Alameda approves just-cause protections for renters

Alameda rental housing advocates at a meeting in May.

For now, the fight for and against just-cause renters’ protections in Alameda appears over. The renters have won.

The Alameda City Council approved adding a regulation Tuesday night long sought by local renters that prohibits landlords from evicting tenants without a specific reason.

“Housing is basic human right. Period. End of sentence. Stop,” Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie said. “And if that right is going to be taken away from you, you need due process. Our Constitution demands that and I think our values demand that.”

The result of the just-cause discussion was expected and, for some, a foregone conclusion, after the council gained a solid four-person majority of pro-renter councilmembers following last fall’s elections.

For Alameda renters, the road toward just-cause has been arduous and winding. Renters thought they had successfully won the protections in 2017 after the council amended the existing rent stabilization ordinance, only to have the threat of a landlords-backed ballot measure petition led the council to rescind the vote for just-cause.

“Housing is basic human right. Period. End of sentence. Stop.”-Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie.

Alameda renters lost a bruising battle with landlords at the ballot box in 2016. Renters groups in Alameda feared waging a second straight ballot measure campaign against the well-financed landlords would siphon away too much energy away from the overall fight for tenants in Alameda.

But the results of last November’s election swapped out two councilmembers who exhibited varied or limited amounts of support for renters’ causes with Councilmember John Knox White, a strong supporter of renters that gave the council a clear 4-1 majority on the issue.

The lone holdout for just-cause, Councilmember Tony Daysog, argued in favor of a carveout placing exemptions on about 1,100 rental units that would have allowed landlords to maintain the ability for “no cause” evictions if they live in a unit on the property.

Tenant activists, including Catherine Pauling of the Alameda Renters Coalition, said the carveout would be massive and affect a large portion of the city’s rental stock. A motion for the exemption made by Daysog failed for lack of a second.

Coincidentally, just hours later, over the bridge, the Oakland City Council responded to numerous instances of abuse by Oakland landlords at owner-occupied rentals building and removed a similar exemption from its rent control ordinance.

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