Blogging Bayport Alameda

April 7, 2017

Money only pays the rent, part 2

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

The sense I’m getting from reading some of the post-Tuesday analysis is that renter advocates are feeling very betrayed by Jim Oddie’s decision not to back a “just cause”/elimination of no cause eviction modification to the rental ordinance.  Jim Oddie has held himself up as an ally to the renters, letting them know that he needed a third vote on the Council in order to create policy that would really protect renters.  When push came to shove, he balked.  That probably feels a lot worse than simply being on the opposing side from jump.

The rationale used by both Trish Spencer and then Jim Oddie was that the voters in November claimed that they liked the current ordinance just the way it was by not supporting the renters’ M1 initiative.  It’s not a bad argument except for the fact that it boils both ordinances down to only the elements that you agree with or want to frame as key point of the initiative.

I’m not sure about you, but personally I voted against both L1 and M1, not because I don’t support a just cause eviction/elimination of no cause eviction but because I felt as though M1 overreached just a wee too much.  But I could totally get behind a just cause eviction ordinance.

If Jim Oddie’s reason for not voting for just cause evictions — now that he’s had the ability to sleep on it a bit — was because he didn’t want to craft policy at night without the benefit of public vetting, that’s fine too with the exception that Malia Vella tried several times to continue the meeting to some other day and time to allow for clearer heads to decide.

In case you couldn’t tell from the video from yesterday the whole rent review agenda item was continued to today when either Jim Oddie will feel duly chastised by his progressive brethren that he had to face days afterward or will feel empowered by the landlord…I mean “homeowner” groups that have sent him supportive message announcing that they have his back.

I will point out that Jim Oddie (up for re-election in 2018) already is facing down a contender who is stalking the progressive cred that Jim Oddie had previously held.   Planning Board member, David Mitchell, put out this statement on Tuesday night, it’s also part of the Council packet as well:

If you’re interested in weighing in on the topic, City Council meets tonight at 5:30 p.m. to continue talking about this agenda item.



  1. There will be no more public comment though.

    Comment by BMac — April 7, 2017 @ 7:44 am

  2. As I mentioned below in my post yesterday, I believe that Just Cause was one of the main distinctions between L1 and M1, and M1 lost overwhelmingly. The other of course was the CPI rent cap.

    I also mentioned in my post yesterday, that if the shoes were reversed, and M1 had won — and the City Council was working to overturn the election results, ARC would become unhinged.

    Any substantial changes to L1 like a Just Cause Ordinance I believe should go back to the voters to decide.

    Comment by Karen Bey — April 7, 2017 @ 9:08 am

  3. If David Mitchell’s views are his own, why is he mentioning that he is “City of Alameda Planning Board Vice President”? Referencing a body implies representation. That used to be a big no-no when I was on the PB. The PB does not take sides. Express yourself, David, but leave the Planning Board out of it.

    Comment by vigi — April 7, 2017 @ 9:11 am

    • I have been instructed by city staff that I am allowed to use the Planning Board member title, as long as I state that views are my own – which I did. Same applies when I speak publicly or comment on an issue at City Council.

      Comment by David Mitchell — April 7, 2017 @ 12:20 pm

      • David, try not to pay to much attention to vigi.

        Comment by JohnP.trumpisnotmypresident. — April 7, 2017 @ 5:22 pm

  4. I didn’t hear Jim Oddie or Trish Spencer say that election results meant that voters “like the current ordinance just the way it was”, or even words to that effect. I think, however, that they do have some respect for the outcome of that election. Without question, the issue of “just cause” evictions was major issue – not a mere detail or fine print – in the decision put to the voters. The Renters Coalition (ARC) identified it as a primary reason to vote for M1 (defeated 66-33%) and not L1 (passed 55-45%) which took a different approach to that issue. (See Alameda County Official Voter Information Pamphlet, Argument in Favor of M1 [“…Requires just cause for eviction….Limiting evictions to just cause allows…..”]; see also the Official Voter Information Pamphlet Argument in Favor of L1, signed by Councilmembers Ezzy Ashcraft and Oddie which made clear arguments in support of its approach to the issue [“2 – Prohibit mass evictions of entire buildings. 3 – Discourage evictions solely to increase rents by limiting any rent increase to the next tenant to no more than 5%. 4 – Require landlords to pay a relocation fee and cover moving expenses so tenants have the ability to move in the least disruptive manner possible.”]).

    No one doubts that the current Council has the legal authority to reach a different conclusion than the voters at the polls. Most would hope, however, that the reason a Councilmember would exercise such authority (only five months after that vote) would be something much more significant and compelling than a Tuesday night tweet from a potential (apparently) 2018 Council candidate (or the unfair “coward” email sent from an ARC leader). Both Jim Oddie and Marilyn Ashcraft signed an official voter pamphlet argument in favor of the voter-approved L1 stating “Measure L1 is the result of months of work with tenants and landlords and is a common-sense and balanced approach to the affordability crisis.” I could be wrong, but I don’t recall Councilmember Ashcraft seriously questioning the Council’s approach on the “just cause” issue at the time the Ordinance passed or indicating during the Council election that she would move to insert the M1 provision into the Ordiance after the election. Maybe potential candidate Mr. Mitchell, who tweeted out on Tuesday night that he stands with the ARC and that “L1 does not provide any meaningful protection for our citizens”, is right that “We need real rent control now – more than ever”. Maybe Alameda voters don’t know what “real” rent control is (I think sensible, balanced and fair are the preferred goals), that the 55% of voters who voted for L1 and the 66% of voters who voted against M1 lack common sense, or just don’t know the real facts.

    I think, however, that Mr. Mitchell, or those who would use their Council votes to make such a dramatic departure from the still-fresh vote of Alameda residents, needs to make that case with more than rhetoric. I don’t use rhetoric pejoratively nor am I questioning anyone’s motivations. Nevertheless, the Ordinance that was approved by voters with L1, has been in effect for a year and has resulted in only approximately 34 notices, with relocation payments to the tenants and with a 5% rent increase cap on the subsequent tenant, if any. That is out of 14,000+ rental units. If the very limited ability to give notice (with relocation and subsequent rent increase cap) that is part of the voter-approved L1 ordinance is a problem, wouldn’t we have seen larger numbers or, at a minimum been able to identify a significant portion (out of that 34) that represent abuses by owners (or that would constitute examples of discrimination or retaliation that are already prohibited by the Ordinance)? Has anyone made that case publicly?

    Finally, again, do we really want to eliminate entirely an owner’s ability to deal with a nuisance tenant by giving notice (with relocation benefits!). Do we really want to force all property owners to prepare to go to trial, with lawyers and witnesses, to deal with the tenant next door that constantly blasts loud music, etc., etc., or do we want to preserve a very limited number of notices with relocation benefits (again, the Council has already moved to reduce the number under the voter-approved Ordinance – they aren’t leaving the “ordinance just the way it was”) so that these issues may be dealt with in a somewhat less expensive manner? The more expensive you make addressing a nuisance tenant (e.g., the requirement that you prepare to go to trial under M1’s “just cause”) means that it is going to get addressed less often – to the detriment of neighbors – and it means that some units that would otherwise be available on the rental market won’t be because a good landlord decides that it is no longer worth the risk of being stuck in a bad relationship with the potential for huge legal fees that the City will not be in the business of reimbursing. Not every tenant or potential tenant wants to see those unintended (but completely foreseeable) consequences. The existing option under the Ordinance is far from cost-free, with relocation fee requires and other restrictions discussed above, but it is at least an attempt at what Councilmembers Oddie and Ashcraft called a “common sense and balanced approach” prior to the election in November. Councilmember Oddie was correct to recognize at the April 4 meeting that, as yet, no compelling case had been made for questioning voters’ or the prior Council’s “common sense” on this big point.

    Comment by MP — April 7, 2017 @ 9:15 am

  5. At some point you can’t tax or regulate your way out of solving problems. Tick, tock…

    Comment by Il Cane di Ferro — April 7, 2017 @ 10:44 am

  6. I re-read Mr. Mitchell’s tweet and the attached letter to the Council after only skimming it before. I missed the part where he asserts that “L1 is NOT rent control – it is merely a mediation ordinance with non-binding measures – meaning rents can still be drastically increased …..”. During the November election, I recall seeing some, not many, make similar claims. Mr. Burton’s claim is mistaken unless he is using a non-standard definition of the terms “merely a mediation ordinance” and “non-binding”.

    Frequently, the terms “mediation” and “non-binding” are used together to describe a process in which parties to a dispute (perhaps one that has already ended up in court) present the dispute to a third person, a mediator, who attempts to facilitate the parties reaching an agreement that settles or resolves the dispute. This process is “non-binding” in the sense that, although a “mediator” can make recommendations to the parties about how to resolve the dispute or otherwise attempt to persuade them to move towards an agreement, a “mediator” has no power to order any particular resolution (e.g. “A, you must pay $X to B, whether you like it or not”); any resolution during “mediation” is the result of a voluntary agreement between the parties.

    Part of the RRAC process under the Ordinance is non-binding mediation, but that is not all that it is. In fact, one of the major changes to the prior law ushered in by the Ordinance in 2016, later ratified by L1, was the authority and duty given to the RRAC to issue binding decisions concerning proposed rent increases over 5% where the parties fail to reach agreement between concerning the rent increase. If the RRAC’s decision is not timely appealed to a Hearing Officer, it is binding and has the force of law with respect to the allowable rent increase. If the RRAC decision is appealed to a Hearing Officer, the Hearing Officer’s decision is binding, meaning with the force of law with respect to the rent increase. (* Note that the binding RRAC process discussed here does not apply to single family houses, condo units, units built after 1995; such units are generally exempt under state law from rent control, including the binding RRAC process). See Municipal Code sections 6-58.85, 6-58.130.

    Comment by MP — April 7, 2017 @ 1:15 pm

  7. Most renters like homeowners are doing well. Most of the renters are being treated fairly . Most reasonable people are willing to Accept the fact that not everyone is ENTITLED to live in any town. A crisis is the homeless. An inconvenience is moving to San Leandro . With Just Cause you will see investors get equally as aggressive . The handful of people from ARC that show up might as well have a cup in their hands.

    Comment by Master B — April 7, 2017 @ 4:59 pm

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