Blogging Bayport Alameda

January 13, 2017

RRAC reveal

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

I know there was some reason why the City of Alameda didn’t want to live-stream and video tape RRAC meetings.  But it’s the stories that emerge after the fact from these RRAC hearings that makes me wonder if bringing some sunshine into that room wouldn’t be more helpful.

Of the few meetings I’ve listened to — they only record audio — it has seemed pretty unbalanced in favor of the landlord.  All it seems to require is a landlord to quote an unreasonably high percentage of rent to raise and for the RRAC to negotiate that landlord down to 5% to be considered a “win.”

But even more distasteful is the flippant comments like this from landlords, doesn’t say if it’s one of the mom n’ pop variety:

But even worse than that was this bit of reporting from the RRAC hearing:

If we’re keeping score this is Trish Spencer’s appointee.  Honestly based on this information alone, he should be removed from the RRAC.

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51 Comments »

  1. Was the tenant citing the chronic ailment as a reason that she should receive special consideration? If so, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to know what it is if you are being asked to make an exception on that basis. They don’t just give you a handicapped hang tag without you disclosing what you need it for and producing proof from a doctor. If the board is not qualified to determine that fibromialgia should receive consideration but hayfever shouldn’t, then anyone asking for special treatment due to a chronic ailment should have to have a doctor’s recommendation. Otherwise, someone who didn’t really have an ailment could lie and get a break while others who are truthful do not. That’s unfair to the other tenants.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — January 13, 2017 @ 6:57 am

    • Just like you can’t question someone about the nature of their disability to warrant a service animal, you shouldn’t be able to question someone who claims a chronic ailment as to what that ailment is. At least not for a voluntary rental mediation program.

      Comment by Lauren Do — January 13, 2017 @ 7:27 am

      • And that’s why a lot of “service animals” I see with people are just pets that the owner wants to take with them everywhere and they know all they have to do is say the magic words “emotional support animal” and people have to let them take fluffy into the restaurant. It’s sickening that people do this and unfair to people who actually need a service animal, but it happens all the time.
        When I was working for a company if I took more than 3 days off sick time I had to bring in a doctor’s note proving I was actually sick, they would not take someone’s word that they were not in Hawaii instead of home sick. Why should it be any different for someone who wants an allowance in a rent hearing based on a claimed chronic ailment?

        Comment by Marvin Hamon — January 15, 2017 @ 7:52 pm

    • Maybe, maybe not. But certainly not by some Trish flunky in a public forum. Her appointments – Lucas, Gottstein, this hack – have been disastrous.

      Comment by BC — January 13, 2017 @ 7:35 am

    • Fair housing laws and HIPAA laws absolutely make it illegal to ask the nature of a disability. There are a lot of problems with this RRAC member asking that question. Was he given an appropriate orientation by staff to make clear what is legal and ethical? He should have been. By even asking the question the member has created liability for the RRAC (including individual members) the housing authority, and the city. At the least the member should be removed, and a training should be held for all RRAC members.

      Comment by notadave — January 13, 2017 @ 7:49 am

  2. The RRAC member has been publicly hostile towards renters and housing advocates. Now that he has broken HIPAA laws and opened the city to the threat of a lawsuit he should be immediately removed from the RRAC.

    Comment by Angela — January 13, 2017 @ 8:05 am

  3. Minor point of clarification: HIPAA generally binds health providers and their associates from disclosing protected health information. Putting aside the question of whether it is appropriate to ask a party (and I don’t know who first raised the health issue – tenant, landlord ?) about the nature of the health condition raised in a RRAC proceeding, we are going too far in claiming a violation of HIPAA: (1) HIPAA doesn’t apply to RRAC committee members, it applies to health providers, and (2) HIPAA doesn’t generally prohibit asking questions, it prohibits disclosures by health providers.

    Comment by MP — January 13, 2017 @ 8:25 am

  4. Interesting question. Most of you got it wrong. MP is correct: HIPAA does not apply here. But the ADA probably does. The ADA is more than 25 years old, so there is no excuse for not knowing about it, especially if you are in a public service position. Under the ADA, an employer cannot ask questions about an applicant’s disability either because it is visible or because the applicant has voluntarily disclosed a hidden disability. The ADA is a Federal law. Cities are sued for violating it all the time. notadave is partially correct. BC is just being a know-nothing troll

    Comment by vigi — January 13, 2017 @ 9:09 am

    • Sorry, you were a great nominee, unfairly dumped by a mayor who should have stood up for you but didn’t. My bad.

      Comment by BC — January 13, 2017 @ 10:34 am

  5. “The Fair Housing Act also makes it unlawful to make an inquiry to determine whether an applicant for a dwelling (or a person intending to reside in that dwelling after it is sold, rented, or made available or any person associated with that person) has a handicap. Furthermore, you cannot make an inquiry as to the nature or severity of a handicap of such a person. Thus, housing providers cannot ask certain questions during the application process. For example, housing providers cannot ask whether a disabled person is capable of living independently, what treatments or medications he/she requires, or whether he/she has ever seen a psychiatrist.”

    By analogy, this probably applies to RRAC members.

    Comment by vigi — January 13, 2017 @ 9:14 am

  6. The irony is rich when commentators in the name of privacy argue that the RRAC meetings should be broadcast live. Really Laura. My wife just lost her job, and our kid is in the hospital and you want to broadcast this live across the Island and have it recorded for posterity , . . . because it’s city government business. That’s what you do. You put sunshine on government policy. Its why we read your blog, and love it. It is a wonderful service that you provide. It’s also why the city needs to get out of the business between the landlord and the tenant. The rent you pay should not be city business, and your humiliation at an RRAC meeting shouldn’t be broadcast by Steve Tavares in the name of journalism. Note: the recent shaming of Buzzfeed for doing the same or the bankruptcy of Gawker.

    Rents are settling in Alameda as well as the rest of the Bay. Not because of rent control or RRACs, but because of market forces. We have had a dramatic increase in housing in the area (relative to past history), in particular Alameda. The over heated economy is cooling. Housing prices are dropping. Landlords don’t like it, but what goes up . . .

    Landlords are allowed to charge what the market will bear. As supply increases, rents settle downward. The RRAC costs several million dollars a year, which all citizens of Alameda are having to pay. Speaking of irony, there was a motion to make only the Landlords pay for it. It establishes a bureaucracy that we do not need, intrudes on privacy and uses millions of dollars that could be spent elsewhere in the city. The only thing positive that I can say about the RRAC, is it has a sunset clause and is scheduled to die in a couple of years.

    This loss of privacy and public humiliation occurs when the city government goes where it does not belong. As a tenant, I do not want you to have the right to go through my personal affairs and broadcast them to the world.

    For those of you that are outraged about questioning a disability. This link is the end result of that policy: You sitting next to a pig on your next airline flight. You get what you deserve. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/10/11/airlines-emotional-support-animals/91721824/

    Comment by Alameda Landlord — January 13, 2017 @ 9:20 am

    • Hope to see that we can build even more housing across the region and the state with Alameda doing its part as well.

      Comment by Angela — January 13, 2017 @ 10:05 am

  7. Is a ‘chronic ailment’ necessarily Disability? Maybe yes, maybe no. ADA Laws do apply to Documented Disabilities.

    Comment by frank — January 13, 2017 @ 9:45 am

    • Frank, there is no list of “documented disabilities’. The ADA must be given as broad an interpretation as possible, since it pertains to a traditionally discriminated against population.

      Physical or mental impairments:
      In order to have a disability under the ADA , you must have a physical or mental impairment. Not everything that restricts your activities qualifies as an impairment. However, under the ADAAA, the definition of disability now must be understood in favor of broad coverage to the maximum extent allowed.

      A physical impairment is any medical disorder, condition, disfigurement or loss affecting one of the body systems, such as neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, immune, circulatory, hemic, lymphatic, skin, and endocrine.

      A mental impairment is any mental or psychological disorder, such as intellectual disability, formerly mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.

      It is not possible to include a list of all the specific conditions that would constitute physical or mental impairments, but some examples may be useful.

      Comment by vigi — January 13, 2017 @ 9:53 am

  8. Examples of conditions that are impairments:

    AIDS, and its symptoms
    Alcoholism
    Asthma
    Blindness or other visual impairments
    Cancer
    Cerebral palsy
    Depression
    Diabetes
    Epilepsy
    Hearing or speech impairments
    Heart Disease
    Migraine Headaches
    Multiple sclerosis
    Muscular dystrophy
    Orthopedic impairments
    Paralysis
    Complications from Pregnancy
    Thyroid gland disorders
    Tuberculosis
    Loss of body parts
    Certain temporary, non-chronic impairments of short duration with little or no residual effects usually are not disabilities. Likewise, environmental conditions and alternative lifestyles are not protected. A person currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs is not considered an individual with a disability. This refers both to the illegal use of unlawful drugs such as cocaine as well as prescription drugs.

    Examples of conditions that are NOT impairments:

    The common cold or the flu
    A sprained joint
    Minor and non-chronic gastrointestinal disorders
    A broken bone that is expected to heal completely
    Compulsive gambling
    Pregnancy
    Old age
    Lack of education
    Poor judgment
    Bisexuality or homosexuality
    Under the ADA, every covered entity may be required to decide whether you have a disability.

    The term “covered entity” means a person, a business, an organization, or an agency that the ADA says must not discriminate against persons with disabilities.

    Examples of covered entities:

    Employers and employment agencies that have at least 15 employees, and labor organizations
    Any State or local government, or any department or agency of that government
    AMTRAK or other commuter rail authorities
    Any private business that provides public accommodations, such as stores, theaters, auditoriums, hotels, restaurants, bars, gas stations, banks, doctors, lawyers, and other professional offices, hospitals, public transportation, galleries, day care centers, gyms, bowling alleys, and golf courses
    The covered entity must make a decision as to whether you have a physical or mental impairment, and whether that impairment is substantially limiting. In many cases, however, entities fail to make this assessment.

    (from https://www.illinoislegalaid.org/legal-information/who-has-disability-under-ada)

    Comment by vigi — January 13, 2017 @ 10:02 am

  9. We just passed a bond issue for more affordable housing in this county. Rents will come down when there is more supply which should make all the housing advocates happy. What we should be doing now is asking the city to go after some of the available funds instead of harping about the RRAC and bashing Trish.

    Comment by Nancy Hird — January 13, 2017 @ 1:02 pm

    • Comment by Lauren Do — January 13, 2017 @ 2:01 pm

    • Glad to see the city’s premier think-tank, the ACT, has accepted that supply affects price, and that building housing helps people afford…housing.

      In the era of Trump’n’Trish pitchfork-populism (a little Friday alliteration), it’s important to catalog bad leadership.

      Comment by BC — January 13, 2017 @ 2:28 pm

    • lol. Alameda gets its share of the affordable housing bond money. We don’t need to “go after it.” We should get around $30M. Given all the process they have to go through and other construction costs…. that is good for about 60 units of affordable housing. Given that there are thousands of qualified Alameda residents and/or employees applying every time 5-10 affordable units get released, it is crystal clear that the vast majority of us will have to continue relying on market rate units to meet our housing needs.

      Comment by BMac — January 13, 2017 @ 2:40 pm

      • In SF they have recognized this and found that it is cheaper and faster to purchase and renovate existing buildings than develop new ones. Then these building become part of the affordable housing supply. Given the current climate toward Landlords in Alameda I would think that this is a viable alternative.

        Comment by frank — January 13, 2017 @ 5:47 pm

        • Very interesting. On the other hand it sounds like they might just be turning low income housing (shitty landlords with poorly maintained buildings) into government sponsored low income housing. Zero new affordable units, though good for the people in the buildings.

          Comment by BMac — January 14, 2017 @ 8:54 pm

    • Those funds are being applied in specific amounts for each city in the county and they will likely go towards the affordable housing units already in the pipeline. You’re right though that we do have to build a lot of new housing statewide, 1.8 million homes in fact to bring back economic mobility within our housing market. I believe it can be done and that it could be a way for us to fight climate change. While yes, these new homes will provide new character for our state, they also represent an investment in the California families of the future.

      Comment by Angela — January 14, 2017 @ 6:05 pm

    • Nancy: Re. ” What we should be doing now is asking the city to go after some of the available funds instead of harping about the RRAC and bashing Trish.” http://www.ebcitizen.com/2017/02/alameda-rent-review-member-resigned.html This is why one needs to be vigilant about Trish, just as one should be about Trump. Under the populism of both lies deep concern for vested interests. Wolves, sheep’s clothing, and so on.

      Comment by BC — February 16, 2017 @ 12:17 pm

  10. The approach taken at the RRAC exposes the problem with a mediation first approach. I listened to the November RRAC recording. They spent 45 minutes trying to pressure Rasheed Shabazz into meeting his landlord “in the middle.” Rasheed came in prepared to accept a 5% increase. I’m sure he would have preferred no increase! The landlord was asking for $500 or so. Anyone not as sure of themselves or averse to confrontation would have buckled and just said “okay, $300 increase.” After all that time the RRAC members finally relented and told him he could leave it up to the board to make a decision. And they took his side and said 5%!!!

    We should not be judging this stuff on a case by case basis. We should have an ordinance that says how much of an increase is legal. What we have now is arbitrary and capricious. Hard cap, then straight to a hearing officer.

    Comment by BMac — January 13, 2017 @ 2:36 pm

    • Hard cap and hearing was handily voted down just weeks ago.

      Comment by dave — January 13, 2017 @ 3:26 pm

      • I think it is a huge, uninformed assumption that it was the hard cap and hearing components that resulted in the defeat of M1. I for one voted against M1 not for those reasons, but because of the elected RRAC, and lack of accountability. Give me a cleaner version and I’m all for a hard cap.

        Comment by notadave — January 13, 2017 @ 3:53 pm

        • I didn’t say that was necessarily why it was voted down, just simply stating that the cap & hearing plan was voted down, decisively. Surely it was a factor for some number of voters, though we’ll probably never know what proportion.

          Comment by dave — January 13, 2017 @ 4:10 pm

      • This is like saying America voted against private email servers on November 8th.

        .65% of CPI, expensive rent board, charter amendment, maybe even just cause…. I would put those up as major factors in deciding the fate of M1 long before a hard cap.

        A 5% hard cap w/ the legally required chance to prove a need for a fair return in a hearing would have probably fared well… especially if it was on the ballot alone.

        Comment by BMac — January 13, 2017 @ 6:50 pm

        • So put it on the ballot again. Good luck.

          Comment by dave — January 13, 2017 @ 6:52 pm

        • I didn’t put the last one on the ballot and I’m sure not going to encourage anyone to put a rent control initiative on the 2018 ballot. Wrong electorate. I’ll take my chances on lobbying my elected representatives to make improvements to what we have. I heard this representative democracy thing sometimes works.

          Comment by BMac — January 13, 2017 @ 10:24 pm

      • Dave–M1 was a fairer measure than L1 for renters–but fairness is never very popular at the voting booth. M1 provided greater equity for renters but would not have granted renters anything resembling equal standing with landlords. (Of course, the fact that L1 had the unfair advantage of $1,000,000 in outside landlord special interest money spent on its behalf may have tipped the scales just a wee bit…)

        So Alameda ends up with less justice, the retention of the current toothless RRAC, and renters are still being exploited by RRAC appointees’ arbitrary and occasionally illegal behavior…. What’s not to like? 😦

        Comment by Jon Spangler — January 15, 2017 @ 1:01 am

    • What percent increase would $500 have been?

      Comment by dave — January 13, 2017 @ 3:36 pm

      • maybe 33%

        Comment by BMac — January 13, 2017 @ 6:46 pm

    • A one size fits all “hard” approach would also have its drawbacks. Anyway, after reading the minutes of the November case on the City website, “problem” and “arbitrary” weren’t the first thing that jumped to mind. The result of the RRAC process was that the rent for a two bedroom, with garage space, went from $1,395 to $1,464 (about $400 less than what the landlord sought and about $750/mo. under market according to the landlord). Many would consider the result of the City’s intervention to be an acceptable deal in Alameda, California in 2016-2017. As you point out, the tenant recognized it as a reasonable increase.

      Maybe the audio tells a different story. I’ll take a listen over the weekend.

      Comment by MP — January 13, 2017 @ 4:47 pm

      • MP, you are right. The outcome was a good one. The way we got there was bad, however. Like I said, the majority of renters would not have the strength to make it to the same endpoint as Rasheed, who went through the Harbor Island saga in 2004. Most would have either just moved out or accepted the $250-300 “compromise” that if felt like the RRAC members were advocating for before finally going to plan B and making their (it turns out) fair recommendation. There are other stories out there right now of people having really bad outcomes after taking advantage of the right to a RRAC hearing.

        Comment by BMac — January 13, 2017 @ 10:30 pm

      • I listened to the audio of the RRAC hearing that had the good outcome, but is being held out as a “problem” or a “bad” way to get to the good outcome. The audio can be found here for those who want to hear for themselves: (it starts at the 10:20 mark).

        http://alameda.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=6&clip_id=1878

        The RRAC did not spend 45 minutes trying to “pressure” the tenant into meeting his landlord “in the middle”, and nowhere was it said or suggested to the tenant that he should accept as a resolution a rent increase at the mid-point of $250-$300.

        Most of the discussion during the mediation phase of the hearing (where the Committee tries to see if landlord and tenant can agree to a resolution) was directed to the landlord and that, despite having not raised rents for the first 9 years of the lease, and despite the proposed rent of $1800 being significantly below market for a two bedroom apartment (the tenant stated he lives alone) with garage (landlord estimated during the hearing that the market rate is $2400), his proposed increase of about $450 a month was a “shock” and a “handicap” to the tenant. The tenant was asked a couple of times directly (and a couple more times in a questions put to both landlord and tenant) if he could accept more than a $69 increase, if he could move “a little bit” and what he thought was a reasonable increase. The tenant stayed at $69. One of the landlord Committee members (who, in the end, voted to allow an increase of no more than a $69) said he believed the tenant had done a good job of looking at his finances and recognized that he was in a difficult situation. Both parties were generally encouraged to try to reach an agreement before the RRAC entered into a phase of the hearing where they would make a binding decision on the rent increase, but it was pretty clear from the start that the parties were going to remain deadlocked (the landlord did down in the amount of the proposed increase by $100) and that the RRAC would be called on to make a decision.

        End result: the RRAC approved a 5% or $69 increase to $1,464.

        Maybe there is something specific in the recording I am not picking up on, but all of the RRAC members seemed to be taking the process very seriously and according respect to both sides. That is not to say that the City ordinance is without flaw. But the outcome in this case, and its process, do not persuade that the City ordinance should be now be overhauled along the lines of the ARC ballot measure (M1).

        Comment by MP — January 15, 2017 @ 11:55 am

  11. MP: Thanks for the complete and objective analysis of Mr. Shabazz’s RRAC meeting affirming that

    1. the RRAC did not “pressure [him] into meeting his landlord ‘in the middle’”

    2. most of the discussion was focused on the landlord, and

    3. the RRAC did not advocate for a particular outcome.

    I will add that in my three years of personally attending RRAC meetings, most residents that have come to the RRAC for assistance have been well prepared and articulate.

    Now that the RRAC has the authority to render binding, enforceable decisions, I have found that housing providers are far more receptive to “alternative proposals” rather than risk an unfavorable RRAC decision. If they are not willing or able to empathize with the resident’s circumstances or reevaluate their own position based on a “community” standard of fairness, then the RRAC has the authority to make that determination and render a binding and enforceable decision just as it did in Mr. Shabazz’s case.

    As for the RRAC’s decisions appearing arbitrary (without reason) and capricious (impulsive or unpredictable), each resident/housing provider relationship is unique and requires evaluating the relative positions of each party and the specific facts that define the uniqueness of the relationship. This is why any “one size fits all” method of resolving conflicts between the parties would be inherently unfair to one party or the other in almost very case. If one looks at the underlying facts of each RRAC decision, it is possible to get an idea of the range of increases the committee would recommend in a particular situation .

    As a separate issue, I concur with BMac that there are residents (and housing providers) that are apprehensive about using the public mediation process for a variety of reasons. For the past three years, I have advocated for a private mediation option that both residents and housing providers could elect to use prior to a RRAC hearing. This private mediation would address a number of concerns the parties have regarding the one track public RRAC process.

    A nonexclusive private mediation option would maintain both parties privacy and resolve other issues between the parties that the RRAC has no authority to deal with. Private mediation can be used not only for rent increase disputes, but also to resolve maintenance issues, tenant-to-tenant issues, and reduce the possibility of retaliation. It also can assist in maintaining or building better working relationships between the parties after the issues are resolved.

    I echo MP’s conclusion that the RRAC enforceable mediation process is not perfect, but I disagree that it should be replaced with a hard cap and a very expensive arbitration utilizing a hearing officer.

    Comment by Jeff Cambra — January 15, 2017 @ 9:19 pm

    • In my view, mediation is a great tool that should be available to people, but the government should set what they think is an acceptable annual rent increase that applies to everyone. Mediation should be the exception, not the rule. You just can’t count on providing the right protection for all renters without an actual cap. It is a policy decision and trying to get five hacks, be it me or Mr. Schrader, to figure out what is fair on a case by case basis can never achieve true fairness for everyone.
      As for expensive hearings, after the bar is set and it proves difficult to achieve more than 5% (or CPI, or CPI+1, etc) w/out clear hardship, there will be very few hearings. It doesn’t have to be any more expensive than what we have.

      Comment by BMac — January 16, 2017 @ 10:10 am

      • I agree with you on the policy question. I am not sure what the policy question actually is. You phrased it as “providing the ‘right’ protection for all renters.” “All renters” is a very broad category. Do all residents need the same protection? In any policy discussion, there also needs to be a discussion about the impact on others created by implementing the policy through regulation. Just as all residents who rent are in different situations, so are housing providers. How does a one-size-fits-all hard cap affect that equally diverse group?

        I think that some presumptions and guidelines that the RRAC could use would provide more predictiblity. After attending three years of RRAC meetings, I have formed my ideas on guidelines and ways to refine the process. I am sure there are others with ideas as well. This might be a good topic to take up in another post.

        In one sense, we do have a “hard cap” under the present system. It appears that the 5% threshold that requires housing providers to get authorization for a larger increase has severely reduced the number of providers requesting larger increases. In reviewing the data from the Housing Authority, many of those over 5% requests come from one property, and those applications are being generated because the month-to-month option being offerred is over 5%. In all (?) the applications this property has filed, the one year lease rate has been between 2% and 5%.

        If a housing provider doesn’t like the RRAC decision, then they are forced into participating in an appeal to a hearing officer. Those types of hearings are expensive requiring attorneys to present the case, and a CPA to present financial information as an expert witness. A very simple hearing can cost a housing provider $7,000 to $10,000 and upwards of $25,000. The cost to participate in an appeal far exceeds any possible money realized by the rent increase that might be awarded. The point being that even if a provider has a real hardship, they never get any relief due to the cost to get the relief. Seems like a Catch 22.

        Comment by Jeff Cambra — January 16, 2017 @ 12:58 pm

        • My belief is that there are going to people that slip through the cracks in either system. In our current system of mediation after requiring affirmative steps taken by renters, I believe the people that aren’t well served will be some portion of renters. In a one size fits all, hard cap scenario, if a landlord gets the short straw, it is someone that at a minimum, lives in one house and receives revenue from another. I will choose to protect the renters every. single. time. As for the landlord that hasn’t raised rent in 18 years, what changed? I submit that in those scenarios it is almost always someone who just inherited a rental property and wants to change the way business has been conducted for a decade or three. I am not too worried about them.

          Comment by BMac — January 16, 2017 @ 11:41 pm

        • Not sure why there is no REPLY link below your comment. I am posting here as the only option. Residents are only required to affirmatively initiate a review with increases of 5% or below. Otherwise, it is the housing provider that is required to petition the Housing Authority for authorization to raise rents. This process forces the provider into the public forum. Your “minimum” description of a typical housing provider is not complete. I will elaborate but don’t have the time this morning. In regards to the 18 year no rent increase case, there is much more to that case that needs to be addressed. This was a case of extremes on both sides of the relationship. I am also happy to add in those facts so that a more complete picture can be used to evaluate that case. Stay tuned.

          Comment by Jeff Cambra — January 17, 2017 @ 8:05 am

        • In the November case we have been discussing, it was 9 years (not quite the 18 in the hypothetical above, but significant nonetheless) with no rent increase and I would guess that inheritance of the property had nothing to do with that extended period w/o increase. The owner stated in the recording that he was a refugee when he came to this country about 40 years ago. He might be a contractor, as he mentioned that he performs repairs and maintenance himself (a fact that, if anything, benefitted the tenant, because the owner himself cited the fact that he performed maintenance and repairs on his own as the reason he was not claiming increased costs of operation as a justification for the proposed rent increase).

          As far as falling through cracks and requiring tenants to take affirmative action, remember that in this case, under the City ordinance, the owner, not the tenant, would have had to initiate rent review before the RRAC. Had he not done so, his proposed rent increase would have been invalid under the ordinance. And having done so, his proposed rent increase was dramatically reduced by the RRAC from $1800+ to $1,464 ($69, or a 5% increase) for a large two bedroom with garage space (the market rate for which according to the owner is something like $2400).

          You might have in mind specific cases under the current ordinance where a tenant fell through the cracks or received the short straw with respect to a rent increase but it seems like there was some agreement that did not happen in this case. The process seemed to work. And, hopefully, the goal is to avoid, where possible, having the city dispense the short straw at all. If you changed the facts of this case: rent even farther below market, tenant earning much more than owner and well able to afford not just the owner’s proposed increase (say half the distance to the market rate) but the full market rate, the owner in distress (financial, health) etc., we might be less eager to ensure that, in that case, the owner received the short straw.

          Comment by MP — January 17, 2017 @ 8:33 am

        • When I say it requires some affirmative step by the tenant, I am aware of the requirements of the ordinance. Even for increases over 5%, the owner has to follow the law and actually report it, or the tenant has to “tattle.” Even if the owner follows the reporting requirements the tenant has to choose to participate in the process to take advantage of the protections. Many are likely to just move or acquiesce and not participate in the RRAC.
          All this said, I have defended 3148 in other places as a huge improvement over what we had before. I simply take a different view about the appropriateness of relying on our current awkward reporting and mediation process as the first line of defense. I think setting clear guidelines for the RRAC members to follow, as you suggested, would be a positive step if we are stuck with it.

          Comment by BMac — January 17, 2017 @ 9:57 am

  12. I’ve never attended a RRAC meeting but I do review the cases listed in the meeting agenda. Seems like a lot of detailed information is provided to the public on both the landlord and the tenant prior to the rent review meeting.

    One case that stood out for me is the landlord that hadn’t given a rent increase in 18 years. If we move to a one size fits all cap, how do we address cases where housing providers have not given rent increases in the last 3 to 18 years? The first survey that was taken by Renewed Hope showed that there were a number of housing providers that fell into that category.

    Comment by Karen Bey — January 16, 2017 @ 11:31 am

    • This is one of the most common scenarios the committee must deal with. It is a difficult question to answer. I have some very specific thoughts on this scenario and how I would be addressing it if I was on the RRAC. Interesting to hear what others might think.

      Comment by Jeff Cambra — January 16, 2017 @ 1:05 pm

      • I don’t know what your thoughts are, but my worry is that for those housing providers who fell through the cracks and did not raise rents or gave minimal rent increases, they will be the ones to carry the most burden of this housing crisis if they lose their rights to petition the RRAC for a higher increase.

        This type of scenario could prompt a housing provider to get out of the rental business altogether. It seems like we could possibly avoid this by allowing some form of banking.

        Comment by Karen Bey — January 17, 2017 @ 7:01 am

        • Will post my thoughts when I can get a minute.

          Comment by Jeff Cambra — January 17, 2017 @ 8:07 am

        • I am a housing provider — few units. When our current tenants leave we will likely remove our units from the housing market. It is not the rental cap that is a concern, (we’ve always been below market) but the potential relocation costs. They could be a serious financial set-back for us.

          Comment by Betty Sue — January 17, 2017 @ 11:22 am

        • Please contact me before finalizing that decision. jeffcambra@earthlink.net. There are alternatives to removing the units from the market. Alameda needs all current rental units to be made available upon turnover.

          Comment by Jeff Cambra — January 18, 2017 @ 12:11 am

  13. Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting this landlord should be able to bank 18 years of no rent increases, but a reasonable cap seems fair.

    Comment by Karen Bey — January 17, 2017 @ 7:06 am

    • “Reasonable” is relative to the parties involved. More to follow.

      Comment by Jeff Cambra — January 17, 2017 @ 8:08 am


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