Alameda City Hall called cops on renters group filing rent control ballot measure

Catherine Paling of the Alameda Renters Coalition
Monday filing with the city clerk’s office
 a rent control ballot measure for next fall.

ALAMEDA | Fifteen minutes after Alameda renters filed a ballot measure Monday afternoon advocating for rent control, three Alameda cops were summoned by officials at City Hall.

A group of about 15 members of the grassroots Alameda Renters Coalition were commiserating outside of the city clerk’s office on the third floor of City Hall when one officer approached its spokesperson, Catherine Pauling. The officer said the department was alerted that a protest was occurring inside of City Hall.

Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer declined to say who called the cops Monday afternoon, but added the same area had been the scene of a previous clash between police and renters. Last November, two renters were arrested during an Alameda City Council meeting and one was bloodied by police.

“The protocol has been not to have people lingering in the hallways during a council meeting,” said Spencer.

Interim City Manager Liz Warmerdam, however, was overheard saying to an Alameda police officer, “Tell them they can talk about it in public comment.”

Spencer then added, “Let them figure it out.”

Warmerdam was the Alameda official, according to city emails,  who asked that plainclothes officers monitor renters at a council meeting last Jan. 5. The officer’s identities became known after a renter saw one of them accidentally drop his handcuffs.

Afterward Monday’s filing, Pauling said members of the group were merely talking and celebrating the group’s efforts.

Meanwhile, the city clerk’s office has 15 days to prepare a summary and title for the ballot measure before renters can begin gathering signatures for its inclusion on the November ballot. Pauling says the group is aiming to secure around 9,000 signatures. Roughly 6,400 valid signatures are needed.

On Tuesday night, the Alameda City Council formally approved its own renters’ protections that include a five percent threshold for landlords to raise rents. Any amount above is subject to the city’s Rent Review Advisory Committee. Also included is compensation for moving costs if a tenant is evicted.

But, the renters’ group says the ordinance is nowhere near strong enough for struggling island tenants.

The proposed ballot measure hopes to cap rent increases to 65 percent of increases in the Consumer Price Index, which translates to just under two percent a year, based on recent statistics.