Showdown on No-Cause Brews
On June 26, “Alamedans in Charge for a Fair and Affordable City,” (AIC) a group representing some landlords in the city, turned in a petition to City Clerk Lara Weisiger’s office. The petition aims to restore the no-cause provision that the City Council deleted from rent Ordinance 3148 on June 6. The landlord group filed the petition with 7,491 signatures. The Alameda County Registrar of Voters (ROV) has 60 days from the date of filing — Thursday, Aug. 25 — to verify that 4,808 — a number equaling 10 percent of the city’s registered voters — of those signatures are valid.
This verification would bring a pair of questions before the voters in November 2018: Should the City keep the no-cause provision in Ordinance 3148 as the voters approved on Nov. 8, 2016? Should the City remove the no-cause provision from the ordinance, leaving only a just-cause provision as the Council approved on June 6?
A no-cause provision permits landlords to evict tenants without stating any reasons. Landlords use this type of eviction to force unlawful tenants from their premises. They say that using no-cause evictions allows them to evict tenants engaged in illegal activity without taking legal action against those tenants.
A just-cause provision requires that, when evicting tenants, landlords provide a reason. City ordinances typically spell out the just causes. The Ordinance 3148 that voters approved and the Council amended both have just-cause eviction provisions with 10 reasons that mostly involve violating the lease and would likely be resolved in court.
The Council put Ordinance 3148 with the no-cause provision in the books in May 2016. The City then placed the ordinance before the voters on the Nov. 8, 2016, ballot as Measure L1. Fifty-five percent of Alameda voters said “yes” to the measure.
Then, in May, the Council subjected Ordinance 3148 to its annual review. Councilmembers first discussed, and then on June 6, voted 3-2 to approve revisions in the ordinance. Vice-Mayor Malia Vella and Councilmembers Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Jim Oddie voted “yes”; Mayor Trish Spencer and Councilmember Frank Matarrese voted “no.” One of the revisions rid the ordinance of language permitting no-cause evictions.
Almost immediately AIC began its petition drive, eventually gathering 2,683 more signatures than required to overturn the Council’s decision and place the matter on the November 2018 ballot. The matter now rests in the hands of the ROV office that will verify the signatures.
If the ROV office verifies 4,808 valid signatures, the City will place the June 6 ordinance on hold and put the matter before the voters. If AIC fails to obtain enough verified signatures, the ordinance with the Council’s changes will take effect.
AIC spokesperson Joe LoParo said the change disallowing no-cause evictions deprives landlords of the flexibility they need when they are forced to deal with problem tenants. Renters say the just-cause evictions prevent landlords from evicting them without notice or reason.
LoParo said that the Council ignored the will of the voters when three of its members voted to make that change. He predicted that the ROV will verify sufficient signatures, blocking the June 6 Council vote from taking effect. He also said that the voters will respond in November 2018 and put language in the City Charter to allow no-cause eviction.
“The original 3148 was fair to both sides,” said LoParo. “It discouraged evictions and took away all financial incentives to evict tenants.”
LoParo said that with 14,899 rental properties in Alameda, there have been just seven no-cause evictions: one owner move-in and six dealing with owners selling the properties.
“The city seems to want to provide renters with life estates,” he said. He pointed to the Democratic Party involvement in the issue. “Rob Bonta wants to rid Ordinance 3148 of no-cause evictions,” LoParo said. He cited the Assemblyman (and former Vice-mayor’s) participation in a robo-call advocating this very idea. LoParo noted the Alameda County Democratic Party’s tacit participation in the May 5 Council meeting with its members sitting in the front row in the Council Chambers.
AIC will soon seek voters’ signatures on a petition that would place no-cause evictions on the City Charter and out of the reach of the Council.