News

Landlord-backed rent control measure finally heads to voters this November

Tenant advocates decry it as a 'sneaky repeal;' City Council declines to weigh in with ballot arguments

Protesters chant during a rally against the City Council-backed Measure D, which would have loosened the city's rent control protections, on Feb. 11. Measure D was defeated in March, but another measure which will effectively end rent control will be on the November ballot. Photo by Magali Gauthier

A voter-initiated ballot measure that would curtail Mountain View's rent control program is headed to voters this fall. Tenant advocacy groups say it amounts to a "sneaky repeal" that will outright kill rent control protections.

City Council members voted 7-0 to place the measure, called the "Mountain View Homeowner, Renter, and Taxpayer Protection Initiative," on the general election ballot in November this year. In November 2018, backers gathered enough signatures to earn the measure a place on a future election's ballot, in a long-awaited bid to scale back the city's rent control law.

The campaign and signature gathering was largely supported by Mountain View apartment owners and directed by the California Apartment Association, which spent $260,000 on the initiative in 2018.

The measures proposes numerous changes to the city's Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), including restricting rent control to those making less than the median income in the area. It also caps fees on landlords at $100 per unit, and requires nonbinding mediation when rent is increased by more than 7% in one year.

But its most significant provision is that rent control would effectively end in Mountain View if the vacancy rate among rental units rises above 3%. Vacancy rates have been steadily above 3% since at least 2006, all but guaranteeing that nearly all of the current rent control protections will be suspended if the measure passes and will be unlikely to ever be reinstated.

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Suspension of rent control would roll back protections that Mountain View residents have largely supported since CSFRA passed in 2016, said Joan Brodovsky, a member of the Mountain View Housing Justice Coalition. She worries that landlords will use deceptive tactics during the election and downplay the effects of the vacancy trigger.

"The apartment association landlords will try to make us think their initiative will benefit renters, she said. "In reality it would end our hard-gained renter protections."

Council members were legally obligated to put the measure on the ballot -- it received well over the needed number of signatures to qualify -- but did have the option last week to draft arguments either in favor or against the initiative. The idea evoked fiery comments from residents who opposed the council weighing in, many arguing that the council should stay out of the rent control debate.

Many speakers pointed to the council's own ill-fated attempt at changing rent control on the March primary ballot earlier this year. Measure D would have raised the annual caps on rent increase and would have made it easier for landlords to pass the costs of building improvements onto tenants. It was soundly defeated.

Many speakers at the June 23 meeting said the council's actions show that its members are out of touch with their constituents on the topic of rent control. Resident Dana Pede called it a "crisis of credibility," while resident Steve Chessin said he doesn't trust the council to write any arguments related to the upcoming ballot measure after Measure D. John Lashlee, a Mountain View resident and member of the Silicon Valley Democratic Socialists of America, said nobody trusts the council after they lied about how Measure D would weaken rent control.

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"Some of you are so out of touch with Mountain View residents that you probably don't know this, but Measure D was a huge electoral failure," Lashlee said. "Voters saw Measure D for what it was -- your attempted giveaway to the California Apartment Association."

Council members ultimately decided against weighing in on the ballot measure, at least as a formal body. Councilman Lucas Ramirez said the debate should take place between voters in the city, and that he would rather the council not wade into the issue.

City officials estimate it will cost $72,900 to put the measure on the ballot. Along with the City Council race and another ballot measure seeking to overturn an oversized vehicle ban on city streets, Mountain View is expected to spend over $325,000 on election-related costs this year.

Voters will also have a chance to weigh in on major statewide revisions to rent control on the November ballot as well. A measure spearheaded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and its president, Michael Weinstein, proposes scaling back long-standing restrictions on local rent control laws under California's Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.

The biggest change proposed in the measure would allow cities like Mountain View to impose rent control on units that are at least 15 years old. Currently, Costa-Hawkins exempts all units built after 1995 from rent control. In 2018, Proposition 10 would have repealed Costa-Hawkins entirely, but it was soundly defeated, losing by more than 59% of the votes.

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Landlord-backed rent control measure finally heads to voters this November

Tenant advocates decry it as a 'sneaky repeal;' City Council declines to weigh in with ballot arguments

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Mon, Jun 29, 2020, 1:55 pm

A voter-initiated ballot measure that would curtail Mountain View's rent control program is headed to voters this fall. Tenant advocacy groups say it amounts to a "sneaky repeal" that will outright kill rent control protections.

City Council members voted 7-0 to place the measure, called the "Mountain View Homeowner, Renter, and Taxpayer Protection Initiative," on the general election ballot in November this year. In November 2018, backers gathered enough signatures to earn the measure a place on a future election's ballot, in a long-awaited bid to scale back the city's rent control law.

The campaign and signature gathering was largely supported by Mountain View apartment owners and directed by the California Apartment Association, which spent $260,000 on the initiative in 2018.

The measures proposes numerous changes to the city's Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), including restricting rent control to those making less than the median income in the area. It also caps fees on landlords at $100 per unit, and requires nonbinding mediation when rent is increased by more than 7% in one year.

But its most significant provision is that rent control would effectively end in Mountain View if the vacancy rate among rental units rises above 3%. Vacancy rates have been steadily above 3% since at least 2006, all but guaranteeing that nearly all of the current rent control protections will be suspended if the measure passes and will be unlikely to ever be reinstated.

Suspension of rent control would roll back protections that Mountain View residents have largely supported since CSFRA passed in 2016, said Joan Brodovsky, a member of the Mountain View Housing Justice Coalition. She worries that landlords will use deceptive tactics during the election and downplay the effects of the vacancy trigger.

"The apartment association landlords will try to make us think their initiative will benefit renters, she said. "In reality it would end our hard-gained renter protections."

Council members were legally obligated to put the measure on the ballot -- it received well over the needed number of signatures to qualify -- but did have the option last week to draft arguments either in favor or against the initiative. The idea evoked fiery comments from residents who opposed the council weighing in, many arguing that the council should stay out of the rent control debate.

Many speakers pointed to the council's own ill-fated attempt at changing rent control on the March primary ballot earlier this year. Measure D would have raised the annual caps on rent increase and would have made it easier for landlords to pass the costs of building improvements onto tenants. It was soundly defeated.

Many speakers at the June 23 meeting said the council's actions show that its members are out of touch with their constituents on the topic of rent control. Resident Dana Pede called it a "crisis of credibility," while resident Steve Chessin said he doesn't trust the council to write any arguments related to the upcoming ballot measure after Measure D. John Lashlee, a Mountain View resident and member of the Silicon Valley Democratic Socialists of America, said nobody trusts the council after they lied about how Measure D would weaken rent control.

"Some of you are so out of touch with Mountain View residents that you probably don't know this, but Measure D was a huge electoral failure," Lashlee said. "Voters saw Measure D for what it was -- your attempted giveaway to the California Apartment Association."

Council members ultimately decided against weighing in on the ballot measure, at least as a formal body. Councilman Lucas Ramirez said the debate should take place between voters in the city, and that he would rather the council not wade into the issue.

City officials estimate it will cost $72,900 to put the measure on the ballot. Along with the City Council race and another ballot measure seeking to overturn an oversized vehicle ban on city streets, Mountain View is expected to spend over $325,000 on election-related costs this year.

Voters will also have a chance to weigh in on major statewide revisions to rent control on the November ballot as well. A measure spearheaded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and its president, Michael Weinstein, proposes scaling back long-standing restrictions on local rent control laws under California's Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.

The biggest change proposed in the measure would allow cities like Mountain View to impose rent control on units that are at least 15 years old. Currently, Costa-Hawkins exempts all units built after 1995 from rent control. In 2018, Proposition 10 would have repealed Costa-Hawkins entirely, but it was soundly defeated, losing by more than 59% of the votes.

Comments

In November
Blossom Valley
on Jun 29, 2020 at 3:05 pm
In November, Blossom Valley
on Jun 29, 2020 at 3:05 pm
17 people like this

Don't worry, we won't forget the candidates who were for Measure D: Margaret Abe-Koga, Jose Gutierrez, and Lisa Matichak. I appreciate how easy they have made candidate selection this year. Will any other Measure D supporters, like Cleave Frink, throw their hats in the ring?


Dan Waylonis
Jackson Park
on Jun 29, 2020 at 3:08 pm
Dan Waylonis, Jackson Park
on Jun 29, 2020 at 3:08 pm
13 people like this

Interfering with the market for housing only results in broken promises, greater bureaucracy, and fewer available housing units. Seattle helped resolve their high rent problems by increasing the supply of housing units. That's also know as allowing developers to build housing. The city and city council do not build housing -- they only restrict its creation.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jun 29, 2020 at 3:59 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jun 29, 2020 at 3:59 pm
6 people like this

There is statewide rent control covering more rental units than the local law. It is a backstop. Both local and state law provide for VACANCY DECONTROL. That allows landlords to raise the rent on any unit that (lawfully) becomes vacant (turns over). The additional rent is on top of all the increases otherwise allowed under rent control. By the way, there is an initiative on the statewide ballot in November that would only allow landlords to increase the rent 15% (tops) on turnover.


The Business Man
Old Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2020 at 4:11 pm
The Business Man, Old Mountain View
on Jun 29, 2020 at 4:11 pm
3 people like this

First, we should reject the local initiative like we did Measure D.

Second lets do everything we can to get the Statewide initiatives and legislation passed.

We got to follow through with Measure V (CSFRA)


MV Resident
Monta Loma
on Jun 29, 2020 at 7:38 pm
MV Resident, Monta Loma
on Jun 29, 2020 at 7:38 pm
5 people like this

They lied their way onto the first ballot, and lost. And lied and manipulated their way onto this ballot. And they will lose.

What's stupid is that with COVID, the pressure to live in Silicon Valley may very well decrease. My building, which houses many Google employees, has been half empty since SIP. Many tenants are living elsewhere, sometimes coming back to their apt to pick up stuff. Others are simply gone, but not moved out. If SIP continues, and if these same employees can live anywhere and still work for Google, they're out of here, and there's no reason to expect other tech workers, who can also live anywhere would want to live in these older apartments with super high rents.

I know my landlord was one of the backers of this bill. I wish him luck in finding new tenants as many of us who live here leave for better housing, better quality of life.


Cause and effect
Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2020 at 11:06 am
Cause and effect, Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2020 at 11:06 am
11 people like this

Just keep layering the controls on landlords charging them ridiculous fees and voting yourselves rent decreases and you will see most affordable housing going away.
At what point do you want to legislate the price of milk and clothing and automobiles? Aren’t those basic human rights?
When you mess with the economy of supply and demand it has a domino effect that has serious consequences. When you can no longer make a living or receive a decent return on investment you sell your property and leave the area. Believe me the new properties that go in where old ones existed will be much more expensive. Thank you rent control.


The Business Man
Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2020 at 12:18 pm
The Business Man, Old Mountain View
on Jun 30, 2020 at 12:18 pm
2 people like this

In response to Cause and effect you said:

“Just keep layering the controls on landlords charging them ridiculous fees and voting yourselves rent decreases and you will see most affordable housing going away.”

THAT is false logic, it always was because you assume that only the CURRENT owners will provide affordable housing. THEY DON’T. The current approach to building affordable housing by in effect BUYING off private developers is a proven failure. And who needs PRIVATE housing projects? WE DON’T, we must cut off this insanity and only allow PUBLIC housing projects from now on and then we will have affordable housing. You said:

“At what point do you want to legislate the price of milk and clothing and automobiles? Aren’t those basic human rights?”

That is not an appropriate comparison and you know it. This is just a slogan constantly being replayed to try to make it look like this is not fair. It is totally fair to in effect use PUBLIC housing project and give them PRIRITY over all other projects. The PRIVATE housing system failed and it should not be rewarded for it. You said:

“When you mess with the economy of supply and demand it has a domino effect that has serious consequences. When you can no longer make a living or receive a decent return on investment you sell your property and leave the area. Believe me the new properties that go in where old ones existed will be much more expensive. Thank you rent control.”

If these PRIVATE investors constantly fail in making the available housing resources, SO BE IT. WE don’t need them or if you are one of them, we don’t need you. WE can find other resources or use public funds to make them. Either you put up and finally correct the housing shortages in California or simply get out. That is your freedom to do.

BUT YOU ARE IN NO POSITION TO TAKE THE HOUSING AWAY AND INTERFERE WITH US FIXING THE PROBLEM, WE CAN AND WILL DO WITHOUT YOU.


Steven A.
another community
on Jun 30, 2020 at 11:25 pm
Steven A., another community
on Jun 30, 2020 at 11:25 pm
8 people like this

Rent control saves me thousands of dollars a year, and I don't have to worry about being forced from my home. The landlord will be fine. He makes over $100K a month.


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