Blogging Bayport Alameda

May 15, 2017

Back on the agenda

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:05 am

Rent Stabilization is back on the City Council’s agenda on Tuesday night.  Last time we left off, Jim Oddie had disappointed those in the renters’ community who had counted on Jim Oddie as a solid 3rd vote.  Between then and now, Jim Oddie has shifted back into the renters column and recently announced that the time for just cause is now.

One can optimistically believe that Jim Oddie changed his mind after a good night’s rest, or perhaps one can cynically believe that Jim Oddie had a stern talking to by leaders of the local Democratic Party who have supported just cause in the past, either way this is good news for renters advocacy groups who can feel just cause in Alameda within their grasp.

While the Council is going back to make some tweaks it still puzzles me why the Council doesn’t do some sort of basic data collection about the rental housing units in Alameda.  Find out what the cost would be to maintain a database and charge a nominal fee for each registration of each Alameda rental unit.  Let’s assume that there are about 15,000 rental housing units in Alameda.   If it costs $60,000 to maintain a database then it would cost about $4 per unit to collect data annually.  What information could be collected is the amount of the rent, the address, and the number of bedrooms for the initial registration.  Every year after that only the rent amount would need to be updated.  That way the City would have actual data to understand what the rental housing market actually is as opposed to guessing or being told by landlords that they are “under market.”

At this point though all the suggestions by staff will be shuffled to the side if the Council takes up the issue of just cause again.  This will be a huge issue to discuss and will definitely take up most of the the time.

I will point out that there’s a semi-ridiculous statement in the “landlord/tenant correspondence” about how the new surveys ask if the tenant is over 65 or if there are minors living.  The landlord suggested that City staff should be asking if the landlord is over 65 of if they have a family to support.  Because losing your housing is exactly the same as using the income from your investment property to supplement your retirement.



  1. Ultimately, you need two parties to this contract to make it work. As the terms become more onerous and risky, fewer owners will become or remain landlords. Without landlords there will not be a rental housing market. It is difficult enough that landlords are being asked to guarantee limited rent increases for a lifetime and beyond, but now an insurance payment in event of a disaster. A promise so one sided that no insurance company would take it. And the amount of the payment can be raised unilaterally by council vote at any time, on by a plebiscite. Someone has visions of landlords acting like AP Giannini handing out cash payments after a disastrous earthquake. Not happening. Can anyone doubt that this relocation payment will soon top six figures? With protections against rising taxes, insurance, maintenance, and inflation, coupled with disaster payments and valid for a lifetime, this becomes more insurance than housing contract. Upon foreclosure will lenders pay these relocation payments? Or will they refuse to foreclose and thereby create zombie property? Will lenders continue to finance apartments in Alameda? If I may channel Reagan, rent control is not the solution, it IS the problem. The “Hockabout effect” has probably already raised rents 7-8% on the island. For lower rents we need more landlords, not fewer.

    Comment by Ed Hirshberg — May 15, 2017 @ 7:52 am

  2. Bravo Ed! You nailed it. One can not regulate or tax their way out of these problems. I will say it again…Alameda is on slippery slope to somewhere bad, real bad. Tick, tock.

    Comment by Il Cane di Ferro — May 15, 2017 @ 7:58 am

    • Problems like land-use regulations, slowing the building of housing, right? Tick, tock!

      Comment by BC — May 15, 2017 @ 9:42 am

  3. Why are we suggesting that Jim Oddie is changing his vote and seeking to make a major change in the voter-approved L1/3148 because of “a stern talking to by leaders of the local Democratic Party”? After all, he IS the leader of the local Democratic Party (Co-President of the Alameda City Democratic Club, District Director for State Assemblyman Rob Bonta, etc., etc., etc.). In April, he said he would vote for so-called “just cause” evictions if he felt it was needed – though he expressed much doubt given that only 24 ”no cause”/notices to vacate (out of 15,000 rental units in the City) had happened over the last year under the City’s Ordinance. (He had good reason to express that doubt back in April because the ordinance that he helped write prevents landlords from evicting tenants for the purpose of bringing in new tenants at a higher rent and requires payment of relocation benefits; it is a money loser for landlords).

    Then, later, he said he wanted more information about those 24 cases. If he has changed his mind, I think we owe him the benefit of the doubt in believing that it is only because he is using his own judgment — and not because of a “stern” talking-to (“blackmail” was a word he used on April 4) by the “local” party or others. We should also assume he now has new information about how the rent ordinance is working that he did not have at hand before the November election when — six months into the operation of Alameda’s rent ordinance — he signed a statement on the official ballot pamphlet that said the ordinance (approved by voters on Election Day) was balanced and “has been proven to work”.

    We can also assume also that he has information leading him to believe that having the Council impose “just cause” won’t end up causing more evictions than it prevents — if any — and that smaller landlords won’t start considering taking properties off the rental market entirely, all on their own, and not out of some kind of self-defeating spite but because they are starting to see a climate in which this Council moves far past what the voters approved – even though what voters approved seems to continue to work. Or because they decide that the real risk of being forced someday to protect themselves and other tenants by way of a potentially ruinous, unaffordable court action against a true nuisance tenant who takes advantage of “just cause” rules is too great.

    If the goal is to keep people in their homes, I don’t think this is the way to go about it. Of course, Councilmember Oddie might have other information (perhaps information that the voters did not have) and, for now, we should probably assume he does.

    Comment by MP — May 15, 2017 @ 8:54 am

  4. The semi-ridiculous statement: “Because losing your housing is exactly the same as using the income from your investment property to supplement your retirement.”

    Not everyone has a retirement plan or pension to supplement. For people who did not work as civil servants or for corporations, rental income may be all they have in retirement.

    Comment by vigi — May 15, 2017 @ 10:31 am

    • Exactly. Unless you work for the government, pensions are far and few coming. I’m counting on my rental for retirement income. That investment is is looking increasingly questionable here in Alameda. My units are below market rate… social justice would be at my expense. I would much rather see a government solution that we all contribute towards and not just the landlords.

      Comment by Brian K — May 15, 2017 @ 8:18 pm

  5. Ed, Ed, Ed… Thank you for the wise words. As someone who owns just a “small handful” of units (about 12) in Alameda, I am glad us landlords have someone like you fighting for our capitalist rights. As I’ve always said: people aren’t forced to rent, they CHOOSE to rent! And don’t give me that “some people can’t afford buying” nonsense — they can pick themselves up by their bootstraps just like my grandpa did when he bought his first piece of land in Alameda back in 1901. Back then our tenants KNEW how lucky they were to rent from us, and we kept them in line by constant threats of eviction or large rent increases. This is how the free market works, people. I don’t come work for your company and then demand you pay me when you fire me for not showing up — don’t come to MY business and demand I pay you when you aren’t paying rent! SOMEONE has to look out for the landlords of this city and I’m glad you’ve stepped up Ed.

    Comment by Rodney — May 15, 2017 @ 10:40 am

  6. Ed, Ferro, BC, MP. Vigi and Rodney,

    You guys realize you’re ruining her Highnesse anti-free market, government controlled economic tendency because common citizens are too stupid to mind their own affairs and require the steady hand of deep thinking socialists to manage the affairs of everybody.

    Comment by jack — May 15, 2017 @ 7:18 pm

  7. “that way the City would have actual data to understand what the rental housing market actually is as opposed to guessing or being told by landlords that they are “under market.”

    I agree, a database would provide real information. As a landlord charging ‘under market’ I don’t think anyone would dispute my assertion as my rental units are $700.00 – $1000.00 below the prevailing rates that are being listed. As for raking in money and being greedy, if we keep at the 5% increase rate, I am on target to start gaining income, all expenses cleared, in 3 years. That is if I don’t decide to put in some upgrades to the exterior which would improve the property visually and be an asset to the community in general.

    It’s so easy to lump all landlords in the same bucket. The existing rent control does a great job at that. But for those of us who have bought our properties recently, and/or never took advantage of jacking up our rents, our expenses are simply higher that many of those long term landlords and our rates of return are much lower.

    Comment by Brian K — May 15, 2017 @ 8:32 pm

    • There is also a tremendous difference between someone who owns one unit and someone who owns 200 units.

      Comment by Retiredteacher — May 16, 2017 @ 6:56 am

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