The Alameda City Council has imposed a temporary limit on rent increases and “no cause” evictions while it considers stronger measures to aid tenants.

The seven-hour meeting drew a big, emotional crowd of renters and landlords. Property owners managed to grab virtually all of the seats in the council chamber before the meeting began, leading to angry chants from tenants forced to stand in a hallway outside or follow the session on a TV set up in the City Hall lobby.

Alameda police arrested two men, including one — pictured above — who suffered a bloody nose as officers tried to detain him.

In the end, the council adopted an urgency ordinance that would bar rent increases of 8 percent or more for the next 65 days. Landlords will also be prohibited from evicting tenants without cause during that time.

In the meantime, the council will consider changes to Alameda’s mild tenant protections. Under the current system, tenants can appeal rent increases to the city’s Rent Review Advisory Committee. The panel can mediate between the parties and issue a recommendation after hearing from both sides, but landlords are not required to comply.

The issue has come to a head for several reasons, including the city’s strict (and now rescinded) limits on developing multifamily housing. As in cities throughout the central Bay Area, Alameda is also seeing rent increases that far outstrip tenants’ incomes. An outside consultant’s report found that the median income for tenant households has grown 29 percent since 2000, while rents have increased by 54 percent.

The City Council is considering a range of actions, including imposing some form of rent control and ending evictions without cause. Here are highlights of Wednesday’s debate, by way of Peter Hegarty of the Bay Area News Group:

Councilman Frank Matarrese wanted the moratorium, which will take effect immediately, to cover all rent increases. But Councilman Tony Daysog said that would hurt landlords who treat tenants fairly.

“I see no reason to penalize the small ‘mom and pop’ landlords who have done their part to make Alameda great,” Daysog said. “And I think tenants see that, too.” …

… “There is an economic expulsion happening here,” said Laura Thomas of Renewed Hope Housing Advocates, which promotes the development of affordable housing in the Bay Area. “It’s probably one of the most serious things that has happened in the 30 years that I have lived here.”

Restricting rent increases will protect renters from predatory landlords, Duane Moles said.

Karen Bey has been a landlord for 35 years. “Rent control does not work,” said Bey, who noted rents are climbing in Oakland and San Francisco, despite restrictions in place.

“I don’t want to see the moratorium or any rent control,” said Karin Lucas, a landlord in Alameda for 40 years who keeps her rents below market-rate. “I feel that it would interfere with my relationships with my tenants.”

Alameda Council Imposes Temporary Limits on Rent Hikes, Evictions 5 November,2015Dan Brekke

  • In a followup interview Thursday with the local NBC news station, Mayor Spencer says that noisy renters were not following “protocol.” Well, neither were the landlords who paid others to occupy seats for them in order to keep renters–who are largely working people–out of the deliberations entirely. (And I have my questions about whether the public comments portion of the meeting was chaired “properly,” too. ) There were several people who witnessed the paid “seat occupiers” leaving as well as landlords snickering about their successful “dirty tricks”–before the altercations in the hallway.

    It seems that the property owners–who already have all the power over renters in Alameda without any rent stabilization laws in place–want to continue to control the political process and keep fairness out of Alameda’s rental market. (Heaven forbid that there be minimal protections against renters being evicted unfairly or against rents going up 20 to 35 per cent in successive years.)

    I know that many of the landlords who did come Wednesday night had never been in the City Council Chambers before that meeting or participated in their city’s governance, unlike some of us who have attended city meetings regularly for 10-15 years. Perhaps the landlords can be “forgiven” for thinking that they already owned all of the seats in the Council Chambers by Divine Right of Landlordship?

  • John Klein

    Karin Lucas is a piece of work. You see a kindly older woman speaking as an innocuous, small landlord. In reality, she’s a long-time political player in Alameda including three terms on the city council, former chair of Alameda’s public utilities board and an attorney. Now, she sits on Alameda’s Rent Review Advisory Committee, a committee stacked by the mayor with attorneys and real estate professionals. She should be ashamed of herself.


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area’s transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED’s comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

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