Reinforcements join fight over rent control

Judge allows law firms, nonprofits to help city defend Measure V in court

Both sides in the courtroom battle over Mountain View's Measure V rent-control law could be getting some extra muscle.

On Monday, a Santa Clara County judge gave approval for a team of pro bono and nonprofit lawyers to join the city's defense of the rent-control law. Landlords and property-management firms last week made their own request to assign a second law firm to aid the plaintiffs in the case.

In December, the California Apartment Association sued Mountain View just days before the city's new voted-approved rent-control law was scheduled to take effect. The lawsuit blocked implementation of the measure, including its plan to roll back rents on most Mountain View apartments to October 2015 rates.

By a unanimous vote, the Mountain View City Council directed the city attorney, aided by law firm Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, to defend the measure. Meanwhile, several organizations also requested to join the case on behalf of the Measure V proponents. On Monday, March 13, Judge William Elfving allowed the defense team to expand to include the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, the Stanford Community Law Clinic and the Public Interest Law Project. In addition, the Mountain View law firm Fenwick & West also joined the defense side on a pro bono basis.

"All of these organizations bring different experience that will help to uphold Measure V," said Nadia Aziz, senior attorney with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. "We all understand the importance of Measure V and just-cause evictions and want to make sure this is upheld."

Three property investment firms also filed a motion last week to have the firm Hopkins & Carley assist the CAA in their suit. As of Wednesday, the Voice's press deadline, the judge had not made a decision on that request.

Both sides in the case are circling April 4 on their calendars as the crucial date in the case. A hearing is scheduled on the CAA's request for a preliminary injunction, which would effectively block Measure V from taking effect for as long as it takes to litigate the case. If that request is denied, the city could immediately take action to implement rent control.

In related news, the window is closing this week for a second round of applications for the city of Mountain View's rental housing committee, the panel that would be in charge of administering the new rent control law.

Nineteen people had already applied for the committee during an application round that closed in December. But some council members last month said that the pool of candidates didn't have enough representation from landlords. They voted to make one last-ditch effort to draw in more candidates.

As Wednesday, only one new applicant had submitted paperwork to the city. Izzie Tiffany, a resident of Mountain View for 13 years, explained in her paperwork that she is not a property owner or landlord. Instead, she presented herself as an advocate for the community's downtrodden.

"I'm interested because someone needs to stick up for the people whose income is below poverty level," she wrote in her application. "I live there, and I could shed some light on what low rent really means."

The application window for the rental housing committee closes on Friday, March 17.


73 people like this
Posted by I hate hypocrisy
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 15, 2017 at 12:25 pm

This Stanford Community Legal Clinic is pretty irritating. If you believe so much in the value of rent control, then pass it first in Palo Alto. That's where Stanford is located. Why are you pushing this burden on another city? Plus the majority of these Stanford students probably come from very wealthy families with no rent control in their neighborhoods, so they don't have to suffer any of the negative effects. It's so hypocritical. They want to pat themselves on the back and feel like they are doing something good in the world, but they are not will to do so in their own towns. Pass rent control in Palo Alto first, and then I'll consider supporting it in Mountain View.

16 people like this
Posted by Webster
a resident of Gemello
on Mar 15, 2017 at 12:51 pm

I don't think that hypocrisy means what you think it means. Did this group from Stanford previously make anti-rent-control statements or do something that demonstrated that they oppose rent control in Palo Alto or elsewhere?

The fact that Palo Alto doesn't have rent control does not mean that everyone in Palo Alto is required to oppose rent control. Not everyone in San Francisco needs to support it either.

21 people like this
Posted by A little fact-checking
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 15, 2017 at 2:14 pm

The Stanford Community Law Clinic is a legal services clinic in East Palo Alto. Web Link

17 people like this
Posted by SunnyvaleResident
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Web Link
East Palo Alto has a Rent Stabilization Ordinance. It was implemented back in 2010. Please share with those who would like to learn more about RSO.

Stanford Community Law Clinic
2117 University Ave a, East Palo Alto, CA 94303

There will always be two sides to every case. It just depends on whether you're the landlord or the renter. That's why there are lawyers for both sides.

2 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 15, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Gary is a registered user.

Under CA Code of Civil Procedure section 387, a person or legal entity with a financial or other significant interest in the outcome pf a lawsuit may intervene if it is shown to the Court that the existing parties will not adequately represent that interest. I have not read the papers but it did seem to me that the City (with six of seven councilmembers against Measure V) had proven it could not be trusted to represent the interests of renters when it placed a worthless competing measure on the November ballot or when it stipulated to a TRO in December when the California Apartment Association (CAA) filed the case. Whether the other group will be allowed to intervene may involve showing that the CAA is not adequate - not so easily shown. The CAA argues that Measure V is invalid in almost every respect and, unlike the City, is not a risk to suddenly stipulate that its position is wrong.

9 people like this
Posted by Patrick
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 15, 2017 at 3:04 pm

None of the court issues will matter if the Council can't appoint one more landlord/rental manager to the board. It's required in Measure V to have at least 2 from that group. If the rent control board doesn't meet the minimum requirements, it won't exist. If CAA REALLY wanted to stop this ordinance, they just have to keep anyone from their side from applying or accepting the position. The drafters never put in a contingency for that scenario. Just sayin'.

6 people like this
Posted by The other Pat
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 15, 2017 at 3:12 pm

@Patrick Actual phrasing is 1709(a) :"There shall be no more than two (2) members of the Committee that own or manage any rental property, or that are realtors or developers"

So 0,1, or 2 members can be landlords.

CAA is welcome to boycott participating.

Like this comment
Posted by Billy Bob
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 15, 2017 at 5:31 pm

The more I think about it, the more I realize old Billy was right...

7 people like this
Posted by The Dream Team
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2017 at 6:44 pm

The will of the people cannot be stopped. Temporarily restrained by our City Council Members under the influence of the CAA perhaps, but we shall inevitably prevail thanks to the support of our great legal counsel, truly a dream team.

Let the rents start rolling back soon!

Si, Se Puede!

99 people like this
Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 15, 2017 at 7:26 pm

Let's roll back car prices, grocery prices, taxes, and all other items.
Why should we stop with just rent control,

All price fixing is taking others property which should not be allowed.

8 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2017 at 8:28 pm

If Prop 13 is OK then I don't see why Rent Control should be any different.

15 people like this
Posted by Old timer
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2017 at 10:28 pm

PROP 13 applies to all residents in California.
How about applying so called "STABLIZATION" on all property in Mountain View?
The absurdity of a measure voted by majority (renters and non owners) against property owners who cannot even vote in the city is a taxation without representation.

20 people like this
Posted by Pb
a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 15, 2017 at 10:47 pm

Prop 13 regulates tax rates between a citizen and the state.
Measure v regulates common law contracts between two private parties.
There is a fundamental difference in those two ideas just like there is a difference between how bridge tolls prices are set vs the cost of gasoline.

In the bay area prop 13 hasn't reduced the tax base, which is what you imply. So making the case that rents has to be high because property owners have a low tax base is a false narrative. Prop 13 tax base is reset upon sale of a property, which occurs just as frequently before prop 13 in the bay area as what prop 13.

Either way, if you want to turn this into a tax argument, then you should ask for a law that allows for rental deductions against income tax - that seems like the closest thing to prop 13.

20% of the citizens of this state live in poverty. This proposal will do nothing for them except exclude them permanently from these neighborhoods just like what happened in SF and NYC. As rent gets locked in, renters doesn't move and landlords gets more picky with who their renters are. It's astounding how many people choose to ignore fact and data to push the NIMBY mindset, especially given how clear it is that increasing density in this city so fundamentally solve the problem at its core. First principles anyone?

Either way, mountain view just got even more difficult for the poor people to be in. It's a sad day and a win for those with great paying jobs who just fattened their wallet at the expense of those truly in need of protection.

8 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2017 at 1:05 am

@Old timer

"PROP 13 applies to all residents in California."

Prop 13 applies to all residents in California who own property. Very important detail. But hey, if it was important enough to freeze property taxes so people wouldn't find themselves suddenly taxed out of their homes, that sounds like the exact same argument for legislating rent control.

Like this comment
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2017 at 1:09 am


I see a lot of interesting arguments you've ascribed to me that I don't recall making at all in this thread. Are you sure you're not debating someone else?

71 people like this
Posted by Old timer
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2017 at 11:14 am

Measure V is a case of democracy gone wrong.
1. Housing problem is city wide if not regional problem. Many city with rent control or similar ordinance have experienceed more problem afterwards. It is at best a bad solution to a fundamental problem.
2. It only affects older buildings, sadly, these are the ones providing lower rental stocks. This is also a measure against a smaller subset of property owners who are now asked to shoulder city wide problem.

2 people like this
Posted by Stanford location
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2017 at 3:28 pm

Stanford is not in Palo Alto. Stanford is in unincorporated Santa Clara County for the most part. The SHOPPING CENTER area is in Palo Alto so that sales tax revenues benefit the city. East Palo Alto is in a different county and that's where the law project provides service. Argh.

Like this comment
Posted by SukwinderDixit
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 20, 2017 at 3:28 pm

SukwinderDixit is a registered user.

I find this an abomination!

2 people like this
Posted by Will
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 20, 2017 at 3:49 pm

My good landlord already sold the property I rent as a result of this being voted in. I didn't vote for it but it won. Landlords should have seen it coming and done something before Nov.'s vote. Now it's the law so the city should defend it and end this now.

In a city that is majority renters with off site landlords, and out-of-control rent hikes in some well-publicized cases this was coming for a long time. The time and place for avoiding measure V was Before The Election. If we could go back and do the whole election over, then great. But we can't and this lawsuit is just wasting all our time now. Enforce it, refund the last rent hike (post Oct 2016) and move on.

7 people like this
Posted by How
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 20, 2017 at 8:33 pm

Can someone explain how it is possible to "roll back prices"?

2 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2017 at 2:41 pm

The Business Man is a registered user.

How asked a very good question:

“Can someone explain how it is possible to "roll back prices"?”

The courts for more than 30 years established that if there is a recognized lack of housing available in a city, the local government can in fact not only control rent, but reset the base rent to a prior level. The only thing required to be demonstrated is that there is a clear documented history of the lack of housing. In the case of Mountain View, the City Council record shows that the city council was aware of the shortage starting in October 2015.

The case that establishes this standard was:

Berman v. Downing (1986) Web Link

It stated:

We hold, on this record consisting of a stipulation of facts and the language of the West Hollywood Moratorium Ordinance, fn. 1 that the rent rollback provisions of that ordinance are constitutional.

[1] We agree with plaintiff that "the constitutionality of residential rent controls under the police power depends upon the actual existence of a housing shortage and its concomitant ill effects of sufficient seriousness to make rent control a rational curative measure." (Birkenfeld v. City of Berkeley (1976) 17 Cal. 3d 129, 160 [130 Cal. Rptr. 465, 550 P.2d 1001].) Equally important, however, "the existence of 'constitutional facts' upon which the validity of an enactment depends [citation] is presumed in the absence of any showing to the contrary [citation] ...." (Ibid) Plaintiff was entitled to show the nonexistence of those facts as to the West Hollywood ordinance but failed to do so.

So in order to prevent the rent rollback in court the CAA will have to demonstrate there is NO LACK OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING in Mountain View.

And this will need to be demonstrated with proof and evidence, without any of these, the CAA has no case to prevent it.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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