Community Rallies Against Prop 98; Decries Landlord Tactics

Monday, April 28, 2008
Paul Hogarth
Beyond Chron

Over 50 tenant activists from San Francisco, Marin County, the East Bay
and South Bay gathered on April 25th at the Oakland Airport Hilton – to
protest the Apartment Owners Association (AOA)’s seminar on how to
evict tenants. The landlord group has provided crucial seed money to
pass Proposition 98 in June, and its President – Dan Faller – has called
tenant advocates “terrorists” and “suicide bombers.” The tenant
activists denounced new “Yes on 98” radio ads that are running in the
Bay Area as dishonest, and stressed the need to run a grassroots
campaign to defeat the measure. In related news, Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger and Senator Dianne Feinstein came out against Prop 98 –
further proving that the AOA is a fringe group that does not represent

One would hope that the AOA seminar – called “How to
Get Through the Eviction Process” – would instruct landlords on how to
respect eviction laws, so that landlords don’t harass tenants through extra-legal means.
But they also taught them how to get around current loopholes. And the
landlord group is pushing for Prop 98, which if passed would abolish
rent control and “just cause” for evictions. While AOA members
paraded into the Airport Hilton to attend the seminar, tenant activists
were on hand to protest Prop 98.

“We are here,” said Guadalupe Arreola of St. Peter’s Housing Committee,
“to let AOA know that we are going to beat Prop 98 – and we will fight
you on every eviction.” St. Peter’s was joined by Just Cause Oakland,
East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, Pride at Work, ACORN, the
Tenants’ Voice Council of Marin, and the Interfaith Alliance of East
Palo Alto. Over 50 people chanted in English and Spanish, held up
signs, and one guy dressed up as a “greedy landlord” and handed out
eviction notices to the crowd.

Dan Faller, President of the AOA, has referred to all tenants as lazy –
and called pro-tenant elected officials “terrorists” and “suicide
bombers.” In a letter published in AOA’s magazine, Faller called on
landlords to fight back with the “big bomb” – Prop 98, in a “war” for
their property rights. “You are either for us or against us in this
fight,” he wrote. AOA members did not talk to the press at Friday’s
protest, but handed copies of Faller’s infamous letter.

The “Yes on 98” campaign has begun running radio ads
in the Bay Area with two siblings who lament that their home will be
taken by eminent domain – which means that the family would have to
move. “These ads are deceptive,” said Arreola, “because families are
the ones that will be evicted if Prop 98 passes. We’re calling on them
out for running deceptive ads that tell us to pass a deceptive measure.”

Proposition 99 – which would reform eminent domain without abolishing
rent control – would protect the hypothetical family in the “Yes on 98”
radio ads, without displacing the millions of families who would lose
basic renter protections. Ironically, however, the radio ads urged
listeners to vote against Prop 99. Activists at the protest spoke out
in favor of Prop 99 – which would also nullify Prop 98 if it gets one
additional vote.

Prop 98 would invalidate laws that protect tenants from eviction if their landlord doesn’t pay the mortgage.
“My apartment building was foreclosed on,” said Charlene Weddeburn, a
mother of three from West Oakland, “and the new landlord tried to raise
my rent from $650/month to $1000/month. When I told him I knew my
rights, he said he would take me to court. I won, because of
protections that are in place now.”

“I can’t imagine what would have happened to me and my three children
if these laws were not in place,” said Weddeburn. “Prop 98 threatens
our right to stay in Oakland. If rent control disappears, there will be
more displacement in California. We have the right to stay in our
communities where we work, raise our children and call it home.”

Stuart Highland, an SEIU member from East Palo Alto who works with the
Interfaith Alliance, told the crowd how they defeated a landlord
measure at the local level. “We went door-to-door talking to tenants,
and let them know that it was just a greedy sham. Prop 98 would destroy
local programs that we have in Berkeley, Oakland and East Palo Alto. We
know that every working family contributes to the quality of life here
in the Bay Area. We need to get out the word in our communities about
Prop 98.”

They’ll get a little help from a few popular statewide politicians who
are more politically moderate. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S.
Senator Dianne Feinstein have both come out against it. “Prop 98 would
undermine California’s ability to improve our infrastructure,” said
Schwarzenegger, “including our water delivery and storage. California
voters strongly support rebuilding our transportation, housing,
education and water projects, so it would be irresponsible to support a
measure that would prevent the state from accomplishing our goals.”
Prop 98, said Feinstein, is “reckless and would tie the State's hands
in dealing with a wide range of critical issues.”

Two years ago, Arnold came out against Proposition 90 – a slightly less
extreme measure that would have nullified any future efforts to expand
tenant protections – but did so just a few days before the election
when many Californians had already voted. This time, he’s come out
against Prop 98 more than a month before the June primary. His early
opposition must be commended, and will be instrumental in helping bring
Prop 98 down to defeat. 

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