Landlords Must Think Before They Act

As a longtime Alameda resident and property owner, I’ve watched with great sadness what is happening in our community as the housing crisis worsens in the Bay Area. It is unfair to take advantage of market shifts by disrupting tenants, especially the disadvantaged and elderly. I encourage all property owners to consider the vulnerability of some of our Alameda renters and think before you act. I also encourage those who purport to represent the interest of renters to work with property owners to negotiate and mediate disputes. 
The mass evictions at 470 Central Ave. (“Landlords Sneak in under Moratorium” Nov. 19) are a result of bad timing, poor communication and thoughtlessness on the part of the property owner. It seems the owner acted out of panic, rather than considering an approach that would be best for residents today and in the future.
Much of this heartache could have been avoided if the owner had just taken the time to reach out and talk with individual tenants about planned renovations and agreed upon a reasonable timeline, rather than delivering blanket notices just days after the city issued a moratorium on rent increases.
Now, it seems, the residents of 470 Central Ave. will not engage in a discussion with the property owner, and the city of Alameda feels forced to intervene to reach a solution. 
Over the past two years, Jeff Cambra has personally worked with owners and tenants alike to resolve rental disputes in advance of Rent Review Advisory Committee (RRAC) hearings. Jeff, an attorney trained in mediation, has been hugely successful in the volunteer work he has done.
Most recently, he spearheaded an effort to resolve disputes between more than a dozen residents and the owner at 2019 Shore Line Drive. Today, he has been excluded from trying to mediate at 470 Central. 
Mediation works. Owners sitting down with residents are the first step toward resolution. This should be done swiftly to avoid prolonged stress. If that fails, the issue should be brought before the RRAC. This process should be free from any outside influence, especially by owner or tenant groups that may have a political agenda.
Sadly, I’m afraid it’s too late for 470 Central. But it is not too late for our community to continue to work things out. We do not need shouting, or name-calling, or using force to disrupt City meetings. This is not the Alameda that I know.
Alameda needs effective regulations that include protection for residents from excessive double digit rent increases and unfair evictions. Owners should not be allowed to evict a sitting tenant for the sole purpose of raising the rent on the next resident.
I believe the Rental Review Advisory Commission (RRAC) is the answer. It allows Alamedans to do what we have always done — work together to come to fair solutions. Yes the RRAC needs to be strengthened and monitored by the City Council and the community. And yes, we need real data to determine if it accomplishes its mission of assisting owners and residents of Alameda. 
Let’s make it better before we throw out a process that can help our city avoid unnecessary antagonism between our neighbors. 
Alameda tenants and property owners can work together to manage rent increases, as they have for decades of up and down economic periods. 
Let’s not make the mistake that we have seen neighboring cities make where rent control divides owners and tenants into warring camps. Let’s do what we do best. Let us work together and build a RRAC that works!
Other property owners, long-time Alameda residents who care about this community like I do, are committed to working with tenants, the RRAC, the city, and our neighbors, to collaboratively resolve disputes and reach reasonable compromises. 
I am a founding member of Alamedans for Fair Rents (AfFR), a community-based organization of property owners and managers dedicated to keeping rents in Alameda sustainable and fair. Working together, AfFR will advocate for reasonable and appropriate protections to preserve the quality of our community for neighbors and other residents.