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