Thank You, Dem Club

 

When I read last week’s letter to the editor from the City of Alameda Democratic Club’s Co-­President Gabrielle “Gaby” Dolphin, (“Hoping cooler heads prevail in housing crisis,” July 5) I was so pleased and humbled. First, I want to thank the club for recognizing my efforts to get the word out that the City of Alameda has implemented renter protections that allow all renters to challenge a rent increase of any amount, grants the Rent Review Advisory Committee (RRAC) the authority to issue binding and enforceable decisions for residents living in non-exempt units and facing rent increases more than 5 percent. It also requires property owners to pay relocation assistance when a resident in good standing is asked to vacate the unit, and caps the rent on these units to no more than 5 percent on the next resident. Thanks to these provisions, the number of residents facing large rent increases has dropped, and the incentive to terminate residents in order to raise rents has all but vanished.

I would like to alleviate the club’s big concerns about “the ‘Wall Street crowd’ and the ability of the RRAC to effectively protect tenants caught in the crossfire of international developers ...” The vast majority of the rental properties in Alameda are owned by individuals, couples, family trusts and small closely held partnerships. Alameda does have a limited number of large complexes like the Beach and Tennis Club and Summerhouse, which are owned by large corporations. However, the City’s Rent Stabilization and Limitations on Evictions Ordinance applies equally to both small and large, property owners, and the RRACs procedures and enforcement provisions are not diminished by who the owner is or the size of the property.

The club’s characterization of “A war chest of millions is being amassed to be used in a firestorm of negative political ads” may be overstating the dollars. According to Steve Tavares, a local journalist who wrote in the July 6 issue of Alameda Magazine, “Landlords who own property in Alameda have raised a whopping $350,000 ...” He also confirmed that the money being contributed to the campaign came from individuals or companies that owned property in Alameda. His list did not contain the names of any international developers.

Most important, I want to clear up any confusion regarding my role as a member of the RRAC. The club’s suggestion that because I am a “director of RRAC” (actually I am the current chair) and that is a factor that puts me “in a unique position to carry an olive branch” is misplaced. The sole role of a RRAC member is to try and bring residents and housing providers together with the goal of having the parties develop their own mutually beneficial resolution. If the parties are not able to resolve the dispute, then it is the duty of each committee member to determine a “fair resolution.”

My only purpose for being on the RRAC was the desire to bring more than 15 years of mediation experience to the process in hopes of having the parties resolve their own disputes by better understanding and empathizing with the needs of the other party and the impact their action is having on the other party. Additionally, my experience as a litigator, hearing officer and pro-tem judge would contribute to the committee’s objective of making a recommendation that would be a fair resolution to the dispute.

I am humbled by the club’s recognition of my efforts as a private member of our community to get the word out about the City’s rent provisions and as a legal professional in providing no-charge assistance and advice to those Alameda residents in need of support and guidance. I want to extend a heartfelt thank you! I am honored by the acknowledgement. In regards to the club’s request to “broker a truce” regarding the upcoming election, I will give this serious consideration and respond in the coming weeks.

 

Jeff Cambra is an Alameda-based mediator and attorney.