Renters Start Petition for Ballot Measure

 

Coalition to put rent protection before Alameda voters

The Alameda Renters Coalition (ARC) has begun a petition drive to collect the necessary 6,461 signatures to put its ballot Initiative — The Alameda Renter Protection and Community Stabilization Charter Amendment — on the November ballot. The coalition, which filed the initiative with the city on Feb. 29, is aiming to collect 9,000 signatures.  

ARC is attempting to use the ballot initiative to amend the City Charter in response to what it defines as “a crisis of mass evictions and average rent increases of more than 50 percent over a span of only four years.” (“Renters Turn up the Heat,” March 3).

The coalition began its signature drive last Saturday with more than 30 trained volunteers. “We are holding additional trainings every week. We plan to blanket the city. 

ARC dates back to founder Angela Hockabout’s getting priced out of her rental home in 2013 with a $450 per month rent increase. She felt like she had nowhere to turn, so she founded the coalition to help provide information and moral support for renters experiencing similar crises and to advocate for renters’ needs.

Almost overnight, Hockabout’s coalition became a central player in the debate over rising rents with a hotline for renters in crisis, connections to services and the real estate community, as well as a Facebook page to discuss rents issues. 

“The Alameda Renters Coalition began when renters looking for support on Alameda-related Facebook groups found only trolls and landlords,” ARC says on its website. 

The members of the newly formed organization “saw a need for an online meeting place for renters only to get support and resources in an immediate fashion from those who have endured tenant-landlord difficulties. In its first three months the group grew from three to nearly 250 members.

The coalition saw a need to amend the City Charter. The City Council recently drafted and approved a rental ordinance. The coalition, however, has taken issue with some of its clauses. For example, the coalition is calling for rent increases that are tied to a relevant measure of inflation. ARC objects to the city ordinance because it places no cap on rent increases, but initiates a review process when a rent increase is more than 5 percent.

The amendment, now in its signature-gathering stage, would force landlords to tie rent increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), rather than raising rents on a percentage basis. “We have consistently called for a rent cap at 65 percent of the Bay Area CPI, in line with numerous other California cities,” the coalition stated in a commentary that appeared in two parts in the Alameda Sun (“Renters Weigh in on Recent City Ordinances,” Feb. 11 and 18).

Further the coalition is calling for a law that would apply to all rental units — from two-unit rental properties to larger buildings and complexes, including those specifically exempted by state law, like single-family homes.

ARC takes exception to a relocation benefit exemption for “mom-and-pop” property owners who own 4,648 or 28 percent of Alameda’s rental housing. 
“An exemption for these landlords will create a large separate group of tenants deprived of benefits available to other tenants,” ARC stated in the commentary. “This outcome would have the opposite effect of a tenant protection.”

The coalition also points out that the new ordinance “subjects renters, once again, to the threat of no-cause evictions. ARC also objects to what it calls a “poison pill” in the ordinance that allows landlords to escape all eviction controls by simply issuing a fixed-term lease.

The amendment proposed in the ballot initiative looks to Santa Monica’s 37-year-old rent control ordinance for inspiration. ARC modified and added to that ordinance and crafted one that fit Alameda’s circumstances.

ARC is also looking to the community for financial support. “People have been very generous and we have more than $3,000 in donations so far,” said the coalition’s fundraising director Monty Heying, ARC has set up a “gofund-me page at www.gofundme.com/alameda-renters.