Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 2, 2017

Hop on mom n’ pop

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

Welp, we knew it would be any day now when the whole business of the City Manager/Fire Chief/Independent Investigation thing would be politicized and the first group to do it are the self-styled “Alamedans in Charge” which appears to that group of long suffering mom n’ pop landlords that we are supposed to feel more sympathy for than people in danger of losing the shelter over their heads.  These mom n’ pop landlords who we have all been told are so superior to the big management companies are the first political group to attempt to take advantage of a political situation which is largely still based on speculation and conjecture.

But now it’s not just the charter amendment to codify the much weaker rent stabilization this group is after.  No.  They’re gunning for the members of the City Council they deem to be more “progressive” so that they don’t take “control” over the City of Alameda.

Because that’s the job of these Alamedans in Charge, they — apparently — control Alameda and will fundraise and finance candidates that will help them stay “in charge.”  I hope to see the same denunciation of this soft money and PAC spending toward candidates that Alamedans in Charge deem landlord friendly enough.

The whole letter is below.

This is the sort of small town conservatism that shows some national level progressives for the hypocrites that they really are.  I’ll guess that a ton of people who are going to donate to this particular campaign were probably Bernie Sanders supporters, probably anti-Donald Trump, probably so personally upset over the state of the national discourse but locally so scared of losing control that they are using coded language about the “far left” as though any one on the Council is truly some radical uber progressive.

If this message “down with the progressives” resonates we’re looking at a super expensive City Council/Mayor fight ahead.  And whenever there’s lots of money involved the PAC campaigns are going to be super ugly.
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  1. This is why everyone should be talking politics all the time. Happy Thanksgiving. Let’s register every voter and plan rides to the polls now.

    Comment by Gaylon — November 2, 2017 @ 6:59 am

    • That is exactly what wr are planning to do! There are a lot more tenants than landlords in this town.

      Comment by Alan p (for progressive) — November 2, 2017 @ 7:06 am

  2. The City of Alameda Democratic Club should be working double time to try to fundraise as well. It’s not that hard to recategorize “Alamedans in Charge” to “Landlords in Charge” and not that hard to label their candidates as “landlord backed”. It’s just a signal to us all that election season has begun and that pro-tenant orgs are going to need some serious cash to combat this effort. GAME ON.

    Comment by Angela — November 2, 2017 @ 7:56 am

    • The Alameda Democratic club can only do what its membership charges it to do. Are you an active voting member?

      Comment by Alan p (for progressive) — November 2, 2017 @ 2:40 pm

  3. wow, and they say the Unions are the problem with financial support to workers. so the landlords want to raise over $500,000. and my guess is that a lot of it will come from outside of Alameda. I’ll send a check for a hundred bucks, but it won’t be to rich greedy old Alamedans .

    Comment by JohnP.TrumpisnotmyPresident. — November 2, 2017 @ 8:42 am

    • In Alameda, the problem is unions taking tax dollars with the help of politicians they’ve bought. It’s an issue of good government. Property owners trying to protect their private property is a horse of a very different color.

      Arguments can be made against money in politics. Some of those arguments have solid merit. I’d certainly like to see money de-emphasized at any level of politics; most people probably would. But to paint both the public employee unions and private sector business people with the same brush completely misses the point.

      Comment by dave — November 2, 2017 @ 9:15 am

      • what am I missing here, unions are corrupt, but “private sector business people” can raise $500,000. and more from outside of Alameda to crush renters ability to fight for thier own rights. what brush are you using.?? both groups are going to raise funds for political purposes.

        Comment by JohnP.TrumpisnotmyPresident. — November 2, 2017 @ 11:14 am

        • The difference is that the unions are feeding at the public trough. Whatever landlords are doing (and let’s be fair, nobody really likes their landlord) they are engaging in legal private activity. They aren’t fleecing taxpayers. One is political corruption, the other is free enterprise.

          Also, they also aren’t “crush[ing] renters ability to fight for thier own rights.” They are just trying to preserve their own.

          Comment by dave — November 2, 2017 @ 11:22 am

  4. They picked a bad name for themselves: Alamedans in Charge. Wow! That’s pretty revealing. They are the overlords in this town and don’t you forget it. So much for inclusivity.

    Comment by Laura Thomas — November 2, 2017 @ 9:10 am

    • If a label matters, “progressive” is a rather poor one. The 2 pillars of local “progressivism” are based on corruption and confiscation. The former being unions buying council members in order to be paid triple the median household income for a job done for a fraction of that by state & federal firefighters, as well as military personnel. The latter is using the ballot box to confiscate legally owned property of an unpopular minority.

      Does either one sound like “progress?”

      Comment by dave — November 2, 2017 @ 9:28 am

  5. “Welp, we knew it would be any day now when the whole business of the City Manager/Fire Chief/Independent Investigation thing would be politicized and the first group to do it…”

    I recall at least one other “first group to do it” (some of whom carried at least figurative pitchforks two weeks ago) comprised of the Assemblyman (who came down from Sacramento and who is the Boss (i.e. employer by way of the State Assembly) of one of the City Councilmembers in question), the School Board trustee and the Planning Board member – the School Board trustee especially – who, if they were not working together to politicize the investigation or the reaction to it, did so anyway, and very effectively:

    That said, the letter inappropriately leaps to conclusions and politicizes the issue. I don’t know the details, but as far as I know, the investigation has barely begun. Furthermore, the city charter provision prohibiting influence/interference by councilmembers in the appointment process was not intended to benefit any particular faction, but rather to benefit the entire city by taking factionalism/politics out of the appointments process and should, within constitutional limits, be followed (and, in the future, changed, if we don’t like it anymore). It’s a mistake, however, to view it, or make it be viewed as, a vehicle for one or another group to gain advantage. In any event, the letter would seem to play right into the hands of, and serve as a foil to, those who have sought from the very beginning to label the entire process a purely political one.

    Finally, I don’t like Trump. I also don’t like Alameda Renters Coalition proposals to change Alameda’s existing rent control law in a way that would likely reduce available rentals and convince (particularly smaller) landlords that it makes more sense (and perhaps lucrative), and would be less risky, to exit the rental market altogether. The investigation re the City Manager is pending, but I can also see merit in a system that, at least in design, tries to reduce political pressure in the selection of the fire chief.

    I hope it is ok to believe all three of these things at the same time.

    Comment by MP — November 2, 2017 @ 9:31 am

    • When Conway asked people to “Buy Ivanka’s stuff,” was it a violation of Sec. 2635.702 of the Federal Ethics law? When Oddie and/or Vella ask the City Manager to appoint Weaver to preserve labor peace, was it a violation of Section 7-3 of the City Charter?

      Sec. 7-3. Neither the Council nor any of the members thereof shall interfere with the execution by the City Manager of his or her powers and duties. Except for purposes of inquiry, the Council and its members shall deal with that portion of the administrative service for which the City Manager is responsible solely through him or her. An attempt by a Councilmember to influence the City Manager in the making of any appointment or the purchase of any materials or supplies shall subject such Councilmember to removal from office for malfeasance. ”

      The law says,”An attempt”. It doesn’t say “strong” or “improper” or any other term which would permit or excuse any effort.

      Comment by BarbaraK — November 2, 2017 @ 5:50 pm

  6. “The Henry Levy Group”?? That’s pretty funny, considering Henry Levy is the name of the new Alameda County Property Tax collector. I’ll be writing him a couple of large checks soon myself.

    Comment by vigi — November 2, 2017 @ 9:48 am

    • Update: Henry Levy IS the same guy. The Alameda County Tax Collector. Hmmm..Not just funny, but true. Probably helps for the landlords to have him on their side….

      Comment by vigi — November 2, 2017 @ 1:02 pm

  7. I just love that the mailing address for “Alamedans in Charge” is in the hoity- toity Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, which has its own shameful history of exclusion.

    Comment by Kristen — November 2, 2017 @ 11:32 am

  8. Interesting. We are owners of a four-plex and this is the first time that I am seeing this letter. The other landlords that I know are members of “Alamedans For Fair Rent Control”. (AFFRC) I have not been to a meeting for a long time and things could have progressed into “Alamedans in Charge” but there may be two different landlord groups. Personally, I do not think any elements of rent control should be in the City Charter but the council members we have now are not representing all members of the community and that is not right either.

    Comment by Nancy — November 2, 2017 @ 9:23 pm

    • If there are fundamentally conflicting economic interests among Alamedans on rent-control, how does a councilperson represent them all members of the community? You shouldn’t take representing all Alamedans to be synonymous with doing what you want. Spencer certainly doesn’t represent my interests but am fully aware she represents those of the old, white and conservative.

      Comment by BC — November 3, 2017 @ 10:31 am

      • Property rights are everyone’s interest.

        Comment by dave — November 3, 2017 @ 10:47 am

        • The amendments council made to 3148 were simply stripping landlords of the right to evict with no cause and cleaning up typos and such. There was no stripping of property rights and in fact 3148 was to remain intact save for those couple of provisions. The landlords convinced Alamedans that an M1 was bad mostly due to the charter amendment. The landlords campaign, whatever they’re calling themselves is deceitful and hurts all of Alameda, renters and landlords. Renter advocates were trying to help renters. Landlords are now sacrificing the stability of our city government for sake of personal gain. Property rights? No, greed is what they are in favor of,…

          Comment by hamfat — November 3, 2017 @ 11:13 am

        • So let’s say a store owns the building they do business out of. Should they be free of all regulations because “property rights are everyone’s interest?” Rental housing is a business. Businesses are regulated every day, mostly to protect the consumers. This is not about some vague notion of property rights.

          Comment by Rod — November 3, 2017 @ 12:15 pm

        • Holy false equivalency, Batman!

          Is that store forced to sell products at a loss?
          Is that store forced to sell at government mandated prices?
          Is that store’s revenue capped by law or fiat?

          Yes, renting housing is a business. It is regulated for safety (think fire alarms, escapes, etc) and for anti discrimination, as every other business is. Yet with the exception of legal monopolies like utilities, businesses are not forced to sell at regulated prices.

          Yes, renting housing is a business. It is the livelihood of its owner. Consider your own livelihood. Are you legally prevented from getting a raise? Are you legally prevented from changing jobs for better pay? If you want to change jobs, are you forced to cough up a year or more’s worth of take home pay as ransom to your previous employer? That is exactly what you expect housing businesses to do.

          A landlord’s business assets are his/her property. That property right is as sacred as your right to your property: your car or bank account, to name two. How would you feel about a law that allowed me to borrow your car as long as I liked and only pay you a buck a gallon for the gas? What about a law that forced you to sell your car at 1/4 or a 1/3 less than its value because someone else really wanted it? Or a law that forced you to sell your home at a similar markdown in the name of “fairness?” One persons’ or one class’s property rights should always be equal and equally respected. Yet you and your ilk openly advocate for some peoples’ property to be expropriated, but not your own. Not only is that bad policy (rent control reduces supply and sends prices for new renters higher everywhere it’s been attempted) it is also un-American.

          And no, I am not a landlord. I’m just a guy who understands economics and believes that equality means exactly that.

          Comment by dave — November 3, 2017 @ 12:44 pm

        • Property rights are good. They are not in everyone’s interests.

          Comment by BC — November 3, 2017 @ 1:59 pm

        • Wow, way to deflect the argument with a whole lot of irrelevant libertarian jiggery pokery. You know, there are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

          Comment by Rod — November 3, 2017 @ 2:00 pm

        • Boy wonder. It wasn’t life, liberty and the pursuit of property, but the pursuit of happiness. Property isn’t a sacred right, happiness is.

          Comment by Gerard L. — November 3, 2017 @ 2:07 pm

        • BC:

          If one person’s property is at risk, so is another’s. It’s in all our interests to preserve all our rights. Indeed property protection is one of government’s most basic functions. It’s why we have courts, contracts, and police.


          Belief in equality is not Libertarian so much as it both logical and American. For the record, I have never read an entire Rand book. Tried one in high school – I honestly don’t recall which — and lasted about an hour. It was boring.

          But I ask you, Rod, to clearly explain why you believe one person’s property rights are subordinate to another’s. Please clearly explain why, and add why you believe some people’s property should be devalued and controlled by others without compensation. After that, please explain why you think rent controls are good policy in the face of near universal agreement among economists that they are not.

          Comment by dave — November 3, 2017 @ 2:08 pm

        • Gee, Rod, I don’t think many 14 year olds, even “bookish” ones, have the attention span for Atlas Shrugged. They usually start with The Fountainhead.

          Comment by vigi — November 4, 2017 @ 11:58 am

  9. Gerald, Jefferson cribbed that line from John Locke, who very explicitly said “Life, liberty and property.”

    And so I ask you same as Rod: please tell me why you think some people’s property can be expropriated and controlled by others who do not own it.

    Comment by dave — November 3, 2017 @ 2:21 pm

    • Type: Gerard. Sorry.

      Comment by dave — November 3, 2017 @ 2:22 pm

      • Typo, that is….

        Comment by dave — November 3, 2017 @ 2:22 pm

    • I believe that BUSINESS can and should be REGULATED. And I think your attempt to complicate a very simple concept such as that is an absolute waste of everybody’s time. Rental housing is a business. The consumers need protections. End of story.

      Comment by Rod — November 3, 2017 @ 2:24 pm

      • Name a business (other than a government sponsored utility) that has its prices determined by law.

        Comment by dave — November 3, 2017 @ 2:37 pm

        • Rental housing doesn’t have its prices determined by the law, even under the strictest rent control, but hey, don’t let me get in the way of your awesome hyperbole! The restrictions on the increases are the consumer protection aspect, and there’s nothing wrong with that as we are literally talking about the roofs over people’s heads. Smart business people and investors are able to operate within the confines of the regulations on their industry and make money at it. Poor business people and investors fail and go out of business.

          Comment by Rod — November 3, 2017 @ 2:51 pm

  10. If we did not have the rents collected from our four-plex, we would not have a roof over our heads. We put many dollars into buying and fixing up this building to give us money to live on during our retirement. This is money we could have invested in other ways to plan for retirement. Social Security does not pay enough to live on in the Bay Area. Now, here we are – retired and we expect to buy groceries and pay our bills without relying on government funded social services – which you would be paying for if it weren’t for the money we get from our tenants. Like many mom and pop landlords, we charge reasonable rates, seldom raise rents and bend over backwards to ensure the people who live in our building are safe and will want to stay for many years.

    Comment by Nancy — November 4, 2017 @ 1:02 pm

  11. Nancy, if all landlords treated their tenants the way you do ,we wouldn’t be having this conversation. everyone posting here knows there are landlords who are very greedy and unfair. that’s why we need “consumer protections”, as for answering Dave’s questions its a loosing battle because he just uses more and more “questions”, to muddy the water further.

    Comment by JohnP.TrumpisnotmyPresident. — November 5, 2017 @ 3:13 pm

    • Is asking why a policy that fails everywhere it’s been tried, why one person’s livelihood & property rights should be constrained when others’ aren’t, really muddying the waters?

      Will you sell your home well under its market value in the interest of affordability? Will you demand that others do same? Will you accept a legal cap on your income, and demand that others do same? Will you force people to do business on disadvantageous terms? Why? Or why not?

      Please answer those questions, John. I’m genuinely interested to hear why one small group of people deserves confiscation while your favored groups do not.

      Comment by dave — November 6, 2017 @ 8:24 am

      • Dave, Let me make sure we are talking about the same thing. 1. A demonstrated failure of policy. 2. A person’s livelihood is the income-producing potential of their property (rights). 3. Confiscation is anything that limits the income-producing potential of a property to benefit “favored groups.”

        So to answer your question, I agree with you.

        Measure A has been demonstrated to be a failed policy. The “favored groups,” R-1 and R-2 zoned property owners, had nothing to lose in voting for it. R-4 zoned property-owners lost out on their “livelihood”. Unless, of course their R-4 property was already fully-developed and Measure A just eliminated all competition from new supply.

        Comment by Gerard L. — November 6, 2017 @ 12:51 pm

        • Measure A is a quality of life zoning ordinance. It was intended to preserve character, keep traffic from getting out of hand, etc. I would not call it a failure. Indeed its success is one of the primary reasons people want to pay up to live here. If we sharply increase our density, ruin the aesthetics and turn commutes in traffic jams, much of the desirability of the town would be gone.

          But if you believe it is a failure and that its repeal would be a positive good, put it on the ballot. Recent experience has shown us that gathering the signatures can be done by committed volunteers.

          Put repeal on the ballot.

          And I’ll add a twist to the fun: when it makes the ballot, I bet you dinner at the local restaurant of your choice that repeal will fail. People like Alameda. They don’t it to be Emeryville.

          You care to take that bet?

          Comment by dave — November 6, 2017 @ 2:47 pm

        • Back when Measure A was on the ballot, opponents warned that certain parcels would immediately lose value — the number was 3000 — because Measure A would immediately downzone the parcel. Apparently the property rights of the people who owned R-3 and R-4 zoned parcels weren’t that important because Measure A somehow has now been marketed as a quality of life ordinance. It’s not a zoning ordinance, that’s what the opponents to Measure A were suggesting should happen, that more precise zoning be used to ward against unwanted density amongst the historic homes of Alameda.

          Also fun fact: of the slate of three who were voted in with Measure A who were supposedly the answer to the “pro-development” City Council only one actually voted for Measure A. The other two opposed it.

          Here’s a quote from a 1973 article:

          “As you recall, I said originally I felt it would probably be illegal; that it would be taken into court and thrown out. And the more I thought about it, the more I asked myself why vote for anything that was illegal.”

          “I feel the people who wrote the thing had good intentions…It’s a shame they were forced to do it out of frustration.”

          There’s no need to put a repeal of Measure A on the ballot, eventually if someone feels the urge to sue Alameda over Measure A, it would probably get thrown out, but no one has made it past the settlement stage because the City Attorneys of Alameda have always folded in order to keep it out of court.

          Comment by Lauren Do — November 6, 2017 @ 4:43 pm

        • Put it on the ballot. It will be faster and the result will really reflect the public’s desire.

          Comment by dave — November 6, 2017 @ 4:55 pm

        • Dave. You doublespeak.

          Quality of life zoning ordinance = Exclusionary zoning ordinance

          Character = “segregated, non-black character”

          Traffic = Free Parking

          As for your bet, I won that 20 years ago with ARC Ecology and Renewed HOPE. With our lawsuit settlement, the City of Alameda wrote a check that Measure A can’t cash.

          Comment by Gerard L. — November 8, 2017 @ 9:21 am

  12. Dave, I know my answers would not change your opinions on any of these issues, that is why I won’t answer your questions. also I know if I did bother to answer them you would only come up with more questions, so why bother. I support renters, and landlords who are fair.

    Comment by JohnP.TrumpisnotmyPresident. — November 6, 2017 @ 10:14 am

    • It’s very unlikely you would change my opinion, as it is founded upon evidence, reason, and property rights, as well as the traditions of justice & equality under which all peoples’ rights are equal.

      But I was hoping to understand why you think some people have different rights than others & wondering if you could put up a solid or thoughtful case.

      Comment by dave — November 6, 2017 @ 11:04 am

  13. like I said Dave, you wouldn’t change your opinions in any case , so why bother. “Justice and equality under which all peoples rights are equal”. are you fucking shitting me.?? the only thing in this country today that can make anyone equal is money. Oh and I forgot “white privilege”. which we both benefit from, that is why I think some people have different rights than others. I really don’t care at this point if you think my reasons are thoughtful or solid.

    Comment by JohnP.TrumpisnotmyPresident. — November 6, 2017 @ 6:02 pm

    • To boldly declare that one person or group gets to help itself to another’s legally owned property is controversial in a country that respects property rights. Backing it up with solid reasoning would gain you some measure of credibility. But hey, it’s a free country, and you’re allowed to rant unconvincingly all you like.

      Comment by dave — November 7, 2017 @ 6:38 am

  14. thank you Dave, I think we both “rant unconvincingly all we like”. that’s why you haven’t posted anything here that would remotely make me change my opinion on anything.

    Comment by JohnP.TrumpisnotmyPresident. — November 7, 2017 @ 8:12 am

  15. Dave, I still think that, but I have much more fun disagreeing with you, after all if I agree with you all the time i’d just be a sheep. Oh and I really do think that renters are getting a bum deal at this point.

    Comment by JohnP.TrumpisnotmyPresident. — November 7, 2017 @ 9:40 am

    • When rents in Alameda fell for a decade, or when rents in SF and the Peninsula fell by about 1/3 in the dot com bust, were the landlords getting a bum deal?

      What about home buyers? I haven’t seen any push to force home owners to sell below market.

      Many times in this debate I have bluntly asked if anyone would accept a legal cap on their raises, sell their home below market, and similar questions. Not once has anyone answered yes. But many have clamored for landlords to do just that. When asked why — repeatedly — the only answers given are tautologies and platitudes like “housing is different” (no it isn’t, it’s a commercial transaction like any other) or “it’s not fair” (did they think down markets were unfair to landlords?) or now you with “white privilege!”

      Not once have I received a rational answer, but for a minute there I was hoping you might have one.

      Comment by dave — November 7, 2017 @ 10:00 am

      • We set a floor on wages. We tax income. We restrict what people can do with their own property. There are lots of restrictions on property rights.

        It’s years since I plowed through the Two Treatises, but I don’t believe Locke (whom you reference) ever said property rights were sacred. Further, his argument for why property was legitimate (not sacred) was that it was the combination of human labor with a natural resource. I’m not sure what that means about inheritance. No serious political philosopher (the Rands, Ayn and Dr. Paul are not serious) argues for completely untrammeled property rights. They’re introduced as a theoretical case to anchor analysis (cf. perfect competition in economics).

        In any case, let’s drop the rhetorical silliness of calling property rights sacred. It leads to sterile debate. Instead discuss when and how they might be restricted. Is rent control good or bad? How does it relate to central-planning of property-use? And so on.

        Comment by BC — November 7, 2017 @ 12:04 pm

        • Taxes and zoning are broadly, even universally applied, with a stated public goal. Rent control is a targeted confiscation at a small, widely disliked, group, with the goal of benefiting one subset of recipients rather than society at large. Its purposes, motivations and executions are quite different from taxes & zoning.

          Property taxes on real estate are universally applied (though highly imperfect with P13 but that’s another subject entirely) and have a public goal, be that public safety, schools or any other example. Rent control is unequally applied and and does not have a public goal. It benefits only some while hurting many others, specifically landlords who suffer confiscation and future renters who get pinched by the resulting reductions in supply.

          But if you don’t think the right to property & to earn a livelihood is sacred, consider this question: How do you fell about a law that caps your raises, while still allowing them to fall? What if that law prevented you from taking a new job for better pay unless you paid a year’s salary in ransom to former employer? How about if that law said you could be fired anytime without compensation even though you couldn’t leave without paying up? And if the max raise you could receive even after ransom was only 5%?

          You wouldn’t take that lying down, nobody would. Why should housing providers? That is their livelihood, after all.

          Comment by dave — November 7, 2017 @ 12:35 pm

  16. This won’t finally resolve any philosophical debate, but it is funny you should mention Rand Paul and property rights today. From USA Today:

    “While there’s no official word on what caused the fight, Skaggs suggested it might have stemmed from Paul allegedly blowing lawn trimmings into his neighbor’s yard.
    There have been disagreements in the past, Skaggs said, over lawn clippings or who should cut down a tree branch when it stretched over a property line. The two men live on different streets but their lots join and their homes are 269 feet apart, according to Google Maps.
    “I think this is something that has been festering. I wanted to build a place where everyone could get along, but I guess that’s just impossible.”
    Jim Skaggs, developer of the Rivergreen gated community in Bowling Green
    Skaggs described Boucher as a “near-perfect” neighbor, but he said the libertarian politician is a different story.
    Paul “was probably the hardest person to encourage to follow the (homeowner’s association regulations) of anyone out here because he has a strong belief in property rights,” said Skaggs, who is the former chairman of the Warren County Republican Party.
    Skaggs noted the 13 pages of regulations are extensive. But even from the start of Paul’s residence in Rivergreen, Skaggs said Paul has been difficult to work with.
    “The major problem was getting the house plans approved,” Skaggs said. “He wanted to actually own the property rights and build any kind of house he wanted. He didn’t end up doing that, but it was a struggle.”

    Comment by MP — November 7, 2017 @ 3:39 pm

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