The Mountain View City Council's bid to soften the city's rent control law is headed for defeat, with preliminary results in the March 3 primary election showing a sweeping majority of voters rejecting Measure D.
As of Monday, March 9, the opposition to Measure D was leading with 68.8% of the 16,880 votes counted in Mountain View, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.
The council-initiated measure was the first attempt to modify rent control in Mountain View since the law passed in 2016, and was largely billed by its proponents as a compromise that landlords and tenants alike could learn to live with. Despite the rhetoric about compromise and unification, most of the changes to rent control were geared toward the benefit of property owners.
As the campaign developed over the past three months, efforts to create a broad coalition in support of Measure D appeared to fall flat. Local tenant groups, including a vocal contingent of mobile home residents, swiftly opposed the measure, calling it unnecessary, deceptive and a handout to landlords. Large property owners, meanwhile, were Measure D's biggest financiers, donating more than $190,000 to the "Yes on D" campaign through Feb. 15.
Members of the opposition campaign were upbeat as they watched the election results roll in Tuesday night at the Crepevine in downtown Mountain View, eating in during the 45-minute periods between updates from the county. One of the campaigners, Alex Nunez, told the Voice he is grateful for all of the support from voters, volunteers and donors.
Assuming the results hold, Nunez said he believes the vote on Measure D is an affirmation that Mountain View voters didn't fall for deceptive tactics by the City Council and landlord-backed groups seeking to weaken rent control.
"Consistently, I've been hearing that people in the community really value political discourse based in truthfulness and good-faith compromise," Nunez said. "I think those traditional values were upheld and reaffirmed with these results."
Among the proposed changes, Measure D would have upended the current limits on annual rent increases under Mountain View's Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA). Instead of tying rent increases to the rate of inflation, Measure D would have instead allowed property owners to raise rent by 4% each year. It also would have created an easier, streamlined way for apartment owners to make upgrades to their properties and pass the costs onto tenants -- which could have potentially raised rents by as much as 10% in a year.
Though CSFRA does allow for property owners to pass certain capital improvement costs onto tenants, it can only be done if landlords can prove the rent increases are necessary to get a fair rate of return on the property. Measure D's proponents argued that the process was far too onerous, particularly for small "mom and pop" property owners and landlords seeking seismic retrofit upgrades to aging apartments.
Measure D also sought to explicitly exempt mobile home parks from being covered under CSFRA, drawing frustration from mobile home residents who have long argued that they should be covered by rent control for the spaces their homes occupy.
Residents who voted on Super Tuesday were more likely to oppose Measure D, with 1,869 (73.3%) of the 2,550 votes cast on March 3 in opposition to the charter amendment. Even when parsing out same-day voting, Measure D was still largely defeated among vote-by-mail ballots as well, with 5,321 (65.6%) voting against the measure.
As of Wednesday morning, the "no" vote was leading in all 11 Mountain View precincts, with the greatest opposition in the Santiago Villa and North Whisman neighborhoods, along with Castro City and communities near Rengstorff Park. Measure D was seeing the greatest success in the southern, single-family neighborhoods of Mountain View, picking up just over 39% of the yes vote in the Blossom Valley neighborhood and 38% in the Waverly Park and Martens-Carmelita neighborhoods.
During the campaign, representatives of the California Apartment Association said the lobbying group would be willing to stop backing its November ballot initiative that would essentially eliminate Mountain View's rent control in the event that Measure D passed.
Nunez said he and other members of the Mountain View Housing Justice Coalition, which spearheaded the No on D campaign, are already planning to shift gears and fight the CAA-backed measure.