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.