearing officer will bill 15 hours per hearing for preparing prior to the hearing, conducting the hearing, and then writing the decision.  Staff estimates that there will be requests for approximately 20 hearings each year.

Legal support-The City Attorney’s Office estimates that it needs two FTE Assistant City Attorney positions and one FTE paralegal position to provide legal advice in support of the program, to represent the City in the event of any legal challenges, and pursue the Ordinance’s penalties and enforcement provisions through both administrative citations and the judicial system.  The City Attorney’s office will also oversee the hearing officer process.

I have to say I will be rather tickled if the two City Councilmembers that ran on platforms of “fiscal responsibility” and “fiscal conservatism” vote again to expand the City’s budget whereas their predecessors were excoriated for “giving away the farm” but spent much of those years trimming the budget to the bone.

The staff report cautions that if the City Council decides that they do not want to institute the program fee the money for this budget will need to be found under the couch cushions, I mean, out of the general fund.  Of course that $1.9 million is on top of $300,000 that staff is asking to appropriate from the General Fund to pay for the process now before the program fee is collected.

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11 Comments

  1. This is an expense that will be created at the behest of tenants and for their direct benefit. The fee should be an explicit pass-through to them.

    Comment by dave — February 11, 2016 @ 6:08 am

  2. For those who object to the sunset provision, there is your antidote – several full time positions. Even assuming none of their time is spent on advocating or justifying renewal of the ordinance, we already know what happens when you try to discontinue City employment. (at least we won an attorney fee award in one case)

    Comment by MP — February 11, 2016 @ 6:36 am

  3. On behalf of renters all over Alameda, I’d like to personally thank the mayor and staff for this poison pill. Thank you all so much….

    Comment by John K — February 11, 2016 @ 6:41 am

  4. we already know what happens when you try to discontinue City employment. (at least we won an attorney fee award in one case)

    Actually attorneys’ fees were awarded in both David Kapler’s and Ann Marie Gallant’s cases. In AMG’s case two sets of appeals as well.

    Comment by Lauren Do — February 11, 2016 @ 7:08 am

  5. 4. That’s good news. Have we collected?

    Comment by MP — February 11, 2016 @ 7:18 am

  6. John K – stop speaking for all renters. While I dislike the ordinance, I have no interest in you speaking for me while your “coalition” is excluding renters due to paranoia. You don’t allow all renters to participate, so you don’t get to speak for them.

    Comment by Bart — February 11, 2016 @ 7:55 am

  7. This is partially a problem with going with something that is not called a cap. If it was a cap, the need for much of this goes away. It will all come down to what kinds of decisions the hearing officers make. And it sounds like we will be ordering them off of a menu each time out, which means the necessarily subjective decisions could be different each time out.

    If, on the other hand, the hearing officers make clear that the burden for proving the need for more than 5% is relatively high, and reserved for very special cases, you won’t see that much RRAC and appeal activity.

    I also think that staff cannot help but see this as a way to get all the work, including much of what they have done in the past and currently during this process around housing issues, off of their books, relieving some budgetary strain they have felt in recent years.

    It will be important to remember that this is not a charter amendment or anything, and can be refined as we go along. With that in mind, getting the protections in place and evaluating as we go is the appropriate course.

    Comment by BMac — February 11, 2016 @ 9:39 am

  8. 5. Last I checked on Kapler’s (about two years ago) I don’t think I received an answer. There’s a hearing for the final AMG attorney fees motions I think it’s scheduled in March.

    Comment by Lauren Do — February 11, 2016 @ 9:51 am

  9. What about landlords rights to own property and charge fair market value? If renters don’t like the high rents then buy a place where you can afford to live. Why do renters feel entitled to live some place just because their parents lived there? We all make choices. If you cannot afford to live in Alameda then move or get a better job.

    Comment by Eyeroll — February 11, 2016 @ 10:34 pm

  10. 9. ugly

    Comment by MI — February 12, 2016 @ 11:25 am

  11. 10. It’s truth. I’m a former Alameda renter who lived all over the island for 23 years. My father grew up in Alameda. But when I couldn’t afford Alameda I didn’t whine to the government, I moved to Oakland

    Comment by Eyeroll — February 12, 2016 @ 2:51 pm


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