City Attempt at Rent Solution Leaves Much to be Desired

The passage of Ordinance 3148: A Rent Stabilization and Limitations on Evictions Ordinance has brought turmoil and unrest to the provincial city of Alameda. Tenants dislike the “no fixed cap” clause that allows landlords to raise rents as much as they please. Landlords resent the new ordinance’s paperwork and the costs and requirements Ordinance 3148 foists on them. 

Tenants insist that the ordinance should have tied rent increases to the Consumer Price Index, instead it lets the market find the cost of renting a home or apartment here. And the market all across the Bay Area has not been kind to renters.

The appearance of carpetbaggers on the scene has stirred the pot. Both the renters and the landlords have either hired or invited outsiders onto the Island City for help: people with no appreciation for Alameda’s mom-and-pop provinciality. We must not forget that an out-of-town landlord’s unreasonably raising rent sparked the turn of events that led to the ordinance’s passage. The anger on the renters’ side erupted into bloodshed and injury at City Hall. 

The Alameda Renters Coalition (ARC), which is backing the renters’ new ordinance, is crying foul. It entitled the ordinance “The Alameda Renter Protection and Community Stabilization Charter Amendment.” The city released the ordinance with the new title:  “A Proposed City of Alameda Charter Amendment to Establish Rent Control, a Rent Control Board, and Regulate Termination of Tenancies.”

ARC pointed out on its website that the city changed the title, adding the words “rent control” twice. ARC states that this is a move “intended to scare people.” 

Councilman Tony Daysog recently announced that he has taken steps to assuage the burden the ordinance has placed on those mom-and-pop landlords. (See story on page one.)

Some landlords call the requirements that the new ordinance puts on their backs cumbersome and costly. For example the ordinance is requiring landlords pay to provide each and every tenant with paperwork that is readily available to everyone online like a copy of the ordinance itself. They also point to consequences of such an ordinance, particularly on small owners, something that Daysog is addressing in his proposed ordinance. 

In addition the ordinance requires a staff to oversee all its tenets. Some of this money will come from the General Fund and some will come from the landlords on a yet-to-be-determined per door tax. 

The Alameda Housing Authority is currently offering “educational workshops available to the public to “assist landlords, tenants and the community in understanding their rights and complying with the new ordinance.” This sounds like a great idea. However there are several incommodious stipulations attached to these meetings. The first requires registration to attend, no walk-ins are allowed. What other public meetings require registration? What’s next? Registering residents to attend City Council meetings? 

Secondly the housing authority seemingly has no consideration for landlords and tenants with those pesky day jobs. It has scheduled every separate tenant and landlord workshop during regular work hours. There are evening workshops, but they are open to both tenants and landlords. The housing authority has a short memory of what happened at City Hall when the two sides shared the same room. 

The housing authoring also informs the public that these meetings are subject to cancellation. So a landlord, tenant or community member signs up to attend a meeting, takes a day off work, or cancels other plans for the evening, hires a baby sitter so he or she can attend a meeting. Then that person gets an email or, worse, shows up for a meeting only to learn the Alameda Housing Authority has canceled the gathering.

The housing authority also warns on its website that the meeting’s location is subject to change. Imagine people coming to City Hall to attend a City Council meeting only to see a sign that says, “This evening’s City Council meeting has been moved to City Hall West.” 

The Alameda Housing Authority must understand that, with these meetings, it is conducting the public’s business. The authority must hold these public meetings at the scheduled times and in the scheduled place, Independence Plaza. 

The housing authority must also hold meetings not at its convenience, but at the convenience of landlords and tenants with those aforementioned irksome day jobs. Further no public meetings should ever require those who want to attend sign up on Eventbrite. The authority should leave that for events currently on the Eventbrite like the Northern California Pirate Festival. (See page 1 for a schedule of upcoming housing authority meetings.) The city does not require residents to sign up for other public meetings. The housing authority must follow suit.