ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL
Amendments to Alameda’s rent stabilization ordinance that will includes just cause protections for tenants is not yet officially law, yet local landlords are already plotting a strategy to rescind the rules slated for a final reading at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.
Members of two landlords-backed groups, the Alameda Housing Providers Association and Alamedans for Fair Rent Control, met last Thursday for a strategy session aimed at thwarting the introduction of just cause on the island.
The heavily-attended meeting at the Elk’s Lodge next door to Alameda City Hall featured a presentation by well-known political consultant John Whitehurst. During it he laid the groundwork for a signature-gathering campaign that seeks to place a referendum on the ballot, presumably in June 2018.
But time is of the essence. The landlords’ groups have just 30 days after Tuesday’s final passage of the amended rent ordinance to gather more than 5,000 valid signatures.
A representative from the Alameda property management behemoth Gallagher & Lindsay later urged landlords to contribute $100 or more per each apartment unit they own to the referendum’s cause, in part, to hire paid signature-gatherers.
The short-term goal of placing the referendum on the ballot is it would nullify the City Council’s action Tuesday night, effectively placing a moratorium on just cause in Alameda and allowing landlords to evict tenants without cause. It’s a similar gambit backed by the California Apartment Association in Richmond to freeze the passage of rent control by its city council.
According to those who attended the landlords’ meeting, the presentation offered by Whitehurst, the political consultant, was astonishingly frank for a somewhat public meeting. “Who’s in charge?Activists or Alamedans?” he asked, referring to the tenants’ group known as the Alameda Renters Coalition.
Whitehurst suggested the potential ballot measure campaign should not focus on just cause, but instead on the “will of the voters.” In addition, repealing the council’s amended rent ordinance that includes just cause is about eliminating “something bad with something good.”
The underlining strategy communicated by Whitehurst to landlords was to highlight the positives of the original rent ordinance that later became Measure L1 and approved last November with 55 percent of the vote, but without the just cause component strongly opposed by landlords that was tacked on recently by city leaders.
Despite some pushback from landlords in the audience who advocated for a total repeal of all restrictions on their business, Whitehurst maintained the path toward successfully repealing just cause required accepting the limited rent control already proven to be a winner in Alameda.
To bolster this point, one slide presented to landlords included polling conducted last year by their own consultant that showed Alameda voters overwhelmingly support rent control and just cause.
Yet, despite the strong support of the public last fall, the rent control initiative Measure M1 was soundly defeated at the polls, a result many attribute to confusion among voters between the two competing measures.