Tag Archives: rent control

AD50 Candidate Betsy Butler Touts Endorsement By Powerful Rent Control Opponents

Tenant advocacy and affordable housing proponents in the 50th Assembly District say Betsy Butler’s endorsement by a powerful anti-rent control group sows “doubt and mistrust” for her candidacy, and raises serious concerns about her commitment to protecting tenant rights.

On April 25, Butler’s campaign issued a press release touting an endorsement by the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA), a landlord and apartment owners lobbying group.

“In her first term in the state Legislature, Assemblymember Butler has demonstrated a genuine understanding of the challenges facing the owners and managers of rental housing in California and has always taken a balanced approach to dealing with legislation affecting the industry,” said the association’s Executive Director, James Clarke.

On its own website, AAGLA characterizes rent control as “socialized housing” and laments it was unable to stop this “disease” from spreading throughout the state in the 1970’s.  But it also celebrates a few notable victories – including the passage of Proposition 13, and its efforts to push through a vacancy decontrol law removing the ability of local communities in California to regulate rents.  

In the mid 70s, when Howard Jarvis was our Executive Director and vaunted Tax Reform Campaigner, we passed Proposition 13. In the mid 90s, our Sacramento Lobbyist, Steve Carlson helped draft and pass the Costa-Hawkins Law that protects our members (allowing rent increases upon vacancies) and saving the businesses of countless owners in Santa Monica and West Hollywood and apartment owners across the state from the worst most unreasonable unfair rent control laws.

Rent control advocacy groups – including Santa Monicans For Renter’s Rights (SMRR) and the Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) – say AAGLA’s endorsement ought to raise red flags for renters in the 50th Assembly District.

“This endorsement and your apparent enthusiasm for it will certainly sow doubt and mistrust for your candidacy among the renter voters of Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and West Los Angeles.” SMRR co-chairs Patricia Hoffman and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein wrote to Butler in reaction to the candidate’s press release.

“AAGLA endorsements are based on the candidates they believe would be more supportive of landlord issues and will vote on bills of concern to them,” said Larry Gross, executive director of CES.  “They clearly believe that Betsy is a better candidate for landlords than (her opponents). This is a very important factor that tenants should keep in mind when they cast their ballots on election day in the 50th district Assembly race.”

In an interview, Hoffman expressed particularly concern with a statement in Butler’s press release that she “will work to ensure people throughout the 50th District have as many affordable housing options as possible and I look forward to assisting AAGLA in making sure this promise becomes a reality.”

“To say AAGLA creates affordable housing is a real misuse of the term, ” said Hoffman. “AAGLA has never provided affordable housing for low income renters unless forced to by inclusionary housing laws.”

SMRR has endorsed Butler’s opponent Torie Osborn in the AD50 race.

Renters are the majority in the 50th Assembly District. In Santa Monica, renters make up 70% of residents, in West Hollywood it’s 78%, and in Hollywood, the percentage of renters soars to 92%.

Interestingly, in Betsy Butler’s current Southbay district, (with the exception of Marina del Rey and Venice) the opposite is largely true. In Redondo Beach half the residents are renters, in Torrance, only 44% or residents are renters, and in Manhattan Beach, only 35% rent.

“When it comes to rent control, she’s acting as if she’s running in her old district.” observed one campaign professional not affiliated with the race. (Though not affiliated with any of the candidates, he asked his name not be used for professional considerations.)

Former West Hollywood City Councilman Steve Martin raised similar concerns in an op-ed he wrote for WestHollywoodPatch.com. 

“Butler’s touting of the Apartment Association endorsement reflects a tin ear to our local concerns that is probably a result of the fact that Butler is a South Bay politico”, wrote Martin.

“For Betsy Butler, rent control may seem to be something of an esoteric or philosophical issue.  But to many Westside tenants, rent control is a question of protecting our homes.”

California Tenants Have No Friends in Governor’s Race

Last Friday at 5:00 p.m. (which he’s apt to do when releasing bad news), San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom vetoed three pro-tenant ordinances designed to help renters facing hard times.  He even nixed a relatively mild proposal to limit “banked” rent increases to 8% – despite this being consistent with existing policies at the Mayor’s Office of Housing.  Newsom’s record on tenant issues in San Francisco has always been bad, and his latest act does not bode well for next year’s statewide elections.  California’s 14 million renters need a champion in the Governor’s Mansion after six years of a hostile Republican Administration, but Newsom currently only has one opponent for the Democratic primary – California Attorney General Jerry Brown.  Based on his record as Mayor of Oakland, Brown can be counted on to be just as anti-tenant – if not worse – than Newsom.  There is no excuse why a deep blue state like California can’t have a pro-tenant Governor, and the current field of Democratic candidates creates an opening for a new person to jump into the fray.

Sacramento Politics Out of Step With Renters

When Schwarzenegger became Governor in 2003, the tenants’ rights agenda in the State Captiol – which had made some progress in the Gray Davis years – came to a grinding halt.  Arnold owns rental property in Santa Monica, and made it clear from the very start that he views California law as too “pro-tenant.”  Besides the legislative victory of 60-day notices for “no-fault” evictions, renters have made virtually no progress in Sacramento ever since.

And it has been a nightmare.  The Governor has vetoed legislation to help tenants in foreclosed properties, and single-handedly killed the renters’ tax credit.  We can’t get the state legislature to pass desperately needed Ellis Act reform, because too many Democrats are afraid of angering realtors in their districts – if they know Schwarzenegger would not sign the bill into law anyway.  We are at a standstill.

For a state whose voters soundly defeated Proposition 98 last year, there is no excuse why we can’t have a pro-tenant Governor.  A wide coalition opposed Prop 98 (it was so extreme that even Pete Wilson and the Chamber of Commerce opposed it), but polling throughout the campaign repeatedly showed a majority of Californians support rent control – suggesting we should be making more progress.

Unfortunately, neither of the two Democratic candidates for Governor are pro-tenant.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom

San Francisco tenant activists know that throughout his career, Gavin Newsom has not been an ally.  Newsom was a landlord when he served on the Board of Supervisors, and the City’s conflict-of-interest rules prevented him from taking a stand on many pro-tenant ballot measures.  But his consultant, Eric Jaye, made his mark in June 1998 by running the unsuccessful campaign to pass Prop E – which would have repealed rent control and eviction protections for owner-occupied buildings with four units or less.

In 2001, Newsom was one of three Supervisors to vote “no” on Jake McGoldrick’s T.I.C. legislation – which was designed to curb Ellis Act evictions.  In 2002, he signed the main ballot argument for Prop R – the measure that would have resulted in mass condominium conversions.  The SF Tenants Union prioritized its defeat, and Prop R lost by 20 points.

As Mayor, Newsom has vetoed most pro-tenant measures.  In 2004, he vetoed the Housing Preservation Ordinance – which stopped the mass demolition of rent-controlled properties.  In 2006, he vetoed two measures designed to curb Ellis Act evictions: (a) one that would have allowed the Planning Commission to weigh in on such cases, and (b) one requiring real estate brokers to disclose a prior Ellis Act eviction to potential T.I.C. buyers at open houses.  The voters passed the latter ordinance in the next election, a “veto override” that remains law today.

But Newsom has been willing to do the right thing – if it serves his political purposes.  In 2006, he signed into law a measure that effectively halted condo conversions on buildings with a prior Ellis eviction.  He also let an ordinance preventing landlords from arbitrarily taking away services become law.   Newsom did this because: (a) tenant activists effectively publicized an eviction epidemic and (b) Supervisor Bevan Dufty – who had been the fourth vote to sustain the Mayor’s vetoes – was up for re-election, and he hoped to deter a serious challenger.

What does this prove?  Newsom may not be “pro-tenant” – but if renters organize to shift the political dynamics, they can occasionally push him to respond.  A Governor Newsom would probably not advance legislation to curtail the Ellis Act or strengthen rent control, but by working with friendly Democratic legislators tenants could score the rare victory.

It’s instructive to see what occurred in San Francisco after tenant issues died down in prominence.  Besides vetoing the “renters’ relief” package, Newsom is pushing a very dangerous idea to fast-track thousands of condo conversion applications.  Billed as a way to “raise revenue” for the City’s coffers, the measure would encourage more Ellis Act evictions down the road – and cannibalize our rental housing stock.  Newsom even ditched recent City budget talks to meet at Medjool’s with the pro-gentrification group Plan C to discuss this proposal.

Newsom opposed Proposition 98.  At the time, he said it would “effectively gut local land use planning and severely weaken environmental protections,” and a “disaster for cities and counties.”  But now, his gubernatorial campaign has taken $25,000 from Thomas Coates – a real estate investor who gave one million dollars to the Prop 98 effort.  Expect landlords and realtors to heavily fund Newsom’s gubernatorial campaign.

California Attorney General – and former Oakland Mayor – Jerry Brown:

Progressives who remember when Jerry Brown was Governor – from 1974 to 1982 – are inclined to believe he would be pro-tenant, and thus better than Gavin Newsom.  And it’s true that in 1976, he vetoed AB 3788 – which would have pre-empted rent control in California.  (Other states were not so lucky, where the legislatures have forbidden cities from doing so.)  But Brown waited until the very last minute to veto the legislation, and it was a very tough call what he’d do – he opposed blanket preemption of local governments, but was against rent control.

Brown is notorious for being quirky and unpredictable, and his politics have drastically changed over a very long career.  Therefore, it’s not very helpful to look at his career as Governor in the 1970’s and 80’s.  A more accurate prediction is to see where he’s been since 1998 – when he made a political comeback by getting elected Mayor of Oakland.

If Gavin Newsom has been a bad Mayor for tenants, Jerry Brown was a real nightmare.  Oakland had rent control, but no “just cause” protections – which meant a landlord could simply ask a tenant to leave in thirty days for no reason at all.  In the late 1990’s, as the dot-com boom gentrified Oakland (and Brown promoted massive downtown real estate development), tenants pushed for a “just cause” ordinance.  When the measure qualified for the 2002 ballot, Brown vehemently opposed it – but the voters passed it, after a tough campaign.  In 2004, Brown campaigned against pro-tenant Councilwoman Nancy Nadel.

During the mass real estate boom of the Brown years, Oakland had no inclusionary housing ordinance – which meant that private developers were not required to build any “below-market rate” units.  Brown resisted any efforts to impose modest requirements, and his final act as Mayor in 2006 was to veto an inclusionary ordinance.  In contrast, San Francisco passed an inclusionary ordinance in 2001 – which over the years has been strengthened to have higher affordability levels.  Supervisor Gavin Newsom voted for it.

As Oakland Mayor, Brown was an unapologetic cheerleader of condo conversions – even if it displaced tenants.  In November 2006, City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente – who had been Brown’s endorsed candidate for Mayor to replace him that year – proposed such legislation, and attempted to pass it in a hurry while Brown was still in office.  This effort, however was thwarted by Mayor-elect Ron Dellums.  Brown’s position is disturbing, given that real estate speculators are taking the fight to Sacramento.  Would a Governor Brown sign state legislation that preempts cities from passing restrictions on condominium conversions?

As far as I can tell, Jerry Brown never took a stand on last year’s Proposition 98 to ban rent control – even though practically everyone else opposed it.  It cannot be because Brown was California Attorney General – since that didn’t stop him from opposing other propositions.  But Brown used his position as Attorney General to write the measure’s official ballot title, and opted not to mention that Prop 98 would abolish rent control in California.  A couple tenant groups sued him for an abuse of discretion, but a judge refused to require Brown to re-write it.

Can a “Pro-Tenant” Democrat Win the Governor’s Race?

Gray Davis was not exactly a “pro-tenant” Democrat, but as Governor he signed bills that the state legislature passed – such as (a) one-year Ellis eviction notices for seniors and the disabled, (b) strict habitability standards, (c) restrictions on re-renting property that had been Ellised, (d) exempting residential hotels (SRO’s) from the Ellis Act, and (e) 60-day notices for “no-fault” evictions.  The latter law expired in 2005, and it took two attempts by tenant advocates in the Schwarzenegger years to successfully have it re-instated as permanent.

It is questionable if Governors Gavin Newsom or Jerry Brown would sign such bills into law.  As for Brown, there is an added danger that he could even enact laws that would be a step backwards for tenants.  But there are “pro-tenant” Democrats in California who could get elected Governor – if they bothered to run.  Antonio Villaraigosa bowed out of the race, which is unfortunate – given his track record as Los Angeles Mayor at enacting some good legislation.  Time is running out on politicians to enter the Governor’s race.  Will anyone else jump in??

EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul Hogarth was an elected Commissioner on the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board from 2000 to 2004, and has been a tenant activist for years.  He is now a tenants’ rights attorney living in San Francisco, and is the Managing Editor of Beyond Chron, where this piece was first published.

Obama Rejected Illinois Rent Control Ban

From today’s Beyond Chron.

Chicago does not have rent control.  In 1997, the Illinois legislature passed – and Republican Governor Jim Edgar signed – SB 531 (the Rent Control Preemption Act), which prohibited local jurisdictions from passing it.  At the time, no city in Illinois had rent control – but the real estate lobby had a national effort to quietly stop it in places before it starts.  SB 531 passed with little fanfare: the State House voted for it 96-18, and the State Senate approved it 46-6.  One of the six senators who voted “no” was Barack Obama – although many liberal Democrats voted with landlords and the Senate’s Republican majority.  Obama’s vote – when one considers how few people stood up with him – is an example of his core progressive principles.  While it’s valid to say that he should have done more to defeat it, consider that Obama was a freshman in a very hostile climate – and as a community organizer had learned to pick his battles.

Illinois Senate Bill 531 was part of a larger national campaign in the 1990’s by the real estate lobby to defeat tenant protections.  Efforts to weaken rent control in California (where Costa-Hawkins passed in 1995) and repeal it in Massachusetts (which the voters narrowly did in 1994) got the lion’s share of public attention.  But a more quiet and effective tactic – which also encountered less opposition – was to pass “rent control preemption” in states where it did not exist.  The Farm Bureau used a similar tactic in the 1970’s to push anti-farmworker legislation, and in some states it slipped by without the United Farm Workers (UFW) knowing it.

Last month’s defeat of California’s Proposition 98 was a strong mandate for rent control – and the genesis of a renewed tenant movement.  But when Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and other cities have had rent control for years, it’s easier to mobilize renters against a landlord attack.  Chicago did not have rent control when SB 531 passed – and besides a tenant’s rights ordinance passed in 1986 by Mayor Harold Washington, had few protections.  When landlords pushed a bill to ban rent control in Springfield, Democratic legislators did not feel pressured to mount an opposition.

Enter Barack Obama, a freshman legislator in early 1997 from Chicago’s Hyde Park. At the time, the Illinois State Senate had a Republican majority – led by James “Pate” Philip of suburban DuPage County, a powerful figure who said that black people “do not have the work ethics that we have” and opposed raising welfare payments because “they’d probably just buy more lottery tickets.”  Obama, who had literally just arrived in Springfield, had to vote on a real estate-funded bill sponsored by Tom Walsh – another DuPage County Republican and an ally of “Pate” Philip.

It goes without saying that Obama did not have much power at the time to stop SB 531.  He voted against it, but only five of his colleagues joined him.  What’s disconcerting is how many liberal Democrats voted for it – including John Cullerton of Chicago’s Lincoln Park and Donne Trotter from Chicago’s South Side.  It’s clear from the roll call vote that there wasn’t much pressure to oppose it, and the Democratic leadership at the time did not prioritize it as an issue.  The fact that Obama was one of only six to vote “no” is an encouraging sign about his political convictions.

Obama came to Springfield – and then Washington – with the mind of a community organizer, and it guided much of his early career.  But like most seasoned organizers, he understood the art of the possible.  Obama was not in the position at the time to defeat SB 531, which was effectively a done deal.  Not only did Republicans control the State Senate, but there was no mobilized rent control constituency in Illinois to fight it.  It’s a lot harder to motivate renters to protect a right they don’t yet have – than to save a right they have grown to depend on for their own livelihood.

But Obama’s vote in 1997 is instructive for those following his current presidential bid – as they fear his perceived move to the center.  Anyone who follows Obama’s record in the State Senate understands his background – where his vote against SB 531 was just one example.  As a columnist for the right-wing National Review recently lamented, Obama worked closely in the State Senate with the Illinois chapter of ACORN to pass living wage legislation and curb banking practices.  “You begin to wonder whether,” he writes, “in his Springfield days, Obama might have best been characterized as ‘the Senator from ACORN.'”

In 1995, the Chicago Reader wrote an instructive profile of Obama as he made his first bid for office, which offers more clues.  “What if a politician were to see his job as that of an organizer,” said Obama, “who does not sell voters short but who educates them about the real choices before them? As an elected official, I could bring church and community leaders together easier than as a community organizer or lawyer. We would form concrete economic development strategies, take advantage of existing laws and structures, and create bridges and bonds within all sectors of the community. We must form grass-root structures that would hold me and other elected officials more accountable for their actions.”

When Obama becomes President, it will be the job of affordable housing activists to work with his Administration and hold him accountable – and to help alter the political reality so that we don’t lose more battles like SB 351.  For now, I’m just relieved that he wasn’t on the wrong side of that vote.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul Hogarth was an elected Commissioner on the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board from 2000-2004, and is now a tenant lawyer in San Francisco.  He has volunteered on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and grew up in Chicago’s Hyde Park – where in the mid-1990’s he lived three doors down from Obama.

Prop 13 Forum at Berkeley Ignores Rent Control

With all the hype today on the 30-year anniversary of Prop 13 — today’s SF Chronicle wouldn’t stop talking about it — it’s incredible that NOBODY is talking about rent control and how Prop 13 paved the way for it.  In today’s Beyond Chron, I take my alma mater to task for hosting a one-day conference on Prop 13 without mentioning rent control.

I majored in political science at Cal – and while I had an excellent education, the Political Science Department was always a bit out of touch.  Today, UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies will host a one-day conference on the 30th Anniversary of Prop 13 – where a field of experts will evaluate its “political, economic and fiscal impacts.”  Incredibly, none of them will talk about rent control (at least none of them are experts on it), although one of Prop 13’s most significant effects was the passage of rent control ordinances in cities throughout California.  Tuesday’s crushing defeat of Proposition 98 – sponsored by the same Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association that pushed Prop 13 in 1978 – demonstrates a statewide mandate for laws that protect tenants.  Any serious reflection on Prop 13’s thirty-year legacy must involve rent control.

In June 1978, the right-wing Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association pushed Proposition 13 on the ballot – amid rising property taxes and a deadlocked state legislature that wouldn’t solve the problem.  No doubt Prop 13 passed because elderly homeowners were afraid of losing the “American Dream,” but residential landlords also played a factor in making it happen.  Tenants were told that if Prop 13 passed, landlords would pass their property tax savings in the form of lower rents.  After they broke that pledge, rent control was born.

Nowhere is this more obvious than Berkeley – where tenant groups tried in vain to pass rent control in the 1970’s.  After a crushing defeat in 1977, rent control was presumed dead until Prop 13 passed the following year.  In November 1978, Berkeley voters passed Measure J – which mandated that landlords pass 80% of their Prop 13 savings to renters.  Two years later, voters enacted a permanent rent control ordinance – which is alive today.

A similar thing happened in San Francisco.  In 1978, voters narrowly defeated a measure to have landlords pass 100% of their Prop 13 tax savings to tenants.  Sensing that a rent control ordinance was inevitable, the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Dianne Feinstein passed one in 1979 – which is why many San Franciscans can still live in the City today.  

Similar rent control ordinances also passed in Santa Monica, West Hollywood, East Palo Alto and Cotati – along with weaker measures in Los Angeles, San Jose and Oakland.  Over 100 cities in California also have rent control for mobile home parks.  Today, over one million households across the state are covered by some form of rent control.

By 1980, landlords were so concerned about the growing momentum for rent control that they placed a statewide Proposition on the ballot to abolish it.  But a strong grass-roots movement defeated this measure, including TV commercials with actor Jack Lemmon.  Landlords did get the state legislature to pass the Ellis Act in 1986 and Costa-Hawkins in 1995, but they have never succeeded in completely killing rent control for thirty years.

Of course, Prop 13 had a huge impact on the California state budget that still haunts us today – along with decreased property taxes that have ruined our local public schools.  So it makes sense for the UC Berkeley forum to include budgetary experts.  But besides Terri Sexton, an economics professor at Cal State Sacramento who will talk about “Prop 13 and Residential Mobility,” none of them touch on housing.  And “residential mobility” will probably focus on Prop 13’s effect on homeowners (rather than just renters.)

It’s not like Berkeley’s Political Science Department could not find rent control experts to talk about Prop 13’s effect.  Myron Moskovitz (who was one of my law professors at Golden Gate University) wrote Berkeley’s Rent Control Ordinance, convinced Governor Jerry Brown to veto rent control repeal and is the state’s foremost expert on landlord-tenant law.  Marty Schiffenbauer led Berkeley’s rent control campaigns, both before and after the passage of Prop 13.  Both still live within walking distance of the Cal campus.

They could have also invited Christine Minnehan of the Western Center on Law & Poverty, who lobbies the state legislature on rent control issues – and was an aide to State Senate President David Roberti.  I can’t think of a better expert on the politics of rent control today, and she could provide detailed knowledge about Prop 13’s impact.  She lives in Sacramento, and could have come down to the forum.

Prop 13 plays a major role as to why Californians support rent control.  If homeowners have the stability of knowing that their property taxes won’t rise more than 2% a year, renters deserve to know their landlord can’t spike their rent during a real estate boom.  In 1978, homeowners voted for Prop 13 because they were afraid of losing their homes.  In 2008, tenants voted against Prop 98 because they were afraid of losing their homes.

When I was an undergrad at Cal, the Political Science Department sponsored a panel for students about what they can do with their political science degree.  But without thinking it through, they scheduled it on Election Night at 7:00 p.m.  I was too busy getting people out to vote, so did not attend – but I expressed my displeasure with the Department’s secretary.  Today’s forum proves that an “ivory tower” mentality still governs a public university that boasts one of the best Political Science departments in the nation.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul Hogarth graduated from UC Berkeley with a Political Science degree in May 2000.  He was elected to the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board later that same year, got his J.D. at Golden Gate Law School in 2006, and is now a tenants’ rights attorney in San Francisco.

Field Poll on 98/99

I do some work for No on 98. The Field Poll (PDF) on the statewise propositions came out this morning. Prop 98 is down 33% Yes-43%No, while Prop 99 is up 48% Yes, 30% No. The splits across almost every line oppose Prop 98. Homeowners, renters, poll voters, mail voters all oppose Prop 98. The exception? Why, it is Republicans and conservatives, of course.   

However, given the variability of turnout for the election next Tuesday, nothing is certain. From Janis Hiroshima of the League of Women Voters:

Despite the millions being spent on deceptive ads, the numbers show voters are smarter than the landlords think. They are rejecting Prop. 98 as a landlord scheme and supporting real eminent domain reform in Prop. 99. Our focus now is on making sure all these people actually vote on Tuesday.

Turnout is important for these statewide initiatives as well as local races.  You can be sure the streets of areas with contested primaries will be flooded with canvassers and visibility operations. I'm sure the tenant activists will be out in force.

UPDATE: The Capitol Weekly has a story about Thomas Coates dropping about a million into the Yes on 98 campaign. Coates is a real estate investor who would dearly love to reap the windfall that he would see if rent control were eliminated.  The landlords certainly don't think this is over.

UPDATE 2: Video of LA Protest at Apartment Association of Greater LA over the flip.

Calitics Editorial Board Prop Endorsements: No on 98 and Yes on 99

Proposition 98 claims to be about eminent domain and protecting the little people. But here at Calitics, we have reason to question the motives of Jon Coupal and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association. And once again, they are trying to hoodwink California voters.

Proposition 98 eliminates rent control and other renter protections, making living in California’s cities out of reach for a greater percentage of our population. Prop 98 would also make protecting California’s environment even harder than it is presently. The effects on governance, the environment, and tenants are simply disastrous. NO on 98.

Prop 99 is not ideal, but it is tolerable. It simply blocks the use of eminent domain to transfer owner-occupied homes to private developers. Nothing fancy, but it does have a nice provision that overrules Prop 98 if it gets one more vote.  It also has the potential to do the state a great favor by removing the issue of eminent domain from the ballot.   YES on 99.

Newspaper Endorsements Racking up Against Prop 98

The newspaper editorial boards have been coming out overwhelmingly opposed to the Landlords' Scheme to end rent control and environmental protections. Just today, four newspapers have come out in opposition to Prop 98:

LA Times                          Fresno Bee

Lompoc Record              North County Times

Of course, some had speculated about the independence of  the LA Times' Editorial board becuase Times owner Sam Zell is a major donor to Prop 98 and stands to make a tidy sum if 98 passes. However, they came out strongly against 98:

With the ill-considered Proposition 98, property rights advocates once again have undermined themselves and poorly served homeowners, businesspeople and real estate investors by overreaching. It would have been so easy to give Californians what they need: assurance that no city, county, other local government or the state can condemn property, evict the owner and turn the land over to a developer who donated to elected officials and then convinced them that he could make the plot prettier and more productive. … The Times urges a no vote on Proposition 98 and a yes vote on Proposition 99. LA Times 

 This is what leaders and organizations throughout California have been saying for months: Prop 98 is a deceptive scheme in favor of landlords. That's why groups like the AARP, the League of Conservation Voters, and the California Democratic Party all urge a NO vote on Prop 98 and a Yes vote on Prop 99.

If you want to learn more, please visit our website at NoProp98.org.


A Carboard Box For Your Troubles

I’m quite proud to do some work against Prop 98!

May 7 SF No on Prop 98 RallyBy this time, I hope you’ve heard about Prop 98. But that’s not the case everywhere, so much attention has been paid to getting the word out about the really negative effects that Prop 98 would have upon California.  A great group of people came together in SF to talk about the Landlords’ Scheme to eliminate rent control, tenant protections, and affordable housing regulations.

Several folks came with cardboard boxes to make the point that many people living in rent controlled units would be forced to the streets. Many units would be converted to luxury condo conversion projects and housing supply in San Francisco would dwindle further. Affordable housing is already tough enough to come by (just look at Craigslist if you don’t believe me), the last thing we need is Prop 98 eliminating much of the affordable supply.

You can watch the entirety of the rally on YouTube over the flip, but some of the comments lept out at me.  Some people expect that these propositions won’t really affect their lives, but Prop 98 is very different. From June 4, 2008, landlords will have carte blanche to do what they please to tenants.  “Just Cause” eviction will be a thing of the past, and renters will have to prepare for an onslaught. As Ted Gullicksen of San Francisco Tenants Union said, “San Francisco would become a city not just for the wealthy, but for the very, very, very wealthy. … San Francisco would lose its character and its diversity.”

It is not all that surprising that landlords’ would try this, really. After all, they are businesses trying to maximize their shareholder and/or owner’s pocket books. Heck, this is a great investment for people like Sam Zell, who stands to make $15 Million from a Prop 98 win. The problem is that they are using deceptive means to overturn the will of the people.  The people in several cities across California have determined that they favor rent control. And practically every locality has chosen to require a “just cause” for eviction (as well as some state regulations).

But the landlords weren’t able to get rent control overturned at the local level, at least totally. So instead of trying to convince localities to end it or to get state legislators to overrule the localities, the landlords’ go with deception. They hide under the cover of eminent domain to end tenant protections.  That’s why this is so important to defeat June 3. We just can’t let Prop 98 sneak by us, it would be the third leg of the stool. Prop 13, the 2/3 rule, and this. But that stool is one that doesn’t support all Californians, only the super-wealthy.

Follow me over the flip for the videos and more.  You can also get more photos at my flickr set.  

Ted Gullicksen of San Francisco Tenants Union led off the remarks with a vision of the post-prop 98 San Francisco that I mentioned above. He also mentioned some of the many opponents of Prop 98, including the Governor, SF Mayor Gavin Newsom, both senators, and a whole lot more.  It’s hard to find more than a few right-wingers who have agreed with this crazy proposition.

Charles Mason of AARP noted that Prop 98 would hurt millions of seniors and all Californians. “AARP strongly believes we should enhance our neighborhoods. … Prop 98 would jeopardize our abilites to create livable communities for seniors and other.”

Some of the strongest remarks came from the folks at the St. Peters Housing Committee (Video 7/9) in both Spanish and English. They noted that carboard boxes are what San Franciscans would be left with. They pointed out that many children in San Francisco are dependent upon these housing regulations. Without protections for tenants, many Californians will be even more vulnerable than ever.

SF Bay Guardian Endorsements: Leno, Hancock, Ammiano, No on 98 and more

The SF Bay Guardian released their endorsements for local races and state propositions. These tend to be some of the most influential endorsements in the City, and to a lesser extent, in the region. As always, they do a laudable job presenting a thorough analysis of each race and the relative merits of each position. Hats off to Tim Redmond and the crew at the SFBG.  Here’s a summary of their positions, and I’ll discuss some of them over the flip.

Prop 98: No, No, No

Prop 99: Yes, Yes, Yes

SD-03: Mark Leno

SD-09: Loni Hancock

AD-13: Tom Ammiano

AD-14: Kriss Worthington

CA-08 (Pelosi): No Endorsement

Let’s start with Props 98 and 99. (I work for No on 98) They state the position that progressives across the state have come to, whether Jon Coupal thought the opposite might be true, Prop 98 is a disaster for California. And they even give us a nice little way to remember which is the good one: “We hate 98, but 99 is fine.” Cute.

On to the Senate Races, surely the most watched position in this endorsement slate was the issue of SD-03 (aka Rumble in the Bubble, that’s mine, I want royalties for that, even though I do work for Mark Leno.)  The BG has endorsed both Leno and Migden in the past, but they haven’t been so into Joe Nation. (I don’t know if they ever endorsed him in a primary…he ran unopposed for at least one term in the Assembly.) So, this came down to a decision between the two San Francisco gay candidates.

The BG sees strengths and weaknesses in both candidates. Migden has passed some good pieces of legislation like community choice and toxics legislation, and Leno has a record of protecting vulnerable populations from evictions and passing the marriage bill. But they also disliked Leno’s close ties to Mayor Newsom and Migden’s connections to Gap Founder Don Fischer who is a huge “school choice advocate.”

The BG, like me, is a fan of primary challenges in this one-party town., and they laud the attention the mostly absentee Migden has now paid to the district. But toss Migden’s “imperious and arrogant” ways to her campaign finance troubles, and the BG tilted towards Leno. “In the end, we’ve decided – with much enthusiasm and some reservations – to endorse Assemblymember Mark Leno.”

SD-09: Loni Hancock. I’m a fan of both Hancock and Chan. Whomever wins will be a great Senator to replace the, shall we say “imperious,” Don Perata. The BG went with Hancock based upon her work on the budget.

AD-13: Ammiano. He’s running unopposed, but that is, in and of itself, is a testament to Ammiano. People in SF love the guy, for good reason. He’s great personally as well as politically.

AD-14: Kriss Worthington. There are some great candidates here, but Kriss Worthington, the openly gay Berkeley Councilman that has been the heart of Berkeley’s progressive movement, for years will be a great legislator. He’s willing to stand alone for progressive values, if need be.  And, in Sacramento, need exists. Often.

CA-08: The Guardian chose not to endorse Speaker Pelosi, stating that she no longer represents San Francisco’s progressive values.

I’ll leave the other races to the Guardian’s excellent endorsement editorial, save one where I think they got it wrong. That is the SF DCCC endorsement of the so-called HOPE Slate. Besides the obvious play off of Obama’s campaign, my issue is with a few members of the slate.  Specifically, the inclusion of two San Francisco supervisors on the slate. Now, I understand that the Supervisors want to ensure that their political positions get into the Party’s apparatus, but frankly, the point of the DCCC should be less about policy positions and grandstanding and more about organizing Democrats in San Francisco to ensure turnout.

I understand that the endorsements of the party have a very strong impact upon the vote for local issues here in San Francisco. But it is hard to argue that the SF Democratic Party has been anything other than progressive in the last two years. And furthermore, while hope is terrific and all, after all I am an Obama supporter, the results of elections depends on the hard work of registering voters and turning them out. Under the leadership of Scott Wiener, the SF DCCC has done just that. SF is one of the few counties to increase Democratic percentages during 2007. Fighting the battle against increased apathy and DTS registrations, we’ve been winning.

Scott has been an enormous part of that success and deserves re-election to the DCCC and to the chair.