Tuesday's City Council meeting was the scene of a heated standoff between groups feuding over a new effort to weaken the city's rent control law.
Before the meeting, groups on both sides of the issue were gearing up for a fight, scheduling simultaneous rallies in front of City Hall. About 60 people joined the Mountain View Tenants Coalition to advocate on behalf of the 2016 Measure V rent control law. Their rivals were a smaller contingent of about 15 people organized by the Measure V Too Costly group.
Since it passed in November 2016, Measure V has been controversial. Depending upon whom you talk to, it is either the bane of small property owners or a lifeline for the city's poorest residents.
The new quarrel over rent control centers on a push by the Measure V Too Costly group to ask voters to heavily revise the law via a November ballot initiative.
The fight over rent control spilled into the City Council meeting as advocates on both sides laid out their grievances in public comment. Mayor Lenny Siegel reminded the crowd to be polite, but the audience repeatedly erupted in jeers or applause, depending on the speaker.
Tenants blast the proposed ballot initiative for being a Trojan horse. They point to a clause in the proposed measure that would suspend nearly all renter protections if the city's vacancy rate ever exceeds 3 percent. Mountain View's vacancy rate been higher than 3 percent since at least 2009, when the city began tracking it.
"Don't be fooled. This is a sneaky repeal of Measure V," said Joan MacDonald of the Tenants Coalition. "This is an attack against the community of Mountain View."
The proposed measure, among other things, would make only low-income households eligible for rent protections. Landlords complain that the city's rent control program forces them to subsidize high-earning tenants who should be paying market rate.
"This situation is going to keep getting exacerbated," said Joe Maydek, a Mountain View property manager. "The burden of this program is being put on 600 landlords, maybe 1,000. You're asking us to carry the whole cost of solving this problem."
It could be a taste of the political fight ahead. In the coming days, Measure V Too Costly representatives will begin collecting signatures to put the initiative on the November ballot.