Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie at a
pro-renters rally at City Hall on June 16.

Over the past weeks, as a wave of unruly signature-gatherers from outside of Alameda have been pushing a landlord-backed petition to roll back just cause protections for renters, another petition seeking a possible second ballot measure may soon be hitting the streets.

Alameda businessmen Eric Cross, Michael Gorman and former Councilmember Tony Daysog filed on June 14 an intent to circulate a petition that essentially codifies as part of the City Charter the rent stabilization ordinance passed by the Alameda City Council in March 2016. The ordinance was also approved by 55 percent of Alameda voters last November.

“We thought this issue was settled–the people of Alameda have spoken loud and clear,” declares the petition, and “Alamedans need to be in charge, not the politicians.”

Alameda’s rent stabilization ordinance, among other requirements, allows landlords to raise annual rents by a maximum of five percent without restriction. Any increase above requires landlords take their case to the city’s Rent Review Advisory Committee. The ordinance also includes tenant relocation payments to renters when evictions are initiated by the landlord.

READ: Alameda landlords’ petition and charter amendment below.

Last month, the Alameda City Council amended the ordinance to include just cause tenant restrictions. This action angered landlords who began gathering signatures last month for a potential ballot initiative to rollback the just cause amendment. One objective behind the petition, if its signatures are successfully verified by the city clerk’s office, is to freeze the city council’s just cause amendment until an election is held.  The city clerk’s office is in receipt of the landlords’ petition.

Members of the Alameda Renters Coalition say paid signature-gatherers hired from outside of Alameda have routinely lied to prospective signers about the aim of the petition, for instance, say renters, wrongly conflating it with a bid for rent control.

In one case, an unruly signature-gatherers allegedly verbally-assaulted a 17-year-old girl at South Shore Center, necessitating the filing of a police report, said Jenya Cassidy, a member of the Alameda Renters Coalition.

“It reminds me of scab labor,” Cassidy said the landlords’ group hiring of out-of-town signature-gatherers, “where they hire this group of temporary people and pay them a lot of money to hurt other people who are really in the same situation as them.”

The landlords in Alameda also have deep pockets and access to even more money via the California Apartment Association, which has spent millions to thwart rent control legislation all over the Bay Area.

“Here we have our landlords saying were outsiders and that we don’t really belong here because we’re renters,” said Cassidy. “We have landlords telling the City Council that we’re wannabe Alamedans and don’t have skin in the game and now they have an outside interest here that able to pump tons of money into this campaign to hurts us.”

The likely existence of another petition for a second ballot measure, this time a charter amendment, points to this fact, but it’s Alameda residents who may have to pay in order to vote on the referendums.

If the just cause initiative is certified by the city clerk, the Alameda City Council may be forced to trigger a special election, which could be costly, or risk having the petitioners wait until the next municipal election next year. Doing so would put renters at risk for eviction with just cause protections approved last month sitting in legislative limbo.