The argument in favor of Measure D, the City Council's rewrite of Mountain View's rent control law, boils down to this: Trust us.
Trust us when we tell you we've found a compromise that brings tenants and landlords together to end divisiveness and rancor over rent control.
Trust us to cut a deal with the country's largest landlord lobbying group, the California Apartment Association, and end its attempts to overturn rent control in Mountain View. Trust us, even though local tenant groups are actively campaigning against Measure D and, by definition, it's not a compromise if only one side has signed on. Trust us, even though there's no guarantee that CAA won't keep trying to kill rent control as soon as the political winds shift in its favor.
Trust us to take away much of the Rental Housing Committee's autonomy, which we're doing purely in the interest of good governance. Trust us, despite the fact that we're using CAA's patently misleading argument -- prevent the RHC's members from paying themselves, something no one's ever proposed -- to sell this point.
Trust us that opening up the RHC to landlords who don't even live in Mountain View is necessary to ensure we have an adequate pool of applicants, even though the commission will be fine if we don't, since there is no minimum number of landlords required, only a maximum.
Trust us when we compare Measure D's flat 4% annual cap on rent increases with the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act's (CSFRA) maximum of 5%, omitting the fact that, since rent control is tied to the local annual rate of inflation (CPI), 4% represents an increase over the current 3.6%. In fact, the last time CPI exceeded 4% was back in 2001.
Trust us when we say that, by making it much easier for property owners to pass through costs to renters and boost annual rent increases up to 10%, the council is just doing what's necessary to prevent redevelopment tear-downs and encourage seismic safety upgrades -- things that the City Council could have accomplished through separate legislation, but hasn't.
Trust us when we say that by eliminating mobile home parks from the existing rent control law, we're doing it so we can pass our own law someday. Trust us, even though a recent council meeting left many mobile home residents disgruntled and discouraged, and prompted former school board member Chris Chiang to drop his endorsement of Measure D.
As the adage goes, trust has to be earned. So voters must ask themselves, on the prickly subject of rent control, has the City Council done enough to earn their trust? In our opinion, the answer is no.
Since Measure V passed in 2016 and enshrined rent control as a charter amendment, the City Council's track record on the subject leaves much to be desired. The majority of the City Council is opposed to rent control on general principle, and its last attempt, in 2016, to pass a watered-down version of renter protections was defeated by voters in favor of the much more robust Measure V.
In the crucial early months of implementing CSFRA, the City Council passed over RHC applicants who had worked on Measure V and gave a key appointment to former Councilman Tom Means, a Libertarian vocally opposed to rent control in all forms. While serving on the RHC, Means took a side job working for the landlord lobby on an anti-rent control campaign in Pacifica. That's the sort of thing that might make a voter question whether the City Council was truly acting in good faith.
It's possible that it was a major coup to get CAA to drop its support for the "sneaky repeal," a November ballot measure that purports to improve Mountain View's rent control law but would actually kill it with a poison pill provision tied to occupancy rates.
It's also entirely possible that CAA, looking at the results of a December push poll on rent control, decided the prospects of passing its own measure looked grim and found Measure D a palatable substitute. What is impossible to discern is how anyone would look at CAA spokesman Josh Howard's statement on Measure D and think it amounts to anything more than a temporary cease-fire. CAA has a long history of fighting rent control initiatives up and down the state, and there's no guarantee that Mountain View will be granted perpetual immunity from divisive battles over renter protections should Measure D pass.
Mountain View's brief experiment with rent control has not been flawless, but Measure D is not the right way to improve it. We are in agreement with the local League of Women Voters, the Santa Clara County Democratic Party, the Mountain View Housing Justice Coalition and the Mountain View Mobile Home Alliance: Vote no on Measure D.