Jon Spangler lives in Alameda.
The Alameda Renters Coalition (ARC) began as and remains a local grassroots organization, despite false allegations to the contrary that often appear in local anti-renter letters to the editor and commentaries.
One recent commentary (“Let’s Not Repeat Failed Rental Policy,” Aug. 25), repeats two frequent but false claims about the ARC’s funding. Previous letter and op-ed authors have claimed — also falsely — that “outside agitators” somehow stirred up Alameda’s renters and turned us against local landlords. Neither set of allegations is correct.
The self-funded ARC was born when Alameda renters faced a flood of successive and steep “market rate” rent increases in recent years. When landlords imposed repeated rent increases (some out-of-town and corporate landlords raised rents by 20-35 percent), neither local landlords nor city officials offered meaningful responses.
Unbridled rent increases outstripped workers’ and retirees’ stagnant incomes and drove longtime renters off the island, seriously destabilizing Alameda’s families, neighborhoods, schools and workplaces. No one was helping renters, so we began helping each other.
Local resident and mom Angela Palatto Hockabout started the ARC with a Facebook page in 2014 — after their landlord raised the rent 20 percent and her family could not find safe, affordable rental housing.
She wanted to assist and support other renters who faced housing crises when rents increased dramatically while incomes remained static. Angela hosted ARC’s first meetings in the living room of her mother-in-law’s home, where her family had found refuge.
In early 2015, the city-blessed “dialogue” between renters and landlords failed when landlords would not even discuss rent stabilization with renters and insisted on maintaining 10 per cent annual rent increases. In desperation, the ARC began examining many cities’ rent regulations.
In Angela’s living room, some 20 ARC members — all Alameda renters and residents like me—decided that we needed help to fight continuing and stiff rent increases (up to 35 per cent/year). We literally passed the hat to join Tenants Together, “California’s only statewide renters’ rights organization,” in 2015. Tenants Together never provided funding to ARC — only legal and technical assistance to craft our successful 2016 petition initiative, which will appear as Measure M1 on the November ballot.
In her opinion piece, Realtor Karen Miller incorrectly stated that “…outside money has in fact funded their efforts” and “the ARC is being funded by one of the largest tenant groups in the State of California.”
These oft-repeated claims are largely incorrect: the ARC began in 2014 as a member-financed local grassroots organization comprised of Alameda residents and renters like me, with no funding or influence from outside Alameda.
Today, with more than 1,400 members, ARC is still run by and for Alameda residents, with minimal off-Island membership or income. Outside money and organizations have never influenced ARC decisions.
I hope in that the future, Karen Miller and other local landlords will be more honest and careful with the truth about the grassroots, homegrown, and locally funded Alameda Renters Coalition — even if they disagree with us.
Jon Spangler lives in Alameda.