Alameda rent review member resigned after city disclosed his ties to landlord political group

Former Alameda RRAC member Robert 
Schrader during a hearing on Jan. 11.

Months after Robert Schrader was appointed to the Alameda Rent Review Committee in March of last year, he was asked to provide an analysis of the city’s rent stabilization ordinance for a local landlords’ group named Alamedans for Fair Rent Control, he said. The group formed part of the backbone of opposition toward a citizens-backed ballot measure last year to institute rent control on the island.

Schrader’s ties to Alamedans for Fair Rent Control gained the attention of the Alameda city attorney’s office last month because his participation with the group constitutes a conflict of interest for a sitting board member tasked with impartially mediating conflicts between Alameda tenants and property owners, said the city attorney’s office. At the same time, the city also admonished Schrader for potentially violating a tenant’s privacy rights during a meeting last month. On Jan. 31, Schrader resigned from the Rent Review Advisory Committee (RRAC).

Prior to that, Schrader told Alameda Assistant City Attorney Michael Roush that he believed his involvement with the political group was not improper and in fact legal under the city’s Sunshine Ordinance. In addition, since the election has passed, the reason for the group’s future existence is unlikely. The city attorney’s office disagreed, also asserting Schrader is not just a member of the advocacy group but that he sits on its steering committee.

In a letter sent on Jan. 24, Roush wrote, “On this issue, we think that we will have to agree to disagree. The RRAC process is very public and is being scrutinized closed by landlord groups, tenant groups, the press and the general public. We believe that there is an expectation that those appointed to decision making bodies such as the RRAC will not put themselves in situations that could call into question their ability to be fair and open minded.”

Roush’s letter also casts doubt over whether advocacy by Alamedans for Fair Rent Control has indeed concluded, as Schrader contends. In light of the Alameda City Council’s scheduled hearings next month to reevaluate the nearly year-old rent stabilization ordinance, Roush advised Schrader to cease participating with the landlord group.

“The reason I resigned is because they tried to quiet my voice,” Schrader said in an interview. “I’m a principled guy and I got involved with RRAC because I can see it’s an important thing to get people together.” Schrader sharply disagreed with Roush’s advice to withdraw from the landlord group. “It’s a matter of principle. If I can’t have my private life, I don’t want to be involved.”

The five-member RRAC is comprised of two tenants, two landlords and one homeowner. Schrader was tabbed in March by Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer for one of the landlord seats. Schrader added he believes the city is more worried about negative comments about rents on social media than following the Sunshine Ordinance. He added that his background as a landlord is the actual value he brings to the RRAC. “You can’t have it both ways,” said Schrader. “If you’re going to have a landlord representative, I’m probably going to be involved with landlords. That’s what I bring to the RRAC. Why have a landlord spot?”

The efficacy of the RRAC as a legitimate avenue for tenants and landlords to settle rent disputes has been in doubt over the past year even after the City Council moved to somewhat strengthened its power. Tenant advocates say the RRAC tends to support rent increases in upwards of 10 percent, a number they believe does little to help struggling Alameda renters. Property owners, meanwhile, grumble about further restrictions placed by the city and RRAC on their ability to increase revenues for property improvements. Others, like Schrader, also question whether RRAC members are sufficiently trained to preside over mediation matters. “It is impossible to have proper mediation to occur in that venue,” he said. However, the RRAC may be insufficiently trained in other matters, especially privacy rights.

The city’s inquiry did not begin with Schrader’s involvement with Alamedans for Fair Rent Control. Instead, the impetus followed a line of questioning Schrader engaged with a tenant standing before the RRAC on Jan. 11, whereupon he improperly pushed for her to publicly reveal a medical condition. Immediately after Schrader asked the tenant to specifically reveal her condition to the RRAC, the program administrator and another RRAC member objected to the question. Each advised the tenant that she was not required to answer the question. Schrader, though, persisted, and the tenant freely offered the ailment. But not before adding that not even her family knew about the possibly life-threatening condition.

Schrader said he offered no malice for the question and believed the additional information might actually help the tenant’s case. After the hearing, Schrader apologized to the tenant. The city attorney’s office, however, disagreed with Schrader’s rationale for asking the question in the first place, noting the tenant’s paperwork merely reported she paid $1,000 a month for health care and medication. “That does not strike us as extraordinary and certainly not information that should have caused you to have inquired about a medical condition,” wrote Roush.

Categories: Alameda, Alameda city attorney, Alameda City Council, Alamedans for Fair Rent Control, Michael Roush, rent stabilization, resignation, Robert Schrader, RRAC, Trish Spencer

5 replies

  1. By MW:

    I realize that politics, and especially Bay area politics, is heavily infested with sneaky and unethical people. However as a Bay area resident, I am extremely embarrassed that any of our local con men would be so extremely incompetent so as to be so easily caught.

    So that we can get a “better,” smarter, and “improved” class of con men and scam artists, my suggestion is that we add a special tax that would provide the funding to send all of our politicians and potential politicians to law school so that they can improve their skills in scamming and ripping off the public.

    Or better yet, no one should be allowed to make decisions affecting the general public unless he is already a lawyer.


  2. By MW:

    I later had a further thought related to my earlier post. We should also add a special tax so that all Bay area high schools can add courses teaching their students how to be effective AND SOPHISTICATED weasels, parasites, scam artists, and professional pathological liars.

    And so as to further encourage and nurture great talent, the senior in each high school who earns the highest GPA in those particular courses should also be awarded a full scholarship to any law school he desires to attend.


  3. As a real estate profesional with an economic interest in high rents, Robert Schrader should never have been appointed to the RRAC. The mayor knew this, but appointed him anyway. This mayor has previously appointed a real estate lawyer to the RRAC who was well known as stridently anti-tenant. The city council confirmed these appointments. In hundreds of cases, the city has enabled a landlord/attorney to provide free mediation services to tenants before the RRAC, thereby concealing the negotiations from public oversight they would have enjoyed in a RRAC hearing. The padding of the RRAC process, end-to-end, with high powered individuals whose income is derived from the real estate industry is at the root of pubic mistrust of this deeply flawed body and throws a taint of corruption over Alameda's city management.


  4. By MW:

    Related to the post of 8:24, there have been instances in which a lawyer was appointed to be the “independent” and “impartial” arbitrator in a particular lawsuit, BUT in which it later became obvious that he actually had also been representing one of the parties in the lawsuit.

    And: one, after that “independent” and “impartial” arbitrator first made a ruling in favor of the party that actually he was also representing in the lawsuit; and two, it later coming out that the party he had ruled in favor he had also been secretly representing – he would normally then release a statement declaring that the fact he had been receiving money from one of the parties in the lawsuit was irrelevant, since he had supposedly remained impartial in his role as an arbitrator AND HAD MADE HIS RULING BASED ON THE MERITS OF THE CASE.

    In fact related to that, as to whether or not Bill Clinton had had an improper relationship with Monica Lewinsky or Richard Nixon and his co-conspirators had engaged in anything illegal related to Watergate, since both Clinton and Nixon were lawyers, we should have appointed them as arbitrators and allowed them to make any relevant rulings and judicial decisions as to whether or not they were guilty of anything.

    In fact, that is sort of the way it works with Alameda County's Public Works Agency. In other words if that agency pulls anything sleazy and illegal and you then later want to protest its decision, Public Works then gets to decide whether or not you are even allowed to have a hearing to challenge its decision. Or sometimes Public Works does agree to have a hearing in regard to one of its outrageous decisions, but then it and the professional pathological liars with law licenses in the County Counsel's office decide you, the protesting party, do not even have the right to be at the hearing.


  5. Renters have an economic interest in low rents, but something tells me you're OK with a renter on the board.

    Business is a 2 way street….


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