Measure D is misleading and unnecessary | January 31, 2020 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

Opinion - January 31, 2020

Measure D is misleading and unnecessary

Council's rent control measure would weaken current law

by Ronald and Dorothy Schafer

In 2016, the voters of Mountain View adopted Measure V (the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act), which protects renters by limiting rent increases and requiring just cause for eviction while ensuring landlords get a fair return. Measure V has worked well and has enabled many families, seniors, teachers and workers to stay in Mountain View with stable rents.

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Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 1, 2020 at 8:44 pm

Since someone moved the pro-D piece to Town Square, I am doing likewise with the piece against D. It is done by posting a comment on the piece in the printed version online. The existing local rent law that we still call Measure V contains a feature mandated by state
law which guarantees all but the smallest landlords FAR MORE than a fair rate of return. The feature is called VACANCY DECONTROL. Every time a rental unit turns over (i.e., is vacated and then newly occupied), the landlord is free to raise the intial rent to a level as high as the market will bear. If in 3 years, half of the units turn over, the landlord in this market can make a fortune from the higher rent on those units. A City Council actually interested in whether landlords are being stretched would have heeded the calls for a survey of rents for all units.

Posted by Mvrenter
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 2, 2020 at 3:14 am

I'd repost Alex Nunez's comments.
Hello Mayor Abe-Koga, thank you for sharing the reasons why you support Measure D. I would like to share some additional views for others to consider regarding some of the statements offered in this opinion piece.

This comments section does not allow bold font, so I will add stars (*) to denote emphasis:

You said:
"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.”

My comment:
This process did not happen behind closed doors. Hundreds of Mountain View residents came before the City Council in 2015 to ask for actions against unfair rent increases and no serious actions were taken. Furthermore, concerned citizens ARE the public, so therefore, this was written PURELY through public input!

The fact that many Mountain View residents took their own time to engage their neighbors to collect enough signatures to put it on the ballot at all, and beyond that, actually make a strong enough case to win community support at the ballot box is not a dishonest or deceptive result. In fact, this kind of initiative and solidarity represents the very essence of democracy itself.
You said:
"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*.”

My comment:
There are many in our community who would not agree with the characterization of “faithful” efforts to implement the CSFRA. This is because the previous City Council leveraged it’s 4-3 rent control opposing majority to appoint commissioners to the Rental Housing Committee with established ideological opposition to rent control. This includes Tom Means who was paid $1,500 to produce anti-rent control material against the initiative in Pacifica, as well as those representing economic interests in rental property such as Vanessa Honey.

Together, they anchored a majority on the RHC that took anti-rent control decisions that EXPRESSLY went against the counsel provided by their own staff. This includes the undermining of protections for mobile home spaces which sparked a more than justified lawsuit that is still going on to deliver protections that these residents are owed. In any case, wouldn’t you agree that it’s very likely any of us would find ourselves in legal troubles if we purposely did the opposite of what our lawyers recommended for us to do?

And the expensive repeal efforts you mention have not cost the city a dime. It ended up costing the California Apartments Association far more money to collect the signatures they needed to validate their repeal effort for the ballot. They had to pay an unheard of $40 per signature to their gatherers because hundreds of MV residents realized they were misled into signing their petition and formally requested a removal of their signatures. These repeal efforts you not have not burdened taxpayers in any single way, but it has burdened Mountain View’s residents who were compelled to defend the law they had fought for.
You said:
"Housing affordability remains a major issue, and prices continue to rise."

My comment:
This is true but Measure D would make housing LESS affordable for your constituents by allowing for a base guaranteed 4% per year rent increase on top of any bills renters would receive from property owners passing the cost of maintenance to their tenants. This would result in rent increases higher than 4%, up to 10% a year. Current law limits increases to inflation, which has NOT BEEN HIGHER THAN 4% SINCE 2001. So how would Measure D make housing more affordable?
You said:
"More than 700 affordable apartments have been demolished and replaced by high-priced condos or townhomes, and this trend continues."

My comment:
As you know very well, the State of California recently passed the SB 330 law which prohibits the demolition of rent controlled apartments anywhere in the state unless the developers replace those units and gives current residents the right to return to those units after construction is completed. So no, the trend does NOT continue.
You said:
"Under the current law, base rent increases can reach 5%."

My comment:
Current law limits allowable rent increases to be within a range of a minimum 2% and a maximum 5%. However, as noted, the inflation rate has NOT been greater than or equal to 4% SINCE 2001, and is not projected to be higher than 4% this year either. Some might consider that even under current law, since increases have averaged 3.5% a year, what harm might come from having to pay that extra 0.5%?

Well, as many of our financial planners keep telling us, the magic of compound interest can work wonders to our benefit, or in this case, detriment. That extra 0.5% each year over time will snowball into unaffordable rents for many who form the backbone of our regional economy and force them and their necessary labor out of our city.
You said:
"Property owners refuse to invest in earthquake-proofing older apartments."

My comment:
The Rental Housing Committee ALREADY has the power to create a new streamlined process for capital pass throughs such as earthquake retrofits. The way it would work under current law, is that the City Council would first adopt new mandatory building codes for earthquake safety standards. Then, the RHC would approve the expedited cost-sharing petition process that property owners would use to recover costs.

If earthquake safety is a major concern (given one could happen any second), then you have the power with City Council to approve new safety standards as soon as possible while coordinating in good faith with the RHC to have a well-designed process ready for approval right after you approve the new standards.
You said:
"An unelected rent board can pay themselves a salary."

My comment:
The Rental Housing Commission members have NEVER made ANY attempt to pay themselves any amount of money whatsoever. In fact, it is not clear that the thought had ever crossed their minds until the California Apartment Association mentioned it themselves.

Speaking for myself, I believe that this talking point is a way to stir generalized anti-bureaucratic anger and other emotions that make it less likely for voters to look at the logical aspects of this initiative. This is why I believe it is listed first on the ballot language, so that people carry a feeling of anger with them as they read the rest of the ballot language, if they even finish reading it at all.
You said:
"The City Council is powerless to remove rent board members for misconduct."

My comments:
Rental Housing commissioners are appointed by the City Council after a rigorous application process. We trust that our City Council will perform the necessary due diligence to appoint RHC members who carry themselves professionally and who will faithfully implement and defend the CSFRA as intended by the will of the community.

Furthermore, the RHC member who arguably could be interpreted to have engaged in misconduct and a miscarriage of this law is Tom Means, who as previously noted, would lead the charge for the RHC to take 3-2 decisions that would literally be the opposite of staff and legal counsel. Then he moved away, to a town (with the unbelievably appropriate name) called El Dorado Hills.

Cases like this make it clear that removal of such members is a worthwhile idea, but unfortunately this modification to the law is bundled with unnecessary and unfair rent increases designed to increase the revenues of rental property owners at the expense of renters and the loss of our desperately needed labor supply.
You said:
"As a result of these issues, wealthy landlords have placed their own "fix" to rent control on the November 2020 ballot. Their measure...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."

My comments:
The wealthy landlords you mentioned are led by the California Apartments Association. I am glad to read your acknowledgment that the November initiative would create a major risk for our families. I trust you will vociferously oppose this initiative in November as well, even if Measure D does not pass and thank you for this support.
You said:
"To ensure that rent control isn't repealed, the City Council placed Measure D on the March ballot..."

My comments:
It has recently been reported that primary officer for the YES on D campaign committee is Josh Howard, who is the Executive Director of the California Apartment Association (literally the landlord lobby).

Furthermore, flyers have recently been mailed to many residents in Mountain View that also disclose Prometheus Real Estate Group and Tod Spieker as funders of the campaign. Prometheus as you very likely know, owns land parcels across Silicon Valley with an approximate total of $2.05 billion in value, while Tod Spieker is a billionnaire who paid $10 million dollars to have the field at the Rose Bowl named after him (YES -- the Rose Bowl!!! Google it).

If the City Council placed Measure D on the ballot, then why are these billionnaires, corporations, and outside lobbyist groups the ones providing all the money and material?? Isn't it kind of a stretch to think we should believe that the landlord lobby would really be trying to make rent control BETTER??
You said:
"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."

My comments:
First, I hope for all of us to keep in mind that with the exception of rental property owners, the community did not ask the Council to modify our current laws. The community did not ask for a compromise on this. And even then, yes, we all came out and debated and reviewed this proposal and the overwhelming majority of public input was that Measure D is harmful to us and that we did not need a compromise for a law that is working just fine!

So yes, "not everyone likes it" if by that we clarify that almost everybody spoke out in opposition to Measure D, and almost everybody asked the council to please not move forward with this action.
For this section, given I've made many of the points in previous commentary, I'll do a quick version and denote my responses underneath your bullet points with two stars (*):

You said: "Measure D would accomplish the following:"

•Preserve the essential elements of the current rent control measure and better address affordable housing.
**The essential element of our current law is limiting rent increases to inflation; Measure D would increase rents and make housing less affordable for residents**

•Permanently prevent the Rental Housing Committee from paying themselves.
**The RHC has never tried to pay themselves; this is a solution in search of a problem**

•Ensure property owners invest in seismic safety improvements to their buildings without excessive costs to their renters.
**Property owners can fairly share costs for earthquake safety upgrades under current law; all that is needed is for the council to adopt new earthquake safety requirements**

•Further limit rent increases to no more than 4% annually (current law is 5%).
**Inflation has never been greater than or equal to 4% since 2001; inflation is not projected to be higher than 4% this coming year either**

•Ensure the City Council can remove Rental Housing Committee members for misconduct.
**Good idea, but is this worth it for us as Mountain View renters to vote for this if it also means voting to make ourselves subject to possible annual rent increases of 10%??? At least for me its not**

•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.
**What is the definition of an "unqualified" applicant? To be frank, many of us in the community believe that this is essentially a way to increase the already immense power that landlords are able to exert over our community, even if they don't have to live in the community and their only concern is their balance sheet**
You said:
"The council and I approached key landlord and tenant groups to support a compromise."

My comments:
Unless there are other tenant groups in Mountain View that I don't know about, none of us support this compromise.

And for anyone such as the CAA who would like to point to their endorsement by renters (as they did in their recent mailer), I'd like to let it be known that they have done so in an individual capacity, for their own individual reasons, and not with the backing of any tenant groups in the community.
You said:
"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."

My comments:
The "Key property owners" you are anchored to coordination being carried out by the California Apartment Association, who also are the main financial backers of the November ballot you earlier noted you oppose.

To many in the community, this "major concession" is very much coming across as an action akin to extortion, where we are essentially being told by the CAA "You can either support this Measure D initiative to approve higher rents for yourselves -- AND IF YOU DON'T, then we'll fight you in November to make sure you don't have any rent control at all."

Does this really seem like an honest achievement to you?
You said:
"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."

My comments:
The foundation of the turmoil emanating from Washington D.C. is due to misinformation, misdirection, and scapegoating.

Given that Council's Measure D is relying on the CAA to spread lies of omission for critical information about the current law and using the RHC as an anti-bureaucratic emotional punching bag, I would like to point out that the tactics being used are not too dissimilar from those being used by our current presidential administration.
You said:
"Passing the Measure D compromise in March will avoid another fight in November and for years to come."

My comments:
One of the top 3 reasons for the existence of the California Apartment Association is for it to destroy rent control wherever it may try to pop up in California. Why would they suddenly stop conducting their fiduciary responsibility for their members, just because Measure D passed?

Have they publicly signed a legally enforceable contract saying that the will never again take on any ballot initiative efforts in Mountain View, into perpetuity? Unless this is the case, I am afraid that there is no evidence available to support your claim that this will prevent new conflict in the future.
You said:
"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."

My comments, to anyone and all reading:
Please vote NO on Measure D. Inequality of money, of resources, and power has been growing rapidly in our times.
Measure V was the lone shining silver lining in the 2016 election that proved that when communities and people come together to fight for that which is just, people have the power to push back against economic unfairness.

We live in a democracy, so it is absolutely 100% valid for our community to consider the merits and demerits of our current laws. However, Mountain View deserves a dialogue centered on truth and integrity, not on misdirection, misinformation, and omission.

In my mind, the stakes of Measure D do not end at any one rent increase, but also include the degrees to which Mountain View will demand public discourse founded on truth, and furthermore demonstrate that we will defend these values.

So please, join me and others in voting NO on MEASURE D!

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+ 14 people like thisPosted by Short and sweet
a resident of Bailey Park
10 hours ago
The dishonesty will never stop from the poster above, or from his side.

It is absolutely disgraceful that people have such hatred and can constantly resort to bullying this group of business owners that are in our community who are providing a needed benefit to people. No reasonable consideration can be made to change Measure V.

They have no clue what it takes to run those properties, or how much things costs.

All they care about is what can we do so the landlords are screwed and to keep our rents low as possibly while demanding that landlords do this and that and do not give me the bill for it.

@Alex, you have no credibility when you start from a lie. The community did not write Measure V, the rent control law. No consideration was given to the other side for input. It was written solely to screw the landlord. Just one example, every other rent control city splits the fees 50-50 with the tenants and landlords, but not in our city, they wrote it so the landlord pays 100%. It was written by outside activist group who not only targeted Mtn. View, but other cities.

Here it is from the activist lawyer from Palo Alto who wrote Measure V.
Web Link

Then you will have the Voice who is an advocate and will write 1 or 2 hit pieces at just the right time to smear landlords. Just like they always do.

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8 people like thisPosted by Come On
a resident of Old Mountain View
8 hours ago
Margaret Abe-Koga must think we're all fools! She campaigned for the landlord initiative, that she now says "would indefinitely suspend rent control, putting thousands of families at risk of displacement"! She filmed a misleading video ad for that campaign (Web Link), and now is telling us that she doesn't want it to pass. She was lying to us then, is lying to us now, and will lie to us in November.

Vote No on D!

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4 people like thisPosted by The Business Man
a resident of Castro City
8 hours ago
Margaret Abe Koga has a lot to be questioned regarding Measure D:

Recently she endorsed Measure D in opposition of her own Democratic Party which by more than 75% rejected Measure D. The fact is her votes are for sale and here campaign financers are getting their investment. The Democratic party should be taking actions to correct this.

Second she is placing in the ballot measure on the ballot without providing the text of it. This can be found on the City website and located here (Web Link). Specifcally the City made the following statement:

“Section 10. Text of Proposed Measure. The full text of the measure shall not be printed in Voter Information Guide. The full text of the measure is available by calling the City Clerk's Office at 650-903-6304 and requesting a copy be mailed at no cost, is available on the City of Mountain View's website at, and is available for review at the City Clerk's Office, located at 500 Castro Street, Third Floor, Mountain View.”

Why withhold the text of the Measure? In order to mislead the voters. The fact is no one should vote for a ballot measure where it is not provided a free publication contained in the voter information package provided by the state and county of California.

At the same time the website promoting passage called www.voteyesond makes the following claims:

“The measure includes a new exemption to expressly exclude mobile homes and mobile home spaces from regulation under the CSFRA and clarifies that the City Council may adopt ordinances that provide greater protections for individuals who rent their primary residence.”

What is crazy is that Margaret Abe Koga and Chris Clark are asserting that they wanted to protect mobile home owners from excessive rent on land that the home owner has their home on. And they put the blame on the RHC. But they were also the ones the designed the RHC membership. So why don’t they take responsibility for that action? Finally, they only want to issue protections where the PEOPLE have no say in the matter under Measure D. At the same time the website stated this:

“Rental Housing Committee:

Prevents the RHC from paying itself a salary; just like every other city commission”

But at the same time Tom Means was being paid by the landlords to do opposition research WHILE being on the RHC board. And who is to say that anyone in the same position will not be paid by these interests, and prefer not to disclose it. Tom Means got caught and was very reluctant to disclose. So who is to say that these people are not getting paid under the counter?

Also the statement was made:

“Apartment Safety:

Encourages landlords to make seismic safety improvements to older apartments without burdening tenants with large rent increases by streamlining the approval process and keeping the same limits on rent increases for improving now acting to provide protections for these people.”

This is patently false to claim. The housing providers have no choice, the must perform the work or close their business. Because without performing the work, they cannot have a legal housing unit. The fact is that there is a current trend of current landlords selling their units and going to other states found in this article “Are Californians Really Leaving for More Affordable States?” (Web Link it specifically states:

“Sen. Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga), who owns a property management business, said he and his wife know many property owners who “are fleeing the state. They are going for states that have a lot more economic freedom, and not constraints, which makes it difficult to be able to compete.”

“They are going for states that have a lot more economic freedom”

Morrell said he opposed SB 529 because he is “a believer in property rights.” Morrell said he was given a book by the Hoover Institution called “How Money Walks: How $2 Trillion Moved Between the States, and Why It Matters.”

Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Castro City
on Feb 3, 2020 at 1:41 pm

Margaret and the City Council have NOT been cooperating at all regarding CSFRA:

FIRST, they agreed to a temporary restraining order freezing the CSFRA while the CAA challenged the law in court.

SECOND, the City Attorney was instructed NOT to defend the CSFRA in court requiring intervention by the Stanford Community Law Center.

THIRD, when the case was dropped by the CAA, the City Council and the RHC did not want to enforce the rent roll back on the proper date of December 26, 2016.

FOURTH, the City Council colluded with the apartment owners to fast track removal of rent controlled units. Thus forcing the STATE to invoke a BAN of removal of rent controlled or affordable housing. Thus taking that action away from the City Council.

FIFTH, the City Council DEMANDED reimbursement of the first year’s funds to start the RHC in only 1 year. They knew it was going to drive up the startup cost. Thus providing opposition to complain that the rental housing fees were too high. They could have made it a 5 year repayment plan instead, but they did want to help out of town investors to put their argument against CSFRA.

So should the citizens of Mountain View believe the deception being perpetrated by the City Council and the City Landlords? I do not think so.

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