Big Money Behind Rent Control Debate

Monday, September 26, 2016
Samantha Weigel
San Mateo Daily Journal

Political fervor is boiling over with nearly $1 million being shoveled into fiery campaigns regarding measures Q and R — controversial ballot measures seeking to institute tenant protections.

The debate over the merits of rent control has created a deep divide in San Mateo and Burlingame where opposition groups have a steady stream of campaign financing, while proponents are contrasted by a slower trickle of donations.

Landlords, Realtors and trade associations known for their political clout have been welcoming a hefty influx of campaign contributions to the tune of nearly $957,798, according to statements filed with the cities of San Mateo as well as Burlingame, and information from the San Mateo County Association of Realtors, or SAMCAR.

That’s about 26 times what proponents for the measures have collected.

That amount is only expected to increase as ample time remains before the Nov. 8 election when voters in the two neighboring cities will be faced with a choice — should tenant protection measures such as rent control and preventing evictions without cause become law?

Proponents for San Mateo’s Measure Q and Burlingame’s Measure R, whose grassroots campaigns gathered enough signatures to make it onto the ballot, have collectively raised just over $36,000, according to representatives.

Jennifer Martinez, executive director of Faith in Action Bay Area which sponsored Measure Q, said she’s not surprised to see there’s big money behind the opposition.

“I think it shows what’s at stake. And that’s in terms of who’s currently making a lot of money off of the way the housing market is currently going, and who stands to lose if that housing market changes in favor of the people who are actually living in the home,” Martinez said.

Her group has raised about $27,000 to support Measure Q, while the Burlingame Advocates for Renter Protections has raised about $9,172.

It appears San Mateo is in the political spotlight as the influx of campaign contributions are primarily targeted toward Measure Q. The SAMCAR-sponsored Coalition for Housing Equality reported the majority of its donations with the city of San Mateo, although representatives said the money has been raised to oppose both measures.

More detailed campaign contribution 460 forms are due Thursday, and expected to more clearly outline which funds are dedicated to which city.

About 225 individuals including residents, landlords and those concerned about the impacts of rent control, have donated to SAMCAR’s coalition, said the group’s spokeswoman Laura Teutschel. Thus far, they’ve raised about $426,000, with approximately $174,000 of that coming from SAMCAR, she said.

“I think there’s a huge amount of interest and enthusiasm. Our volunteers have turned out in great numbers,” Teutschel said. “Not only are they donating money, but they’re donating their time. A lot of these folks are very concerned property owners, they’re concerned about the community and what this is going to cost the cities. That’s what’s driving them.”

Who’s donating?

The California Apartment Association has also been pulling in money, reporting $531,798 as of Friday. Campaign regulations covering this time of year require donations totaling $1,000 or more that are received within a 24-hour period be reported.

Of its more than half-a-million-dollar fund, CAA has contributed about $178,000 to the cause, according to documents filed with the city of San Mateo.

While SAMCAR and the coalition’s funds are specifically targeted toward fighting rent control initiatives in Burlingame and San Mateo, it’s not yet clear whether a portion of CAA’s funds may be spent on other jurisdictions — rent control-related measures are also on the ballot in Richmond and Mountain View.

Some of the biggest company supporters include $50,000 from the San Mateo-based Prometheus Real Estate Group; $50,000 from Beverly-Hills based Kennedy Wilson Multi-Family Management Group; $50,000 from the Belmont-based Woodmont Real Estate Services; $45,000 from the Los Gatos-based Vasona Management Inc.; $40,000 from the Mountain View Housing Council, which shares an address with Davis Property Management; $32,000 from the San Mateo-based G.W. Williams Co.; $30,000 from San Mateo Investment Co.; $20,000 from the San Mateo-based Carsten’s Realty, which owns the Laurelwood Shopping Center; and $10,000 from the Burlingame-based Copeland Park Properties, according to records filed with San Mateo.

Some of the largest individual contributions include $50,000 from Palo Alto resident Tod Spieker, $8,000 from Hillsborough resident Greg Hampton, $3,000 from Patrick J. Brosnan, $2,500 from Sheila Brosnan and $5,300 from the Brosnan Family Partnership, according to records filed with San Mateo.

Some of the largest supporters who’ve contributed in favor of the measures include $6,000 from Faith in Action Bay Area; $5,039 from San Mateo resident Josh Hugg; $3,000 from Cynthia Cornell, president of Burlingame Advocates for Renter Protections; $3,000 from Diana Reddy and $1,200 from Lisa Krieger; according to records filed with San Mateo and Burlingame.

Martinez, from Faith in Action, noted many of their contributions were in smaller amounts — which are not required to be itemized.

What’s on the ballot?

There are a few differing technicalities amongst both measures Q and R. However, in general the rent control provisions would apply to multi-family properties built before Feb. 1, 1995, and seek to cap annual rent increases at the consumer price index but by no more than 4 percent. Exemptions can be made to account for the cost of making improvements to the property. In San Mateo, rents can go up to 8 percent if a landlord does not raise rent one year but, in Burlingame, that is not the case.

Just-cause eviction provisions would prohibit tenants from being evicted unless they break the law or terms of their lease, such as by not paying rent or engaging in criminal activity. The just cause eviction measures could apply to all multi-family rental properties but, in Burlingame, they extend to all rental properties such as single-family homes and condominiums.

Each measure would create a rental housing commission that would oversee the rules in their respective cities. The cost of the commissions — for which estimates include multi-million dollar annual budgets — would be covered by fees charged to landlords per rental unit, according to the measures.

Visit for more information or to review the details of measures R and Q. To review campaign finance filings visit and

FAIR USE NOTICE. Tenants Together is not the author of this article and the posting of this document does not imply any endorsement of the content by Tenants Together. This document may contain copyrighted material the use of which may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Tenants Together is making this article available on our website in an effort to advance the understanding of tenant rights issues in California. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Help build power for renters' rights: