In 2016, Mountain View voters enacted rent control (known as the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act) to address housing affordability. While somewhat effective, it was written behind closed doors by a small group of renters and concerned citizens without public input and placed on the ballot through signatures. Predictably, the campaign for the CSFRA was very divisive for our community, and the result was imperfect.
The city has worked diligently to faithfully implement the CSFRA over the last three years without burdening taxpayers. Despite our best efforts, the measure has faced lengthy and expensive legal challenges and repeal efforts.
Based on feedback from residents, renters and housing providers, it has become clear that a handful of amendments are necessary, as we have seen:
•Housing affordability remains a major issue, and prices continue to rise.
•More than 700 affordable apartments have been demolished and replaced by high-priced condos or townhomes, and this trend continues.
•Under the current law, base rent increases can reach 5%.
•Property owners refuse to invest in earthquake-proofing older apartments.
•An unelected rent board can pay themselves a salary.
•The City Council is powerless to remove rent board members for misconduct.
As a result of these issues, wealthy landlords have placed their own "fix" to rent control on the November 2020 ballot. Their measure was also written behind closed doors and, if passed, would indefinitely suspend rent control, putting thousands of families at risk of displacement.
As your mayor, one of my duties is to build consensus and find solutions to difficult problems so our community remains strong and united. The landlord measure is an overreaction that our community should not accept.
To ensure that rent control isn't repealed, the City Council placed Measure D on the March ballot to limit repeal efforts or legal challenges, set stronger guidelines for the conduct of the Rental Housing Committee, incentivize seismic and sustainability upgrades, and create a pathway to cover mobile homes.
Unlike the other measures, Measure D was debated and reviewed by the public over several months. As with most compromise measures, not everyone likes it. Some renters and property owners oppose this measure, but many renters and property owners believe it is a fair compromise that fixes significant flaws while preserving the most effective elements of the CSFRA.
Measure D would accomplish the following:
•Preserve the essential elements of the current rent control measure and better address affordable housing.
•Permanently prevent the Rental Housing Committee from paying themselves.
•Ensure property owners invest in seismic safety improvements to their buildings without excessive costs to their renters.
•Further limit rent increases to no more than 4% annually (current law is 5%).
•Ensure the City Council can remove Rental Housing Committee members for misconduct.
•Clearly state that landlords or their representatives cannot be a controlling majority of the Rental Housing Committee. If no qualified non-resident property owners apply, non-residents who own property in Mountain View may serve.
The council and I approached key landlord and tenant groups to support a compromise. In a major victory, key property owners have reluctantly agreed to support Measure D and withdraw all support for their November measure if Measure D is approved in March. This is a major concession that most said could not be achieved.
Given the divisive turmoil emanating from Washington, D.C., we don't need another landlord measure dividing Mountain View renters and property owners in November. Passing the Measure D compromise in March will avoid another fight in November and for years to come.
Please join us in preserving our community's rent control law by addressing its flaws, strengthening its most successful provisions, and avoiding a costly and bitter campaign this fall. Please vote yes on Measure D in the March 3 primary.
Margaret Abe-Koga is mayor of Mountain View.