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Mountain View City Council picks new member for Rental Housing Committee

The Mountain View City Council voted unanimously Thursday to appoint Nicole Haines-Livesay to the city's Rental Housing Committee, tasked with running the city's rent control program and making key decisions on the 2016 law.

Haines-Livesay has been serving an interim position on the committee since January, making her the quick favorite in a pool of eight candidates. She had previously been picked as an alternate member of the committee, but stepped in to replace former committee member Vanessa Honey following her resignation.

Nicole Haines-Livesay, a member of the Rental Housing Committee, listens to a speaker during a meeting on Feb. 11, 2019. Photo by Magali Gauthier

Haines-Livesay said in the past that she was pleased to see rent control pass in Mountain View, seeing it as a chance to balance the needs of two opposing forces -- landlords and tenants -- and that she would take a neutral approach that tries to bring both sides together. At the Sept. 3 council meeting, she again billed herself as someone that would approach the committee's work as a neutral arbiter: someone who would administer the law rather than take punitive action against any one group.

"We are trying to interpret and ensure that we have promoted the spirit of the regulation, not just necessarily the letter," Haines-Livesay said.

The committee, created through the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), operates independently of the City Council and serves a two-fold purpose. It administers CSFRA as written and imposes annual caps on rent increases for rent-controlled apartments, while also arbitrating disputes between landlords and renters seeking higher or lower rents, respectively.

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Haines-Livesay's perceived neutral position is bolstered by her own housing situation: She doesn't own property in Mountain View and rents a condo that is not covered by CSFRA, removing the possibility of a personal stake. What's more, while she has a background in real estate through a previous job for a private equity real estate company in Texas, she has since left that role behind to work in the financial services industry.

Each candidate faced the same questions that queried them about their relevant experience and how they believe the committee should do its job. Candidates were also asked about how they would treat their relationship with the City Council, and what they would do to spur capital improvements to aging rental properties when landlords have a cap on rent increases.

When asked about fixing up old properties, Haines-Livesay said there needs to be some mechanism for landlords to pass through costs to tenants, but that it doesn't have to be adversarial. Both sides can come to the table and have "unified interest," and the Rental Housing Committee can help make that happen.

"I do think that capital injections are needed from time to time," she said. "I believe it's important that housing providers and tenants be on the same page around improvements."

The other applicants include Richard Yu, a property owner who helps his parents manage a five-unit rental property in Mountain View; Hank Dempsey, the head of public policy at Snap Inc. and former consultant for the state Legislature; and Weihang Fan, a software engineer who recently moved to Mountain View.

Software engineer Alex Brown and and technical writer Bee Hanson, both outspoken residents of the Santiago Villa Mobile Home Park, also applied for the position. Two of the candidates, Alexandra Bowen and Adrianna Rositas, did not participate in the interviews.

Some candidates, notably Fan and Dempsey, vowed to stay as neutral as possible if they were appointed. Fan said the Rental Housing Committee should stick to its job of adjudicating landlord-tenant disputes over rent, while Dempsey said the committee should avoid acting from a "position of advocacy" in implementing rent control. Even with the neutral approach, however, Dempsey said he believes more can be done to ensure the coronavirus pandemic doesn't lead to mass displacement.

"By the time we're done with COVID and the recession that we'll be seeing because of it, I don't want to see Mountain View change. I don't want to see a lot of the people that I know and care about -- who just have different employment situations -- I just don't want to see them leave," he said.

Others sought to take a stronger advocacy approach. Hanson, who prefaced her interview by saying members of the City Council and the Rental Housing Committee have "tried their best to kill CSFRA," described how mobile homes are in dire need of the same renter protections. Low-income families and seniors on fixed income, in particular, are unable to pay for rent hikes in Santiago Villa and Sahara Mobile Village -- both owned by mobile home park owner John Vidovich.

Property owners deserve a fair rate of return on their rental units, but she believes Vidovich is going too far.

"The fair rate of return is fine, what we don't want is an outrageous rent return, which is what Sahara and Santiago are giving their owner," Hanson said.

If appointed, Hanson said she would use her vote to "nullify" the votes of current committee member Julian Pardo de Zela, who she believes is biased and a rubber stamp for certain council members.

In the early days of rolling out rent control in Mountain View, the Rental Housing Committee voted against extending renter protections to mobile homes. For many mobile home residents, the decision felt like a betrayal and a deliberate misinterpretation of the spirit of the law.

With the council's decision on a new member Thursday, it's unlikely that the mobile home decision will be overturned any time soon. The Rental Housing Committee revisited the possibility of granting rent control to mobile homes in June, but ultimately upheld its previous decision and scheduled a Sept. 21 meeting to study the issue. Haines-Livesay was already a voting member of the committee at that time, meaning the council's pick would not alter the June vote.

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Mountain View City Council picks new member for Rental Housing Committee

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Fri, Sep 4, 2020, 1:54 pm

The Mountain View City Council voted unanimously Thursday to appoint Nicole Haines-Livesay to the city's Rental Housing Committee, tasked with running the city's rent control program and making key decisions on the 2016 law.

Haines-Livesay has been serving an interim position on the committee since January, making her the quick favorite in a pool of eight candidates. She had previously been picked as an alternate member of the committee, but stepped in to replace former committee member Vanessa Honey following her resignation.

Haines-Livesay said in the past that she was pleased to see rent control pass in Mountain View, seeing it as a chance to balance the needs of two opposing forces -- landlords and tenants -- and that she would take a neutral approach that tries to bring both sides together. At the Sept. 3 council meeting, she again billed herself as someone that would approach the committee's work as a neutral arbiter: someone who would administer the law rather than take punitive action against any one group.

"We are trying to interpret and ensure that we have promoted the spirit of the regulation, not just necessarily the letter," Haines-Livesay said.

The committee, created through the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), operates independently of the City Council and serves a two-fold purpose. It administers CSFRA as written and imposes annual caps on rent increases for rent-controlled apartments, while also arbitrating disputes between landlords and renters seeking higher or lower rents, respectively.

Haines-Livesay's perceived neutral position is bolstered by her own housing situation: She doesn't own property in Mountain View and rents a condo that is not covered by CSFRA, removing the possibility of a personal stake. What's more, while she has a background in real estate through a previous job for a private equity real estate company in Texas, she has since left that role behind to work in the financial services industry.

Each candidate faced the same questions that queried them about their relevant experience and how they believe the committee should do its job. Candidates were also asked about how they would treat their relationship with the City Council, and what they would do to spur capital improvements to aging rental properties when landlords have a cap on rent increases.

When asked about fixing up old properties, Haines-Livesay said there needs to be some mechanism for landlords to pass through costs to tenants, but that it doesn't have to be adversarial. Both sides can come to the table and have "unified interest," and the Rental Housing Committee can help make that happen.

"I do think that capital injections are needed from time to time," she said. "I believe it's important that housing providers and tenants be on the same page around improvements."

The other applicants include Richard Yu, a property owner who helps his parents manage a five-unit rental property in Mountain View; Hank Dempsey, the head of public policy at Snap Inc. and former consultant for the state Legislature; and Weihang Fan, a software engineer who recently moved to Mountain View.

Software engineer Alex Brown and and technical writer Bee Hanson, both outspoken residents of the Santiago Villa Mobile Home Park, also applied for the position. Two of the candidates, Alexandra Bowen and Adrianna Rositas, did not participate in the interviews.

Some candidates, notably Fan and Dempsey, vowed to stay as neutral as possible if they were appointed. Fan said the Rental Housing Committee should stick to its job of adjudicating landlord-tenant disputes over rent, while Dempsey said the committee should avoid acting from a "position of advocacy" in implementing rent control. Even with the neutral approach, however, Dempsey said he believes more can be done to ensure the coronavirus pandemic doesn't lead to mass displacement.

"By the time we're done with COVID and the recession that we'll be seeing because of it, I don't want to see Mountain View change. I don't want to see a lot of the people that I know and care about -- who just have different employment situations -- I just don't want to see them leave," he said.

Others sought to take a stronger advocacy approach. Hanson, who prefaced her interview by saying members of the City Council and the Rental Housing Committee have "tried their best to kill CSFRA," described how mobile homes are in dire need of the same renter protections. Low-income families and seniors on fixed income, in particular, are unable to pay for rent hikes in Santiago Villa and Sahara Mobile Village -- both owned by mobile home park owner John Vidovich.

Property owners deserve a fair rate of return on their rental units, but she believes Vidovich is going too far.

"The fair rate of return is fine, what we don't want is an outrageous rent return, which is what Sahara and Santiago are giving their owner," Hanson said.

If appointed, Hanson said she would use her vote to "nullify" the votes of current committee member Julian Pardo de Zela, who she believes is biased and a rubber stamp for certain council members.

In the early days of rolling out rent control in Mountain View, the Rental Housing Committee voted against extending renter protections to mobile homes. For many mobile home residents, the decision felt like a betrayal and a deliberate misinterpretation of the spirit of the law.

With the council's decision on a new member Thursday, it's unlikely that the mobile home decision will be overturned any time soon. The Rental Housing Committee revisited the possibility of granting rent control to mobile homes in June, but ultimately upheld its previous decision and scheduled a Sept. 21 meeting to study the issue. Haines-Livesay was already a voting member of the committee at that time, meaning the council's pick would not alter the June vote.

Comments

Vacancy De-Control
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Sep 6, 2020 at 11:01 am
Vacancy De-Control, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2020 at 11:01 am
4 people like this

Landlords with turnover receive "market-rate" rent from new renters (as the new base rent). Those higher rents are part of the landlord's return. The local "CSFRA " and state rent control only limit increases on existing renters. So, in considering an upward adjustment of rent that may be charged existing renters, the Rental Housing Committee (RHC) would need to know about all of the rent collected. And now, the RHC will need to know about Covid-19 losses and subsidies. How many renters in Mountain View have been and are unable to pay their full rent? Has the RHC or City or anyone else tried to make that determination?


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Sep 6, 2020 at 11:36 am
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2020 at 11:36 am
1 person likes this

Vacancy,

The CSA has a record of all units requesting assistance.

However, their funds ran out months ago with hundreds of applications not processed.

The rental market is always dependent on high turnover of tenants. This is why landlords are aggressive on evictions.

However the market is melting down if you read this information:

Just another example of what is to come here in Mountain View.

The Business Insider reports that rents are at a 6 year low in San Francisco. (Web Link)

What is the cause, the Tech Exodus from what the report indicates?

I can imagine the property owner in Mountain View are reeling due to the price cuts they are having to make during this period, and these are not the CSFRA units, but current market ones.

OMG you should look at Zumper price trends in Mountain View found here (Web Link)

A Studio Apartment at its peak in Aug 2019 on average was $2899, now it is $2095 a reduction of 28%. A Single Bedroom Apartment at its peak in Jun 2018 on average went for $3990, now it is $2499, a reduction of 37%. A Double Bedroom Apartment at its peak in Jun 2018 on average went for $5000, now it is $3200, a reduction of 36%. A Triple Bedroom Apartment at its peak in Dec 2018 on average went for $5500, now it is $4300, a reduction of 21%

And realize these apartment prices are skewed because most are luxury units in Mountain View. Investors in the Mountain View Rental market must be in effect freaking out.

For example when my landlord bought the property I live in in Feb 2016 the prices were like this:

A Single Bedroom Apartment on average went for $3120, now it is $2499, a reduction of 19%. A Double Bedroom Apartment on average went for $3570, now it is $3200, a reduction of 10%. A Triple Bedroom Apartment on average went for $4000, now it is $4300, an increase of 8%

But there are at most 2 units in my building that are 3 bedroom.

It looks like the prices have returned to the same prices as 2014 here.

In effect the rental business in Mountain View is really in trouble.


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