The Protect Oakland Renters campaign to strengthen protections against illegal rent increases and evictions entered the home stretch this weekend. Supporters and volunteers gathered at the Lake Merritt colonnades Saturday morning to the (awesome!) beats of SambaFunk for a campaign kickoff.
Volunteers headed off to spread the word among local business owners and merchants in along Grand and Lakeshore, dozens of whom enthusiastically displayed window signs supporting Measure JJ. Thanks to all our incredible, community-minded small merchants and amazing volunteers! Check out the highlights here!
Of course, this is just the beginning! Election Day is November 8 and vote by mail starts in October. JOIN US TO PROTECT OAKLAND RENTERS IN 2016!
Citing escalating rents that tenant advocates call a threat to Oakland’s character, the City Council threw its support Wednesday behind a November ballot measure that would limit property owners’ ability to charge more and carry out evictions.
The council voted unanimously to approve the measure, which was introduced by Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, after a four-hour debate that began Tuesday evening and ended well after midnight.
Some of the more than 300 people who addressed the council grew tearful as they described their fear that they could be forced out of longtime homes. Some landlords grew equally emotional as they complained that they were being vilified for trying to make an honest living.
Soaring rents have become a raw topic in Oakland, a traditionally working-class city that is seeing the first inklings of an economic boom as commercial projects sprout up and Uber prepares to open its new headquarters downtown.
At the same meeting, the council voted 7-0 to pass a companion ordinance to the ballot measure that will take effect immediately. Councilwoman Desley Brooksabstained from voting on the measure, which was proposed by council members Dan Kalb, Abel Guillen and Lynette Gibson McElhaney.
Burden on landlords
Both the ballot measure and the new ordinance require property owners to petition the city for approval of certain rent increases. Oakland’s current laws put the burden on tenants to petition against rent hikes that exceed the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index, which last year was 1.7 percent. The new laws would instead put the burden on landlords to prove that such increases are justified.
“I’ve seen people put in situations where families had to double or triple up in apartments just to afford to live in the cities that they work in,” said Mia Carbajal, a housing activist who grew up in San Francisco’s Mission District, where she said her family faced many of the insecurities now being felt by lower-income Oakland residents.
Some landlords pledged support for the new rent protections, calling them justifiable. Several, including public-school teacher and property ownerStephanie Schaudel, held signs with the slogan, “Don’t trick tenants.”
But others said the new law and ballot measure will unfairly penalize mom-and-pop landlords who have little control over Oakland’s economic fortunes. Some opponents such as Doug Sager, president of the Oakland-Berkeley Association of Realtors, said stronger rent protections could have an adverse effect on Oakland’s rental market by driving small landlords out of business.
“My small-property-owner clients are hard-working folks that have built sweat equity into retiring on a rental income,” Sager said. “Sadly, the distaste for doing business in Oakland has become more and more unbearable. What’s the result? Less rentals and a more unstable market.”
In addition to the landlord petitioning requirement, the ballot measure and new ordinance each include several tenant protections.
The Renters Protection Act ballot measure would expand the city’s just-cause eviction law to multiunit buildings constructed through 1995, meaning that owners of those buildings could evict tenants only for violating the terms of a lease, or by virtue of the state Ellis Act, which allows landlords to leave the rental business. The city’s current law applies only to buildings constructed before 1981.
The new ordinance will limit the amount that property owners can charge their tenants for capital improvements to a building. It will also require buyers of duplexes and triplexes to live in their buildings for at least two years before those buildings are exempt from rent control.
State law exceptions
Neither law would apply to rents on single-family homes or buildings constructed after 1983, which are exempted under a state law that restricts local rent controls.
Kalb said both measures were designed to rein in a small pool of venal landlords.
“By and large, most landlords neither abuse their tenants nor impose unfair rent increases,” Kalb said. “Nevertheless, given the incentive they have to raise rents, and the fact that there are some unscrupulous landlords, we have a strong incentive to enforce tenant protections.”
Schaudel, the schoolteacher and property owner who supports both measures, said they would help maintain Oakland’s diversity.
“Currently we’re seeing a bleeding — a mass exodus — of people all throughout” the Bay Area, Schaudel said. “And the lack of renter protections has everything to do with that.”
Urge City Council to place Kaplan’s Renter Protection Act of 2016 on the November ballot
Tuesday July 19.
After weeks of testimony at City Council meetings of exorbitant rent increases, cruel evictions, and neighborhood disrupting displacement, on April 5, with over 600 residents crowding City Hall, Oakland's City Council finally adopted a 90-day moratorium. The moratorium resolution clearly requires the City to enact programs and policies that will decrease the displacement crisis but the moratorium has now ended and Oakland tenants are again without lasting and strong protections.
The current displacement crisis is not confined to lower income residents, but extends to working families, students, teachers, firefighters, union members and postal workers. Oakland's prized diversity is being seriously dismantled. In the 2000 to 2010 decade, over 25,000 Black residents of Oakland's had been pushed out, dropping from 42% to less than 22% of the city's population. In addition, over 17% of school-age children and their families had also departed Oakland. While the hemorrhaging continues, the disregard of city council to the displacement crisis is painfully apparent. As the moratorium ends, only one of the community's 13 proposed actions -- to require owners, not tenants, to file petitions to increase rent above the inflation rate -- is under discussion, however, nothing has been adopted. It is long past time that City Council must make the displacement crisis a priority and install real, lasting, and permanent tenant protections.
To protect Oakland's workforce and the many residents who help make Oakland the beloved city that it is, the City Council must approve for the November ballot Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s Renter Protection Act of 2016. Councilmember Kaplan’s proposed measure includes real tenant protections, while also assuring rental owners a fair and decent profit. Only a ballot measure can securely establish the tenant protections our City needs for decades to come. Oakland tenants must not again be at the mercy of future City Councils who may be easily influenced to weaken or eliminate just and equitable tenant legislation.
There is no question that Oakland’s current tenant-activated rent program is a mistake. No rationale exists to support the present rent law that requires tenants to petition against unlawful actions of the rental owner, otherwise those actions -- no matter how egregious -- become permanent and can never be challenged.
Last year proved conclusively that Oakland's faulty rent law was incapable of processing petitions from just 1 percent of Oakland tenants. A 1/2% increase in tenant petitions overwhelmed program staff and literally brought the ill-begotten program to a halt. The disaster of 2015 would be even worse if Oakland's 64,000 tenants in program units only knew of their right to petition against unlawful rent increases and no-cause evictions.
Every other city in California with a rent control program requires landlords to petition if they can justify increasing rents above the inflation threshold. These cities see only a fraction of the petition filings Oakland receives, and their systems work much more efficiently. Example: in 2015, Berkeley received only 28 landlord petitions , while the number of tenant petitions in Oakland exceeded 900. It is past time that Oakland must correct this wrong-way process.
In the continuing "hot" Bay Area real estate market, Oakland tenants also need protections against owners who use arbitrary evictions as a tactic to empty rental units to make way for new tenants escaping San Francisco, who can pay much higher rent. Extending "Just Cause" eviction protection to all tenants, or as many as politically possible, is only right, and will help assure that more Oakland teachers, families, elderly, and workforce households will not be unfairly thrown from their homes.
The Moratorium on Oakland rents and arbitrary evictions ended July 5. The City Council must uphold its promise to the people to put permanent tenant protections in place. Councilmember Kaplan has worked closely with the Protect Oakland Renters Coalition to include the Coalition's priorities in a measure that should now go to the voters.
It is the people that make Oakland creative, unique, and much beloved. The City Council must not allow the "soul" of our City to be displaced. The message that must be shouted -- loud and clear -- to the City Council is: "Let The Voters Decide".
All Oakland residents must turn out to the Council meeting, Tuesday, July 19, to convince policymakers that they must approve the Kaplan proposal for the November ballot.
While a coalition of Oakland housing rights groups gathers signatures for the Protect Oakland Renters Initiative, our elected officials drag their feet.
The Protect Oakland Renters Initiative is a proposed ballot measure to strengthen and expand Oakland's existing anti-eviction and renter protection laws in the face of overwhelming displacement pressure for Oakland renters and communities.
After passing a 90-day moratorium on some rent increases, the Council is supposed to consider many Protect Oakland Renters provisions, like an absolute cap on rent increases, a tenant-majority Rent Board, and placing the burden on landlords to comply with the law.
This week, though, Council put off consideration of these changes to late May, meaning the Protect Oakland Renters coalition will need continue a gathering signatures for the November ballot even though our elected officials could enact these long-overdue protections right now if they chose.
Two Days After Passing Moratorium, Council Stalls Rent Protection Vote - Post News (4/8/16)
Only renters in units built before 1983 will have the extra protections for rent increases and no cause evictions during the 90-day period that began April 5.
After months of campaigning by housing rights activists the Oakland City Council enacted a 90-day "moratorium" provision that limits rent increases for Oakland tenants in units built before 1983 to the current inflation rate of 1.7% per year. Landlords can petition to the Rent Board for an exception on "fair return" grounds but tenants are entitled to notification and a public hearing. The "moratorium" also reaffirms the City's Just Cause Eviction ordinance and requires that any Notice to Vacate cite a specific legitimate reason for eviction to be valid.
Find out what it means for Oakland Renters
More coverage here:
City Council Declares Oakland Housing State of Emergency (Oakland Post 4/7/16)
Check out Richard Walker's piece on the factors at play in the Bay Area's housing crisis.
Why is There a Housing Crisis? (East Bay Express 3/23/16)
Coalition will push 3 ballot measures for police accountability, tenant protections, and a living wage
Today the Oakland Justice Coalition announced our endorsement of three ballot measures for 2016: the Protect Oakland Tenants Initiative, sponsored by Oakland Tenants Union and the Citywide Development Network, the charter amendment to create a police commission sponsored by the Coalition for Police Accountability, and the measure to establish a $20 minimum wage by 2020 and enforce fair scheduling regulations from the Oakland Livable Wage Assembly.
Our growing coalition now includes the Oakland Tenants Union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, the Oakland Education Association, the Anti Police-Terror Project,Block by Block Organizing Network, the Coalition for Police Accountability, theCommunity Democracy Project, the Oakland Green Party, the Oakland Alliance, the Oakland Livable Wage Assembly, and Socialist Alternative.
We also announced our intention to raise and spend at least $100,000 in the 2016 Oakland elections to hire signature gatherers directly from disenfranchised communities. This community-led signature gathering program will create jobs paying $20 per hour and provide invaluable campaign experience for workers. The Oakland Justice Coalition will use this campaign as a laboratory to develop a replicable model for future initiative campaigns, changing the calculus of what is possible to achieve through direct democracy in Oakland and beyond.
Help us spread the word by sharing this email with your networks, and helping us amplify our message on Facebook and Twitter.
More: Oakland Justice Coalition: Election 2016
On Friday, activists shut down an annual Economic Development Summit in Oakland to demand action on the city's out-of-control housing crisis, including the declaration of a housing state of emergency and a moratorium on no-fault evictions.
A "Moratorium Resolution" will be heard and acted on by City Council at the Council's April 5 meeting. This agenda item will begin at approximately 7:30, but it's best to check the Council's calendar here two weeks beforehand when the agenda is posted:
All are encouraged to spread the word, call or email councilmembers, attend and build a huge attendance at the April 5 meeting. A rally in City Hall Plaza is being planned to take place before the Council meeting.
To sign up online to speak when the item number is released, access Speaker Cards here
To contact councilmembers, firstname.lastname@example.org goes to all council members.
Community Presses City Council to Call Housing State of Emergency (Post News) - 3/21/16
Activists from Black Power Network Shut Down Economic Development Summit (brokeassstuart.com) - 3/18/16
A community-authored initiative to strengthen renters' rights in Oakland was filed with the City Clerk Thursday, and hopes to appear on the November 2016 ballot.
“On behalf of the many Oaklanders who have struggled for over thirty years with the abuses of the city's landlord-written ordinance, this is a proud day to finally begin the process of qualifying a real rent control measure that will ensure justice and fairness for tenants." This was the reaction of James Vann, Oakland Tenants Union co-founder, referring to the Renters Upgrade Initiative that was filed with the Oakland City Clerk on March 3 by a citywide network of housing and social justice advocates.
The measure would extend protections under the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance to thousands more Oakland rental units, implement the currently un-enforced Tenant Protection Ordinance, and reform the existing Rent Adjustment Program (Oakland's weak substitute for rent control) to make it much harder for landlords to raise rents above the rate of inflation, place an absolute 5% per year cap on rent increases, cover more rental units under rent control, and ensure a tenant-majority Rent Board, among other improvements.
Along with OTU, other organizations championing the measure include Causa Justa :: Just Cause, Alliance of California for Community Empowerment Action (ACCE), East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), Oakland Community Organizations, Oakland Rising, and the California Nurses Association and SEIU Local 1021.
While Mayor Schaaf announced her own housing plan on Thursday that focusses mostly on increasing the production of new affordable housing units, the Renters Upgrade Initiative would go much, much further than the Mayor's plan in providing immediate relief to Oakland renters facing evictions, landlord abuse, and impossible rent increases. While housing advocates attempted to work with the Mayor's "Housing Cabinet" last year to include many of the renter protection and anti-displacement provisions of the Upgrade Initiative into the Mayor's plan, these efforts were largely disregarded by the Mayor and the Councilmembers involved in the process. The Mayor's minimal attention to urgently needed anti-displacement measures in her plan only demonstrates the critical importance of a citizen-led ballot initiative for renters' rights that is not beholden to real estate interests.
The Oakland City Attorney now has 15 days to review the the measure and prepare a ballot title and summary before the City Clerk can issue a Notice of Intent to Circulate a Petition. Organizers will then have until June to collect enough certified signatures to place the Renters Upgrade Initiative on the November 2016 ballot, when voters will finally have a chance to enact meaningful protections to keep Oakland renters in their homes and communities.
Oakland Tenant Advocates File Ballot Initiative to Strengthen Rent Control and Eviction Protections (East Bay Express) - 3/3/16
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf Unveils Ambitious Plan for Housing Affordability (East Bay Express) - 3/3/16
The following is a recap of the February 23 Rent Board hearing on a proposed increase in the Rent Adjustment Program (RAP) fee, which tenant advocates believe is actually passed on to renters. For more on the fee increase see: Council Drops Fee Increase, After Outcry
Note: The fee increase proposal is currently scheduled to be heard before the City Council’s Finance & Management Committee on Tuesday March 22 at 9:30am. That date may change, so renters interested in speaking out against the fee increase should look out for the the meeting agenda & reports which are typically posted 10 days before the meeting. Renters need to call, write and more importantly appear in person to express their demand that there be NO fee increase.
RAP Hearing Recap, February 23:
An estimated 30 landlords appeared, while 3 renters appeared. Also in attendance were employees of the East Bay Rental Housing Association (a rentier group), the RAP program manager, the City Attorney’s staff member designated for the RAP, two hearing officers, and a low-key presence by staff member of the City Auditor. At the prompting of renters, there is an audit being conducted of this self-supporting program – self-supported by renters...
The Role of State and Federal Governments in Today's Rental, Displacement, and Affordable Housing Crises
Part III of a series published in the Oakland Post by OTU co-founder, James Vann.
Oakland's long standing rental and affordable housing crises continue to be locally neglected. And to the shame of local policymakers, the accessible actions detailed in the two preceding installments remain unmentioned.
On its own, the market does not produce either renter protections, affordable housing, nor stem displacement; only governments perform these functions. On its own, the market will not provide housing to meet the growing needs of lower income households which, over time, are the overwhelming share of residents. Competition for scarce available units drives up prices and, in addition, creates greater homelessness, overcrowding, displacement, and other problems associated with not having sufficient rentals and construction of new affordable housing. Oakland badly misinterprets its purpose in repeat announcements that it is the City's responsibility to assure a steady supply of market housing. Without any help from the City, the market will provide expensive market housing. Alternately, unless the City steps forward, there is no one to provide critically needed affordable homes or rental housing.
Federal and State governments are not innocent...
By James E Vann
Oakland’s present rental and affordable housing crisis — which is particularly catastrophic for renters — is not new. Since the late 1970s, crisis conditions have been acknowledged by successive city councils.
Unfortunately, the distinguishing characteristic of the Oakland City Council, today and in previous times, has been that hearing after hearing and proposal upon proposal, the City Council has almost never taken appropriate action.
The crisis has reached catastrophic proportions, and there are many potential actions the council should consider immediately:
1. Enact immediately a resolution declaring a “State of Emergency” in rental housing with moratoriums on rent increases and no-cause evictions until effective protections for tenants are put in place.
2. Rescind and immediately replace Oakland’s current landlord-written Rent Adjustment Program with a proven Rent Control program. This change would virtually eliminate tenant petitions and workload backups and would finally establish equity and fairness in tenants/landlord relations.
3. Establish a cost to evict. Charge landlords $500 for each no cause, owner convenience, or “cash for keys buy-out” eviction; and $200 for each for-cause eviction. Use fees for a fund to assist tenant hardships due to the disruption of moving and relocation.
What term limits? Schaaf re-nominates termed-out landlord member to the Rent Board, and Council re-appoints him.
A decidedly anti-tenant member of Oakland's Rent Board whose term expires this month was re-appointed to the Board on February 2, even though he's served two full terms on the Board. Oakland's rent law is clear that members may serve no more than two terms. Period. (OMC 8.22.040 C)
Landlord representative Benjamin Scott (founder and principal of Advent Properties) has consistently ruled against tenants during his seven years on the Board, which is responsible for deciding appeals from tenants who face illegal rent increases or landlord abuse. Scott has already served two full three-year terms, and has served an additional year until a successor could be appointed. This is allowed under the law's "holdover" provision, but only for a maximum of one year. That year is up this month, yet Mayor Libby Schaaf re-nominated him to another three-year term and the City Council approved the nomination this week.
Mayor Schaaf and Council have skirted the law by appointing Scott as an alternate member. Alternate members are established in the rent law to serve in the absence of a regular member of the same category (e.g. a landlord alternate can represent a landlord member). However, the City's rent law flatly states that "No person may serve more than two consecutive terms." In fact, the law makes no distinction between regular and alternate members when describing the provisions for terms, holdovers, or term limits.
The Mayor has certainly outdone herself, even compared with her past difficulties in following the law when appointing Rent Board members. After the Board repeatedly failed to meet due to a lack of quorum during her first nine months in office, Schaaf finally named Kevin Skipper to the vacant tenant alternate position in October. However, it was quickly discovered that Skipper was actually not a tenant, and so unqualified to serve as a tenant representative, in addition to being a well-known eviction expert who works on behalf of landlords. The Mayor had to hastily retract her nomination after the East Bay Express broke the story.
Now, the Mayor has appointed an anti-tenant member to potentially serve up to another six years as an alternate member. Conveniently, Scott has not been replaced by a new regular member, so his former seat at Rent Board hearings will be filled by none other than himself.
Perhaps the Mayor was simply confused, given that last week a Council committee considered a proposal from Councilmember at-large Rebecca Kaplan, which among other things would have changed the law to allow for regular members to be re-appointed as alternate members once their terms expire (staff report here). However, the CED Committee did not approve these amendments, and is scheduled to hear Kaplan's proposal again next week on February 9. Meanwhile, the City Council has gone ahead and approved the illegal re-appointment anyway.
The charitable view would be that Schaaf (with Kaplan's assist) merely fumbled in a misguided attempt to make Oakland's already broken rent law even worse by allowing for an anti-tenant landlord representative to stay on potentially for a full fifteen years, rather than the six spelled out in the law. To those familiar with Oakland's rigged pro-landlord Rent Adjustment Program, however, the Mayor's action is just the latest pass in a long-running game to protect landlords' interests at the expense of Oakland renters and their communities.
When James Vann, longtime Oakland tenant advocate and cofounder of Oakland Tenants Union, was asked on KPFA recently why a seemingly progressive city like Oakland has failed for so long to deliver meaningful tenant protections, he answered "I just don't think we have anyone on the present City Council who is progressive."
This may come as a surprise for many (especially newer) Oakland residents, but it's an impression well grounded by past experience, as detailed in a recent post on Drake Talk Oakland.
For the full story, see here: The Long Sordid Record of Oakland's Neglect of Affordable Housing (1/9/16)
With complaints of abuse by landlords piling up, advocates say it's time for real rent control in Oakland.
The Oakland Rent Board met for the first time in over two months last week. Even with the level of tenant petitions against excessive rent increases at an all time high - the number of petitions this year is double what it was in 2012 - the Rent Board had failed to meet due to a lack of quorum since September. This has led the petition process to drag on for three months on average, and up to six months in many cases. The City's rent law calls for cases to be resolved within 60 days.
While City staff recently proposed an increase in the fee to landlords and tenants that funds Oakland's Rent Adjustment Program (RAP) - from $30 to $110 per year - to address the backlog of cases, housing rights advocates are calling for a complete overhaul of the program. The fatal flaw of Oakland's current program, advocates say, is that the burden is entirely on tenants to enforce the law. If a tenant does not file a petition contesting a rent increase within 60 days, there is no legal mechanism to ensure that landlords follow the law, which stipulates how much rent can be increased for certain types of rental units in Oakland.
As James Vann of the Oakland Tenants Union explains, the RAP program was written and passed by a pro-landlord City Council in 1980 in response to a grass roots ballot initiative that would have established a rent control law similar to those in San Francisco, Berkeley, or Santa Monica. Oakland renters have been stuck with the City's flawed law for over three decades as a result of this political maneuvering.
Organizations like Oakland Tenants Union and Causa Justa :: Just Cause have called instead for a real rent control law, meaning that landlords - not tenants - would be responsible for filing a petition with the Rent Board to raise rents above the standard amount allowed under the law (based on inflation). Under such a system, landlords would be responsible for complying with the law and bearing the burden of navigating the City's appeals process, not the very tenants who are facing increasing pressure from the City's housing crisis.
Eviction and Rent-Hike Complaints Skyrocket in Oakland (East Bay Express)
The proposed increase in the Rent Program Service Fee - from $30 to $110 per year - would have increased housing costs for Oakland renters.
The City Council Finance Committee dropped a proposed increase to the City's rent program fee at its November 10 meeting, following a loud response from housing rights advocates. The fee is used to administer the City's Rent Adjustment Program (RAP), which provides some limited protections for tenants in certain apartments from excessive rent increases.
City staff had proposed an increase in the fee, which is paid annually and supposed to be split equally between tenants and landlords, to $110 from the current $30. The RAP has recently seen a spike in the number of petitions filed by tenants contesting rent increases and now faces a growing backlog of appeals cases, which staff used to justify the near quadruple of the current fee.
Tenant advocates noted, however, that the RAP has had large surpluses in recent years, with a $700,000 surplus in revenue in the last fiscal year, and a $1 million surplus two years ago. The Oakland Tenants Union, which monitors RAP activities and supports tenants, also pointed out that the RAP program as it is currently structured is deeply flawed and opposed a large fee increase without a major overhaul of the program. In fact, proposals to restructure the current program are currently being considered by Mayor Schaaf's recently formed "housing cabinet" and many opponents questioned the wisdom of increasing the fee when that process is just getting underway.
Furthermore, OTU noted that the current backlog in appeals cases from tenants has largely been caused by the Rent Board's failure to meet in over two months to hear appeals and conduct business. Mayor Schaaf finally nominated a qualified tenant alternate representative to the Board who was approved by City Council last week.
At its meeting on Tuesday morning, members of the City Council Finance Committee recognized the large number of public comments that had been received in opposition to the fee increase and postponed the matter indefinitely.
After tenants advocates are arrested at a City Council hearing, Alameda passes a temporary halt on some rent increases and evictions.
At a November 4 City Council hearing on skyrocketing rents and increasing evictions in Alameda, tenant advocates literally had to fight for their right to be heard. With landlord representatives packing the Council chambers, tenants and housing rights advocate were locked outside of the chambers. A group of tenant advocates ultimately forced their way in, leading to a violent confrontation and two arrests.
Confronted with the severity of the housing crisis in Alameda - the average rent in Alameda have more than doubled over the past decade and reports of no fault evictions have become commonplace - the City Council voted to impose a 65-day moratorium on rent increases over 8% and no cause evictions.
While this decision is a welcome recognition that Alameda is no exception from the Bay Area's dramatic housing crisis, the Alameda Renters Coalition is working with City staff to establish a permanent rent control law there. Renters' rights advocates have said they will pursue a ballot initiative next year if they are unable to reach an agreement over the details of such a law with the Council.
Alameda: City Council imposes moratorium on some rent increases (Contra Costa Times)
FAQs on the 65-day moratorium (City of Alameda)
Alameda Landlord Uses Moratorium Loophole, Evicts Apartment Complex (KPIX)
Oakland's Planning Director says "there is no housing crisis in Oakland." Really?
At an October 7 event, Oakland Planning & Building Department Director, Rachel Flynn, said flatly "there is no housing crisis in Oakland." With rents skyrocketing and longtime residents being evicted and displaced every day, it is shocking that Flynn, who was appointed by former Mayor Jean Quan and kept in place by Mayor Libby Schaaf, could not only make such a preposterous statement, but then go on to suggest the Oakland renters deal with the crisis by simply getting a roommate, which she said was "no big deal."
This is not the first time Flynn has made such statements publicly. At another forum hosted by SPUR in May Flynn also repeatedly suggested that Oaklanders deal with rising rents by looking for opportunities for "natural affordability," like getting roommates, renting older or substandard apartments, or staying in small apartments even as families grow. She also said she was exasperated by the frequent complaints of gentrification and displacement she hears from Oakland residents and advocates.
On October 23 Flynn, who has not retracted, clarified, or apologized for her statements, was surrounded by housing rights activists at a public workshop on the City's Downtown Specific Plan.
Meanwhile, Oakland still does not charge any affordable housing impact fees or require on-site affordable housing development from private developers, as neighboring cities like San Francisco, Berkeley, and Emeryville have done for years. The City has hired a consultant to study such an impact fee, but the "nexus study" has dragged on for over a year and there is no clear date for its release. Apparently Flynn, who is in charge of the study and would be responsible for implementing any impact fees, has not made completing this work a priority, which is exactly what you'd expect from someone who doesn't believe there's any problem. As Oakland renters know, there is a dire affordability crisis in our city, and if Rachel Flynn isn't interested in addressing it, perhaps Mayor Schaaf should find a Planning Director who is.
Oakland's Top Housing Official: There Is No Affordable Housing Crisis (East Bay Express)
Community Turns up the Heat to Defend Residents and Businesses (Post News)
Opinion: Oakland City Council Should Prioritize Affordable Housing Impact Fees (Post News)
Hundreds of Oaklanders gathered for a community forum on displacement, renters' rights, and the housing crisis on Saturday.
Residents from around Oakland and the East Bay came together at the West Oakland Youth Center on October 17 to share their struggles to stay in homes and communities, learn about housing rights, and speak out for a grass roots response to the City's growing displacement crisis.
The Speak Out to Stay Put Anti-Displacement Forum attracted some 400 people for a day of housing rights workshops, a resource fair with other 30 social justice and housing support organizations, and the opportunity to come together around organized actions in response to the soaring rents, no fault evictions, and harassement faced by more and more Oaklanders every day.
Host organizations included a broad and diverse coalition of groups dedicated to defending Oakland residents' rights to stay put and keep their communities whole in the face of mounting pressure. Causa Justa Just Cause, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Oakland Tenants Union, and Oakland Alliance were just a few of the organizations who joined forces.
Discussions centered around policies and actions aimed at keeping Oaklanders in place and empowered in their communities, including the adoption of a "real" rent control law, a $15 minimum wage, stronger protections against condo conversions and Ellis Act evictions, and pushing back against rampant criminalization and police brutality.
The event came as stronger tenant protections are being proposed in cities across the Bay Area and California, including campaigns for new rent control laws and expanded protections in Oakland, Richmond, Alameda, and elsewhere.
The New Rent Control Wars (BeyondChron)
A Promising Movement to Push for Rent Control is Taking Root (Alternet)
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf nominated Kevin Skipper to represent tenants on the Oakland Rent Board last week. Only problem? He's not a tenant. In fact, he's a real estate broker who works with notorious pro-eviction law firm Bornstein and Bornstein to aide property investment speculators in kicking renters out of their homes.
Though all three alternate positions are currently open on the Oakland Rent Board, including the tenant representative seat, Skipper was the Mayor's very first nominee to fill an alternate seat since taking office.
Facing a record backlog of appeals from tenants seeking relief from excessive rent increases, the Rent Board has not met in over six weeks, with the last three scheduled meetings cancelled due to a lack of quorum for the seven-member board. Even Schaaf's spokeswoman Erika Derryck recognized the "the pressing need to fill the tenant seat vacancy which has been preventing the board from reaching a quorum."
Yet since Schaaf has taken office, at least a half-dozen scheduled meetings have failed to take place due to poor attendance from members. The Mayor has taken no action to fill vacant seats that are critical to Oakland tenants' right to petition against landlord abuse, in spite of promising to do so back in May. Until her nomination of the unqualified eviction expert, that is.
After it came to light that Skipper was not actually a tenant (thanks to reporting by the East Bay Express), the Mayor retracted the nomination days later, citing the need to "not be rushed." Apparently, the Mayor is too busy to find quality candidates to serve on a body at the front lines of the displacement crisis in Oakland.
more: Mayor Schaaf Withdraws Nomination of Eviction Specialist Associate to Oakland Rent Control Board (East Bay Express)