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 Conveniently, Scott has not been replaced by a new regular member, so his former seat at Rent Board hearings will be filled by none other than himself.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.